Unintentional Period Piece
"With dated '60s references like these, we won't have much of a life in reruns!"
A work set in the present day at the time of its creation, but is so full of the culture of the time it resembles a deliberate exaggeration of the era in a work made later
To provide a concrete example, let's say you're changing channels, and come upon an episode of Barney Miller
. You see two gay men go to the police station to talk to Barney about what a recent California court decision would mean for them if they moved therenote
. Even if you don't look up the decision or when the episode aired from outside sources, you can tell it places the episode at least a few years post-Stonewall (in other words, after 1969); then, they get stuck there because the station is under quarantine because a prisoner who was being held there might have had smallpox, which also places the episode quite firmly in time (the last case of smallpox was diagnosed in 1978).
Thus, even without knowing anything about the show, you can immediately say "filmed in the mid-1970s" without question.
And that's an Unintentional Period Piece; by being current at the time of production, it winds up feeling like a period piece
when viewed later.
is a subset of this trope. Zeerust
is when a work's depiction of the future
becomes dated, so all works with a far-future setting belong there, not here.
While just about every work becomes somewhat of a period piece after it becomes more than a decade old due to the characters referencing old trends, wearing out of style fashions and using out of date technology, this trope only really applies to works that wear their dates so blatantly that a viewer can identify the era or even year it was made in as soon as they begin to watch it. For example, while the 1990s sitcoms Friends
show their age in many respects, they don't wear The Nineties
so blatantly as to have this trope apply to them.
Some jokes fall victim to this, when a history lesson is essentially required to explain the joke to folks who weren't around at the time the joke was funny. While a joke about a president who is long remembered may have many years of life, a joke about a news story that isn't well remembered 20 years later except by the people who were alive at the time or paying attention, or based on a then-popular but now long-gone ad campaign - inverting Don't Explain the Joke
because the explanation is necessary. As years pass, the number of people who get the joke or remember the reference shrinks until the joke becomes an artifact of the generation. Historians studying an era, however read the joke and get a good laugh out of it still
and these jokes can liven up an otherwise dullish history lesson, or a group of people knowledgeable of the era
, or catch your grandparent off guard "I haven't heard that joke for years!".
Subtropes include Fashion Dissonance
(when this is caused by clothing and hairstyles alone) and Zeerust
(when it's just the technology that's outdated). Look for examples of Technology
and Society Marching On
, Aluminum Christmas Trees
, and scenes that would resemble Mister Sandman Sequences
if they occurred in an actual
period piece. Compare with Two Decades Behind
, which is when something inadvertently feels like a period piece despite having been made a good time after the period it seems to be based on. Sometimes, especially when the viewer has spent too long on This Very Wiki
, the very tropes in use
may be recognisably of an era — such as the Nineties Anti-Hero
Note that a work being a product of its time doesn't necessarily mean it isn't relevant or entertaining to modern audiences
, even notwithstanding the kitsch or nostalgia factor (as many of the examples below will demonstrate
). If the work's severe datedness also makes it inaccessible to modern audiences, then you have Values Dissonance
. However, this trope can overlap with Values Dissonance
if an intellectual fashion was very short-lived. When a work's popularity
can be specifically dated to a certain era, that makes it Deader Than Disco
. If a concept was new in its day but is now well-established and evolved beyond that, you're looking at Seinfeld Is Unfunny
. Obviously films done in black and white, as well as video games, will automatically be dated for technology reasons, but if we listed them all we'd be here all day. So it would be best to judge them more by content and plot.
Examples, organized by both decade and media:
open/close all folders
- Any given silent movie tends to put a pretty narrow window on things, and limitations on the medium means that anything from the dawn of cinema until "talkies" is pretty doomed to be - it has been over a century, relatively few people are even alive to genuinely relate.
- Anything F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote during the course of his career.
- For a specific example: In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby's life story- real or imagined- with references to World War 1 and bootlegging places the story firmly in the Prohibition era.
- The first volumes of Tintin were serialized and published weekly in the youth supplement of Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle, and included constant references to world news and celebrities of the moment (either directly or in No Celebrities Were Harmed fashion). After World War II many of these numbers were redrawn and rewritten.
- The Little Rascals, which today come off as quaint stories your grandparents might tell about being children at the time.
- The Wizard of Oz averted this trope by cutting a musical number in which the Wicked Witch of the West sends "jitterbugs" to torment Dorothy and her friends, specifically to avoid dating the movie.
- Gold Diggers of 1933 evokes The Great Depression in both its story and its songs. Justified in that the movie is very much about the difficulties of life in the Depression years.
- Classic Universal horror movies like Dracula or The Wolf Man play their supernatural menaces with a straight-faced sobriety that would never have survived an audience jaded by WWII.
- Averted/inverted in Modern Times: As the film was actually a "talkie," Charlie Chaplin wanted to thumb his nose... at the new "talkies." Even more cutting since his career (like many silent film stars) was never the same, all dialogue and sounds are somehow obscured or distorted (a hammer dropped on a concrete floor makes a muted "thud" sound, for example).
- In A Free Soul, Ace knows a terrible secret that he's blackmailing Jan with, demanding she marry him, a secret that Dwight thinks is serious enough to kill Ace over. The secret is—that Jan and Ace had sex without benefit of marriage.
- The Women. The author's 1960s Setting Update of her play has been generally ignored, and revivals tend to be based on Gorgeous Period Dress.
- A Setting Update of Of Thee I Sing reached Broadway in 1952, and flopped. Later productions have reverted to the original 1931 version, in which "the country thinks it's got depression" but it turns out that posterity (not prosperity, as President Hoover said) is just around the corner. Even educated audience members may still wonder what moratorium the chorus of reporters didn't want to know about.
- The plot of the 1938 musical Leave It to Me! relied on the facts that relations between the US and the USSR were relatively cordial, while their relations with Nazi Germany were not, and war in Europe, though seemingly imminent, was not yet a reality. Several of these facts changed irrevocably while the musical was in its post-Broadway tour.
- Margin for Error, written in 1939, is tied to a rather specific point in the diplomatic history of Nazi Germany. The published script specifies the setting as "prior to September, 1939," though its action would have remained mostly plausible in November, when the play opened in New York. The Communist-Nazi alliance and invasion of Poland are brought up as predicted turns of events. The movie version was made after the U.S. entered World War II, which forced the plot to be framed as a flashback.
- Face the Music (1932) begins on the joke that The Great Depression has reduced the rich and famous to eating at the A‎utomat, with this scene leading into a Breakaway Pop Hit that includes Herbert Hoover among its optimistic references. The second act has a drinking song in ironic salute of the not-yet-repealed Eighteenth Amendment.
1930s Western Animation
- The cartoons of Max and Dave Fleischer, especially when they'd have a Musical Episode featuring Cab Calloway or Louis Armstrong. Betty Boop herself, a flapper, had already become dated by the end of the 1930s. (Twenties in this case).
- The Porky Pig cartoon "Porky's Super Service" (released in 1937) uses this trope when it shows the (at the time ridiculous) price for gas at Porky's station. A price that, today, just about everybody would kill for (ignoring inflation). Specifically, three cents per gallon before the various taxes and fees (some of which are added for comedic effect), forty-three cents per gallon after.
- It's technically a film from the '40s (1941), but Disney's Dumbo has a very opaque '30s reference in its very first song, "Look Out for Mr. Stork." The singers casually mention "those quintuplets," which at the time would not have been necessary to explain because it is clearly a reference to the Dionne Quintuplets, five identical French-Canadian girls who became enormous celebrities during the Depression years simply by virtue of being quintuplets (and even that is dated, as quintuplets would hardly impress anyone today because octuplets have since been born). The North American media obsessively covered the Dionne story for years (partly because it gave them an excuse to avoid any controversial economic or political topics that might have offended people in what was at the time a fairly heated social climate), with the result that the girls' entire childhood and adolescence became world news. You probably only remember the Dionne Quintuplets today if you're a Thirties buff, or a student of old newsreels, or maybe if you saw that South Park episode that subtly parodied the phenomenon with a big fuss in the town over five identical Romanian girls.
- The Great Dictator actually could be considered a couple of years ahead of its time, since back when America was neutral, the Nazis were rarely badmouthed in the media. But it is cemented as an early Forties film that could not have been made after World War II because Charlie Chaplin couldn't have known the full scale of the Holocaust at the time the film was made (the Nazis are shown bullying and harassing the Jews, but nothing much worse than that). Chaplin later said that if he'd known about the full scale of it at the time, he wouldn't have made the film.
- Likewise the award-winning The Three Stooges short You Naszty Spy was based on prewar conceptions of the fascists as little more than thuggish buffoons; The Stooges (who were all Jewish) were devastated when they discovered the horrifying reality underlying all of the Nazis' pompous posturing.
