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Two Decades Behind
A cheap '70s-style receiver for your highly expensive modern smartphone.

"Hi is looking stunned in the second panel here because his teenage son's act of disrespectful rebellion: rocking out to a song released in 1975."

The twenty-to-thirty-year lag between reality and TV-land. Shows that first ran in The Nineties often reminisced The Seventies, shows in The Eighties carry a lot of cultural baggage from The Sixties, shows that first ran in The Seventies hark back to The Fifties, and shows in The Fifties and The Sixties had its nostalgic setups between The Gay Nineties and The Roaring Twenties (probably because the '30s and '40s hadn't featured many things people wanted to be nostalgic about). At the start of the 21st century, this can be seen in how some works seem to suggest that they took place in The Eighties and steadily into The Nineties when they are supposed to be set in the present-day or a little earlier. In such settings, the "cool kids" still rap and skateboard and the lingo is still Totally Radical Jive Turkey (even in cases where it was not relevant to begin with). In many cases, it's clear that someone hasn't done the research.

It happens because TV writers tend to be busiest in their late 30s and early 40s, and (like everyone else) their tastes and preferences were formed in their teens and early 20s; by the time they reach the big time, what they think is fresh and modern is actually 20 years out of date. Author Appeal and a desire to Write What You Know also plays an important part. This is closely related to the fact that such franchises as Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Masters of the Universe are getting revamped ~20 years after the peaks of their popularity; in fact, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) was a revival of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero from the 1980s, which was, in turn, a revamp of the original Joes from the 1960s.

While television shows of the 90s, 2000s and 2010s are generally better at portraying their respective time periods than shows from the 50s-80s (no doubt due to how much easier it became to find information during the late-80s/early-90s), they still aren't without their fair share of dated slang and cultural tropes. Modern-day kid shows, in particular, still seem to fall victim to this. Even though information about modern-day kid culture is quite easy to obtain now, with all the books and websites devoted to it (not to mention networks like Nickelodeon).

Long Runners that use Comic Book Time are susceptible in various ways, such as The Artifact. If your hero is a thirty-year-old musician whose catchphrase is "LOL" and who collects CDs, and she hasn't changed at all (including age) twenty years later, then she'll be Twenty Years Behind.

See also Pac Man Fever, Totally Radical, and Popularity Polynomial. Contrast Present Day Past, Anachronism Stew, and Purely Aesthetic Era. Disco Dan is a character who personifies this trope.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Advertising  
  • Chuck E. Cheese kept running the same commercials from the early 1990s until very late in the 2000s. And Chuck was still in his not-fooling-anyone skater drag until 2012, when he was finally given a much-needed makeover.
  • The incredibly 80's commercials for the toy Skip-It remained on TV from the late 80's all the way through the 90's, perhaps because it was such an Ear Worm.
  • The original Baby Bottle Pop commercial, from 1998 mind you, looks like it's straight out of 1988.
    • Made even worse by the fact that the commercial ran into the early 2000s.
  • TV spots for the Brooklyn, NY area burger joint Roll N Roaster have run in a mostly unedited form for about forty years. You can see it here. Unfortunately, the waitstaff no longer wear berets.
  • A 1995 commercial for Eggo Cinnamon Toast Waffles exemplifies this trope to a tee. In it, a kid suggests combining his school with a music video. What follows is a school with its kids dressed at least a decade out of date, wearing spandex and ridiculous amounts of hairspray, topped off with a voiceover by a Joey Ramone soundalike. If the advertisers did their research regarding what was hip when the ad came out, the boys would've all had Kurt Cobain haircuts and dirty clothes. The girls, meanwhile, would've either cut their hair really short or dressed like Cher Horowitz.
  • Many modern-day advertisements still play into age-old gender stereotypes. For example, women still scoff at sports and men still can't clean house.
  • Microsoft's "Child of the 90's" ad for Internet Explorer relies entirely on associating the product with all the stuff from the 90's that people are nostalgic for nowadays, in lieu of actually saying anything about Internet Explorer. The commercial ends saying that Internet Explorer has grown up (along with the audience) since the 90's - which runs sort of contrary to the nostalgia indulgence that the rest of the commercial glorifies.
  • Advertisements in the 2000s which wanted to play on family and nostalgia would often use a 8mm home movies look, with shaky camera work and film artefacts like scratches. However the adults in the advertisement would have been kids in the 80s and 90s, when video cameras were more common.

     Comic Books  
  • Marvel Comics' disco-themed Dazzler (aka, sometimes "The Disco Dazzler") got her solo series in 1981... by which point disco was considered, well, Deader Than Disco.
  • You're not going to understand half the jokes in Scott Pilgrim unless you're familiar with early video game titles for the NES & the Sega Genesis. This was a common critique of The Movie.
  • A common criticism of DC Comics's New 52 (2011) is how much is reminded some readers of the early 1990s Dark Age.
    • The talent on most New 52 books was and remains heavy on 1990s stalwarts like Jim Lee, Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Brett Booth, and even Rob Liefeld. Special mention should go to George Perez, whose work on "World's Finest" didn't look so hot due to his clearly not taking modern digital inking and coloring into account.
      • Not to mention incorporating Wildstorm characters into the DC Universe, such as Zealot, Voodoo, Fairchild and Grifter.
    • Another example is that many of the costumes have more of a uniform and armored look (despite the separate origins of Justice League members, the members all have similar collars), Superman and Wonder Woman are far more aggressive, and everyone appears more youthful.
    • Green Lantern and Red Lanterns #28 were sold together as a "flip comic", a frequent gimmick of the '90s.
  • Speedball was essentially a silver age comic created by Steve Ditko in 1988. The character fared somewhat better in The New Warriors.

