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Vindicated by History
"Some are born posthumously."
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist

History is a fickle mistress. Many works that are well-received at their debut will fade into the mists of time as the public moves on to the newest thing, doomed to obscurity. On the other hand, a few exceptional (or lucky) works with unexceptional debuts will be re-discovered and re-analyzed and become critical darlings after about twenty years, as well as timeless classics in the eyes of the public, usually when their authors/producers are no longer around to bask in their belated fame. Unconventional and gloomily-themed works that star little-known actors are the most prone to this.

Inevitably causes most critics to rush to hail them as classics that were grossly misunderstood in their time, but now can be worshipped as the masterpieces they truly are. Often-times people in general forget that they were bombs to begin with. Parodies and Hype Backlash inevitably follow in their footsteps.

This is mostly a film/literature phenomenon: TV mostly avoids this, as how great or awful a series is tends to become clear during its longer run (or at least a few years later on DVD).

Of course, there are historical events that were controversial at the time, but later are felt to have been the right decision.

The Real Life counterpart of It Will Never Catch On. It can also lead to Follow the Leader, Hype Aversion, Hype Backlash. A Sub-Trope is Vindicated by Cable and Vindicated by Reruns; also arguably, as already mentioned, Better on DVD. Often these works were the victim of an Award Snub.

Compare Germans Love David Hasselhoff, where a different country does this instead of time, and Cult Classic, where something gains popularity but not on a widespread/mainstream scale (although the two tropes sometimes overlap). See also Popularity Polynomial. Additionally, see Dead Artists Are Better for cases where the belated popularity occurs because the artist is no longer around to bask in it. Contrast Deader Than Disco (something that goes from insanely popular to a popular target of mockery), And You Thought It Would Fail (a work that's expected to be a flop instead becomes a smash hit). Compare Acclaimed Flop, when the work is a critical success but a commercial failure when it comes out.

Beware the risk of Overly Narrow Superlatives or Gushing About Shows You Like, though. Practically anything could seem vindicated by history if the reference pool is small enough.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Art 
  • This happens periodically in (painting) art especially between the Renaissance and the 20th century. A rising new art movement is at first derided, and as it becomes accepted the preceding movement turns into the target instead. A couple of centuries later, the art world and scholarship see them both having merits.
  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder was merely dismissed as a light weight during his life time. He painted so many peasant scenes that people looked down upon his art, solely because of the subject matter. Only centuries later has his work been added to the pantheon of history's greatest painters.
  • El Greco was seen as an incompetent painter during his lifetime. Only in the 20th century did the modern art movement embrace his work as a visionary and personal style.
  • Caravaggio was obscure to infamous until the 1920s. It did not help that he painted the equivalent of Doujinshi. His normal works were considered so blasphemous that some tried to kill him.
  • Piero Della Francesca was fairly obscure until the 1920s as well. He is now considered one of the greatest quattrocento artists.
  • Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the few truly relevant Renaissance female painters, was for a long while looked down and seen as dependant of the fame of her father. Then the Feminist Movement came by. What's that you say, a Renaissance woman painter that focuses on pictures on women and whose masterpiece depicts the biblical Judithnote  violently decapitating King Holofornes a.k.a. in a position of strength?
  • The Impressionists (Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Edouard Manet, etc.) were ridiculed at first (at their first joint exposition, the public came en masse to mock their work; the name of the movement was even originally coined by a sarcastic Caustic Critic), even though they were more successful later on. Today, well let's say that many of the world's most expensive paintings are from them...
  • Vincent van Gogh is a popular example of this, although in the months before his death he was getting serious notice.
  • The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, painted by John Singer Sargent, was originaly disliked by critics for being too big, having too much empty space in it, and having the subjects scattered about randomly. Now it is considered one of Sargent's better works, and is used in a couple of plays, poems, and mystery novels.
    • Also, Portrait of Madame X, when originally exhibited, caused a great deal of scandal in the art circle. Sargent was forced to leave Paris as a result. The painting would become one of his and the era's most iconic pieces.
  • For most of M.C. Escher's life, he was looked down upon by "serious" artists (as were all artists who specialized in lithography). He is now a fixture of art history textbooks (as well as poster shops) and your math teacher's walls.

