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 The subject of the decision was police raids on gay bars, something whose legal ins and outs Captain Miller could reasonably be expected to know. 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.
Narrow Parody 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it becomes more than a decade old due to the characters referencing old trends, wearing out of style fashions and using out of date technology, this trope only really applies to works that wear their dates so blatantly that a viewer can identify the era or even year it was made in as soon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 and Frasier 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. 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.
The Little Rascals, which today come off as quaint stories your grandparents might tell about being children at the time.
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.
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).
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.
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 thugish 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
"Route 66". The title route became a lot less relevant when the Interstate highway system was enacted in the 1950s, combined with the re-routing of US-66 to include freeway-grade bypasses of many major cities in the 50s and 60s. As Interstates became more prominent in the 60s and 70s, many of said bypasses, and even some portions of the "original" Route 66, were supplanted by the several freeways that ended up taking over US-66's original function over the next couple decades (mostly Interstates 40 and 55). The number was finally decommissioned in 1985.
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.
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 The 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 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 has written 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.
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 forward 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".
In Petula Clark's hit single "Downtown", she makes sure to mention that "There are movie shows/Downtown." Since then movie theaters moved out of Downtown areas into the suburbs and then consolidated as home video and the Internet took off.
Still relevant in capital cities in many countries, where you are more likely to find cinemas downtown because of the size of the place and the demand for them, being that people don't necessarily want to drive out of a busy city. In England for example there remain Odeon theatres in London, and in Sweden there are plenty of SF Bio theaters around Stockholm, just to name two.
"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.
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.
"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 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 Willaim 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.
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 (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 owns all the Turner networks.
Lupin III (Red Jacket) absolutely oozesThe Seventies. When it was dubbed into English (26 years later), they tried to cover it up, but some aspects just stood out too strongly.
The outfits worn by Fujiko and the secondary characters are all contemporary fashion. Most of that fashion never escaped the 1970s. Averted by Lupin, Jigen, and Zenigata, who wear classic late 1960s vintage suits, and by Goemon, who wears 1560s vintage.
"To Be or Nazi Be" involves the cast making an airborne escape over the Berlin Wall (still standing in 1977, but long gone by the time the English dub came out in 2003). The American localizers didn't even try to write around that one.
'Cursed Case Scenario' involved Lupin and the gang going to Egypt to steal King Tut's burial mask... but Zenigata is stuck next door in Israel, and manages to get himself arrested when he loudly demands a flight to Cairo, the Israeli official angrily retorting, "There are no flights from Israel to any Arab country!" This episode aired in 1977, two years before the Camp David Accords and the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Nowadays, though the two nations' peoples certainly still hate each others' guts, it is usually possible to get from one country to the other... eventually.note Other former enemies that have signed peace treaties with Israel are its eastern neighbour Jordan, and the not-Arab-but-still-Muslim Turkey.
Another episode had a reference to Roger Moore - who played James Bond at the time - in the Japanese original; this was changed to Pierce Brosnan in the English dub. That made the dub itself an Unintentional Period Piece in the 2000s, when Brosnan was replaced by Daniel Craig.
"Guns, Bun, and Fun in the Sun" takes place fairly explicitly on January 10, 1977. Why? Because that's the day the New York Cosmos went to Rio de Janeiro for a friendly match against Santos Brasil; Lupin's caper of the week was stealing all the money made from ticket sales for the game. The episode itself wasn't made and did not air until about ten months later, in October 1977.
Mazinger Z is clearly set in the seventies given the hairstyles, clothes and technology.
The manga From Eroica with Love is, at its outset, clearly a seventies piece. From its art style, to its neo-nazi hunting West German NATO officer, to its Affably EvilHusky Russkies. As the decades rolled on and the manga continued, it first became a Period Piece, and then eventually moved forward in time a little, the Berlin Wall falling, and Klaus having to make nice with the Russians.
The Jack and the Beanstalk anime Jack to Mame no Ki is very much a product of its time you can tell in the music, like the music the vendor who sells Jack the beans plays a song on his piano which sounds a lot like the rock music of the time, the melody of Princess Margret's song "No One's Happier Than I" sounds like the song "Top of the World", and in the original Japanese version of Jack's The Villain Sucks Song about Tulip, Tulip does an Elvis Presley impression.
"Slap Shot". The fashions, hairstyles, and music are so seventies its painful. Plus the background story is the the closing of a steel mill and the crushing blow to the local economy. A very serious issue throughout the rust belt in the seventies. To boot there's a very memorable scene about women's sexual liberation!
Eyes Of Laura Mars. In hindsight, this movie resolves two mysteries. The more interesting mystery: "what killed disco?" is revealed pretty early in the film.
Koyaanisqatsi. Released in 1983, but largely filmed in The Seventies. It starts becoming a period piece when they begin showing people in dated clothing, and really dates itself when it shows the inside of an arcade (bridging those years in which the 1970s transitioned into the '80s culturally).
Popeye and Flash Gordon, both early 1980s HBO staples, could only have been made in 1980, at the end of the "maverick" era of filmmaking and 1970s excess.
The Man Who Fell to Earth supposedly takes place over several decades, but the fashions, technology and virtually everything else remain pure 1970s. This isn't helped by the fact that We Are as Mayflies to an Alien Among Us hero who isn't physically aging, meaning that only the appearances of the supporting characters clue us in to the passage of time. On top of that, just the fact that David Bowie plays an alien clearly dates it as in the decade of his Ziggy Stardust sci-fi glam phase (by the time the film was shot in 1975, he had already moved on from that persona and sound).
Many blaxploitation films characterized the defining characteristics of the '70s. Black Caesar and Hell Up In Harlem, for instance, featured a pre-overhaul Times Square (back when it was known for its sleazy theatres as opposed to the LCD mecca of the late 1990s and 21st century), mink coats, kids shining shoes on the streets, afros, accounting ledgers written in multiple books, Jive Turkey dialogue, and much more.
The Bad News Bears: so very mid-'70s, and a fine example of what a PG-rated film could get away with before the PG-13 rating came along. Just listen to 7-year-olds toss out four-letter words, racial epithets and ethnic slurs like there's no tomorrow and try to keep your head from exploding. Also watch as the kids douse each other in beer and see a then 14-year-old Jackie Earle Haley smoke like a chimney.
Race With the Devil shows off its '70s-ness in the first ten minutes, where Frank is showing his friend Roger all the features on his $36,000 RV (money that, today, would buy a bare-bones BMW 3-Series). Said features include a color television with stereo sound, a microwave oven, and tons of faux-wood paneling.
Taxi Driver, and not just because of the fashions. At the time it was filmed, New York City was America's crime capital, the city was effectively bankrupt, and Watergate was still fresh on the public mind. Not to mention there's a brief scene in a porno cinema.
And even without Burt Reynolds, Smokey and the Bandit would qualify for this trope thanks to the rampant CB radio usage.
In 1979, Love at First Bite was a comedy about Dracula dealing with the modern world. Thanks to the disco dancing, Jive Turkey supporting characters, Dirty Commies as Romanian government flacks, cheerfully-unprotected sex and Roots references, it's now Dracula dealing with this trope.
An Unmarried Woman is very much a window into a time of increased divorce, women's lib, and the very height of the pre-A.I.D.S. sexual revolution. It also takes place in 1978 New York City, so it's dated in the same way as the Taxi Driver example.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three: New York City in the 1970s, in all its "glory". And there's no way the villains' plan would have worked if cell phones existed. In the remake, this had to be heavily rewritten.
And Now for Something Completely Different features sketches about fear of a Chinese communist takeover, incredibly 1970s hairstyles, and most of all a considerable amount of poking fun at the British upper class. The old upper-class was on its way out by the 1970s, but it still had much more of a presence than it does now.
The original version of The Wicker Man is a pretty unmistakable chunk of early '70s British styles. On top of the soundtrack of folk music and the presence of contemporary sex symbol Britt Ekland, there's also the fact that everyone is wearing tweed jackets with turtlenecks. Maybe not as over-the-top as some of these other examples, but that only makes it seem less like a spoof of the '70s and more like the actual '70s.
Being There's main character grows up with television serving as his only window beyond his Small Secluded World, and watching TV is his favorite pastime, so the movie winds up presenting a large cross-section of what American television consisted of at the end of The Seventies.
Convoy: Truckers running from cops, lots of CB radio chatter, and Ali McGraw in an Afro and bell-bottom slacks. If that's not enough, a plot point is the "new" 55 mile-per-hour speed limit, which everyone thinks is what sent the truckers over the edge.
Get Carter: one of the most dating parts of the film is the porn movie that Carter sees: it is on film, silent, in black-and-white, and Carter watches it on a clattering projector. Home video reached the United Kingdom in the late 1970s.
Dracula: A.D. 1972. It's right there in the title. Hippies, bell bottoms, and funk music galore.
The 1976 Brian De Palma adaptation of Carrie, with its epic '70s Hair, teen heartthrob John Travolta, and a soundtrack by Pino Donaggio that combines Psycho Strings with funkadelic '70s cues. All of those pale in comparison, though, to the fact that absolutely everybody ignores the horrific bullying that Carrie goes through, with at least one of her teachers even joining in on it in one scene. In today's social climate, where youth bullying is seen as a national crisis, such behavior by Carrie's classmates would be cause for scandal. It's not for nothing that the 2013 remake placed a much greater focus on its anti-bullying message.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) avoids this trope for the most part thanks to its sheer strangeness. In fact, in quite a few ways the movie was ahead of its time: it looks more like an '80s film than a '70s film (accurately predicting the punk/New Wave hair and makeup styles, as well as the satiric Black Comedy brand of humor that characterized comedies during the Reagan era). What's more, the casual bisexuality and Frank N. Furter's (Tim Curry) schizoid mix of Camp Gay and Hard Gay behavior are still quite shocking today, at least if you don't consume such entertainments on a regular basis. However, the movie does anchor itself in the mid-1970s early on by playing a radio broadcast of President Richard Nixon's 1974 resignation speech.
Thorndyke("disguised" as an Alter Kocker): I beeped! I beeped! Take me away! Take me back to Russia! Put me in irons! I beeped! The mad beeper is loose! Take away the beeper! Take me away!
Most of Tony Hillerman's Navajo Tribal Police novels, which ran from 1970 to 2006, have a timeless quality to them. Dance Hall of the Dead, however, published in 1973, features an anti-establishment hippie commune, a psychedelic drug experience, and references to the Vietnam War.
