In deciding whether to add an example to this page or not, please keep in mind that the trope is "He did it just once, but now it's almost the only thing he's known for.".
Also, please limit examples to those at least twenty five years old, so that they are proven to stand the test of time and to prevent troper agendas.
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President Herbert Hoover is continually remembered as the president who caused the Wall Street Crash of 1929 despite the Crash being largely the result of predecessor Calvin Coolidge's policies. No one remembers he was known as the "Great Humanitarian" during World War I for his aid overseas (in Belgium, his name even became a word meaning "to help"), and he saw the crash coming and tried to avert it, but is remembered as someone who "did nothing", though even Franklin D. Roosevelt's own advisers said that "practically the entire New Deal was extrapolated" from Hoover's programs. He's now so associated with disastrous economic policy that, for example, one of the more memorable lines of the 1992 election was Bill Clinton repeatedly referring to the incumbent President George Herbert Walker Bush (who he defeated) as "George Herbert Hoover Bush".
And if not that, it'll be his iconic photos: picking up his dogs by their ears or lifting his shirt to show off his appendix scar. At best, they'll think of the one where he's taking the oath of office to replace JFK, with blood-splattered Jacqueline standing by.
Or that the Secret Service caught him twice urinating off the White House porch.
When thinking of William Howard Taft, what are people more likely to remember: His trustbusting activities? His military action against Nicaragua? His support of the 16th Amendment, the foundation of the US's modern tax code? Or that he's the only former President to also serve on the Supreme Court (as the Chief Justice no less)? Nope. None of that. People remember he was so fat he got stuck in the bathtub (which likely didn't happen). Failing that, they will remember him as the last president with facial hair or as the President who first had electrical power added to the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The 1969 Chappaquiddick Incident, in which a car Edward "Ted" Kennedy was driving swerved into water, causing the car's sole passenger, campaign assistant Mary Jo Kopechne, to drown. Kennedy's swimming out of the sinking car (with Kopechne trapped inside), along with failing to report the incident, permanently stifled his presidential hopes and ruined his credibility as a politician. He did regain some of that later as a U.S. Senator, but his career was always sullied by this incident, as well as by his reputation as a playboy and drinker.
Not helped by earlier baseless allegations that he was personally profiting from a GOP slush fund while campaigning in the 1950s. Nixon was actually playing clean when he made the 'Checkers' speech concerning slush fund expenditures; in fact his speech prompted an investigation of Adlai Stevenson's slush fund which turned up some improprieties. Only later on did Nixon become the legendary crook and manipulator he's known as today (talk about a Face-Heel Turn!) So it's entirely possible that one can never live down even things of which one is not guilty.
Another thing that people from Ford's home-town of Grand Rapids, Michigan remember him for is that he tried to insist that the presidential band to use the University of Michigan fight-song instead of "Hail to the Chief" as his presidential fanfare. It didn't take.
While James A. Rhodes would be re-elected Governor of Ohio twice afterward, many people never forgave him for his decision to call the National Guard to Kent State University, which led to the 1970 shootings where four students were killed.
Alexander Haig was the first Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, but will likely be remembered mostly for one embarrassing comment when, in the confusion following the attempted assassination of President Reagan, Haig announced that he was "in charge"; stirring much confusion as to whether or not Haig had misinterpreted the Twenty Fifth Amendment to the Constitution or was making a general statement that he was the senior official in charge (as Vice President George H.W. Bush was unavailable due to being airborne over Texas at the moment).
And there was the admission he made in an interview with Playboy that Carter "lusted in my heart" for women other than his wife. For Carter, well-known as a very religious man, this one turned out to be particularly embarrassing. And that was before he even got elected!
And there was his UFO sighting.note For the record, Carter does not believe what he saw in 1969 was an alien spacecraft; he's of the opinion that it was probably a top-secret military experiment. Carter remains the only US president ever to admit to filing a UFO report. The fact that he was a rural Southerner didn't help matters.
Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis had two during the 1988 presidential campaign which effectively torpedoed his chances. First, he was asked at a debate if he would still be against the death penalty if his own family was murdered, and replied in a completely calm and straightforward fashion (he would later lament "Anyone who is against the death penalty gets asked that question a thousand times, and unfortunately, I answered it like it was the thousandth time I'd been asked"). Then he decided to take a ride in a tank during a photo op at an army base, complete with ridiculous looking headgear, resulting in a photo where he looked like Snoopy fighting the Red Baron.
Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich has had two in his career. Originally, after his term as Mayor, he was "the guy who bankrupted Cleveland." (What actually happened was, the bank that held Cleveland's debt tried to force him to sell the city's public electric system to a power company that was part-owner of the bank, and he wouldn't play ball.) Then he was "the guy who saw a UFO at Shirley MacLaine's house." Now he's the tiny hippie who married a British lady at least six levels of hotness above his own.
Thomas Jefferson is perhaps too eminent a figure to fall victim to this trope, but his apparent hypocrisy regarding slavery tends to dominate most historical discussions of him. How can a man who wrote that "all men are created equal" justify owning other human beings or hold the opinion that the African race was generally inferior? How can he justify his relationship and children with Sally Hemmings, a woman who, while apparently reciprocating his affections (and stayed with him during foreign journeys that would have allowed for easy escape), was still economically beholden to him as owner, and only 14 when their relationship started? Jefferson's accomplishments are vast, but the gulf between his words and his actions on the subjects of slavery and race are something that have tremendous impact on his legacy.note Some Values Dissonance may be at work here: women generally were economically beholden to their husbands or fathers in that time period, and the age of consent has been documented as low as seven during the Colonial era (this was in Delaware, where the age of consent didn't increase from 7 to 16 until 1895; generally the age of consent in the 18th century ranged from 10-13 and didn't increase to 16 in most jurisdictions until 1920. Even today 18 as the age of consent is not universal.) Jefferson may never have freed her because being her owner was the only way he could legally protect her from those who may have objected to the relationship: a slave's owner could take legal action on behalf of the slave, whereas freemen (and women) had no guarantee of any standing in court.
George Washington is mostly well-respected enough to avoid this, but one historian, when interviewed on TV, said that visitors to the Smithsonian were more interested in seeing his (not actually) wooden teeth than any other artifact related to him. The (apocryphal) Cherry Tree thing is also good publicity, along with the Crossing The Delaware and Wintering At Valley Forge.
Aaron Burr is best-known for shooting and killing Alexander Hamilton, in spite of being a former Vice-President who was charged with treason for his alleged plan to secede from the Union with a rebel army. No evidence was actually produced, so he was acquitted.
Walter Mondale campaigned hard for nuclear disarmament and the Equal Rights Amendment, and played a key role in uncovering a conspiracy within NASA that forced them to adopt stricter safety measures. Then in the 1984 presidential campaign, he announced that he would raise taxes as part of his effort to reduce the deficit, thinking the voters would appreciate the honesty. ("Let's be honest here, Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did.") They didn't, and he suffered one of the worst election defeats in US history and became known purely as the guy who said he was going to jack up taxes.
Andrew Jackson is a very complicated individual. He is a Bad Ass war-hero who beat people with his cane, and seemed to represent the rise of the common man to the presidency. However, his treatment of millions of Native Americans, which culminated in a downright genocidal eradication and relocation program, that he was both architect and enforcer of, has forever tainted his image. And justifiably so. Ironically, he was a childhood hero of many later great Americans who had pretty good track records on racial issues, such as Harry Truman.
John Hancock, one of the Founding Fathers, first governor of Massachusetts, second president of the Second Continental Congress, and president when the Declaration of Independence was signed - what image did his name instantly bring to your head? (The reason it was so large is that, him being the President at the time, it was actually a stamp.)
In Germany, JFK will always be remembered for that one phrase: "Ich bin ein Berliner" (and not because everyone understood it as "I am a jelly doughnut").note About this Urban Legend: while a certain type of jelly doughnut is indeed called 'Berliner' in parts of Germany, in Berlin itself they are always called 'Pfannkuchen' (pancakes), and the possibility to accidentally misunderstand the phrase is in any case zero.
Despite his incredible legal career, most people know Clarence Thomas from the sexual harassment charges against him.
What is Pieter Stuyvesant, last governor of New Netherland, best known for? His friendship with the accomplished artist John Farret? His great courage? His diplomatic and administrative talent? Keeping the melting pot of his colony in peace? Introducing new words to the English language? Leaving his mark on New York City's geography? Holding off threats from the Swedes and Amerindians? Getting New Englanders to accept Dutch sovereignty? No, he's best remembered for having a wooden leg.
