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Anachronism Stew

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Kung Fury: What year is this?
Barbarianna: It's The Viking Age.
Kung Fury: That explains the laser Raptors.

Stories often add elements to two or more time periods, be it through the appearance in a story set in Charlemagne's empire showing a character in Renaissance dress, Imperial Roman troops having machine guns, or cavemen fighting Dinosaurs to survive. This is not only a modern trope. Medieval artists, for example, routinely painted Biblical figures in contemporary fashions, and the Greek myth of Theseus features similar confusion. Some critics think the very first writer to actually try to reconstruct past times as different from the current era was Sir Walter Scott.

The more academically approved name for this sort of thing is uchronia, a variation on Utopia, which means "not-place", "Uchronia" means "not-time", suggesting it takes place in no real time.

This can also be done deliberately. A work might combine large numbers of anachronisms to create a timeless or surreal setting, where the exact era of the story (or the era the fictional world is supposed to be imitating) is both ambiguous and irrelevant, allowing the work's creators to freely introduce further anachronisms whenever doing so would make for a good plot or a good joke.

Sometimes, this can become so culturally embedded that it actually becomes difficult to tell a story accurately without confusing the audience. This is particularly true with peoples and settings that had already been stewing for centuries, such as Vikings or the Arthurian legend.

This is a Super-Trope to a number of more-particular variations:

Compare Artistic License – History, where the historical inaccuracy is the result of fictionalization, not a combination of actual historical details from different eras.

Please note that this is not a place to pothole any anachronism you find in a work. Those examples belong on the Trivia subpage of that work. This Trope is about the setting/environment of the work, and as such, requires multiple anachronisms affecting how the viewer of the work sees the setting.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • The "Marine" scene from The Apotheosis of Washington has the Roman goddess Venus emerging from the ocean as she did in the time of ancient Greece so she can complete her godly duties... to wire transatlantic telegram cables. Behind her and Neptune's mighty horsemen, you can see a smoke-stacked industrial factory.
  • Raphael Rooms: "The School of Athens" depicts an adult Aristotle in the same building as Socrates, who was executed when Aristotle was 15. Then there's The Cameo from Raphael himself and the Muslim philosopher Averroes, none of whom had access to enough Time Travel to make it to the school on time.
  • Much religious art from The Renaissance on. This had a solid Real World justification, though. Religious paintings, especially on the walls of churches were designed for the masses, and the goal was not to depict a scene exactly as it was, but to tell the story for everyone to understand. Through the use of contemporary clothing, armor, and styles, even the common people could instantly recognize "that's a soldier, that's a fisherman, that's a shepherd, that's a tax collector, that's a nobleman, that's a commoner" etc. instead of "WTF are those people in those silly clothes?"
    • This got completely out of hand by the 18th and 19th centuries, when both Pontius Pilate and Herod were depicted in extravagant Persian-type robes.
    • Historians can and do judge when forks reached different parts of Europe by looking for them in paintings of the Last Supper. Judging military equipment is a little trickier, as you can never quite predict when someone's depicting the cutting edge and when he's depicting a suitably "old-fashioned" type of armor, but that tends to be well-attested elsewhere.
  • This astronaut on a cathedral built in 1102 is another example.
  • An entire style of painting, the classical landscape, was dedicated to this. It incorporated classical, medieval, and contemporary architecture while showing biblical or historical characters.

    Asian Animation 
  • The Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf series is supposed to take place in 3513, but the season Around the World in 20 Days has the goats visit the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

    Audio Plays 
  • The Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama Invaders from Mars actually has some deliberate anachronisms, such as a character saying there was 49 states in 1938, when there was only 48, and someone repeatedly referencing the CIA when it wouldn't be founded until nine years later. This was due to the influence of "anti-time". Other mistakes, however, were less deliberate, like Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds broadcast being on October 31 instead of October 30.

  • Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog has this baked into its very concept, and that's not even getting into all the pop culture references...
  • Renegade Rhetoric, a Character Blog for Cy-Kill from Challenge of the GoBots where the Renegade leader used many of his posts to describe the events of episodes from a non-existent second season to the cartoon, had a flagrant case of this in the answer given to a question asked about the fictional episode "Darkest Before the Dawn" in regards to what costumes Cy-Kill and his Renegades wore when they infiltrated the sci-fi convention, as most of them are described as dressing as fictional characters who couldn't possibly have existed during the mid-1980's (where the fictional second season of Challenge of the GoBots is said to have aired). Examples include Crasher being stated to have dressed as Tomb Raider protagonist Lara Croft (when the first Tomb Raider game wasn't released until 1996), Cop-Tur described as wearing a costume of Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII (a video game that didn't exist until 1997, with the first game of the series it came from not coming out until 1987) and Decker Decker said to have gone as Deadpool (a Marvel Comics character who didn't debut until 1991).