    Automobiles 
  • Automobiles in general when they were first invented. Initially, people who drove them were greeted with "Get a horse!" (because they were just so expensive, repairs so troublesome, etcetcnote ).
  • During its time, the DeLorean was a Butt Monkey and a huge commercial failure that was primarily remembered by the public due to the company's founder, John DeLorean, being caught attempting to sell cocaine to keep it afloat. However, being featured as the hero car in Back to the Future inspired a new wave of enthusiast and collector interest, and today it is a highly sought after collectable that has become iconic for The Eighties in American popular culture.
  • A similar, more recent example can be how Breaking Bad inspired a new wave of interest and enthusiasm in the Pontiac Aztek due to its new association with the show's anti-hero protagonist, Walter White. Breaking Bad has turned the Aztek from an automotive Butt Monkey and Pontiac's Creator Killer to "Heisenberg's Ride." (Though ironically, its Butt Monkey image was the reason why it was chosen for White in the first place). A wrecked, undrivable Aztek used in filming the series sold for $7,500 on eBay: A couple years ago, it would have been a miracle to get that sum for a serviceable Aztek.
  • The AMC Pacer owes the collectable status it enjoys today to Wayne's World.
  • The Daewoo Nubira was criticised at the time of launch (June 1997), but and by 2003 at launch it got a slightly better reception. Its replacement, the Lacetti/Nubira, in 2002, got a better reception but was still seen as inferior to the Opel Astra. Now its replacement, the Chevrolet Cruze (or the Daewoo Lacetti Premiere in Asia and Oceania) has been criticised for being somewhat anodyne, the vehicle appears to have been Vindicated by History to a degree. So much so it's become an unlikely Cool Car.
  • In Australia, the Ford Escort (the MkII version was the only one sold there) was never popular due to sales of large cars like the Holden Commodore and Toyota Camry, but now with the downsizing trend, it's again been vindicated by history. It's become a Cult Classic again (but on a mainstream scale).
  • The Renault Safrane, a luxurious hatchback with "edgy" styling. However, it's the originals (that is the Mk I, 1993-1996, and MkII, 1996-2000) which have now been seen as great, if underrated cars with excellent engineering. The latest Safrane, from 2008, is unrelated to this, and a rebadged Renault Samsung SM5 / Renault Laguna.
  • The Vauxhall Astra MkI sold well in its time, and got good reviews, but was seen as being rather anodyne (in looks terms, anyway, given its razor-edge looks). It was similar to, but did not have the same design as the the Opel Kadett D (Mk4) with slightly different styling. It's odd that two similar vehicles with similar styling got radically different opinions by the then-contemporary motoring press. The car is a Long Runner in name terms, 31 years for the Astra name in Europe.
  • The Edsel was a marketing catastrophe and, for decades, the butt of jokes and a textbook archetype of a failure. Today, though, surviving Edsels are highly collectible and run in high prices. It featured an immense amount of features, gadgets, and devices which have since become standard on almost all cars. It was simply the wrong type of car in the wrong market at the wrong time.
  • Nearly every luxury car of the vintage years was widely hated by the late 1950s and a lot of them suffered the disgrace to be cut and lowered into hot-rods and re-engined by Buick, Packard or Chevrolet engines. The true revival of The Thirties car and the hundred-thousand-bucks restoration has been the post-1990 period. There was a complex of reasons behind this: the typical luxury car of the gilded Thirties had been designed with complex maintenance in mind to cope with poor fuels, oils and metallic alloys of the time and it was exclusively sold to people who either were rich enough to employ full-time chauffeurs-mechanics or were enthusiastic enough to live with complex driving techniques and peculiar maintenance: either fixed cylinder heads that needed complete engine removal from car and dismantling to change a valve, or non-synchromesh gearboxes that could be shifted only be double-clutching, or friction dampers adjusted by tightening a nut, or mechanical brakes that required the strength of a bodybuilder, or all of them at once. The typical post-Fifties car had more mass appeal, was easier to drive and far more reliable.

    Computers/Gadgets 
  • Computer sizes in general.
    • The mini-computer, because people thought it would be too weak to perform anything useful.
    • The personal computer, since computers were still used for business and scientific related fields, people thought that home users wouldn't have a use for one.
    • Portable computers (like the 'luggable' and laptops), again, mostly because of lack of performance.
    • The PDA, though this was probably from friction due to "analog" planners still being a thing.
    • Netbooks... again because of lack of performance.
    • And now tablets because of... you guessed it: lack of performance.
  • Apple got a lot of flak well into the early 2010s for dropping hardware interfaces it deemed was old because they were no longer needed. A few years later, non-Apple computers start dropping those same interfaces because they were no longer needed.
    • When the iPhone came out, people mocked at it for lacking certain things that other smartphones at the time had because Jobs said they weren't necessary.
  • The graphical user interface until the early 90s, because it ate up precious resources and required extra hardware (oh noes, a mouse!).

