"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosives 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 of 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.
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 It is not resonance when the values in a work are significant or meaningful to the audience for which the work was originally made; a thing does not resonate with itself.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).
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Anime and Manga
- +Anima is primarily a fantasy manga that was published in the year 2000, but it addresses a very sensitive issue that can resonate with most who can sympathize with the characters, who suffer discrimination against innocent people for having things they didn't wish for or willingly choose. Despite the fact that minoritiesex. are generally better accepted by society, discrimination, negative stereotypes, and wild misconceptions about those differences still run rampant, making this manga's message all the more relevant today.
- Perfect Blue's very dark satire on fame and celebrity culture gets only more relevant with every passing year, especially as the rise of the Internet has made stalking and obsessive fanbases practically the rule rather than the exception.
- Claudine has a rather respectful and sympathetic portrayal of transsexuality, despite having been written in The Seventies.
- 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:
- Females in both the enemy and the allies's sides had their own share of power.
- 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 strongest characters in the Sailor Moon universe. Not to mention Michiru, the Yamato Nadeshiko Elegant Classical Musician, is hinted to actually be the one with the reins in her and Haruka's relationship.
- The girls didn't only talk about guys but also about their interests, school, missions and friendships, among other themes.
- Mamoru helped them, but he also needed help and protection from Usagi and the girls. In fact, he needed more rescue than Usagi herself!
- With The Light is a story about parents raising their autistic child released during the 90's, when Autism was only just getting known to the world at hand. Despite this, it is still praised for its respectful portrayal of Autism whilst not sounding patronizing, and it continues to remain relevant in light of still-current misconceptions and ignorance towards it.
- 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. Considering how nowadays modern day boys get persecuted by showing even the tiniest bit of friendship-like (non-romantic) affection for other boys just because others say it's gay, this message gets more and more relevant every year.
- 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 GIFT.
- Many themes of Howard the Duck still resonate today, especially those involving politics. Or the cult dedicated to censoring media, should bring to mind the ever-present Media Watchdogs.
- 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.
- An issue of Captain America released in The Eighties shows Steve having empathy for the plight of his Forgotten Childhood Friend Arnie Roth, who is all but stated to be homosexual or at very least gay-leaning bi. To the point of undoing his Brainwashing by the Red Skull via one HECK of a You Are Not Alone speech. Considering how LGBTQ issues are coming out in the open despite all kinds of opposition, it's great to see such stuff.
- The Foolkiller killed anyone he deemed unpoetic. This could range from anyone displaying signs of rank hypocrisy, bigotry, patronization, entitlement, greed, ignorance, or selfish pursuit of instant or momentary gratification. In the 1991 limited series, Greg Salinger (the second Foolkiller) once said that his descent to madness was due to his failure to change anything. "The fools are running the planet and now their senselessness has spread to the common man". Salinger also spoke of his time as a period when Americans were adopting an ethic of mindless hedonism and a short-run mentality. "You could hear it as much in the music, Disco back then, as you could in the testimony at the Watergate hearings". Disco (which is widely considered the butt of jokes now) and Watergate were both tame compared to the music and political scandals of post 2000.
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.
- 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.
- And the little girl's stubborn refusal at first to believe in Santa Claus could be taken as a sort of symbolic prelude to the atheist/secular trend among young people in today's culture.
- 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). 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.
- 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 behaviour that is praised in men, officials emphasising 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.
- Discussed by Hugo himself in the prologue: "So long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless."
- Nineteen Eighty-Four. Pretty much every successive administration eventually gets compared to Ingsoc by its opposition... which its supporters (who may have only recently said the same of the opposing party's leadership) will vehemently deny. Sadly this has damaged the message of the book, as most of time its viewed as just complaining about their side not leading.
- 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.
- 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 transgression, whilst giving spurious justifications about his own. Compare with the various evangelists caught out and their own justifications for their behaviour 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.
- 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 the 1960s' sexual revolution and drug culture.
- Similarly, Fahrenheit 451. It even predicted iPods, flatscreen TVs, the decline of quality in public schools, prescription drug abuse, people abandoning books for new media, and everyone living in fear over war.
- 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).
- The sentiments of Siegfried Sassoon's poem "Aftermath" resonate just a 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.
- 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.
- Emma was made into a film that moved the setting to '90s California. Aside from updating the dialogue and characters to fit the setting, nothing else had to be changed. That film? The teen comedy classic Clueless.
- 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 50's or 60's.
- 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 about 1950, 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 form 1883, has prompted many computer scientists nowadays see parallels between Pinocchio, a man-made being who wants to become a "real boy", and artificial intelligence.
- The quote above came from the classic The Twilight Zone 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 amongst the US people is actually the best way for the real communists to win. In the most recent remake series, the episode was remade, with the communist threat changed to terrorism. No other changes were made... or needed.
- There are dozens of episodes like this. 'He's Alive' is another good contender, on how we keep monsters like 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.
- '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.
- Star Trek has managed to come up with many stories that are excellent examples of this trope. 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.
- The values may still resonate, but it's so anvilicious that it almost seems as if it's meant to parody the anti-racist viewpoint.
- An episode of Star Trek: Enterprise made during the 21st century, purposely made as a tribute to "Last Battlefield", even lampshades the fact 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.
- Blakes Seven predates both the Trek and B5 examples (and was a major influence on B5). Blake rebels against a totalitarian government that drugs its populace. He gets framed for paedophilia. 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 deprication 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 realisation 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.
- 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 professors 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 Reuters article from 1945 supposedly draws parallels between post-war Germany and Iraq: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 freedom of thought 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.
- Um, Stanley was not progressive in his attitudes toward just about anyone.
- The anti-war short "Peace on Earth", released on the eve of World War II about the horrors of World War One, 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'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).
- "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.