- "Confessions of a Nazi Spy," filmed in 1939 and released in 1940, portrayed a United States when it was feasible enough for German immigrants and German-Americans to have enough of a dual loyalty to the United States and Germany that they could be seduced into spying on the former for the latter. Several of the spies in the film are members of the German-American Bund, an organization that began to be viewed as possibly treasonous by 1942, when the US was at war with Nazi Germany
- Gentleman's Agreement, a 1947 film about Anti-Semitism, references several 1940s politicians and scandals. At the time, its topicality made it Award Bait; today, these references would send a history professor running to The Other Wiki.
- Kitty Foyle is soaked in 1940 sexism. Kitty lives in an apartment building where men aren't even allowed to visit. Her co-workers yammer on about how all they want is a man. Her handsome doctor suitor, who is meant to be the more sympathetic choice in the Love Triangle that forms the plot, plays solitaire with her on their first "date" as a test to make sure she isn't a Gold Digger. When he sees Kitty's less attractive roommates, he says "I've seen better specimens in a glass jar."
- "Route 66". The title route became a lot less relevant when freeways became the next big thing in The Fifties. U.S. Highway 66 was upgraded to freeway bypasses of many metropolitan areas, and said bypasses were later assumed into the routes of the Interstate Highway System (mostly Interstates 40, 44, and 55). The number, by then assigned to a freeway routing that had almost no connection to the original Chicago-to-California route, was finally retired in 1985. However, many portions of the old routing are still present and contain signs or monuments honoring the route's legacy (parts of it are even signed with markers reading "Historic Route 66").
- One Touch of Venus has a few throwaway lines and walk-ons that betray the fact that it was written and produced during World War II (which figures not at all into the plot).
1940s Western Animation
- Any Wartime Cartoon.
- Looney Tunes shorts tend to be full of the pop culture of the decade they were made, particularly those made in the 1930s and '40s. This could also be said of episodes of Tom and Jerry, Woody Woodpecker or any number of cartoon shorts.
- Any short directed by Tex Avery is especially full of dated and forgotten Memetic Mutations of the day.
- The Tom and Jerry short "The Zoot Cat" deserves special mention, not only for its 1940s Fashion Dissonance but because the slang and the dances featured in it place it firmly in the 1940s.
- The 1946 Disney short "All the Cats Join In", with its jazz soundtrack produced by Benny Goodman, features teens partying in a malt shop, doing swing dancing as a jukebox plays.
- Also the Donald Duck cartoon "Wide Open Spaces" showed Donald refusing to pay the (at the time) expensive price of $16 to stay at a hotel. These days, it makes Donald look really cheap, which is actually almost funnier.
- Hysterical Red Scare films like I Married a Communist! date to a very specific point in time.
- Downplayed but still present with The Movie of West Side Story, which was made (very early) in The Sixties but is presumably set in 1957, which is when the play debuted. Admittedly, the Jets look and talk like a product of their time, but the much grittier Sharks look like they could be from two or three decades into the future! The dialogue, however, was fairly authentic teenage slang from the '50s—which of course makes it sound incredibly dated to modern viewers.
- Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? takes place in an extremely played-up version of the period in which it was made– accurately predicting how people in the future would remember the fifties.
- The Seven Year Itch (1955) is a time capsule of the mid-1950s due to Values Dissonance and other reasons. For starters, the entire plot is set in motion when the wives and children of New York City leave for New England to escape the summer heat, which would not be necessary just a few years later when air-conditioning became more prevalent and reliable. The female characters, almost without exception, are seen wearing the high-waisted, long-skirted "New Look" style of dress that was already starting to pass out of fashion when this movie was made. The script is littered with subtle and not-so-subtle references to the popular culture of the time period, some of them bordering on (and in one case even crossing) the Celebrity Paradox: the characters going to a theater to see Creature from the Black Lagoon, a pretty blatant parody of From Here to Eternity, etc. Perhaps most striking, however, is the characters' discussion of the Marilyn character wearing nothing but a bikini for a U.S. Camera photo shoot: we are told that police had to show up on the beach to keep the crowd under control, and until we actually see the photo, the way the characters refer to it leads us to believe that The Girl had actually been posing nude.
- A Face in the Crowd is set in a time when rock-and-roll and television were obviously new national crazes, and when TV programming was mostly produced in New York and was dependably wholesome.
- A couple of Ian Fleming's James Bond stories from ca. 1959 reference the anti-Batista forces in revolutionary Cuba with some sympathy, which wouldn't be the case a year or so later.
- Max Shulman's 1957 novel Rally Round the Flag, Boys! has suburban housewives organizing committees to welcome a Nike installation, which leads to a fight between soldiers and Greaser Delinquents. Throwaway references include a Henpecked Husband comparing trying to make a date with his wife with "like trying to get tickets to My Fair Lady."
1950s Live Action TV
- The Twilight Zone. Though most of its seasons were aired in the early '60s, it still comes off as '50s for the most part, with a lot of commentary on the Cold War and Red Scare in many episodes. There is of course still some Values Resonance to be found in some episodes though, so it varies from episode to episode.
- Roger Ebert wrote that starting in the 1950s, television made it possible for pop-cultural fads to spread like wildfire and then burn out just as quickly as other, "cooler" fads replaced them. He could swear to this since he was an adolescent during that decade and watched quite a lot of TV, and he could date his childhood pop-culture phenomena - Davy Crockett, The Mickey Mouse Club, Zorro - not just to the mid-1950s, but to the exact year and sometimes to the exact month.
- The original version of "Santa Baby" as sung by Eartha Kitt refers to a "'54 convertible", changed in some covers to "outer space convertible."
- Though it can be subverted, as 1950s cars are highly sought after nowadays. Maybe if you heard this song in the 1960s or 1970s, it'd be closer to this trope.
- Many songs by Chuck Berry are simultaneously timeless yet also time capsules of the era, especially for automobile historians (see "Maybelline", "No Money Down", "Jaguar and Thunderbird", etc.).
- In the Clovers' 1959 song "Love Potion Number Nine" the lyrics go: "I told her that I was a flop with chicks / I've been this way since 1956". Wow, that guy's been a flop with the girls for a looooong time....
- Later covers of the song avert this; you can change it to 1996 or 2006 and the song's no longer dated.
- Bells Are Ringing necessarily takes place before the rise of answering machines, which had already begun in the 1960s. It has a subplot involving fake orders placed in bulk for recordings of classical music in "all three speeds" (78 RPM died out around 1958). There's also a List Song rattling off the names of 1950s celebrities (which, like a number of similar songs from Cole Porter musicals, had a few lines revised during the original Broadway run).
- Damn Yankees. Most obviously, the protagonist roots for and then plays for the Washington Senators, which moved in 1960 to become the Minnesota Twins.
- Lil Abner is vintage 1950s satire about atomic bomb testing and scientific optimism. The song lyrics allude to a fair number of advertising slogans of the time; "Progress Is The Root Of All Evil," whose title is a cross between an old proverb and a General Electric slogan, is about 1950s trends and failing to keep up with them.
- The Most Happy Fella, despite being set in the 1920s, is commonly supposed to take place in the 1950s, when it was written. This is largely because the musical deliberately dropped the contemporary political topics of the 1924 play on which it was based, including all references to Prohibition.
- Love With the Proper Stranger: Quite progressive and un-dated in many ways, but clearly made before abortion was legalised in New York state in 1970.
- Magical Mystery Tour, and not just because it starred the Beatles. Pretty much everything about it, from the bus painted in the most psychedelic colors possible to the fashions to the "experimental" (in reality incomprehensible) plot, screams 1960s.
- Revolution 1968: This Documentary captures the feeling of the 1960s, even though the topics in them might seem old-fashioned nowadays.
- One, Two, Three: This film literally became a period piece during shooting — when the production started, the Berlin Wall had not been erected yet, and shooting could happen at the Brandenburg Gate. However, as filming continued, and they needed to film a chase between James Cagney's character and his companions and some East German policemen that continued over the border between East and West Berlin, East Germany very unobligingly decided to put up the Wall. The film is written and performed as if still in the pre-wall period.
- The White Album by Joan Didion, which is an intentional reflection on the period (that goes into the early 1970s as well).
- In the foreword to The Warriors, Sol Yurick notes that at the time the book was written, gangs had limited access to guns and cars.
1960s Live Action TV
- The Brady Bunch bleeds its late 1960s/early 1970s origin, due to Fashion Dissonance and being a touch too conservative for the '70s proper. This is lampshaded in the Brady Bunch movies, where they have this attitude in the 1990s.
- The Batman live-action series, arguably intentionally. The creators of the series deliberately went for an over-the-top "pop" palette reminiscent of 1960s artists like Warhol and Liechtenstein, and much of the humor derived from Batman and Robin's "old-fashioned" values becoming outdated in a more permissive era. By the time the show ended, the counterculture and hippies had started to creep in.