     Film  
  • Parodied in Airplane!: News reporters still wear fedoras in 1979-1980, and a pair of nuns is seen in traditional garb. Most jarringly, Striker's flashbacks to what would logically be the Vietnam War include shots of World War I triplanes and even a pre-Wright-Brothers whirlygig. Despite that, the jukebox in his flashback plays the Bee Gees.
  • For One More Day has flashbacks that portray the main character being a child in what appears to be The Fifties. However, he is played by a 41-year-old Michael Imperioli (born in 1966) who doesn't look at all like someone in his 60s. You could argue that the film isn't set in The Present Day (after all, Imperioli uses a rather old car and a pay phone), but a flashback to nine years earlier shows him working in an office with fairly new-looking computers.
  • The Craft, released in 1996, has one teenager refer to another as looking like Loni Anderson, who was best known during the 1970s. The comparison was true, however.
  • Check out some of the Disney live-action comedies from the 1970s, where it's Still The Fifties: milk is still delivered to doorsteps; women are still housewives; and the chances of seeing any hippies, punks, or glam rockers are slim to none. Heck, in many cases the sideburns on the male characters aren't even that long! Occasionally the writers would slip in something Totally Radical, but that worked about as well as you'd expect. This trope applies to the actual subject matter of the Disney films in question as well as their trappings: Disney didn't release its first PG-rated film (The Black Hole) until 1979, more than a decade after the current G-to-R rating system was introduced.
    • This still happens (or, until the mid-2000s, still happened), but by then it was intentional and often an Affectionate Parody of the phenomenon.
    • Actually, women being "housewives" was still pretty common in the 70's and even the early-mid 80's, since feminism hadn't yet caught up with the majority of our society. Today? Such stereotyping is likely to land you in a divorce lawyer's office.
    • A good example of the above? Look no further than The Shaggy D.A. (1976) It's a sequel to The Shaggy Dog, filmed in the late 1950s, which was about a teenage boy who was turned into a sheepdog by an ancient curse. In The Shaggy D.A., he is now in his thirties and is an aspiring politician. But to judge by the clothes the characters wear, the cars they drive and so forth, you'd think that curse had not only given that kid dog DNA, but caused him to age 17 years in less than a third of the time.
  • A common comment of the original Fright Night is that despite its Eighties setting it feels very much like the Fifties with the way it portrays teens and the way they act and speak. Aided by the fact that the monsters are heavily inspired by Hammer Horror films from the 1950s.
    • Though the soundtrack is very distinctly 80s, with bands like April Wine and Autograph.
  • If it weren't for the computers and a few other things, you would swear that Hot Rod takes place in the 1980s.
  • As often happens with portrayals of ice hockey in U.S. media for some reason, The Love Guru did this through Justin Timberlake's character. His Jason Voorhees style goalie mask was about thirty years out of date, as was his personal appearance.
  • Future Force was made in 1989, but it set in The New Tens or thereabouts. However, not only does it fail to deliver an atmosphere that even vaguely suggests "the future" in any way, it looks considerably older than 1989 — it comes across as 1978 at the latest. The film quality, the cars, David Carradine as an action hero, the bald guy from the original The Longest Yard as an antagonist...
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space, despite being released in 1988, has a very 50s vibe to it. Likely done on purpose as the film was meant as an homage to horror films of the 50s. True, the teenagers are decked out in "cool" '80s fashions, but their "gee-whiz" attitudes hearken back to the '50s.
  • The date on Royal's tombstone being listed as "2001" is likely to be a surprise during one's first viewing of The Royal Tenenbaums, which otherwise looks to be set somewhere between 1976 and 1984.
  • The Way Way Back does this deliberately, lampshades it and plays with it in almost every possible way.
  • Played with in Napoleon Dynamite: While the movie is stated to be set in 2004 (present-day at the time of shooting), almost every character's fashion sense seems to be stuck in the eighties or even seventies, Napoleon uses his trusty Walkman to great effect, a fair deal of 80s music is heard (Alphaville's "Forever Young", Cyndi Lauper's "Time after Time" etc.) and cordless phones (not to mention cellphones) are absent. Clearly overlaps with Anachronism Stew, since Kip is stated to chat online with "chicks" via a 90s style dial-up connection (as pointed out by Uncle Rico) on a computer which uses floppy disks as a storage medium and Summer uses a Backstreet Boys song to accompany her election skit. When the film's writers were asked when the story was set, they replied: "Idaho."
  • It's unclear what year the film Hesher is set in (the film itself was released in 2010). But the clothing, dialogue, and automobiles make it feel like it's set in either the late 1980s or early 1990s.
  • The short film Rock: It's Your Decision, though set in 1982, feels like it came out about two decades too late, what with its entire message of rock and roll being a tool of Satan worshippers — as well as the whole "rock and roll teen vs. parent who just doesn't get it" trope, which was mostly dead by the early 70s, showing up early in the film. Even Brad Jones questioned in his DVD-R Hell series why the film was being made in 1982, when its messages were pretty much moot even in 1982.

