Never Live It Down / Real Life

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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  • 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.
    • The late Governor-General John Kerr is still best remembered, and even vilified, for his role in the Australian Constitutional Crisis of '75, which saw the aforementioned sacking of Whitlam and ended up having far-reaching consequences even outside of the country, as dramatised in the spy thriller The Falcon and the Snowman.


  • William Lyon Mackenzie King is remembered chiefly for holding séances to ask his late mother and dog for advice, rather than his leadership during the Great Depression or World War II. Although he probably got off easy on that one, given other things such as his statement, when asked how many Jewish refugees would be allowed into Canada, that "none is too many", and his apparent inability or unwillingness to recognize just what kind of person Hitler really was.
  • Pierre Trudeau, who is arguably the architect of modern Canada, is remembered mainly for doing such things as flipping off a bunch of protesters, sliding down the banisters at Buckingham Palace, doing a pirouette behind the Queen on national television, and mouthing "fuck off" on the floor of Parliament (and then describing what he said as "fuddle duddle"). Or now, for his ludicrously good-looking son becoming PM.
  • Robert Stanfield came dangerously close to toppling the still-popular Pierre Trudeau in the 1972 election, and is still widely regarded as the finest leader of the Progressive Conservatives (if not any Canadian political party) who never got the opportunity to be Prime Minister. However, the image that most Canadians remember of him is his comically fumbling and dropping a football during the 1974 election campaign. His image never recovered from that, and it led to him being ousted two years later.
  • While he had a long and storied career as Prime Minister, the main thing that Brian Mulroney is remembered for — aside from winning two absurdly huge majorities and being Sir Swears-a-Lot — is his introduction of the Goods and Services Tax near the end of his time in office, something that tends to overshadow any debate about his premiership.
  • Mulroney's immediate successor, Kim Campbell is known for precisely two things — being Canada's first (and to date, only) female Prime Minister, and leading the Progressive Conservatives from a huge majority to only having two seats (neither of which she herself held) after the 1993 election.

Great Britain

  • 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. (Ironically, it's often American conservatives who are the hardest on him, even though Chamberlain was a conservative - or, more accurately, Conservative - himself.) However, other historians point out that Germany was also not ready for full on war and the Czech factories that fell into German hands undamaged were an extremely valuable asset throughout the war. Also, Hitler's planned invasion of Czechoslovakia was done as a war game exercise and the paratroopers spectacularly failed to do what they were supposed to. In addition around 1938 there was a plot brewing to assassinate and/or depose Hitler from within the Wehrmacht that got delayed and delayed until Hitler's political and military successes made it unfeasible. But to be fair to Chamberlain, he could not possibly have known any of that.
  • Oliver Cromwell has had his legacy irreparably tainted by his actions in Ireland. In England, he's best known for beheading King Charles I, briefly turning England into a dictatorial republic, and literally stealing Christmas.
  • Winston Churchill will always be remembered as the PM of Britain during World War II, 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 Cnut will always be remembered as the ruler who tried to order the tide not to come in. Doubly unfairly, his motivation is always misunderstood. He knew perfectly well he couldn't command the tides; the point of the demonstration was to show his lack of power compared to the Almighty.
  • Æthelred the Unready (Æthelred Unræd) is more famous than most of the other early Anglo-Saxon rulers simply because of his humiliating nickname. Incidentally, he is not "Æthelred the Unprepared", he is "Æthelred the Ill-Advised", since the Anglo-Saxon word "Unræd" means "bad counsel"; the bad advice he was given was to pay off the Danes rather than oppose them militarily. His nickname is ironic, since "Æthelred" means "Noble Counsel" in Anglo-Saxon.


  • Maximilien Robespierre is reviled across the world as a Knight Templar dictator who killed several thousands, and his own close friends Danton and Desmoulins, for the sake of ideology and power. In France, he's the only revolutionary leader who doesn't have a street name in Paris though politicians will occasionally acknowledge his complexity. Even conservative historians admit that Robespierre did not start the terror, that he was never a dictator but merely the most well known of the Committee of Public Safety, that he even saved several lives. Robespierre's name was even adopted by fighters of La Résistance during World War II. But since Robespierre is popular among far-leftists and communists, he's anathema to the French mainstream.
  • Adolphe Thiers is ultra-obscure these days, but he's generally remembered for his crackdown of the Paris Commune during the Bloody Week, regarded by leftists and other historians as one of the worst actions in French history.
  • French president and World War II hero Charles De Gaulle, known, in Canada, 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?".
    • Generally, the entire Anglo-Saxon world thinks of him as the prototypical French Jerk.
    • In France, de Gaulle is remembered, by leftists, as an authoritarian centrist who made the Fifth Republic into a quasi dictatorship, and paved the way for greater suburbanization and destruction of old neighbourhooods. The "May '68" protests was directed against his regime. The right-wing remember him as that guy who sold out Algeria, the extreme-right (aka Vichy-apologists) hate him for the liberation of France itself. It's proof positive that the Golden Mean Fallacy simply doesn't work.
  • Marechal Philippe Petain is known for being the leader of Les Collaborateurs rather than his record during World War I. Though to be fair, he absolutely brought that on himself.
  • Félix Faure is today solely known for dying whilst being in a private conversation with Marguerite Steinheil.
  • President Francois Mitterand is well known for his alleged role in ordering the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, which resulted in the death of a civilian photographer during the Greenpeace vessel's protests of French nuclear tests in the Pacific.
  • Likewise, Paul Deschanel is today known for Skinny Dipping in the fountains of the Élysée Palace.
  • Jacques Chirac is best known for keeping France out of the Iraq War, allegedly because he had negotiated trade deals with Saddam Hussein. As a result, he's seen by Americans - and by some of his own people - as either corrupt or a coward, or both. And like Chamberlain, he gets labeled a pantywaist leftist despite actually being a Conservative.


  • Paul von Hindenburg will forever be remembered as the guy who invited Adolf Hitler into chancellorship during his tenure as President of the Weimar Republic, either out of secret fascistic sympathies or blissful naivety in Hitler's character. What many ignore is his extensive military career in World War I and his political doings preceding Hitler (he wasn't called the "Ersatzkaiser" for nothing).
  • Joschka Fischer, a life-long leading member of the German Green Party, is mostly remembered for his utterance of "With all due respect, Mr President, you're an asshole" in the Bundestag from his long-haired rebellious days back in the 70s, as opposed to anything he did since then.


  • Agustín de Iturbide, liberator of México, will never live down two things. 1) He fought as a royalist, the opposition of the insurgents, who the government has characterized as the heroes. In truth, Iturbide was all for Independence, but the beginning actions of the Insurgents were so atrocious (basically an ethnic war against Spaniards and killing innocent civilians, down to women, children and the elderly) that he couldn't sympathize with them. Eventually, he started his own movement for independence, which did in 7 months what the Insurgents couldn't in 11 years, achieving Mexican Independence from Spain. And 2) Being Emperor. Though he was elected by congress legally and was vastly popular with the masses, his detractors will always invariably said he proclaimed himself emperor. Due to the Congress failing at its task of writing a new constitution for México, Iturbide dissolved Congress and replaced it with a smaller organism made up of the same representatives. This movement, intended to bring an end to power struggles, would be used by his detractors to forever brand him as a despot. Up to this day, in Mexico his actions are largely unknown or attributed unjustly to others, a fate which many an impartial historian has decried as incredibly unfair, denying him the recognition for his deeds of making his nation free, giving it a name (México) and creating its famous flag and coat of arms.
  • Porfirio Diaz is best remembered as a hypocrite who championed liberalism in the early years of his political career and then became a dictator. After the Mexican Revolution, some Mexicans even began to depict him as evil incarnate, spreading stories like the one that as a boy he maliciously set his brother on fire. (In truth, while Diaz did become an authoritarian, he was always a benevolent despot who merely had Condescending Compassion for the lower classes.) He's also remembered for his snobbery and self-hating racism in powdering his face to appear more white; while the face-powdering may or may not be true, there is no evidence that Diaz ever tried to hide or had anything but pride in his mestizo heritage.


  • 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's collection of thousands of pairs of shoes.

