If television features American Indians, all American Indian tribes can be summed up as Cherokee (typically a white man with Cherokee ancestry), Lakota (not Dakota), Cheyenne, or Apache. And sometimes Navajo.
American Indian history stops in 1890. Any mention of 20th century American Indian history is a throwaway comment about Leonard Peltier or the Siege of Wounded Knee. One exception is made for World War II Code Talkers, but only the Navajo ones will be mentioned—nobody has ever heard of the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I.
Regardless of their ostensible tribe, they will nearly always be played by Sioux or sometimes Cherokee actors—for some reason, virtually never by Mexicans, many of whom are full-blooded Indian, physically. Whatever the ethnicity of the actors, expect Not Even Bothering with the Accent. Because plainly, Apaches from New Mexico have the same accent as Sioux from Canada.
South American Indians are either Inca or from the Amazon jungle, typically Yanomamo or Kayapo (and if they are Yanomamo, they are invariably portrayed as Always Chaotic Evil, even in modern works). The "Inca"-like Indians will also include Quechuas and Aymaras - the latter of whom will show up often because they just look so interesting in their old-fashioned bowler hats.
Everyone in Africa is black. The only white people are the Great White Hunter or the Mighty Whitey (or sometimes Afrikanersnote technically Boers — as a matter of fact "Afrikaner" simply means someone whose native language is Afrikaans; there are actually quite a few black and Coloured people who fit this category, who are all racist against blacks). All black Africans will be dark black. This means they're probably Bantu or from some other Niger-Congo tribe (the tribes from which most American slaves were chosen). You'll never see the reddish-brown Pygmies or the yellowish-brown Khoisan (unless you're watching The Gods Must Be Crazy, of course). There are no Arabs, Indians, Asians or anyone else.
Rural Africans are all Masai or Zulu. Or from Papua New Guinea.
All Arctic peoples are Eskimos. All Eskimos are Inuit, even the Yup'ik, and Eskimo women, though inuit is specifically a masculine plural. There are no Russian Eskimos.
And all indigenous people have been completely cut off from the world, with no modern influences on their fashion or culture whatsoever.
All people in the Caribbean are black. There are no Indian, Chinese, or white people.
All Arabs are Muslim - and, to a lesser extent, vice versa. In fact, there are many Christian Arabs - mostly in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Israel, and Palestine. Similarly, there are a great variety of Muslim peoples (Albanians being European, Iranians sharing much of their linguistic and racial heritage with both Europeans and Asian Indians, Turks ultimately from East Asia, and Indonesians mostly of Malayo-Polynesian stock),note the majority of Muslims in fact come from Indonesia, Pakistan, or Bangladesh; less than 20% of the world's Muslims live in Middle Eastern or North-African countries. but a Muslim character in popular fiction will always be rendered an Arab or a quasi-Arab unless his/her being of a different nationality is pertinent to the plot.
All Indians are Hindu. Not Muslim, not Christian, not Sikh, not Buddhist, not Jain or any of the other religions present in India. They're just funny people celebrating gods with many arms. And they will often wear turbans, even though most Hindus do not wear turbans.
All Russians are either ethnic Russian or Jewish. Chechens appear sporadically, and will always be depicted as Islamic extremists. What about Tatars, Bashkirs, Ossetians, Dagestanis, Chuvash, and Circassians (among others)? Good luck finding them!
All Jews Are Ashkenazi, of course. Forget about Sephardim and Mizrahim. And their only holiday is Hanukkah (an extremely minor commemoration of military victory on the Jewish calendar that post-dates the Bible and the many more important festivals it contains). When celebrating this apparently Christmas-like occasion, it is always, always the eighth night (if the number of candles is to be believed).
All Americans with Eastern European roots are Jewish. Slavic Americans who are Christian won't show up very often, and when they do they're often fresh off the boat, despite the large wave of Polish, Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian immigration between the 1880s and 1920s.
All hispanics speak Spanish as their mother tongue and only Spanish (when it is not broken English littered with Gratuitous Spanishnote which most of the time will be slang from Southern California/Northwestern Mexico, that is). The men are squat, brown, and have black hair and moustaches. The women are curvy, leggy and slutty - except for the ones who are fat and have really gross facial and body hair.
If white Latin Americans show up, expect them to be from wealthy families. In real life, while most of the wealthiest Latin American families are white, most white Latin Americans are not rich.
Everyone in Latin America has a Spanish surname - even in countries like Argentina, Chile, and Brazil where non-Spanish/Portuguese surnames are just as common.
Everyone in Australia is of British or Irish heritage, and will most likely be blond. The few that aren't are Aborigines.
Italian-Americans are always from Southern Italy; Central or Northern Italian-Americans do not exist.
On the other hand, all Italians are Southern Italians: the other two-thirds of the populace are nowhere to be seen, either.
American Catholics are either Irish, Italian, or Hispanic. Forget about the American Catholics of French, Polish, German, Dutch, Portuguese, and other heritages. African American Catholics don't exist either.
All Southerners are devout Baptists or evangelicals. Don't mention the traditionally Catholic Southern populations like the Cajuns and Louisiana Creoles.
Until about the 1950s, all white Americans in fiction worth focusing on were of Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, or Irish stock. When "ethnic" whites did show up, it was just to talk in funny accents and get called "wop" and "polack" and such.
All Pennsylvania Dutch are Amish. The Fancy Dutch (Who are typically Lutheran, and are the origins of many "quintessential" Dutch elements such as hex signs) and Mennonites do not exist. Similarly, all Amish are from Pennsylvania. There are no Amish in other states or nations.
Christianity is divided into exactly two denominations, Catholicism and Protestantism. Protestantism is a single entity with no further subgroups like Calvinism or Lutheranism. Mormons are not found outside of Utah (with the exception of Mitt Romney). There is no such thing as the Orthodox Church.