- The Banana Splits, especially during the song segments. For example, in the "San Francisco" version of Wait 'Till Tomorrow, as well as the "Pop Cop" segment (which doesn't feature the Splits), you can see various, then-current styles of cars from the time.
- Mission: Impossible clearly dates itself by a combination of two factors: on the one hand, while the conflict with the Soviet Bloc could carry the stories into the 1980s, several episodes dealing with Nazis keep it from going later into the 1970s as concerns about Nazis plotting a fourth Reich faded from popular culture. Also, many episodes mention then-extravagant amounts of money that would be considered rather paltry in the 2010s thanks to fifty years of inflation.
- Depending on the episode, Star Trek: The Original Series has this going on alongside its Zeerust. Between the color palette, the miniskirts, the Cold War Fed/Kling politics, the civil-rights-era Aesops and Chekhov's Monkees hair, it comes across as some kind of Neo-'60s even when they aren't confronted with space hippies.
- The Prisoner, although how unintentional it was is debatable, and the series' influence is such that it probably shaped later perception of the '60s. Nonetheless, the show criticizes Cold War power structures (with the major implication that Number Six's captors may be his own "side" and his retirement from spy service as a "matter of conscience"), and has an overall tone that can only be described as 'psychedelic', features very 1960s fashions (most notably Number Six's jacket, the multicoloured capes seen on a few characters, and the prevalence of lava lamps). The finale includes (without giving away too much) the music of The Beatles ("All You Need Is Love") and a character, thematically representing universal youth culture, calling everyone "dad" or "baby".
- "Happy Together" by The Turtles includes the line "If I should call you up, invest a dime..." Telephone booths often cost 50 cents nowadays, and even they are becoming obsolete as cell phones are becoming more commonplace.
- "Mustang Sally" sung by Wilson Pickett: "I bought you a brand new Mustang, 1965..."
- "Magic Bus" by The Who manages to still sound reasonably timeless until it betrays the fact that it was written before British currency was decimalised with "Thruppence and sixpence every day just to drive to my baby".
- Elvis Presley song "Return to Sender" has a lyric in which the singer gets the letter returned to him stamped "no such number/no such zone". The "zone" is a reference to postal zones, a way of routing letters in large cities that was introduced in 1943 and retired in the 1960s in favor of modern-day ZIP codes.
- If you know that ZIP actually stands/stood for "Zone Improvement Program" (which is why it's "ZIP Code," not "Zip Code"), it's still pretty clear, but most people who know that are old enough to remember zones outright.
- "Bossa Nova Baby" has the line "Loan me a dollar and I'll buy some gas." Nowadays, $1 worth of gas might get you around the block.
- The Beatles' "Taxman" refers to contemporary tax rates = "One for you, nineteen for me." (a 95% supertax on earnings for British subjects in the top income bracket) and contemporary politicians - "Mr. Wilson" and "Mr. Heath" refer to Harold Wilson and Edward Heath, who were the leaders of the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, respectively.
- "Everyone you see is full of life/It's time for tea and "Meet the Wife"." ("Meet the Wife" was a popular BBC TV sitcom of The Sixties.)
- The song "Revolution" has the line "If you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow". Back in the 1960s and 1970s Maoism was a bit more popular and widespread among leftist youth than it is now.
- A lot of Frank Zappa's work are period pieces, most blatantly with We're Only in It for the Money, which satirizes the hippie movement.
- Scott McKenzie's One-Hit Wonder "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)", dates from a very specific time, namely the spring and summer of 1967 in San Francisco, popularly known as the "Summer of Love".
- The Ventures' Christmas Album has holiday standards arranged around hooks from contemporary pop hits like "I Feel Fine", "She's Not There", and "When You Walk in the Room", making it unmistakably mid-1960s.
- Whilst the The Beatles' original Sergeant Pepper's album (1967) is viewed today as a timeless classic, the many imitators that were rushed out by other record companies to cash in on its success have dated badly. The Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request and The Moody Blues' In Search Of The Lost Chord - both intended to cash in on the mood and themes of Sergeant Pepper - today sound like pastiches of sixties' pop music with few memorable songs. Other Pepper imitations which now sound like standard products of their own decade include The Small Faces' Ogden's Gone Nut Flake and Pink Floyd's The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
- "Kay" by John Wesley Ryles, a 1968 country music song about a broken-hearted taxicab driver. Two of his customers are soldiers who say that they hate "that war in Vietnam".
- Hair focused heavily on The Sixties while they were still going on, but did so intentionally.
- The Boys in the Band is very much a look at the self-loathing, dread and neurosis in a pre-Stonewall gay culture - especially since it hit the stage in 1968, one year before the Stonewall Rebellion. In fact, when William Friedkin adapted the play for the screen in 1970, right when gay liberation and pride were on the rise, he was excoriated for putting together a "throwback" to the days of gay shame.
- The original version of the musical How Now, Dow Jones is filled with topical and cultural references highly specific to 1967. (These were extensively revised for the show's 2009 revival.)
- The plot is driven around a young woman who's frustrated because her fiancé won't marry her until the Dow Jones Industrial Average rises above 1,000.note
- Many jokes rely on the audience being familiar with Lane Bryant (a women's clothing store popular at that time) and The Graduate.
- One scene that requires a set, costumes, and actors that aren't used anywhere else in the production is a parody of a then-current Dreyfus Fund commercial featuring a lion emerging from the subway and moving along Wall Street.
1960s Western Animation
- Scooby-Doo, thanks in no small part to the bubblegum pop background music during some chase scenes (starting with the second season in 1970— which makes this show a good candidate for the 1970s entries as well!).
- As noted in the page quote, Rocky and Bullwinkle. Ironically, Rocky and Bullwinkle has had a much longer life in reruns — appearing in syndication through the 1960s, '70s and '80s, on Nickelodeon in the early 1990s, and occasionally elsewhere since then — than the show poking fun at it in the page quote (Tiny Toon Adventures hadn't been seen much on TV since the late 1990s until The Hub brought it back in 2013).
- It helps that there are over 100 episodes and the rights aren't owned by any of the big networks note (so it's easier to negotiate syndication rights from area to area), whereas Tiny Toons has only 98 and is owned by Warner Bros., which is co-owned with the Turner networks.
- The Flintstones and The Jetsons, despite taking place in the past and the future respectively, have enough 1960s pop culture references that they come off as "The 1960s With Cavemen" or "The 1960s With Flying Cars".
- The 1980s Jetsons revival is a weird double example, essentially being 1980s pop culture references in a 1960s-style future.
- The 1967 Looney Tunes short Daffy's Diner has Daffy using DDT to give the rubber mice he cooks a more authentic flavor. DDT would be banned in the early-1970's.
- One of io9's chief criticisms of the 2010 movie adaptation of Gulliver's Travels was that it was "immediately dated" to 2010. The review called it "a ferociously shameless time capsule of 2010 pop culture."
- The New Zealand-made film The Holy Roller has sadly become this, thanks to the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
- The 2012 film version of The Three Stooges attempts to be an updating of the famous comedy team, yet also dates itself severely by including the cast of Jersey Shore as themselves for much of the film.
- The Eddie Murphy comedy film A Thousand Words was made in 2008 but released in 2012. It featured Flip Phone product placement, the novel The Shack was referred to as a hot trend, and the protagonist was a wealthy literary agent whose job would not exist in an e-book era. Many critics used the phrase "Unintentional Period Piece" in their reviews.
- If the film is ever released, David O. Russell's Black Comedy Nailed would be one of these. When it began filming in 2008, the premise of a waitress with a nail lodged in her skull fighting for health insurance was timely. Now with society marching on due to the Affordable Care Act, this premise is now considerably dated and would severely limit its audience due to the irrelevance (another factor is that Russell refuses to finish the film due to fights with the film's producer).
- Vampires Suck, as mentioned above, and The Starving Games (the Gangnam Style "joke" ALONE arguably throws it into this category).
- The Nut Job also dated itself right out of the gate by using "Gangnam Style" (complete with an animated Psy in the credits!) nearly two years after the song's heyday (the movie came out in January 2014).
- 21 Jump Street relies on things that have changed among teenagers between the mid-2000s and early 2010s for much of its humor.
- One of the main characters in Iron Sky is a US President based on Sarah Palin, which manages to date it to the brief moment in the late '00s and early '10s when Palin was a major political figure. By the time the film was released in 2012, she was already at the tail end of her fame and was only taken seriously by her supporters; the entire joke was about how ridiculous the idea of Palin becoming President would be. Nowadays, she's barely a blip on the cultural and political radar, rendering the joke quite dated.