    Comic Strips 
  • In Scary Gary, it's not clear how technology progressed over the years, but Gary has home video recordings of himself as a five year old kid in 14th century Romania. There weren't any iPhones at that time though.
    Beatrice: What did you have?

    Eastern European Animation 
  • Krisztofóró: Though set in the magical Middle Ages, random technological conveniences do appear. Krisztofóró takes advantage of this in the very first episode, where he defeats a steam horse by making it fall in love with a locomotive, causing the horse to try and find the machine that hasn't been invented yet.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Bible, especially in some versions/translations, has been known to contain a few anachronisms since often the "books" composing it were written some time after the events were supposed to have taken place. For example the descriptions of armor, especially that worn by Goliath, in 1 Samuel 17 are typical of Greek armour of the 6th century BC rather than of Philistine armour of the 10th century BC.
    • The original Hebrew text is, however, a surprisingly accurate description of the 11th century BC maryannu.
    • The Tribes of Israel are Retconned as having extensively used iron weapons - Deborah is given a battle chariot protected by iron plates - even though bronze would have been universal for all peoples - including mighty Egypt - in this time period. And ignoring that in another passage Israel was unable to defeat an enemy army because the enemy possessed iron chariots.
    • All of the Hebrew Bible from Genesis through 2 Kings wasn't written down and in its final form until around 500 BC or later, so descriptions such as the above would be based on contemporary examples.
    • The Apocrypha— books written between the Old and New Testaments not found in Protestant Bibles (but found in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, and considered inspired Scripture) often have these. Whether or not this is deliberate is debated. Some, like Judith, are so riddled with anachronisms that they are essentially the Israelite equivalent of a Tarantino film (only with more morals).
      • The book of Tobit takes place in the 8th century BCE but uses quotes from the books of Chronicles (which many scholars date to the 4th century BCE.)
      • The Book of Judith begins by declaring Nebuchadnezzar as the king who "ruled over the Assyrians", though he actually ruled over the Babylonians. A Catholic Bible commentary suggests that this was an Assyrian king that went by this name that was a contemporary of King Manasseh of Judah, and thus should not be confused with the Babylonian king.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: Quite a few actually:
    • A story about magic, swords, and dwarves wielding giant hammers includes elevators, Epcot-style buildings on the Moon, elevators, train stations, elevators, space stations, automobile-like "battle wagons," and industrial mining equipment. At least some of this is justified in-universe by the influence of the Miller family, who had looked into the Plane of Thought where advanced technology is commonplace.
    • As the nature of the podcasting style, it is often difficult to separate the pop culture references made in-game and made out of character.
    • An entire town is populated by animatronic Tom Bodetts, who all have a friendly, open attitude.
    • Taako is dedicated to discover the Eldritch Mystery of TexMex food.
    • Merle the Dwarf's favorite musician is Kenny Chesney, Johann the Bard plays elevator jazz, and the gang shops at Fantasy Costco.


  • The Castle: Is nominally set in the Middle Ages but deliberately invokes this trope, with characters, headlines and events being obvious references to the present day, for example the aggressive chef Sir Gordon De Ramsay and the Italian knight Antonio Soprano. Sometimes they don't bother to hide it at all and reference the figure or event directly. In additional, all of the music is modern pop music performed on lutes, recorders and other contemporary instruments.
  • Dead Ringers: One sketch has the cast of Downton Abbey pouring scorn on The Crown for its historical inaccuracies. But before Lord Downton can take his Tesla to London to complain at the House of Lords, he's informed he has to stay and entertain the Beatles, who are jamming in the living room with Oasis.


