"At only a year and a half since the event being referenced, this [see right] is the most current pop-culture reference that Archie Comics have ever made, beating out the same issue's American Idol joke by a good five years." —Chris' Invincible Super-Blog
An ad for the Nissan Cube features icons such as "Add Friends" when someone other than the driver gets in the car, and "Join Group" when the car parks at an area with other people. The car itself is referred to as the "Cube Mobile Device".
Parodied in a Smokey the Bear Public Service Announcement. The PSA starts out being a Piss Take Rap or something like that, but Smokey calls it off midway through because this sort of pandering to the younger demographic just isn't his style.
Honey Nut Cheerios has a new ad out where they do a Cheerio-themed parody/cover of a song that came out twelve years ago ("Ride Wit' Me" by Nelly), with random dubstep breakdown.
Kmart's "giffing out" commercials during the 2013 holiday season scream of this. Inhabitants of the internet are quick to point out not only that they used a questionable pronunciation of the file extension (the debate on which pronunciation is proper in English has raged for decades, but the format's creators intended it to be pronounced "jiff"), but that real gifs don't have any sound as they're simply 256-color image files with animation support.
The Progressive advertisements in which Flo turns herself into an Image Macro smack of some middle-aged marketing executive trying to "get down with" the hip Internet-using early-20's demographic.
Dear old Jughead Jones has often fallen victim to this trope. Archie Comics may be made fun of occasionally, but thanks to its cozy look at the bright side of being a teenager, most people tend to view it with warm nostalgic feelings. This makes these attempts to be "hip and happening" ever more bewildering. Everyone, from every generation, knows Jughead as Archie's goofy hamburger-eating BFF in that ridiculous hat. Well, over the years, he has also had mercifully brief careers as (get some coffee and a comfortable seat) a beatnik, a hippie, a punk, a disco king, a breakdancer, a time-traveler a la Back to the Future, a rapper, a paranormal investigator a la The X-Files, an emo teen, a superhero, and so on. At this point Jughead's Genre Shifting has almost become a Running Gag. See this useful Onion AV Club article for more details.
The Comics Curmudgeon openly suspected that Archie was so old and tired that it used a computer to come up with daily jokes, and even dubbed it the "Archie Joke-Generating Laugh Unit 3000" or AJGLU 3000. Archiestruck back in this comic, putting Archie in a "No AJGLU 3000" shirt.
The last few decades have seen the whole Superman mythos tangled in this trope:
Superman proves he's right and a thinly veiled version of The Authority is wrong! Superman walks across the country solving real people's problems! Superman quits the Daily Planet to become a blogger! Superman has a mullet!
Manhunter and Blue Beetle had storylines dealing with undocumented immigration, both of which were hit hard by this trope.
There's a Mickey Mousecomic story demonstrating this trope, published in 2008, in which Mickey attempts to join MyPlace (a parody of MySpace) and finds out somebody is already on there impersonating him. (Unfortunately, this story is not yet available in English.)
Disney has realized their playing safe with Mickey Mouse has been a bit of problem. Epic Mickey is part of an effort to make him relevant without falling into this trope.
Lampshaded for humour in a 1990s Catwoman comic, in which Catwoman comes up against Two-Face — who is toting as henchmen two ridiculously outdated (even for the time) Goth Mooks. When the fact that Goths aren't exactly hip anymore is raised, Catwoman snarks that 'time moves slower in Arkham'.
The Beano tried this in 2001 with a character called Robbie Rebel, essentially a more hip, contemporary version of Dennis the Menace. He was apparently based on Robbie Williams, and the strip also featured two scantily-clad girls called Kylie and Geri. Presumably this was to combat the dated appearance of the other characters (he wore jeans and a t-shirt instead of short trousers and a jersey), but he only lasted a few years.
Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors had a prolonged, rather random, and immature Take That towards George W. Bush... who had been out of office for a couple years by the comics publication.
Brazilian comic Monica's Gang engages in this every now and then, since it's been running for 50 years. They even have a "turn our characters into a memeface" contest on their Facebook page!
The Chilean comic Condorito does this: In the most recent issues there have been jokes involving Facebook, Blackberry phones, and many of the covers made a parody of recent movies.
Marvel Comics' 10-issue run of Mighty Mouse concluded with a mysterious figure who used a vacuum to drain all the "hipness" from TV personalities (anthropomorphic animal editions of Pat Sajak, Johnny Carson, et al). The paramedics warn Mighty Mouse not to get too close all he'll lose all his hipness, and he scoffs, saying he's still relevant. That is, until the official word is that his cartoon show on CBS was canceled. Mighty Mouse eventually wins by drawing in his breath to counter the villain's vacuum. When he tells the paramedics he's as hip as ever, they quip, "Are you sure? The audience said you really sucked!"
The post-relaunch Batgirl series featured references to an app that Gotham's petty criminals use to keep track of Batman's movements, and also featured Babs' new roommate being a member of "Occupy Gotham".
Kieron Gillen's Young Avengers series has this. The characters seem to be constantly posting to their equivalent of Tumblr for whatever reason, and basically spewing references that really just sound like Gillen's is trying to sound young.
Inhumanity has this in the use of Twitter in order to tell us what some people think about the new Inhumans.
Also, a newly awakened Inhuman, instead of, you know, going to the Avengers or any other superhero, decides to just keep taking photos of herself and posting them to Facebook.