Somewhat averted in many European countries, as the number of adherents to most other forms of Christianity besides Catholicism and one large Protestant church is low to the point of non-existence.
If the work in question was made outside of Japan, the only religion practiced in Japan is Buddhism. There are no Japanese Christians, and Shintoism does not exist.
To many people, Berlin is just the former site of a wall.
Hamburg and Frankfurt are sometimes mentioned. Almost always as stations of either illegal goods or illegal financial transfers. In the US, it probably doesn't hurt that there are popular foods named after these particular cities.
Southampton is only where a ship left. She later sunk in the Atlantic Ocean because of one big iceberg.
There are no cities in Scotland at all, only a few rustic Highland villages like Brigadoon and, presumably, someplace where they manufacture violent Glaswegians. And Loch Ness (with added monster). When characters go visiting Scotland, they really want to see or at least want to joke about everyone's favourite Stock Ness Monster.
Similarly, there are no cities or even large towns in Wales (if it exists at all), just a single in-bred farming village near a coal mine with a long unpronounceable name.
There is no such thing as Northern Ireland (except if you're referencing The Troubles). It's also the birthplace of the ancestors of many white Southern Americans (who are of Ulster, or Scots-Irish, descent), and thus the original home of fiddles and folk/country music... but this will never be brought up unless a work is set in colonial times.
Except for Billy Elliot, there is no such thing as North East England either, unless it's Newcastle. And all inhabitants of the North-East are called "Geordies", even if they're from Durham or (gasp) Sunderlandnote The correct term is "Mackem".
Dublin is the only city in Ireland, aside from ten thousand tiny rural villages populated by leprechauns who say "they're always after me lucky charms" every 10-15 minutes.
Switzerland has Zurich, which is nothing but banks.
The rest of the country is all snow-capped mountains, which are full of clocks, chocolate, and cheese with holes in it.
Geneva might be referred to as a place where a little document known as the Geneva Conventions were signed. They concern the treatment of wartime non-combatants and prisoners of war.
Amsterdam, Holland, and the Netherlands are the same thing, even if the writer is Dutch. Characters go there to get high on weed legally.
The (former) Eastern Bloc consists of two parts, a generic Ruritania and the city of Prague. No, there isn't anything else between Germany and Russia.
Unless you're near the southeast tip of that area, which is Überwald and therefore full of castles.
The city of Chernobyl does exist in fiction, but only because it ceased to do so (at least, as a populated one) in Real Life.
St. Petersberg might get brought up as the other city in Russia in more modern settings (or in works set in pre-revolution Russia), e.g. in works of Alexander Pushkin. It is also where the Hermitage is.
Stalingrad's current name (Volgograd), and St. Petersberg's older names (Leningrad and Petrograd) nearly never get brought up.
Vladivostok occasionally gets mentioned, usually in connection to its proximity to Alaska, but people seem to act like it's not part of Russia.
Italy only has a few cities: Rome, Venice, Naples, Milan, and - if the need arise - Florence.
Rome might be just the home of the Colosseum and the Pope.
Venice is known only for its channels and gondolas.
Artistic License - Geography: All the cities somehow seem to have Pisa's leaning tower nearby. The city of Pisa has nothing but the leaning tower in it though.
The Tuscan countryside
A sinister Sicilian village abounding with Mafia.
Non-Italians only know Genoa (the capital of the province of Liguria) as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, who first discovered and then did not discover America.
Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec, and Montreal are the only cities in Canada. Justified, as fully half of the Canadian population really does live in those cities. The inclusion of Quebec is odd, though; the country does contain three other cities significantly bigger than Quebec besides the others listed above (Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton) and two others almost exactly the same size as Quebec (Winnipeg and Hamilton). Probably Quebec is just used as a stand-in for the province of the same name.
Mexico consists solely of Mexico City, Tijuana, Acapulco, Guadalajara, (arguably) Chihuahua, and Cancún.
Though in Europe, you're lucky to hear about anything beyond Mexico City at all.
Also, Tijuana is nothing but whorehouses and cheap tequila. Cancun (and to a lesser degree, Acapulco) is 100% beach front resorts.
Chihuahua is known only for the little dog and for the stock Mexican cuisine: tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and all the other foods you can get at Taco Bell (but not nachos, since they're actually American).
China is fortunate enough to have three cities, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong (the latter being a territory and not a city), and a great wall.
Unless it's ancient China, which is just Xian.
In some works (both set in Ancient and Modern China), there are also Suzhou and Qingdao.
Ironically, most Chinese things Americans are familiar with (the food, especially) are from Canton (Chinese name: Guangzhou), which is almost never discussed when talking about China itself. (Either that, or Canton will only be known as that town in Ohio where American football began.)
The United States has an amazing eight distinct cities which regularly show up in movies and on TV!
New York City is almost the default choice when you need a large American city. See Big Applesauce. Doubles as Metropolis in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. It will almost always be shown to consist of only one of its five boroughs (Manhattan), and people there will always ride the subway or take a taxi somewhere (never the bus), and speak with pronounced accents.