Super Treasury of Amazing Knowledge, a suitcase-sized children's book from the late 1970s, is packed with several dozen short essays about history, science, popular culture, and more. The essays are accompanied by cartoons that tend to betray their time period (mostly due to the '70s Hair frequently found on the characters and the cheap, sketchy look of the cartoons themselves), but the real problem is with the essays themselves, which strove to be timely and did it all too well. Their essay on kung fu, for instance, acknowledges at the beginning that most Westerners think kung fu is just a show of stupid stunts performed on television, which is obviously not what most Westerners think now. Their essay on pinball, meanwhile, claims that pinball is still quite popular in arcades despite the recent incursion of video games. Speaking of video games, the book's essay on that opens with a brief description of Space Invaders (probably the oldest popular video game not named Pong) referring to the game with a breathless excitement that is very, very hard to take seriously now. Worst of all, the videogame essay ends with the essayist happening to mention that, gee-whiz, wouldn't it be great if you could play video games on a TV console at home rather than having to go to an arcade? Well, in just a few months (1979, to be precise, with the introduction of the Atari 2600), you can!
Emergency! comes off as almost a time capsule of public service announcements of the mid-'70s, with its 70sHair, at the time up-to-the-minute accurate medical techniques and the skepticism with which the paramedics are treated in the early episodes. At the time they really were a new concept and faced a stigma of being (truthfully) "less than real doctors."
The Muppet Show. People can learn a lot about the celebrities and pop culture of the '70s by watching this show today.
The original Hawaii Five-O suffers this in the early seasons, beginning with the 1968/69 season, when episodes regularly revolved around issues arising from the Vietnam War such as drug smuggling by military personnel, incidents involving soldiers on leave in Hawai'i, and vets with psychological issues. In later, post-Vietnam, seasons the military aspect (including McGarrett's status as a Naval Reserve officer) was essentially eliminated.
The Goodies, which was made throughout the entirety of the '70s in England. Graeme Garden, one of the writers, actors, and creators, has said that the clothes and trends now qualify as "quaint period pieces", and that you can get a pretty good idea of the trends, celebrities and government around the time by watching.
Charlie's Angels - Shag carpets, Sabrina's dreaded orange Pinto, the speakerbox, and even the freaking Disco Episodes.
CHiPs - as well as solving the case of the week, the officers would typically partake in a 70s pop culture fad (disco, bio-rhythms, pinball, etc.) Also, piles (literally) of vintage 70s cars.
Columbo, not only for the fashions and hairstyles of the killers, victims, and sundry supporting characters, but also because the schemes the killers would use to establish their alibis, muddy up the time of death, or disguise the cause of death would fail if they had been tried even 10 years later, due to the rapid advancement of forensic science, telephone technology, and the like.
In one episode the killer's alibi was broken when it turned out he had made use of an incredibly sophisticated piece of equipment -a VCR.
Monty Python's Flying Circus (begun in 1969) to an extent. While the majority of the Pythons' humour is pretty damn ageless, some of the jokes will fly over your head if you aren't familiar with British television presenters, celebrities and politicians who were around at the time. You might get a joke about a "Mrs. Thatcher", "Mr. (Harold) Wilson", and "Mr. (Edward) Heath", but unless you're well-versed in British culture, you probably won't know who Robin Day was (except that he owned a hedgehog called Frank). Some sketches parody aspects of British bureaucracy that are no longer around - for example the 'Fish License' sketch is based around dog licenses which were abolished in 1987. "Appearing on the M2" are many Vauxhall Vivas - a brand of car long disappeared from the United Kingdom. On top of that, the costuming and hairstyles on the series are pretty definitively '60s-'70s, albeit in a fairly low-key way... except when actual women are involved.
Probably the most notable thing pegging Python to its time is its use of traditional currency - shillings, sixpence, etc. - in the first two series; Britain did not decimalise its currency until 1971, so pre-decimal money shows up from time to time, like in the "Embezzler Accountant" sketch as well as the "New Television Licenses" end credit background. One third-series sketch included an onscreen note, "Old Sketch written before decimalisation" and helpfully provided conversions, which probably counts as Lampshade Hanging.
SCTV not just for for its references to '70s-era celebrities and TV shows (one episode was a episode-length parody of Fantasy Island ) but for the concept of the titular network being a local, small-town TV network. The show would then do early-'80s references as well once NBC picked it up.
"Le Freak" by Chic features a reference to Studio 54, the popular Manhattan nightclub that was a disco hotspot from 1977 to its closure in 1980.
Ray Stevens', again. His 1974 hit "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.
Jimmy Buffett's songs, especially his later ones. The country-meets-calypso genre mashup he perfected itself mirrors the '70s, which was when "world" music and popular music really started to mix. But "Volcano" is the ultimate example: anyone can tell it's from 1979, thanks to pointed (but funny) references to the Iranian hostage crisis and the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster.
The deluge of trucking songs in the 1970s, back when trucking and CB radio were at their peak. "Convoy" by C.W. McCall is one of the most famous.
Vanities sets its three scenes in the early 1960s, late '60s, and mid-'70s, respectively. By the time of its musical adaptation, it was three decades past its prime. The addition of a fourth scene set in the mid-1980s to early '90s didn't help.
Grease, oddly enough. It's possibly the most '70s version of the '50s ever made.
1970s Western Animation
Any of the Scooby-Doo knock-offs, and most any lesser-known cartoon series from Hanna-Barbera, for that matter.
AKIRA. It takes place after a nuclear bomb starts off World War III, and while society does rebuild, clothes, hairstyles, and technology show progress didn't really get past the '80s.
City Hunter is definitely set in the eighties. Clothes, hairstyles and techonology ddevelopment level all scream The Eighties. In some stories, Ryo imitates Japanese politicians, actors and musicians were popular when the manga was running. In another story, Ryo compares one of the Mooks with Commando since "Terminator is too old now". And in another arc, Kaori asks a child if she wants to play with a Nintendo Entertainment System.
Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ has some unmistakably 80's fashion and hairstyles, despite being set in the future. Special shout-outs to Chara Soon and Elle Vianno, neither of whom would look out of place in an episode of Jem and the Holograms.
1980s Comic Books
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which was written in 1986, strongly features an exaggerated satire of the then-contemporary political and social climate. Back then, it was a deliberate contrast to the typical world of young Batman. Now it reads like a deliberate period piece. The sequel, written 15 years later, was written based on the political and social climate of the early 2000s and is already showing shades of this as well, and will undoubtedly read like a period piece in ten years.
Bloom County, for all its surrealism, got hit with this hard due to its very prominent political element and a cornucopia of pop-culture gags (such as a story arc spoofing the 1983 US Festival). It was for this reason that a complete series collection was put off for years — Breathed was positive no one would get most of the jokes. The Complete Library was eventually released with historical commentary next to relevant strips and two-page spreads featuring then-recent newspaper headlines.
The Adventures Of Olivia was absolutely doomed to this given it debuted in 1989 and style-wise would've fit more in '84-85 with the big hair that would've made Jem proud and fur coats belonging on an episode of The Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous before getting into the cultural jokes of The Simpsons as a cutting-edge ratings juggernaut, neon spandex gym culture and especiallySandy Shores. However, unlike other examples, this can be forgiven as Bob Outlaw was dying of diabetes and it stayed the eighties well into 1994 via guest artists out of respect for him.
Every movie with a scene in an arcade is usually dated to the mid-to-late '80s. The Karate Kid is a notable example.
TRON. Kevin Flynn being an arcade owner and arcade game pioneer is a surefire product of the 1980s. The sequel, TRON: Legacy, released 28 years later, makes a point of Sam Flynn returning to the arcade for the first time since he was a kid; and panning over all the still working arcade games wrapped in plastic and covered in dust, with Journey's "Separate Ways" playing on the jukebox. (the soundtrack even doubles as Mythology Gag given Journey contributed tracks to TRON)
WarGames is also very much of its time, what with Cold War nuclear paranoia, the theme of the emergence of home computers and videogames (there is also the obligatory arcade scene as alluded to in the example above), and computing technology like acoustic-coupler modems combining.
The establishing sequence could be interpreted as a subversion, however- the filmmakers deliberately introducing visual cues which point to the 1985 setting in order to contrast it with other eras.
The over-the-top portrayal of 2015 also demonstrates a particularly '80s flavour of Zeerust.
Manhunter was directed by Michael Mann, creator of Miami Vice. It shares that show's fashions and emphasis on synth-rock and eighties-era AOR.
Wall Street actually became a period piece before it was released; developments related to the prosecution of Ivan Boesky for insider trading caused the film's setting to be explicitly turned back to 1985.
Do the Right Thing features a character who seems to do nothing but walk around carrying a boombox blaring Public Enemy's "Fight the Power", and makes reference to several contemporary well-publicized hate crimes, making it a perfect period piece of its late 80s release date (it was released in 1989)
In his commentary for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, director Nicholas Meyer paraphrases Orson Scott Card's claim that all works are inevitably the product of their time period when it's pointed out how Khan and his followers look like the entourage of a hair metal band.
Much of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home takes place in then-current 1986 (the year of the film's release); punk rock, pizza, and exact-change buses abound; placing it in that time forever. Also, the clear irony of Chekhov getting caught on a US Navy ship whilst the Cold War was obviously still going on, a newspaper discussing nuclear arms talks (again referencing the Cold War, and perhaps very specifically SALT II) Kirk's communicator getting mistaken for a pocket pager (not a mobile phone) and Scotty's attempts to get to grips with a Macintosh Plus ("just use the keyboard"!) also date the film.
The Terminator has a memorable scene in a horrifically '80s nightclub, and also features Sarah and her friend dressing in everything you think of as '80s women's fashion and declare themselves "Better than mortal man deserves." The giant laser sight on the T-800's pistol is dated, turning it into a Hand Cannon, is also dated.
Transformers: The Movie. Vince Di Cola's synthesizer and heavy metal soundtrack; as well as Daniel Witwicky's monogrammed tracksuit place it heavily in the 1980s. That's to say nothing of Soundwave and Blaster still being depicted as cassette players in 2005.
Revenge of the Nerds: Now that the terms geek and nerd have been appropriated willy nilly by the mainstream as something trendy to label yourself. Also, the nerds' supposedly cutting edge understanding of technology has also become dated, such as the "spy-cam" they used to spy the girls' dorm.
Labyrinth is perhaps the most 1980s of 1980s fantasy films: There's the extensive use of special effects techniques (matte paintings, puppets and animatronic costumes, bluescreen, early CGI) that were largely abandoned by Hollywood once CGI became high-quality and commonplace in the next decade, a synthesizer-heavy underscore, and a serious case of '80s Hair on the villain. Said villain is played by David Bowie, whose international popularity peaked in this decade, and he also wrote the musical numbers.
Crocodile Dundee, which, among other things, has the World Trade Centre in almost every establishing shot of New York.
Many of the city-dwellers can also be seen dressing in characteristically '80s fashions. Dundee of course is timeless, much like his character...
Basket Case, and its depiction of the era's ultra-seedy Times Square.
Troop Beverly Hills is a major show of late 80s fashions, as well as exercise trends. It even shows car phones to be something only rich people had.
Flashdance, from the music constantly playing to the absolutely 80s outfits most of the characters wear to the dancing that would seem weird today to the frizzy hair on every woman's head. "What a Feeling" and "Maniac" got popularized thanks to this movie and are widely seen as representative of the decade. And the main character is a woman working at a steel mill, which was a surprise back then and, while uncommon today, is no twist.