Prior to being elected President of the United States, General William Henry Harrison spent many successful years as a Congressman and a Governor (the very first governor of the Indiana Territory, no less), and he was arguably one of the most important military leaders of early 19th century America, playing crucial roles in "Tecumseh's War" and the War of 1812, and defeating the last major Indian military confederation in the United States; his victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe, in fact, was so celebrated in its time that it allowed Harrison to win the presidency almost entirely on the strength of his "war hero" reputation. Today, though? Unless you're an American history buff, you probably just know Harrison as "That guy who was only President for a month because he was too stupid to dress warm at his inauguration."
The U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. is not remembered for his attempts to fight corruption and organized crimes, to reduce deficit or to save Jewish refugees but for his proposal of a plan od desindustrialization for post-war Germany which would entail the death by starvation of millions of Germans.
Nikita Khrushchev is best remembered in the US for hitting a table with a shoe; for his attempts to get into Disneyland; for his role, along with JFK's, in precipitating the Cuban Missile Crisis; and and for his "WE WILL BURY YOU!" speech (though a better translation is the less aggressive sounding "We will be there when you're buried".) In Russia he is remembered for the shoe and for his obsession with growing corn.
Mikhail Gorbachev is remembered for one thing: that (trademarked!) birthmark on his head. In Russia, Gorbachev will never live down destroying the Soviet Union and subsequently, the Russian economy, even though he never intended to end the Soviet Union with his reforms, and the collapse of the economy was mostly the fault of Yeltsin, his cronies, the free market, and foreign speculators.
William Lyon Mackenzie King is remembered chiefly for holding séances, rather than his leadership during the Great Depression or World War Two.
Pierre Trudeau, who is arguably the architect of modern Canada, is remembered mainly for flipping off a bunch of protesters.
It's a Truth in Television that ultimately, as Enoch Powell once famously said, all political careers end in failure - so, as often as not, the climactic failure of one variety or another is what the politician concerned gets remembered for. Of course, what Powell really said was, "All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure", but no-one remembers that as they're too busy remembering him for his "Rivers of Blood" speech instead.
Few people could tell you the MP who forced the National Health Service to start employing non whites, or made one of the greatest parliamentary speeches ever criticising the mistreatment of Mau Mau prisoners.
The fact that quotes from his "Rivers of Blood" speech are in popular usage among members of the British National Party doesn't help.
Neville "Peace for our time!" Chamberlain. Modern history (if not the general public) is starting to have a slightly better opinion of Chamberlain, namely that although he placated Germany, he may have done so because Britain was extremely not-ready to start fighting either, and needed more time to get ready (which they were). Had he called Hitler on taking over Czechoslovakia, and shooting had started, things might have gone much worse.
Churchill will always be remembered as the PM of Britain during WW2, with side helpings of having a lightning wit, and his immense gaffe at Gallipoli. That last one wasn't totally true (Kitchener and Hamilton were responsible for those), but he gets blamed for it, which deflects blame from the disasters he actually was responsible for, in both wars.
Alfred the Great is best known for letting a peasant woman's cakes burn.
King Knut will always be remembered as the ruler who tried to order the tide not to come in.
Aethelred the Unready is more famous than most of the other early Anglo-Saxon rulers simply because of his humiliating nickname.
Late Venezuelan President Luis Herrera Campins was an affable man who had the bad luck of being the president in office during the infamous devaluation of 1983. But that he lived with; what he didn't live down was the nickname political humorists (and even serious historians) gave to him, "Toronto", not after the Canadian city but after a round hazelnut chocolate bonbon of that name, which were passed like water whenever he had a public appearance to give him an image of "jolly fat man". Most of the parodies involved represent him as a Fat Bastard munching the afore-mentioned bonbons, despite Mr. Herrera never been shown eating them. The poor man spent the next 25+ years baffled by the meme, constantly answering journalists "I don't even like chocolate that much" when asked about the issue (and after his death he was revealed to have been allergic to cocoa products all along).
His successor, Jaime Lusinchi, was already a walking punchline for the widespread corruption during his rule, his drunkenness, and the antics of his mistress (and future ex-wife) Blanca "Gastos cubridos" Ibañez; but then, after he left office, he said to an overly inquisitive journalist "Tú a mi no me vas a joder" (roughly "You aren't going to fuck me"). On camera. In a live transmission. To a journalist of the most popular TV network' of the country, who quickly lent the clip to everybody who asked. Guess what is the most used clip and expression when speaking of the man?
The president who was Herrera Campins' predecessor and Lusinchi's sucessor, the late Carlos Andrés Pérez, could never live the fact that the infamous revolt "El Caracazo" happened on his first month of office during his second period in office, a revolt that was allgedly fueled by the economic measures he had to take as first thing once he got the chair (Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment here over how truthful this is). Even when he was involved on corruption scandals who finally cost him the chair, the Caracazo shadows went on make the perception of his acts even worse. The "Caracazo" itself hasn't been live down, and it's pointed as the reason Venezuela has the lowest gas prices despite the very high cost to the couyntry: because the revolt was attributed to a protest against increasing bus fares, which allegedly were caused on turn by an increase in gas prices, no one wants to adjust gas prices in fear that something worse can come.
Harold Holt, Prime Minister of Australia, went swimming in the ocean one day and was never heard from again. Presumably he had some political policies or something, passed some laws maybe during his tenure as PM. We assume. Which party was Holt in, anyway?
Holt's modestly well-known abroad for coining the phrase "All the way with LBJ," in support of Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam policy. Which isn't necessarily better.
Also from Australian politics: Bob Hawke is known only for drinking beer and publicly supporting people skipping work to watch a boat race, and Gough Whitlam is generally remembered not for free university educations or buying the painting Blue Poles, but for being sacked.
To be fair, Bob Hawke held the world speed record for beer drinking. He drank about 1.4L of beer in 11 seconds. He is currently the only Australian Prime Minister to have held this record.
French president and World War II hero Charles de Gaulle, known for his infamous "Vive le Québec libre!" (Long live free Quebec), which caused quite a stir between France and Canada and is still remembered today as one huge diplomatic faux-pas and an embarrassment for every Quebecois.
In Britain he is remembered as an Ungrateful Bastard who didn't let Britain join the EEC even after the British provided him with shelter and arms and "liberated his country for him". In fact, France's veto has colored British perceptions of both him and European integration ever since. The fact that De Gaulle actually said "we will stun [the British] with our ingratitude" hasn't helped this portrayal. One British foreign secretary (allegedly), when asked to give a quotation for his obituary, simply replied "turd".
In America, de Gaulle is more known for withdrawing France from NATO and demanding all foreign military personnel (namely American troops) be removed from French soil. In perhaps one of the biggest Shut Up, Hannibal! moments of the 20th century, President Johnson directed Secretary of State Dean Rusk to respond "Does that include those who are buried here?".
Likewise, Paul Deschanel is today known for Skinny Dipping in the fountains of the Élysée Palace.
Unless you're from the province of Ilocos Norte or an avid supporter of Marcos, everyone in the Philippines would remember the 10th President, Ferdinand Marcos, as the one who declared Martial Law in the late 70's and being involved for massive corruption, political repression, and human rights violations during his administration....and his wife'scollection of thousands of pairs of shoes.
Sally Field is one of America's most famous actresses, with a string of iconic roles (as well as two Oscars and three Emmys) under her belt. But what does the layperson remember her for? Gidget? The Flying Nun? Sybil? Norma Rae? Nora Walker? Even Robin Williams' ex in Mrs. Doubtfire? Nope - her 1985 Best Actress Oscar acceptance speech for Places in The Heart: BKA, "You like me! You really like me!" (P.S. How many people have actually seen Places in the Heart?)
According to his biographer, Peter Lorre spent the majority of his film career trying to escape being typecast as a villain, and ultimately didn't succeed. Many of the roles he took specifically to counteract his first major role as a child-killer in M were either forgotten, downplayed by the studios, or made things even worse.
Things have gotten a little better for him, since these days most people first encounter him as children, watching him play Conseil in Disney's adaptation of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
And the numerousexpies in various old, (with Genie) and new cartoons have all cast him in a different light from his breakout role. His distinctive look and voice are pretty unmistakable.
Woody Allen: Director, actor, screenwriter, comedian, playwright, musician, writer... but what really comes to mind when he's mentioned today? Marrying the adopted daughter of his now ex-lover Mia Farrow, after serving as her father figure since she was seven (they married when she was 22 and he was 56). One of Farrow and Allen's biological children still hasn't forgiven him for this. On top of the relationship issue has been the rapidly declining quality of Allen's films, so the only thing many younger filmgoers know him for is the marriage to Soon Yi and not the era in which his films were landmark events.
The decline in quality is debatable, as Midnight in Paris got great reviews and won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
He may finally have overshadowed the whole Soon Yi thing, though in the worst way possible, when his daughter accused him of molesting her as a child.
