"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record: Prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own—for the children, and the children yet unborn… And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to The Twilight Zone."Some moral values just don't travel well. The attitudes of the society have changed, or the issue they addressed has become obsolete. But others—like good wine—only get better with age. Years after the original author and audience have passed, new generations will still look at the given Aesop and say "Damn right." Maybe some authors knowingly spoke to issues that were years ahead of their time. Maybe many of society's questions are just Older Than They Think. Maybe they just got lucky. These are the principles that stand the test of time and have outlived the original moral issue they were meant to address a hundred times over. Even when a work is non-ideological, it can still resonate due to tapping into a style or gimmick that would not become popular for many years. Art historians have pointed out, for example, that paintings in the nonrepresentational or abstract style were created in the 16th century by Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo—a full 300 years before expressionism became fashionable in Western art. Keep in mind that this is somewhat a subjective trope, as what resonates as an accurate observation for a conservative may not be the same as a liberal, for a woman may not be the same as for a man, for a devoutly religious person may not be the same as an atheist, for a citizen of one country not the same as a citizen of another, and so on. The best advice (as always applicable when one deals with the internet) is to keep an open mind. Likewise, do not assume that merely because it is old that it is accurate. But while this somewhat subjective, there is a key guideline that should be borne in mind when considering examples. The key element of this trope is that the value or values presented or portrayed in the example resonate with an audience culturally removed from the originally intended or expected audience. It is not resonance when the values in a work are significant or meaningful to the audience for which the work was originally made; a thing does not resonate with itself. That usually requires that the work be from an earlier time or from a different culture than the audience with whom the work is resonating. There is some flexibility here for certain media or works where the intended audience moves on after only a few years, but even that flexibility is limited, since, just because the audience has moved on, it does not follow that the work is now being consumed by a fundamentally separate culture. May cross over with Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped. Compare and contrast with Fair for Its Day, where the morals the work presents are kind of squicky, but compared to other opinions from its age, very forward thinking. Contrast Unintentional Period Piece, where the setting and narrative fluff of the work ties it to a single time period (though note that it can still overlap with this if the themes are louder than its cultural trappings). Also compare Politically Correct History, which is when modern sentiments are presented in-universe to purposely elicit the same effect.
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Anime and Manga
- Claudine has a rather sympathetic portrayal of transsexuality, despite having been written in The '70s. And although a significant number of elements of the plot can still be regarded now as unintentionally transphobic or Dead Horse Trope (especially Bury Your Gays), it is still quite a friendly and up-to-date story, while even now most transsexuals are portrayed in the anime either as perverts or as flat comedic characters.
- People complain that Sailor Moon is outdated and all, having been created in the very early nineties, but it has several concepts that are timeless:
- There was a lesbian pairing portrayed in a sympathetic light (Haruka and Michiru), and the villainous gay couple from the anime loved each other deeply despite their alignment (Zoicite and Kunzite).
- The girls themselves had all kinds of different personalities and were still friends in spite of how different they were. Not to mention, they also encouraged each other's goals note and supported each other when needed instead of throwing each other under the bus for their own benefits (and the girls who did it weren't supposed to be in the right).
- On a related note, all of the Sailor Senshi's individual personality traits often bust up stereotypes as well. For instance, the character who states her dream is to "be a bride" in the manga, Makoto, is also a black belt in judo and one of the physically and mentally strongest characters in the Sailor Moon universe. Not to mention Michiru, the Yamato Nadeshiko Elegant Classical Musician, is all but stated to actually be the one with the reins in her and Haruka's relationship.
- Mamoru helped them, but he also needed help and protection from Usagi and the girls. In fact, he needed more rescue than Usagi herself! And while he sometimes worried a lot about Usagi's safety (to Idiot Ball levels in R), he didn't do it out of manly pride but out of sincere concern.
- The manga in particular emphasizes that Usagi is a sexual person and has had sex with her boyfriend Mamoru to the point of being shown lying naked in bed with him on several occasions, but she's never portrayed as dirty for this or that it somehow disqualifies her from being both the hero and the epitome of Incorruptible Pure Pureness, with her sexuality simply being a part of the larger picture of who she is. She's also shown to be absolutely head over heels in love with several girls (including Rei, who gives her literal heart eyes when they first meet) but again, it's simply a part of who she is.
- In Sailor Moon's prequel manga Codename: Sailor V, one chapter has an obsessive Otaku who keeps harassing Minako because he simply can't deal with the fact that she beat his high score in a video game (even going so far as to assume that she must be a guy in drag), not to mention his whole spiel about how girls shouldn't be "invading" arcades. When his harassment goes too far, Minako (as Sailor V) proceeds to knock him out. The manga started in 1992, but this particular chapter is still pretty relevant today, especially with the surge in harassment of female gamers and fans for being "fake geek girls".
- Romeo's Blue Skies is an anime about a boy who sells himself to become a chimney sweep and in the process, finds many good friends who help him whenever he has trouble. This show is NOT subtle in its message that The Power of Friendship is awesome and how it conveys this with the two main characters, Romeo and Alfredo. Considering how nowadays modern day boys get persecuted by showing even the tiniest bit of friendship-like (whether romantic or not) affection for other boys just because others say it's gay, this message gets more and more relevant every year.
- In Sorcerer Stabber Orphen, the deal with Stephanie being an actual trans sexual person is not handled for cheap and offensive laughs. When Orphen explains to Cleao and Majic how she went from the male-bodied Stephan to the female-bodied Stephanie, he does it in a matter-of-fact way and doesn't think less of her for it, and later the audience is not supposed to side with Cleao when she makes a careless comment about it. Not to mention, Stephanie herself is portrayed as a normal and kind person who deserves respect and affection like anyone else, and the cast treats her with true affection.
- Dirty Pair had an episode with a sympathetic depiction of a trans woman during a time when most anime wouldn't even touch the subject, except as a source of comedy. What's more, Kei and Yuri actually shout down the bigot who has a problem with her, arguing that there's nothing abnormal about transgender people.
- Genma Wars (the '80s film, not the TV series) had a diverse cast consisting of men and women from various countries and ethnic groups, and a message about how people from all walks of life need to get along and work together to make the world a better place. Atypical for a lot of anime of the time, there's even a plot point about one of the heroines, Luna, needing to confront and overcome her racism towards black people.
- Candy Candy is a shoujo manga from The '70s that spreads two very important messages: "women can be anything they want to be in their lives if they work hard on making their hopes and dreams come true" and "romantic love is important in a woman's life, but not necessarily the end and be all of it."
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is of course about the usual War Is Hell theme that Gundam is famous for, but one of its major plot points revolves around the use of unmanned weapons and the implications of wars without soldiers. Which really became a huge issue 15 years after its release when American forces began employing drones in the Middle East.
- Jun Honoo from Great Mazinger is the daughter of a Japanese woman and an African-American soldier stationed in Japan, and in-story she's been heavily discriminated against in Japan for her heritage. The story was written in The '70s, when issues like racism were rarely discussed in the Japanese media at all, let alone in children's programming.
- Attack No. 1 has a lead female character, Kozue Ayuhara, whose priority is her own life and her dreams for the future, rather than solely having a love interest... in The '60s and The '70s. From The Other Wiki:
"[Feminist writer] Kazuko Suzuki describes Attack No. 1 as an "innovation on the campus story", where a heroine would go to college and meet her future husband. She describes Kozue as "psychologically independent", as Kozue has realised that she must strive to create her own happiness and continues to strive on after her boyfriend's death."
- Even though MW has a stereotypical Depraved Bisexual Big Bad, one of the later chapters actually has an extremely positive depiction of a minor lesbian character. The character even gives a speech about how homosexuality is completely normal and healthy, and shouldn't be seen as something shameful or indecent. This was in the '70s, when Japan was even more conservative about sexual minorities.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- A frequent topic that was discussed was that men and women are Not So Different. Considering that gender roles have become a much more controversial issue nowadays, this was definitely An Aesop that was ahead of its time.
- Kaworu is depicted as a morally gray character in his every appearance, but the ambiguously queer love between him and Shinji is never subjected to any homophobia in the text proper. While Kaworu always ended up being buried by the end of his appearance, that's really just the way Evangelion rolls.
- Captain America's comic from 1982 became more relevant today due to its positive attitude towards homosexuality based on Captain America's speech that Arnie—his gay friend—is a kind-hearted man rather than a freak.