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men wasn't a particularly strong seller in the 1960s, and in the early 1970s the title was languishing in reprints... until someone at Marvel noticed that sales were going up, and decided to revamp the series. The revamped title became Marvel's biggest seller.
  • Jack Kirby's New Gods titles sold poorly (though there is some controversy about just how good or bad the sales figures were at the time, and how much of that was due to a line-wide price hike and format change). Since then, Kirby's work on New Gods, Mister Miracle and The Forever People have become widely-acclaimed as among his very best, with characters who have been used again and again, in multiple media (e.g., Super Friends, Justice League, and Smallville). After all, just try and think of The DCU without one of its biggest, baddest bads, Darkseid
  • Gotham Central sold poorly during its monthly releases (Possibly due to it being a Batman book that rarely featured Batman). Though it has now found popularity being sold in hardcover and trade paperback.
  • Carl Barks who worked anonymously during his active years for Disney. Though his comics were always lucrative he only received recognition after retiring. Comic book fans noticed that certain Donald Duck comics were better than others, so they tracked him down and discovered who had made all those masterful comic books over the years. Luckily Barks lived long enough to see this recognition during his lifetime.
  • Some major crossovers, universally panned at first, have gone on to garner popularity. In particular, Maximum Carnage and the Clone Saga have been reappraised as good despite being initially being panned.
    • Similarly, both Countdown to Final Crisis and Civil War were given huge boosts while the Sinestro Corps War and World War Hulk were largely treated as filler events. However, both Sinestro Corps and World War Hulk are now considered to be classics whereas as Countdown and Civil War are seen as two of the worst big events of the 00s...
    • Speaking of Civil War, at the same time that series was running and had all of the Marvel publicity machine behind it, a small Crisis Crossover event called "Annihilation" was being published that was largely ignored by Marvel and by readers. However, positive word of mouth, along with its fan loved revamps of Nova, Star Lord, and Drax the Destroyer, has made it into a beloved classic.

     Photography 
  • Bettie Page. Almost completely unknown until just a few decades ago, she has emerged as the Fifties pinup queen, as well as a highly memetic mascot for the neo-rockabilly culture currently popular in Southern California.
  • The freakish photos of '50s/'60s cult photographer Diane Arbus have gained a reasonably wide following only in the past decade or so.