Al Michaels has been one of the more respected sports commentators today, with a lengthy career at ABC Sports before being moved to NBC, where he remains today. He will forever be known as the guy that Disney (which owns ABC as well as ESPN) traded to NBC/Universal in exchange for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
Orson Welles is considered to be one of the best filmmakers of all time. In popular culture, he's more well known for Citizen Kane and for his later life in which he was obese and did commercials about frozen peas.
Some best remember him for the infamous radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds that caused people to panic when they mistook it for genuine news coverage of a Martian invasion.
Sir Alec Guinness expressed great irritation that he only seemed to be remembered for that one role he didn't really like in the first place and he did because he needed the money, and once flipped out at a Loony Fan who wouldn't stop pestering him. He was bitter about this to the end of his life... and naturally, every obituary for him focused more on his role in Star Wars than anything else.
They're still cracking jokes about Michael Fish (British weather presenter, now semi-retired) from that one time over twenty years ago that he refused to accept the Great Storm of '87 was happening, even as it was happening.
To the extent that, at the 2012 London Olympics, they played a clip of it.
Alexandra Paul is known as "the virgin Connie Swail" in the film version of Dragnet rather than her other roles in the Stephen King adaptation of Christine and as one of the main female lifeguards on Baywatch.
Many Vietnam veterans have never forgiven Jane Fonda for supporting North Vietnam and being photographed sitting on a Viet Cong anti-aircraft gun during her 1972 visit to Hanoi - she's been stuck with the "Hanoi Jane" label ever since that visit.
Ironically, the AA gun incident has obscured her comments that the POW's in the Hanoi Hilton were being well-treated, and then referring to liberated POW's as "hypocrites and liars" when they claimed to have been systematically tortured.
A newspaper writer wrote an article covering her 1961 concerts at Carnegie Hall, disparagingly noting how enthusiastic the gay section of the audience took to Judy's performance and how they identified with Garland's breakdowns and comebacks. It was also documented (though reports vary) at the time of her death that the gay community used Garland's death as a catalyst for empowerment to take up the Gay Rights Movement after the Stonewall uprising; the "rainbow" symbolism the gays adopted was allegedly a shoutout to Garland's Signature Song, "Over The Rainbow". Since then, a love for Judy Garland's music and movies has been taken, irreversibly, as Hollywood shorthand that one may be a "Friend Of Dorothy", fairly/accurately or not. Garland herself, though flattered by this, commented about the phenomenon in an interview by stating, "I sing to people".
Larry King and Elizabeth Taylor. One's a legendary interviewer, the other's a legendary actress. But they're both connected in the public eye as the most egregious examples of "serial monogamy": Both have been married seven times (never to each other, by the way).
On a more positive note, many people now remember Elizabeth Taylor more for her AIDS activism than for her film career or her marriages, which is a little unfair to herfilmcareer.
Or else they will point to her allegedly giving Paul and Linda McCartney a gift of cannabis resin when they stopped over in New York on the way to a tour in Japan. Alarmed that John and Paul had seemingly patched up their differences and were considering recording together again, she then allegedly rang up her brother, a senior officer in Japanese airport customs, and tipped him off to really search their bags. The McCartneys spent a few uncomfortable days in a Japanese prison cell and any hope of a Beatles reunion - and a diminishing of Yoko's influence over John - was scuppered. Allegedly.
Soupy Sales and "little green pictures of George Washington".
Cat Stevens' highly successful musical career has been completely overshadowed by his conversion to Islam, which included being quoted as supporting the fatwa against Salman Rushdie (he's said that the quote was taken out of context, but still refuses to actually condemn the fatwa).
Not to mention his enthusiastic endorsement of the 9/11 attacks. Way to ride that Peace Train, Cat!
Despite his lengthy career, Dick Van Dyke still can't get over his awful attempt at an English/Cockney accent as Bert in Mary Poppins, even though he also played Mr. Dawes, Sr. so convincingly that the audience doesn't know it's him till the end credits.
Barbara Walters asking Katharine Hepburn what kind of tree she would be. This doesn't even really make sense. If you watch the actual interview, you'll see Hepburn was the one to bring up the idea that she was a tree, Walters followed it up by asking her what kind, and Hepburn answered without any apparent sign of annoyance (her answer was oak, by the way). Somehow, Walters ended up spending the next thirty years being mocked for asking such a silly question.
Well, that and the SNL spoof with "Baba Wawa", lampooning a case of Elmuh Fudd Syndwome Walters had early in her career.
More of an embarrassing Old Shame for him was an notorious interview where a clearly coked-out Bowie, in his mock-fascistic Thin White Duke guise in 1976 while promoting his then-new Station To Station album, made comments along the lines of "Britain could benefit from having a fascist leader". This, along with a photo of him in mid-wave in the same time period during a press conference, where he looked as if he were giving a Nazi salute, haunted Bowie for years and may have affected his album sales. Thankfully, he got better by the end of the decade, but it would be the last time he'd assume the form of a character in public. (Too bad that Bowie was born just a few decades too early. If he'd pulled that stunt in 2006, he could have beaten Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat to the punch and been remembered as an innovative performance artist and comic genius.)
Almost twenty years later, people still give Jay Leno crap for the "dancing Itos" bit on The Tonight Show (when they aren't trashing him for his pedestrian humor or supposedly screwing Conan O'Brien out of a job).
Magic Johnson will probably forever be known as the guy who used his money to cheat death for two decades.
Shigesato Itoi is a celebrity in his own right in Japan, most famous for his work as a copywriter. He created the Mother series to see if he could tell a compelling story in another medium. It worked a bit too well; outside of Japan the series is basically the only thing he's recognized for, although he's since made attempts to branch out with the Western export of his Techo notebooks. Tropes Are Not Bad, since the Mother series is undoubtedly classic.
O.J. Simpson will now be forever known for having killed his wife and getting away with it.
Singer Bertrand Cantat is now known, in France, as the man who beat his wife Marie Trintignant to death
To many residents of Louisville, Kentucky, Donnie Wahlberg of Blue Bloods is still the singer from New Kids on the Block who in 1991 got drunk, set fire to the Seelbach Hotel, and for all intents and purposes escaped any real punishment.
Even Volkswagen, a car company strongly associated with peace-loving Hippies in America, gets reminded every now and then about how that guy was involved in their creation.
This also applies to just about every country formerly part of or associated with the Axis Powers. Given how they can still inspire heated arguements and flame wars today, it's not exactly a good idea to bring the idea up too casually.
Within France, you have the descendants of Vendée, who simply won't forget the fact that their cause was lost in the French Revolution and their subsequent rebellion. Even the admiration and respect given them by Napoleon Bonaparte doesn't stop their rather persistent "defiance" to the Republic.
Those who claim France didn't put up a fight forget that during World War One France lost nearly 5% of its population doing exactly that.note France incurred 1.4 million military and civilian casualties during World War I, the second-highest of any Allied country and third-highest overall. Only Russia and Germany took heavier casualties, with much larger populations to absorb them, so proportionately their losses were smaller. France was still recovering when Germany came rolling over the border in 1940.
Also, the forces that Germany put against France were larger than the ones that attacked the Soviet Union in 1941 (by then, the Reich was stretched a bit thin), yet, during the first weeks in USSR, the Germans advanced faster and with lower losses.
The French loveJerry Lewis, or at least they did in the 60's. Nowadays, it's hard to find anyone under 50 who has seen one of his movies. But try and tell that to the American media, who seems convinced that the French people of all ages are unified only by their undying love for anything Jerry Lewis.
While we're at it, the French government's declaration that Chernobyl's radioactive cloud was somehow magically stopped at the French border still draws a lot of snark. Even though the sentence is a legend.
"Why close the airports? We all know the cloud will stop at the border as usual." — Public reaction to the 2010 Icelandic ash cloud approaching French airspace.
White South Africans and Apartheid.
And for anyone who thinks that's justified, remember that there were quite a few white South Africans who opposed apartheid. And wrote passionately against it.
Apartheid in general. It's been joked that you can sum up South Africa's fiction as "Here's why Apartheid sucked."
In a similar vein, just about every pre-Baby Boomer in American history (although there are relatively few such people left alive in The New Tens, so this might not be an issue much longer) cannot ever live down, due to the time periods in which they happened to live, being thought of as Noble Bigots. Why, TV Tropes even has a page specifically about it! It doesn't matter that many of them (perhaps even most of them) were not any more racist, sexist, or whatever-ist than us; the fact that they didn't speak out against such injustices (or, at least, didn't speak out as loudly or as clearly as a modern-day person would) will always invite at least a little moral condescension from their descendants.