Airplane! falls into this with separate sections for smokers and nonsmokers on flights and preachers in airports.
The Stuff. It's got kids playing the Atari 2600, Return of the Jedi shower curtains, mocking the Wendy's slogan "Where's the Beef?", etc.
Die Hard The references to VCRs and the fact that John McClane seems really uncomfortable using the computer monitor at the front desk of Nakatomi Plaza. The lax airport security in Die Hard II: Die Harder and the fact that John is allowed to bring a gun aboard a plane in the original put it pre-9/11. Indeed, McClane's inability to adjust to the modern world (the technology, especially) becomes more apparent in later sequels, with him shouting "Goddamn cellular phones!" in Die Hard With a Vengeance and being outright mocked by the villain for being an anachronism in Live Free Or Die Hard.
The Thing (1982), featuring very '80s hair (most notably on Kurt Russell), loads of Cold War paranoia, and a plot that mirrors the AIDS crisis.
St. Elmo's Fire features a character who is almost constantly doing cocaine, a couple who when they break up argue over who gets to keep the Bruce Springsteen, the Police, and the Pretenders albums, and a passing reference to the Cold War as an unbridgeable stalemate. Oddly, the portrayal of gay people is fairly 70s, with Jules believing that Kevin is gay because he was never interested in her he was actually interested in her roommate, who was dating her best friend, and trying to set him up with her decorator next door neighbor. Despite coming out in 1985, there are no references to the AIDS crisis.
The Lethal Weapon movies aimed to be topical, and are now firmly in this trope. 1 establishes that Murtagh and Riggs are both Vietnam War veterans, as are the villains, and 2 centres around South Africa still being an apartheid state.
Stripes: Besides the Cold War setting, during the scene at the Army recruiting center, John and Russell are specifically asked whether either one is homosexual, which points itself to pre-1994, before "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" first allowed LGBT people into the military.
The 1980s marked the dawn of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Unfortunately, it was initially pegged as a gays-only disease by the masses, and with homophobia still entrenched in mainstream culture a lot of cruel jokes made at the expense of AIDS victims made the rounds (an early stretch of Eddie Murphy's concert special/album Delirious pokes fun at the crisis). As homophobia became less acceptable and the true nature of the disease and its transmission became widespread knowledge, such jokes passed into Dude, Not Funny! status.
Why haven't they found a cure for AIDS yet? They can't get the lab rats to buttfuck.
Rock Hudson was a heartthrob of the 1950's and '60's. He was the first major celebrity to die from the disease, and his homosexuality, which he had worked hard to keep quiet, came out when he was diagnosed with AIDS.
What do you call Rock Hudson in a wheelchair? Rolaids.
Why is Prudential insurance going out of business? No one wants a piece of "the rock".note Prudential's ad campaign in the 1980's was "Get a piece of the rock" - their logo was and still is the Rock of Gibraltar.
1980s Live Action TV
Miami Vice exemplified some of the most prevalent trends of the era (and created several of them), including a heavy focus on synth-rock and popular songs of the time, the usage of pastel colors in their clothing and many instances of Technology Marches On. One could likely fill an entire page detailing all the dated examples found throughout the series.
The second-season opener, "The Prodigal Son", is of particular note. Among other things, it has music from Billy Ocean and Huey Lewis and the News, a woman wearing a dress with massive shoulder pads and a climax that takes place at the World Trade Center.
However the tone of the show averts the trope. Most cop shows of the era had a light tone, villain of the week, flat characters, always get their guy, etc. Miami Vice had some very slow pacing for the time, story arcs which could last all or part of a season, lots of character development, and often bittersweet or downer endings. Its grim tone was much more in line with current shows like Breaking Bad, The Closer, etc.
Full House, which is also an Unintentional Period Piece for the early 1990s, perhaps inevitable with three trendy teenage girls in the cast. For example, the episode where Stephanie's band sings "The Sign" by Ace of Base could only have been made in 1994-95.
The Golden Girls did this, both with the ladies' fashion choices and with a lot of their pop culture references (which they wisely kept to easily ignored asides, as much of today's Periphery Demographic is far too young to appreciate the endless stream of jokes about Donna Rice or Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker).
Red Dwarf 's first two series are instantly recognisable as 80s British sitcoms because of their low production values, their focus on a limited range of sets, the comedy mostly being based around two characters arguing, and the fact that there are barely any influences from American comedy. Subverted in that Season 3, made in 1989, clearly reverses all of these, and led to the series becoming far more popular.
Rockschool, a BBC miniseries later broadcast by PBS, was a show (in fact, two separate miniseries), the first (concerning a guitar-bass-drums Power Trio) of which lasted in 1984, and the second one (which added a keyboardist to the trio) in 1987, attempting to teach kids the basics of playing and singing in a rock band. Not only were the computer graphics used in the show, along with the hair and fashion styles of the four teenage presenters/musicians dated to the '80s, but naturally the special guests the show interviewed in segments, as well as the music technology the show demonstrated. Along with the stiil very useful information the show presents, the use of what would now be considered very crude and outdated (currently vintage) synthesizer, sampler, guitar-synthesizer, sequencer, MIDI and drum machine technology in particular scream 1987 in the second series. (E-mu Emulator II! Moog Memorymoog!! Fairlight CMI!! Yamaha [DX7]!!).
You Cant Do That On Television, certainly during the early 1980s, has references to General Hospital and dated video arcade games (and the occasional period sociopolitical issues) in various episodes. The clothes and hairstyles of the teen cast members often betray their '80s origins almost as much as their accents and certain phrases they use betray their Canadian origins.
Whiz Kids had a heavy focus on computers at a time before the existence of the Apple Macintosh or the Windows operating system. Home computers existed but were not common, and laptops were even rarer (as well as being large and clunky).
MorkAndMindy, among other things, when Robin Williams ran out onto Denver's (Original) Mile-High Stadium as a member of "The Pony Express." The Denver Broncos Cheerleaders only used that name from 1977 to 1980.
Cosmos A Personal Voyage, a PBS miniseries featuring the late Carl Sagan, definitely dates to 1980, thanks to its Cold War anxieties, production values, spacy, analog-synth-driven music by Vangelis, Sagan's hairstyles and clothing, and the datedness of Sagan's "Starship Of The Imagination".
Kim Newman has acknowledged that his Sally Rhodes stories have become unintentional period pieces; the character is just as tied to The Eighties (or very early nineties) as Edwin Winthrop (an intentional period piece) is to The Roaring Twenties. "Organ Donors" features references to the poll tax, seven satellite TV channels, the ITV bidding war, and a "portable phone" as being a big deal.
The first Dirk Gently book (published 1987) by Douglas Adams has some specific technology references that place it firmly in the 1980s. Part of the plot revolves around an answering machine cassette tape, and one character trying to reach a telephone. The protagonist in the first book is a wealthy 'early adopter' computer programmer and electronic-music whiz, so his flat is filled with then-high tech Apple computer hardware, and 1980s synthesizers and electronic instruments. In the second book (from 1988) an important setting is the long-abandoned Midland Grand Hotel at London's St. Pancras railway terminal. One of the themes of the book is how humanity abandons things from the past it no longer requires and the rotting hulk of a Victorian railway station would have been an apt metaphor for this in 1988. Since then a huge amount of gentrification has gone on in the UK and in 2011 the Midland hotel was renovated and reopened.
Neuromancer is a complicated case. As regards politics and general culture, it's a 1980s-masquerading-as-future novel, period. Still, its emphasis is on future technology and technology-related culture. As the Technology Marches On entry on its work page describes, whenever Gibson describes actual technology in detail it's still more 1980s than 2030s. He does however manage to be vague enough to make many aspects of technology use sort of timeless, and as the last paragraph of the introduction on the work page notes, the language he uses to a large degree became the language of the future as writers and scientists adopted it.
He does make one specific mention in the introduction to the 25th Anniversary Edition, where he describes a scene in an airport where an entire bank of payphones starts ringing. He apologizes to younger readers, assuming that the description of the scene would be utterly alien to them.
Kurtis Blow's Basketball. The song cashes in on the rising popularity of the NBA in the 1980s and mentions some of the biggest draws of the time, such as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The music video even throws in some martial arts for good measure, which was also rising in popularity at the time.
Another from Ray Stevens: "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.
"Forever Young" by Alphaville is about the "live for the moment" mindset that occurred in the 1980's due to fear of nuclear annihilation. Needless to say, The Great Politics Mess-Up means that it hasn't aged all that well.
A lot of 80s production techniques are very tied to their time period. For instance, reverbed drums mixed upfront in the mix (common in 80s 12" Mixes), slap bass and prominent synths. They were considered very in vogue at the time, but haven't been since, and as such many songs from this period are instantly recognisable as such. Even 80s revivalists like electropop groups rarely use reverbed drums.
Obviously, Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" only covers historical events up to 1989. In fact, it was released at a point in that year when the Tiananmen Square massacre had happened ("China's under martial law"), but the fall of the Berlin Wall had not (and it would surely be significant enough to be mentioned). Therefore, the song is dated to between June and November of 1989.
Some people have joked about updating the song for the 1990s and beyond. Just think howmanypeoplenamed "Simpson" you could rhyme!
Nolan Thomas's song "Yo' Little Brother". The synthesized notes and thickly cheesyTotally Radical lyrics with an anti-drugs message subtle as a peacock could not come from anywhere else. But what takes the cake is the video, which was intentionally made so silly it distracted from the song's morals, complete with child impersonators of the popular celebrities of its day. It feels like nostalgic parody of the 1980s, only it was made in 1984!
Despite the numerous (and, by most accounts, unsuccessful) attempts to modernize Starlight Express, the show remains firmly grounded within the 1980s. The disco-tinted score, neon-colored costumes, and references to DOS programming as if it were futuristic have been toned down or removed since the musical's inception, but the musical's premise and choreography require that the performers wear old-fashioned roller skates, so it can't avoid representing its decade. Some fans argue that if the show had declared itself an intentional period piece at the beginning of the 1990s, it would be more popular today.
Seeing as Chess has a plot so focused on the Cold War and was first staged in 1986 - with the original concept album done in 1984 - this trope was practically nipping at its heels with each new production. By 1991 it didn't have much choice but to accept its new status as a period piece, and it's been played that way ever since.
1980s Video Games
Video games from this era are obvious examples, due to 8-bit technology (and later in the decade, early 16-bit technology). Games from this era are also Unintentional Period Pieces for other non-technology reasons:
The NES version of Punch-Out!! is definitely set in the 1980s, due to Mac's pink jogging suit, Mike Tyson being champ, and references to Bombay (now "Mumbai"), India and the USSR.
NARC. While the War on Drugs is still going on as strong as ever, anti-drug messages are nowhere near as ubiquitous or anvilicious as they were in the '80s, and the entire effort has faced a significant backlash since then — just look at how the DARE program, the "Just Say No" campaign, and others like it have become Snark Bait for an entire generation. Notably, when the game was remade in 2005, it became a Grand Theft Auto-esque experience that turned the drugs into power-ups.