     Pinball 
  • The South Park pinball machine initially got a lot of complaints, both because of its offensive content and because of its layout and rules, so much so that SEGA, the company that made it, quit the pinball business. Due to changing attitudes, with the controversy over the show dying down, the South Park pinball machine now brings in good money when out in public (even where lots of kids are present), is one of the more sought-after South Park items for collectors, and is genuinely liked by pinball fans who get its numerous Shout Outs and thus why the machine plays the way it does. (It's a different story altogether for those who dislike or are indifferent to the show, however.)
  • High Roller Casino came out a year after the well-liked Star Wars Episode I and fell into obscurity as victim of a Tough Act to Follow. Whereas Star Wars: Episode I used a monitor, was full of voice clips, displayed live-action footage made just for the machine, and a rather complicated set of rules, High Roller Casino used an old-fashioned dot-matrix display, the rules were seen as overly simplistic, and the miniature slot machine was unimpressive. On top of that, High Roller Casino was released in 2001, right at the nadir of modern pinball's popularity, so despite its lower price, few people were interested in putting it up for public display and thus few people had even heard of it. High Roller Casino machines were then used in competitions in 2013, where it gained new popularity now that the machine can stand on its own merits (as well as pinball players learning the machine exists) and that its rules are not so much simplistic as they are uncluttered. Much demand now exists for High Roller Casino to be included in the compilation video game The Pinball Arcade.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Edge and Lita. In 2005, word got out about the two having an affair, cheating on Edge's second wife and Matt Hardy respectively. This and Hardy's reaction which got him fired over it caused a lot of fan backlash towards both of them at the time, which WWE decided to make into an angle (first involving Lita's storyline husband Kane, then rehiring Matt) to take advantage of the situation. This especially lingered on with Lita to the point it played a hand in her decision to retire toward the end of 2006, receiving a less-than-admirable sendoff from the company on the way out. In the years since then, Edge has entered a Screw the Rules, I Have Sickeningly Sweethearts storyline with Vickie Guerrero for about a year or so which worked to the point that if Lita had returned to take Edge back it would've been a Heel-Face Turn less than two years later. Hardy has increasingly gone Jumping Off the Slippery Slope as a career-midcarder, and began excusing his brother and friends' every mistake while taking four years to clearly define that his legit heat with Edge was over. Edge has become a modern day legend through great feuds and matches with the likes of The Undertaker, John Cena, CM Punk, Jeff Hardy, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Batista, Randy Orton, so on and so forth, still being the generally all-around awesome guy backstage (seriously, even Cena has the rare dirt sheet article or shoot interview saying he's treated someone like crap. Edge? NOTHING outside the love triangle scandal. In fact, Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder still praise him on Twitter a fair deal for helping them in their formative WWE years, and Hawkins has had a subtle nod to Edge's "Easy Bein' Sleazy" shirt as the logo on his ring jacket). The WWE Women's/Divas Division has plummeted into 2/3-minute snooze-fests on Raw and Smack Down, and took such disrespect at WrestleMania XXV that Lita and Trish Stratus refused to be among the returnees for that night's show because they saw it coming.
    • Edge is a first ballot Hall of Famer living a mostly quiet life and loving every minute. Lita has people begging for her return after just showing up at Axxess and later joined the HOF herself in 2014. Matt Hardy is widely derided as an egotistical Hollywood Pudgy Attention Whore, who has been arrested on drunk driving charges multiple times in 2011, got fired from TNA after the first of said DUIs (and not just for the DUI, as Angle and Christopher Daniels are still employed there after all), and faked a suicide note after said firing, just to get more attention. "The Reason You Suck" Speech Edge gave Hardy in 2005 in response to his return promo would never have been listed for long without a counterpoint back then even if this wiki had been as huge as it is now, but now it's taken (along with Lita's statement in one Byte This! interview that something had to be wrong for her to go to another man) as a prophetic deconstruction of everything about Matt, at least prior to him getting his life back together.
  • After the Brawl For All, it seemed that Dr. Death Steve Williams had faded into obscurity, never living down the moment when he got knocked out by Bart Gunn. Until he got cancer, rebuilt his friendship with Jim Ross that fell apart after Doc's WWF run and became Dr Life. As a result, Steve Williams is still considered one of the toughest wrestlers that ever walked despite The Brawl For All.
  • John Bradshaw Layfield. When Bradshaw shifted into his wealthy tycoon gimmick in 2004, the backlash was fast and furious for numerous reasons, not the least of which was that Bradshaw had rarely been seen as a future main eventer up till that time. As JBL, however, while fans still agreed he was never the greatest in the ring, he did reveal a knack for getting under the skin of fans just by being a gleefully hammy, Politically Incorrect Villain - in fact, he quickly became one of the best promos in the business. He cemented this reputation during his stint as a color commentator with Michael Cole, with the bonus of an encyclopedic knowledge of old school wrestling. Now that he's retired, fans who previously decried him for being unworthy of his push now miss him for his memorable (if sometimes off-color) promo work.
    • His return to commentary since Jerry Lawler's heart attack has only further cemented this trope.
  • Kayfabe-wise: Many of the casual fans probably wince whenever they think about CM Punk's SES run after his feud with Chris Jericho, which kind of justifies why Punk was so hardcore about it. Subverted with those who watch ROH, where Punk talked more freely about his family's past.
  • Even those who HATE the Invasion storyline agree that its ending at Survivor Series 2001 was the closest thing to a epic Grand Finale (even more so than WrestleMania) that the WWE has ever put out on pay-per-view.

    Radio 

    Web Original 
  • Certain countdown artists were not all that popular during the time they came, mostly because others were stealing the spotlights, but due to the fact that they survived the transition from text-based to vocal some of their older content suddenly got more views.
    • Web Video/joshscorcher for one. His older video's were not watched all that much during the time of their release, but due to his bursting popularity with his vocal countdowns they subsequently got more views
    • Animalguy001 is also one of those people. He went pretty much unnoticed by the countdown community, until he started releasing his first vocal countdowns.