The 1960s. If you were between the ages of 18 and 25 during the final third of that decade, then you were a lazy, stupid, drug-addled, countercultural hippie - end of story. Also, you spat on returning Vietnam War soldiers - when in fact much of the hatred directed at Vietnam veterans came from the political right for having allegedly embarrassed the United States, and most hippies did not seriously involve themselves in politics anyway.
The 1970s, somewhat unfairly (emphasis on the word somewhat), have been saddled with the Everything's Funkier with Disco stereotype, as if disco were the only style of music to come out of that decade (though certainly very widespread from 1977 to '80 and backlash-prone). Also, they're the decade of porn - certainly, the moment in American history when X-rated entertainments moved out of the shadows, if not fully into the mainstream, but it was still harder to gain access to pornography back then than today (no Internet or home video, you see). Perhaps worst of all is the common portrayal of the Seventies as practically the poster child for Fashion Dissonance, especially when it came to men's fashions. While there is some truth to the charge that during the early '70s "blue was the new black", and men's suits did get flashier and more colorful than they had been before, or have been since, it is simply not true that every adult male was decked out in a mustard-yellow, plaid leisure suit. Leaf through enough ads from the time period, and you'll see quite a few tastefully dressed men.
The 1980s will never, ever live down their association with the obnoxious, morally bankrupt yuppie lifestyle (that and '80s Hair). The numerous individuals, both real and fictional, who opposed this lifestyle don't seem to be remembered too well.
Henry VIII is sometimes thought of as an adulterous pimp having executed all six of his wives - this happened to just two (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard). Two of the marriages Henry had annulled, another wife died in childbirth, and the last one outlived him. There's a handy mnemonic for this: Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. Still, seeing as the average person kills zero spouses in their life time it's easy to see why it's become so notable.
To the man on the street, Napoleon Bonaparte is not recalled for being a Magnificent Bastard, a military genius, for rising from very little to become the most powerful man in the world before he was thirty-five, or for establishing the Napoleonic Code. To the public at large, he's simply that short guy. In reality, he wasn't even short. That idea was mostly spread by British propaganda, confusion with unit measurements, and the fact that he surrounded himself with huge bodyguards that would make most people look short in comparison.
What makes this even more ironic is that most people think Schrödinger proposed his famous thought experiment in order to highlight how wonderfully weird the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is when, in fact, he proposed it in order to prove the Copenhagen interpretation wrong. That the cat is simultaneously alive and dead was meant to show how utterly insane the Copenhagen interpretation was, not to show deep physical insight.
Catherine the Great was an Enlightened Despot who reformed Russia, planned a coup to dethrone her husband, lead Russia into two successful wars against the Ottomans, and brought Russia into a more important role in European politics. What is she most famous for? The myth that she died while having sex with a stallion when it fell upon her. While she was known for her love life (notably with younger men), this myth is completely untrue since she died from a stroke. However, the myth manages to live on due to the fact it's more exciting than what really happened, and is usually referenced in pop-cultural depictions of her.
Samuel Adams: A great patriot during The American Revolution, one of the Founding Fathers, was largely responsible for the Boston Tea Party. What's he remembered for? Beer. He wasn't even a brewer; he was technically a maltster.
Ethan Allen gets it even worse, though. Revolutionary War guerilla hero who, among other things, captured Fort Ticonderoga. If you mention his name today, most people will think only of the furniture company that was founded some 143 years after his death. Ethan Allen himself wasn't even a carpenter.
Everyone who hears the name "Fredric Wertham" thinks only of Seduction of the Innocent, The Comics Code, and The Silver Age of Comic Books, while his work on racial segregation is largely forgotten. Also, Seduction of the Innocent wasn't in favour of censorship; it was just a call for some type of rating system, similar to how movies are rated. The comic book industry overreacted and created what amounted to a "rating system" where the only rating was PG. Though in all fairness, many of Wertham's criticisms of superhero comics were uninformed.
Lizzie Borden was actually acquitted of axing her father and stepmother to death. Of course, she wouldn't be famous at all if it weren't for the rhyme.
Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her father 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her mother 41.
It is doubtful whether William Archibald Spooner actually made most of the 'spoonerisms' attributed to him, nevertheless people believed he did even in his own lifetime much to his dismay. (He once told a crowd who asked him to make a speech "You don't want me to make a speech, you just want to hear one of those things!")
King Henry II of England. A great legislator and soldier-king who built an empire and gave it the rule of law, brought trial by jury to English Common Law (the basis of the legal systems of a hefty chunk of the planet, including America), built up the economy and brought an end to 20 years of brutal civil war, but you have onetroublesome archbishop brutally murdered in his own cathedral...
Niccolò Machiavelli was a strong supporter of republicanism and was even ambassador to France before the Medici regained power. But the only thing people remember about him is "The end justifies the means" and "It is better to be feared than to be loved," even though these lines were most probably written in a Stealth Parody.
Historically speaking, The Prince could aptly be subtitled "The game sucks and we all know it, but if one must play, this is how to win". What's more, the former line is actually a mistranslation; the original line actually cautioned against using the wrong means to achieve an end.
Peter Paul Rubens is a famous Baroque painter with many pieces of art of fully-clothed men and women. However, his name has become synonymous with full-figured women, whom he loved to use as nude models for his later works.
Henry Ford may have created the U.S. auto industry by applying mass production techniques to cars, but these days he's probably more likely to be remembered for his anti-semitism, or his hatred of cows.
The Apostle Peter. Despite everything else in his life, and despite being considered a saint by the Catholic Church and dying as a martyr, is mostly known for lacking faith and denying Jesus. (Unless you're Catholic; the first thing that pops into your head may be "Pope". But aside from the "keys of heaven" and the inverted cross, traditional iconography still links him with the cock that crowed at his denial.)
Saint Thomas. The only apostle of Jesus known to preach the word outside of the Roman empire (he headed for India). Only witness of the assumption of Mary into heaven. Purported author of the most controversial non-canon Gospels. Still best known for the whole "Doubting" thing.
Judas Iscariot. All the stuff he must have done as one of Jesus' disciples before his Face-Heel Turn (like preaching in pairs) is all but glossed over and people remember him best for his betrayal. The name Judas itself has never lived him down, becoming synonymous with traitor. In English Bible translations, the other Judas among the twelve apostles thus has his name rendered "Jude" while their names are identical in the Greek manuscripts.
Made all the worse by the fact that his actions were actually needed so as to fulfill what was God's plan. Patron Saints of Thankless Tasks, perhaps?
Though that is highly YMMV, mainly along the lines of "Jesus had to die, but Judas didn't have to be the one to get him killed."
Likewise, Liu Shan will always be remembered as the guy who destroyed Shu. Despite the fact that there were others who were responsible for Shu's downfall.
Actually those accomplishments are heavily exaggerated due to his somewhat iconic status with the Dynasty Warriors' series. Historically, he was not a particularly good leader, having lost the vast majority of his campaigns, including one where he was outsmarted by Lu Bu.
Milan Matulović, chess grandmaster since 1965 and one of the best Yugoslav players in the world in the 60s and 70s, once tried to take a poor move back using "j'adoube" (French for I adjust, in the sense of, "Hey, look, I'm not doing anything crazy, just adjusting this piece here, it wasn't on the center of the square.") and later won the match because the arbiter didn't see it then. He is now known as J'adoubovic.
William Shockley was the inventor of the transistor, the foundation of the miniaturization of electronics and the subsequent computer revolution. Yet near the end of his life Shockley became a laughingstock and a pariah due to his dedication to what he considered his real life's work: eugenics.
Alan Turing is mostly remembered for being a homosexual scientist who killed himself with a poisoned apple. Of his actual scientific career, only Turing Test is somewhat common knowledge.
Nikola Tesla, sometimes called "the man who invented the modern world". Just about any modern appliance that uses electricity requires the use of a device that was invented by him, or is an adaptation of a Tesla design. What's he remembered the most for? "Inventing" the Death Ray, or other such fanciful weapons of mass destruction. In fact, modern interpretations of him tend to Flanderise into a Mad Scientist, despite the many, many legitimate contributions he made to the utilization of electricity.
His name is slowly becoming redeemed however with many articles and people on the internet arguing for his place among some of the greatest inventors of the time, comparable to (and some consider him far beyond) Thomas Edison.
George Armstrong Custer is mostly remembered for his defeat at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Everyone though that Custer was a pompous inept commander, and few people acknowledged the fact that he was really a competent leader; Custer pulled a Big Damn Heroes move at the Battle of Gettysburg that ensured the Unions victory.
An urban myth states that Walt Disney was an anti-Semite. While not actually true, the myth lives on thanks to references in shows like Family Guy and Saturday Night Live. Of course, since the Walt Disney Company is such a massive target and easy to resent, this might say more about professional envy and cultural insecurities than anything else.
Francis Galton, the father of statistics, will always be remembered for his work in eugenics.