2010s Live Action TV
- A funny one occurred on NCIS: Los Angeles when the subject of one episode was Libyan government agents sent by Qaddaffi killing a rebel propagandist and trying to use his identity to get the rebel leadership into an ambush. Obviously written and filmed when the Libyan Civil War seemed (from the outside) to be deadlocked, by the time the episode aired (October 2011) the rebels would be more properly called "The Libyan Government", having been recognized as such internationally in September 2011 with Qaddaffi the one on the run who should be wary of ambushes. The "Arab Spring" references also clearly date the show.
- Breaking Bad is a curious example, considering the first season aired in 2008. However, considering the timeline of the series only takes place over the course of a year, and in the final season a character makes a reference to "whacking Bin Laden", means the series takes place no earlier than mid 2011. However, the use of flip-phones by every character rather than smartphones baffles some viewers. On the other hand, smartphones do start to proliferate toward the end of the series.
- This is a case of Shown Their Work for the main characters, as cheap, pre-paid cell phones are very commonly used by drug dealers because their low cost and lack of binding contracts makes them easy to dispose of and quickly replace as needed.
- Turn on almost any given episode of Glee from the second season on, and you're likely to hear at least one song that was popular at the exact time the episode was made, not to mention the frequent references to current fads.
- This tends to be true of any "let's-put-on-a-show" fictional musical series (another example being Disney's Kids Incorporated in the 1980s and early '90s). Since the musical is essentially an old-fashioned genre, these shows often try to come across as current as possible. You might remember that the major controversy on the very first episode of Glee was the club's decision to incorporate post-1960s rock and pop music (some of it very current) into their repertoire of old show tunes.
- How I Met Your Mother is starting to become this with frequent pop culture references to things like Inception, memes, and Fifty Shades of Grey. Possibly justified, as the Framing Device dates the show by the month/year. The references would be hip at the time of the episode.
- In The Fosters' fifth episode, the morning-after pill is kept behind the counter, available to over-16s only; the tenth features a fully legally sanctioned California same-sex wedding, placing them before and after the 2012-13 Supreme Court session, respectively.
- The Rise Against song "Make It Stop (September's Children)", which is about homophobic bullying and makes reference to a number of high-profile gay teen suicides.
- "#SELFIE" by The Chainsmokers is ingrained with early-mid 2010s culture, with lyrics about taking selfies with Instagram, "Summertime Sadness", and referring to another girl as "ratchet". Todd in the Shadows, when placing the song on his list of the worst songs of 2014, used this as his justification, saying that "there was nothing else as painfully 2014 in 2014".
- "Wiggle" by Jason Derulo is another song which refers to Instagram in its lyrics.
- Instagram is also mentioned in Rascal Flatts' "Payback". The original line was "Get some pictures on the Internet", but it was likely specified to avoid Unfortunate Implications.
- Ronnie Dunn, formerly one-half of Brooks & Dunn, got hit with this on his 2011 single "Cost of Livin'". The song, about a hard-working man struggling to find a new job in a tough economic climate, already dates it to the fallout of the 2007-09 Recession. But it also has the line "Three dollars and change at the pump" (including a rarely-heard edit to "four dollars and change"), which has become dated with gas prices falling into the $2 range in much of the country as of late 2014-early 2015.
2010s Web Original
- This trope is lampshaded by Matt and Pat of Two Best Friends Play during their playthrough of Resident Evil 4. Early on Matt talks about how early previews of The Evil Within have been rather mixed during the PAX video game convention in spring 2014, and then says afterward "oh wow this is going to be weird to watch in a few years." Later when Matt brings up a then-current event of Vince McMahon having lost millions of dollars, Pat comments "wow you're really dating this video now." They even eventually make a comment on how the game manages to date itself with a line about how the word "terrorism" is "such a popular word these days" (Resident Evil 4 came out in 2005, when the War on Terror was still pretty relevant).
2010s Western Animation
- A few episodes of Futurama falls into this:
- "The Duh-Vinci Code" makes a crack at Leonardo being unable to determine the mass of the Higgs Boson. At the time of its production (July 2010), researchers at the Large Hadron Collider famously furiously attempted to discover it. It has since been discovered and documented in March 2013.
- "That Darn Katz!" is made up largely of lolcat jokes at their peak of popularity. They are still reasonably popular now but have been slipping out of mainstream.
- "Decision 3012" falls into this since it's a satire on all the Barack Obama conspiracies.
- "A Farewell to Arms" can be seen as this since the plot is a parody of the supposed end of the world in 2012.
- A precancellation episode "I Dated A Robot" involves celebrities' personalities being downloaded onto blank robots through a company called (Kid)Nappster. This is dated to the early 2000s when Napster was popular, and has since been shutdown. The writers acknowledge this on the DVD Commentary.
- The South Park episode "A Scauze for Applause" ends with Jesus leading the townspeople in a "Free Pussy Riot" rally, which becomes this after the members of Pussy Riot were freed in 2013.
Special Cases (either multiple decades, or Older Than Radio)
- Advertising in general has a tendency to be dated to whatever time period it came out, due to its constant attempt to capture the zeitgeist of whatever era it appeared in in order to better market products. As Charlie Brooker explains:
"Old adverts are like little nostalgia bombs, really. Each one sums up the year in which it appeared in an instant. '60s
ads are cool and swinging, the '70s
ads are sort of brown and grotty
, whereas the '80s
were characterized by power ballads
and absolute swaggering fuckery like this." ... "'90s
ads were all huggy-wuggy and sophisticated, whereas the noughties
can't decide if they're all troubled and weird
, or inspirational like this bloke whose cycling glory has prompted an identity crisis."
- Any ad that features a photorealistic drawing rather than an actual color photograph can't be any later than the 1960s (unless, of course, the advertiser is going for a Retraux effect).
- Honda's "One More Thing To Love About Today" ad puts its subject in the inspo board for a mid-2010s "Mister Sandman" Sequence complete with Finn and Jake and pictures of animals from memes.
- Look at any issue of Archie Comics. Even back in the early '90s, they acknowledged this with their Americana Collections, showcasing the iconic strips of each individual decade. Usually they will feature one "Love Triangle"-themed story, then dozens of others about then-current fads, or parodies of then-popular movies. The fashions of most strips shown in the Digest format issues years later also date certain stories greatly.
- 2000AD has an interesting relationship with this trope, being something of a Long Runner:
- Early Judge Dredd stories were often steeped in the Cold War, with the Soviet Union surviving into the 22nd century and being the main antagonists in quite a few stories, at least until East-Meg One got nuked to oblivion. The Volgan Empire in Invasion! and especially ABC Warriors was an incredibly obvious Soviet stand-in, at least until they were retconned.
- During The Eighties, nearly every strip made some reference to Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan.
- The Nineties featured strips such as the ''Space Girls'' and ''BLAIR 1'' (a parody of MACH 1, an early strip from 1977) in order to stay relevant. These were not well-recieved.
- Many superheroes have dated origins, according to either comics canon or tradition. Bruce Wayne became Batman after seeing his parents get shot outside a movie theater showing The Mark of Zorro (1940), while Bruce Banner became The Incredible Hulk in the early 1960s while trying to stop a beatnik-like teenager from wandering onto a nuclear testing site. Understandably, many of these details have been altered by later stories.
- Many of the early Avengers comics ended up becoming incredibly dated, not just due to the Dirty Communist type villains common in that era, but also because of many pop culture references included in the stories.
- Porn films. Due to No Plot? No Problem!, most porn is set in the time it was filmed in, the performers wearing their streetclothes and current haircut. When released it looks "normal", but give it 10-20 years and it's a period piece. The video quality and soundtrack can make it look even more dated.
- Exploitation films have a strong tendency to fall into this, due to the way exploitation filmmaking works.
- The Three Stooges shorts, made from the 1930s through the 1950s, were always a product of their time.
- Silent films, except for the handful made in the 1930s by Charlie Chaplin, will always be associated with the 1910s and 1920s.
- Most of the James Bond films, with each version of Bond being this to (roughly) one particular decade. The Sean Connery films have their feet planted in The Sixties, Roger Moore's Bond is a product of The Seventies, the Timothy Dalton films are products of The Eighties, the Pierce Brosnan films are filled with the post-Cold War vibe of The Nineties, and Daniel Craig's Darker and Edgier Bond is a man of the Turn of the Millennium and The War on Terror.
- West Side Story is sort of an evolutionary missing link between the more violent films of the 1970's and the whimsy of musicals of the 60's—it's likely that only in that exact timespace could that movie have been made.
- This joke is funny, but the boy in the joke has to be from the 1970's-1990's to have a grandfather who in World War II, making it dated, sadly. Giving this background kills the surprise.
A boy was upstairs playing on his computer when his grandad came in the room and sat down on the bed.
"What are you doing?", Asked the grandad. "You're 18 years old and wasting your life! When I was 18 I went to Paris, I went to the Moulin Rouge, drank all night, had my way with the dancers, pissed on the barman and left without paying! Now that is how to have a good time!"