     Literature  
  • In Twilight, it appears that Bella lives in the early nineties where they don't have pop-up blockers yet. Justified, since she is also supposed to live in the town where time stood still. Even so, she could probably have brought some technology from Phoenix.
    • And Googling the words "pop-up blocker download" gets 8,750,000 results in 0.42 seconds. Regardless of how much time stood still in Forks, it wouldn't be that hard to stop pop-ups.
    • She might be just Hopeless With Tech.
    • The clothing, especially Bella's, likewise seems to be 90s-era Grunge. Though that might not be very surprising, considering it's set in some podunk town in Washington state, which is where the whole Grunge scene got kick-started.
  • The Venus Prime series was first released in the late 90s and is set maybe 200 years into the future... but its vision of the future is based on the technology and political realities of the 80s, when Paul Preuss began working on a text-game adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's Catching Strain that never got off the ground (the script from that game became the basis for the first novel.)

     Live Action TV  
  • Spoofed with the Robin Sparkles videos in How I Met Your Mother, which were supposedly from the mid-1990s but look as if they were made in 1986. Robin explains that "The Eighties didn't come to Canada until 1993."
  • Shawn and Gus do this very self-consciously on Psych, where it's obviously supposed to be an In-Universe character quirk (other characters often call them out on it), but in the High School Reunion episode, their reunion seemed to be playing an awful lot of 80s music, given that they graduated in 1995.
  • The first season of Friends, despite being made in 1994/1995, seems stuck in a bizarre 80's/90's hybrid universe. The general looks and mannerisms of the six main characters are a little (though not entirely) on the 80's side. While some of the haircuts, particularly Matt LeBlanc's feathered/over-gelled style (which he uses throughout the entire season, despite modifying it slightly around the seventh or eighth episode), are VERY 80's. Fortunately, by the second season, the show had the 90's zeitgeist down pat and looked/felt completely appropriate for the period.
  • Camden in My Name Is Earl seems to be stuck in the late 80's or early 90's, even though that time was at least 10-15 years before the start of the series.
  • Many family sitcoms, well into the early-90's (case in point: just about any TGIF show on ABC), continued to play into cultural tropes and stereotypes that were more-or-less obsolete by then. Such as the old "rock and roll teenager versus bitter/culturally-unaware parent" conflict of the 60's and early-70's (see also Rock: It's Your Decision, above). By the early 90's, most real life children had baby boomer parents who were every bit as "rockin'!" as they were.
    • This actually got a Lampshade on Full House, of all places. In one episode Danny said he wanted to impress DJ and her schoolmates by performing The Who's "My Generation," which he described as an anthem of teenage rebellion. Jesse agreed, and then pointed out that it was also a teenage rebellion song in the 60s.
    • And from the 2000s onward, baby boomers were old enough to be grandparents — which meant the new "timely" generation clash was to give the teenager Amazingly Embarrassing Hippie Parents.
  • Inverted on M*A*S*H; while the show was set in the 50's, the attitudes and fashions (that hair!) of the characters was much more reflective of the 70's, when the show was filmed.
  • Done intentionally in Flight of the Conchords, where all the media from New Zealand is several decades behind the times. Their technology is also several decades out of date, to the point that they are currently running TV ads for "the telephone."
  • Meta Guy Abed on Community makes non-stop 80's references, with some stretching back from the late 70's and occasionally forward into the early 90's. This is despite Abed being in his early/mid 20's, and as such his reference pool should be mostly from works in the late 90's onwards. The real reason is that the creator of the show Dan Harmon was born in 1973 and thus his reference pool is mostly works from the 80's. The best example of this is that Abed has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Who's the Boss?, despite the fact that the show would have started before Abed was born, and finished before Abed would have started pre-school. The show has lampshaded the oddity of Abed's reference pool but it still stands out as unusual.
    • But not too unusual. The 90s, particularly the early 90s, was the height of cable TV and reruns, and so many kids in the 90s found themselves watching shows that hadn't aired new episodes since 1989, to the point where someone who was born in '92 could easily be familiar with Who's the Boss?. Add to that the fact that Abed is TV Tropes on wheels, and it holds up that as a kid he could have gone out of his way to watch shows whether they were new or not.
  • The premise of Portlandia, as explained in the debut episode's first sketch, is that Portland, Oregon is still stuck in The Nineties.
    • "Remember the 90's, when everyone had a handlebar mustaches, rode bicycles and brewed their own beer? [. . .] No not the 1990's, the 1890's"
  • The Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey seems to dress this way...that is, one or two decades behind the show's 1910s setting. When the second series wraps up at the brink of the Roaring Twenties (with Lady Mary mentioning "the boy's haircuts they're wearing in Paris"), the Dowager is finally catching up to the fashions from the beginning of the show (in 1912).
  • Referenced in Arrested Development. When performing as part of Tobias' band, Lyndsey complains about being dressed like it's The Sixties stating "It's the twenty first century. We should be dressed like it's The Eighties".
  • Played with on Chuck. Casey keeps a photograph of Ronald Reagan in his apartment which he salutes at every opportunity (though it's also a bit of Actor Allusion, as actor Adam Baldwin actually is a huge fan of President Reagan's in Real Life), to the point where Beckman reminds him that "the 80s are over." Most of the references to music, television, films and video games are also centered around the period from the late-70s to early-90s, during the time in which the characters (and the actors and the show-runners) grew up.
  • Parodied on The Colbert Report in the April 26, 2012 episode. Stephen talks about how he can relate to today's youth much better than Barack Obama. He says things like "Turn off your Atari, Obama, because the game is over" and "They know I'm young because I always carry around a full deck of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and I love the Power Rangers."
  • Saved by the Bell fell victim to this by about its final season (1992-1993), as the costuming and set design were firmly rooted in a hyper-idealized mid-eighties, although some have speculated that it might have been partially intentional. Some wonder if they didn't hang on to the bright and colorful 80s look over the grim and drab early 90s simply to grab kids attention while flipping through the channels.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation clung to its vivid 80's hairstyles and decor well into the 1990's. This in itself isn't so noticeable (not counting the getup on Tasha Yar's sister). However, Star Trek: Voyager began as a semi-continuation of that show, with costumes/sets redressed from the TNG era. This had the unfortunate effect of making VOY's aesthetics seem oddly retro in the late nineties. Throw in a quasi-religious devotion to past continuity, and you wound up with a 24th-century Earth where everyone dresses like they've come back from Woodstick (a relic from Gene Roddenberry's time).
    • An in-universe example occurs in Star Trek: Voyager, as Starfleet changed their uniforms after Voyager was stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Even after establishing long-range communication with Earth, they still continued to wear the old-style uniforms.
  • Frasier's portrayal of talk radio represents the climate of the 70's and 80's, before the politicization of the medium sparked by the launch of Rush Limbaugh.
  • Guy Fieri, host of The Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, seems to have just gotten off the bus from 1995.
  • Mickey Pearce in Only Fools And Horses, best known for his fondness for wearing Zoot Suits. Not too unusual in 1983 when he made his first appearance, but as the show entered the 90's and 00's, it became a Running Gag that his sense of fashion was seemingly locked in the 80's and refused to budge.
  • Invoked in the Sex and the City episode where the characters go to Staten Island for the night, to some function where they dance to disco classics. Carrie's closing voiceover says it reminds her of going to Europe because all the music is at least twenty years old.
    • In a later episode, Samantha's young assistant says that the difference between them is that while Samantha waited on line to get into Studio 54, she waited on line to get into Studio 54—the movie.