Saudi Arabia

  • King Saud is mostly remembered as a screw-up who drove the kingdom into debt before finally being forced to abdicate. It doesn't help that his brother and successor Faisal ended up being one of the most revered kings in Saudi Arabia's history.
  • King Khalid would never live down the fact that his family nearly lost control of the Grand Mosque - the holiest site in Islam - during his reign after radical Islamists seized it. He was also known for his poor health; he reigned for only seven years, and for much of that time, he relied upon his successor Fahd to conduct much of the royal business.

United States

  • 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.
  • 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 
  • President Herbert Hoover is continually remembered as the president who caused the Wall Street Crash of 1929. 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". 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".
  • Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today? 9.5 times out of ten, the only aspect of Lyndon Johnson's presidency people remember is the Vietnam War, despite that he passed Medicare, launched the War on Poverty, and did the equivalent of a President announcing that Black Lives Matter when he championed Civil Rights.
  • 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, where he was Chief Justice? Nope. None of that. People remember he was so fat he got stuck in the bathtub (which likely didn't happen). Within a year of leaving the presidency, Taft lost approximately 80 pounds, but nobody remembers that either. 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, or maybe as the first President known for being a fan of baseball and playing golf.
  • 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.
  • Richard Nixon was not a crook (a quote that is often presented as an unsolicited proclamation rather than part of a speech).
    • 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.
    • He will also never live down having said "If the president does it that means it's not illegal."
  • As a result of the above, Nixon's successor Gerald Ford also came to represent this trope as well. He is best known for exactly three things: first, being the only American president to hold office who never had a single person vote for him for President or Vice-President and for pardoning Richard Nixon for his crimes. Many have argued that it was "the best thing for the country" as the time, including himself. While we are not going to debate the truthfulness of this sentiment, Ford apparently felt that he himself should Never Live It Down, saying "I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon."
  • 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).
  • Throughout history, Warren Harding is best known solely for the many scandals to have plagued his presidency, not least of which was the infamous Teapot Dome Scandal which involved members of his own cabinet; Harding himself often lamented his election to the office and the various appointments he made coming into it, an especially unfortunate case as he himself never took part in the vast majority of these crimes and ultimately took the fall for them.
  • Jimmy Carter, despite being able to fend off giant killer rabbits will only be remembered for being an abysmal failure as president. Most of the things that happened on his watch - The revolution in Iran, the continued economic crisisnote  and the hostage crisis - are also things the President could do preciously little about. The fact that the hostages were released just hours after he left office serves as the ultimate Take That! by the Iranian regime against him.
    • And he was a peanut farmer.
    • And there was the admission he made in an interview with Playboy that Carter "lusted in his 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  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.
  • Similarly, John F. Kennedy remains one of the great liberal icons of American politics and is admired for his many strides in diplomacy and civil rights during his short time in office; however, revelations over his unfaithfulness to his wife Jackie in multiple affairs, among them an alleged one with Marilyn Monroe, have brought Kennedy's personal image back into question. Politically, JFK himself was furious over the spectacular failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, which would further damage relations between Cuba and the United States for many more years to come.
  • For the state of Illinois, anyone who has served as the Governor of that state tends to become this for the state, with no less than four (almost consecutively) having served time for various offenses.
    • Perhaps the most infamous of these is Rod Blagojevich, whose attempt to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat for personal profit upon Obama's election to the presidency led to him being vilified by the public and press alike. Unrepentant, he was barred from holding any future office in the state before being sent to prison over the affair.
  • 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.
  • Aaron Burr is best known for shooting and killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, 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.
  • James Buchanan will always be remembered as the President who did nothing to stop the American Civil War, and as the man to precede Abraham Lincoln. note 
    • Many also remember him as the only president who never married.
    • It could've been worse for him—he's more remembered for taking no actions to prevent the Civil War than he is for taking actions to help accelerate it.
  • 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.
  • Zachary Taylor was a renowned general of the Mexican-American War who eventually rose to the Presidency; his premature end after consuming a bowl of cherries and iced milk on a hot July 4th has sparked endless debate regarding the circumstances of his death, with persisting claims that he had been poisoned despite these claims having since been proven inaccurate; whatever the truth, Taylor's short time in the White House has left him little more memorable than one-month wonder William Henry Harrison.
  • Franklin Pierce is best known for perhaps more than anything else, his compulsive drinking.
    • Those who have done their homework however may also know him as the President who signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, expanding slavery westward across America and sparking a brief but bitter war between slave owners and abolitionists, serving as a sign of worse things to come. Perhaps one of the more brutal examples in history as Pierce never did escape the shame of this act even before he left the office, losing reelection and giving rise to the Republican Party and a man by the name of Abraham Lincoln.
    • Some people nowadays may also remember him as being a very good looking president.
  • Andrew Jackson is a very complicated individual. He is a badass war-hero who beat people with his cane, and seemed to represent the rise of the common man to the presidency. He created a budget surplus that was greater than the year's government expenditures, leading to the one and only time in U.S. history that all interest bearing national debt was paid off. 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?
  • 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 
  • 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."
  • Andrew Johnson is perhaps best known for three things: Being the man to succeed Abraham Lincoln upon his assassination, his racism against the former African slaves in what he declared was to remain "a government of and for white men", and for the fact that he could not read and write for much of his earlier life given his lack of a formal education.
    • Among his other spectacular failings was his handling of Reconstruction, being widely blamed for having stagnated the movement towards racial equality for decades morenote ; also his bitter rivalry with Congress, where he narrowly avoided impeachment and was thus quickly reduced to a lame duck president.
    • Trivia buffs may recall Johnson's affinity for white mice, or pardoning an alleged vampire. Not that they redound to his credit.
  • 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 of deindustrialization for post-war Germany which would entail the death by starvation of millions of Germans.
  • Go on, try to name one thing about Grover Cleveland without pointing out the fact that he's been the only president to have two non-consecutive terms. We'll wait.
    • He paid a substitute to serve in his place in The American Civil War, and was accused of fathering a child out of wedlock during his first Presidential campaign.note 
  • During his lifetime, William Jennings Bryan was primarily known as the major figure in the American Populist movement, leading major anti-imperialist, anti-trust and anti-gold standard campaigns that empowered millions of Americans and arguably invented modern popular democracy. Among other things, he became a hero to the anti-war movement for resigning his position as Secretary of State to protest World War I, and he was nicknamed "The Great Commoner" for his vocal hatred of elitism in American politics. At the end of his life, though, he also argued for the prosecution in the infamous "Scopes Monkey Trial" of 1925, where he vehemently fought to keep Darwinian evolution out of American public school science classes. For all of his contributions to populism, that last part has inevitably tainted his legacy, and it's now the only thing about him that many people know. He's also remembered for being the guy who unsuccessfully ran for the presidency as the Democratic Party's nominee four times.
  • Sometimes, simply having the same name as someone more well known can lead to this. For example, just try to think about James Garfield without thinking about THAT Garfield. Or Grover Cleveland without his first and last name's respective connotations to Sesame Street and Ohio.
  • Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress and helped grant women the right to vote, but the only thing people remember her for is being the only Congress member to vote against the US entering World War II after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
  • Most Americans know that there was once a President by the name of Millard Fillmore. Unfortunately for him, his name is usually the first and only thing most remember of him.
  • Vice President Spiro Agnew is perhaps best remembered for his conviction on charges of tax evasion and bribery during his time in office, resulting in him becoming the second Vice President to resign the post; especially ironic given that this was during the Nixon Administration.
  • In 1983, Mitt Romney spent 12 hours driving with his dog on the roof of his car. This incident was the subject of political attacks on Romney during his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.
  • Thanks to the "Daisy Girl" ad, Barry Goldwater is now chiefly remembered as an advocate of potentially apocalyptic nuclear war, and for losing a Presidential election over it. That he suppressed the ad after its initial broadcast apparently didn't help matters. He isn't even particularly remembered for having basically invented the modern conservative movement in the United States, because conservatives tend to credit this to other people.
  • Former Washington Congressman Rod Chandler had won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by incumbent Democrat Senator Brock Adamsnote  and during an October 16, 1992 debate with the Democratic nominee, little-known state Senator Patty Murray, the Congressman performed well for the first 58 and a half minutes of the hour-long debate. Then, Rep. Chandler suddenly broke into singing the chorus of the song "Dang Me" by country singer Roger Millernote . That gaffe, combined with the Murray campaign successfully tying Chandler to unpopular President Bush, would contribute heavily to Chandler's defeat.
  • Despite his incredible legal career, most people know Clarence Thomas from the sexual harassment charges against him. And for political wonks, he's most known for how consistently he votes alongside Justice Scalia, and very well-known for not asking questions of the lawyers that present their cases to the court... that is, until Scalia's controversial passing in 2016 that left a vacancy which is, suffice it to say, taking a long time to fill.
  • Despite his better track record with race issues since, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is never going to hear the end of some racist remarks that cost him a federal judgeship back in 1986. To put it in perspective, Axl Rose, who himself will never be able to live down the racist-at-first-glance lyrics in the second verse of "One in a Million" (mentioned on the Music subpage), criticized Donald Trump for making the appointment in the first place.
  • Played with in regards to Chicago Tribune political analyst Arthur S. Hemming. While many today remember him mainly for the infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" gaffe, it wasn't exactly memorable back then except that Harry S Truman was photographed smiling triumphantly while holding the paper with the erroneous headline, and when Hemming died his obituary made no mention of the incident.