- An issue of MAD from the 1970s satirizes the over-the-top and offensive personalities that people use while speaking on CB radios. Its commentary on anonymous personalities is eerily predictive of G.I.F.T..
- The early years of the Silver Age Hal Jordan Green Lantern were innovative for its time with the hotshot test pilot have Carol Ferris, his girlfriend, being unambiguously an adept corporate executive and his boss, while Tom Kalmaku may have been stuck with the embarrassing nickname "Pieface", but he was still a smart and brave Inuit aerospace engineer.
- An issue of a comic called the Green Lama, dating to WWII, preaches against racism explicitly—the "bad guy" the Green Lama goes to defeat isn't a supervillain, it's the racist attitude of a white soldier against a black one. A couple of pages are thrown in showing him fighting Nazis, and they try to claim that racism was caused by Nazi fifth columnists in the US, but even ignoring those, the message being so explicit is remarkable for its day.
- X-Men 's storyline "God Loves, Man Kills" has its relevance in the power of televangelism that can be seen today with their power of persuasion and fundings on anti-homosexual groups.
- Quino's Mafalda derives much of its humor from the observation of human nature, which is so accurate that it remains relevant to this day… Let's not forget we're talking about a work from the 60's here. This is something that doesn't make Quino himself happy, considering those issues attacked back in the day still subsist.
- A Superman poster◊ toasted the ideals of inclusiveness and spoke out against discrimination, and urged kids to do the same. And it was produced in The Fifties:
"...and remember, boys and girls, your school—like our country—is made up of Americans of many different races, religions, and national origins. So...if YOU hear anyone talk against a schoolmate or anyone else because of his race, religion, or national origin—don't wait: tell him THAT KIND OF TALK IS UN-AMERICAN."
- Comics published during The Golden Age have a well-deserved reputation for being really racist by modern standards, but there's a heartwarming aversion in an old Christmas issue of Green Lantern. Alan's friend Doiby is shot, and the only surgeon in the city who can save him can't do so because the hospital doesn't allow Jewish doctors. Alan discovers that the man who convinced the hospital to have such racist and antisemitic rules is a racketeer who has been convincing institutions across the city to enact similar codes as part of a money-making scheme. When Alan catches the racketeer, he angrily tells him that he's perverted the concept of patriotism and used it as an excuse for racism, all so he could line his pockets. To drive this home, he then reveals that the men who helped him track down the crook were Mike Reilly (an Irishman), Abraham Lincoln Jackson (a black man), Wun Lee (a Chinese man) and Sammy Cohen (a Jew), feeding into Alan's point about America being a land for everyone, not just white Christians. The issue ends with a very strong indictment of those who hold bigoted views, and keep in mind, this was all published in 1944.
Alan Scott: Now maybe you'll understand...when you hate a man for his race, creed or color, you're just a sucker for those who hate America!
- Alan Moore said of Watchmen, "It was very much an 80s story, born out of that miasma of anxiety and unease that, as I remember it, was hanging over all of us back then. Most of the liberal world was watching in horror at the inexorable rise of the Reagan-Thatcher right-wing coalition, at the same time, elements of fascism were starting to make themselves known on the streets of Britain with the rise of the National Front, and things were looking altogether rather bleak." Thirty years later, American liberals are watching in horror at the rise and eventual election of Donald Trump, Britain voted to leave the European and has a female Conservative PM in power, bigots are appearing in the streets, and things are looking altogether rather bleak.
- Judge Dredd: Overlapping with Harsher in Hindsight, the theme of police's relation with society became more relevant under controversy of Police Brutality and Police Shootings Controversy in the US. This is more pronounced in the "Democracy" storyline and other stories dealing with questioning the limits of the Judges' powers and the effectiveness of the Judge system.
Films — Live-Action
- Much of the message of All Quiet on the Western Front has lasted well past the 1930s. Not every war film made during that period has aged as well.
- The book the film was based on is still required reading in German highschools, because its general War Is Hell message works so well with the anti-military values transmitted by the German education system ever since the end of World War 2. Also, it teaches teenagers not to blindly follow authority, especially not jingoistic adults who tell them that it's "glorious" to fight and die for one's country. note
- The Crapsack World of Brazil features a bureaucratic government that responds to terrorist attacks with a cut down on liberties and the detainment and torture of its citizens—meaning that a story made during the background of The Troubles takes on a whole new meaning in The War on Terror. Director Terry Gilliam even joked about wanting to sue George Bush and Dick Cheney for the unauthorized remake of his movie.
- One war movie whose Aesops about the nature of war and politics that has also lasted long is Stanley Kubrick's 1957 war movie Paths of Glory with Kirk Douglas.
- The message of peace and understanding in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) has aged pretty well, even withstanding a remake of questionable quality.
- Few movies on the subject of the inherent madness of nuclear war have endured the way Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb has.
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other Pod People-style stories. The '50s and '70s movies are classics that sum up what the fear of their time was while still retaining Values Resonance.
- The original Miracle on 34th Street of 1947 feels marvelously ahead of its time with Doris Walker being a senior business executive and a single mother with no one questioning her fitness at either because she is a woman. Its cutting attack on the overly commercialized holiday season seems far more relevant these days.
- The 1936 Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times has been praised for being even more relevant today with its satire of big business and its portrayal of the plight of the unprivileged in modern society.
- The climactic speech from The Great Dictator is just as relevant today as it was in 1940. Watch it for yourself.
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington portrayed Congress as morally bankrupt; full of bribery, deceit, and other underhanded techniques; absolutely unfriendly to newcomers; the movie being very cynical for the era (and especially for Frank Capra) despite having a happy ending. It seemed oddly pessimistic for its viewers at the time, but as the American government becomes more and more transparent, and more corruption scandals leak out with each passing year since Watergate (which wouldn't happen for another three decades), this film has reflected closer and closer to how Americans largely see Congress.
- Mädchen in Uniform was the first movie to have a pro-lesbian storyline (and the two girls are explicitly in love). Not only that, but neither one dies or turns Psycho Lesbian. This movie was made in 1931 and it still has plenty of relevant themes and motifs in terms of feminism and lesbian sexuality.
- The James Bond franchise at one time seemed to lose his relevance with the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, but after the trauma of September 11th and the resulting War On Terror and international terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, James Bond and his battles against eerily similar villainous groups like SPECTRE suddenly felt brilliantly pertinent again, as acknowledged in Skyfall.
- The Oscar-winning Hollywood version of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls has definitely aged better than other action-adventure films of the 1940s. Being shot in color and on an actual location (even if it is California Doubling) definitely help, as does the film's having more Stuff Blowing Up and overall violence than one would expect from an "old" movie. But the movie holds up pretty well in terms of sociopolitical and cultural content, too: it portrays some left-wing Spanish guerrillas very sympathetically (although it does try to make them seem more like patriotic freedom-fighters than radicals), and that band of guerrillas also has some Action Girls among its ranks (even though the most prominent of them is rather mannish).
- Starship Troopers: At first glance a typical Hollywood soap action movie, but actually a deeply scathing critique of the book it was based off of and militarism in general. Yet it later became popularized as a critique of the The War on Terror, due to the many parallels between several parts of the movie—governments using acts of terror to justify war, sending countless people to their deaths, employing torture, etc. People who watch it today are even surprised that this film was actually produced half a decade before the Iraq war.
- Even though it was based on the (relatively) old French play La Cage aux folles, the 1996 American film The Birdcage did a very good job of updating the material for the '90s, and it still resonates in the 21st century. Of particular note is an outright mention of "same-sex marriage": not only was this a revolutionary concept at the time, but the very terminology was rare compared to the much blunter phrase "gay marriage."
- This happened to Demolition Man. In The New '10s, with Moral Guardians and their polar opposite being louder than ever before, both factions paint a pretty relevant picture.
- Freaks presents the titular "Freaks" as nice people and portrays them positively.
- They Live was made as a critique of the rampant consumerism, greed and shallow conformity of the 1980s. Closing on 30 years later, those messages show no signs of being dated anytime soon.
- Stealth was never a particularly notable movie, but its concerns about drone warfare are only getting more relevant as the military of the digital age shifts to drone warfare and finds more and more risks they didn't foresee.
- Network was intended to be an over-the-top satire of the news media when it was produced, but as time has passed the film seems less and less outlandish.