     Music  
  • Oldies and classic rock stations draw a surprisingly large number of teenagers and college students. This is most likely because, unlike the genres it succeeded (Big Band, brassy wartime music, etc.), rock and roll never garnered any kind of backlash from the generations its proponents birthed. The Beatles, in particular, have gone on to almost-equally appeal to just about every generation from the boomers onward.
    • Most current-hits stations play a modified playlist during the noon hour on weekdays when teens are assumed to be in school without access to a radio while college students and working-age adults are tuning in during lunch. It's usually stuff not quite old enough to make the jump to classic/oldies formats.
  • The Bowling for Soup song "1985" is about a woman whose tastes are still stuck in the 1980s, which are contrasted with some very dated "current" styles from the 1990s.
  • Used intentionally in "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry.
  • The videos for The Lonely Island songs for "Dick in a Box", "Motherlovers," and "3-Way" go straight for the full 90s style. The clothes, the hair, the interior decorations, and even the backgrounds in the outdoor shots are as 90s as possible.
  • 80's style Synth Pop is still big in Europe, particularly in Germany. While the style faded out of popularity in the U.S., there it branched out into EBM and futurepop, still retaining a very 80's feel in most cases. Makes sense because that's where the style really originated.
  • Power metal is still very popular in some areas. Scandinavia in particular is home to many bands whose style derives from 80's metal bands like Scorpions.
  • The Eurovision Song Contest is often about twenty years behind what is actually popular in Europe simply to garner as much mass appeal as possible (and perhaps for the Camp factor).
  • Fifties revival bands like Showaddywaddy and Darts were big in Britain in the Seventies.
  • In the Eighties, every Indie band wanted to be either The Velvet Underground or The Byrds. Some particularly enterprising bands wanted to be both.
  • The oldest songs that modern Country Music stations will play are generally from the '90s, with the new material almost indistinguishable from the old. In fact, the nostalgia is a big selling point of the music, with longing for a simpler time a common lyrical theme.