In The NeverEnding Story III, the inhabitants of Fantasia undergo considerable change, including spouting contemporary pop-culture references. Bastian updates his hairdo because his sister calls it "un". The ultimate depiction in the movie, however, has to be Rock Biter taking his son for a bike ride...while singing "Born to be Wild".
When the trailer for the Three Stooges movie was shown to be rife with this, complete with a modern setting, an iPhone, and even the cast of the Jersey Shore, many people who hadn't heard anything about the film since Sean Penn was involved (which implied a more serious biography of the Stooges) were, to say the least, surprised. When people hoping these were just gags made for the trailer saw it and found out that Jersey Shore is not only a big part of the film but is also instrumental to the plot, they were pissed.
Rocky and Bullwinkle is so loaded with early 00s pop culture references that it might as well be called "The Year 2000, starring Moose and Squirrel."
Bob Hope constantly attempted this in the 70's and on. As Frasier told Niles, "Don't use slang. You sound like Bob Hope when he acts like The Fonz."
Lorne Michaels once said that one of the reasons he wanted to do the things Saturday Night Live did in its early seasons was the way that, when Bob Hope did sketches on his shows where he pretended to smoke marijuana, he acted drunk afterwards.
Enterprise's attempts to prove that the franchise was still relevant at the turn of the millennium by allegorizing on the subject of The War on Terror could get heavy-handed at times.
Doctor Who sums this trope up with the character of Ace; a clear attempt to be relevant and "with it" for the youth of the day, her "wicked" fashion style and "ace" dialogue was frequently considered either laughable or cringeworthy at the time, never mind later on. The writer reportedly tried for accuracy, hanging out with real kids to get a sense of who they were and how they acted, but Executive Meddling resulted in actual teenage slang and speaking patterns being tossed out.
While not as egregious as some other examples, the new Doctor Who series can suffer from this, too - numerous celebrity cameos and pop-culture references are scattered across multiple episodes but can leave them feeling very dated in a short space of time.
The Beatles, or the "Bee-attles" comes up again as classical music in the new series episode "42". This was a Call Back to the same joke being made by a character from the future during the Hartnell Era, when the Beatles were still around.
The Shakespeare Code had a few Harry Potter references, including one to the final book which came out that year, and "Expelliarmus!" turns out to be key to defeating the Monster of the Week (admittedly this was because the preceding word was hard to rhyme). Unfortunately, the writers apparently forgot Martha was actually from a year ahead of the episode's air date, so it seems pretty odd that she hadn't read Deathly Hallows.
The End of Time made a few Anvilicious nods towards Barack Obama's proposed economic reform. Also, "Fear Her" had a background gag to then-current The X Factor winner Shayne Ward's greatest hits.
When the Master returned in the new series, he was updated into a murderous pop culture junkie. He is shown watching an episode of Teletubbies (supposedly a Shout-Out to the original series where he watches an episode of The Clangers) and has pop music played when he releases the Tochlafane to decimate the Earth's population (Voodoo Child, by Rogue Traders) and at the start of season 3's finale whilst he is wheeling the Doctor around on a wheelchair (I Can't Decide by the Scissor Sisters). However, this falls more into Soundtrack Dissonance territory just to show how much of a maniac the Master is.
Amusingly used in Cold War, set in the titular war during the eighties on a Russian nuclear sub. Soviet Professor Grisenko is a fan of the band Duran Duran, listening to "Hungry Like the Wolf" on a walkman. When he learns the Eleventh Doctor and Clara Oswald are from the future, he asks for details about the fate of something important to him. At first, it looks like he wants to know about major events yet to come concerning the Cold War's outcome- which could derail history given the right answer in the wrong place and wrong time, should someone wish to alter its course. He simply wants to know if his beloved band broke up by 2013.
The final season of The Brady Bunch was like this at times. In the wake of the runaway success of All in the Familynote which was also on Saturday nights, The Brady Bunch had an episode that didn't involve the Bradys at all, in which a white family adopted a black and an Asian kid. (A bigoted neighbor in the episode is expressly compared to Archie Bunker.)
The episode of Today where they did the Harlem Shake (and managed to temporarily kill the meme) for Valentine's Day basically screamed this.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit once did an episode featuring a young female hacker branding several men who'd raped her. This was around the time that the Swedish Millennium Trilogy was still popular. (It is worth noting because while the Law & Order franchise has a long tradition of Ripped from the Headlines episodes, they don't often base episodes on the plots of popular fiction series.)
Similar to the above, Psych also tried to jump on the Swedish thriller bandwagon with an episode in which Shawn and the SBPD chase after a young Swedish woman with supposedly serious daddy issues.
Ever since Dr. Santino moved to V3 on Necessary Roughness, annoying instances of this trope have popped up, usually in the form of her boss name-dropping his supposed celebrity friends. The sad thing is, the show was actually ahead of the curve several months earlier, when it had a story arc about a fictional football player coming out as gay - several months before real-life basketball player Jason Collins did.
Greg the Bunny had an in-universe example. Gil asks Jimmy how they can update "Sweetknuckle Junction" for a more modern audience. The result includes changing Count Blah into a rapper named Count A'ight (which he repeated mispronounces as ah-ig-it), sexing up Dottie, and painting Junction Jack silver, suspending him from the rafters, and renaming him Cybo-Jack. ("It's finally happened. They made me into a puppet.") They also add a strobe light effect which ends up giving the kids in the focus group seizures, resulting in them abandoning the retool.