Los Angeles is the second-largest city in America. Contains Hollywood (which only has a sign and movie studiosnote and maybe hookers if it's a "gritty" work), palm trees, maybe South Central, sometimes two variety of hills: those that offer a great view of the lower part of the city and those that contain luxury residences and lonely winding roads in the woods. Given that the U.S. film industry is headquartered in the area, setting your film or show here is often simply a case of Write What You Know. Prone to earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, and rioting; other than that, a veritable paradise. Because of movie studios being based in Hollywood, many of the other cities represented in fiction often end up looking much like Los Angeles anyway. Any district or neighborhood of Los Angeles other than "Downtown" or "Hollywood" that is mentioned will be thought to be a different city. Even the two major ones won't be depicted correctly: Downtown will be shown as some kind of combination between Bunker Hill and Skid Row to create a version that doesn't really represent anywhere, and Hollywood will be some generic city where the Hollywood Sign is visible, with a number of movies depicting Hollywood by having an Establishing Shot of the Sign followed by scenes shot in a completely different city. Even places that should be popular, such as South Park (not THAT one), home of the Los Angeles Convention Center and Staples Center, are obscure outside of L.A. itself. The East and South sides are sometimes shown, but appear rather small, even though they make up 2/3 of the inner city.
Washington, DC exists but consists solely of The White House, the Capitol, the Smithsonian, the Lincoln and Washington Memorials (the Jefferson Memorial usually doesn't exist in fictional settings for some reason), and The Pentagon, which is actually across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia. The only time "The District" is used as a setting is if your story somehow involves the U.S. Government. The fact that it is the capital of the USA is the only reason it exists. Which is sort of Truth in Television. The city didn't exist until it was decided that the US capital should be on the border between the North and the South (New York City was serving as the temporary capital at that point), and the site of the city was picked, and then developed. In fairness, the Pentagon's phone numbers are in the DC area code (202). On rare occasions, spies will allude to the CIA headquarters in Langley, but are unlikely to mention that it is an actual town in Virginia. All residential areas in D.C. are quiet streets of graceful townhouses a la Georgetown. Neighborhoods like Washington Heights and Barry Farms must have been accidentally displaced from Baltimore.
Miami is the tropical, coastal city in southeastern Florida where the rich and the beautiful play. Lots of boats and beaches, and thus plenty of opportunities for Fanservice. Expect characters of Cuban heritage; everyone else will be either Jewish or gay, or both. See Miami Vice and CSI: Miami. Very flat landscape. Prone to hurricanes. Expect the city's first in-story appearance to be accompanied by video shots of the beaches and nightlife, accompanied by Gloria Estefan's singing (or in more recent works, Pitbull's rapping). All of Florida is represented by the above cliches of South Florida (Palm Beach, Breward and Miami-Dade counties). If it looks like Miami, but there are tropical mountains in the background, and many of the characters appear to be of Asian rather than Latin American descent, then you are probably in Hawaii, most likely the city of Honolulu.
There are numerous generic urban hellholes with boarded-up buildings covered in graffiti, a corrupt police force, drug dealers on the street corners, violent gangs indiscriminately firing machine guns, and lots of Scary Black People. The Bronx, Queens, the South Side of Chicago, and South Los Angeles are popular choices. Sometimes, however, for the sake of variety, the filmmakers might choose a less-visited city for this backdrop. The Wire used Baltimore. Detroit, Atlanta, Memphis, New Orleans, and Philadelphia are also possibilities. In Britain, this is either south London, or Manchester.
There's one small, generic, Midwestern town where everyone is white, middle-class, conservative, religious, honest, and full of common sense, if a little naive. Amusingly for Midwesterners, this "small Midwestern town" is often Kansas City, which in reality contains nearly a half-million people, with a suburb/sister city (Independence) of approximately the same size. More savvy writers might choose North Kansas City instead, which despite having a population of over a quarter-million people, really is "rural" in the sense that it does include large tracts of agricultural land (with the skyscrapers of downtown KC proper on the horizon).
There's one small, generic, Southern town where everyone is gossipy, racist, insular and more conservative and religious than the folks in the Midwestern town.
There's one small, generic, Western town where everyone is a taciturn, weatherbeaten cowboy.
There's one small, generic, ski resort town in the Rocky Mountains full of rich socialites, hot tubs, and upscale shopping. Either Aspen or Jackson Hole.
Texas contains the city of Dallas, and that's about it; everyone else in the state either lives on a vast oil-bearing ranch, or works in a tiny grubby nameless convenience store in the middle of nowhere. Houston is in Texas, too, but it's just a stretch of desert surrounding the Space Center and the namesake of a basketball team.
Much like with Munich, Germany, and Oktoberfest, there are a number of American cities that are one-trick ponies:
Atlanta = Stone Mountain, Ted Turner, Coca Cola, and the Atlanta Braves
San Diego is LA Lite. Not as done-to-death as LA is, and LA can easily double for it if you avoid the skyline, since the two cities are less than a hundred miles apart and have very similar climate and geography.
All you need to know about Israel is that ‘Jerusalem’s for praying and Tel-Aviv’s for playing’. If Israel is ever anything but a country full of religious Jews, expect Tel-Aviv to be somewhat like a modern, liberal European capital (mentioning southern Tel-Aviv, which has poorer and more backward places like HaTikva neighbourhood or the even worse Shack Neighbourhood is never present, and places where dirt-poor work immigrants and refugees live), and Jerusalem will be all about Jesus and a strong religious presence (only somewhat of a case of Truth in Television, as Jerusalem is becoming increasingly Haredic, though it is still a very diverse city). In more egregious cases, people might think Tel-Aviv is the capital of Israel (perhaps justified because no foreign embassies are in Jerusalem, due to the political wars waged around it with the Palestinians). The Bahá'i temple in Haifa and mentioning of a kibbutz might come up every now and then. No other town is ever mentioned (again somewhat justified, as few of them have anything in them to interest tourists; the situation in Israeli media is clearly different).
The Middle East supposedly consists of Israel, an oil-backed city with palm trees and rich princes (probably in Saudi Arabia), and Baghdad, Iraq, full of dusty slums and terrorists. Nearby states like Afghanistan (which has no cities) and Egypt (which has Cairo and ruins) may miraculously appear on the peninsula. Thanks to Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, Dubai is now on the map.