Double Dragon is a perfect encapsulation of 1980s Reagan-era conservatism demonizing urban areas as blasted landscapes of crime, corruption, and immorality, with denim-wearing blue-collar white male protagonists taking on pimps, prostitutes, and perverts. The game can be adequately described as Lynyrd Skynyrd beating the crap out of the Sex Pistols.
As a general example, virtually any Merchandise-Driven animated show produced in the U.S. from this era will be easy to identify as being a product of the eighties. Regulations on how toys can be advertised to children were lifted during this time, and several toy companies were quick to jump on the bandwagon. The shows from this time were pretty blatant about being narrative toy commercials. The merchandising of animation in later decades became a bit more subtle as more overt consumerism fell out of style.
Kidd Video. As with Heathcliff (also a show from DiC Entertainment), the show has Glitter the fairy, a female character wearing leg warmers, not to mention that it plays clips from music videos of the era (though it was mostly the band's).
As a general rule, Conspicuous CG. The first anime to make use of CGI at all was the 1983 movie Golgo 13: The Professional (and only then because they felt like it), but the technique didn't really start being widely used until the mid-90's, as a shortcut. However, anime was still being produced with traditional cels-n-paint at the time, so the CG tended to be really obvious, especially in lower-budget shows.
Even in a relatively high-budget series like Cowboy Bebop, the CG elements can be absurdly obvious (anything that spins or rotates, basically).
Gun Smith Cats: The series clearly happens in The Nineties, not only cause the fashions and hairstyles... but also because the action takes place in Chicago, and the entire animation team visited the city to scout locations and take reference photographs. And their attention to detail was so accurate that many Chicago fans of the series can identify the specific time-period the anime was made by certain key features, most notably the construction scaffolding that surrounded the Field Museum of Natural History during that building's renovation.
Early episodes of Pokémon and the original series in general; they show how 1990s culture spilled over into the early 2000s.
The same could be said for the games, with the technology and clothing style.
Digimon Adventure. Izzy's Apple Power Book-like computer gives one an idea of the time; and the dial-up based methods both later in the season and the movie would become very quaint as broadband caught on very quickly in the early 2000s. The "You've Got Mail!" line from said movie also doesn't have the same impact in the age of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
The first arc of Wild CATS has Dan Quayle (or, rather, a Daemonite impersonating him) as a big mover-and-shaker in the plot, references to his infamous misspelling of "potato" included. A few issues later, a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo features the recently remarried Jean Grey and Scott Summers — yeah, this was 1992 alright.
Since Wildstorm moved from Image to DC in 1999, everything involving Image characters in the Wildstorm books is automatically dated between 1992 (when Image started in the first place) and then.
The short lived children's comic Cosmic came into (and ended its) existence at roughly the turn of the century. The main "Captain Cosmic" strip managed to avoid this (being a parody of the Space Opera genre) aside from a few references (Wrigley's "juicy fruit" flavoured chewing gum being a subtle one). But the back up strip, "Taliska's Travels in Time", used then contemporary references as a source of gags (for example, one issue had them find a monastery of monks in Ancient China singing the lyrics to Aqua's "Barbie Girl", with the explanation being they could see into the future -they also namechecked the The Spice Girls for good measure).
The Matrix could either be this trope or Society Marches On, depending on when the world inside the Matrix is supposed to take place, but one thing is certain: it looks very, very '90s. The computers are all boxy, the monitors CRT, and the mobile phone that Morpheus first calls Neo on is big, blocky, and has an antenna. The club that Neo meets Trinity in dripping with Industrial Metal aesthetic, and the credits song is by Rage Against the Machine. This could arguably qualify as an intentional example, though, since the machines are said to have specifically chosen the simulation to take place in that period. Presumably, the reason is because it was before the internet took off, since one could imagine that, with the net to allow people around the world to discuss the strange artificiality of their surrounding, the number of people figuring out the truth and breaking out of the Matrix would skyrocket.
It should be noted that, in the first movie, it is explicitly stated that it is 1999 inside the Matrix.
Tim Burton's Batman films present a mixed bag. The first movie (which is actually from 1989, not the '90s, but enough hairsplitting) has held up pretty well, in large part due to the 1940s style in the production design and more (heck, one scene shows a character reading a newspaper with the date 1947!)...but the "smooth funk" songs by Prince on the soundtrack do not help. Nor do some magazine covers we see: a 1980s-font cover of Time and a very '70s/'80s-looking cover of Vogue. And the Hell-Bent for Leather fashion sense of The Joker's gang looks more than a little cheesy today, partly because leather jackets have become not only socially acceptable, but so commonplace that they're hardly noticed anymore. Things get worse with Batman Returns: the script mentions murderer Ted Bundy (who had been executed just a few years earlier), Alfred suggests that Bruce Wayne switch the TV channel to Love Connection, and in one crowd scene the camera briefly passes over a young man wearing a jacket with a picture of Gogo Dodo from Tiny Toon Adventures, as if the filmmakers were daring us: "Betcha can't catch us trying to date this film!"
Home Alone, pegged to the early 1990s thanks to a lack of cell phones that, if not for some Applied Phlebotinum, would have made the movie a really short one. Also, the lax airport security indicates a pre-9/11 setting.
Office Space has a great deal of technology still in use in the late 1990s (CRT monitors, floppy disks, as well as the use of Traveler's checks to transfer money) that immediately date the setting, and a soundtrack largely consisting of 90s rap. Subverted, however, in that many people today can still relate to the cold interpersonal environment and Bad Boss present at Initech, and it is this latter point that is the driving force behind most of the plot of the film.
Clueless is a mix of this and IntentionalPeriod Piece. Yes, the grunge and hip-hop fashions and ubiquitous cell phones establish it as a '90s film, but much of the music is actually from The Eighties, and Cher Horowitz would likely feel right at home in a movie like Valley Girl. One of the more subtle notes that pins this to the '90s is the character of Christian, who is gay and whose tendency to dress stylishly is cited as clear proof of his sexuality, firmly placing the movie in a period before the metrosexual ideal took off.
Empire Records, as noted by Cracked. They refer to the experience of watching the film today as being "like stepping inside a Gen-X time capsule with Matt Pinfield," chiefly because of its mid '90s alt-rock soundtrack but also due to its "Reality Bites/Singles in high school" plot.
Cool as Ice, like the later Spice World, could only have been made when Vanilla Ice was at his most popular. Today the film is so early-1990s it's painful.
Airheads really captures the music scene of the early '90s. Prominent references are made to, among other things, Beavis And Butthead, Rodney King, Bea Arthur, and MTV being primarily associated with music. Classic '90s toys like Stretch Armstrong and a Game Gear are seen. In addition, the plot involves the only copy of a demo reel being a cassette tape in the possession of someone who can't be easily located because she doesn't have a cell phone.
Slacker perfectly defines the alternative culture of the early '90s, including the lingering effects of the late '80s.
Antitrust, being a film revolving around what was then the hot new technology of 2000/2001, was bound to fall into this. Not only is a great time capsule of late '90s computer culture and the general cultural climate of the "dot-com" boom (which ended around the time the film came out), but the big new technology that the film revolves around, a network capable of linking all of the world's computers, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets, has been old hat for several years now thanks to the development and proliferation of smartphones, tablets, WiFi, and similar technologies.
Airborne, which was made at the height of the in-line skating craze. Plus, it feels like a commercial from the '90s.
Can't Hardly Wait, to the point where the special edition DVD comes complete with a '90s trivia game to lampshade this fact.
Wayne's World and its sequel thanks to its pop culture references, depiction of the music industry, and especially the Show Within a Show modeled after the public access boom of the time.
You've Got Mail. The title alone immediately dates it to that period when America Online was the biggest ISP in the country. It also centers around the booming expansion of big-box chain bookstores, which today are in freefall thanks mostly to the internet.
Showgirls came out in 1995, and is a time capsule of the final days of "old" Las Vegas. The premise of an anti-heroine finding stardom in a showgirl revue at the Stardust Hotel and Casino was completely dated well before the resort was imploded in 2007; at the Turn of the Millennium, such shows were marginalized/put out of business by the more elaborate, ambitious, and classier productions of Siegfried and Roy, Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, and others like them. No hotel newer than the Luxor (opened 1993) appears, and characters drive on downtown's Fremont Street (by the time the film hit theaters, it became a pedestrian-only thoroughfare).
Fight Club has several things that date it, including technology (no one seems to have a cell phone, Project Mayhem plays pranks on stores selling CRT monitors and VHS tapes) and attitudes about airport security (the narrator is surprised and confused when his luggage is held because of a perceived security risk). Tyler's speech about how his generation has "no great war and no great depression" also firmly places it in a time of relative peace and economic prosperity. Most importantly, though, its themes were in large part an exploration of a popular meme in The Nineties, the idea that "traditional" masculinity was in collapse as a result of the ever-growing penetration of technology and the modern world. The film (and the book it was based on) was largely a deconstruction of those ideas, and of the men's movement that emerged out of them.
In Scream, Billy is marked as a suspect (correctly, as it turns out) because he is found to have a cell phone on him. Nowadays this is laughable, but in 1996 cell phones were still luxury items that were only owned by rich kids and businessmen, making it easier to narrow down a killer whose M.O. was to make threatening phone calls before offing his victims.
Higher Learning, John Singleton's 1995 follow-up to Boyz n the Hood and Poetic Justice. Even if you can ignore the hairstyles of the male characters, which by themselves date this film, there is also the heavily closeted lesbian relationship - not to mention the (literally) black-and-white racial politics and general exaggeration and cartoonishness, which will have "poor man'sSpike Lee" spilling from your mouth within seconds.
Volcano: The film's portrayal of racial tensions in post-Rodney King Los Angeles, particularly the ending scene where the ash makes it impossible to tell the color of anybody's skin, mark it as a product of a period in the mid '90s when racial issues were at the forefront of national discussion.
What do you call a constipated German? "Far-from-poopin'" ("Fahrvergnügen" was an advertising slogan for Volkswagen, loosely meaning "The joy of driving")
1990s Live Action TV
The Arsenio Hall Show is certainly a product of the first half of The Nineties, from the guests to the politics to the music to Arsenio's hair and fashion sense. The Rosie O Donnell Show similarly reflects the second half of the decade.
Clarissa Explains It All, particularly in the fashions, but also the fact that nobody has a cell phone or has ever even heard of one.
Dinosaurs is very much a product of the 90s, from the Jim Henson Company's work on bringing the characters to life, to its veiled references to the social issues of the day (the first Gulf War, drugs, environmentalism, etc.). It basically was to the 90's what The Flintstones was to the 60's.