The whole premise of Sherlock is pretty much this: taking Arthur Conan Doyle's late Victorians, making them sexy, and giving them all plot-relevant access to Twitter. The second episode of Season 3 had a sequence involving Sherlock and John powering through trendy London pubs to a dubstep remix of the show's theme, despite dubstep being seen as a little old-hat even by 2014.
For the same reason, KISS ditched their trademark facepaint and costumes in the '80s for a glam look. They've since gone back to their classic style with the album Psycho Circus.
Witness, also, Cheap Trick's attempts, at least since their late '70s heyday ended, to update their look, sound and style to fit the times. Heavy synths in the mid-'80s (which gave them their only #1 hit, "The Flame",), a more AOR/pop-metal sound by 1988-93, then more grunge- and alternative-influenced work in The Nineties, while groups with a clear lineage to their early work gained success. They've been making inroads into their more influential, early, power-pop sound more recently.
This trope, in fact, was the entire reason The Police existed. Stewart Copeland, who had been a drummer for the popular prog-rock combo Curved Air, saw the success that punk groups like the Sex Pistols and The Clash were having, and recruited Sting (out of a small-time jazz combo called Last Exit) and Henri Padovani (who was soon ditched in favor of Andy Summers, himself a member of The Animals and Zoot Money's Big Roll Band from the '60s) to make reggae-tinged punk and hopefully catch some of the punk scene's success. The rest is history.
Christian Rock band Petra continuously changed their image and sound during The Eighties based on what was popular, with varying results. Their most successful case was an entirely accidental one — the untimely departure of lead singer Greg Volz (who sounds a lot like Steve Walsh from Kansas) in the mid-'80s forced them to bring in John Schlitt (who sounds like every Hair Metal lead singer ever), which led to the peak of their career and their most famous material. The Nineties, on the other hand, were their Dork Age, as they attempted to find footing in the age of grunge and alt-rock while still retaining Schlitt on lead and trying to garner airplay on contemporary Christian radio. Eventually, they released one last classic-rock album to appease the long-time fans and then folded.
Metallica preemptively pulled this trope between the albums Load and St. Anger; during that time period, they tried to adapt to the rising Alternative Metal trends by changing their sound, hair and logo. After the... erm... "not so well-received" album St. Anger, they finally returned to their trademark thrash sound that we all know and love on Death Magnetic.
Elton John has stayed (or tried to stay) contemporary for many decades, with mixed results. He dabbled with Philadelphia soul with "Philadelphia Freedom", disco on Victim Of Love, new wave and synth-pop on parts of The Fox and Jump Up!, experimented heavily with contemporary synthesizers and drum machines in The Eighties and The Nineties (especially 1985-1993), planned to record a Hip Hop album with Eminem's producers before Proof's death, and returned to basics with Songs From The West Coast after hearing the Alternative Country of Ryan Adams in 2001. Part of the trend may have been aggravated by Elton's Signature Style of singer-songwriter Piano Pop, which was rarely fashionable in rock in the first place.
Korn's announcement that their album The Path of Totality would consist of a blend of their traditional sound and brostep rather smacked of this trope.
U2's announcement that their next album(s) would be variously produced by Danger Mouse, will.i.am, and David Guetta sounds suspiciously like this trope. It wouldn't be the first time either, since they did record Achtung Baby, one of the most successful albums specifically designed to make a band relevant once again.
REM spent most of their career trying to avert being part of any trend, but they still managed to have rappers on both 1991's "Radio Song" and 2004's "The Outsiders". On both occasions it does work with the music, but it was Out of Character for them. Radio Song has dated because the rap style is in the 80s rap style. The Outsiders is more jazz rap so it hasn't.
During The Eighties, when disco was, well, Deader Than Disco, the Bee Gees tried to reinvent themselves (again) with pop ballads. But everyone associated them with disco, so the Re Tool didn't work. (It had a decade earlier, when they went from a band not unlike The Beatles to a disco group, but didn't work this time.)
Only in the United States. In England, their Eighties and Nineties output was well-received. (Even in America, international hits from their latter-year albums are featured heavily.)
Likewise, the Bee Gees' Robin Gibb tried a solo comeback in 2003 with "Magnet," nearly twenty years after his last solo album. Unfortunately, Robin - a mid-fifties Englishman - tried his damndest to sound as relevant as the young pop stars of the day, including attempts at hip hop and lyrics about getting his 'freak on.' The album was a massive flop, and ended up being one of the most embarrassing items in the history of the Bee Gees. (The fact that he followed it up with one of the worst live albums in history didn't help.)
The Rolling Stones' 1978 album Some Girls was a very deliberate response to critics who had dismissed them as outdated in the face of Punk Rock and disco. It paid off big time, and the Stones pointed out that numerous punk rockers had grown up listening to them. It's also helped that they've absorbed many different music styles over the years, while still retaining their core blues-rock sound.
David Bowie, despite his notorious penchant for the New Sound Album trope, has largely stayed ahead of the curves that come along in music and avoided accusations of trend-jumping, owing in part to both his strongCreator Thumbprint as a lyricist and his compelling stage presence. He was mocked in the British music press over 1997's Earthling, though — it was an intelligent drum 'n' bass-heavy album that came along just as that style peaked and was on its way to Deader Than Disco status. He'd just turned 50 years old, too, which didn't help.