A week later, the grandfather comes to visit again. He finds the boy still in his room, but with a broken arm in plaster, 2 black eyes and missing all his front teeth.
"What happened?", he asked.
"Oh Grandfather!", replied the boy. "I did what you did! I went to Paris, went to the Moulin Rouge, drank all night, had my way with the dancers, pissed all over the barman, and he beat the crap out of me!"
"Oh dear!", replied the grandad. "Who did you go with?"
"Just some friends, why? Who did you go with?"
"Oh!" replied the grandad. "The Third Panzer Division."
- Q:How do we know Adam and Eve were computer nerds?
A:God gave Eve an Apple and Adam a Wang
- Jane Austen's books, which define the Regency Romance subgenre.
- Pride and Prejudice is used on the Period Piece page to illustrate a story whose crisis Does Not Compute in a present-day 21st century setting.
- Northanger Abbey was actually this at the time of publication, being an early work of Austen's only published later in her lifetime, and being a send-up of the Gothic Horror novels which were popular when it was written; however, tastes had since moved on. The author even issued an apology for this in the preface.
- Stephen King's works are chock full of pop-cultural references from whenever the book was written, to an almost Family Guy-like extent. It helps that he tries to keep things timeless by heavily reference-mining 1950s and '60s pop culture, but that in itself evokes the poignant Baby Boomer nostalgia that was everywhere in the '80s when King wrote many of his most iconic novels.
- The Sherlock Holmes stories, which practically define Victorian London to modern audiences. Part of Steven Moffat's motive in writing Sherlock was that he felt the books' nature as Unintended Period Pieces was getting in the way of what Arthur Conan Doyle intended them to be, which was crime thrillers.
- Vintage movie reviews often fall prey to this, usually because of a critic either panning a movie that goes on to become a cult classic or lavishly praising a movie that nobody likes years later. Most film critics are well aware of this fallacy and have learned to laugh at themselves because of it, but there are critics who take the tendency Up to Eleven. Roger Ebert, for example, has been known to pepper his reviews with Totally Radical slang (perhaps to stay relevant, dammit), mentioning "dig" (as in, "think something is cool") in his 1972 review of The Godfather and "the max" (meaning "the greatest") in his 1985 review of Weird Science. Sometimes in parody.
- Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos series (taking place some hundred years into the future) is filled to the bursting with reference to 20th century culture. There are a few older references and a few references to fictional future events, but the overwhelming majority of them are from Simmons' lifetime.
- While the James Bond novels fall into this when it comes to fashions and attitudes, Ian Fleming went out of his way to avert this somewhat with the introduction of SPECTRE in the later books. By using a strictly apolitical organization to replace SMERSH as the main evil group, he intended for the books to avoid being too firmly entrenched in the Cold War culture in which he was writing.
- P. G. Wodehouse's books took place in a kind of flexible Comic-Book Time version of the Genteel Interbellum Setting that he originally began writing them in, and he kept them coming until his death in the 1970s. In one interview, he noted with bemusement that he was was writing "historical novels".
- The Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys books, which have been written non-stop since the late 1920's, always give an interesting cross-section of culture at the time. The originals actually had to have their very 20's sensibilities modernized during the 60's, where it happened all again. It got worse after they switched publishers in 1979, since the new publishing house was a lot prone to using much more topical themes. Two 80's spinoffs, The Nancy Drew Files and The Hardy Boys Casefiles, had stories taking place in very 80's settings, such as on a soap opera (at the peak of General Hospital supercouple Luke and Laura) or horror movies (back when Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street were churning out sequels left and right.) Similarly, the most recent series, Nancy Drew: Girl Detective and Hardy Boys: Undercover Brothers, are even moreso, with stories about reality TV and cyberbullying.
- Some of Bill Bryson's travelogues; In The Lost Continent Bryson is startled to see how much America had changed since The Sixties. Reading it today is reveals how much the country has changed since 1987-88. It's certainly one of the last works to mention strip clubs in Times Square; Similarly in Neither Here Nor There Bryson discovers how much Europe has moved on since he backpacked around as a student in the 1970s. Being written in 1990 it has a pre-single European currency Europe and a pre-Balkan war Yugoslavia, pre-Oresund Bridge Denmark, as well as relying on printed guidebooks for European train times; A Walk in the Woods the Gizmo-crazy hiker is kitted out with technology that was advanced in 1997 (GPS, self-pitching tent) but is fairly standard fare now; Notes from a Big Country mostly deals with a mid-90's world just before the internet and cellphones became ubiquitous - Bryson mentions the difficulty of finding change for a payphone at the airport, the amount of mail order catalogs he's sent, sending faxes to the UK, and renting movies on videotape.
Live Action TV
- Quite unavoidable with a Long Runner such as Doctor Who — the special effects and fashions give the production decades away within minutes. When the stories have been restored to DVD with new special effects, the Restoration Team have very deliberately shot many of the new effects in appropriate styles so they wouldn't clash with the source material. So the Five Doctors Special Edition has new and improved CGI effects that actually look like Eighties effects.
- And once again used deliberately in "Time Crash", which alternates between the grand orchestral score of the Tenth Doctor's era and the the synthesized background music of the Fifth Doctor's era.
- Watch's 50th Anniversary rundown of the Doctors pointed this out while discussing each Doctor - pointing out how each Doctor's personality, the personality of the threats they faced, and especially their personal appearance was informed by the era from which they came. For instance, the narrator suggested that the addition of Mel was inspired by the 1980s fitness craze, and most of the talking heads seemed to agree that, while Colin Baker's outfit was incredibly awful even in-universe, it's really only a mild exaggeration of hideous things people sincerely wore in the 80s.
- Played with in the novelization of "Shada", which was a 1979 Development Hell episode originally written by Douglas Adams, and eventually novelized by a writer on David Tennant/Matt Smith-era Doctor Who in 2012. As a result, the 1970s setting, which was Like Reality Unless Noted for Adams, is deliberately played for kitschy absurdity - the male companion is specifically noted to have long, feathered hair and a taste for denim jackets (which would have been assumed default in the '70s), a very Douglas Adams joke about humanity's obsession with digital watches goes from being satirical (similar to a modern joke about fixation on smartphones) to being funny entirely because of the anachronism of it, and the band Status Quo show up at one point, for laughs. At the same time, the Time Lord tech is altered to be more like modern tech, with K-9 being given a battery charge indicator that works like one on a modern phone, and Chronotis's time telegraph having a touch screen and a 'Sent Mail' folder, and it's likely this was intended to look equally silly in the future.
- In the episode "Rose", we know it was made in the early-to-mid 2000s because the Tylers still don't have internet access at home or even a computer, so Rose has to go over to her boyfriend's house just to look something up online.
- The 2005 finale, "Bad Wolf"/"The Parting of the Ways", largely revolves around deadly versions of game shows such as Big Brother, The Weakest Link and What Not to Wear. However, the cancellation of all these shows but Big Brother and all of them being long gone from the public zeitgeist means the episode can feel quite dated.
- Soul Train: Mainly for The Seventies, but also for The Eighties and The Nineties.
- Thanks to the Ripped from the Headlines formula, Law & Order, depending on the season, can seem quite dated. On the other hand, the fact that they just switch the names makes it so that the older episodes can still be enjoyed on their own merit.
- Episodes of Saturday Night Live, thanks to its musical guests and its use of topical, current events humor (from "Generalíssimo Francisco Franco is still dead" to "I can see Russia from my house!"), can be dated almost to the year.note
- Parodied in the opening monologue of an episode hosted by John Goodman, with musical guest Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, who both made most of their many appearances in the '90s.
- The Franco one was called back when Chevy Chase hosted and appeared on Weekend Update along with then-host Kevin Nealon, using 1975 news-jokes who Nealon immediately complained about afterwards.
- Pretty much every Game Show is dated to the year that it's produced, whether because of the products (four-figure Datsuns, anyone?) or the questions (which can fall prey to future updates).
- Other times, they will have answers pertaining to then-current pop culture, which may or may not fall under this trope depending on how long-lasting that pop culture item becomes. For instance, an answer on a 2003 episode of Wheel of Fortune was LIFE WITH BONNIE, a short-lived ABC sitcom that is barely a footnote in Bonnie Hunt's career.
- Commented on in Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego. The Chief would always read a disclaimer at the end that all geographical information was current as of taping. Given that the show's run coincided with The Great Politics Mess-Up, The Yugoslav Wars and a number of other events, all of which meant that any given day an atlas may have become obsolete, it makes perfect sense. It's possible that the follow-up show, Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego, switched its major topic from geography to history for that very reason, since history is, by definition, one of the few subjects that would be immune to change from current events.
- Even Rockapella's theme song had to change with the times; After the '93 season, Carmen no longer traveled from Chicago to Czechoslovakia, but to Czech AND Slovakia. And back.