- The concerns of Being There with style being elevated over substance seem more relevant every year.
- In the horror film The Rage: Carrie 2, a bunch of Jerk Jocks at a high school are targeted for death by a teenage girl whose best friend was Driven to Suicide due to a toxic combination of rape culture, machismo, and a Madonna–Whore Complex. This film was directed by a woman, and the aforementioned characters were loosely based on a real-life scandal from a few years prior involving high school athletes treating their female classmates like sex objects. No, this film did not come out in 2016, inspired by the Steubenville rape case, Rolling Stone/UVA controversy, Brock Turner scandal, or anything of that kind. It was released in 1998, long before the current debate on campus rape, toxic masculinity, and athlete entitlement was anywhere close to the mainstream.
- The Best Years of Our Lives deals with soldiers having to return home from World War II and struggling to adjust to normal lives, when they can no longer relate to their old friends and family. The message is one that has continued to endure, as films such as Stop Loss demonstrate.
- Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle: The scene with Tauriq, the black man who has endured years of police harassment, is a lot more powerful after Michael Brown and other incidents have brought Police Brutality into the public spotlight.
- WarGames was released in 1983, when personal computers were still new, and networking them was a decade away. Even though the subject of nuclear war isn't as relevant as it was during the Cold War (and to be fair the dangers of all-out nuclear war are so well-worn the relevant aesop pretty much enters Captain Obvious Aesop territory), the dangers presented by computer security threats are even more pertinent to the present than they were in The '80s now that Everything Is Online, and talk of cyber-warfare abounds, and many of the basic security mistakes featured (such as putting a list of passwords on a sheet of paper right next to the computer) are sadly still with us today, too.
- Now, Voyager is very ahead of its time in its treatment of mental illness. Charlotte's mother believes her nervous breakdown is "all nonsense" that she needs to snap out of. Even after Charlotte has gone through counselling and therapy (and given herself a glamorous makeover) her life problems are not automatically solved - and she needs to work hard to properly take control of her life. The film is also very feminist, as Charlotte chooses not to get married because she doesn't love her fiancee - even if they would be a smart match - and she instead devotes her time to taking care of a young girl who's similarly dysfunctional to how she was, using her own experiences as help. The film ends with the implication that she'll use her family's wealth to help more people struggling with mental illness.
- Educating Rita subverts the Stay in the Kitchen mentality of Rita's husband and family, who expect her to have a baby by the age of twenty-six. When they disapprove of her desire to improve her life through her education, she leaves her husband and starts her life over. Wanting to improve your life despite others around you trying to prevent it is a story that has endured well over time. Julie Walters said that for years other women came up to her and said the film inspired them to change their lives too.
- Christmas in Connecticut: This 1940s romantic comedy has a plot that could easily be written today. After it's revealed that a Martha Stewart-type magazine writer is a fraud who can't cook and is terrible at being a tyical housewife, she ends up re-hired as a writer at double her original salary and gets engaged to a man who's perfectly happy to be the one more interested in child-rearing and housework.
- Female Trouble: The film examined the glamorizing of crime long before such films as Natural Born Killers.
- Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A woman is raped, escapes the rapist, falls in love, and is rejected by her husband because she's not a virgin anymore. She then is forced to become her rapist's mistress in order to survive. This was presented as a tragedy—with the heroine being innocent—and controversial in the time it was written, while nowadays most people would agree that of course Tess is not to be blamed for the rape, and that the double-standard her husband (who lost his virginity in consensual sex) uses to justify his leaving her is despicable. The message against victim blaming is still an anvil that needs to be dropped, sadly, even though attitudes on virginity have relaxed.
- Les Misérables is sadly resonant with society today, seeing men persecuted simply for their past reputation, families dividing over petty issues as political fanaticism, women being disgraced for sexual behavior that is praised in men, officials emphasizing rules over care and consideration, and scoundrels abusing their position of 'caretaker' simply for the money. Victor Hugo's urging that these ills must be faced are every bit as relevant today as they were in post-Revolutionary France.
- Invoked by Hugo himself in the prologue: "So long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless."
- Uncle Tom's Cabin, particularly the ideas of passive resistance and racial equality.
- The Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Yellow Face": The sympathetic treatment of interracial marriage, which in its time was (consciously) controversial, now comes across as proper and endearing; so much so that readers who aren't aware of historical prejudices could find the plot, which revolves around an attempt to conceal said interracial marriage, confusing and unnecessary.
At the bottom I struck my head against a stone, and I remembered nothing more. When I came to myself I was lying among some low bushes, not far from the railroad track, and somebody was bathing my head with a wet handkerchief. It was Sparrow MacCoy."I guess I couldn't leave you," said he. "I didn't want to have the blood of two of you on my hands in one day. You loved your brother, I've no doubt; but you didn't love him a cent more than I loved him, though you'll say that I took a queer way to show it. Anyhow, it seems a mighty empty world now that he is gone, and I don't care a continental whether you give me over to the hangman or not."He had turned his ankle in the fall, and there we sat, he with his useless foot, and I with my throbbing head, and we talked and talked until gradually my bitterness began to soften and to turn into something like sympathy. What was the use of revenging his death upon a man who was as much stricken by that death as I was?
- Overall the original Sherlock Holmes stories are either Fair for Its Day or this trope when it comes to race or gender. The Ku Klux Klan makes an appearance as a deadly effective but unsympathetic terrorist organization - which it was for most of its existence. Even the portrayal of Sherlock bears mention, as he is a relatively well written Asperger Savant avant la lettre, if you had to diagnose him with modern terms.
- Sherlock Holmes is also still the best depiction of an asexual/aromantic character in fiction. (His total lack of romantic/sexual interest is consistently presented; he's not ever accused of or implied to be sociopathic or otherwise mentally ill; and aside from one dehumanizing "he's like a machine" comment from Watson, Holmes' staunch bachelorhood is neither made fun of nor presented as extremely abnormal. He's just accepted for who he is.) Original ACD Holmes, that is - almost all the modern adapations throw that part of his characterization out of the window or discourage an asexual reading by Word OF God. (The only new-ish adaptation that is really faithful to Holmes' asexuality - if perhaps implying a bit more queer-platonic emotional attachment to Watson than there was in the original stories - is the all-round quite excellent BBC radio series with Clive Merrison in the titular role, which was broadcast throughout the 1990s and 2000s.)
- There's also a lesser-known non-Holmes mystery short story by Arthur Conan Doyle with the title The Man with the Watches, which is remarkably gay-positive or at least advocating for tolerance. Alright, the narrator is a homophobic / transphobic jerk, the story still ends in tragedy, and the gay couple are criminals (card sharps) willing to use violence, but the narrative supports the reading that the tragedy wouldn't have happened if the narrator hadn't been such a bigoted bully, and the surviving partner of the pair (who'd been presented as a "seducer of the innocent" by the narrator up to that point) is explicitly shown to not be evil or inhuman. And for a mainstream author in the Victorian era, writing this story for the family-friendly, middle-class The Strand magazine, a story that not only shows the "love that dare not speak its name" in fairly unmistakable ways at all, but also invites the reader to sympathize with the gay characters, is pretty amazing already. Basically, the whole thing wouldn't feel out of place as an episode of Ripper Street, which combines modern social sensibilities with sometimes pretty bigoted protagonists. note
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The message of the true meaning of Christmas being about how one spends their life, not their money, might be more relevant in these recessionary times more than ever. Justified in that "secular Christmas", (i.e. very commercial Christmas with Santa Claus bringing lots of expensive gifts) was still relatively new in Victorian Britain. Arguably, Dickens was commenting on what seemed like a troubling new trend.
- Tibullus, an ancient Roman poet who lived in the 1st century BC wrote an elegy (the eleventh) where he states that war is madness and wishes for peace.
- Robert "Rabbie" Burns' poem Holy Willie's Prayer, written in 1785 about a hypocritical church elder who condemns others for perceived transgressions, whilst giving spurious justifications about his own. Compare with the various evangelists caught out and their own justifications for their behavior today.
- This easily fits into any religion, you just have to change some names.
- The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner was a brilliant look at psychology and the use of religion to excuse yourself while denouncing everyone else. It was written in 1824 by a poor Scottish farmer.