Istanbul is the only city in Turkey. Ankara (the capital), Izmir, Adana, Konya, and other large cities are just random names written on the map. And that's if the Turks are lucky; if they're unlucky, Istanbul is still called Constantinople and is in Greece.
The Caribbean will only be resorts and locals who are always stoned Rastafarians. The women will be Ambiguously Brown hotties. If you're lucky, it will be a crime-infested slum full of illegal drugs and gangs. The only country portrayed will be Jamaica, or maybe the Bahamas.
The Bahamas (NOTE: not technically in the Caribbean) will be treated as one island, despite the name clearly being plural. That island is nothing more than a strip of beach with a stand selling exotic liquor. Despite there being no civilization to be seen, it is jam-packed with offshore banks for shady businesses.
It's worth noting that while most films about a country are set in that country's capital or the "largest city in the country". In most Old World countries this matches up. There are some examples and notable exceptions:
Most of the ones about Australia show Sydney rather than Canberra.
Toronto is the capital of Ontario; Ottawa is the capital of Canada. This is not a distinction you're likely to ever see. Joked about in Corner Gas — Hank thinks Toronto is the capital of Canada.
Virtually all fiction set in the Republic of Ireland takes place either in Dublin or a tiny rural village. The other cities (Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Kilkenny) hardly get a mention, nor do the large towns. If a town does turn up, it will always inexplicably be Ennis or Killarney.
Far more movies take place in New York City than in Washington, DC. Of course, New York City is way bigger and is home to Wall Street and the largest Federal Reserve bank by far, so it's a de facto economic (as opposed to political) capital of the U.S., as well as a cultural hotspot.
The only people who care about Albany (the actual capital of the state of New York) either live there or teach geography.
Or California: 90% of stuff set in California takes place in Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego; 9% in small coastal towns, and 1% elsewhere. Unless the film is specifically about state politics, it's unlikely that Sacramento, the state capital, will even be mentioned. Only films set during the 19th century gold rush avert this.
Films set in Scotland seem to be either set in Edinburgh, the capital, or Glasgow, the largest city, if they're not set in the middle of nowhere up north...
The only cities in native Virginia are: Alexandria (which is only Remember the Titans and Arlington National Cemetery, which is actually in Arlington County), Langley (which only consists of CIA HQ, somewhat Truth in Television because it isn't even a real city, it's an area of the town of McLean) and maybe Richmond (as the capital). The only Tidewater Area/coastal city is Norfolk (which is just the navy base). If the show is about ship building the only city is Portsmouth. The only military installations are the aforementioned Norfolk Naval Shipyard and The Pentagon, no mention is ever made of the master jet base at Oceana in Virginia Beach. And the only thing related to Chesapeake is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. If you have a Revolutionary War documentary you might hear something about Williamsburg.
The capital of Spain is Madrid. Barcelona gets mentioned a lot of, if not more mention, too, so you might be excused to think Barcelona is the capitol. Seville may appear in operas, but present-day Seville? Good luck finding it!
Can you think of any notorious real-life criminals besides these?
All big fashion designers before Calvin Klein (the only American most people can think of) have been French (Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent) or Italian (Valentino, Giorgio Armani, the Versaces). Occasionally Mexican designer Oscar de la Renta will get a mention - though often simply to be humorously confused with lightweight boxer Oscar de la Hoya.
Anna Nicole Smith was originally a model, but don't expect anyone to remember that anymore.
If you ever see a man wearing a hat and he isn't a cowboy or into sports, chances are it will be a fedora (which is, admittedly, Truth in Television); trilbies, homburgs, and porkpies are unknown. Bowlers, or derby hats, are sometimes mistaken for top hats. The only hats women ever wear are "fancy" hats (pillboxes, berets, etc.).
Any long coat, badass or not, will be referred to as a trench coat. Nevermind that a trench coat is always a raincoat, and usually has particular features including double-breasted closure, epaulettes, a half-cape, and straps to cinch the cuffs. Your overcoats, your dusters, your greatcoats, your macintoshes? All trench coats.
All men between the ages of 20 and 50 in The Seventies wore bell-bottomed trousers and had outrageously long sideburns. When they got dressed up, their suits were always in fruity pastel colors (blue, especially) or had a wild plaid or paisley pattern. (See also Popular History.)
Whenever a fur coat is mentioned by type, the majority of them are mink. Others are mentioned, but not quite as often, and usually just to highlight whether the fur is less expensive (such as rabbit) or more expensive (hello, chinchilla and sable) than mink. Leopard furs are worn only by Tarzan, Jane, the Flintstones, hookers, and porn stars.
This is so common that when Joe Namath infamously wore a coyote fur coat to the 2014 Super Bowl, several news outlets called it a "mink coat" - even though coyote fur looks nothing like mink.
If someone in a cartoon (and sometimes in other media) has a fur stole, it will almost always be the full fox with the head, legs and tail still attached or some variation thereof. This is often played for laughs, as in an episode of the 1980s reincarnation of The Jetsons in which Jane's mother wore one and when she tossed her head back in disgust the fox did the same.
Common male hairstyles in fiction:
Buzz cut (for "patriotic" Americans and military personnel)
Mullet (if the character is a redneck or a hockey player)
Fifties-style pompadour (if the character is a snobbish redneck)
Central America is one country. In fairness, it was, for a while. About 180 years ago.
Canada is a small country consisting only of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and rural Quebec (and possibly the Yukon, although that's as likely as not to be part of Alaska instead), despite which everyone will talk like they're from Newfoundland, which none of these places are anywhere near. It's always winter, with lots of snow, even though Vancouver has warmer and less snowy winters than, say, New York.
The only islands in the Caribbean are Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, and The Bahamas (which aren't actually even in the Caribbean).