- One episode of Britain's Strike It Lucky led with an admission that they were out of date; the answer to one of the questions had changed during the week it aired.
- Happens a lot more in Star Trek than you would think at first glance. The more obvious examples are of how Kirk's Enterprise looked, essentially, like a 1950s-60s naval vessel in its design and style, and how Picard's Enterprise was comparatively bright and pastel, just like the decade in which it was envisioned, but more glaring is the almost total lack of anything resembling pop culture in the Star Trek universe from after the end of the second millennium. Everybody listens to jazz and classical music, reads classical works of literature or, at most, stuff like pulp or noir, enjoys classical plays, and the most popular games seem to be variants of ancient games such as chess or racquetball. Movies, television and video games are practically non-existent, the writers never saw the internet coming, and there are scant examples of any post-20th century media. It's as if human culture essentially stopped after a certain point, even as Technology Marches On.
- Episodes of The Price Is Right from the 20th century often included outdated technology such as VCRs and phonographs, the vehicles offered during the 80s BLED then-contemporary structure and design, and showcases often included pop music from the 80s. At one point the Giant Price Tag was very, VERY 80s, featuring the show's logo on a Space/Futuristic background. As the contestants were always pulled directly from the audience, the fashions and cultures of the 70s and 80s were very prevalent.
- Price actually stayed stuck in the 80s well into the early 2000s, given their insistence on using physical props instead of video monitors, a set that went mostly unchanged for 20 years, and of course, the prominent use of Edd Kalehoff's Moog synthesizer in their theme song (it's still there, by the way).
- Long-running talk shows and panel shows in general, due to their reliance on topical guests and events for interviews, jokes, and musical performances.
- British panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks falls into this, with many of the show's jokes referring to subjects topical at the time, many of the songs being referenced falling out of vogue a couple of years or so after the episode's original airing and having numerous guests who ended up becoming One Hit Wonders. (In the case of the latter, some of these guests had already become obscure by the time they appeared on the show.) As well as this, the theme song changed with the times, to an indie-style version of itself in 2006.
- For example, the first episode (made in 1996) had the drummer from Dodgy as one of the guests (the band faded into obscurity in the late 90s) and one of the intros was "I Love, You Love, Me Love" by Gary Glitter who didn't have a joke made at his expense. note
- A more recent example would be the times Simon Amstell mocked Amy Winehouse's alcoholism.
- Pick any long running Toku franchise, and you'll probably be able to guess the decade from the fashions alone. For example...
- Ultraman is most definitely a product of the 60's, if only for tone. While it still had many of the super science trappings of the late 50's, its tone of hope for the future and building a better tomorrow are more in line for what 60's Toku was becoming.
- For that matter, many of the Ultra series date themselves through aesthetics alone, with hippies showing up in both Ace and Jack, and an early seventies Psychedelic Rock song in one ep of Return of Ultraman.
- The first five Kamen Rider series (Kamen Rider through Kamen Rider Stronger) are essentially products of the 1970's, given the heroes' fashions.
- Kamen Rider Super-1 also manages to date itself through both clothing and background music, as well as the fact that Super 1's bike is a reference to Chips.
- The producers Freaks and Geeks avoided the tendency of teen shows to fall into this by making an intentional period piece, setting the show in 1980-81.
- A lot of sketch comedy shows end up becoming this (examples include Saturday Night Live, Chappelle's Show, Mad TV, and In Living Color!).
- The Inspector Morse episode "The Wench is Dead" can instantly be dated to the mid-1990s when Adele Cecil makes a telephone call from a public booth, using a prepaid card. A few years earlier, she'd have used cash; a few years later, and she'd have been carrying a mobile phone.
- Music videos tend to date themselves very quickly, especially videos by female artists, since women's fashions change more quickly than men's. Go look at a video like En Vogue's "Free Your Mind" and see whether it doesn't scream 1992 (A big hint is a "blink and you'll miss it" shot of one guy's shirt referencing the 1992 L.A. Riots).
- And a close second place behind goes to music videos filmed on location in urban landscapes - cars, architecture, fashions, advertising - you name it. Cases in point:
- Any music video filmed during New York's Big Rotten Apple phase, such as Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five's "The Message".
- The video for "Auckland Tonight" by New Zealand punk band The Androidss captured Auckland city nightlife as it appeared in 1981.
- Phil Collins travels round the world in the video for "Take Me Home". In particular, he's seen in London, Paris, New York City, Tokyo, Stockholm, Moscow, Sydney, Memphis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Texas, and St. Louis — as they all appeared in 1985.
- Many, but not all, political songs fall into this category. To name a few:
- Gil Scott Heron's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised ripped into many popular culture icons, advertising campaigns and public figures from 1971, when the song was released.
- Songs about apartheid rule such as Free Nelson Mandela by Special A.K.A. Just 6 years after the song was released, Mandela was released from prison.
- Elvis Costello's Oliver's Army, which name-checked various places that were geo-political hot spots in the late 1970s.
- Just about any song about The Vietnam War.
- Heaven 17's Fascist Groove Thang is firmly planted in the year 1980, due to mention of Ronald Reagan as 'President Elect'.
- Much of the references in political 1980s hardcore punk like Dead Kennedys ("Holiday in Cambodia") and Minutemen ("Viet Nam", "West Germany").
- Astoundingly, the Dead Kennedys' "California Uber Alles" was suddenly relevant again when Jerry Brown was re-elected California governor about 30 years after the song was recorded.
- John Rich's "Shuttin' Detroit Down" protested the government bailouts of General Motors in 2008-09.
- Darryl Worley's "Keep the Change", a 2010 song ranting against the second Obama administration.
- It is the tradition in Trinidadian Calypso to sing about about current events such as politics, news stories, and other calypso singers who are popular at the time. As a result, old calypso is a great time capsule into whatever period it was recorded in.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic:
- Each of "Weird Al" Yankovic's albums is largely a product of the year it was recorded, as Al fills the albums with parodies of popular music at the time or older songs parodied in a way that references current pop culture:
- In 3-D, Dare to Be Stupid and Polka Party from 1984/85/86 are composed mostly of New Wave, over-the-top electropop and bar rock.
- Even Worse and UHF: Official Motion Picture Soundtrack and Some Other Stuff from 1988/89 are composed of arena-oriented dance pop, hair metal, hip hop and teen pop.
- Off the Deep End and Alapaoolza from 1992/93 have heavy metal, hip hop, dance pop, jangle pop with single Nirvana and New Kids on the Block parodies symbolizing both the rise of grunge and 80's teen pop acts taking their dying gasp.
- Bad Hair Day from 1996 is composed of hip hop, alternative rock, grunge, college rock and R&B.
- Running With Scissors from 1999 is composed of hip hop, bubblegum pop, adult contemporary, alternative rock and country, with a parody of "Zoot Suit Riot" by the Cherry Poppin' Daddies symbolizing the era's neo-swing revival, and a parody of "American Pie" by Don McClean which recapped the then-new Star Wars film The Phantom Menace.
- Poodle Hat and Straight Outta Lynwood from 2003 and 2006 are composed of hip-hop, ringtone rap, punk rock, emo rock and R&B, with some ribbing of popular American Idol launched acts thrown in.
- 2011's Alpocalypse is composed of hip hop, dance pop and bubblegum teen pop. In addition, the album's title is in reference to the 2011 and 2012 doomsday predictions.
- Al is an odd case - he tended to parody songs that were popular two or three years before his album came out, which means they're usually forgotten by the time his parodies are released. This is the inevitable result of recording times. This has become less of a problem in the modern day, with digital recording techniques and distribution promising a short turnaround — his parody of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way", "Perform This Way", was released digitally only a couple of months after the original song.
- The fact that his albums generally contain parodies of songs or pop-culture fads that are a year or two old by that time does help the age factor slightly, though. Years ahead people recognize his albums as summaries of the era they were made in instead of hits based off a specific year.
- "I Lost on Jeopardy" is a double example. Besides relying on a song over a year old ("Jeopardy" by The Greg Kihn Band), the music video parodies the original 1964-1974 version of Jeopardy, complete with cameos from original host Art Fleming and original announcer Don Pardo… all a mere three months before the current version of Jeopardy! (hosted by Alex Trebek and announced by Johnny Gilbert) debuted.
- "Biggest Ball of Twine In Minnesota" could easily stand in for any time period for the whole song... until the single line "In our '53 Desoto". That car was aged but reasonable in the 1980's, but now you wonder why he'd be driving that ancient museum piece.
- "Headline News", from 1994, arguably takes this trope Up to Eleven. Like "I Lost on Jeopardy", this was based on a year-old song ("Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by Crash Test Dummies). Here, Weird Al riffed on it by using three then-current tabloid news stories (in song order): Singapore caning American delinquent Michael Fay, the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan by associates of her rival Tonya Harding, and Lorena Bobbitt severing her husband's... member with a knife.