  • 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 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.
  • Alexander Kerensky, the premier of the pre-Soviet Provisional Government. Everyone remembers one thing about him: how he had to cross-dress to escape the Bolsheviks. Older and more educated people also remember his Funny Money that came in 1x1 meter uncut sheets.


  • 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 successor, 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 allegedly 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 country: 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.

  • Movie and TV actors often find themselves regretting taking part in a particular production or a particular scene, often early in their careers, which comes to define them. In some cases, they spend years continually defending their decision, claiming (in public, at least) no regrets (for example, Chloe Sevigny agreeing to perform an unsimulated sex act on Vincent Gallo in The Brown Bunny which she was still defending in interviews a decade later despite having found acclaim with Big Love and other projects), or openly stating regret, such as Maruschka Detmers with regards to a similar scene to Sevigny's that she did in the mid-1980s for the film Devil in the Flesh. Part of this has to do with the stigma associated with such scenes in the past; with today's move towards more sexual explictness in film and TV the playing field is being leveled for many performers.
  • Entertainers in general are commonly associated with giving their children bizarre names after names like Audio Science, Pilot Inspektor, and Moxie Crimefighter.
  • John Landis was the man who gave us Animal House and The Blues Brothers, but his reputation will always be tainted by the grisly helicopter accident on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie which killed Vic Morrow and two child actors. The accident led to Landis being tried and acquitted for manslaughter, and is the reason why Steven Spielberg refused to further collaborate with him.
  • 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?)
  • Tom Cruise remains one of the biggest actors in Hollywood, but has caught a bad case of this because of his bizarre ties to Scientology.
  • Jenny McCarthy was primarily known as an ex-Playboy model and actress until she started her anti-vaccine kick in the late 2000s, making incendiary public statements against vaccinations and telling interviewers that it wouldn't be her "fucking fault" if communicable diseases came back as a result. Not only was the science she based her ramblings on discovered to be fraudulent, but her statements were blamed for a rash of preventable outbreaks after parents refused to give kids their shots. Jenny is nowadays regarded as a one-woman public health menace. Similarly, Suzanne Somers has become synonymous with pseudoscientific theories about cancer treatment.
  • Speaking of Playboy pinups, Anna Nicole Smith is practically an inversion. If all had gone well, she would have been remembered for her accomplishments at the beginning of her career in 1992-1993: becoming the tallest and heaviest Playmate in history, becoming the tallest and heaviest Playmate of the Year, and in general for her "all-American girl" image. Instead, she's remembered for everything that happened after that over the remaining 13 years of her earthly existence: being a Gold Digger (which was to some extent an unfair accusation), being a cheesy B-movie actress, gaining a gargantuan amount of weight and then becoming dangerously skinny on a controversial diet, her alcoholism and drug abuse, starring in a trashy reality TV show, and generally being popularly viewed as a freak.
  • 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 numerous expies 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.
    • Even otherwise, he's fondly remembered as a character actor in several Humphrey Bogart classics which remain far more widely seen than his early typecast villain roles — Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Beat the Devil.
    • All that having been said, he probably won't ever live down his spooky, bug-eyed expression or his unidentifiably "ethnic" note  and vaguely effeminate voice.
  • Woody Allen: Director, actor, screenwriter, comedian, playwright, musician, writer, director of one movie a year despite never having make a blockbuster. To most Americans, what really comes to mind when he's mentioned today is his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his ex-lover Mia Farrow, with whom he had little contact during her upbringing and only began a relationship when she was 19. However, the context of their relationship, the fact that he hadn't yet broken up with Farrow, that the latter found out in an embarrassing context, the perceived Wife Husbandry, the age difference (they married when she was 22 and he was 56) all added an image of Squick that Allen has never truly escaped. Related to this, is also the perceived declining quality of Allen's films, at least till the 90s (his 21st Century films Match Point, Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine are regarded as comeback films and commercially and financially successful releases). But generally, most younger filmgoers and the Tabloid press know him for is the marriage to Soon Yi and not the era in which his films were landmark events.
  • 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; when the panic got played up to extreme levels and prompted calls, it resulted in a nuclear-level anger reaction from CBS, who had broadcast the whole thing and, after hearing of the panic, forced Welles to cut the broadcast short.
    • During his final years in the '80s, he was best known for being one of the foremost advocates for the anti-colorization movement and for his final role (voicing one of The Transformers).
  • 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.
  • Paul Reubens, who portrayed the nutty man-child Pee-Wee Herman, will likely never be remembered for anything other than his arrest for indecent exposure in 1991 which pretty much blacklisted him in the film industry (it didn't help that rumors circulated that he wanted to shake off his image as Pee-Wee), made worse by his later arrest for possession of child pornography (what he actually had was kitsch memorabilia) in 2002. (Charges were later dropped in a plea bargain.) The jokes have never completely died off, but happily for Reubens, it seems like enough fans are willing to forgive him that a Broadway revival of Pee-Wee's stage show was both a critical and financial success and he teamed up with Netflix to make a Spiritual Successor to Pee-wee's Big Adventure.
  • 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. Even though she says she regretted the photo shoot almost immediately and has spent the past several decades apologizing for it. The lack of forgiveness probably has more to do with America's ongoing political and cultural controversies than with Fonda herself.
    • 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.
  • Judy Garland and drug addiction. Before child labor laws (and apparently common decency) were in place in the film industry, MGM execs would force the 15-year old Judy to take a combination of amphetamines and barbiturates to lose weight and keep her awake enough to work longer hours, all the while telling her that she would never be as beautiful as the other actresses she worked with. This traumatized her into severe insecurity for the rest of her life and her addiction was what eventually killed her. Yet even today she is the punchline to many a joke about drug addicts.
    • 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".
    • Numerous speculative reasons exist for Judy's appeal to gays. They're probably all true to some extent.
  • He acted in spaghetti westerns. He was the official pitchman for Nestlé Quik chocolate-milk mix. He even was offered the part of James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Doesn't matter one lick, because, to fanboys, Adam West will always bear the stigma of being the guy who made Batman camp and silly. (Not that he hasn't played along with the stereotype since then, mind you.)
  • 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 her film career.
    • Despite being a star of stage and screen for decades, Richard Burton is best known for having married Elizabeth Taylor twice.
    • And though this seems to be fading in the minds of younger people, Larry King also has that time that Marlon Brando kissed him on the mouth.
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor. Various TV appearances and a glamourous image? Not too close. Slapping a policeman and nine marriages? Right on the money!
  • If you ask any random person about Yoko Ono, they will say "the woman who disbanded The Beatles". Nothing about her career as a plastic artist, nothing about her childhood in Japan or even her actual relationship with John Lennon. Just that.
  • Bobby McFerrin is remembered for the song "Don't Worry, Be Happy". McFerrin is a serious jazz and classical composer/musician with 10 Grammys, but is known for one silly song.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Possibly (in part) thanks to the documentary Tantrums And Tiaras, Elton John is perhaps just as well known for his public outbursts and rantings as his image or music. Well, that or overspending.
    • His admission to having taken drugs and alcohol and being a bulimic and sex addict from 1975 to 1990 is a mixed bag, in that Elton still willingly discusses the fact, particularly to warn others against self-destruction, but it seems that it created a morbid fascination about his vices that envelopes anything else in his life or career in that time period, as can be seen in many YouTube comment sections of his videos. It doesn't help matters when live performances from his addiction period surface on the site, showing how seriously his intoxication has affected his performances at the time.
      • Relatedly, Elton possessed a powerful tenor vocal range and frequent use of falsetto singing up until the end of 1986, when nodules formed in his throat from the effects of bulimia and substance-fueled overuse and misuse. Surgery to save Elton's voice proved successful, but led to a lowering of his vocal range to the baritone register and reduced use of the higher registers. This has led to a Broken Base in his fandom for those who miss his higher range and falsettos post-1986, particularly as falsetto singing had been such a trademark of his early work. His few trips to falsetto range when singing classic songs known for displaying that range (especially on "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road") have proved a trainspotting sport for YouTube commenters. ("Ooh! Falsetto on 1:32!")
    • On a lighter note, Elton played a free concert in 1980 in Central Park in front of a record-breaking crowd of 400,000 fans (this at a low point in Elton's popularity). While a certain amount of his then-trademark flamboyant wardrobe choices were on display, in the last few numbers, Elton performed in a Bob Mackie-designed Donald Duck suit. Photos taken of him in the suit seem to be go-to Stock Footage for late-night talk shows and sketch comedy shows when parodying Elton.
  • Many younger people primarily know David Bowie for his performance in Jim Henson's Labyrinth.
    • 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).
  • Edward Bulwer-Lytton is most famous for writing the opening line "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night".
  • Joan Crawford is best known for how she was portrayed in Mommie Dearest.
  • 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.