Fist Of Fun has a few points that date it to the 1990s; the Simon Quinlank Hobbies sketch where his hobby is to destroy all computers so that "nerds" will have to stop surfing the internet and go back to real hobbies. And the spoof Events Listings (full of nonsense events on in the next week) at the end spoofed real end credit listings designed to be paused on a VHS tape.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, especially the early seasons, which had frequent references to early-1990s politics-related things such as Desert Storm and Dan Quayle, and celebrity scandals such as Zsa Zsa Gabor's slapping of a police officer and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart's arrest for solicitation.
Special note must go to Will Smith's wardrobe, especially in the earlier seasons. It was considered eccentric even for the time, but in an unquestionably 90s way, what with the flamboyant (often neon) color schemes and being generally two sizes too big.
Friends, whilst not in itself very topical, did manage to capture the burgeoning coffee shop scene of that era as well as gentrification of New York's brownstones under Giuliani.
Many, many shots of the World Trade Center towers.
In Season 1 finale "TOW Rachel Finds Out", Rachel is able to go all the way to Ross's departure gate when Ross is leaving for China and when Ross is coming back.
Season 1, especially, has some very dated haircuts and fashions. Just witness Chandler's neon flannel shirt in "TOW The Dozen Lasagnas" or Joey's post-grunge haircut in "The Pilot."
In Season 2's "TOW Five Steaks And An Eggplant", the gang loses their minds with excitement over a Hootie And The Blowfish concert. To be fair, Hootie was probably the biggest band in the country when the episode aired (their debut album "Cracked Rear View" had sold more than 10 million copies in the US by then, despite being released only one year prior). So it's easy to see why the writers assumed they would have more staying power than they did.
This Hour Has 22 Minutes, by virtue of being a topical political satire show, gets this in spades. The series started when Kim Campbell became Canada's first Prime Minister (in 1993), and was heavily prevalent on minor scandals and political drama that can seem incomprehensible to mondern audiences. So much so, in fact, that it hasn't received any DVD releases after season 2 due to low sales.
The 1990 BBC special Hyperland was actually perhaps a few years ahead of its time, as it was all about the possibilities of hypertext and easy computer access to information databases, two foundational concepts of what would come to be known as the internet. This is putting aside the fact that the co-presenters were Douglas Adams and Tom Baker, who are now nowhere even close to how big they were in the late 80s and very early 90s.
In Living Color! is this, since it's a topical sketch comedy show with a particular focus on African-American celebrities and topics. All the skits in the 1992-93 season premiere deal with the previous summer's riots in Los Angeles in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, for instance.
Sister series VR Troopers is even worse, as its premise is essentially 'virtual reality can create anything,' but even beyond that, at one point the characters bemoan the fact that they cannot contact one another at any time, being dependent on pay phones and landlines, resulting in a specific piece of tech being created for them, the VR-VTs. The complete lack of cell phones place the show blatantly in the early nineties.
Murphy Brown might go the extra mile of being an intentional period piece, as the newsroom setting almost guaranteed that a large chunk of the show's material would be ruthlessly topical about politics and entertainment. This has been to the show's detriment; with a large chunk of the show's material falling flat without context, the show has struggled to gain a foothold in syndication or in DVD sales (the first season's sales were so low, the remainder are unlikely to ever see the light of day.) Notably, ever since Dan Quayle became little more than a political footnote, the shows infamous tirade against him is completely deflated.
My So-Called Life is a time capsule for teen angst in the '90s. Especially with the way it handles issues like gay acceptance and bullying.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 has a lot of jokes that reference events and pop culture of the 1990s. This includes references to Zsa Zsa Gabor's arrest, the Rodney King beating, and Gallagher.
The Nanny, the clothes and fashion are obvious enough, but they also made a lot of topical references to scandals such as the John Wayne Bobbitt story, the OJ Simpson trial, and the Menendez brothers that made it clear the show started in 1992.
Pop Up Video, pre-revival, smacks of mid-to-late '90s special effects and commentary. Not only that, but several of the blurbs and trivia were rendered out of date by 2000.
Saved by the Bell, like TMNT, is a terrific example of how 1980s pop culture "hung over" into the early '90s. Zack's "brick" cellphone is a prime example - in the early '90s, the idea of a high-school kid with his own cellphone bordered on ridiculous, and the joke was that he was such a hustler that he could invest in an executive-level business tool. Now it's the size of the thing that's the joke.
Seinfeld. An unfortunate byproduct of its desire to mine humor from the small details of regular life is that it marks itself rather unavoidably as being of its time:
For example, one episode ("The Bubble Boy") has Jerry and Elaine getting lost when the car they are following to their destination goes through a light turning red that they have to stop at. Modern viewers can be excused for having no idea why this would be a problem at all; GPS would solve this problem, as would cell phones. Jerry and crew having neither immediately marks the show as mid-90s. (And for you younger readers — yes, this used to happen. You had to hope that the person you were following would notice you weren't behind them any more and pull over to wait for you.)
The finale featured a bit where Elaine is reprimanded by Jerry for calling someone to ask about their health on a cell phone. With the ubiquity of cell phones in the new millennium, it seems almost laughably outdated to suggest that calling someone on a cell phone rather than a home phone would be seen as rude.
"The Puerto Rican Day Parade" heavily features a guy with a laser pointer as a plot point. The fact that the laser pointer is treated as being an interesting and cool novelty dates the episode pretty clearly to a time when such things generally weren't purchased at dollar stores.
Any episodes involving airports are solidly pegged as pre-9/11 due to the fact that the characters are always shown as waiting right outside arrival gates. As well as the fact that it, like any other show set in New York City, is bound to feature a shot of the Twin Towers.
Spaced perfectly captured the lives of the Playstation (1) generation of kidults and late Nineties Britain.
Step by Step. This one ran from 1991 till 1998, so it gives you examples of the fashions, music, and other trends from across pretty much the whole decade.
The Street, a short-lived drama about the lives of high-powered Wall Street executives, had this in spades:
The decentralization of Wall Street is played up as something that's incredibly bizarre to the main character, as he expresses confusion when two brokers point out how they can trade stocks from the comfort of their luxury boat.
Technology Marches On is in frequent effect. Characters are seen hyping the latest technology. The firm's chief broker pulls out a Palm Pilot and taps away at it while an employee looks at the device admiringly in the pilot, while the design of the office and tickers heavily evoke 90's-era tech. Meanwhile, a VHS tape (in a large clamshell case, no less) is used as the impetus for Mitchell to break up with his girlfriend in another episode.
Xena: Warrior Princess makes up a plotline in one episode - Mitchell identifies an exotic dancer because he "saw (her) at XenaCon a few months back". There are also frequent references to popular films of the era like Gattaca.
The X-Files, especially in the early seasons, mostly due to a bad case of Technology Marches On. The show was infamous for showcasing new technology; cell phones, computers, e-mail, the internet, and various other items are seen in every episode from season 1 through season 9. Unfortunately, season 1 was in 1993. They were very good about updating their technology — season 8 episodes (2001) see flat-screen Apple computers — but just the sheer size and appearance of the technology in early and mid-seasons is enough to date it horribly.
On top of that, there's also the values of the show. It was made in a post-Cold War environment where the big buzzword was the "new world order", Bush Senior's term to describe the new, American-dominated state of global affairs where capitalism reigned supreme — and coincidentally, also a term used by conspiracy theorists to describe the Evil Plan of the conspiracy. The militia movement and their pet conspiracy theories were at their peak during this era, especially after President Bill Clinton was caught with his pants down. It's been said that the real death blow for the show was the 9/11 attacks and The War on Terror removing that environment from the mainstream, consigning it to the radical fringes of society and making it somewhat disrespectful to openly support. (Until The New Tens, that is...)
Several Animorphs books come across like this, due to the author's fondness for real contemporary pop culture references, as well as some situations that would be greatly changed by advancing technology (especially cell-phones). Probably the most blatant example was The Warning, with a plot that heavily involves the internet as it existed during the mid-nineties.
Also plenty of scenes that, uh, evoke a pre-9/11 sensibility. Several planes get crashed into buildings. Also — hilariously — when they travel to the future, the only recognizable building still standing in Manhattan is the World Trade Center. Whoops.
The Animorphs series was being rewritten, apparently replacing jokes and references from the 1990s with more modern ones. However, it's possible that 90s technology like the lack of cameraphones or Facebook made it harder for the current generation to connect. The rewrites stopped at 7, with 8 being axed after preorders were taken.
Michael Crichton's 1994 novel Disclosure has a plot that features the main character trying to clear his name when accused of sexual harassment by a female coworker; while he is innocent and she is the real instigator of the harassment, with a history of harassing male coworkers that the company has been covering up due to her value, he is told in the beginning that his case is paper thin due to the idea of a female sexually harassing a male being completely unheard of, and that in in sexual harassment cases everybody automatically takes the female's side, especially if it delves into a "He-say-she-says" territory. Fast forward to twenty years later, where the idea that women are just as capable of sexual harassment as men has near-universal acceptance (at least in the western world) and companies' sexual harassment policies follow the idea that harassment can happen between any two people, even people of the same gender, and give individual harassment cases much more equal merit, and this novel now reads like a ridiculous piece of Pulp Fiction. Add in that the company in question is a pre-internet high technology company that is developing a Virtual Reality machine and is scrambling to iron out production defects on a new CD-ROM drive to place this novel firmly in the mid-1990s.
Connie Willis's Bellwether—written in the mid-90s, its narrator is a sociologist researching fads, so the book is a perfect time capsule of fashions in everything. Remember hair wraps? Sunflowers on everything? The spread of Seattle-style coffee houses? Notably, e-mail is treated more as a gimmick than anything, and the narrator speculates about the way that attitudes to smoking will change in future... and gets it wrong (so far!)
Goosebumps is full of references to the 90s, and Blogger Beware makes a tally out of all the 90s references a book makes at the end of its review.
The early Stephanie Plum books were written in, and take place in The Nineties, and almost feel like throwbacks to The Eighties. The title character doesn't get a cellphone until book 3 or so.
In the Tim Powers book Last Call, a major character drives around in an SUV, which the protagonist describes as if the reader has never seen one before, occasionally calling it a "Jeepy-type vehicle." The book was published in 1992, a few years before the SUV explosion.
Megadeth's "Foreclosure of a Dream" and Ministry's "N.W.O." both sample speeches from then-current president George H.W. Bush.
Michael Jackson's video for "Black or White", made in 1991, was initially notorious for its crotch-grabbing coda, but nowadays is almost as notorious for all the then-awesome, now-lame (or mundane) elements that were its big selling points:
The video for Hanson's "MMMbop" features glimpses of a '90s desktop PC and "whale" Chevy Caprice taxi as well as a payphone and clips of the guys rollerblading.
John Hiatt's "Shredding the Document" (from the album Walk On released in 1995) has the line "The twentieth century's closing," as well as references to Larry King and Oprah Winfrey ('90s talk show hosts).