- All Quiet on the Western Front has actually been said to resonate with some people more than the more modern War Is Hell novels do.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four was thankfully not an accurate prediction of The '80s. Yet its message of extreme surveillance became even more prevalent in the following years, particularly once The War on Terror led to a bump in government-endorsed CCTV and wiretaps. It says something that once Edward Snowden leaked NSA's surveillance info, the book's sales skyrocketed.
- Apparently the same happened again after Donald Trump got elected president. (Though probably more because of the people surrounding him than because of Trump himself.)
- Like 1984, Brave New World (1931) still manages to resonate. Some have argued that it's actually more relevant today than it was in its time, as people seem increasingly willing to give up their rights in the name of immediate pleasure and entertainment. It also predicted greater drug use and looser sexual mores, though in the book this went much further than reality.
- It rings frighteningly true of how predictive Aldous Huxley's book was of the future despite being written in the '30s, so much that many dystopian films or films with dystopian themes have ended up being inspired by it, furthermore reinforcing the existence of our entertainment obsessed culture.
- And despite Brave New World preceding the discovery of DNA, its chemically-enforced eugenics strike close to what people fear genetic engineering can do. The eugenics movement was very popular at the time, with its advocates including Huxley's older brother Julian, and his critique of this is prescient to many modern readers.
- Similar to Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 predicted iPods & earbuds, flatscreen TVs, Video Games, the decline of quality in public schools, prescription drug abuse, people abandoning books and their loved ones for new media, and everyone living in fear over war.
- Books becoming illegal due to over-censorship from both sides of any argument was considered extreme in the 1950s; now, it sounds like, for example, Social Justice Warriors versus Men's Rights Activists or All Lives Matterers.
- That the banning of books was also brought about heavily by unintelligent people being angry at intellectuals sounds disturbingly like the anti-intellectualism and anti-science/-education movement in ultraconservative communities in America.
- Peoples' inability to retain information in the long-term seemed strange in its original publishing - an extreme effect of general apathy that couldn't REALLY ever come true. Now, it's a well-known phenomenon of peoples' over-reliance on personal devices and access to search engines and online encyclopedias (people don't remember info because they feel they can always look it up).
- Books becoming illegal due to over-censorship from both sides of any argument was considered extreme in the 1950s; now, it sounds like, for example, Social Justice Warriors versus Men's Rights Activists or All Lives Matterers.
- Let's just say that there's a good reason why the above three books are still taught to new generations of students as a kind of standard innoculation against fascism.note Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped again and again, if we don't want humanity to fall back into bad old habits of authoritarian thinking.
- Maurice was written in 1913 but wasn't published until 1971 because it had the weirdo idea that homosexuals could actually have happy endings that didn't involve death or being cured of their mental illness (yes, once upon a time, homosexuality was considered a mental problem-in fact it was listed as such until 1973 in the US).
- The sentiments of Siegfried Sassoon's poem "Aftermath" resonate just as strongly today as they did immediately following World War I, perhaps even more so given all that's happened since it was written in 1920. This is, in fact, true of many of the anti-war poems that came out of the First World War.
- The E.M. Forster story "The Machine Stops" must have seemed wildly far-fetched when it was published in 1909. Now, aspects of the story make one wonder if Forster had done some time-traveling to the early 21st century.
- In Sir Walter Raleigh's The Nymph's Reply to The Shepherd the nymph rejects all the riches promised to her by the shepherd, claiming these things get old after a while. It reads like an indictment of consumerism and materialism in the era of Wal-Mart and Costco.
- Don Quixote’s satire will live as long as the justice system will be made of human judges capable of corruption that let criminals go for a price. Or as the people who direct The Government only care about ruling the people without making any effort to enhance the live of his subjects. Or while the Moral Guardians are useless because his own Condescending Compassion. Or while there are people who fanatically defend any kind of entertainment work no matter its faults. Those examples are only a few…
- Gone with the Wind, published in the 1930s, actually Deconstructed the stereotypical Southern Belle and many tropes concerning the antebellum South. The heroine Scarlett O'Hara actually commented on how she was disapproved of for running her own business in order to take care of her dependents, which is even more relevant in modern society.
- Dozens of cultures have their own version of the same basic Fairy Tale.
- The titular heroine of Jane Austen's Emma learns that interfering in others' love lives is wrong, and nobody has any right to assume they know everyone else and their circumstances well enough to arrange their destinies for them, especially when it comes to romance. 200 years later, and we still haven't learned that lesson.
- Another Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice, aside from its perpetually relevant moral of not prejudging others or thinking too highly of yourself because of your status, showcases the perils of marrying for convenience or looks and elevates the notion of marrying for love, an ideal that would have been considered rather quixotic at the time. Many of its characters will also be eerily familiar to modern readers, both in real life and in contemporary fiction: Mrs. Bennet, who has no higher goal in life than keeping up appearances; Mr. Bennet, the distant husband who tolerates but does not love his wife and delights in doing little things to piss her off because it's the only amusement he can get out of their relationship; Lydia, the bratty, reckless teenager who sees nothing wrong with her irresponsible behaviour and ultimately ends up screwing up her life; Jane, who is so nice and self-effacing that she endangers her own happiness; Wickham, who fools everyone with his charm but is in fact a mid-functioning sociopath; Caroline and Lady Catherine, the Rich Bitches; and of course, Elizabeth, the intelligent, perceptive, quick-witted protagonist with a playfully snarky sense of humor. The characters, and the morals we are meant to learn from what they reap by their strengths and flaws, are resonant enough that a modern-day adaptation in the form of a video blog, which for the most part did not change the main characters' personalities and struggles, was frequently thought to be a real video blog by many first-time viewers (apparently fewer people have read Pride and Prejudice than one would like to think).
- By the Waters of Babylon by Stephen Vincent Benét is a post-apo short story about a primitive man exploring Ruins of the Modern Age. Despite being written in 1937, it might well have been an archetypal post-nuclear story from the 1950s or 1960s.
- Similarly, there's the short poem There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale which considering its topic of humanity's self-destruction through apocalyptic war and its Gaia-theory-like environmental sensibilities seems like it could have been written in the 1980s or later. In fact, it was published in 1918 - 25 years before the invention of the nuclear bomb.note
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;And frogs in the pools singing at night,And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;Robins will wear their feathery fireWhistling their whims on a low fence-wire;And not one will know of the war, not oneWill care at last when it is done.Not one would mind, neither bird nor treeIf mankind perished utterly;And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,Would scarcely know that we were gone.
- The Great Gatsby as a critique of the emotionally and morally vacuous upper class of America. It's really no wonder it received another film adaptation in 2013.
- When Invisible Man was written by Ralph Ellison in 1952, white racism was a topic scarcely touched upon in the mainstream culture. Invisible Man discusses that a lot… and it also discusses black racism, liberal guilt, the Black Power movement…
- The Adventures of Pinocchio, the children's novel from 1883, has prompted many computer scientists nowadays to see parallels between Pinocchio, a man-made being who wants to become a "real boy", and artificial intelligence.
- Judy Blume's book Blubber is a book about bullying. This was written in 1974. Its grimly realistic outlook and lack of sugarcoating made it the target of Moral Guardians, but with an increased focus on the effects of bullying and the growing anti-bullying movement, it's as relevant as ever.
- In his 1907 novel Le Meraviglie del Duemila ("The Marvels of the Year 2,000"), Emilio Salgari imagined a world in which every country had renounced war due to all of them having access to what are basically nuclear weapons, anticipating Mutually Assured Destruction and its fear.
- Pretty much most, if not all, of Aesop's Fables.
- Moreover, The Smothers Brothers make note of this in the opening and closing songs on their album Aesop's Fables the Smothers Brothers Waynote .