  • Charles Rocket was part of Saturday Night Live in its infamous 1980-81 season, but most only know him for his ad-libbed Precision F-Strike during a sketch parodying the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of Dallas, which almost got SNL cancelled and got himself and the entire cast fired except for Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo.
  • 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.
  • Apple Records 1970s Power Pop pioneers Badfinger either tend to be better known for their musical/physical resemblance to The Beatles, or to the way they were swindled in the music industry, leading to the suicides of vocalist/guitarist Pete Ham and vocalist/bassist Tom Evans, than for their actual music.
  • To this day, very few people are willing to forgive Sean Penn for assaulting Madonna while they were married. She's moved on, though.
    • Plus a certain incident at the 2005 Oscars. Host Chris Rock had earlier made a joke about the huge number of movies Jude Law had been in that year, which Penn seemed to take bizarrely personally, and when his turn at the microphone came he laid into Rock for insulting a great actor.
      • Further Oscar appearances cemented him as someone who people are afraid of what he'll say. He accepted his Oscar for Milk saying "You commie, homo-loving, sons of guns," and awarded Best Picture to his friend Alejandro González Iñárritu by saying "Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?".
  • Comedian Hannibal Buress will forever be known as "The Man Who Took Down Bill Cosby." Despite the fact that he wasn't the one who released the infamous video of the "Cosby is a serial rapist" bit (It was a cell phone vid from an audience member) and he'd apparently been doing the bit for weeks before it went viral.
    • Cosby himself seemed to avert this for a time. The first rape allegation against him was publicized in the mid-'00s, but the case quickly faded from public consciousness and Cosby's reputation remained mostly intact. It wasn't until Hannibal Buress' routine went viral a decade later that the case was revived and more accusers came forward, which spelled the end of Cosby's career.
  • Mark Wahlberg has long since established himself as a capable actor, but people always keep bringing up his embarrassing-in-hindsight Marky Mark days (he even indulges in some Self-Deprecation Actor Allusion during the credits of Rock Star). This is even more prominent when you consider how people rarely bring up how his also actor brother Donnie used to be in New Kids on the Block.
    • On a more serious note, there are many who refuse to forgive him for the time when he, a drunken teenager at the time, assaulted Hoa Trinh (a Vietnamese immigrant) so badly that it apparently blinded the man in one eye. That said, when asked about the incident, Trinh said that he had forgiven Wahlberg for the crime, and even noted that he wasn't responsible for the blindness, saying that his eye "was already gone". Still, many others were appalled when Wahlberg petitioned for a pardon for the incident in 2014.
  • The tensions between Pink Floyd bandmembers, in particular bassist/vocalist/lyricist Roger Waters and guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour, reached a head during the recording of the 1979 Concept Album The Wall and its movie adaptation, to the point that Gilmour surrendered his role as co-producer of the 1983 album The Final Cut to Waters in frustration. Waters had tired of band diplomacy at that point and had effectively become Pink Floyd's main creative force of the deeply personal/political album. Waters left Pink Floyd acrimoniously in 1985 (amidst legal/management pressure) and, insisting the band was a "spent force", gave Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason the rights to the name Pink Floyd. When Gilmour and Mason (with help from The Wall producer Bob Ezrin and various session musicians, along with original keyboardist Richard Wright) released A Momentary Lapse Of Reason in 1987 without Waters, Waters threatened legal action. Though the case was settled out of court at the end of 1987, it created bitter feelings between Gilmour and Mason that would last until at least 2005 and the band's reunion with Waters for Live 8. The lawsuit and Waters' then-tense relationship with the press and overall dour attitude hurt Roger's image significantly as his former band's fortunes continued. Even after the bad blood had dissipated and Waters took a much warmer personality and image, even admitting in a 2013 BBC interview that he was "wrong" to fight Gilmour and Mason in the 1980s and 1990s, the feud is still much on the mind of the media and many Pink Floyd fans.
  • Keith Olbermann, despite successful sports broadcasting stints with local news teams on both coasts, CNN, ESPN, and Fox, and a mostly successful political broadcast run on MSNBC, has garnered a reputation of being a tyrant behind the scenes whose antics invariably get him fired. His on-air "Special Comments" do little to dissuade the reputation.
  • Kylie Minogue to the rest of the world: Famous pop star and actress. Kylie Minogue to the U.S.: Known for her cover of "The Locomotion" in the late 80s, the 2001 smash hit "Can't Get You Outta My Head"... and playing Cammy in the Street Fighter movie. Oh, and starring in Bio-Dome.
  • Leni Riefenstahl was a pioneering, extremely influential film director... who made propaganda films for the Nazis. After World War II, despite retaining a fan base among cineastes and fellow directors, she never shook the Nazi association - though, to be fair, her unwillingness to admit even mild support for the regime (claiming her films were mere "documentaries") didn't help. Riefenstahl never made a feature film after the war, save finishing an already-in-production film (Tiefland) and a documentary released in 2002. She did, however, have a successful second career as a photographer.
    • Tiefland generated even more controversy because Riefenstahl used Roma from a Nazi concentration camp as extras - who were later sent to Auschwitz, and many killed. Riefenstahl (who went on trial twice for this) always claimed that the gypsies loved working with her and that all of them survived the war; the latter claim at least was demonstrably false.
  • Geraldo Rivera will never be able to forget the live television special The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults, during which he hosted a heavily promoted two-hour special where he and a digging crew excavated Al Capone's vaults in an abandoned Chicago hotel; before an audience of thirty million, Geraldo was forced to concede defeat as absolutely nothing of value had been uncovered in the vault's excavation, and the special never aired again. Ironically enough however the enormous publicity of the event saw it turn into something of a Career Resurrection for Rivera, who still serves as a leading anchor on FOX News.
    • He also got a lot of notoriety for the time a skinhead broke his nose on camera. though that incident seems to be less well remembered these days.
  • Rob Schneider was one of the most popular comedy actors of the late '90s and early 2000s, but today is best remembered for being lampooned in the South Park episode "The Biggest Douche in the Universe." (when not for being one of the guys whose career only continues due to friend Adam Sandler, who produced all the movies Schneider was the main actor between 1999 and 2006)
  • Sean Bean is one of Hollywood's top character actors. Unfortunately, he has become the poster child for the Chronically Killed Actor trope, and that is now what he is best known for in the public eye.
  • Ever since his alcohol issues became public knowledge, Mel Gibson has been the butt of Ricky Gervais' jokes for years. At the 2016 Golden Globes, Ricky brought up the infamous "sugar tits" comment, which first made headlines in 2006.
  • Brazilian actress Claudia Ohana is forever associated in her country with a 1985 Playboy pictorial. Namely, her... Wild Hair. To the point a 2008 return to the magazine had the ads calling her "the most natural actress who ever posed for us" below this, which reads "Place your bets". By The New '10s, a fellow actress' pictorial had the media asking for Ohana's opinion, who eventually complained "I'm doing some fun things with my career, and all they want to talk about are pubes!"
  • Before February 2003, Great White was known as one of the many long-haired rock bands to come out of the 1980s. After February 2003, their notoriety is as the band that lit the pyro that burned down The Station nightclub in Rhode Island, killing 100 people.
  • This one counts for two very different individuals after one incident in 2008: Fatima Moreira de Melo is a very successful Dutch field hockey player, winning among others the gold medal at the Summer Olympics. After her hockey career, she became a professional poker player. Chantal Janzen is a successful Dutch musical singer and presenter. However, they are mostly remembered after Fatima sang a song at a Dutch TV-gala, which was presented by Chantal. The song didn't go very well. The first words from Chantal were (in Dutch): "Wat kan ze hockeyen hè, die meid?!" (Translation: "She really has hockey skills, this girl!"). The entire audience was in stitches after this comment. When one of them, but especially Fatima is mentioned, this incident is often referred to See for yourself.
  • Ted McGinley is often referred to in the context of Jumping the Shark, as in "This show is doomed because he joined the cast." Even those who enjoy his work and think well of him have made such jokes. The basis for this is due to him being a cast member on Happy Days and The Love Boat during their Seasonal Rot phases, with the old Jump the Shark website really popularizing the sentiment years ago. Of course, viewers have noted in McGinley's defense that the two cited shows were already going downhill before he joined up (with Fonzie's infamous shark jump happening three years before the fact). McGinley has had a good sense of humor about it, such as joining in the Jump the Shark parody in the last episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
  • 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.
  • 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).
    • Better that than drunkenly peeing on the Alamo, which got him banned from Texas for nearly a decade.
    • 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."
  • Steve Harvey will likely never live down accidentally crowning the wrong winner at Miss Universe 2015. It's become so wide-spread that when Warren Beatty made an equally embarrassing gaffe at the 2017 Academy Awards, Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel immediately quipped that he blamed Steve for all of this. To be fair, Harvey has taken it in stride, joking on Twitter that Beatty could call him for advice on damage control, and was even invited back to host Miss Universe 2016.
  • Andy Robinson had to change his address after receiving a lot of death threats following his performance as Scorpio in Dirty Harry.
  • Fox News most popular and influential news personality, Bill O'Reilly has dealt with accusations of sexual harassment most of his career, (spanning two decades) and in 2016 went on record defending Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News who, himself, was involved in a major sexual harassment scandal that forced him to resign. Some cases Bill O'Reilly even settled out of court. However, it finally caught up with him when in early 2017 after numerous women began to come out and sue Bill O'Reilly after years of suffering in silence. It caused many huge advertisers to pull their sponsors from his show. In April 2017, after growing protest and more women coming out against him, Fox News fired its most popular news personality, despite ratings for his show being higher than ever.