Michael Jackson, according to producer Quincy Jones, didn't think rap music would catch on back in The Eighties. He still tried to cultivate an edgier, tough "street image" with 1987's Bad, specifically with the title song's music video (in which he plays a reformed gang member), but while the album sold well, his look and attitude were roundly mocked. From there, he struggled with this trope for the rest of his career, starting with 1991's Dangerous. He tried to update his sound with new jack swing, hip-hop, and rap stylings, hiring big-name producers and guest musicians in the process. Dangerous alone had guest spots from Heavy D, Wreckx-n-Effect, and Slash, and the music videos featured trendy celebrities such as Macaulay Culkin, Iman, Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson, Naomi Campbell, Michael Jordan, and even Bart and Homer Simpson (which also explains that Simpsons episode where Jackson — under the name John Jay Smith — plays a mental patient who thinks he's Michael Jackson). Ten years later, David Browne commented in his Entertainment Weekly review of Invincible that Jackson "appears to be so lacking in confidence that he's top-loaded the album with every conceivable collaborator he could call, from Carlos Santana and Babyface for the oldsters to Rodney Jerkins and rapper Fats for the kids."
Lampshaded in the 1980 Billy Joel song, "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me". In keeping with the emerging punk and New Wave trends, it was noticeably more forceful than a lot of his other songs, while the lyrics take a cynical view of a music executive urging a musician to change his image for a younger audience.
MC Hammer in the early 90s showed how fast this can happen. At the beginning of the decade, he was the face of rap. Perhaps boasting that "U can't touch this" stuck harder than he thought, because by the mid-90s the Darker and EdgierGangsta Rap was flourishing, and quite a few of its stars made no bones about how much they despised Hammer, his big bouncy pants and his dance- and party-oriented sound. After two years between albumsnote An eternity in hip hop, he came back with The Funky Headhunter, exchanging the pants for a watch cap, cussing a little bit, rapping about tough times on the street and generally trying to show how gangsta he was, too. His fans didn't desert him—the record still sold well—but the gangsta fans weren't impressed, and so began his slow slide, as chronicled on Behind The Music, toward losing the multimillion-dollar house he'd built in the Oakland hills and all the other money he'd made.
A famous early example within the music industry isn't so much a performer as a label—CBS Records' infamous late 1960s "The Man Can't Bust Our Music" and "The Revolutionaries are on CBS" ad campaigns intended to show how different things were at CBS (later Columbia; now Sony) from the days when rock-hating Mitch Miller had passed on both the Beatles and Elvis.
Slayer, for about a decade, was a major victim of this trope. To put it simply: the band tried to "modernize" their sound in 1998 with the Nu Metal-influenced "Diabolus In Musica." After that album's rather lukewarm critical and commercial success and (more importantly) numerous accusations of being unable to compete with the likes of Emperor and Nile in terms of brutality, the band tried to Win BACK The Crowd with 2001's "God Hates Us All." An album with an unusual amount of swearing for a Slayer record and some other very obvious shock tactics (such as a picture of the Holy Bible with nails and the Slayer logo burned onto it). Unfortunately, the only thing people found even remotely shocking about the record was something completely unintended: it was released on September 11, 2001. After realizing they were trying way too hard to remain relevant in the extreme metal scene they ironically helped to create, the band slowly moved away from the Nu Metal influences and shock tactics of those two albums with 2006's Christ Illusion. And then, in 2009, they released World Painted Blood. An album many consider to be their best and most genuine since the early-90's.
Five Iron Frenzy broke up in 2003, then reunited about a decade later to record a new album, Engine of a Million Plots. Rather than changing their style to fit the times (Engine still sounds like the last albums FIF put out pre-breakup) they wrote a song to joke about how out-of-touch they were. The song in question is "Battle Dancing Unicorns With Glitter", where they reference trends in the most awkward way possible ("12 o'clock! Party rock! We're hip hopping and we can't quite stop!"), aggressively insist that their awesomeness is beyond dispute, and admit in the bridge that "We're fighting just to stay relevant."
Similar to the above Jughead image are the occasional attempts at current events humor in The Family Circus. The general concessions to changing times — the toys the Not Allowed to Grow Up kids are seen playing with or the shows they watch — are subtle and actually topical. But these days any attempts at mining humor from that result in odd, unfunny jokes such as Billy saying that Daddy's cartoons would look better in HD. Then there was Dolly dressing up as Sarah Palin for Halloween 2008 (which wasn't even presented as a joke), Billy is dressed up as Iron Man and Jeffy is dressed up as Batman.
An odd example for 2012: Billy asks to go out as a specific character, "Tactical Sergeant Tarkus from the Blood Ravens 4th Company in Warhammer 40,000." Not only is Warhammer 40000 extremely obscure outside geek circles, Tarkus only appeared in Dawn of War 2, which came out three years prior. But it was hilarious watching people on /tg/, the 4chan board that deals with 40k, slowly coming to the realization that yes, Family Circus of all things had just referenced Tarkus.
Seanbaby points out the awkwardness of this in an article about the comic. One strip has a computer monitor displaying static (i.e. "snow") in order for the kids to deliver the punchline "winter-net". How many times has your monitor displayed TV-style "snow"? Even TVs rarely display TV-style snow now!
Blondie has taken to this in recent years. The jokes have generally been about how out-of-touch Dagwood is with modern society, but the "modern society" the reader is often shown still feels like it's trapped in a time warp. Most references to modern technology come from Elmo, a small child who somehow affords every "hip" new product despite being a small child.