"Weird Al" Yankovic's "It's All About the Pentiums" was made to be humorous in the first place, but unsurprisingly has become a period piece of 1990s computing. Technology Marches On, and the things the singer brags about are now quaint memories: Pentiumsnote Pentium processors are still used as a middle-range processor, just hardly worth bragging about, a T1 line, Y2K, Floppy Diskettes, a modem, Sarah Michelle Gellar being a Teen Idol and geek hearrthrob, a "32-bit-world", and mentioning a newsgroup called "alt.total-loser". On the bright side, having 100 gig of ram and a 40-inch monitor is still very impressive.
Eric Bogosian's subUrbia. So much that Bogosian wrote a new version of the play set in the post-9/11 and the Iraq War
RENT. The movie, at least, starts on Christmas Eve 1989, but the show has always been synonymous with The Nineties. The repeated references to Virtual Reality as an evil takeover plot by The Man are downright Hilarious in Hindsight. AIDS spreading like wildfire to several of the characters (and being a short-term death sentence) is less hilarious, but pegs the action just as firmly in the early 1990s. Benny's desire to sleep with Mimi, who he knows to be infected, is arguably the worst case. It's also important to note that a large part of the reason so many people contracted AIDS in the 1990s was because it took a while for accurate information about how HIV spreads to become common knowledge, and even longer for preventatives to become easy to get (and that's not even getting into the fact that, because it was mostly known as a "gay disease" at the beginning a lot of people in the government and other positions of power considered it a good thing). Also, plenty of HIV negative people are in sexual relationships with HIV positive people, although it was much more dangerous back then, since so little was known.
The Make My Video series of games on the Sega CD reek of early-nineties pop culture and slang. The fact that their entire premise is making videos for One Hit Wonders like Marky Mark really doesn't help.
In Street Fighter II, Zangief's home country is the U.S.S.R., which disolved nine months after the game was released. Later updates and ports continued to refer to the U.S.S.R., cementing the game in 1991.
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake falls into the same, with much of the plot making a big deal about how Cold War-era East vs. West tensions have screwed up the lives of almost every character present, when the actual Cold War ended a year after the game came out (despite the game itself supposedly taking place in 1999).
The clothing styles, especially for the heroes, and technology levels in Pokémon Red and Blue and Pokémon Gold and Silver really date it in the late 90s, though the remakes look more modern. The latter narrowly avoided this even more by removing the skateboard element they were planning to have.
Action 52 is this by having a game based on Operation Desert Storm, firmly setting it in 1991.
Comix Zone, due to the comic book aesthetic, the protagonist's fashion sense, and the grunge soundtrack.
Working Designs routinely inserted pop culture references into its localizations, including references to real people. Some have aged better than others.
1990s Web Original
'90s web page design is almost a trope in and of itself, and when it's used as a comparison, it's usually not a compliment. The technology was inferior, and web page design was still a very new art form. Visiting one of these websites through the Wayback Machine really is like stepping back in time.
The website for Janus Capital Group (featured in the above link) is a case in point. Not only is the web page design primitive, but the site indulges in stereotypical '90s Totally Radical-tude, featuring lots of scenes of and references to "extreme" mountain biking — on the website for an investment firm. Even Jordan Belfort would've found it tacky.
JenniCAM. Remember when broadcasting your everyday life over a webcam was a novelty?
1990s Western Animation
Celebrity Deathmatch. From promoting Anna Kournikova and Elizabeth Hurley as the internet's top two pinups, to billing the long-separated Bruce Willis/Demi Moore and Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman as two of Hollywood's biggest power couples, to featuring a fight between Bill Clinton and Kenneth Starr to finally settle the Lewinsky scandal, it is impossible for Celebrity Deathmatch to escape the turn-of-the-New-Millennium time period in which it aired. The show's pop culture reference-based humor is extremely dated and many of the celebrities featured are now far past their fame. To millennials who don't have a decent understanding of late '90s pop culture, this show is a hard watch.
The relaunch that aired on MTV2 likewise dates itself to the mid '00s, and will likely see the same fate as the original series. The first episode alone is built entirely around parodies of the long-canceled and largely forgotten shows The Simple Life and Viva La Bam, while other fights are about such Turn of the Millennium ephemera as The Osbournes, Pimp My Ride, Ali G, crunk rap, Britney Spears' public meltdown, and the Major League Baseball steroid scandal. One fight did reflect how the aforementioned Bruce Willis and Demi Moore had broken up... with the fight being between Willis and Ashton Kutcher, Demi's new lover (a relationship that ended in 2013).
Tiny Toon Adventures is laden with contemporary early 90's pop culture references, very much in keeping with the tradition set by Looney Tunes (and for some reason occasionally had references from that era). While other Warner Bros. cartoons of the period made many of their pop culture references to figures and events of the past and thus weren't as obviously products of The Nineties, Pinky and the Brain's penchant for lampooning political figures make it age very poorly and some jokes in Animaniacs are similarly dated ("Baloney and Kids" - which is itself only mildly dated - made two jokes about the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan fiasco of 1994).
Daria, for the mid-late '90s, to the point of having a page on the fandom's wiki about it. The Nostalgia Chickremarked that it's the sort of show that could only have existed in the '90s, as that was the era when "snarky alternative-ness" was in fashion among young people. This is especially true when watching old video tapes and bootlegs of Daria before the DVD release, as all of the incidental music was composed of popular songs from the era. The DVD release would have never gotten permission for all of the music without making it prohibitively expensive, so it was given new incidental music.
A Goofy Movie, thanks to a combination of Fashion Dissonance (especially the flannel shirts and boys' hair that's parted in the middle) and the very '90s-sounding Fake Band "Powerline" that features heavily in the story.
Hey Arnold! shows cassette-tape systems and boomboxes whenever there's in-universe music. Famously, Helga's father runs Big Bob's Beeper Emporium, having built his successful business on technology that couldn't be more nineties. Additionally, one episode has Gerald telling Arnold that he'll call him later, saying that he'll ring twice note (ring, hang up after one ring, immediately re-call, a Truth in Television technique for phones without caller IDs) to let Arnold know it's Gerald calling. Caller IDs are standard for phones nowadays.
A lot of the early Rugrats episodes feature 90s references. For example when the adults watch a movie on video they say "that bald guy liked it, but the fat guy didn't".
Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? is undeniably 90s. From the style, to the references, and everything inbetween. In case that's not enough, the World Trade Center towers are in the opening title sequence.
The Critic is a good encapsulation of the mid-'90s. Most of the bad movies Jay reviews parody real movies that came out over 1991-94. New York City is portrayed as merely a dump, not a terrible Vice City like in Midnight Cowboy or Taxi Driver, with Manhattan actually shown to have some artistic merit. Bill Clinton jokes are made, but not Bill Clinton sex jokes, just Bill Clinton fat hillbilly jokes. Kids play video games on consoles and Jay uses a cordless phone, but no one uses a computer. And Margo dates a Grunge artist in one episode.
Doug, especially the original Nickelodeon version. Most of the clothing and technology are very `90s.
Early episodes of Recess, though this was downplayed after the first season. A rare example from the third season (1999) has Gretchen mention posting information on a newsgroup. Nowadays, this would either be Facebook or Twitter, as newsgroups have much fewer users than in the `90s.
Beavis And Butthead, what with the main characters being parodies of `90s teen metalheads and the MST 3 K-esque commentary on music videos from that decade.
Although it's reasonably good at avoiding it, the first ten or so seasons of The Simpsons can at times be this. In particular, "Stark Raving Dad" (all of Springfield becomes obsessed with Michael Jackson, dating it pre-summer 1993, due to MJ's drop in popularity domestically after he chose to settle instead of fight a child molestation suit), "Mr Lisa Goes to Washington" (the family meets Barbara Bush, and President George H.W. Bush appears at the end), and "Itchy and Scratchy Land" (a side joke at a '70s disco bar, where Marge notes the bartender looks like John Travolta, who looks from side to side and says "Yeah, looks like." is very pre-1994 and Travolta's Career Resurrection in Pulp Fiction).
"Itchy & Scratchy Land", in addition to the Travolta reference* The episode came out after Pulp Fiction hit theatres, but went into production before (Simpsons has a really long lead-time),, also shows a cutaway to a completely empty Euro-Itchy & Scratchy Land. This is a reference to the very difficult time Euro-Disney had establishing itself in France; a situation that is today somewhat rectified.
The infamous English Gag Dub of Ghost Stories was recorded in 2005, and boy does it ever sound like it. References to the George W. Bush administration, the then-current political landscape of the USA (particularly Texas), the then-still-powerful Fundamentalist Christian groups, Hurricane Katrina, Lindsay Lohan being called attractive unironically, Scientology, certain now-long-dead memes, and name-dropping of several prominent media personalities.
One particular Cold Open that, in the original Japanese, had been silent, was given some Lull Destruction in the form of a news-radio broadcast that culminated in referring to popular CNN anchor Anderson Cooper as a closeted homosexual. This became Hilarious in Hindsight a few years later when Cooper actually did come out.
Mobile Suit Gundam 00, despite being set two centuries in the future, stands out among Gundam shows for being one, thanks to Seiji Mizushima's obsession with being "topical", with many of the conflicts in the show being based around ones that had been in the news at the time and caricatures of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton featuring as the first and second presidents of The Federation. Particularly amusing was the show's featuring of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers; two years after the show premiered, the Indian government utterly crushed this group in 2009.
Lucky Star's anime was quite reliant on mid-to-late 2000s references.
While Word of God swears up and down they're based on the Ainu people Hiromu Arakawa grew up near as a farm girl in Northern Japan, the Ishvalans of Fullmetal Alchemist and their parallelism to Muslims in the early, madly paranoid and xenophobic days of The War on Terror (as contrasted with the apathy, exhaustion and casual bigotry of the current decade) makes some people wonder. The politicization was then taken Up to Eleven in the first anime version, directed by (surprise, surprise) Seiji Mizushima. The Middle East references are laid on much thicker, much more attention is given to Edward (and Canon Foreigner Dante)'s militantly atheistic views (Richard Dawkins and other atheist spokesmen were getting a lot of press at the time) and the movie, Conqueror of Shamballa involves World War II, at a time when WWII movies and video games were wildly popular around the developed world.
Batwoman's origins as a former soldier who was kicked out under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" dates her series to before that policy was repealed.
2000s Fan Fiction
My Immortal has a Present Day Past, but that "present day" is now dated to the 2006-2007 years in which it was written. Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff have yet to be displaced by Miley Cyrus, the last Harry Potter book hasn't come out yet, and Twilight is conspicuous by its absence. There's even a mention of Hilary Duff dating Joel Madden, dating the story to the two years (2004-2006) in which they were together. Another give away comes in if you're a My Chemical Romance fan (since they tend to be the band mentioned most in the fic), as most of the songs by the band mentioned in the story are singles off of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, MCR's first big mainstream release (though technically their second albumnote amusingly, the story never mentions any songs off of MCR's first album, showing that even Tara sticks dominantly to mainstream "punk" and "goff" bands), which came out in 2004. The story makes no references to any songs off of The Black Parade, released in late 2006, meaning most of the story was likely written prior to its release (which goes along well with the other aforementioned facts that date this infamous fanfic).