    Other Creators 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Can anyone name anything by Vladimir Nabokov that isn't Lolita?
    • Anyone who has ever taken an AP English class will be very familiar will his lecture "Good Readers and Good Writers."
  • 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.
  • Henrik Wergeland is basically remembered for two things: the fight for allowing Jews to enter Norway, and for getting drunk at the wrong time and place. A case of Memetic Mutation occurred, and Wergeland was suddenly only remembered for being drunk - most of the time.
    • The incident at the guardhouse contained a couple of German guards, a bowl of punch, and Wergeland himself. The beverage was not even potent to any degree, but Wergeland was caught red handed by a guy who wanted to slander him, and then the story spread. He never lived it down, and as a result, he lost all opportunity to ever become a priest. After his death, this incident was exaggerated to make him an inspired drunkard who happened to like Jews!
    • Outside his own country, his reputation is significantly better— if he's remembered at all, it's for Creation Man And The Messiah.
  • 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.
    • Similarly, Vaughn Meader, a best-selling comedian whose key act was his spot-on impersonation of John F. Kennedy (one of his albums, The First Family, sold millions). Then Kennedy got assassinated, and his career was over, since no one could think of him doing anything else. Lenny Bruce opened his first performance after the assassination with "Whew! Vaughn Meader is screwed!"
  • Regular comics don't have it easy either. Jerry Seinfeld is known for "What's up with that?", especially "What's the deal with airline food?" despite the fact that Seinfeld himself never said that.

    Other Persons 


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. Remember that trying to intentionally invoke this on someone is committing the fallacy of "poisoning the well."
  • Pretty much anyone who is well-known mainly via supermarket tabloids.
  • 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".
  • 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 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 a 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".
  • 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. Parodied in the "Weird Al" Yankovic song "I Lost on Jeopardy":
    Announcer Don Pardo: But that's not all. You also made yourself look like a jerk in front of millions of people, and you brought shame and disgrace on your family name for generations to come.
  • Any journalist who's been caught plagiarizing or has committed any particularly egregious Critical Research Failure.
  • Weather reporters on TV always get the forecast wrong, despite the advent of sophisticated computer modeling for weather forecasts.
  • All psychologists sit in couches, talking about your mom.
  • 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.
  • Police officers and their arrests, beatings, and killings of undeserving people. The acquittal of NYPD officer Richard Haste being celebrated by other cops doesn't help a bit.
    • 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.


  • Emperor Nero burning Rome, either For the Evulz or to clean up space for Nero's Domus Aurea, and playing the fiddle during the fire. Rome was rather fire-prone (one large fire would happen right after Nero's death), the fire started in a night two days after a full moon (not the best moment for arsonists wishing not to be seen) and well away the site of the Domus Aurea, he organized the relief efforts, paying for them with his own money and personally taking part in the search and rescue of survivors, likely wasn't even in Rome, and the fiddle didn't even exist yet (it would be invented only in 10th century, about eight or nine hundreds years later. In fact, those accounts describing him as singing and playing during the fire describe him playing a lyra).
  • 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 one troublesome archbishop brutally murdered in his own cathedral...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. These days, historians note that she's being treated in an overly hagiographic way with recent portrayals such as Marie Antoinette and Farewell, My Queen that she is known these days for "not" having said "let them eat cake" rather than the frivolous and wasteful spending of her and the court of Versailles while the rest of France suffered, something which made her notorious before, during, and after the French Revolution and contributed to the above misquote being attributed to her.
  • 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 emperor of France 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, at least for the time.note  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. People also like to depict him with his hand in his vest to a pathological degree. While he did do that in many official portraits, he did it because it was the style at the time.


  • General Xiahou Dun is mostly remembered for being shot in the eye with an arrow, rather than his many accomplishments as a military leader. Though at least Romance of the Three Kingdoms let him also be (untruthfully) remembered for pulling out the eye and eating it directly afterwards.
    • Actually those accomplishments are heavily exaggerated due to his somewhat iconic status with the Dynasty Warriors' series. Historically, Xiahou Dun was not a particularly good leader, having lost the vast majority of his campaigns, including one where he was outsmarted by Lu Bu.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Benedict Arnold is not remembered for any of the many victories he won for the American cause in the Revolution, including the tide-turning Battle of Saratoga, but for his betrayal of America and his attempt to surrender West Point to the British for a command and a hefty pension. His very name has since become synonymous with treason.
    • 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  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. It doesn't help that the monuments to his actions tend not to mention his name.
  • Charles Lee in his heyday was considered one of the finest British officers alive and his experience was considered so invaluable to the American Revolution that it was once expected that he would lead the Americans to victory against the British when he volunteered his services. Instead, he is now best remembered for nearly costing America the Battle of Monmouth when he withdrew in the thick of battle, insulting George Washington himself and losing his command for it. Later allegations of treason and collaboration with the British only amplified his blackened record.
  • A few examples from the French side of The Napoleonic Wars:
    • 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).
  • General Savary was a promising military commander in his youth, an efficient contributor to Napoleon's police state during his six years as Napoleon's Minister of the Police, and towards the end of his life he left his brutal mark upon the French colonisation of Algeria. However, he's best remembered as the Minister of the Police who let himself be arrested by an insane general and was thrown into jail. The police as a whole had trouble living down its inability to stop Malet: a common joke was "Do you know what's going on? No? Are you the police?"
  • John Sedgwick was a competent Union general regarded as A Father to His Men whose death was mourned by not only his own side, but Robert E. Lee as well. Unfortunately, he's more well known for the circumstances of his death, which have become the topic of humor.
  • George Armstrong Custer is mostly remembered for his defeat at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Everyone thought 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. This is in fact a total inversion to how Custer was known in the early 20th Century (cf They Died With Their Boots On by Raoul Walsh) where he was subject to a great deal of hagiography and Rose Tinted Narrative. Arguably his reputation has now tilted to the other extreme.
  • General Douglas MacArthur has had his legacy tainted by his controversial actions in The Korean War. Harry Truman also suffered for this fiasco as well (MacArthur was given a hero's welcome home, and the whole thing led to Truman not attempting a second full term as president after finishing Roosevelt's fourth and final term and his first term.)
  • 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."
    • Another example: the first female tacair pilot at Miramar Air Base (Top Gun) was dubbed "Jugs" by the other Navy pilots. Apparently her... airframe... was fairly impressive.
    • 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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Likewise, Francis Galton, the father of statistics, will always be remembered for his work in 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 Flanderize 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.
  • Erwin Schrödinger introduced the world to an equation as central to quantum physics as Newton's to mechanics or Maxwell's to electromagnetism, numerous methods for solving and interpreting it, and polyamory in the sciences. Yet what he's remembered for is a Crosses the Line Twice joke about the Copenhagen interpretation and torturing cats.
    • 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.
  • Everyone who hears the name of 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.