The Bahamas are one place (despite the hint in the name). The Cayman Islands get a mention as the only place besides Switzerland to have an offshore bank account, though no one seems to know where they are.
Haiti is the only French-speaking area. Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, and Saint Barthelemy do not exist. And Haiti's history only goes back 50 years, despite it being independent for over 200.
South America consists solely of Brazil, where they speak Spanish, and Generic Banana Republic Dictatorships led by either a Nazi sympathizer, drug lord, or corrupt military commander.
Asia consists of Russia, India, China, Japan, and Korea, unless the work is about The Vietnam War. (If it is, Vietnam itself does not exist except as a backdrop for American characters.)
There's no such thing as Central Asia... except for Kazakhstan.
The Korean War is precisely the same thing as the Vietnam War. Koreans will be portrayed as living in straw huts, and they certainly don't have three major cities—Seoul exists, but it looks like the poor parts of Shanghai. Pyongyang is only whichever Kim dictator's weird little palace/bunker. Busan is purely apocryphal. Incheon? What's that?
The Middle East consists of Israel plus any country that the US is currently at war with. Everywhere ends in -stan. (Ironic, since the suffix -stan is from the Urdu language, which actually originated in South Asia.)
If your characters visit Europe, they will only go to England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Greece, the Netherlands and/or Austria. And they will always visit the capital cities, but then suddenly deviate into other countrysides typical for that country as if they are only a few miles away from the capital. The only exception is Italy, because besides Rome, you can also visit Venice,Tuscany,Milan, Pisa and the Isle of Sicily.
When you visit Paris the Eiffel Tower HAS to be present somewhere in the background! And Arc de Triomphe. If your characters visit other landmarks it will be the Louvre and only to see the Mona Lisa.
There is no Oceania, except on the rare occasion that Australia exists. New Zealand doesn't exist at all. (However, if it does, it's known only for producing Rachel Hunter, and sometimes Peter Jackson.)
The Pacific Islands consist of Fiji, Hawai'i, occasionally Samoa, and more often some undefined beach with lots of grass skirts. You can just forget about Papua New Guinea.
Jane Austen's geography of England is quite varied. You learn something about Bath and also that many English counties end in -shire. Derbyshire of Pride and Prejudice is probably the most famous as Mr Darcy's Big Fancy House Pemberley is situated there.
In the United States, you can travel from Chicago to Disneyland or Philadelphia to the Grand Canyon in about three hours. The Midwest? What's that?
The Classical/Bronze Age, (4,000 BC-500 AD) overlapping with Ancient Grome.
Roman-centric works have a tendency to focus on the period surrounding the fall of Julius Caesar and the rise of Augustus Caesar. The fashions and politics depicted will be from this period no matter what century it is.note Ridley Scott's Gladiator is one of the best-known examples of this. The senators scheming to restore republican government are also anachronistic - it's about as realistic as portraying scheming 20th century British parliamentarians trying to restore the House of Stuart..
Ancient Egypt is portrayed as pyramids and pharaohs' tombs and not else. Never mind that its history lasted for more than three millennia, and brought as many changes as you'd expect in such a long span of time.
Most depictions of ancient societies in general forget that these were living, developed cultures that changed constantly over the centuries in terms of fashions, politics, attitudes etc. You'll be lucky if other ancient societies of the Mediterranean are mentioned at all.
Everyone living between the fall of Rome (late 400s A.D.) and The Sixties will have a stereotypically repressed Victorian view of the world. Though with young women in the fifties, it will always just be a facade.
Expect mainland Chinese media to focus on little else but the Second Sino-Japanese War and the latter half of the Chinese Civil War. Media in Hong Kong are more likely to be concerned with the Ming and Qing Dynasties, but are otherwise exclusively focused on other settings directly concerned with Hong Kong (or in some cases, Shanghai) within the past 200 years.
Ancient Rome began with Caesar and ended with Nero. Their only enemies were the Gauls, Germanic tribes, and rival factions during civil wars.
A small exception may be made for works depicting the destruction of Pompeii, during the reign of Titus.
If your British optional enemies also include Boadicea (or some other spelling of her name) and the Picts. Oh and they never reached Ireland and their only inventions were Coliseums, aqueducts and central heating.
The Fall of Rome was caused by the Huns.
The entire history of Japan consists of early Tokugawa shogunate and Meiji restoration, despite the fact that this doesn't leave the latter with much to restore. If World War II is depicted in a Japanese work, it will only be to show the suffering of good ordinary people, probably in the countryside, and will be strangely divorced from all actual context.
The Sengoku is popular as well. Before that, not so much.
The War started when Germany invaded Poland (never mention the Munich Agreement, known as the Munich Betrayal or the Munich Dictation in former Czechoslovakia). There might have been some blitzkrieg in France and some rumble around Stalingrad.
Nothing much happened until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The Allies fought some naval battles with the Japanese and then after D-day everything just seems to have resolved itself though there were some bumps in the road like the Battle of the Bulge and the atom bomb on Hiroshima (Nagasaki is often forgotten).
There were concentration camps, as presented for example in Schindler's List. The Holocaust only took place in the camps, and the only death camp was Auschwitz. Which is always mentioned without its second name, Birkenau.
Any and all Holocaust survivors/victims are Jewish. Slavs, homosexuals, Gypsies, handicapped, or communists rarely get mentioned.
The Enola Gay was the only plane involved in the bombing of Hiroshima. The Great Artiste and Necessary Evil did not accompany it, and by extension the Great Artiste was not accompanied by the Bockscar and Big Stink for the Nagasaki bombing.
The only Mongol is Genghis Khan (whose title is likely to be misspelled as Ghengis Kahn or similar), and the only Hun is Attila (and he's always "Attila the Hun"). Mongols and Huns are the same thing.