     Newspaper Comics  
  • Many newspaper comics are legacy Long Runners to the extent that pop culture references might be Three Decades Behind, while styles of clothing (especially if meant to denote a character type, such as Beetle Bailey's Rocky being "the rocker", or even the attire and props of a one-off background character) can be Five or Six Decades Behind, an example of The Artifact.
    • Beetle Bailey is also notable for the way the military equipment is frozen in about 1952. Beetle and his fellow soldiers still wear M-1 helmets and carry Garand rifles with bayonets instead of M-16s. Sarge wears a garrison cap, which hasn't been official Army headgear since 2004.
  • A 2012 Hi and Lois strip (in which Dad indulges in a little in-my-day lecturing to teenage son Chip while listening to old vinyl records) prompted some discussion on The Comics Curmudgeon about how implausible such a gag is in 2012, since vinyl stopped being the dominant music format some three decades prior, which should make Dad a lot older than the fortyish guy he's depicted as to have amassed such a collection in his youth.
    • Another one depicts Chip's room with posters of Bob Dylan, The Who, and Led Zeppelin. The room's cleanliness prompts his mother to ask him "Have you seen my son?!" but as the Comics Curmudgeon commentary puts it, "This guy is your Dad."
  • Similarly, in Curtis, the title character idolizes rappers while his father has nothing but disdain for "that rap junk". The elder Wilkinses, though, seem to be in their early forties, meaning that they would have been kids when rap first became popular. Styles have changed, but the strip doesn't go into those nuances.
  • Family Circus seems to languish in a world as much as six decades behind, with a brand of humor that makes Full House seem edgy. For instance, one March 2014 strip features the mother scolding her child for calling her "dude" and telling her to "chill out". Perhaps the Eighties are finally beginning to set in for the strip after all.
  • Foxtrot: Walking Techbane and Bumbling Dad Roger Fox has been described as "still trying to catch up with the technology of the seventies". Made worse by Comic Book Time, since by now he'd have been born in the seventies.

     Pro Wrestling  
  • Pro wrestling is often said to always be about five years behind pop-culture wise, particularly WWF/E. Thus watching any old WWF programming until about 1995 always has a very 80's feel to it. The 90's didn't really start to kick in until the Attitude Era. In modern times, a lot of the haircuts (such as Edge and Dolph Ziggler) look like they've been time-warped from 1984. One explanation might be that Vince McMahon, who has final say on everything, is such a workaholic that he is very out of touch with modern pop culture. For example, in 1992 he had no idea that Razor Ramon was directly quoting Scarface as his gimmick.
    • Another example is when Paul Burchill started using a very tongue-in-cheek pirate gimmick in the mid 2000's, capitalizing on the Pirates of the Caribbean series at the height of their popularity. Vince had never heard of the series, and had thought that Burchill's gimmick was a throwback to pirate movies of the sixties and fifties. When he was told otherwise, he pulled the lid on the gimmick, thinking it wouldn't catch on, despite the fact that it had been getting over well for a few weeks at that point.
  • Shawn Michaels was a pretty good personification of this trope all through the 90's and the 00's, thanks to his hair, attire and ring music, which he never changed. And everybody loved it.
  • Hulk Hogan had this problem in the mid-nineties, as the gimmick he had in The Eighties had become old and stale. He solved it by making one of the most notable Face Heel Turns in pro-wrestling history and forming the nWo, which were decidedly Nineties (they wore a lot of black and had a "graffiti" graphique). Later when he re-joined WWE he reverted to his Eighties gimmick though, by which point it was nostalgic.
  • There was also Jay Lethal's "Black Machismo" gimmick in TNA in 2010, which was literally this trope.
  • Thanks to the popularity of Jerry Lawler, Memphis-based USWA was the last full-time wrestling territory in the United States and continued to produce television straight out of the early eighties, complete with MTV style music videos and cartoonish gimmicks. Alas, the Monday Night Wars inadvertently led to the death of USWA, as Mondays were traditionally the promotion's biggest gates. For fans of regional promotions, it was the End of an Age.

     Tabletop Games  
  • BattleTech has a "future history" covering the millennium between the game's initial publication in 1984 and the 31st century. It presumes the existence of the Soviet Union well into the 21st century. This history has not been modified to take into account the collapse of the USSR, even in the most recent publications.

    Theme Parks 
  • For all the grief The Simpsons gets for this (see further down), it can be right on in mocking this in some contexts. The "Special Edna" episode from the 14th season has the characters visiting Disney World and EPCOT Center, where Marge and Lisa go on the "World of Tomorrow" ride: '"what the people in 1965 thought the world would be like in 1987." It shows movies of giant robots with the Eastern Airlines logo enslaving people and taking over the world—a perfect parody of the Tomorrowland aesthetic

     Video Games  
  • Metal Gear's vision of Twenty Minutes into the Future (and even The Sixties and The Seventies, to some extent) is mostly based on late Eighties and Nineties sci-fi movies - things like Total Recall (1990), Max Headroom and Blade Runner. The visual aesthetic, the fashionable clothes and body types (not to mention the hairstyles on the men), the politics, the themes, the Shout Outs and the sense of humour are all based on that tradition. Part of this is Zeerust Canon and is why Metal Gear Solid 2 moved away from the aesthetic a little, but Metal Gear Solid 4 goes back the other way and invokes it as deliberate Zeerust.
  • The Phillips CD-I game Hotel Mario played a lot like a simple 80's arcade game. When The Angry Video Game Nerd reviewed it he said it would have been a better game if it had come out ten years earlier (it came out in 1994).
  • Similarly, by many accounts Duke Nukem Forever could have been a fine game if it had actually come out when it was supposed to. Instead, it features gameplay design elements from the mid-2000s, not updated to fit the trends of the current times.
  • Though set in the 1990s and made in 1994, the world of EarthBound still bears more resemblance to the eighties. No-one seems to have personal computers, some of the language (in the English version) falls into Totally Radical territory, and Ness's attire isn't all that different from that of his predecessor Ninten, whose game actually was set and made in the eighties; most other characters' attire is also quite eighties-like.
  • Done deliberately in Bully. While set in the present day, the greaser gang looks like it stepped out of American Graffiti or West Side Story, the cars look like they're from The Eighties, the computers look like they're from The Nineties at the latest, and nobody has an MP3 player or a cellphone (though it is mentioned that they're banned at Bullworth High School). Word of God is that this was deliberate, so as to not date the game to a particular era. Their intention was to make the setting nostalgic for the childhood of a wide range of age demographics.