  • 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.
  • Howard Hughes will forever be known for the utter insanity that plagued his later years.
  • 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".
  • Defied by Alfred Nobel. He was the inventor of dynamite in a quest to create a commercial explosive as powerful as but more stable than nitroglycerin. When his brother Ludvig died while visiting Cannes in 1888, several newspapers misreported that Alfred was the one who died and published obituaries for him, with one from France in particular celebrating that "the merchant of death is dead". Nobel realised that he'd be forever remembered in that manner, so to avoid this, his last will asked that his fortunes be used to establish the Nobel Prizes. This interestingly had a similar effect to the one he was trying to avoid, as he's now better known for the prizes than any of his other achievements.
    • And, for that matter, any of the achievements of his three brothers. The aforementioned Ludvig invented the first viable oil tanker and, by the end of his life, was the richest of the brothers by far, but is only remembered for the above incident. The eldest Robert's decision to buy an oil refinery in Baku, rather than wood for one of Ludvig's factories to produce rifles for the Russian government, effectively created the Russian oil industry and gave the two a company that, at one point in time, produced half of the world's supply of oil - but nobody remembers him at all (sometimes, his accomplishments even get attributed to Ludvig instead). The youngest Emil, at most charitable, is remembered only because of his death from a nitroglycerin explosion at Alfred's factory in Stockholm.
  • Every piece written about Jeffrey Katzenberg or DreamWorks Animation will eventually bring up how Katzenberg was the head of the Disney studios twenty five years ago. Even in smaller articles. It doesn't matter how many accomplishments he's had since then, or that he was the head of Paramount studios (where he helped revive Star Trek) during the late 1970s/early 1980s before moving to Disney, or even that he's been the CEO of DreamWorks for twice as long as he was the president of the Walt Disney Studios - thanks to his lawsuit against the other studio executives and the subsequent media blitz that surrounded his departure from Disney in the mid/late 1990s, he'll always be known first and foremost as "the guy who helped turn Disney around in the late 1980s/early 1990s before leaving on bad terms to start his own studio". note 

Biblical examples

  • 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 and to this day followers are called Thomas Christians). 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.
  • Pontius Pilate is only known for one thing: ordering the execution of Jesus Christ. This is especially bad as all four Gospels indicate he actually didn't order or even particularly want to execute Jesus; he only relented and let the crowd do what they wanted because they would not have any other outcome. At least, that's what the Gospels say. Without contesting their supposed divine inspiration or lack thereof, biblical historians have pretty good reasons to believe otherwise (including Flavius Josephus depicting him as a quite ruthless prefect who would basically have no reason to have such qualms, or the fact that Messiah clamaints tended to consider themselves the true kings of Judea and, subsequently, to lead rebellions against Roman rule). And it certainly doesn't help that mainly blaming the Jews for the execution was pretty much the basis of centuries of Christian antisemitism, which can be considered one of the darkest examples of this trope in history. That said, recent interpretations do indicate that the events leading up to the execution really did happen—just not quite as the Gospels indicate—and an explanation of Pilate's OOC behavior can be inferred from the fact that just before Jesus's arrest Sejanus, who had according to historical records used him in a plot to install Herod Antipas as King of Judea, and was the one who had installed Pilate as prefect in the first place, had been executed for treason, leaving all of his allies, Pilate included, particularly vulnerable.

Other people

  • 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!")
  • There are a large number of people best known for disappearing mysteriously.
  • Charles Lindbergh, famed aviator, whose firstborn son was kidnapped and murdered, is now forever known for his World War II speeches designed to keep the US neutral, but which came across as praising the Nazis.
  • 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.
  • Bobby Leach, the second person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, is less known for that accomplishment than the fact that he died by slipping on an orange peel.
  • Spanish shipping company executive Vicente Boluda is only known in his home country for being interim president of Real Madrid for a few months in 2009, during which he predicted that Liverpool would "open up and we'll ooze them" at Anfield. Liverpool beat Madrid 4-0.
  • 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 was he actually a stocky but fit player during his young years, he was actually looking for a cis woman (he had been heavily injured and had been diagnosed as having a pituitary gland problem at that time) and accidentally took some transgender prostitutes 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 get 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.
  • Roy Sullivan never overcame his notoriety as the man who was struck by lightning seven times and survived. Tragically, his friends and colleagues started avoiding him due to his notoriety, sending Sullivan into a depression which culminated in suicide.
  • 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.
  • Johnnie Cochran said in his memoirs that his long law career would be completely superseded by his involvement in the O.J. Simpson case. The reality is actually worse, since what most people remember of him is just the line "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit!" He was talking about the prosecution's story, not the glove, and he didn't even come up with the sentence himself — he was taught it in law school!

    Places and Countries 

United States

  • Philadelphia: They boo Santa Claus. Or they'll throw batteries at you.
    • And they also cheer when an opposing player suffers a serious back injury. And there was a courtroom set up in Veterans Stadium because there was so much violence and misbehavior going on.
    • And unlike most other cities, Philly fans and players are largely unrepentant about these types of misbehaviors and tend to openly relish brutal or violent gameplay.
    • Which should not be surprising at all, considering their National Hockey League team's nickname is the "Broad Street Bullies," who pretty much punched their way to The Stanley Cup two years in a row in the 1970s and are still fairly well-known for playing with their fists before their sticks in the 2000s.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies are also probably never gonna live down for the fact that they had Ben Chapman for a manager, especially after the release of 42.
  • 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.
  • Cleveland: Where rivers are flammable. The infamous Cuyahoga River fire was in 1969. It wasn't the first, but it did get them to clean up their act. There hasn't been a fire on the river since 1969, but nobody outside the city cares—Cleveland will always be the city where the river caught fire.
  • 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.)
  • Milwaukee has a few of these.
    • Many have an image of Milwaukee as perpetually stuck in The '50s or The '70s, due to its portrayal on a trio of nostalgic sitcoms. Milwaukee's mayor even quipped upon being elected in 2004 that "Laverne and Shirley don't live here anymore."
    • 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.
  • 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, corrupt politicians, and, later on, gang violence.
  • People 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.
  • 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).
    • Ditto Stone Mountain, Georgia, where the second, more powerful iteration of the Klan was born. Oddly, the actual mountain is now a state park and the town? It's 75% black.
  • Utah has trouble living down the reputation of "Mormon State" (see below).
  • 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.
  • New Jersey is often stigmatized as a dirty, polluted and smelly location thanks to the medical waste that washed up on shore in the late 1980s.