Each of the works in the collective oeuvre of Seltzer and Friedberg (except for Vampires Suck, which was released in 2010 and focused on one work in particular) is one of these not only to the Turn of the Millennium, but to the specific year in which it was released. One of the main criticisms of their work is that the pop culture jokes that they rely on become outdated within just a few months, with the things that they're parodying having fallen out of the collective consciousness. Their tendency to base brief parodies on the trailers to movies that wouldn't be released until well into their own production probably has something to do with it.
I think the greatest redeeming quality [of Scary Movie 4] is that it works as something of a comedic time capsule from 2006, with so many jokes and cultural references that I had honestly forgotten completely about cheaply exploited for this movie. Like Tom Cruise going crazy on Oprah (the only part of the movie that had me near to tears in laughter), it almost makes you feel nostalgic...
The scene in the first Spider-Man film where a bunch of New Yorkers come to Spider-Man's aid and one shouts "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!" definitely serves as a reminder of the mood of post-9/11 solidarity that was prevalent for over a year or so after the attack. Especially given that that particular scene was added in post-production, after the attacks had occurred.
Interestingly, the movie was very close to being dated to the Nineties, because the original climax involved Spidey fighting Green Goblin on and around the World Trade Center (one now-yanked trailer from mid-2001 showed a giant web spanning the Twin Towers). After 9/11, the nearly-complete film was hastily kicked back into production to redo the climax, shoot the scene mentioned above, and remove shots of the WTC.
Kick-Ass with its many references to MySpace, which had already become dated between the time the movie was filmed and when it was released. (but wasn't that much in the source material, released in 2008)
A lot of early 2000's Nickelodeon movies come off as Unintentional Period Pieces. Snow Day, for example, has a soundtrack that's filled with many Britney Spears and N-Sync wannabes like Hoku and 98 Degrees.
Despite its massive popularity, The Hangover managed to become this through a brief shot late in the film of a billboard advertising entertainer Danny Gans and his show in Las Vegas. Gans died a month before the film opened.
The fourth Rambo film is starting to look like this, with Myanmar's tentative steps toward political freedom.
Team America: World Police. Much of its humor is directed against targets like Michael Moore, Kim Jong-il, the films of Michael Bay, anti-war celebrity activists like George Clooney and Sean Penn, and America's gung-ho behavior in The War on Terror, all of which were political and cultural touchstones of the year (2004) when the film came out. Now that America's (mostly) left Iraq and terrorism has faded from the agenda, it can feel rather dated, especially with Kim Jong-il's death in December 2011.
Nostalgia Chick: "What kind of loser does things on the internet?" <glances at Todd; he glances back>
The film Old School begins with a scene of Luke Wilson being held up at airport security after inexplicably triggering the new security measures. At one point a man from the National Guard is summoned, pointing his rifle at Wilson while he is scanned. While most of the post-9/11 security measures are still in place, the National Guard was a fairly temporary measure.
A major feature of the Scooby-Doo movie were its snarky jabs at the slang, music, fashion, and general behavior of college students around the late 90's and early 00's. Except what they were mocking was for the most part over, and already on the way out by the time the movie was released in 2002.
The High School Musical series. The fashions, styles, and music in the films seemingly go out of their way to mark them as being products of the '00s, almost as though they were Grease-esque nostalgia trips made twenty years later.
Shrek has Smash Mouth and The Baha Men on the soundtrack, and it stars Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy, two guys whose careers have cooled off considerably since the movie came out.
The Live-Action Adaptation of Josie and the Pussycats, made in 2001, takes place in a world where boy bands and girl groups are the biggest things in pop music, the major labels wield near-supreme control over what becomes popular, MTV is still thought of as a music network first, and everyone gets their music from brick-and-mortar record stores. File-sharing isn't even mentioned, despite the fact that Napster was at the peak of its popularity and infamy when the film came out.
The 2005 adaptation of The War of the Worlds, much like the Spider-Man example above, is an example of a Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie that isn't explicitly about terrorism. The aliens in Steven Spielberg's version of the story are very obviously meant to be a metaphor for 9/11 and America's feelings of helplessness and insecurity after the attack, and the film employs heavy use of imagery from the disaster to drive that point home.
A microcosm of this is the Mary Jo Kopechne story. The Jamie Lynn Spears reference come from this story, and on top of that, Mary Jo's son plays with Ultimate Soldier action figures (a toy line that was discontinued in the mid '00s) and she uses AOL's welcome page as her primary news source (today, it would be Yahoo! News or something similar).
Speaking of AOL and Yahoo!, there's also the book's presentation of technology and New Media. While Max Brooks correctly predicted that touch-screen and voice-assisted computers would exist by 2013, he completely missed the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, which are completely absent; instead, we see desktop PCs with the aforementioned technologies. More importantly, he greatly underestimated just how big the online media would become, something that actually plays a role in the story on more than one occasion. The only online news sources mentioned are 2ch in Japan and the aforementioned AOL in the US, and one interviewee states that, in the run-up to the Zombie Apocalypse, alternative media outlets were scorned as untrustworthy and appealing only to an elitist, "latte liberal"PBS/NPR audience. All of this is in keeping with the book's rooting in the mid '00s, assuming that the near future would resemble 2006 culturally and politically.
In the book, the core of many national survival/continuity of government plans involves a retreat to an easily-defensible safe zone where the government and military can get enough breathing room to reorganize. The US' safe zone is the West Coast and the Rockies, Britain's safe zone is Scotland, and Ukraine's safe zone is... the Crimean peninsula. Following Crimea's vote for independence and union with Russia in 2014, the chapter on Ukraine easily falls into this trope.
The Millennium Trilogy manages to date itself thanks to Stieg Larsson's insistence on giving detailed specs on Lisbeth Salander's computer. He had intended to make her sound like a cutting-edge hacker with top-of-the-line equipment. Nowadays, she would come off as a Luddite with an Apple fetish.
2000s Live Action TV
24, being a Post-9/11 Terrorism Show that ran until 2010, was arguably an example of this while it was still on the air. By the time it finished its final season, America was well into its withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and was just a year away from finally catching Osama bin Laden.
VH-1's I Love the New Millennium. It was made in 2008, before the decade it was supposed to be nostalgically looking back on was even over. This, of course, presented some problems in hindsight. The show is fascinating now as a time capsule for what people thought would be memorable and lasting about, say, 2007; some things apply, but some look laughably dated, even just a year or two down the road. And yet, it's almost more apt for the sort of nostalgia the show was made for.
A lot of 2000s shows on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel are becoming this, especially ones from the early 2000s. Technology in the 2000s changed rapidly, so you can tell when a show was made by what they're showing.
iCarly looks dated to around 2005/2006 due to its long time between production of series one and the airing in 2007. This happened because of the in-universe response of it being "crazy" and unexpected that the characters could create, film, and have their videos go "viral" and that tens of thousands of people will watch them. By 2007, YouTube had already established the YouTube Partnership program which enabled popular web stars to make a lot of money via YouTube advertising and by the turn of the 2010s there were new viral videos and memes being hatched weekly.
The Wire: Season four makes heavy reference to the "No Child Left Behind Act" and its effects upon modern high school educations, and street level dealers branded their product as "Troop Surge", "WMDs", and "Pandemic" (i.e. bird flu).
In Arrested Development, particularly the final season, the references to the War in Iraq are so specific that they tie the show to that exact time period. For example, GOB's wife is shown posing a la Lynndie England of Abu Ghraib infamy. There are also several references to the Enron accounting scandal.
FX Network has this problem too: while The Shield only made occassional references to current eventsnote One of the characters nearly loses her job after she makes racist remarks to an Arab woman whose husband was killed by a racist after 9/11, references are made regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor of California, and reference to the housing crisis in the last couple of episodes of the series., Rescue Me was definitively based around the aftermath of the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center. Nip/Tuck made references as well — Hearts & Scalpels was a Grey's Anatomyrip-off, and the final season began with an episode that outright references the 2008 recession.
If you ever need a refresher on what was happening in 2006-2007, watch the first season of 30 Rock. A particularly good example is in the episode "The Fighting Irish", when Pete tells Liz that "you look like that lady astronaut who tried to kidnap that other woman." This refers to a then-headline news story involving Lisa Nowak, which you either forgot about or never heard of. Presumably, this will also happen to newer seasons once enough time passes.
The first two seasons make several jokes about the Bush administration and the upcoming 2008 election. They even managed an accidental It Will Never Catch On joke when Jenna hears that Barack Obama is black and sarcastically dismisses the idea that he has a chance of becoming president.
Like the Spider-Man example above, the attacks on 9/11 came just before the third season of The West Wing began. The first episode was a Very Special Episode hastily written to address the anti-Muslim sentiments in the aftermath of the attacks, and the third and fourth seasons in particular are heavily influenced by 9/11. Watching these episodes ten years later, you almost have to remind yourself that this was how people felt at the time.
In the TV series Birds of Prey, a great deal of recent inventions (PDAs, portable CD players, wireless earpieces) feature which look considerably low-tech 10 years on - in particular, the supposedly hi-tech enormous computers that Oracle uses look laughably old-fashioned, although this could be put down to budget constraints.
Skins will always be rooted in that mid-late 00s era when teenage sexual mores were almost at national crisis point and chlamydia was a standing joke; the expression "Skins party" left the lexicon almost as soon as it arrived. Interesting in that they actively tried to avert this by refreshing the core cast every two seasons, resulting in each generation also feeling very specific to its own period (Cook's episode in season 4 frequently features Rock Band 2, something Tony would never conceive of and Nick would consider passé).
My Super Sweet Sixteen hearkens back to an era, pre-Great Recession and Occupy movement, when flaunting immense wealth was in style and something it was thought there was even a point-and-laugh audience for.
One Scrubs episode centered around The War on Terror when a soldier previously wounded in Iraq was admitted to the hospital and his presence caused a rift between pro-War and anti-War hospital residences, and Dr. Kelso's attempts to control the situation. At one point, Kelso also attempts to control the situation by bringing up the then-recent news that Pluto had been downgraded from planet to dwarf-planet. Oh, and at the end of the episode, The Janitor says that he believes the US should look for (then at large) Osama bin-Laden in Pakistan.
Made during the Golden Age of machinima, The Strangerhood, made with The Sims 2, is arguably either this or an actual intended Period Piece. Its first few episodes could have arguably taken place anywhere at any time. But from the sixth episode onward, it quickly degenerated into "let's spoof this or that show from the 2000s for five minutes and see what happens." That LOST was spoofed but Heroes was ignored dates the miniseries even more to early 2006. American Idol, Desperate Housewives, CSI: Miami, and Alias jokes seal the deal that this show could only have been made from 2004-2006, three years shy of the release date for The Sims 3.
Most machinima pieces, due to being made with games from their time periods and limited by the technology of those times, are almost inevitably doomed to this trope.