In 1991, Blondie put on pants and started a catering business with her friend Tootsie. In 2000, Blondie yelled "Dagwood Bumstead Dot Com!" to wake her husband. Dagwood responded, "Omigosh, that means BUSINESS!" Dagwood uses a flatscreen computer monitor at work, Cookie and Alexander use cell phones and crack jokes about Facebook. But Dagwood is still late to work — although now he races out the door to his car pool rather than a city bus — and Mr. Dithers still kicks him in the ass.
Unintentionally played with in a 2012 comic, where Dagwood visits a music store and is met with confusion when he asks a young clerk for record player needles. However, with records having made a comeback, the joke becomes irrelevant because something that became irrelevant in the past is now relevant again.
Peanuts occasionally delved into this, usually through having Snoopy picking up on then-current fads. This arguably reached its apex (or nadir) with the '80s TV special It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown.
Peppermint Patty owes her entire existence to this trope. At the height of the late 1960s feminist movement, Schulz decided he needed a female character who wasn't stereotypically feminine. Apparently, it was a somewhat big deal at the time that she (gasp!) wore shorts and sandals...even though girls had been wearing shorts and sandals since the '40s at the latest.
Dick Tracy fell into this in the '60s and '70s as original writer Chester Gould tried desperately to keep the strip relevant with the changing times. This led to him giving the strip a sci-fi swerve, where Tracy met the moon people and the police force gained moon technology - his son even married one of the moon people, "Moon Maid". This led to problems when the Apollo Moon Landings showed the moon barren of all life, forcing him to eventually drop many of these elements. In the 70s, he tried to update Tracy's distinct look with long hair and a mustache, along with a hippie sidekick named "Groovy Grove". The mustache went over so poorly he later drew a strip in which several characters pinned Tracy down and shaved it off. Gould's successor, Max Allan Collins, had both Moon Maid and Groovy Grove killed off as soon as he inherited the strip. The strip's current author seems to be far too displaced from reality to make references like this.
Lil Abner introduced student radicals called SWINE (Students Wildly Indignant at Nearly Everything) during The Sixties in a combination of this trope and Author Tract, as the conservative Al Capp felt the increasing need to vent his disgust with the political/cultural developments of the era.
The Wizard of Id, circa late January 2012, made a 300 reference, only about five years after the movie was released.note Yes, you've been hearing jokes about this being SPARTAAAAA for that long.
Not much better was a January 2013 strip making a Take That at Twilight, released about a couple months after the final film hit theaters.
WWE commentators constantly mentioning Twitter or current pop culture comes across this way a lot of times.
It's something of a Running Gag among wrestling fans that WWE is roughly 3-5 years behind pop culture. In fact, this was the main cause behind the dropping of Paul Burchill's pirate gimmick; at the time, Pirates of the Caribbean was too current for Vince McMahon to understand, and he didn't understand why a pirate should be a face.
Earlier than that, Vince discontinued The Blonde Bytch project because he, personally, had never heard of The Blair Witch Project at the very height of its popularity.
It's only gotten worse. Witness Vince bringing in ZZ Top, who haven't been on the charts since the late 80s, to be the guest General Managers of Raw.
In general, ideas that relate to current pop culture that get smothered are because if Vince hasn't heard of it, surely you haven't either.
A particularly glaring example came when Vince was doing commentary for a match featuring Avatar, who was Al Snow under a mask. The commentary crew was speculating as to the identity of the new wrestler, when Vince pipes up with, "Maybe it's Bart!" Cue blank looks from the other commentators, at which point Vince clarifies with, "You know, from The Simpsons?" The Simpsons at this point had been on the air for 5-6 years. Which would make the relevant season 6 episode contemporary, so it actually was relevant this time.
Without question, this is how TNA came off when they brought in "Robbie E" and "Cookie" with a Jersey Shore gimmick. And then they actually brought in J-Woww to feud with Cookie. For 15 minutes.
WWE has always been doing this. They had a wrestler dressed as Batman (imaginatively known as "Battman") in the mid-1960s, when the TV show was a hit. During the mid-1990s they had Rad Radford, who dressed like a grunge-rock musician. Some of WWE's most popular and enduring gimmicks started out this way: Edge, for example, in his original "Brood" incarnation with his Badass Longcoat and Cool Shades and vampire fangs, was strikingly reminiscent of the title character of Blade, which had just hit theaters at the time.
In Professional Wrestling this trope is used well when it's deliberately invoked for comedy or satirical purposes. The tag team "Cryme Tyme" became darlings of the fans despite trafficking in "Yo-yo-yo!"/"in the 'hood" stereotypes that had already been cliched for over a decade.
Ditto with "Disco Inferno" (in the late '90s). WCW would, unfortunately, go back to that well again with "That '70s Guy" Mike Awesome after That '70s Show became a hit. It didn't come off nearly as funny or clever the second time around.
In the same vein, The Muppets does this trope, but decides to bring back what made them entertaining in The Muppet Show and the subsequent movies pre-From Space. It was a success.
The Goon Show: On the fiftieth anniversary of the show in 2001, two third-season scripts were combined and recorded with a new cast as "Goon Again". The jokes and ambience are a good match for the original show, which makes it all the more jarring when Bluebottle makes a .com reference.
Pretty much the premise of a toyline like Barbie. Every new fashion trend for the past fifty years has resulted in new versions of the doll. She and toys like her are, after all, called fashion dolls.
Parodied in The Simpsons episode "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy," where two girls find Malibu Stacy dolls ("Achy Breaky Stacy" and "Live from the Improv Stacy") that are now in the bargain bin now that the song "Achy Breaky Heart" and Evening at the Improv aren't popular anymore.