- Vilhelm Moberg's four book suite collectively referred to as The Emigrants is almost more topical today than when it was originally written in the 1940s and 50s. The story is set in the mid-19th century and follows a group of people in Småland, Sweden, who become the first in the parish to emigrate to America. The first book ("The Emigrants") follows the characters until they have landed on American soil and the following three ("The Immigrants", "The Settlers" and "The Last Letter Home") chronicles how they build a new life in their new homeland and stays with the characters until most of them are dead. Among the group of emigrants are Karl Oskar Nilsson, a farmer who can't provide for his family at home and dreams of the vast farm land of North America, and his wife Kristina, who doesn't want to emigrate but agrees after their oldest child dies of starvation. Karl Oskar prospers in the New World but Kristina spends her life plagued by homesickness and never becomes "Americanized" or even learns the language. While the Swedish mass-emigration to the US isn't exactly an ongoing thing, the core of the story is very, very topical as of this post being written in 2015. The number of refugees worldwide today and the debates on whether or not they should be allowed to enter the countries they flee towards makes the story feel very modern and relevant. The characters in the novel are all so well-written and fleshed out and their various hardships so relatable that even though they are 19th century peasants from Protestant Sweden they can easily be recognized in people of all origins and faiths in modern times. In particular their voyage across the ocean in the first book is almost uncomfortable to read about (not to mention watching it in the movie) today when there are so many people still risking their lives on the seas to escape to a better life. Sweden itself is today oftentimes hailed as a land of milk and honey in the countries that see a lot of its citizens fleeing there, which comes off as ironic as the character Robert constantly hails America that same way in the first two novels.
- Due to the story being so topical the musical "Kristina from Duvemåla" (by ABBA's Björn and Benny), based on the book suite, was revived in Gothenburg and Stockholm in 2015, playing for sold-out theaters. It's almost uncomfortable to hear some of the songs nowadays, for instance Kristina's song "Hemma" (Home) in which her children asks her where home is and she can't answer, but dreams of being back at home for Midsummer's Eve dancing at her parents' farm. Though the song that especially stands out in this regard is "Var hör vi hemma?" (Where Do We Belong?) towards the end, containing lines such as: "From a thousand throats/ with one voice/ where is a haven/ where do we belong?". Heck, the story's contemporary relevance is even mentioned in the musical's playbook.
- The Secret Garden:
- The book is written in the early 1900s but contains a rather ahead of its time attitude towards classism and racism. Mary displays racism towards her servants in India and even gets violent on them if they don't do her bidding - and it's used to show her as a brat. Martha likewise calls Mary out for her anger at Martha assuming she'd be "a native". That's not to mention that it's illustrated that bringing such a young girl up to think she's inherently superior to everyone around her - just because of her birth status - is what made Mary so dysfunctional in the first place.
- The book criticises the hell out of neglectful parenting too. Mary's parents were distant and just foisted her into the care of various servants, which is what led to her becoming so cold and sour to begin with. It also shows that non-malicious neglect can still be damaging; Colin's father doesn't neglect him out of laziness or cruelty - he's just broken by his wife's death. But the story goes out of its way to show that children need love and care from their parents. This is from an era where upper class children were handed off to nannies and governesses, treated more like heirs to hand property over to than actual human beings.
- Orson Scott Card's Empire was written with the concept of a second American Civil War in mind. As Card states in the afterword for the book, it was depressingly easy to imagine because of the Black and White Insanity (or Red and Blue Insanity) in America's political system. While the book does suffer from a Broken Aesop by only portraying liberals as extremist, it doesn't negate his point about how extreme and dogmatic the two main parties in America's political system have become in the years since it was written. Modern politics have become less about both parties coming to a compromise and more about each side trying to demonize the other. This results in people being less willing to communicate with others unless they agree with each other, and normal, sane people who are willing to listen to opposing views being demonized because of their opinions.
- The World According to Garp contains an early transgender character, Roberta Muldoon, who In-Universe makes a highly publicized transition from a professional football player to an activist for women's rights. The character is treated in a surprisingly serious manner, in that she's rarely played for laughs (or at least no more so than the rest of the cast) and is one of the few characters who comes across as consistently kind, generous, and level-headed (she experiences deep regret that she did not take the bullet that killed Jenny Fields and later serves as an affectionate substitute mother for the Garp children after their own parents die). There is a particularly touching scene after Roberta's death in which televised sportscasters make a point of honoring her life's work by not misgendering her.
- Although Mark Twain antireligious works may look very old-fashioned or even strange from the point of view of modern readers, when the church has much less power and influence over Western countries, hist other works are still surprisingly perceptive. In particular, although formally colonialism is already in the past, the idea that large states do not have the right to manipulate or dictate their will to weaker countries only on the basis of the law of force remains relevant even now, especially in the context of geopolitics.
- The Twilight Zone (1959):
Now the questions that come to mind: Where is this place and when is it? What kind of world, where ugliness is the norm and beauty the deviation from that norm? You want an answer? The answer is...it doesn't make any difference. Because the old saying happens to be true. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In this year or a hundred years hence. On this planet… or wherever there is human life, perhaps out amongst the stars. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lesson to be learned… in The Twilight Zone.
- "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street", whose closing narration is quoted above, is a classic episode about aliens who use good old-fashioned human prejudice and hysteria while they just watch and laugh. This was an allegory for the Red Scare, warning how communism is a danger, but the self-destructive anti-communist hysteria among the American people at the time was actually the best way for the real communists to win. The episode was remade for The Twilight Zone (2002), with the communist threat changed to terrorism. No other changes were made... or needed.
- "He's Alive" is another good contender, on how we keep monsters like Adolf Hitler alive so long as we spread intolerance, no matter of what kind.
- "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" and it's theme of overconformity and the Hollywood obsession with beauty (especially female beauty) is probably even truer today than it was back then. Eerily it takes place in the year 2000.
- "Eye of the Beholder" has similar themes. The Closing Narration even invokes this:
- "Night of the Meek" (the Christmas episode) is basically a big Aesop about belief and the goodness of charity and giving as opposed to blindly and selfishly asking and receiving. It's message is even more true today, as the commercialization of the holidays is greater than ever.
- "The Shelter" is a good example, whose message is somewhat similar to 'The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street'. It shows that no matter how civil we act in everyday life, in order to survive we'll adopt an 'every man for himself' mentality, and that the only way to survive is by working together.
- Thanks to theories on global climate change that are increasingly agreed to be true, the depiction of people going mad and dying from extreme heat in "The Midnight Sun" is far more unsettling today.
- The infamous Diff'rent Strokes episode "The Bicycle Man" is best remembered for dealing with molestation, but the writers actually threw in a line that shot down the notion that All Gays Are Pedophiles, with a detective telling Willis that there's a world of difference between gay men and child molesters.
- Star Trek has managed to come up with many stories that are excellent examples of this trope.
Spock: An inexorable evolution toward a Vulcan philosophy has already begun. Like the first Vulcans, these people are struggling to a new enlightenment and it may take decades or even centuries for them to reach it but they will reach it... and I must help.
- The famous Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" was relevant during the Civil Rights movement of the late 1960s when it aired. It still applies unnervingly well to all the racial and religious fanaticism of the early 21st century.
- An episode of Star Trek: Enterprise made during the 21st century, purposely made as a tribute to "Last Battlefield", even points out that this type of story is just as true, if not more, today.
- The theme of TOS's "A Taste of Armageddon", about the dehumanizing effects of computerized warfare, was haunting enough in 1967, when the computer was still in its infancy. Today, with things like UAVs and computer-guided missiles becoming indispensable parts of modern warfare, it hits harder than ever.
- "The Devil in the Dark" has always aged beautifully with a Green Aesop theme that gradually becomes obvious in a natural way.
- "The Omega Glory" is extremely divisive, especially among international Trekkies, but its message of how dangerous blind patriotism and nationalism can be still rings true, particularly since the surge of hyper-patriotism that emerged in the US after the September 11th attacks.
- The Next Generation's "The Drumhead" and Deep Space Nine's "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost" both carry strong messages of not sacrificing liberty in the name of security, messages that remain very important to this day.note
- Deep Space Nine originally aired in the 90s, but the series themes of handling the fallout from an occupation, religious extremism and necessary terrorism all became even more relevant after the invasion of Iraq.
- The Voyager episode "Critical Care" — in which the Doctor is forced to try to ethically navigate an alien crapsack hospital where treatment is given based on the wealth of the patient, not medical need — would be an on-the-nose commentary about US healthcare if it aired today.
- The TNG two-part episode "Unification" has Spock traveling to Romulus and helping a youth movement trying to restore peaceful ties between the Romulans and Vulcans. Nowadays, it isn't hard to compare Spock with politicians like Bernie Sanders in the US or Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, as elder statesmen who strike a chord with younger people hoping to make their world better. Spock's last lines to Picard still resonate thanks to the populist wave of The New '10s.
- The famous Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" was relevant during the Civil Rights movement of the late 1960s when it aired. It still applies unnervingly well to all the racial and religious fanaticism of the early 21st century.