     Webcomics 
  • A lot of the guys' hairstyles early in El Goonish Shive are very '90s (but probably were still in style in 2002). Buried within the strip's Art Evolution, Elliot's mullet and Justin's two-level bowlcut have been changed to styles which are less Frozen In Time, while Tedd's iconic, grape-jelly colored shoulder-length curtains have not.
  • In this Peter and Company strip, Peter claims to have spent his youth playing 1980s LCD games, even though he was born 20 years too late to have done so.
  • Mocked in this Shortpacked! strip.
  • Ménage à 3 and its spin off, Sticky Dilly Buns are about casts of twenty-somethings — whose musical tastes (and chosen styles when they play music themselves) tend towards things like Glam Rock and Classic Rock, despite claims that one lead character is a "punk rock chick". Some characters might just have retro tastes, but this seems to be a consistent pattern. Likewise, at least one character references TV shows such as Three's Company, Magnum, P.I., Columbo, and Kojak. It's a reasonable guess that the writers are older than their characters.

     Web Original  
  • Survival of the Fittest's v4 prom had started out with this trope, because much of the music requested early on consisted of '80s releases.
  • Cracked discusses this trope in its article, 7 Ridiculously Outdated Assumptions Every Movie Makes. The example that most fits this is #2, which discusses how high school pranks are often seen as extremely funny in movies, but in real life nowadays students will get arrested for less. Pre-Columbine, the pranks would not have been perceived this way. But even pre-Columbine, there was far less tolerance for high school pranks than there used to be. This is due mostly to the birth of the Self-Esteem Generation (basically anybody born from about 1975 to 1995 was a part of this), the various child/teen-related social issues that sprung up during the 80's (AIDS, molestation, etc.), and the fact that by about 1980 school teachers could no longer enforce physical punishment on students. In fact, one of the central points of the movie Dazed and Confused (made in 1993) is to glorify the comparable freedom teenagers had during the mid-70's.
    • Cracked itself might actually count as an example. Since the majority of their writers and their audience are in the late-20's and early-30's demographic, the majority of their articles reference Eighties pop culture, with references to the likes of He-Man, Thundercats, and the Eighties versions of Transformers and the like.
  • Ironically, the site The New Gay, active from 2007 to 2011, was devoted to critiquing a "mainstream" gay culture that had died out by the early eighties. As far as one could tell from that site, the intervening quarter century of gay culture had not happened.
  • This page! Look over it and notice that most of the examples here are from the 1980's and 1990's, because that's when most tropers were growing up.
  • The NSA website for kids is an egregious example. Clicking through you'd think the site was created in the late 90s, because the cartoon mascots and graphics were dated for 2001. Look closely— this site was made in 2010, and has presumably been updated at some point between then and this writing (in 2014).
  • The /r/music subreddit is widely derided for its focus on classic rock.