Sylvia Plath was one of the leading poets of the 20th Century, but today she's best known for having stuck her head in the oven.
There are a large number of people best known for disappearing mysteriously.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair
Defied by Alfred Nobel. He was the inventor of dynamite, but after a newspaper misreported that he passed way, he realized that he'd be forever remembered as a "merchant of death". To avoid this, he created the Nobel Prizes.
King George III is best known by the average non-Brit for one of two things: losing the American Revolution and/or going insane later in life. As such, he's all too often portrayed as a tyrant, a lunatic, or both.
One infamous incident had him mistaking a tree for Frederick The Great. This is by far the most famous example of his madness.
Dancer Isadora Duncan, in spite of an accomplished career, is probably best known for dying of a broken neck after her scarf got caught in one of the wheels of the car she was riding in.
Geraldo Rivera is still best remembered for the total letdown of Al Capone's vault.
Or being clobbered in the face with a chair by a skinhead.
Howard Hughes will forever be known for the utter insanity that plagued his later years.
General Douglas Mac Arthur has had his legacy tainted by his controversial actions in the Korean War.
It happened more recently than that. The Red Cross was doing the same thing in Vietnam as well.
While the Red Cross held meetings to debate what kind of relief and how much to send to victims of the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake, Sister Aimee Semple Mc Pherson of the Foursquare Church in Los Angeles was already organizing and supervising the dispatch of trucks loaded with food, water and supplies. As the Red Cross finally got its ass in gear, Sister was just sending off the second convoy from the church.
They also charged Wyoming farmers and ranchers for help during the tragic blizzard of 1940.
This is the reason there are, at times, laws in countries against stating the name of a person who is accused of committing a crime, or just convicted. Whether they are convicted or not, a condemning media can easily have them seen as a criminal regardless. This is more likely to apply to people who are legally children.
This can be exponentially worse with sex-related crimes, where even an accusation is something you might never be able to live down. And even if you're guilty only of something relatively minor, like public exposure, there's the sex offender registry to ensure you'll spend the rest of your life trying to convince new neighbors and bosses that you're not some kind of serial child rapist.
It gets worse when the said sex offender tries to get a job or move into a housing project, only to be turned away by employers who don't want a sexual predator working in their business and concerned parents not wanting the guy to be near their kids, even if he lives far away from a school. This forces the sex offenders to live in the streets homeless and may return to a life of crime. Even worse, because U.S. laws function by specifically prohibiting what you can not do, it means that while sex offenders are not allowed to live near schools, certain housing areas, and within some cities, towns, and subdivisions, which means that that can't be in those areas, it also means that they're forced to live in the outskirts or in surrounding rural areas where it's impossible to track or keep tabs on them because they've been pushed out of areas with police and surveillance as well as where there are people to watch them. While this is just plain sad with most people on the registries (who really aren't all that evil), it's absolutely terrifying when it comes to those who really are serial rapists and/or actual child predators, because now nobody knows where they are because they've been forced to avoid living in any kind of place where it would be feasible to keep tabs on them! To quote a Cracked article on the topic of misaimed laws...
So you take a guy who's committed a crime. Now you put him on a registry that may keep him from getting a job, or making friends, generally just totally isolating him for the rest of his life and giving him lots of free time. Do you think that makes him less likely to commit another crime?
A great example of what happens when the name isn't omitted is the story of Gino Girolimoni. Arrested with the charge of kidnapping, raping and murdering seven little girls, he was later freed because of the lack of evidence, but the newspapers had already ran a press campaign depicting him as guilty beyond doubt and glossed on his freedom. End result: Girolimoni couldn't keep his job and died poor and homeless, and to this day in many parts of Italy the name Girolimoni is synonimous with "pervert" and "paedophile".
A staple of basically every stand-up impressionist's act, except Pablo Francisco.
And in Pablo Francisco's case, what celebrities can Never Live Down is their own voices, which are used to hilarious effect simply because they are funny.
Regular comics don't have it easy either. Seinfeld is known for "What's up with that?", especially "What's the deal with airline food?"
Quite a few Real Life fighter pilots get their callsigns from one embarrassing / memorable act, even if it was only a one-time event, or taken out of context. (Contrary to many works of fanfic involving pilots, pilot callsigns are generally assigned, not self-selected.)
Example: There was apparently one young fighter pilot who wanted the callsign "Lightning," and tried to get everyone to call him that. His bug-eyed appearance and habit of bugging his seniors by telling them things they already knew about the aircraft got him named "Bug."
One pilot went by the callsign Mogas (pronounced Mo-Gas) because he once realised that he needed more gas.
Mongo. Big man, small peach imspediment.
Gash. Tall guy, failed to duck enough when walking under a sidewinder missile mounted on his parked aircraft. Admittedly, much cooler nickname than "Stitches" could have been.
NPR interviewed a pilot whose callsign was Poo. He refused to go into detail as to how he got it.
Honestly, too many callsign stories to list here, but many, many, many, can be found with a Google search.
A much-disliked pilot in the Fleet Air Arm insisted his hangar crew rename his plane after his girlfriend. He was not nice about and it and did not ask - he ordered. The irritated crew painted the name "Phyllis" on the nose of his plane as ordered. The pilot pronounced himself satisfied. After a discreet interval, the letters "SY-" were painted in front of the name. The pilot did not notice. Everyone else on the carrier did.
Marie Antoinette, for the (in)famous "Let them eat cake" line that she didn't even say. Although she got loads of worse associations in the century after the revolution, based on what the libel pamphlets claimed she did.
Gerald Ratner. He ran a company making very cheap jewellery. At one function, he said in his speech: "We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, "How can you sell this for such a low price?", I say, "because it's total crap." His company's stock dropped by £500 million and, in British business circles, such a gaffe is referred to as a "Ratner".
To this day, it isn't uncommon to hear people use The Crusades as an example of how dangerous Christian fanaticism can be, nevermind that there hasn't been a crusade in centuries. Or that, in the context of the Middle Ages, the Crusades were actually launched in self-defense.
Pretty much anyone who is well-known mainly via supermarket tabloids.
The Space Shuttle Challenger completed nine successful missions before it exploded. But there are not mentions of those. From all the stories about it, you'd think it was the maiden voyage.
The Space Shuttle Columbia gets this sometimes, too, especially among younger people and it flew successful missions for TWENTY YEARS before it was destroyed.
NASA itself suffers from this. The organization that managed to put man in orbit, man on the moon, recover from a potential disaster in the middle of space, nearly 130 space shuttle missions, with a grand total of 17 fatalities (3 operational accidents: Apollo 1 in 1967, Challenger in 1986, and Columbia in 2003) in 40 years, land rovers on Mars, send probes outside the solar system, and the only time they get attention (lately anyway) and thus cries for them to be permanently shut down, is when an accident occurs.
In Apollo 13, it's pointed out that very few viewers tuned in to the liftoff and none of the networks aired an in-flight broadcast, but after the accident, suddenly everyone's interested (and becomes a space expert as well).
Marilyn Lovell: I thought they didn't care about this mission. They didn't even run Jim's show. Henry Hurt: Well, it's more dramatic now. Suddenly people are... Marilyn Lovell: Landing on the moon wasn't dramatic enough for them. Why should NOT landing on it be?
Cleveland: Where rivers are flammable. The infamous Cuyahoga River fire was forty years ago. It wasn't the first, but it did get them to clean up their act.
Kansas is forever seen as being stuck in the early 20th century, thanks to stuff like The Wizard of Oz, which was written and/or made in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. That's like thinking that New York is still stuck in the late 1800's because you saw it in Gangs of New York. Or for being very boring politically (Bob Dole, anyone?), even though Kansans were in the 1890s rabid supporters of the People's ("Populist") party - the Occupy Wall Street movement of its day. (Of course, most Kansans have consciously disavowed their radical political heritage, so they may not mind it much.)
Oddly enough, all of Great Britain is seen as this as well.
The literary journal Social Text published a paper by physicist Alan Sokal that was a parody of postmodern philosophy as a protest against "fashionable nonsense" in the humanities. When the hoax was revealed, many people saw it as discrediting postmodernism.
The US joining the two world wars years after they had started, creating many 'late to the game' jokes throughout the decades.
Winston Churchill: You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing — after they've tried everything else.