Other countries

  • 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.
  • The English town of Hartlepool is still struggling to live down its reputation for allegedly hanging a monkey in the Napoleonic Wars, since some fishermen assumed it was a French spy. Citizens of Hartlepool are still called "monkey hangers" to this day in some parts of the country, and during an episode of Have I Got News for You, comedian Mark Steel mentioned that someone from Hartlepool could cure all known diseases and still have someone in the audience shout "YOU HUNG THAT MONKEY, YOU THICK TWAT" at them. The worst part? There is considerable evidence that this may not even be true.
  • Northern Ireland is, without a doubt, best known for The Troubles.
  • Germany. Ho boy, there's even a special trope for that.
    • And to extent, anything related to that guy will Never Live It Down as being associated with pure evil.
      • 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. After the whole diesel thing, it could get worse.
      • The swastika was a major symbol of several cultures, including Hinduism and Buddhism, for many years. Then the Nazis co-opted it, and now it's seen as a taboo symbol for racism, hatred, anti-semitism and evil, and cultures that still use it for its original purpose cause modern eyebrows to raise. Even the similar looking (but spinning clockwise) manji is afflicted with this - to most people, it's still a swastika.
    • Germans, along with the Japanese, also have a reputation for sexual deviancy and weird pornography. (Cue anti-porn advocates claiming that pornography is fascist, somehow.)
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • France. Once one of the biggest badass nations in Europe, fighting The Empire Where The Sun Never Sets to a stand-still cold war for over a hundred years note , not to mention helping Americans out in fighting for their independence. And at one time was even led by a real-life Magnificent Bastard. Then, one day, they get ambushed by Germany, and suddenly they're the world's biggest pussies. For perspective, this is like if after Magneto ripped some of the adamantium out of his skeleton, everyone started calling Wolverine a wimp.
    • It got so bad that when ISIS attacked Paris 75 years later, President Hollande, apparently conscious of his country's present image, refused to go the pussy route and vowed to show no mercy against the attackers, just to make it clear that the episode with the original Nazis was just a fluke.
    • Those who claim France didn't put up a fight forget that during World War I France lost nearly 5% of its population doing exactly that.note  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.
    • 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. Naturally this defiance doesn't include any mention of the fact that the Rebellion began when they opened fire and massacred 200 people, that they planned moreover to ally with invading armies or that their rebellion was opposed by Republican Vendéeans (one of whose descendants was Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau who kept a bust of Robespierre on his desk), who naturally don't get any say in defining the regional culture at all.
    • The French love Jerry 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.
  • Similar to the Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys above, Italy's army is often considered beyond bad. While this has a better base in reality than with French (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 said 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 the 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 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).
  • There is an entire field of historiography about things that Spain will never live down: The Black Legend.
  • Anything made in China is considered as low quality knock off items that are made from lead, and break down easily. To clarify, China produces a large variety of industrial goods, ranging from high tech machines to day-to-day products. Understandably, the quality of the product natural ranges from very good to barely tolerable. Naturally, people are more likely to buy the cheaper product that meet their needs.
    • Eventually subverted with Germany. During the 19th century, Germany (being a newly united and industrialized nation behind its neighbors) was similarly labeled as a producer of cheap and low quality products. However, as time went on and Germany industry continue to develop, the label went away.
  • For environmentalists and animal rights activists, it's Japan's continued support of whaling.
  • 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.
  • 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...
    • It's had a hard time shaking its Apartheid past, a regime that has earned many comparisons to Nazi Germany. It's been joked that you can sum up any fiction about South Africa as "Here's why Apartheid sucked."
    • White Boers in particular will probably never be able to overcome the apartheid associations. 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 and even gave up their lives fighting it (see the movie A World Apart).
    • South Africa 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. It's 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.
  • Ask anybody what they know about Latin America. Chances are, the answer will include the drug trade or some form of Banana Republic.
    • 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.
  • Opponents of laissez-faire capitalism will always bring up the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet, who was influenced by the Chicago School of economics and was even praised by Milton Friedman, who therefore also gets this treatment.
  • Historical example: 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.
  • Greece is seen as a failure of a country, because of the giant debt and crisis going on in it since 2009.


Car manufacturers

  • The American auto industry is still struggling to move past the legacy of its '70s Dork Age.
    • Unfortunately, it now also has to move past the legacy of the 2008 auto bailouts. Especially General Motors, who had to sell stock shares to the federal government to keep it afloat, leading many right-wing pundits to label it "Government Motors" as a result.
  • 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  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.
  • General Motors officially called their 1973 Chevrolet trucks "Rounded Line" as a reference to the body style, which had their profile and almost every corner rounded for better aerodynamics. However, the front end was still flat and rectangular unlike the rest of the truck. And so, to this day, people everywhere identify these trucks as "square bodies".
  • Vauxhall, for creating the odd-looking (at the time) 1980 Vauxhall Astra, which is an automobile now Vindicated by History, but Convicted by Public Opinion at the time. Nevertheless, it sold well enough.
  • For Pontiac this trope lies with the Aztek, a crossover SUV noted for its bizarrely ugly exterior in its attempts to be unconventional; one article touted it as the car "that killed an 84-year old automaker".

Other commercial companies

  • 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.
  • Averted by Dow Chemical, which acquired Union Carbide and found legal loopholes to make all of Carbide'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.
    • And of course, people's irrational fear of radiation is itself an example of this trope, due to the paranoia of Mutually Assured Destruction during the Cold War.
  • 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.
  • Nestlé will never live down its unethical marketing of baby formula in the Third World. The company still faces boycotts over it. Their CEO later stating that he doesn't believe clean drinking water to be a right, but a privilege, likewise isn't going away and isn't helping with the previous accusations.
  • 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. The lawsuits from people who became obese or burned themselves from drinking hot coffee caused the fast food chain to have nutrition labels telling you how unhealthy their food is and how their coffee is obviously hot just to prevent future lawsuits from repeating history.
  • Cracked brings us several company cases including:
  • Atari will never live down the release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on the coveted Atari 2600, a game whose spectacularly bad sales and reception contributed to The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, and nearly destroyed the viability of the industry altogether. Its failure was inevitable, since not only did Atari give only one programmer six weeks to make the entire game, but they made 12 million copies of the game, at a time when there were only 10 million Atari 2600 consoles. So great was its failure that Atari buried the unsold cartridges along with countless other unsold games and consoles in a New Mexico landfill, where it would remain buried for decades after.

Religious organisations

  • The Catholic Church has yet to live down a number of things:
    • The Crusades.
    • The Spanish Inquisition. Doubles as one for Spain, with people believing that there was no Inquisition in other countries and that it was a Spanish invention. The fact that even the worst inquisitor tribunal wasn't worse than the average European court of its time (and more often than not the lesser bad of the two) will be ignored. Expect every inquisitor to be Torquemada, even in the 18th century when it was a shell of its former self. Voltaire's Conspiracy Theory that it was the Spanish Inquisition who controlled the Spanish Monarchy and not the other way around remains absurdly popular. All that being said, it really didn't help that Spain was the last country to abolish its Inquisition, thanks to infamous king Ferdinand VII.
    • Systematic cover-ups of child molestations. Mocked in an episode of South Park where the majority of Catholic members openly admit to molesting and having sex with children because there's nothing in the Bible that says you can't have sex with children. Funnily enough, the Only Sane Man who cried foul at the whole thing was a clergyman from South Park, a town known to be full of violent idiots.
    • Holding on to Geocentrism and flat-earthism after noted scientists of the time said otherwise. Thought the former was (at least in the days of Galileo) more a result of politics and misunderstanding, and the latter was never a dominant view held by mainstream christian scholars in the Middle Ages or beyond.
  • When most people think of Mormonism, they immediately think of polygamy, despite the LDS Church banning the practice in 1890. What really doesn't help is the church believes that polygamy will be brought back. And magic underwear.
    • Their stronghold state Utah has trouble living it down as well.

Other organizations

  • The Red Cross is disliked by veterans. All due to them charging for doughnuts seventy years ago.
    • 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 McPherson of the Foursquare Church in Los Angeles was already organizing and supervising the dispatch of trucks loaded with food, water and supplies. By the time the Red Cross finally got its ass in gear, Sister Aimee 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.
  • NASA often 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.
    • The Space Shuttle Challenger completed nine successful missions before it broke up shortly after launch. 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 as well, especially among younger people, though it flew successful missions for TWENTY YEARS before it was destroyed.
    • 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?
  • The Teamsters Union is best known for its corruption and ties to organized crime.
  • The National Basketball Association was so infamous for rotten refereeing for so long that despite the league's officiating having markedly improved, people still think of "Knick" Bavetta (referee Dick Bavetta, infamous for being swayed by the crowd at Madison Square Garden), "you wouldn't call that on Michael Jordan", and the Tim Donaghy match-fixing scandal as how the league's games are officiated and are quick to blame the zebras for the smallest perceived slight, more so than in other sports.