When was the last time you saw Russia pre-Revolution? Peter the Great? Catherine the Great? Who were they? Didn't they rule the Soviet Union sometime between Lenin and Stalin?
In works not made by/for Jews, ancient Israel consists entirely of the Roman period (i.e. the very end), and the debut of Christianity was really important (apparently in spite of the fact that few noticed it for a few centuries).
British Schools would have you believe history is just the following:
World War II - in which there was only Dunkirk, D-Day, The Blitz and the Holocaust. Also it only involved Europe.
And nothing worth noting happened after 1948. Although you will probably know about this woman called Margaret Thatcher.
If the history of the rest of the British Isles is ever mentioned then it will probably consist of 'Braveheart' and not much else if you're from outside the Isles. However Irish and Northern Irish history gets expanded somewhat- but even then only to English occupation, the Easter rising (if your lucky)and The Troubles.
In Canadian history, the following happened:
Confederation! (And therefore, by extension, Sir John A. Macdonald.)
Maybe a vague mention of some stuff specific to the province where children go to school. For examples, Manitobans know something called "the Riel rebellion" happened, but not much else (including the fact that there were actually two such rebellions).
At some point Canadians burned down the White House. And Laura Secord might have been involved? She's female!
Spain was ruled in succession by the Moors, the Inquisition and Franco. (Franco died way back in 1975, before most of today's generation were born, so it's high time we came up with something after him.) There was also a civil war at some point that must have lasted a hundred years or so, given that it is the only event of note in Spain's 20th century - though oddly, only the small town of Guernica received any bombs from the air in that war, and the only people involved were Franco himself, George Orwell and maybe Ernest Hemingway (was it just a long bar brawl?).
Caesar and the Gauls.
Charlemagne (and that was his actual name, it doesn't mean 'Charles the Great').
Lots of kings called Louis, all of whom were the same person. Cardinal Richeleu might have been present at some point, and if so the then The Three Musketeers were real, historical figures.
Revolution, which just consisted of cutting people's heads off.
WWI media are almost always set on the Western Front, and almost nothing about the Eastern Front (Russia & Romania vs. Germany/Ottoman/Austria-Hungary/Bulgaria), the Italian Campaign (Italy/UK/US/France vs. Germany/A-H), never mind the Balkans, Africa, or the Middle East.
Except in Australia, where World War One media inevitably focus on the Gallipolli campaign of 1915, despite the fact that more Australians fought (and died, for that matter) in France than in Turkey.
Most often it features the British Empire and the US vs. Germany. The French don't appear nearly as often - never mind that France mobilized just as many men as the UK and was the setting for much of the Western Front's battles. The other countries are rarely mentioned at all.
Except for Lawrence of Arabia, but it's rarely mentioned that this was part of World War One.
All British WWI brass were upper-class, incompetent, and indifferent as to their failures or the resulting loss of life.
Military fiction and documentaries set on the battlefields of WWII usually revolve around a select few well-known battles:
If it is about US forces it is usually about Normandy and The Bulge.
British get North Africa and Market Garden.
The Soviets get Stalingrad and the capture of Berlin.
It would seem the only battle which didn't happen in Europe was El Alamein.
It's very rare to see a depiction of any battle in the European Theater before 1942 or 1943 (probably because people don't like to hear about the Allies losing). The Eastern Front is horribly under/represented in Western works, despite the fact that the vast majority of the fighting and 90% of the casualties occurred there. There are war movies which somehow manage to avoid even mentioning the Soviets! The invasion of Poland is often mentioned, but never depicted (except in Family Guy). The invasions of Denmark, Norway, and the Low Countries never happened. There was no fighting in the Balkans either, and the only resistance movement was French (and occasionally Polish, but certainly never Yugoslav or Greek, except in Alistair MacLean books). Even in Family Guy, the invasion is depicted in seconds with no resistance. No Polish soldiers are ever seen. So it hardly counts, and not just because it perpetuates an incredibly offensive cliche.
No Canada and Juno Beach, even though it was one of the most successful victories in Normandy. It's all Utah and Omaha, since all the Americans died. A movie about Dieppe, where the Canadians were simply cannon fodder, is a rare sight. Dieppe hasn't been likely shown outside of Canadian TV.
It's rare to find stuff about the Pacific Theater that was made within the last 20 years or so. Both the Medal of Honor and Call of Duty series took 5 games before either of them had a campaign set in the Pacific. Most likely because if all 10 games are put together, every major event in the European theater from 1941 onward was already done.
When the Pacific Theater does get portrayed, the entirety of it was apparently Pearl Harbor, sometimes Midway, something about a flag on Iwo Jima, and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Leyte Gulf, the largest sea battle in history, apparently never happened. And it is a fight solely between Japanese and Americans. Filipinos, who were major players, are never shown.
There are a few mostly Soviet films about The Battle of Kursk, it goes largely unnoticed despite being the largest land battle in history: 3.4 million Soviet and German troops, 10,000 tanks, 54,000 artillery pieces etc. Mind-boggling in both scope and obscurity to the general public.
The Battle of Prokhorovka is another one of the biggest battle of the armored forces ever fought, yet it gets rarely mentioned.
The Axis consists of Germany and Japan plus maybe a few Italians in North Africa. Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Finland (not technically part of the Axis, but it did have an alliance with Germany against the Soviets), Thailand, Iraq, and the numerous puppet regimes are almost always ignored.
The only naval battle during the war was between the Monitor and the Merrimac (which never had its name changed to CSS Virginia when it came into Confederate hands).