Defied by Brad Paisley's 2007 single "Online", which originally contained the line "Go check out MySpace". In concert, he now changes this line to the more timely "Go check my Facebook page".
Several songs which came out shortly after the 9/11 attacks, including several in the often-patriotic Country Music genre.
"Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)" by Toby Keith. This one has a fair bit of Narm Charm, and someday Americans will look back on it and swear that it must have been a parody. (Heck, some have thought that from the beginning.)
"Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?" by Alan Jackson is a subversion, in that it's framed as a look back to that important day.
"This Ain't No Rag, It's a Flag" by Charlie Daniels.
Yet another from Ray Stevens: "Osama — Yo' Mama".
And bridging the gap between it and the Iraq War was Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?" It can be jarring to hear him singing "And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout Bin Laden" in modern times.
Ministry's trilogy of albums protesting the George W. Bush administration.
Train's "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)" metions Tae Bo, a "cardio-boxing" program popular in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
The Beastie Boys' To the 5 Boroughs, with its numerous criticisms of George W. Bush's first term, falls squarely into this territory.
Joy Electric's Favorites at Play, released in 2009. It's a Cover Album, except instead of covering the songs he considered influential (which would have resulted in yet another 80s nostalgia album), Ronnie Martin covered then-recent songs he liked. So the album is a weird little time capsule of songs that got played on the radio between 2003 and 2008.
Gothic industrial band Lucid Dementia's 2008 album Trickery has a lot of Protest Songs, most of which relate to the Bush Administration and thinly veiled references to the Iraq War. It's especially noticeable when listening to their next album, released in 2013, which is mostly horror themed and very light on politics.
Eminem's The Real Slim Shady is quite obviously a product of its time, with references to Pamela Anderson, Tom Green, and Fred Durst.
Mosh is a protest song that feels pretty heavily dated to 2004, especially since the song was released as a single prior to the 2004 US election. The lyrics make mention of Bin Laden still being considered a terrorist threat, Em voicing frustrations about the Bush administration by saying that then president George W. Bush should go fight in the Iraq War as a way to "impress daddy" (George Bush Sr.), and the final lyrics are of Em saying "Mr. President! Mr Senator!" referencing the candidates of the 2004 US election (the aforementioned George W. Bush, and Senator John Kerry). The music video even had two versions made (mainly just with different endings) and both are also equally as dated. The first one, released before the election, shows people showing up to vote between Bush and Kerry, and then the second version, released after the election, shows protesters breaking into the US Capitol Building while Congress is in session, with signs saying stuff like "Down with Bush!"
2000s Tabletop Games
Age of Aquarius Second Edition is easily identifiable as "so 2000s". Or, as Russians are more likely to identify periods, as "so Putin's first presidency". Certain events in the NPCs' backstories reference dates such as 2003, and the police still spells its name with a "mi" (which means it's not the Medvedev presidency which started in 2008).
This trope wound up killing the planned third game in the series, Super Emogame III. It had become one of these to 2005-06, and it even had a demo released, yet it had been languishing as vaporware well into 2007 and beyond as Jason Oda's work commitments making advergames started piling up and eating into his time. It would've taken another couple of years to finish, meaning that, by the time of its eventual release, most of its humor and references (to things like Myspace, Ashlee Simpson, and then-current emo bands) would've been very outdated. Any attempts to update the humor would've delayed production for even longer. Realizing this, Oda pulled the plug on it.
Grand Theft Auto III is supposedly set in Autumn 2001, when many aspects of both the late '90s and the early '00s, such as the dot-com boom, massive SUVs, boy bands, the infancy of Reality TV, and the rise of the Cell Phone (the main character still uses a pager), were easy topics to explore and satirize. Although the game was released two months after 9/11, very little was changed to reflect thatnote The police cars' colors were changed from blue and white to black and white so that they bore less resemblance to those of the NYPD, and a series of side-missions involving a hobo/revolutionary named Darkel who gave out missions involving acts of terrorism was removed (one mission was instead retooled and turned into an attack on a street gang)., and as such, the atmosphere of the game is more grounded in the immediate pre-9/11 period of 2000-01 than later.
Game mods often fall into this as well, even if just by some random texture on a wall, because modders tend to be more blatantly political than developers that are aware of this trope - for one example, the Unreal Tournament 2004 vehicle CTF map "AggressiveAlleys2k4" includes this New York Post cover◊ in each vehicle garage. Remember the last time anthrax was relevant?
Most of the Serious Sam series clearly give away that they were products of the 2000's simply for the fact that there are just so many references to Duke Nukem Forever being Vapor Ware for as long as it was - there were jokes that delays in Sam 3's release were from having to remove and replace these sorts of references due to DNF actually coming out.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, set Next Sunday A.D., falls into this partially because of its influence on other contemporary shooter games. For instance, Call of Duty 4 was released in 2007 and set in 2011, but features a rather standard weapon list (M4, AK, MP5, and whatnot), nothing of which began production later than 2001 and not much different from the real-world guns they were modeled after. By the time 2011 rolled around in the real world, Call of Duty and its ilk were filled with various small arms that were covered in accessory rails and just starting development at the time the games were released, but were treated in the games as total replacements for contemporary weapons in every military present in them.
Modern Warfare 2, set in 2016, has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", which was repealed in 2010, a year after the game came out.
Even the Grand Theft Auto-inspired video game adaptation of The Warriors from 2005 falls victim to this thanks to its anachronisms. Yes, it's set in the late '70s and based on a movie from that time period (which was itself inspired by a book from the '60s, for that matter), and for the most part it's pretty good about being period-accurate... until you get to that level set in the South Bronx and see, amidst a bunch of punks with Afro and shag hairstyles, one guy with a veryTurn of the Millennium-appropriate soul patch. Plus, there's a comic relief scene set in Brooklyn with a thug mumbling in his sleep and suddenly moaning "I don't wanna ride the pony!" — obviously a Shout-Out to a similar scene in Toy Story (1995), which was still an ongoing film series at the time.
Doubling with Anachronism Stew, the Ciem Webcomic Series was written from 2007-2010. It is supposed to be set in 2020, but depicts technology that dates it to happening between 2004 and 2009, largely due to being made with The Sims 2.
2000s Web Original
Broken Saints features as one of its protagonists a programmer who boasts of recently helping to save the world from the disastrous effects of the Y2K Bug, irrevocably dating the work to the early 2000s at best.
2000s Western Animation
The Proud Family. It has a not-so-subtle reference to Napster in one episode, when Napster as it once was went down in the early 2000s (around 2002).
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Gamecubes (and a Wii in a 2007 episode), Game Boy Advances (which would become a Nintendo DS later), and a lot of other technology references make it an obvious product of the mid 2000s.
In the 2006 Family Guy episode "Saving Private Brian", Brian and Stewie attempt to get kicked out of the military by pretending to be gay. "Don't Ask Don't Tell", the law that required the military to discharge gay servicemembers, was repealed in December 2010 and the military's ban on gay soldiers was officially scrapped a few months later in 2011.
The third act of "Thanksgiving" is about the family and their guests arguing about America's stance in the Iraq War, which ended a month after the episode's premiere.
"The Juice Is Loose" is about Peter becoming friends with OJ Simpson. Only problem is, it aired in March 2009, shortly after OJ was imprisoned in Las Vegas. Acknowledged with a title card saying this was a 'lost' episode from 2007.
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 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 Shack" and Miley Cyrus were referred to as hot trends, and the protagonist was a wealthy literary agent who 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 ComedyNailed 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 considered 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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 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.
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 Brookerexplains:
"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).
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:
EarlyJudge 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.
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.
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.
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."
Jane Austen's books, which define the Regency Romance subgenre.
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.
Well... it is a bit more complicated than that. Doyle kept writing Sherlock Holmes stories until 1927 but he never set any of them later than 1914 - and even that story ('The Last Bow') is far later than the others. Most Holmes stories written in the 1920s were set two decades (or more!) in the then past making them intentional period pieces.
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 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 catalogues 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 synthesised 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 novelised 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.
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.
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-2oth 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 Not long afterwards, his reputation was destroyed by a pedophilia scandal
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.
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 this by making an intentional period piece, setting the show in 1980-81.
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:
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.
Another example from the aforementioned Darryl Worley is "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.
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. The polka medleys, in particular, contain snippets of pretty much every song topping the charts at the time.
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.
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 (most likely because the original version was on a limited-run EP on a label that closed its Nashville branch not long after the EP's release).
In 1996, the GrooveGrass Boyz parodied the "Macarena" in country form. That'sin 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, especiallyThe 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.
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.
Theme park attractions in general can frequently fall into this, especially if they rely on animatronics and/or special effects that were advanced for their time.
Case in point: the T2 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 robots on display. To say nothing of the cameo by Shaquille O'Neal.
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 Making matters worse, the Tomorrowland section of the park was plagued with petty crime and youth gangs (most notably the goth gang Disneyland Arcane Crew) during this period. 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).
The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios (Florida) has not had a significant update since it opened with the park in 1989, and the most recent movie depicted in the tableaus is 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark. Because The RivalUniversal Studios parks acquired the attraction rights to most of the hits from the Blockbuster Age Of Hollywood, and Warner Bros. usually licences its films to other parks (such as the Six Flags chain), it's virtually impossible to update it aside from periodic reedits of the closing Montage of great movie moments. This has decimated the ride's popularity — it's housed in one of the park's key structures (a replica of Grauman's Chinese Theater), and was originally the second-most popular entertainment (as opposed to Edutainment) attraction at the park behind Star Tours. But it now has no appeal to the under-35 crowd since its focus on the Golden Age of Hollywood is not one they can relate to in an age when the bulk of films made pre-1980 aren't screened on television or given priority on home media. Plans for a replacement have come and gone over the years, and change never comes.
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 2 weapons at once) stick out like a sore thumb.
Gaming comics are like this almost by design, as they often reference then-current games.
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?
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).
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.
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.
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. The once-common "cloverleaf" exit is also 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 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.
Any mention of long distance phone calls being expensive.
Movies/TV shows featuring real life sports teams and athletes run the risk of this as well. Though its expected for films to have athletes from that time period , the fact that uniforms and stadiums can change also puts films in a certain timeframe.
Lots of old TV shows (and movies) feature the characters rave about how hot/attractive/awesome a then-popular real life person is. However, now in real life that celebrity has aged with the passage of time, their popularity has long-faded and is no longer seen as 'awesome' to anyone outside die-hard devotees, which makes it seem strange to see the characters rave about how amazing some real life has-been is. Examples include an old episode of Married... with Children in which Marcy talks about how how attractive John F. Kennedy Jr (who died in 1999) is, an episode from The King of Queens in which Carrie raves about how Mel Gibson is her dream date, and the movie Clueless, in which Cher talks about how cool Christian Slater is. Also, on The Simpsons, Marge's sisters always mentioned how hot MacGyver (played by a then 80s era in his mid to late thirties Richard Dean Anderson) was.