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 portrayal in The Omen (1976) - 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."
  • Rats will never live down their association with the medieval Black Death, even though mosquitoes spread far more disease than rodents globally and the plague bacillus can be easily suppressed with even the mildest of antibiotics. Plus, the use of laboratory rats in countless branches of medical research has probably saved more human lives in total, by now, than the Black Death originally claimed.
  • 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 getting to the other side. This was not helped by Disney production studios hearing the claims, and the production staff, while shooting a documentary, decided to capture it on-screen... even if they had to herd the lemmings off the cliff to do so.
  • Thanks to the Lindy Chamberlain case, Dingoes are infamous worldwide for eating babies. 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.
  • 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, they 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  In 2015, paleontologists revisited the issue and concluded that Brontosaurus was the proper generic name after all, but that means that it will probably be forever known as that dinosaur that didn’t exist even though it did.

    Everyone and Everything Else 
  • 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 and even gave up their lives fighting it (see the movie A World Apart).
  • 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 '10s, 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 1950s have so far never managed to - and probably never will - live down being boring and uptight. The decade that gave us Playboy, the motorcycle subculture, and rock and roll still gets stereotyped as the antithesis of all those things. Of course, it doesn't help that the mainstream pop culture of that time tended to fall back on a lot of Rule-Abiding Rebel tendencies. Another minus is the generation that came of age in the Fifties - the Silent Generation - who are now in their 70s and 80s for the most part and who with the passage of time have become utterly intolerant of modern pop culture, very conservative politically (they heavily backed John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Donald Trump for President), and contemptuous of teenagers and their behavior. In other words, exactly like the stereotype of how people acted in the '50s! The 1950s will probably also never live down the stereotype as the decade where racism and misogyny (particularly segregation for the former, and a Stay in the Kitchen attitude for the latter) were not only common, but encouraged. Yes, even though they inherited those attitudes from previous generations, and made landmark efforts to correct them. When it comes to civil rights, any decade is going to look bad coming right before...
  • 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 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.
  • The 1990's in turns will never live down its association with social conformity, the revival of the power of Moral Guardians (assuming that The '80s aren't blamed for that instead), and the whole decade's obsession with being "cool" and "with it".
  • The first decade of the 2000s is commonly associated with things like The War on Terror and unrest with the Religious Right in the United States, but it's also commonly associated with being a decade known for continuing the Darker and Edgier attitude of the 1990s what with musical genres like Nu Metal and Emo becoming mainstream, and some of the media of the era is also associated with portraying a more cynical attitude compared to previous decades.
  • To this day, it isn't uncommon to hear people use The Crusades as an example of how dangerous Christian fanaticism can be, never mind that there hasn't been a crusade in centuries.
  • Similarly, Muslims have been associated with terrorism after several high-profile hijackings including the 9/11 attacks and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Most Muslims are against terrorism and most victims of terrorism are Muslims since most of these attacks were regular incidents in the Middle East for a long time before 9/11. Mostly it's about Small Reference Pools since most American media before 9/11 were still trapped by the stereotypes of Arabian Nights/Days cited by Edward Said in Orientalism.
  • 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.
    Phrase uttered by Israeli politician Abba Eban in March 1967 and falsely attributed to 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 
    • Another thing bashers always bring up is the atomic bombings 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.
  • 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, the shooting will likely be the only reason you know it exists. The Dunblane shooting is slowly shaking this, thanks to the fame of its most notable survivor - tennis star Andy Murray.
  • The Daily Mail will never live down how it once supported Hitler's Nazis; some people argue that it still does. Not to mention being the Trope Namer for "Political Correctness Gone Mad!" and other sensationalist headlines.
  • 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" AKs 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.
    • The M16's direct-impingement gas operation has fallen to the same reputation, accused of being or implied to be the sole reason any issues exist in weapons that use it, and almost every AR-15 derivative has used a gas piston instead. Even on this very wiki, other weapons with direct-impingement systems like the French MAS-49 are noted as having the "problem" of simply being direct-impingement designs, despite the MAS-49 actually having been famous for its ability to go weeks at a time with only rudimentary cleaning - even in the kinds of harsh environments that the earliest models of the later M16 failed in.note 
  • And speaking of the AK, it 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 and its derivatives are used by just as many military and police agencies.
    • The AK 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 original AK is 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; anything one would do with any other rifle).
    • 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. More modern AK models like the AK-74 can match or surpass the AR-15 in accuracy, but this has mostly gone unnoticed because nobody knows later AK models even exist.
  • The M9 pistol, the sidearm of most branches of the US military since 1985, has also gained the same sort of reputation as the M16, thanks to reliability problems the US Navy SEALs encountered while training with the Beretta 92F - the slides would often throw themselves off the frame and into the user's face, thanks to a part failing after 5,000 rounds when it should have lasted for five times as many. Beretta sent out replacement parts and designed the later 92FS so that the hammer would prevent the slide from flying off in the event that the locking block fails, but it wasn't enough to save the gun's reputation; the SEALs and various other units switched to the SIG P226 and P228, and those branches which didn't resist switching over to the M9 in the first place have tried to replace it (usually with a sidearm based on the old M1911) every five years or so since its adoption, citing distrust over the pistol's reliability, with Beretta finally taking the hint and unsuccessfully submitting an entirely new striker-fired pistol instead of a newer M9 for the 2016 Modular Handgun System tests.
  • Any weapon subject to a high-profile malfunction gets this sort of stigma associated with it, justifiably or not. The Walther PPK was famed as a concealed-carry sidearm for decades (particularly thanks to the antics of James Bond ever since he switched from a .25 Beretta to it in 1958's Dr. No, itself because of a reliability problem that nearly got him killed in the previous novel), but as soon as one jammed on Inspector James Beaton during a kidnapping attempt on Princess Anne in March of '74, the pistol was all but entirely withdrawn from every service that used it. The XM25 CDTE had tested very well and started seeing preliminary deployment in Afghanistan, then after a single one misfired and injured the user in early 2013, all of them were pulled from service and the program had its funding cut due to "unreliable performance", pushing potential adoption back to 2017 at the absolute earliest.
  • After a spate of crashes in The '70s, the DC-10 got a reputation as an unsafe airliner, even years after some of its design flaws were fixed. Try mentioning the plane in an aviation forum some time.
    • Several design flaws contributed to the infamy of the DC-10 when it started rolling out in the 1970s, including 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 as of 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 someone to use it. Needless to say, there is still some argument as to if the Starfighter deserves that reputation or not.
  • 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.
  • 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.note 
  • Thanks to becoming a suffix for just about every major scandal, the Watergate hotel is by far most known for its association with the Nixon administration's corruption.
  • The United States Navy hasn't been able to live down an incident in 1989 where it allowed Cher to use a battleship for her "If I Could Turn Back Time" music video.
  • The oldest known use in writing of the F-Bomb in English are in court records from 1310-11 regarding a man known as "Roger Fuckebythenavele". It is not clear whether the epithet was an elaborate way of saying "dimwit", or whether poor Roger actually attempted this act and was immortalized for it.
  • Skydiving is considered a near-suicidal hobby due to a large number of fatalities in the 1960s. They were due to unsafe equipment, usually WWII surplus rigs, and complete lack of any safety culture. While today skydiving is safer than car driving (only some eight jumps in a million will end up in death, usually due to human error), it has never really recovered the notoriety it gained in its early years.
  • The VC-1 codec, one of three codecs first supported by the Blu-ray format, was rendered obsolete by this effect due to videophiles complaining about how bad early discs encoded with that codec looked. Tragically, they failed to realize at the time that Warner Home Video had been using the same transfers for the Blu-ray releases as for their HD-DVD counterparts and that, with enough care, the discs themselves could've looked better.
  • Kitty Genovese will be forever remembered for the embarrassing way she died—she was assaulted and violated to death, and nobody who was a witness bothered to do anything to help her, aside from a few witnesses calling the police. What nobody mentions is that she was assaulted and killed in an out-of-the-way location, and most of the witnesses had no idea the crime was anything worse than a loud argument. Worse, in part because of the embarrassing circumstances thereof, her death is remembered far more than her life ever was.
  • If you're the loser in a format war, that's all the mainstream will remember you for. Just ask Betamax and HD-DVD, both examples which frequently get brought up in discussions about Dolby Vision and HDR10+ whenever one gets brought up in the same discussion as the other.