Whenever a 'Flavour 2' from Eagleland gets into a fight about the wars with any other citizen from another nation, expect this to be brought up immediately after the American makes the obligatory "If it weren't for us you'd be speaking German!" comment. If the hapless citizen being thus addressed is British, the obvious riposte is "If it weren't for us you'd be speaking Dutch". For other Europeans, a polite (and possibly confusing) reply might be "Not really, but without you we might have been speaking Russian, thank you."note by the time US forces showed up in Europe, the Soviet Union was well on its way to beating Germany more or less on its own — Allied summit meetings from that time on spent less time planning the war than bargaining with Stalin to limit Soviet influence over Europe after the war, something which would have been very hard to do had USA not made it clear that isolationism was a thing of the past
Another thing bashers always bring up is the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Going by lower limits of the number of Hiroshima and Nagasaki casualties and the 9/11 casualties (according to the other wiki), more civilians died in the first 4 months of the bombings than would have died in 50 WTC attacks. Of course, apples and oranges, but it could segue into a discussion about whether embargoing Japan constituted a declaration of war and the validity of pre-emptive attacks (vis a vis Pearl Harbor, the Iraq war and the September 11th attacks) which would be a marked improvement over mud slinging.
The American South is never going to live down that whole slavery thing. It doesn't help that they fought a whole civil war to try and keep slavery, the end of slavery was followed by nearly a hundred years of Jim Crow laws, and even today there are southerns who proudly wave the Confederate flag. Still, there's no good reason to think that all those people spent every waking moment of their lives trying to devise new ways to screw over black people. (Echoed in John Updike's Rabbit Redux, where he has a white character say to a black one: "You talk as the whole purpose of this country since the start has been to frustrate Negroes.") Even the argument that they believed blacks to be inferior to whites well into the twentieth century isn't accurate, either: the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision, however reprehensible it was, flat-out stated that the races were equal.
Call this Southern bias, but some history courses teach that Confederates seceded from the union not necessarily because they were hell bent and determined to keep slavery alive as an institution, but because northern states tried to force them to go along with abolition. Complicating matters was that the South's economy at the time was dependent on slave labor, and so any laws which did away with slavery would economically cripple the South (which is exactly what happened after the Civil War). Hell, even their best general, Robert E Lee, thought slavery "...as an institution is a moral and political evil." Oh Irony...
Well the Little Rock Central High School incident didn't help any. Nor is the fact that a number of the declarations of secession included slavery as the first grievance as cause for secession.
Any school shooting will invariably become a major one of these for that school. The school itself will not be blamed for causing it (rock music, video games, TV, and/or guns will be blamed instead), but suffice to say that unless you yourself actually go or went to that school, said shooting will likely be the only reason you know it exists.
Pop quiz: Name the first thing that comes to mind when you hear "Pulaski, Tennessee"... other than "Birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan" (A stigma the town has been fighting for decades).
On the other hand, filmmaker Spike Lee seems to lay the blame for this on Indianapolis, Indiana. While it's true that Indianapolis probably had more Klansmen per capita than any other major American city in the early 20th century, it is clear that Lee didn't check his facts - which is rather disappointing, because (for his movies, at least) he usually does.
Devotional self-crucifixion only occurs among a very minor community in the Philippines, mostly around the city of San Fernando, Pampanga. Foreigners who hear about this are understandably extremely weirded out and think that the practice is not only common in the Philippines, it's accepted and encouraged. It is not: the Catholic Church refuses to endorse them. Outside of those certain communities, most Filipinos find such self-crucifixions unnecessary and unhealthy too.
The Daily Mail will never live down how it once supported Hitler's Nazis; some people argue that it still does.
Anyone who is caught cheating on their spouse can fall under this. Many people today seem to be taught to never forgive or forget, as they will constantly remind the person that they are a horrible person because they cheated, even if they've done all they can to make up for it. It also doesn't help that many talk shows and TV drama shows display this type of behavior.
It also doesn't help that many caught cheaters, along with many who simply don't subscribe to monogamy, will try to excuse their behaviors with the flimsiest of rationales: "It was just sex/a fling." "It didn't mean anything." "I'm a Man, I Can't Help It." Or the ever-popular "If I was getting what I needed at home..."
Given that in some countries adultery is a crime punishable by death (though in several of those countries a woman's testimony is not as reliable as a man's), a partner with a "zero tolerance" policy towards cheating is rather insignificant in comparison.
This is more or less the rule for all nicknames: commit one innocuously embarrassing act at the age of 8, and be nicknamed after it forever.
Scott Adams, in The Joy of Work, recommends not saying anything at all around witty people that they can use to make fun of you. He gives an example in which a speaker says they watched a movie last night, is called a "couch potato", and despite their best efforts is nicknamed "Spud".
Coca-Cola is still ridiculed over New Coke. This despite the fact that the original Coke was already losing ground to Pepsi at the time, and that New Coke used the same formula as Diet Coke which was also outselling the original. Or that they switched back less than three months later due to the backlash. Apparently the stupidest thing a company can do is go with what looks like a good idea by the research and then quickly correct their mistake when it doesn't work.
Lemmings. For the false assumption that they commit mass suicide, no less. What really happens is that some species of lemmings do mass migrations, and the migrating lemmings aren't smart enough to realize that some rivers and lakes are too wide to swim across, so they drown before before getting to the other side.
And Australians in general were left with the stigma of thinking a bereaved family member must have murdered the dead person themselves if they don't look sufficiently broken up.
When most people think of Mormonism, they immediately think of polygamy, despite the LDS Church banning the practice in 1890. And magic underwear.
Utah has trouble living it down as well.
Averted by Dow Chemicals, which acquired Union Carbide and found legal loopholes to make all of UC's obligations to clean up its horrendous chemical spill in Bhopal, India (a disaster 10-20 times worse than Chernobyl) simply disappear. Chernobyl is a Never Live It Down, but Bhopal is largely forgotten and Dow's image didn't suffer a bit.
This is probably because people in general have an irrational fear of radiation, such that nuclear disasters tend to be reacted to with a greater amount of panic than other types. Look at the press coverage of the Fukushima reactor disaster, which completely overshadowed the earthquake which set it off despite not a single person dying of anything radiation related; yet thousands died in the resulting tidal wave.
The Three Mile Island incident is still regarded as a terrible accident within America, going to far as to have it rated just 2 steps down from Chernobyl, even though no radiation leaked.
Considering that the rating, while being related to the damage done, is also influenced by the public's reaction, this is unsurprising. Then again, any incident involving a nuclear reactor is considered as a potentially extremely serious incident.
The M16 series has been the United States military's mainstay for half a century now. Thanks to both attempted sabotage and less-than-intelligent design decisions made before and during The Vietnam War where it was first fielded as a military weapon, it has a reputation that would suggest it can't even fire a full magazine without some form of problem rendering it unusable (especially when compared to the "leave it in a swamp for a month and it'll still fire" AK-47s it was fighting against at the time). Note that the guys in Army Ordnance recommended 117 improvements be made to the weapon before it was adopted. These changes included everything from chroming the bore, adding a gas piston, simplifying the bolt design, to changing the rifling twist rate. All of them were rejected with the response that if such things were needed, then Eugene Stoner would have put them there in the first place (ignoring that Stoner himself later did insist that these improvements were necessary). The M16 is as much a product of a political slapfight as it was experimental engineering.
And speaking of the AK-47, the AK series is probably never going to live down the fact that it is the most widely used assault rifle amongst terrorists, criminals and insurgents. Never mind that it is the basis of almost every assault rifle, SMG and marksman's firearm East of Germany and a few to the West, or that the AK-47 and its derivatives are used by just as many military and police agencies.
The AK-47 and its variants will also never live down the reputation for being inaccurate, with people seriously arguing that it's little better than an SMG. The AK-47 is hardly inaccurate for an assault rifle, which is meant to work at intermediate range (between 50 and 400 meters). But it's still a rifle, not an SMG or a shotgun, and it is sufficiently accurate when you know how to use it (i.e., aim down the sights, squeeze the trigger, apply basic shooting technique, adjust the sights, zero your sights, not spray it on full auto like an untrained idiot; anything one would do with any other rifle). Additionally, as far back as the redesigned AKM in the 50's, AK-series rifles have had accuracy comparable to most contemporary NATO assault rifles. Later models from the AK-74 onward have been known to surpass M16/M4 accuracy with alarming regularity. M4 military grade accuracy is only 5MoA. AK-74 military grade accuracy is about 3MoA. The misconception of M4 accuracy being extremely good comes from the extremely high performance demanded in the civilian AR-15 market. It doesn't help that many manufacturers of other rifles also play up the AK's reputation for inaccuracy to present their own designs as the better alternative to the cheaper Kalashnikovs and their various clones.
Yet another thing the AK-47 can't seem to live down is the accusation that it is merely the copy of the StG-44 because of a somewhat similar appearance, sometimes with the claim that the Soviets couldn't possibly have come up with such an innovative design of their own and had to have cribbed from "superior German engineering". This handily ignores the fact that the operating mechanisms of the rifles are completely different, with the AK clearly being the better design. As noted in the Rare Guns page, the Sturmgewehr 44 was pretty fragile for a combat weapon, becoming unable to fire just from relatively light jarring and impacts, and was maintenance intensive. Contrast with the AK's (in)famously low maintenance and reliable firing mechanism.