- The song "Tacky", with its references to Instagram, Yelp, selfies, the YOLO (You Only Live Once) motto, and twerking, could almost be seen as "Early 2010s Pop Culture: The Song".
- Also true of other parody artists. For instance, Cledus T. Judd's first few albums usually parodied country songs from the past two years, sometimes going back even further (his first album in 1995 had spoofs of "Hotel California" and "We Are the World", while his second parodied "Jackson" and "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"). By 1999, his turnaround was a bit quicker, to the point that his fourth album spoofed "Livin' la Vida Loca" only five months after that song's release. Later albums zig-zagged this, with some parodies ranging from only a few months after the original's release to two or three years. But probably his quickest examples came on 2012's Parodyziac!!, where Little Big Town's "Pontoon" was parodied less than two months after it hit #1, and Eric Church's "Creepin'" was parodied while it was still on the charts.
- Another example is "Martie, Emily & Natalie", which was a timely takeoff of Brad Paisley's "Celebrity" that spoofed the Dixie Chicks' fall from grace in early 2003. The original had a reference to The Weakest Link which was dated even then. But the whole song's datedness was only exacerbated when it made a repeat appearance on Bipolar and Proud a year later (likely because the original was on a limited-release EP).
- In 1996, the GrooveGrass Boyz parodied the "Macarena" in country form. That's in no way a period piece.
- Most of those CD compilation albums that are released every year, such as Kidz Bop or Now That's What I Call Music! become this within a few years of being released, because they are just compilations of the top hits of the year.
- Obviously The Beatles have proven to be timeless, but the Moog synthesizer that shows up on a few Abbey Road songs is a little jarring (primarily on "Because" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"; it's slightly more subtle on "Here Comes the Sun" and used only to make noise for the crescendo of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"). What was considered a cutting edge musical innovation in 1969 went on to become the definitive sound of 1970s cheesiness.
- To be honest this is quite true of much music that makes a lot of use of synthesizers, up to at least The Eighties (heck, especially The Eighties!) due to the way the technology has evolved.
- And on the subject of The Beatles, whilst their appeal is certainly timeless, given they're one of the foremost bands to define The Sixties, they do after a fashion play this trope straight- albeit in a positive sense, rather than the negative "hasn't aged well" sense. Their songs themselves vary in this- some almost deliberately evoking a timeless feel, some very much of their time, in retrospect.
- Whenever a Gaita Zuliana group decides to tackle a current issue, it instantly dates itself. This is not only on political songs, but also with mundane themes. "La Parabolica (The Parabolic Antenna)" for example, is still being played, despite being firmly root on its launching year of 1987, three full years before Cable TV arrived to Venezuela rendering most of its complains (like all the programming being on English or its enormous size) instantly obsolete.
- If you want an earful and eyeful of most of the defining mainstream music trends from The Sixties through the Turn of the Millennium — Folk Rock, Heavy Metal, Glam Rock, Funk, Krautrock, New Wave Music, Pop rock, Hard Rock, Electronica, Alt-Rock, with a few other styles thrown in for good measure — just follow the bouncing Bowie, who helped define some of them in the first place.
- As a Long Runner, Ray Stevens has done this many, many times in his career.
- 1970: "America, Communicate with Me". It's clearly a song bridging the gap between the '60s and '70s, as the line "Three small bullets took the leaders that could help us all unite" addresses the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr., and snippets from an interview with actual late '60s protesters are heard in the opening.
- 1974: "The Streak", about the then-popular craze of streaking, because Naked People Are Funny. Sure, some people still do it today, but the 1970s was its peak.
- 1986: "The People's Court", a five-minute parody of, well, The Peoples Court that name-drops original judge Joseph Wapner (who left the show in 1993).
- 1987: "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex" is a Religion Rant Song against the many controversies present in televangelism at the time. Of course, the "megachurch" movement in American Protestant Christianity is still relevant today, and arguably much more so. But it was an astonishingly new phenomenon in the '80s, whereas nowadays it's become such a commonplace element of America's religious culture that the media doesn't bother to cover it that much anymore.
- 1991: "Workin' for the Japanese" is a (surprisingly vicious by his standards) mockery of the insurgence of Japanese products in the American market in the early 90s.
- 2001: "Osama— Yo' Mama": A post-9/11 mockery of you-know-who.
- Pro wrestling has traditionally tried to avoid this, not because it would cause their matches to become dated (only since the age of television have the matches actually been recorded for posterity, the wrestling companies pride themselves on never showing reruns, and much of the match's story content is pretty interchangeable anyway), but because wrestling is supposed to exist in its own peculiar fantasy world of Kayfabe, and allowing too much of the real world to seep through would spoil this illusion. At least, that was the case until the late 1990s, when WWE (and, to a lesser extent, WCW) developed a South Park-like fascination with "hip" topical humor, such as openly mocking the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal or airing a fake home movie called The Blonde Bytch Project. Things have only gotten worse since then, with WWE whipping out the We're Still Relevant, Dammit card every chance they can get; the low point was probably Vickie Guerrero parodying Clint Eastwood's addressing of an empty chair at the 2012 Republican National Convention, which 20 years from now will make even less sense to kids than Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on a table.
- A trivia game published in the 1980s with "West Germany" as an answer is moot because that country no longer exists by itself anymore, having reunited with East Germany.
- Trivia games in general can fall into this. Aside from political changes like The Great Politics Mess-Up, many are pop culture based, or have pop culture categories, and make no sense to someone just a few years out of the original audience. Plus, what was obscure trivia when the game was published might be common knowledge a few years later (like the fate of Apollo 13 before and after the release of the movie). And that's ignoring cases of Science Marches On, Dated History, and other things that can make the "correct" answer just plain wrong.
- The Terminator 2 3-D: Battle Across Time performance at Universal Studios theme parks, specifically the pre-show, which talks about all of the fascinating new technologies that Cyberdyne is working on. Problem is, it first opened in 1996, and has not been updated in the intervening years. Most people watching this pre-show probably have smartphones in their pockets and purses, and various gadgets in their homes, that can put to shame the "advanced" computers and robotics on display. To say nothing of the cameo by Shaquille O'Neal. Universal eventually closed the attraction at the Hollywood park in 2012 partly for this reasonnote ; it's still open at the Orlando and Japan parks for anyone who wants to make like Kyle Reese and go back in time twenty years.
- The now-closed Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast first opened in 2003, meaning that it represented the Nickelodeon of that time, with the likes of the Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, The Wild Thornberrys, and the classic Nickelodeon splat logo being in it. Therefore the ride started becoming this as early as 2006 and really became this in 2010.
- E.T. Adventure is the oldest ride still remaining at Universal Studios Florida and for the most part is largely unchanged from what it was when it first opened. As a result, the ride definitely carries a serious "90's" feel to it, with its dated animatronics and effects.
- Tomorrowland at Disneyland got hit with this twice during its lifespan. The original park's Raygun Gothic vision of the future became outdated within just a decade, causing them to start making updates to the park over the course of The Seventies and The Eighties. "Flight to the Moon", for instance, became "Mission to Mars" after the Apollo landings. Of course, by The Nineties these visions of the future were also outdated.note In 1998, the Disneyland designers finally threw up their hands and embraced Tomorrowland's Zeerust, redoing it as a retro-future area inspired by classic sci-fi and Eurodisney's Discoveryland.
- They did get some things right, though. Most notably, the original 1955 imagining of the "future" of 1986 envisioned a no-nonsense, utilitarian design for spaceships and the like - and, come the actual 1986, that aesthetic was indeed popular for sci-fi, especially for children's toys. It certainly looked a lot more timeless than, say, 1970s predictions of what the future would look like (just try to imagine Tomorrowland if Disneyland had opened in 1974, and recoil in horror).
- Because Science Marches On and Technology Marches On, virtually all of Future World at Epcot — which opened in 1982 and was devoted to predicting the 21st century — has been substantially updated and even replaced over the years. Much as nostalgic Disney park fans miss Horizons, World of Motion, CommuniCore, etc., it's telling that they were replaced with attractions that are easier to update and/or have more appeal to children. (An entire pavillion, Wonders of Life, was shut down because it just couldn't keep up with health and medicine marching on.) Attractions that haven't been overhauled in more than a decade (the Universe of Energy/Ellen's Energy Adventure show, for instance) get called out for falling into this trope. And when Captain EO was revived in 2010 due to popular demand, it served to prove that no matter what Michael Jackson fans might think, '80s Hair, synthesizers, and neon-colored aliens and backup dancers are not timeless (though certainly a lot of fun).