- In Blake's 7, Blake rebels against a totalitarian government that drugs its populace. He gets framed for molesting children. Hell, the entire series starts with a shot of a CCTV camera monitoring the citizens—before said cameras became ubiquitous in the UK.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus has the 'Prejudice Sketch', the "Blackmail" gameshow that looks almost tame compared to some modern reality shows ("no we don't morally censure sir, we just want the money!"), and all of the self-deprecation and the letters of complaint about The BBC still rings true, given how much flak the corporation often gets from other media outlets and Moral Guardians: "I'd like to complain about people who hold things up by complaining about people complaining, it's about time something was done about it".
- One of the key motivations behind Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' revamping of Sherlock Holmes when creating Sherlock was their realization that Dr. Watson's backstory as a wounded and invalided veteran of a British military campaign in Afghanistan was, in light of the War On Terror, just as relevant at the beginning of the twenty-first century as it had been at the end of the nineteenth when the stories were first being written.
- Family Matters:
- The episode "Good Cop, Bad Cop", in which Eddie is profiled by a racist cop, distressingly holds up water after the murder of Laquan McDonald revealed the racism and corruption in the Chicago Police Department.
- At the end of one episode of Monkey the narrator says, "To some of us, opinions are so precious that we will die for them". And then the internet came along...
- Doctor Who:
- "The Curse of Peladon" was an allegorical story about Britain's relationship with the European Economic Community, and all the xenophobia and genuine wariness such a thing entailed. It gained relevance again in 2016 when the Brexit referendum happened.
- "Carnival of Monsters", which involves a couple of carnies stuck in a nightmarish airport security line due to xenophobia, and ending up scapegoated as terrorists in a political coup, works a lot better in the post-War On Terror era of zealous airport security and refugees being blamed for terrorist attacks.
- The 1978 story "The Sunmakers" combines this with Broken Aesop. In 1978 it was a right-wing allegory about how taxation is evil, but in the late 00s and 10s, it's a left-wing Occupy allegory about how forcing the tax burden on the poor to benefit big corporations is evil. Complete with a gas that makes everyone afraid being pumped into everyone's houses - an allegory for news media, which has become much more omnipresent and sensationalist since 1978.
- The Charmed Season 4 premiere has Paige suspecting a man of beating up his son and tries to punish him for it - only for The Reveal to be that his wife is the abuser. This was the early 2000s, before awareness against female domestic violence had got any traction. The message of applying The Unfair Sex and All Abusers Are Male tropes to real life and the bad effects it can have is very relevant.
- Timeless: In 1934 Texas, police captain Frank Hamer treats Rufus fairly and really no differently than a white suspect, despite this being at the height of Jim Crow. He also mentions having faced down a lynch mob and saved the black suspect they wanted to kill. Truth in Television: the real Hamer actually faced down fifteen lynch mobs, and lost only one of the suspects under his protection. He also led efforts to stop the Ku Klux Klan in Texas.
- "O.B.I.T.", an episode of The Outer Limits (1963), is about an all-seeing surveillance device that constantly monitors the workers at a US government research lab, creating an atmosphere of paranoia by destroying their privacy. The O.B.I.T. machine turns out to have been invented by alien invaders who are using it to demoralize humanity, thus making it easier for them to take over. For a story written decades before the War On Terror and the resulting survelliance state, the episode is eerily prescient.
- Tom Lehrer's Pollution song.
- The Jerry Reed song "Lord, Mr. Ford", first released on the album with the same album in 1973 and criticizing the car-obsessed United States resonates quite uncomfortably in the Era of SUVs, global warming and Peak Oil.
Lord, Mr. Ford, how I wish that you could seewhat your simple "horseless carriage" has become.It seems your great contribution to Manto say the least, got a little out of hand.Lord, Mr Ford, what have you done?!
- Swedish singer Karl Gerhard wrote the song "Nu ska vi vara snälla" ("Let's be nice now") in the 1930's. One verse is about how Sweden has a minister of defense, but no actual defense, since what military it does have is constantly being reduced and downsized. Karl Gerhard's suggested solution to this is that when the enemy planes arrive in Sweden, all the Swedes will simply hide, so the enemy won't have anybody to fight. Now, over seventy years later, it's safe to say that the observation about the state of the military, as well as the suggested solution, is as relevant as ever.
- "I'm Afraid of Americans" by David Bowie is one big sardonic callout towards the prevalence of gun violence, poverty, and overall degeneracy in American society. Granted, it's not as harsh towards America as "Born in the USA", but the message is still pretty powerful today, especially after several deadly mass shootings* brought the issue of gun control back into the public eye, police brutality against blacks became a serious issue, anti-immigration rhetoric became increasingly common, the rape debate raged on, the 2016 presidential election dividing Democrats and Republicans even further away from each other, and nearly half the country living in fear of their newly elected president.
- While initially written as a song promoting racial harmony in the context of the Rodney King beating, "Black or White" by Michael Jackson easily resonates in the latter half of The New '10s as a call against identity politics as a whole, with increasing polarization among racial and political groups becoming a serious topic in public discourse and a point of disdain among moderates and centrists. Jackson's message of "why can't we all just get along" is a question that many of these people have been asking, with many agreeing that "Black or White" is especially necessary nowadays.
- The song "Spaceman" by Babylon Zoo features lyrics condemning "the sickening taste" of "homophobic jokes" and "images of fascist votes". When regarding the more… to put it bluntly, worser parts of the internet, said lyrics continue to be relevant today.
- The social problems Marvin Gaye sings about on What's Going On are still with us and, in many cases, worse than they were when the album was recorded.
- A lot of the "punk-pop" from the late 1970s sounds more contemporary than one might think. There are rock songs from 1978 that for many listeners could pass for songs from 2008. (Try playing "I Wanna Be Sedated" for a group of 14-year-olds sometime and kidding them that it's a "new" song; odds are at least one person will believe you.) It certainly helps that the style of and philosophy behind those earlier hits has made a major comeback in the 21st century. Most amusing of all, those '70s tunes have aged a lot better than the '80s New Wave hits that replaced them.
- "Media Overkill" by Scorpions is about media manipulating people with lurid stories, which is just as if not even more relevant today.
- The song "Mamma är lik sin mamma" ("Mum is like her mom") by Siw Malmkvist is about how, today still, it's the woman's job to clean the house, do the laundry and do all the household chores with no help whatsoever from the man of the house. "And this is called emancipation," Siw comments dryly. The song came out in 1968, but might as well have been written in 2016.
- If you listen to Bruce Springsteen's "American Skin (41 shots)" you could be forgiven for thinking that it was made in response to the various controversial police shootings in the mid 2010s like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Freddie Gray, and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In actually, it was released in 2001, in response to the controversial shooting of Amadou Diallo, who was indeed shot 41 times, after pulling out his walletnote .
- The Rolling Stones' song "Mother's Little Helper" deals with prescription drug abuse, which is as relevant today as it was in the '60s.
- The message of just living in a simple of world where there's nothing worth fighting or dying for presented in John Lennon's "Imagine" is just as relevant today as it was back then.
- Chicago's Dialogue (Parts I and II), from 1972, is a conversation between two young people; the first is concerned about such things as war, starvation, and repression, while the second maintains that "everything is fine." As Part I comes to a close, the first character seems to endorse the other's worldview:
Thank you for the talk, you know you really eased my mindI was troubled about the shape of things to comeWell, if you had my outlook, your feelings would be numbYou'd always think that everything was fine
- Green Day's rock opera American Idiot was written about American society under the Bush administration and the paranoia in American society surrounding it. As time went on, the songs' lyrics about how the media was brainwashing the masses became even more relevant thanks to Generation Y's increasing dependence on networking and the alienation from physical contact it caused.
Mythology and Religion
- Muhammad Hassan was an Arab-American heel who was angry at America for being ostracized in society after 9/11, over the fear that he was a terrorist or al-Qaeda sympathizer. The gimmick was very controversial and was permanently shelved after the July 7, 2005 London suicide bombings, following an angle that made him actually look like a terrorist. At the time, these concerns about Islamophobia were limited to the fringes of American society, namely Muslim rights groups and democratic socialists, and was barely on the minds of most other people. Hassan's gimmick is much more timely nowadays, as the controversial anti-Muslim rhetoric of Donald Trump has brought these issues to the forefront. Despite the fact that ISIS's reign of terror has continued, much of the country has become increasingly sympathetic to Muslim Americans, and more likely to see jihadists as little more than an extremist fringe in the religion rather than the dominant face of Islam. Thus, to many people, Hassan's concerns are still very valid today and even more relevant than they were in 2005.