A lot of complaints about the AK's perceived unreliability come from the fact that Mikhail Kalashnikov never patented it. Which means anyone with a foundry can start making them. This has led to some questionable knock-offs, which contribute to this reputation. For instance, one cannot compare, say, a Soviet-issue AK with a scratch-built copy made in a jungle factory in Angola.
Despite the city of Pittsburgh getting rid of most of its steel industry, most people who have never been to Pittsburgh still remember it as the polluted Steel City.
The Jeffrey Dahmer murders, to where many locals will go out of their way to point out that Dahmer was born in Ohio and was not native to the city.
In Wisconsin, Milwaukee has a reputation as a Wretched Hive, to where many out-state residents are too scared to even come to Milwaukee for anything but Summerfest or Brewers games... both of which are physically isolated from the rest of the city. Nevermind that Milwaukee's violent crime rate is actually 1 in 100, meaning there's a 99 percent chance you WON'T become a victim of crime in Milwaukee.
Arguably, this can happen in the case of radical or hard-line nationalists and revolutionaries. Imagine Mexico still viewing America as an evil enemy to this day over the Alamo and losing the Mexican-American War, and you get the idea.
Animals will be stereotyped accordingly to one trait, or one mishap by a member of the species. This is especially noticeable in Dog breeds; just ask anyone with a Pit Bull type breed.
Rottweilers will never live down their portayal in The Omen - they are always thought of as savage death-machines. In fact, they are some of the calmest and most intelligent breeds around, more likely to ignore an outsider than attack them. When they do attack, it is usually because of neglect (their "hellhound" portrayal has, naturally, led to some of the worst sorts buying them as guard dogs, which compounds the problem) or aggression on the part of humans. The reason attacks are sometimes fatal is not because they are inherently savage, but because they are really really really strong. There is a saying among owners: There are few bad rottweilers, but many bad owners.
Airlines who have major accidents can have this happen to them. Pan Am folded a few years after the Lockerbie bombing, and ValuJet changed their name to AirTran after Flight 592 crashed in the Everglades.
Ozzy Osbourne will always be remembered for biting the head off a live bat on-stage (he thought it was a prop, and there's debate as to whether or not the bat was already dead when it was handed to him).
There was also the time during a meeting with a record executive where it was planned to release two doves rather majestically. However, Ozzy instead choose to release one and bite the head off another. The record executive then did the rational thing and... signed him onto their record label.
Ozzy's become mighty tired of having to rehash the bat incident. In an interview he was asked about it, and very politely told the interviewer to fuck off, stating: "This is just repeating old stuff."
Especially since people were saying they had it coming about the Kobe Earthquakes, too.
There were also people saying this kind of comment about almost every other kind of natural disaster - count how many people make comments of "Well your fault, you chose to live there" whenever a wildfire breaks out or a tornado blows away half the town.
Maybe not so much tornadoes, but building your house in a wildfire zone is rather inexcusable. The US Forest Service are smart people. They know all about forest fires and wildfires and will cheerfully tell you where there is a high risk of said forest and wildfires. If you build your house in one of said zones because of the pretty view, and a wildfire or forest fire occurs, like it does many a year, and then your house burns down, well, that's that. The same goes for flood and hurricane zones. You built your house on sand in a flood zone. Then a flood happens. This isn't in respect to people in developing nations who live in a mudslide zone but have no choice, this is more people who can build their house wherever they really please and do so in a bad area to build a house. However, it's worth keeping in mind that there can be freak accidents...
The Canadian attitude towards Toronto is lukewarm at best. The stereotype is that Torontonians are self-centered, money-grubbing fussbudgets who panic at the mere mention of snow. Nowhere is this attitude more prevalent than Quebec, the Prairies and Northern Ontario. Imagine the reaction when, after a particularly nasty snowfall (about a metre; child's play for Quebec, the North or the Prairies) the mayor of Toronto called in the Armed Forces to assist. With snow. In Canada. You don't need to, actually. The reaction was laughter. Lots of it.
Britain also gets this quite a lot.
In a related story, their neighbors to the south aren't going to let Atlanta forget how they shut down the city after getting two inches of snow while northern cities like Chicago, New York and Boston got far worse and stayed open. Jon Stewart mocking them for this probably isn't going to help.
Several design flaws contributed to the infamy of the DC-10 when it started rolling out in the 1970s which were 1. cargo doors that were very hard to close and latch properly 2. vents that were not sufficient enough to equalize cabin pressure in the event of an explosive decompression 3. the hydraulics and control cables were routed into the cabin floor 4. no locking mechanism on the leading-edge slats in case of failure and 5. no backups in case of complete hydraulic failure. These flaws contributed to most of the 1,261 occupant fatalities incurred since May 2013. And as a result, the DC-10 was discontinued in 1989 due to plummeting demand since very few people wanted to fly in them.
Earlier it was the De Havilland Comet that caught flak for it, despite being the first jet airliner (and thus not having all of the bugs worked out), and for flying outside modern parameters (cruising altitude was 13 km, compared to today's 10km).
Another plane that still generates a Broken Base is the F-104 Starfighter. The first reason was that it had developed a reputation as an unsafe and unreliable aircraft. Erich Hartmann, one of the first people to ever fly in a jet fighter and a commander in the West German Luftwaffe declared it unfit for Luftwaffe service. This was before the Starfighter was even introduced. The second was the Lockheed Bribery Scandals. It made it look like the Starfighter was so bad/dangerous to fly that you had to bribe some one to use it. Needless to say, there is still some argument as to if the Starfighter deserves that reputation or not.
Ask anyone what immediately comes to mind when they think about Chicago, Illinois. One of the biggest cities in the Midwest? Final stop for cowboys on long cattle drives? The Sears/Willis Tower? Nope. Most of the time, it will be one of four things: Bootlegging, Al Capone, The Mafia and corrupt politicians.
Los Angeles still has an unfortunate reputation as a haven for gang violence; it's still the go-to city for movies, shows, and games which focus on this sort of thing.
Due to its heavy reliance on regular expressions and its extreme flexibility, Perl got a reputation as a programming language designed to create unreadable programs.
Just about any police force involved in a major scandal will have that scandal tacked onto their reputation for years to come. The Rampart Scandal and Rodney King incidents for the LAPD, the police corruption and sodomy scandals of the NYPD, the mob-era corruption and the 1968 DNC riot for Chicago, the WTO riot for the Seatle PD, etc.
McDonald's is obviously not a healthy place to eat often, though the fast food chain has attempted to offer healthy alternatives. Despite this, opponents of the chain will always regard it as the place where everyone gets obese and how there were several lawsuits from people trying to sue because the food made them fat.
Anyone that goes on a game show and fails so horribly. You can bet that random strangers that run into those people will cheerfully remind them how bad they failed and even friends and family members can get in on the act if it was that bad (such as losing all the money they collected instead of checking out early to keep what they won). Thanks to the internet, these epic fails will remain for eternity for everyone to see.
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Anything made in China is considered as low quality knock off items that are made from lead, and break down easily.
Any stereotype you may have about Africa, where some seem to think that African states are either primitive and tribal or ruled by a warlord, with people wielding machetes to hack peoples limbs off, or mutilating women's genitals. Yes, they may have some of the worst-off states in the world, but there are successful and growing ones too.
Try to mention one thing about Rwanda other than the genocide in 1994.
And then there's South Africa. Its had a hard time shaking its Apartheid past, a regime that has earned many comparisons to Nazi Germany. It also got known for being the go-to source for mercenaries, to the point where the character of a South African mercenary is almost a trope in and of itself. Its a reputation that South Africa has tried to curtail by banning its citizens from joining mercenary groups or PMC's, not that it stops them from trying.
Groups who are against Israel will always pull up the attack on the USS Liberty, but they will never mention the fact that Israel apologized for the incident, and already paid 17 million in reparation for the survivors.
Bill Buckner had a successful career as a first baseman, but is mostly known for his error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series that allowed the Mets to score the winning run. Never mind that the Red Sox's Bob Stanley airballed a pitch that allowed the Mets to score the tying run and gave Mookie Wilson a confidence boost, or the fact that the Sox had already gotten the first two Met batters out before imploding. Or that Buckner, at that time in his career, had been so slowed by ankle and knee injuries that it's debatable whether he could have beaten the very fast Wilson to first base had he fielded the ball cleanly (although that would have left the bases loaded for the Mets' next batter).
YMMV on that one...Buckner returned to Fenway Park for its 100th anniversary to a rousing ovation, proving that he's not the pariah in Boston that he once was, and the incident is just baseball lore now.