- Due to Development Hell causing the game to be delayed continually since its inception 13 years prior to its release, Duke Nukem Forever (released in 2011) has the unintended disadvantage of playing like a game from the early 2000s, right down to its gameplay mechanics and humor. The game plays as though certain parts were only added in a certain decade, the humor is outdated by several years, the references to previous installments are years (and even decades) out of date and the gameplay (as a whole) is much slower than 2010-era FPS's. In additions, several of the "topical references" include an out-of-date reference to Halo ("Power armor is for pussies!") and a near-exact replication of the infamous Christian Bale rant from the set of Terminator Salvation (which had already been out for several years by the time the game was released). Because of this effect, the mechanics that were added more recently (Regenerating Health, and Duke only being able to carry two weapons at once) stick out like a sore thumb instead of "making the game to today's players".
- League of Legends has a character skin dedicated to the Giant Enemy Crab, a meme from 2006. The game is still going strong eight years after the meme and at this rate looks like the last thing on earth that will recall the meme.
- This also occurs with works that don't make real world references. In the Mario Spin-offs of the early to mid 2000s there would always be elements from the then latest main game, Super Mario Sunshine which were not retained in later Mario games. Notably there was an undercurrent of the games being set in the tropics rather than in the Mushroom Kingdom which was dropped in the Wii era.
- Night Trap – a side—effect of having the footage shot in the eighties (it shows) and releasing it in the nineties after the hangover(s) from the previous decade have worn off.
- The Gmod Idiot Box. Thanks to the creator's tendency to put in references to popular games, memes, trends etc., some episodes of the show can often feel like products of that moment in internet and/or gaming culture:
- Gaming comics are like this almost by design, as they often reference then-current games.
- Related to the Gmod Idiot Box example above - particular the first thing listed about Episode 8 - is pretty much any YouTube video that pokes fun at, really, anything about the site itself, as it changes constantly and extensively. References to one-to-five-star ratings make no sense after the site switched to a simple like/dislike rating system. Any video asking you to subscribe and pointing out where the subscribe button is will invariably point in the wrong direction because, as soon as video creators start getting clever about that (or start thinking little enough of their viewers that they find it necessary, depending on your interpretation), it moves to a completely different spot. And so on.
- The Simpsons helped define The Nineties, and episodes from the 2000s are inevitably going to be pegged to future stereotypes given to that decade, too, and however many more decades the show goes on for. Floating Timeline saves the day again (though with continuity breaking results).
- South Park does this to a lesser extent beginning in Season 3, due to the short animation turnaround and their tendency to often use plots Ripped from the Headlines. Who even remembers spiderholes still?
- Family Guy is bound to become very outdated in the future, due to numerous shout-outs and references to pop culture that even to younger generations today can be quite obscure and incomprehensible, like TV commercials and cartoon shows no longer on the air.
- Any Band Toon is linked to the period it was made in by default, since they are usually made at the height a band's fifteen minutes of fame. As for Band Toons featuring fictional bands such as Alvin and the Chipmunks, it is the genre of their music that dates them (or the songs they do covers of).
- Beavis And Butthead, in its original incarnation, epitomized The Nineties (back when music videos still aired on MTV). With its triumphant return in 2011, and the focus on some of the shows MTV is now airing (including Jersey Shore and True Life) in addition to music videos, it looks like it's going to try to capture the zeitgeist of The New Tens as well.
- Arthur has this tendency as well, but it's not as obvious as some other shows. Technology of the era are shown. One episode has him watching an Expy of "The Magician's Secrets Revealed" or refer to Harry Potter releases. Since they use expies, they're not as blatant.
- Smartphones and mobile devices generally. It's forgotten how recently these were introduced from the time of writing (July 2014) and how much they have changed the way people behave. iPhones came out in 2007, iPads in 2010.
- MAD does this so well that compilation books from each decade since it began in The Fifties have been made. What seemed popular enough to be spoofed on their cover at one time might even two or three years later be forgotten. Sometimes due to a delay in publishing what it parodies may already be old news by the time the issue comes out.
- Any map, due to changing political borders, countries or cities changing their names, things like The Great Politics Mess-Up, etc.
- Even just a road map of an individual city or state can become a period piece due to new roads being built, existing roads being realigned, highway numbers being decommissioned or moved to different routings, etc. This is especially noticeable in the 1960s and 1970s while the construction of new Interstates was at its peak — they were often built in segments, and many had significant gaps in their routing. (For instance, Interstate 75 in Michigan was first designated in 1958 over a freeway south of Detroit that previously bore another designation, but it had a gap in mid-Michigan that was not filled until 1973.)
- Highway design as a whole. Early freeways often tended to have very short, narrow, tight ramps not conducive to high-speed travel, and otherwise archaic designs (very few early interchanges provided complete access in all directions), while the freeways themselves were generally more linear. Over time, on- and off-ramps, as well as transition roads between freeways, generally became larger and more sweeping, and the main routings of the freeways became more curved. Notably, entrance and exit ramps from the left sides of freeways were used in the past, but are being replaced wherever space allows due to the dangerous mix of speedy "fast-lane" traffic and slower merging traffic. (Some exceptions include I-290 west of downtown Chicago, and I-244 in Tulsa.) Even the once-common "cloverleaf" exit is being phased out, due to a major design flaw where merging and exiting traffic are forced to cross over each other's paths at the center. It's often easy to gauge the approximate age of a freeway, particularly if it has not been extensively rebuilt. (Particularly in California, where many of the older freeways still feature ridiculously sharp exit ramps.)
- The Arroyo Seco Parkway between Los Angeles and Pasadena is now an intentional Period Piece; as the first freeway in the region, it's a designated historic landmark and will likely never be updated.
- Certain neighborhoods, often in smaller towns, tend to come off like for reasons similar to the above two examples. Architecture may remain from certain decades without being rebuilt, as with designs of certain houses, style of sidewalk (or the lack thereof), or something as seemingly trivial as the width of roads. With today's wider cars, it's not hard to guess which street was built when.
- According to Orson Scott Card, all fiction is this way to one degree or another, bearing identifying characteristics of its writer(s)'s time and culture.
- Backstory time: This assertion was made by Card in reference to The Book of Mormon, which Card declared could not have been a hoax written by Joseph Smith because the way it is written differs too greatly from contemporary writers of Smith's time. Those whose sympathies are not resolutely with the Church of Latter Day Saints may want to take this theory with a grain of salt.
- That said, the changes in language over time and this trope are often quite usable to determine when a work was written—sometimes even to identify something as a forgery, as it simply isn't using the language and conventions of the period it allegedly was written in. Basically, while that specific claim is dubious because he's not qualified to make it, the general claim isn't.
- Any Stand-Up Comedy special or album will have the comedian commenting on life and culture at the time the special was originally made.
- While any extraterrestrial life that may find it certainly won't care, the images encoded on the Voyager Golden Record attached to both Voyager Space Probes certainly portrays the world in in 1970's.
- Depiction of real-world space technology in media can cause this for those familiar with it— works where Mars rovers all look like Sojourner looked strange after Spirit and Opportunity landed and even more so after Curiosity. The space shuttle's 30 years of service are a bit of an exception. (Of course, other things like the hair of the people seen onboard said shuttle can make it pretty easy to tell the 1980s from the 2010s...)
- Ever since the 9/11 attacks on the original World Trade Center, pretty much any work set in New York City created prior to September 2001 is going to date itself by depicting the Twin Towers in any way.
- Subsequently, numerous films and TV shows set in New York City between 2002 and 2009 will not feature any or all of the current (rebuilt) World Trade Center which is still under construction.
- This◊ (SFW) Brazilian ad for Playboy contrasts 1975 and 2006.
- Anti-drug crusades are dated to particular eras due to the drugs Moral Guardians are worried about. In the '60s and '70s, it was marijuana and LSD. In the '80s, it was crack cocaine. From the 2000s, it's methamphetamine.
- Most political jokes really date the work they are in. After a few years out of office, any jokes about President or Prime Minister (insert name here) aren't going to be relevant and have the added downside of showing what political biases the author had.
- This very wiki. Given its reliance on informal writing style and pop culture references, it can be made very apparent when a certain entry or article was made (even when there are efforts to minimize such datings). For example, something written in the mid-to-late 2000's containing plenty of references to Haruhi Suzumiya or Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, while something from 2010 on will instead repeatedly refer to Puella Magi Madoka Magica or My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
- Other entries or even pages can be dated with changes in naming conventions (No New Stock Phrases, tropes named after a character, etc.). While most have been renamed the rename history, and redirects still show the tendencies of the time.
- You can tell the decade by those recyclable black jokes about famine-struck areas. The same joke would be told in the 1960's about Biafrans, in the 1970's about Cambodians, and in the 1980's about Ethiopians - the words would be absolutely identical, only the location and nationality changed.
- Similarly, you could probably swap references to Darfur in the 2000's with Biafra in the 1960's, since both were breakaway regions beset by genocide.