     Western Animation  
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are still Totally Radical, as well as bodacious, awesome, tubular and like, cowabunga, dude. This may be a Grandfather Clause, though.
    • Also, in more recent adaptations, Michelangelo is the only one who's still Totally Radical, and the others usually mock him for it. In Turtles Forever the 2003 versions of the Turtles openly mocked the 1980's Turtles for it.
  • In an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy where the three main characters go to a old folks' home for monsters. Dracula, Blacula, the Wolf Man and the Bride of Frankenstein are all treated as "Classic" monsters (fair enough) but the "New, Modern" monsters are Freddy and Jason. The episode aired in 2005, after several generations of horror fads had come and gone since the old supernatural slashers of the 1980s.
    • Partially justified in that they were portrayed more as the new classic movie monsters.
  • Family Guy does this intentionally, as many of its gags are reliant on nostalgic pop culture references, particularly from the 1980s. For example, a gag in the episode "Big Man on Hippocampus" (which aired in 2010) has Richard Dawson as the current host of Family Feud (despite the fact that it's been 15 years since he left the show), John Hughes referenced at a rapid-fire pace, Macho Man Randy Savage cutting promos at live wrestling events, and O.J. Simpson's case treated like a current event. The fact that all of the high school scenes look like they're straight out of a '80s teen film might be intentional.
    • In a rather weird example (to anyone who's Catholic, at least), depictions of the Pope tend to be of a rather generic guy with an Italian accent, when the last Italian Pope was John Paul I in 1978. (Pope Francis is ethnically Italian, however.)
  • Betty Boop was an Older than Television example of this, being a flapper throughout The Thirties when flappers were more popular during the 20's.
  • The Disney Channel's Disney BLAM, which consists of scenes from Classic Disney Shorts dubbed over with a Totally Radical narration explaining why each scene is funny, seem to be made with the idea that it's still the early Nineties.
  • Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones? does this seemingly intentionally, with an art style and musical sequences seemingly inspired from Schoolhouse Rock. Episodes also feature floppy disks, Rubik's cubes, and characters with Devo hats and Venetian blinds glasses, despite the show being made in the early 2000s. It even has curiously low-quality and grainy audio.
  • Archer is... confusing timeline-wise. Computers look like they come from the early 80s, and the KGB still exists. Cars and planes tend to look like they come from the 60s and 70s. Meanwhile, all the characters carry up-to-the-second cellphones.
  • In The Angry Beavers, the forest animals (and humans) are still stuck in The Seventies.
  • One of the main problems people have with the later seasons of The Simpsons is that, even when the show attempts to tackle current events and issues (such as social networking and LGBT culture), it still seems stuck in the late-80's and early-90's with its depictions of things like family dynamics and work politics. Many people are, thus, finding the series increasingly difficult to relate to.
    • It's also guilty of trying to "modernize" problems and situations that nobody actually faces anymore.
    • The most glaring discrepancy is that of the early years of Homer and Marge, who (according to the show's original early '90s Canon) graduated from high school in 1974 and married in 1980, with Bart being born in 1981 and Lisa about two years after that. That timeframe obviously became completely unworkable long ago, and yet flashbacks to Homer's adolescence will still show him with '70s Hair, and Marge still likes Disco music.
      • Note that things got more complicated when the season 19 episode That '90s Show effectively retconned the timeframe of Homer's and Marge's romance as having taken place in the 90s, at the height of the Grunge-era. Yet in the following seasons, this was disregarded by the show's writers.
    • This also leads to some characters and satires that were topical in their day and non sequitur today. For instance, Dr. Hibbert, Rainier Wolfcastle, and Krusty are walking references to Bill Cosby, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bozo the Clown, still kicking around years after The Cosby Show aired its finale, Arnold switched to politics, and Bozo vanished off the face of the earth.
  • Before The Simpsons, this happened to the Warner Bros. cartoons, many aspects of which pay homage to other aspects of '40s pop culture—Foghorn Leghorn, for instance, is based on Senator Beauregard Claghorn, a character Kenny Delmar created for Fred Allen's radio show in the late 1940s. How people respond to those shorts today—indeed, how many tropers here responded to them as children in the '70s or '80s—could tell us a lot about how The Simpsons will be appreciated come mid-century.
  • South Park:
  • Regular Show seems to be stuck in the late '80s/early '90s, judging by the technology (the crude graphics on the video games and the old Windows 95-esque computer), despite the fact the show started in the 2010s.
    • Eventually, it was revealed that DVDs and higher tech do exist—Benson is just cheap, and Mordecai and Rigby are hipsters. Their temporary replacements do use modern smartphones.
  • Adventure Time debuted in 2010, but features cell phones and video games that look straight out of The Eighties. Of course, the series is set 1000 years after an apocalyptic war; technological progress may have gone in some strange directions.
    • One proposed explanation for this is that The Mushroom War was the Cold War ending badly, explaining the 80s tech.
  • Mocked in Phineas and Ferb when they were going to a 50s cars exposition and everybody dressed like in the fifties. Phineas says that in the fifties, people dressed like series from the seventies.

     Real Life  
  • Two Decades Behind fads often crop up at least once per decade (see also: Popularity Polynomial). In the 2000s, 80's nostalgia became a big cultural fad, with dance clubs hosting sporadic "80's Dance Nights" and singers like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry unabashedly embracing 80's fashion and music styling. Similarly, during the 90's, 70's nostalgia swept the nation. Hence films like Dazed and Confused and the fact that, at the time, you couldn't walk into a dance hall without hearing the blaring sounds of YMCA and In The Navy, and people (mostly girls) started wearing bell-bottoms again. In The New Tens, 80s nostalgia is slowly being phased out in favor of 90s nostalgia.
  • Take a look at your own grandparents. If they haven't gone completely casual for the sake of comfort or safety, they probably dress about 20 years out of date. (Their casual wear is probably outdated as well.) In The Eighties, many grandmothers wore polyester dresses that looked more suited to The Fifties or The Sixties. The aging Casanova who dons a polyester Disco suit (complete with chest medallions) before going out on a date is also a common image from media of that era. In the 1920's, it was common in movies to portray old women wearing clothing with long skirts that wouldn't have looked out of place in the 1890's. Before the age of television or the movies, fashions dispersed very slowly. It wasn't uncommon in Renaissance Europe for people out in the countryside to dress in fashions that were about 20 years behind the clothing worn by people at court.
  • The Amish and similar groups seem to take this trope Up to Eleven—less like two decades as two centuries behind. Of course this is perhaps an unfair assumption—they don't as is often assumed reject all modernity or modern technology, simply that which doesn't fit in with their lifestyle (plain simple living, community-centric lifestyle, and separation from "the world"), and it only looks to outsiders as if they're living in another century. But it does seem as if their idea of 'plain' dress does look more like what that would have been understood a century or more ago, whilst, say, some among the Quakers have moved on in this understanding; and it's not like most people are using horse-drawn vehicles these days.
  • Pretty much everything about North Korea is basically this, especially due to the fact they're a totalitarian state complete with propaganda (and gulags) straight out of the eras of Stalin or Mao, and are still fighting the Cold War twenty-odd years after everyone else has given up. And that they still don't have daytime TV.
    • If your examine the country in greater detail things get even more out of date. It is not uncommon to find trains from the twenties still being used or weapons from the fifties still being used, even among comparatively more advanced hardware.
  • Rural areas in the U.S. in general are this way in terms of fashion and culture, or at least that's how people in urban areas see people in Flyover Country. While this might be an exaggeration, you're more likely to see things like unironic mullet haircuts outside of big cities.
    • To a lesser but still notable extent, this also applies to more suburban Midwestern areas. Compared to big cities like Los Angeles and New York City (where most of pop culture is made), the surburban Midwest is usually about one or two years behind. Judd Apatow kept this in mind when creating Freaks and Geeks, as the show was set in suburban Michigan during the early-80's, and so a lot of what was "fashionable" in the late-1970's is still catching up in the geographic region the show takes place in (such as disco backlash).
  • Serious techies tend to favor command-line interfaces from the '70s and '80s, especially those using Unix-like operating systems. They also prefer minimalistic desktop environments/window managers that look like they could be from the '80s and '90s.