In 1989, the British tabloid The Sun ran a completely falsified article in which they accused Liverpool fans of attacking victims of the Hillsborough football stadium disaster. It was so offensive and disgusting that over two decades later, most newsagents in Liverpool still refuse to stock The Sun. They couldn't even give it away for free if they tried. People won't even use it as toilet paper.
The dinosaur Oviraptor. Its name means "Egg Thief" because the first fossil specimen was found right next to a clutch of eggs and thus scientists presumed it was stealing them for food. However, it was later found out that those eggs were its own, and it was likely trying to protect them. Despite this, its name has never changed, and it is generally portrayed as an egg robber in most dinosaur media. While it probably did eat eggs to an extent, said eggs were probably not its Trademark Favorite Food.
Similarly, Apatosaurus is never going to live down the whole "Brontosaurus" debacle. That happened when one Othniel Charles Marsh, eager to earn some points in the "Bone Wars", dubiously claimed a new genus based on fossil remains that only qualified as a new species in the Apatosaurus genus. The non-existent dinosaur ended up becoming not just a popular dinosaur, but a by-word in the public lexicon for any sauropod dinosaur. note Incidentally, Firefox's spell checker does not recognize Apatosaurus as a word. The word it recommends you change it to? Brontosaurus. Our point has been made.
The Teamsters Union is best known for its corruption and ties to organized crime.
Ask anybody what they know about Latin America. Chances are, the answer will include the drug trade.
Colombia in particular got hit by this hard. Between the seemingly never-ending cocaine-funded FARC insurgency and playing host to drug kingpins like Pablo Escobar, Colombia has a reputation as an unsafe place exploding with drug-fueled violence. (Of course, Colombia is one of the world's most crime-ridden countries, with one bus in the city of Cali having its passengers robbed every single day; but, to say the least, it's unlikely that so much vicious crime is attributable to drugs alone.) They have awesome coffee, though.
The American auto industry is still struggling to move past the legacy of its '70s Dork Age.
Ask any random layperson about the play Our American Cousin. If they know what it is at all, odds are they'll only know it as the play that was showing at Ford's Theater when Abraham Lincoln was killed.
For that matter, Ford's Theater itself. The way most people know it, you think it was constructed just to shoot Lincoln in it.
The Catholic Church has yet to live down a number of things:
The Spanish Inquisition
That wasn't even under control of the Church proper: it was a Spanish invention and under control of the Spanish Crown, because the Roman Inquisition was considered too soft.
When the Ford Motor Company was developing the Pinto, a few of the prototypes that were built actually had airbags and plastic fuel cells. These then-innovative and brand new safety features could've made the Pinto an engineering marvel that was very affordable and safe to drive. But Ford ultimately decided that it would be cheaper to settle the lawsuits of victims who were killed in the Pintonote note that that doesn't include "injured" - they had apparently assumed a 100% fatality rate in Pinto-related accidents instead of keeping those safety features and making it slightly more durable. This callous calculation led to the effective damnation of the Pinto as a fiery death trap by 95% of the American people.
Speaking of Ford, the Edsel was an epic failure that cost them $350 million dollars in lost investments. It seems as though everything about this particular brand of automobile was cursed with misfortune such as bad advertisement, bad design, bad quality, bad timing, bad pricing, strong competition, and bad company politics. Because of this, the name "Edsel" has become synonymous for any investment that backfires catastrophically.
In social psychology, this is known as the "devil effect", the inverse of the "halo effect," where one piece of negative information overshadows any positive traits a person has.
Anarchists will never live down their early history of violence and assassinations, including the Haymarket bombing and the assassination of President William McKinley. Many anarchists are in fact pacifists.
Northern Ireland is, without a doubt, best known for The Troubles.
Dolly Parton defies this trope. Whenever she tours in northwestern Europe, she always stops in Belfast, because that is where her family was from.
Regular Ireland hasn't yet gotten past its reputation as a place of suffering.
The Aztec Empire had some incredible cultural accomplishments, but the only thing most people know about them is human sacrifice.
Ditto Carthage. What makes this really unfair is that nobody really knows if the stories of child sacrifice are actually true, or just Roman propaganda.
Opponents of laissez-faire capitalism will always bring up the brutal regime of Augosto Pinochet, who was influenced by the Chicago School of economics and was even praised by Milton Friedman, who therefore also gets this treatment.
General Pierre Cambronne defiantly said "Merde !" to the English asking him to surrender at Waterloo. To this day, that swear word is still known as "le mot de Cambronne".
Marshal Auguste Marmont was a close friend of Napoleon and a skilled artilleryman who betrayed the Emperor at a critical time in 1814. Since he was the Duke of Raguse, the verb "raguser" was invented as a synonym for betrayal. The Bourbons, whom he supported faithfully afterwards, did not forget this : as he was failing to suppress the 1830 July insurrections, the Duke of Angouleme asked him : "Will you betray us, as you betrayed him ?"
And of course, Marshal Grouchy was an incompetent fool who lost Waterloo. Nothing else (never mind that he wouldn't have been made a Marshal in the first place if he wasn't an excellent soldier).
Saxony. A state in eastern Germany which has some wonderful scenery and beautiful towns, but is still derided throughout the German-speaking world for its odd and harsh-sounding dialect. Not to mention the usual East German stereotypes.
Former Brazilian football players Pelé and Ronaldo will never be allowed to forget their unfortunate quotes of asking the Brazilian people to forget the riots — which were against corruption and injustice — and think only about the World Cup, and that you don't make a World Cup with hospitals, but stadiums, respectively.
Pelé kicked it Up to Eleven and said that "Brazilians ruin the party" in regards to the protests against the World Cup which is costing heavily to the public coffers.
Poor, poor Ronaldo. He'll always be remembered by casual soccer players as that "fat soccer man from Brazil who loves transvestites". Not only he's actually a stocky but fit player during his young year, he actually looking for a cis woman (he's heavily injured and diagnosed as having pituitary gland problem recently at that time) and accidentally took some transgender prostitutes accidentally instead. He even paid them so they won't talk about it because he's so embarassed by it. The transvestites decided to do it anyway.
Due to his weight, some people thought that Ronaldo's a classic poacher, where he will stay on the front line for the entire time and got his goals from a sharp, but not very flashy way. Ronaldo's actually a very active player that he can qualified as the playmaker for the team. And many of his goals are actually from either deep solo runs, or strong and well placed shots. Even after he became fat and injury prone, he's still fast enough to do this.
Weather reporters on TV always get the forecast wrong, despite the advent of sophisticated computer modeling for weather forecasts.
The United States Navy hasn't been able to live down an incident in 1989 where it allowed Cher to use an aircraft carrier for her "If I Could Turn Back Time" music video.
Emperor Nero burning Rome.
Lamarck Was Right: French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) was the first scientist to formulate a coherent theory of evolution, discovered and named numerous plants and animals and inspired Charles Darwin. However, he is mainly remembered for being wrong, where Darwin was right.
General Benedict Arnold is so infamous for his plot to betray West Point to the British in the American War of Independence that his name is still synonymous with "traitor" in the United States. note See for yourself: if you type "Benedict Arnold" into a search bar on This Very Wiki, the first result is the trope page for the Turncoat trope. But his many, many acts of valor before his betrayal, when he was one of the most important American military figures in the war—most notably in the Saratoga Campaign, where his actions largely led to the war's turning point—are brought up comparatively little.
Similar to the Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys example above, Italian military is often considered beyond bad. While this has a better base in reality (for example, Italy's Epic Fail in the first invasion of Ethiopia, or the Italian fleet getting spanked at Lissa by an outnumbered and outgunned Austrian fleet in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866), what most look at is the lackluster performance of the Italian military in World War II, where Italy fought a war they weren't ready for and didn't want to fight against a country they considered an ally (Britain. In fact, when Mussolini announced the declaration of war the public booed him when he got to say it was against them), and glosses on the Royal Italian Army shortening World War I by crushing the Austro-Hungarian Army and triggering the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Germany expected to be able to fight through the winter and get better peace conditions, but the collapse of Austria-Hungary meant there were over a million soldiers coming from south with the entire army stuck in France), or multiple acts of valor Italian troops committed in World War II (there's a good reason if Rommel considered the Italian soldiers better than his own, as long as he could separate them from their infamously incompetent high officers: he saw them doing what his German soldiers couldn't do multiple times).
Norman Mailer had to deal with the embarrassment of being known as "the young man who can't spell fuck" after the multiple appearances of the word "fug" in his book The Naked and the Dead.
There's also the matter of him attempting to parole a violent criminal because he could write well. The criminal - Jack Abbott - went to jail after killing while on parole.
Jamaica is known as a land where everyone looks and talks, and smokes marijuana like Bob Marley.