The '70s "adventure team" version of the franchise existed in an attempt to make war cool, despite that America was really hurting after The Vietnam War and society pretty much saw war as a pointless waste of human life.
The 1980s revival/retool, while avoiding the political issues of war by having a well-defined, clearly-evil enemy bent on world domination, still fell victim to this trope in the early 1990s with the introduction of the Eco-Warriors and Drug Elimination Force. (The former were even lampshaded in the comics when one of the Eco-Warriors points out that their new battle suits are made from recycled action figures!) The new lineups didn't prove popular, so they went with neon-colored ninjas until the line died out.
The concepts of Transformers toys didn't change all that much, but their depictions in media sure as hell did. Generation 2 comics were aggressively Dark Age, and just check out this commercial. They were alllike that.
Transformers seems to be a magnet for this trope. Another example would be the "Bot Shots" line, presumably made to cash in on the popularity of Bakugan.
In a very similar case to the G2 Transformers commercial, for the 2006 Piraka set line, BIONICLE also attempted to promote their sets with a shoddy rap song, as well as forcing the characters into a "gangsta'" setting, complete with the villains lounging around in their fortress which is surrounded with chain fences, sitting on sofas, chewing bubblegum, and doing various other activities that not only had nothing to do with the official story, but clashed something fierce with the image the franchise had built up in the previous years. This was not the first example, though: beginning from '05, just about all of the commercials had various rock songs attached to them, replacing the tribal music. They even crept into the movies, too. But these stood out way less.
Story-wise, again in a similar fashion to the Transformers example cited above, the plots took a turn to the exceedingly dark and violent side, which was to the delight of many fans, but it still gave off the stench of a "Look, older fans, there is gore now, don't leave!" mentality. Especially since at first, these were confined to side-stories that weren't meant to bring in newer fans.
Disney's Epic Mickeyplays with this trope. While it is an attempt by Disney to make Mickey Mouse relevant again, the people really screaming "We're still relevant, dammit!" are the characters in the game. The people living in Wasteland have been abandoned and forgotten by those who created them, and some of them want to use Mickey as a means to leave Wasteland and be loved again. Also an inversion in that their efforts to make Mickey as a character relevant again was by restoring him to how the character was originally portrayed in the early 30's.
Pokémon has used Internet memes as throwaway gags a few times (Diamond and Pearl: "Noob"; "My Pokémon is fight!"; X and Y: "I can haz cheezburger, meow?"; "Wow! You and your Pokémon's power levels are incredible! They're over 9000 for sure!"), although every new pair of games still sells around 10 million copies, so the series is plenty relevant already...
Homestar Runner satirized this kind of thing in the Strongbad Email looking old, where Strongbad makes an effort to "reconnect with the youth of today":
Strong Bad: Now what I need is an image overhaul. Something to reconnect me with the youth of today. Something that says - "Sup my young parsons, I too am so on the go that I drink my yogurt from a tube".
Brutally satirized in TLG Media's "A New Bunny" (very, very NSFW language). It mocks Loonatics Unleashed, mentioned below, as one of the Ur-examples of blatantly trying to make "updated" versions of older characters so that today's kids will like them more. This exchange pretty much exemplifies this trope:
Kid: "But I don't like you!"
Buzzed Bunny: "Hell YES you do!!!"
Their followup Another New Bunny is about the damage-control Warner tried to do when people rebelled against the plans for Loonatics. That is, to try and update the characters, while keeping them the same at the same time.
MySpace and its latest Re Tool into a "Social Entertainment" website, after being driven Deader Than Disco by Face Book. Now everyone gets friend requests from fake celebrity pages, oh joy! They also let Jack Black "take over" the site in a publicity stunt.
The Agony Booth and the switchover to video recaps as opposed to written ones has came off as this to some. Many feel that they are now just a That Guy with the Glassesripoff. It doesn't help that a message pops up when opening one of the old text recaps, begging people to watch their videos.
The cartoons on the 90s The Disney Afternoon block on ABC had the premise of taking old classic characters and updating them in new settings with new clothes and, occasionally, new personalities... usually to reflect what was "in" at the time. Huey, Dewey and Louie got theirs in Quack Pack, for example, where they aged into hip teenagers. Donald ditched his iconic sailor suit in favor of a Hawaiian shirt, and Daisy Duck became a sassy, assertive woman. Donald Duck (especially in the comics) is often the go-to character for this trope. With all the fads he's joined, all the different jobs he's had, and all the many, many things he's been an "expert" on in various stories, Donald is the one classic Disney character who can pull off Totally Radicaland remain perfectly in character at all times. Hawaiian-shirted cameraman for a popular TV show? Sure, why not? You know that next month he'll try to be an astronaut or get hooked on sushi or be an Internet millionaire or whatever.
Goof Troop, as good as it was, is a pretty obvious example of old characters trying to be hip and current for the modern day (Just listen to the opening theme). They updated Goofy and Pete into modern neighbors with pre-teen sons. It was successful enough to spin off into two movies, with the end result of having Max Goof as a new character.
By far, the most embarrassing attempt to make an older character "cool" to young people was the all-but-forgotten series Yo Yogi! It had a teenaged Yogi Bear dressed in neon pink and green, solving mysteries, and hanging out in Jellystone Mall. Magilla Gorilla was transformed into a rapping snowboarder named Magilla Ice, Dick Dastardly was teenage troublemaker "Dicky D," and certain scenes were designed to be viewed with 3-D glasses, which looked awkward to say the least. Surprisingly, this is the last television series to star Yogi Bear. Yo Yogi! (along with the rest of NBC's Saturday morning cartoons) failed so badly that NBC decided to eighty-six their entire animated lineup in order to create an all-teen block in order to take advantage of Saved by the Bell's success and, later, expand the Today show to Saturdays.