Even among Civil War buffs, knowledge of the war often remains restricted to Virginia and a few specific Western battles like Shiloh and Atlanta. Other campaigns - Grant's Siege of Vicksburg, Union landings along the Carolina coast, the capture of New Orleans and subsequent campaigns in Louisiana, constant fighting in border states like Missouri and Kansas, the entire naval war - are generally ignored. And anything west of the Rio Grande? Totally ignored. Only the hardest of hardcore buffs know about the Battle of Glorieta Pass in New Mexico Territory, or can tell you what the political scene was like in California at the time (pro-Union around San Francisco, pro-Confederate everywhere to the south).
The Crimean War is remembered, if at all, for the Charge of the Light Brigade. In other words, a small portion of an indecisive skirmish (Balaclava) gains more attention than the huge, decisive battles at the Alma, Inkerman and Sevastopol, let alone Russia and Turkey's brutal fighting in the Caucasus or various naval campaigns. For American readers, it would be like if Ball's Bluff or North Anna River were the best-known battles of the Civil War.
The Anglo-Zulu War ended after the Brits won at Rorke's Drift, right? Actually that and Isandlwana were just the first round: six months of fighting with far larger battles lay ahead.
Custer's Last Stand remains far more recognizable than any other battle or massacre in the 100+ years of American Indian Wars.
There was The Boer War in South Africa at the begging of twentieth century. The Brits thought they would win easily, but they didn't. It was harder than they had thought. The Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers were bigger pain than they had imagined, but they beat them later. There might have been the first concentration camps.
The Vietnam War and The Korean War are the only wars that happened in their respective countries. Never mind the fact that they had other conflicts with certain nations with major consequences in the long run. If one considers Ho Chi Minh (or his followers, after he died in 1969) to have been the main actor in the Vietnam War, then that war lasted for more than thirty years (first against the Japanese, then against the French, and then against the Americans).
All Marxism is a crude pastiche of Leninism, Stalinism, and/or Maoism. Luxemburgism, Left Communism, Marxist Humanism, Council Communism, Eurocommunism, Trotskyism, Situationism, and all the other various forms, many quite vehemently against the tendencies that began with Lenin, don't exist. If you tell people (especially in the US) about them, they refuse to believe they are any different from Leninists, Stalinists, etc. Lenin himself is often mixed up with Stalin. In truth, Lenin's policy differed strikingly from Stalin's and Lenin fiercely opposed Stalin's line in his final years, telling his supporters to get rid of Stalin as the man was starting to scare him. (Insert Ominous Latin Chanting) After Lenin's death, then again, Stalin loved to imply that he and Lenin had been great friends.
The most important facet of Fascism is racial and national persecution as well as the notion of the race purity. Fascism was also founded by Adolf Hitler and the only fascist country was the Third Reich. Maybe Italy if you're lucky, but only as somewhere for Mussolini to come from. Nothing ever happened in Fascist Italy! Notably averted with Life Is Beautiful, a movie about an Italian Jew that starts off comedic and ends heart-wrenching.
It's ironic that "fascist" is synonymous with "racist" since Mussolini's movement didn't have an explicitly racist ideology. Mussolini didn't even believe in Hitler's ethnic cleansing since the Italian dictator felt that non-European peoples should be conquered and "converted" to European culture (which made his ideas little different from 19th century imperialists); it was Hitler who introduced the ideas of racist ideology, ethnic cleansing/extermination, and enslavement. Franco's fascist government (particularly the diplomatic service) didn't share the Nazi's racial ideologies, though Franco himself didn't mind them too much either. Franco was ok with serving them, such as by cataloging the Jews in Spain on Hitler's orders, but on the other hand, he was fine with his government's resources being used to to protect or evacuate Jews in Nazi-occupied countries (much to the chagrin of the Nazis) as well. In the end, tens of thousands of Jews escaped Nazi Europe through Spain.
Media would have you believe that all 'Aryan Race/Aryan Union' ideology was Hitler's doing. In actuality, it was all Himmler's doing (Hitler actually laughed at him for that), and was worse than Hitler. The July 20 Bomb Plot held Himmler's assassination just as vital as Hitler's.
All Capitalism (a Marxist term) is based on crony-ism and obsessed with money, even though Adam Smith pointed out in The Wealth Of Nations that wealth is goods and services, not gold or silver. It is also industrial, even though America was a wholly agrarian nation at the founding.
There's a widespread misconception that capitalism is a conservative economic principle, when in fact it always was - and still is - liberal. (Admittedly, the current habit of automatically associating liberalism with leftism and/or socialism has done a great deal to confuse the issue.) More than that, capitalism (at least if it's free-market capitalism) can be said to be subversive and even countercultural, as economist Thomas Frank discusses in his book The Conquest of Cool. Although much of what is now called "Stalinist" actually started with Lenin. Stalin's main additions were the cult of personality, adoption of supposedly "rightist" attributes (patriotism, pre-revolutionary military dress) and considerable paranoia. Things like the secret police, political repression, and prison camps all came from Leninism.
Don't expect anyone to realise that the USSR was never, in fact, communist. While it adhered to a communist ideology as an ideal, it never achieved communism.
Socrates drank hemlock and died. Also he knew that he knew nothing.
The phrase "I think, therefore I am" indicating that Descartes popped into existence long enough to make one pithy comment, which states that only people who think can be proven to exist — and then, only to themselves — then disappeared again.
Some people are able to work out that LBJ must have been Vice President at some point if he became President when JFK was shot. But that logic doesn't extend to Lincoln; after Lincoln was shot there just wasn't a President.
The only Ancient Greek states are Athens and Sparta, which only existed during the Persian wars, and the Empire of Alexander the Great. Also, Sparta didn't exist until 300 came out. Hellenism does not exist at all. Greek history after the Roman Empire is too insignificant to merit mention.