- Stan Freberg:
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, upon hearing the mice's plan to take to the chat show circuit with the Ultimate Question, which is what the philospher's did at the time the Ultimate Answer was revealed, he asked if anyone did anything except appear on chat shows. This was in 1978. Since then, the number of such shows have only increased since they are very cheap to produce.
- A number of lyrics written by Oscar Hammerstein, most spectacularly "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught".
- Othello. By William Shakespeare. For North American audiences, a lot of baggage was added by the use of Africans in larger-scale Atlantic slavery. But generally speaking, the play has a lot that resonates with modern audiences; attitudes to cultural/ethnic minorities, minority attitudes, the troubles of career military men in domestic settings, the destructive power of rumours…
- The Clouds, by Aristophanes, mocks both conservative and left-wing Strawman Political types, with the former being portrayed as not using actual arguments, just saying "this is the way we've always done it" and "Doing it differently will make you gay" and the latter controlling most of Socrates' Academy and being able to convince anyone of anything, including that the only reason it isn't acceptable for sons to beat their fathers is that there's a law that says there isn't. Today, gay rights and moral relativism are actually points of debate.
- Lysistrata has an overriding message of peace and, like many Aristophanes' plays, claims war is being prolonged by corrupt politicians. Due to this, the play ended up being performed a lot in the year the Iraq War began. It also has quite a bit to say on feminism and the kind of power women have. Not bad for a play that, even back then, was a raunchy sex comedy.
- Chicago (both the stage musical and the movie). Its view of the celebrity that comes from scandal seems to be getting more relevant every year. A lot of people took interest in the whole "celebrity defendant" phenomenon after the OJ Simpson trial and the 1996 revival has been running ever since. In fact, the program for one touring production described it as "scandalous in the 20s (when the nonmusical play came out), controversial in the 70s, and now just reads like a documentary".
- Spring Awakening (the original play) was written just before the 1900s, but still holds a lot of Values Resonance on cultural/religious repression and sexuality. The musical outright invokes this by using contemporary style/slang for the songs. And it works. The show is essentially about what happens when you refuse to give teenagers The Talk. It was radical when it was written, but today it seems like a massive take down of the abstinence-only sub culture.
- Shylock's famous "if you prick us, do we not bleed?" speech from The Merchant of Venice almost goes without saying.
- Henrik Ibsen's plays were incredibly controversial at the time, but these days there's nothing wrong with them.
- Arthur Miller stated that The Crucible goes through waves of popularity when people feel that tyranny is coming, or has just fallen. Apparently people in China found it especially relatable after the end of the Cultural Revolution and the Reign of Terror created by the Gang of Four.
- Inherit the Wind: With the rise of the power of the political Religious Right and later the countering rise of the more assertive New Atheism doing battle in the courts like over religious pseudo-sciences like "Intelligent Design," this play's conflict between faith and secularism is still powerfully relevant today.
- A Streetcar Named Desire: The play symbolizes the struggle between the Old South and New South that was taking place at the time. Blanche was an antebellum Southern Belle left over from before the Civil War (being played in the movie by Scarlett O'Hara herself, Vivian Leigh, only added to this,) and Stanley was a more modern, industrial blue-collar immigrant, symbolic of the direction the South was heading, and the clash between those who wanted to go back to the Good Old Days and those who wanted to embrace progress. Important in 1947 since the South was still recovering, but the same Old Guard vs. New Blood debate is showing up all over again, with a younger generation of more diverse, liberal, and progressive Southerners butting heads with the much more religious, staunchly conservative previous generation. Of course, the analogy falls apart once you realize that many modern conservatives would sympathize with Stanley more than they would with Blanche.
- H.M.S. Pinafore: While a lot of the other Victoriana hasn't aged particularly well, the mocking of political appointees with no experience in their field and over-inflated egos (in this case, a First Sea Lord whose closest connection to the Navy is a partnership in a law firm), will probably never cease to be funny as long as back-room political dealing and nepotism are a thing.
- An Inspector Calls tells of a young working class woman driven to suicide by poverty, and sharply interrogates the culpability of the British upper and middle classes in the desolate lives of the working classes—each member is not to blame individually, but functioning as a class they oppressed and hounded a woman to her death. The play depicts and mercilessly deconstructs the every-man-for-himself individualism of the bourgeoisie as represented by Mr. Birling, with the central Aesop being that all people are connected and that the rich and powerful must take responsibility for the impacts of their actions on others: “If mankind will not learn that lesson, then the time will come soon when he will be taught it, in fire, and blood, and anguish.” Written in the 1930s and set in 1912, and still extremely resonant in Conservative-governed Britain in 2015, when 6 million people turned into a BBC TV film adaptation.
- Lessing's Nathan der Weise still resonates with its message of tolerance, even though it is only limited to Muslims Christians and Jews in the narrative and the famous ring parable that even (daringly for its time) suggested that all three of them were wrong. Dust off the somewhat antiquated language and you could make it a modern movie with little to no effort, even though some of its narrative devices have not aged as well as the message.
- One of the reasons Romeo and Juliet has endured over the years is because of its Aesop about how parents pass things down to their children - including prejudices. The young have to suffer from the mistakes of the old, and it takes the death of the two lovers to finally make the families realise how senseless the conflict was. One of the reasons there are many Whole Plot References to it is because the story is one that's easy applicable to modern life.
- Fake Values Resonance is a common theme for Urban Legends, examples from Snopes follows. Unless noted otherwise, these are false:
- The circumstances of the 2000 election supposedly mirror an 18th-century professor's predictions of the fall of democracy: here.
- The rationale for the invasion of Iraq supposedly mirrors a 1944 Reuter's article concerning the invasion of Nazi-conquered France: here.
- The rationale for removing troops from Iraq mirrors another supposed 1944 Reuter's article concerning the removal of troops from World War Two's European Theater: here.
- A quote from Julius Caesar supposedly explains how to use the threat of war to convince citizens to fall in line with the government: here.
- This similar quote from Hermann Goering also drew attention—however, this one is real.
- A (real) article from 1922 warns that climate change is melting Arctic ice and disrupting wildlife: here.
- Team Fortress 2 can be viewed as this, if the your definition of values is broad enough to include the ideals of what a video game fun and enjoyable. Since the game spent over a decade in development and originated from a mod from the 90s, the game uses conventions typical of first person shooters in the era it was conceived but nearly extinct when it was released. These "outdated" features like a rigid diverse class base, completely sacrificing any sense of realism for the sake of game play, the lack of regenerating health, and weapons being locked to the player rather than spawn points on the map ironically make the game feel like a breath of fresh air in an era where first person shooters were trying as hard as they could to copy the same model. Combined with the newer elements it brought to the table, it effectively popularised the Hero Shooter subgenre.
- Mega Man Battle Network:
- Sean from Mega Man Battle Network 2, a character from a Friendless Background and possibly subjected to Financial Abuse following the death of his parents in a major world tragedy. Feeling alone in the world, he turned to the internet, and discovered people similar to him, and became friends. Over ten years after the game's release, especially with the explosion in popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter? It is still applicable, and carries a nice message about how alone many people feel in the world despite the Internet bring more people closer than before.
- One of the series recurring themes is cyberterrorism. While not invented by this particular series, Battle Network demonstrates objects being hacked and putting people in danger, government databases being hacked by terrorists, remote-controlled weapons going haywire, and crimes being ordered across the world with only the push of a button. In the 2000s, such a concept was still being thought of as fantastical. But in The New '10s, technology and the Internet have developed to such an extent that many of the attacks depicted in Battle Network have become a reality (corporate & government databases now get hacked on a large scale at an almost annual basis), and cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare are constantly discussed in the media and by national security strategists.
- The Oddworld series has a heavy anti-corporate, pro-environment message with corporations being depicted as evil bastards who will do anything to make a profit including slavery and torturing their employees, and are polluting and destroying the environment of the world. With the rise of corporatism in America, corrupt business practices and sleazy laws favoring corporations over people, as well as Global Warming and pollution being a big issue now, the message of the games are more relevant than ever.