    Western Animation 
  • Bob's Burgers: Back when it first aired, the show had an immense Hatedom. But after it Grew the Beard by it's Second Season, the show was widely considered the best animated FOX sictom since The Simpsons.
  • The Hanna-Barbera television animation studio had been up and running since 1957, and had been enjoying at least middling success due to the popularity of its earliest shows, most notably Huckleberry Hound. But it was the early '60s success of The Flintstones established a rock-solid TV empire for them, in which they could throw together whatever they wanted and not worry about the ratings. Two such shows came out of this early freedom, The Jetsons and Top Cat, neither of which lasted more than one season during their initial runs. Hanna-Barbera subsequently built stable franchises out of these underrated works over the course of a few decades, to the point where their status as mainstream classics became undisputed.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures was overlooked in favor of other WB cartoons such as Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Freakazoid! back in its time, but nowadays, it has become extremely popular, being considered by many fans to be the true successor to Looney Tunes.
  • Batman Beyond has always been given good reviews, but never the amount of acclaim that Batman: The Animated Series has. However, as it went, fans began to love it more, and more, as it's now considered one of the best in the DCAU.
  • Transformers Beast Machines was not well received for a wide variety of reasons. Nowadays, fans that have since matured are more positive about their opinions, and others regard it more favorably than the Unicron Trilogy.
    • Speaking of, see the Unicron Trilogy in Anime above.
  • Invader Zim lasted 1 1/2 seasons on Nickelodeon, unable to maintain high ratings, and it was just too expensive to keep making. In the following years it has become a Nicktoon favorite, ranking alongside SpongeBob SquarePants, The Fairly Oddparents, Danny Phantom, Hey Arnold!, Rugrats, Ren and Stimpy, Rocko's Modern Life and Avatar: The Last Airbender (and its sequel The Legend of Korra) as the most popular. Zim is now used in Nicktoon games and merch even though his show hasn't been on in years.
  • Futurama: Although never as big a hit as The Simpsons, Futurama always had a relatively big audience, but failed to become a Cash Cow Franchise. Most people expected a similar Simpsons-style show, but all they got was a satirical science fiction series that wasn't as recognizable as a nuclear family set in modern times. Eventually the show was even cancelled, but thanks to high DVD sales, high ratings from reruns on [adult swim], and fans sharing files on the Internet, it eventually became a popular cult show and was revived on Comedy Central. The following seasons proved highly popular.
  • Family Guy: The first 2 runs of Family Guy proved fairly unpopular, despite being given a time slot during prime time. It was cancelled after the second season but fan demand was enough to give it a third season. It was shuffled around to worse and worse time slots, until it was finally cancelled for the second time and for good (back then, at least) after the third season ended. Its impact earned it Immunity To Criticism and DVD sales were large enough to have the series revived, however, and the show went on to become one of the highest rated shows on Fox during its run.
    • Season 4 of Family Guy wasn't met much with praise when it began airing. Many fans were hating on it to the point of someone working on the show stepping in and defending that said season. But now, the fourth season is considered to be the golden age. For some people who tuned in the show since it's return, it's considered to be hands down the best season. For people who have loved the show prior to it's return, it's considered consistent compared to the other uncancelled seasons.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog had a large Hatedom back in the day from SatAM fans, and those who thought it was just bad in general. Then, in the mid-2000s, with the rise of Youtube Poop and several memes stemming from the show, it is now regarded as a classic due to its silly humor, So Bad, It's Good nature, Deranged Animation, and the crazy antics of Robotnik and his minions Scratch and Grounder.
  • Rugrats: The Dil and Kimi episodes when they were on, was the most hated cartoon on the internet alongside Klasky-Csupo's other cartoons at the time, due to flanderizing the baby talk, and many people thought that it was over-saturating the network. But in later years, those seasons are as held in high regard as the seasons before those. It's gotten to the point of where people have hardly noticed the changes (minus additional characters) that happened throughout the show's run and think that the show has been consistent in quality.
  • ChalkZone: While the premiere episode gained the highest ratings for a Nicktoon premiere at the time (March 2002) and was well liked among its' target audience, older Nickelodeon fans detested it for various reasons- mainly being too "safe", "tame", or "cute" compared to other Nick shows at the time (such as SpongeBob) and some Misblamed the show for replacing Invader Zim (when in reality, ChalkZone was delayed for two years), though it was more of an extremely Broken Base as it also had many defenders. Nickelodeon itself even overlooked the show in favor of its' other Nicktoons. After the show ended, it started to gain a cult following and now many Nickelodeon fans regard it as being one of the best Nicktoons of the 2000s decade.


Viewer Species ConfusionAudience ReactionsVocal Minority
Villain with Good PublicityAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Violent Glaswegian

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