Some believe the show depends too much on this trope thanks to being on the air for 20+ years. While the show never shied away from pop-culture references in its heyday, it's become increasingly apparent that the writers are taking a page from South Park and Family Guy in trying to be relevant through using current trends and events as their basis for humor. The long episode production time and the fact that they've done every sitcom plot they could — including ones that have been done on other shows and recycling the ones they've done before — is also a contributing factor.
It often lampshades this by having the Simpson family be the last people in town to get in on a new trend, like when Homer bought his first computer (in 1999) and didn't even know how to start his own Internet company, when Bart complains about being the only kid (in 2009) who doesn't have a cell phone, and Marge in "Marge Gamer" (a 2007 episode) being shunned by her friends for not having an email address and thinking "Googling yourself" is a euphemism for masturbation (as opposed to the common, "looking up your name on the Google search engine"). In fact, in the last example, Lisa compared Marge to Christopher Columbus, in that she "had discovered something millions of people already knew existed."
The opening to the episode "To Surveil With Love," in which the entire Springfield populace lip syncs to Kesha's "TiK ToK" — while pretty funny — was an obvious attempt at pandering to a younger demographic (though this was done as part of a gimmicky stunt called "FOX Rocks" where FOX cobbles up musical moments from their Animation Domination shows, which is why the very serious Family Guy episode "Brian and Stewie" had a clip show of musical moments tacked on it).
"The D'oh-cial Network" was worse than "MyPods and Boomsticks" in its portrayal of Apple. It had loads of references to Facebook (the episode was even a parody of The Social Network, which would have been fine — had the episode actually aired around the time that that movie was popular), Twitter, Apple products, and stores that had recently gone out of business as of 2011. It also ended with an Anvilicious Aesop about not depending on technology. It doesn't help that the scenes ostensibly parodying The Social Network give little evidence that the writers even saw the movie. That the episode prominently features Creep by Radiohead, which featured in the trailer but not the actual film, reinforces this impression.
Another episode lampshaded this with Itchy and Scratchy doing a Black Swan parody, with Bart and Lisa commenting on how the parody was considered current at the time it was written.
"Lisa Goes Gaga" (the episode focusing on Lady Gaga's guest appearance) — much like the Ke$ha couch gag from "To Surveil With Love" and all of "The D'oh-cial Network" — played out like a Simpsons-Lady Gaga crossover fanfiction. It got some decent reviews as seen on Wikipedia (which praised Lady Gaga's voice acting work, but criticized the overall execution of the episode and rehashed a lot of jokes about Lady Gaga that have been done before and done better elsewhere) but also received some backlash from fans.
A surprisingly quick example comes from the Couch Gag to "Gorgeous Grampa" which has the cast do the Harlem Shake (though the Harlem Shake was still fairly popular at the time, but still, when it reruns, who's going to remember the reference?).
This goes back farther than you'd think. The 302nd episode, Season 14's "Barting Over" (the episode advertised as the 300th episode where Bart emancipates himself after finding out that he was a commercial star as a child and Homer blew all the money he made), contained a fawning cameo by Tony Hawk and a briefer one by blink-182, both of whom were really big at the time (2003) but wouldn't be for very long (especially Blink-182, who broke up in the mid-2000s). Tony Hawk's dialogue in particular may cross over into Totally Radical. There's also the reason why Homer blew Bart's commercial money: to buy back incriminating photos of him nearly dropping his child over a balcony like Michael Jackson did in late 2002. Originally, Homer was supposed to blow the money on a star in the sky that went supernova, but the writers at the last minute changed it into something more current (which would serve as little more than a pop culture footnote years later).
Similar to the blink-182 case mentioned above, Fall Out Boy performed the ending theme songs as guests on an episode that aired in 2009 - right after their Folie a Deux album had flopped, shortly before they went on hiatus, and at any rate nowhere close to their 2006-2007 heyday.
"Whiskey Business" continues the trend with references to the Occupy Wall Street pepper spray cop and the Tupac Shakur hologram looooong after they left the public mind.
This trope is blatant in season 15's "Co-Dependent's Day" when the family goes to see Cosmic Wars: Episode I, and it's a parody of the disappointment of Episode I. It would've been relevant in 1999 or 2000, but this episode was released in 2004. It also creates a Celebrity Paradox because Star Wars has been referenced by name dozens of times.
They did a parody of the California 2003 recall election...in 2005. It wasn't just a throwaway gag; it was the plot of a whole episode (season 17's "See Homer Run").
The 2005 episode "Thank God It's Doomsday" features another parody of "Who Let The Dogs Out," a song popular half a decade earlier.
"Be Still My Cheating Bart" had a subplot where Homer, intending to exercise, buys a treadmill that has streaming video built in. He soon becomes wrapped up in watching episodes of Vanished, a blatant LOST parody, keeping notebooks full of clues and plot points from each episode. It was funny, but it would have been transcendently hilarious had the episode not aired in 2012 ... three years after the Lost finale, well after the last flame wars over what it meant it had died out online. This was so blatant an example of the trope the writers had to lampshade it twice, with both Lisa and Lenny pointing this out to Homer.