- Final Fantasy:
- Final Fantasy VII timed its remake for a time when young people with silly haircuts were politically activated with paranoia about evil corporations and impending global catastrophe, while increasing gentrification and declining wages led to slums making a comeback; all while a loudmouthed blond businessman who lives in a cyberpunk tower and denies the fuel industry's potential to destroy the planet was campaigning to become elected President of the USA. It is worth observing that Square Enix refused to make a remake through the 00s despite omnipresent fan pressure and IP exploitation - at that time, it was unacceptable to portray terrorists as having a point, and so the Compilation sequels released in this decade display the characters' regrets of their terrorist actions and adoption of less radical lifestyles.
- Metal Gear:
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty came out only two months after 9/11, but managed to predict the rise of information control and government surveillance and intrusion into people's lives. (Justified as measures to combat terrorism, to boot.) The Nebulous Evil Organization scheming from the shadows is even called "The Patriots," which coincidentally invokes the Patriot Act that was brought into circulation shortly before the game's release. The game's plot was written years before 9/11 and features a world-changing terrorist attack in Manhattan - Hideo Kojima was understandably horrified to discover he'd 'predicted' this and made lots of last-minute edits to the game to make it less inappropriate.
- At the time of release in 2013, reviewers found Armstrong, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance's final boss, an unsubtle mess of Japanese stereotypes about American politicians. Three years later, a politician reflecting many of those traits really did gain power in America...
- The anti-war short "Peace on Earth", released on the eve of World War II about the horrors of World War I, still carries a haunting message applicable to today's world. It became far more profound from the 1950s onward and was even remade at the time (as "Good Will to Men"), as the Cold War made its metaphor of human extinction a chillingly literal one.
- Tex Avery MGM Cartoons:
- Tex Avery's "TV of Tomorrow" contains much commentary on television that mostly rings true today, such as a family life (literally) based around the TV set, a man keeping his face glued to the screen in the living room as his wife drags his body into the kitchen (only pulling his outstretched head in to eat his dinner), a lack of variety in programming (the old "X number of channels and there's nothing on" problem), TV shows being adapted into movies (a man who's sick of watching Westerns on TV goes to the movies. He thinks he's seeing a romantic film—but it turns out to be the Western he was trying to avoid at home), and TV being on-the-go (the Scottish flashlight TV is more-or-less similar to mobile devices having Internet and video capability).
- Not to mention the "Farm of Tomorrow" and it's omnipresent, often disfiguring genetic engineering. And also for inventing Longcats.
- The Simpsons: Dating back to the eighties running into the 2010s, this show has covered a plethora of issues that still hold up today:
Kang (with slobbery laughter): Go ahead—throw your vote away! Ha ha ha haa!
- "Homer Badman" discusses the dangers of sensationalism and punditry in news, and how over-the-top or wrongful accusations can ruin peoples' lives. The creators themselves have stated the problem has only gotten worse since the episode aired in 1994.
- "Lard of the Dance" explores the need for girls to seem grown up by imitating pop culture icons and wearing revealing clothing.
- "Much Apu About Nothing": This season 7 episode showed the legal and human side of illegal immigration. It works better at a time when Congress and states are debating greater border security and restrictions.
- "The Cartridge Family": While not every person who owns a gun is a lunatic, there are people (like Homer) who should never own a weapon, aired in season 9, but predated Orlando, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and even Columbine.
- "Mr. Lisa Goes To Washington": Explores corruption at the highest levels of government. A season 3 gem that would appear more relevant in the 2010s, when faith in Congress has been at its lowest levels.
- "Weekend at Burnsie's": Homer's use of marijuana is played for laughs, but it would feel more open in 2015, when several states have actually legalized recreational marijuana, and when the war on drugs has been seriously contested.
- "Trash of the Titans": Besides its Green Aesop (which Word of God says was unintentional), the episode seems like a satire of the Tea Party when viewed today without context, as Homer spews angry rhetoric at a respected politician with little thought of how he would do better if elected, and after being elected, messes up so horribly everyone hates him. Ray Patterson's lines "Nobody wants to hear the nonsensical ravings of a loudmouthed malcontent!" and "the American people have never tolerated incompetence from its elected officials." hit harder than ever in light of how badly-received the Tea Party-dominated Congress has been, having the lowest all-time approval ratings throughout the 2010s.
- In "Treehouse of Horror VII"'s spoof of the 1996 election, Kang and Kodos replace Bill Clinton and Bob Dole: no matter which of them wins, they intend to turn America into a slave state for their planet. When the deception is revealed, the pair smugly inform the populace that because America runs on a two-party system, one of them will still rise to power. It's not quite as funny in 2016, where the two major candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are highly controversial and polarizing, third party candidates are starting to gain a lot more attention, and where faith in the two major parties is at its lowest level.
- As Told by Ginger is an early 2000s Slice of Life cartoon aimed at middle school girls. Its messages resonate especially well with 2010s youths. It covered many mature topics for a Nickelodeon cartoon, such as Slut-Shaming, depression, bullying, and puberty. It features several Ambiguously Gay and Ambiguously Bi characters as well.
- Fillmore!: The episode "Test of Tested" explored the problems of standardized tests, and anxieties kids go through, in 2002, just after No Child Left Behind Was signed into law. The episode seemed silly, as did the actions of the students who hated it. But over a decade later, backlash against standardized testing has grown to the point where whole school districts have students opting out.
- South Park has done this just about as well as The Simpsons such as:
Stan: Look, it sucks that the immigrants' time is so crappy, but the cold hard truth is that if we let them all come back to our time, then it's just gonna make our time crappy too.
- "Mr. Hankey The Christmas Poo", which shows how removing everything that can be considered remotely offensive by anyone would make things that used to be fun outright boring.
- "Cripple Fight", which teaches how trying to shut down people's freedoms because they're bigots is not the right way to achieve equality because it takes away others rights in the process, which like the example above is becoming more and more prevalent with political correctness
- Speaking of political correctness, "Death Camp Of Tolerance" is about people using borderline Nazi-esque tactics to force tolerance upon others and taking completely unoffensive issues and treating them as bigotry. They brought back this same issue in Season 19
- "Miss Teacher Bangs A Boy", which mocks how lenient society is on female rapists, even if their victims are children.
- "Stupid Spoiled Whore Playset", which shows what happens when young girls are looking up to the wrong role models, particularly ones who dress and act completely inappropriate.
- "Douche And Turd", which summarized elections in 10 words: "It's always between a giant douche and a turd sandwich." Season 20—more specifically Member Berries—even brought the joke back during the 2016 election, which had two particularly unpopular presidential candidates.
- "Trapper Keeper" satirized the outcome of the 2000 election with Rosie O'Donnell objecting to the results of the kindergarten's student election just because her nephew didn't win. This episode became relevant again in 2016 when several Americans who were unhappy with the election results began protesting and rioting because they refused to accept their candidate lost.
- "Cherokee Hair Tampons", which is about Kyle nearly dying from kidney disease after his mother puts her faith into fraudulent all-natural medicine. This episode is a whole lot more relevant with the recent rise in anti-vaccination movements and the death of Steve Jobs.
- "Goobacks", which originally aired in 2004, is about people from the future traveling to the past to find work, and used as a commentary on the issues with immigration, especially from Mexico. It's acknowledged that the people from the future did have it bad in their time period, but also brings up the fact that they have been stealing jobs from people from the present and have ultimately been making things worse for them, and that there is no easy solution. In addition, the episode's Take a Third Option to make their "time period" (or metaphor for home countries that migrants came from) better can be just as relevant since many proponents for foreign aids and living standard improvements in poorer countries argued that these would reduce undocumented migrants.
- As stated by this video, the episode "Ripped Pants" of SpongeBob SquarePants perfectly captures the fleeting nature of meme culture even when it was released in 1999. By ripping his pants, SpongeBob becomes the most popular guy on the beach, but by trying to ride on its fame a little too much, the joke loses its value, alienating even his closest friends.
- "We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy—sun, wind and tide… I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."—Thomas Edison, 1931. However, in this day of rising gas prices, environmental awareness, and resource scarcity, this quote is more relevant than ever.
- "No freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way harmed, nor will we go upon him nor will we send upon him, except by the legal judgement of his peers or by the law of the land." — Magna Carta. Not bad for 1215, though part of the reason that the Magna Carta resonates with our values is that our values in many ways descended from the Magna Carta.