    Other 
  • Pick any feel-good Christmas special out there, set anywhere near to the present day, in any supposed geographic area. In terms of scenery, dress, manners of speaking, and toys, you will immediately be transported to A: Mid 1800's London a la Charles Dickens with carolers, long scarves, and lovable chimney sweeps, or B: 1950's New York City with picturesque store front windows to look in through and sidewalks to stroll down merrily, or C: 1950's New England with rolling hills, stone walls, and early snowfall for sledding or D: A combination of all 3. A fourth locale - a small town in the Colorado Rockies with snow-dusted fir trees with Country Music on the soundtrack - also seems to have gained traction in recent decades.
  • Paintings by fantasy artist Larry Elmore almost always feature characters with 1980s hairstyles, even if said painting was created in the 1990s or 2000s.
  • Ask any young guy about knitters and he'll trot out the stereotype of old, grey-haired ladies hunched up in the corner with their straight needles and yarn, making something for their 84 cats. But the typical knitter these days in real life is in her (or his) twenties and is probably a bit of a Granola Girl. The stereotype comes directly from the minds of fiftysomething writers, who remember when young career women were warned against taking up "old-lady" hobbies like knitting if they wanted to be taken seriously - back in The Seventies. Times have changed, guys.
  • Actually, any portrayal of grandparents in the media (or anyone over 65, but those with grandchildren in particular). The media forget alarmingly easily that someone who was 70 in 2010 was born in 1940 and was therefore 20 in 1960. They won't remember transport depending on the horse. They might (if female) have worn a miniskirt. It's extremely unlikely that a woman will have an iron grey bun and be a slumped heap of shawls, or that a man will wear a v-neck sweater and tie at all times. They still have this look on TV, though.
    • Television will often use music by Swing-era artists like Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller when depicting retirees nostalgic for their youth, despite the fact that someone that was age 65 in 2014 was more likely to have listened to the Beatles and the Stones, and that Swing would have been the music of their parents' youth.
    • Sometimes Truth in Television: There are cases of some Former Teen Rebels embracing fashions they previously had spurned, which could be because they've become more traditionalist as they've grown older, they're rebelling against the new norm, or just because they want to try something different. You'll see some former 1960s student radicals turned college professors who still have long hair and beards, but also teach their classes in fussy suits with leather patches on the elbows.
  • A funny example of this happened involving the Grammy Awards. Deciding to keep up with the times, they decided to start awarding a Grammy for Best Disco Recording. Problem being, they didn't decide to create the category until 1980, a full year after Disco Demolition Night and long after disco was declared dead. The award was discontinued the next year, and "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor has the odd distinction of being the first, last, and only winner of a Best Disco Grammy.
  • Names of young kid and teenager characters in TV and movies will often be the names that were popular when the writers or showrunner was born/young and not names that were popular/widely used when the characters were born. For example two characters that Judith Barsi played were named "Lori Beth" and "Debbie" - names much more used for little girls in The Fifties than for a little girl in The Eighties. Of course, it's justified if a character is a junior, and especially so if the family is being very snobbish and following the custom of every generation having the same given name, Roman numerals and all.
  • Whenever a kid is grounded in a TV show, the standard punishment is almost always "no TV for a month" instead of cutting off the Internet access or similar. (Justifiable if the Internet is banned in their household.)
  • In 1982, the right-wing Dartmouth Review ran an infamous editorial questioning whether black students admitted to Dartmouth under affirmative action were really qualified to be at the Ivy League school. The editorial is not referred to as "infamous" today because of that—the sentiment was hardly unique at that time. It was unique, instead, because it was titled "Dis Sho' Ain't No Jive, Bro" and written entirely in what the editors seemed to think was contemporary African American vernacular English. However, sentences like the title and "Now we be comin' to Dartmut and be up over our 'fros in studies, but we still be not graduatin' Phi Beta Kappa" revealed that, as much as the authors might have claimed their inspiration was that "jive" scene in Airplane!, their ideas of black American colloquial speech were at best a decade out of date and at worst seemed to come straight from mid-century Stepin Fetchit movies.

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alternative title(s): Twenty Year Cycle; Still The Eighties
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