Cleopatra and King Tut are the only Egyptian pharaohs. Ironically, although she was the last pharaoh of Egypt, Cleopatra was ethnically Greek.
"England" has only had four sovereigns: Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, and Elizabeth II the English themselves also know of one other- Alfred the Great. Americans know King George III. For obvious reasons.Scots probably know of Edward Longshanks as well.
Averted on an episode of The Simpsons: "Pitt the Elder!" "Lord Palmerston!" Still, they're both only remembered for said reference.
Princess Diana. And only because of her tragic death.
France had only one president, Charles de Gaulle, mostly remembered for his activities during World War II and long presidential term during the 1950s and 1960s. And his height makes it impossible to overlook him.
The current head of state, whoever that is, might get mentioned.
Marie Antoinette (who liked cakes more than bread and was the only person who died in the guillotine... besides her husband). She was Austrian and married King of France, which to be fair some films and books do mention.
All the Kings of France were called Louis, except for Charlemagne and Napoleon.
Grand Duchess Anastasia (who will be called a "princess")
Princess Grace (in works from before her death in 1982)
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (even though he's not the true leader of Iran; that would be the Ayatollah)
Applies to Strawman Political. The only conservative character we ever seem to see is either the "Bible-thumper" or the Corrupt Corporate Executive. The "paranoid libertarian" conservative (most famously seen in Dr. Strangelove) was a popular stock figure during the Cold War and has recently been making a comeback.
The biggest problem with studying the origins of life and the universe is the ludicrously small reference pool of 1 (we only know of one life-bearing planet, and one universe that sprang into being).
Most people have heard of Carbon-14 dating (and 9 times out of 10, it doesn't even work like it does on television). It's the default dating method in the public conscious. What most people are not familiar with is Uranium-Lead Dating, which is much more accurate and has a much wider range of dates (1 million to 4.5 billion), Rubidium-Strontium, another form of dating closely related to U-Pb Dating, or the others: Uranium-Thorium, Potassium-Argon, and Samarium-neodymium, all of which are older, more reliable, and have a wider date range than radiocarbon.
Asked to name a periodical for scientists, the average American will name National Geographic (which isn't one) or maybe Scientific American (which is, if you're feeling generous). Asked to name a scientific journal, they might come up with the AMA Journal or, if they were science geeks in school, Nature.
Galileo Galilei, who was persecuted by the church (for reasons that have more to do with raising a middle finger to authority). To most people, he's just Galileo, or worse, he's Galileo Figaro.
Copernicus, who died before he was actually persecuted by the church. He was a German living in Prussia, because we've already covered that there's nothing of note in Central Europe.
J. Robert Oppenheimer "invented" the nuclear bomb, when this is not being attributed to Einstein instead.
Isaac Newton ("invented" gravity when an apple fell on his head)
Charles Darwin (developed the theory of evolution, and is supposedly worshipped as a god by scientists)
Thomas Edison ("invented" the light bulb)
Nikola Tesla (Had a picture taken of him in front of a lightning machine.) Tesla is a Johnny-Come-Lately; he's gotten a lot more press since the 1990s, and is usually depicted either as a total nutjob (which he was) or a misunderstood genius (which he also was).
Dmitri Mendeleev (invented some kind of table, presumably for putting vodka on)
If it's not just stars, the background is either the Crab Nebula, or the Horsehead Nebula.
The only stars anyone visits are Rigel, Alpha Centauri, Antares, "Orion", and the "Belt of Orion" (the latter two of which aren't even individual stars). "Alpha Centauri" is always one star. Alpha Centauri B does not exist, or so would have you media believed.
When it comes to stargazing, the only stars are Polaris, the Big Dipper (which Polaris will be thought to be in) and Sirius... and that last one only occasionally.
The only galaxies are the Milky Way and Andromeda. Perhaps justified, as those are two of the only known galaxies lucky enough to have names that are not cryptic (Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte), or numbered (Andromedas I through X), with the exception of the Triangulum galaxy. Admittedly, that last one really should be used more often because its name is awesome.
The only comet is Halley's (which always gets mispronounced "Haley's" thanks to a pioneering 1950s musical group).
The only asteroids that exist are the ones on a collision course with Earth. The one exception is usually Ceres, because it's the largest asteroid and - as it will always, and proudly, be pointed out - it's "as big as Texas."
The only crewed space missions ever were "John Glenn's flight" (Friendship 7), Apollo 11, Apollo 13, the Challenger disaster, maybe the Columbia disaster, and whatever one is going on right now.
The only robotic space missions ever were the Voyagers and Pioneers (which may be conflated), some form of Mars rover, and whatever ones have recently been in the news.
Sputnik 1 is the only satellite ever to rate a name, which usually won't include its number in fiction. Often it'll turn up intact decades after launch, despite the real one's having burned up in the atmosphere after only three months in orbit.
In Western fiction, it's often also Russia's sole achievement in space exploration besides Mir.
The Hubble Space Telescope is the only astronomical satellite that exists, and any particularly-impressive space image will be attributed to it.
Light-years, and to a lesser extent, parsecs, are the only units of astronomical measurement (Astronomical Units, or AUs, are reserved solely for "hard" Sci Fi). Any alien race capable of star travel encountering humans will instinctively know how long a light year is, even if there's no way they could know how long a year is on Earth. Add to that "hours" and "days". (Sometimes aliens acknowledge that their hours and days differ, though.) Even a depressingly large number of human beings mistake light years for being a measurement of time instead of distance.
As far as right-pondians are concerned, the USA has the sum total of four significant colleges or universities or whatever you're calling them: MIT (which is a spawning ground for nerds); Harvard (the smart kids); Yale (the rich kids); and Brown (the Butt Monkey). They also know of Princeton, but only because of its association with Einstein.