This started early, with the eighth-season finale, "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson". She decides to apply to the military school Bart's been sent to, which had previously not allowed girls. Anyone watching at the time could see it was clearly inspired by Shannon Faulkner's real-life struggle to be admitted to the Citadel military college in South Carolina ... which had played out two years earlier in real life.
This trope continues in the episode "Steal This Episode" with a parody of The Dark Knight Rises, which came out almost two years earlier.
The more recent Treehouse of Horror episodes have begun to feel like this with parodies of Paranormal Activity (the episode airing five years after the first film was released), Avatar (two years after the film was released), Twilight (two years after the first film was released and already parodied to death) and 28 Days Later (seven years after the first film came out and another two years after the release of the sequel, 28 Weeks Later)
South Park averts this trope due to the speed at which episodes can be made, including remaking planned episodes on the fly. For example, the quintuplets episode got changed from just about creepy quintuplets to being about Elian Gonzales' capture just after the raid and his return to Cuba.
The episode "About Last Night" was about the winner of the presidential election broadcast the night after the election. And featuring verbatim lines from Obama's victory speech, to boot. The sequence was animated ahead of time but the voice acting was done only a couple of hours before airtime. Some of this was also luck - they'd originally wanted to have an alternate episode ready if McCain won, but decided for the sake of sanity to assume Obama would win - and guessed that if he lost, nobody would notice an episode of South Park in the ensuing frenzy. This same situation happened four years later with the episode "Obama Wins!"
As you can probably guess, South Park can be (and has become) so incredibly topical that it possibly inverts this trope. Just for reference, an episode can be finished in three days (watch the documentary "Six Days to Air," which outlines how a South Park episode is created). This includes writing, animating, and voicing it.
The usual prominence of this trope made the timing of the Facebook-based episode "You Have 0 Friends" especially odd, appearing several years after the site became a journalistic favorite and at least four years since Facebook first allowed members who didn't belong to a school/college. That and the overall tone made ''The AV Club'''s reviewer remark that the premise was akin to "a 44-year-old suburban dad who just doesn't understand what his kids are up to but knows he doesn't like it". In the DVD commentary, Trey explains that they made the episode because he had been resisting the Facebook fad for years and finally made an account, but felt like he was getting "sucked in" so the episode was based on his experiences with it, rather than trying to be hip and current.
Of late, there has been some nostalgia (mostly of the So Bad, It's Good kind) for The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. More specifically, people remember the cartoon hosted by wrestler Captain Lou, who starred as Mario in live-action framing segments. Almost nobody fondly remembers the "Club Mario" incarnation of the same series. The Captain Lou segments were deemed no longer cool and were swapped out for... this.
Beavis and Butt-Head's relaunch is a debatable case of this — on the one hand, referencing things like Twilight and Super Size Me in 2011 does come off as the writers being late to the party. On the other hand, it's generally done to provide interesting jumping off points for the duo's misadventures. "Werewolves of Highland" is about the concept of Vampires Are Sex Gods, and the duo trying to take advantage of that to get chicks. "Supersize Me" has them following in Morgan Spurlock's footsteps (gorging on fast food and filming themselves doing so) in hopes of becoming similarly famous and (again) getting chicks. The commentary segments with music videos and MTV reality shows are strictly up-to-date humor.
King of the Hill: The MySpace-centric episode when Strickland Propane starts networking with MySpace to bring in customers — in 2008, when most onliners had abandoned MySpace for Facebook and/or Twitter (among other social networks). It's easy to misblame the writers for being so out of date, but MySpace was owned at the time by News Corp, the parent company of FOX, which produced and aired King Of The Hill. Still, it works as Fridge Brilliance, since places like Arlen tend to not get into the latest trends in technology until long after they've been established as commonplace.
The revived Futurama episodes make many pop culture references to things such as panic over the alleged 2012 apocalypse (which has come, gone, and proven to be a crock), President Obama's allegedly not having a birth certificate (even though he does), and other things from the late 2000s and early 2010s. While it can be stated that Futurama had a lot of catching up to do satire-wise after being canceled for so long, some fans are worrying that this trope is making the Comedy Central episodes of Futurama more like the latter-day episodes of The Simpsons. Sadly, this may have contributed to its recancellation in 2013. Either that, or it's yet another instance of Futurama getting Screwed by the Network.
The Family Guy writers mocking Jimmy Fallon for his corpsing in the episode "Don't Make Me Over," which aired in June 2005 (right between the end of the 30th season, but a couple months before the start of SNL's 31st seasonnote 2005-2006 season; the season introducing Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, and Kristen Wiig, and the first season to be shown in high-def. Fallon left the show at the end of the 2003-2004 seasonnote season 29). Sort of justified in that Family Guy was still canceled around the time that Fallon was on SNL and his cracking-up was a thing, but all the jokes about that dried up as soon as he left. Even The Simpsons' Take That against Jimmy Fallon (on the season 16 episode "Homer Away from Homer"note the episode where Flanders moves away after Homer tells everyone that Flanders is housing two college coeds who are filming softcore webcam porn) was timelier than this.
The episode did acknowledge this by the simple fact that Fallon was hosting the show, implying he was no longer a regular cast member. The joke was little more than a throw-away at any rate; the actual plot of the episode was more about mocking teen pop stars like Miley Cirus and how they're overly sexualized.
Subverted in the American Dad! episode "Hi Honey, I'm Homeland" where Stan gets brainwashed by some people from the Occupy movement. It's mentioned at the beginning of the episode while Occupy is not in the public eye anymore, the movement still exists.