    Web Animation 
  • The Amazing Digital Circus: "Candy Carrier Chaos!": The Candy Canyon Kingdom is a medieval-esque land, but it also has Old West bandits and modern-day trucks.
    Pomni: What time period is this supposed to be, anyway?
  • The Gaston Trilogy (another case of Rule of Funny): Xbox 360s (and Batman: Arkham Asylum), Taco Bell, at least McDonald's if not Burger King, Billy Mays, Justin Bieber, "I’m a Scatman", Six Flags, Babar, and raves with glowsticks and electronic music exist in 18th century France and no one cares. Also it's apparently both directly after and contemporary with pre-Islamic Arabia.
  • Homestar Runner: The "Old-Timey" era is supposed to take place in the 1930s, but makes reference to any number of events ranging from the 1800s to the 1950s.
  • My Story Animated: Amara from "After 30 Years I Am Still 16" fell into a coma in 1990 at the latest, but at one point in the pre-coma part of her story, she's shown using a 21st-century smartphone.
  • OverSimplified: Played for Laughs.
    • For example, a 2019 French Yellow Vest protester is seen among the Yellow Turbans during China's Three Kingdoms period.
    • King Louis giving Porsches to his nobles. They ask if they can have Lamborghinis next year.
    • Alois Hitler (Adolf Hitler's dad) makes a cameo in the Three Kingdoms era (way before he was born) to spank an eunuch. (This happens at around 6:14, if you're wondering.)
    • In the first American Civil War video, George Washington shows up in a meeting held by Abraham Lincoln to discuss his strategy and claim he's the best president of the US. In the second American Civil War video, the Confedarates are seen with a BTS-themed calendar, and Wilmer McLean's wife Martha is seen using a vacuum cleaner.
    • Young Henry VIII's toys included Power Ranger and Ninja Turtle action figures, a Game Boy, and an Etch-a-Sketch.
    • The Russian Tsars have late 20th-century rocket launchers with which to dispose of annoying ministers, and Emperor Meiji has a Gundam. Later, when Stalin and his gang launch his "quiet" heist, they're all armed with Cold War-era AKs and grenades in late 19th/early 20th century Russia.
    • When talking about how Napoleon married the Duke of Austria's daughter to try and get a male heir, Henry VIII can be seen wiggling his eyebrows outside Napoleon's window as the narrator quips "At least he didn't behead anyone".
  • In RWBY, people who fight with swords and other antiquated melee weapons are seen also making use of portable music players, digital tablets and VTOL aircraft. Demonstrated in the "Black" trailer, which pits a ninja and her katana-wielding partner against a horde of robotic mooks on a futuristic-looking Cool Train.
  • From Stardust Crusaders But Really Really Fast which canonically takes place in the late 1980s:
    Cameo: Have you watched Aladdin?
    Polnareff: That ain't out yet.
    Cameo: Uh, then this might take a hot minute to explain.

    Web Videos 
  • DougDoug A.I. Invasion: Doug tries to keep the options limited to the campaign's time period, but anything the AI comes up with becomes fair game. As such, the American Revolution eventually devolves into the Americans and French fielding Humongous Mechas against the British, The Incredible Hulk being published in the 1700s, Hamilton being on tour with the original cast, and the Americans inventing nuclear warheads but not planes to drop them from.
  • Jimmy Fallon's web series Downtown Sixbey combines a Downton Abbey spoof with a backstage drama of Late Night joke writing. As a result, they communicate with each other via telegram and observe tea time, yet they're sitting around writing Kardashian jokes.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • In "Episode of Bardock," Chilled is seen holding a Canon camera, yet the special takes place ages before the invention of cameras. Doesn't matter though, since the whole thing was just a Dream Within a Dream.
    • The strangeness of super high-tech scientist Bulma using a fax machine in the Android/Cell arc is Lampshaded by Krillin. Krillin was surprised to learn that Future Trunks had never heard Country Music before (since the Androids had destroyed all of the Country radio stations). When they then get a fax, Future Trunks says that doesn't know what a fax machine is; Krillin comments that this makes a lot more sense.
  • Epic Rap Battles of History. A lot of times, this explains how the contestants know each other, period.
  • The Evil Empress Guide seems to be this with the various different guidelines. So, our Empress has a blaster at her disposal (guideline 10), can contact the men in her thrall via radio (45), considers hiring a PR firm (48), uses webcam sites to manipulate the population (49) and forbids her Beautiful but Innocent Daughter from shoppng at the mall (56)... but still equips her Amazon Hordes with such "sophisticated weapons" as 10' pikes and longbows (24). As it's a genre-savviness guide meant to cover multiple settings, as well as not meant to be taken too seriously this is perfectly justified.
  • During GrayStillPlays' Wildlife Park 3 playthrough, he's able to drop a Tyrannosaurus rex into the same enclosure as modern-day animals. It even gets killed by a lion.
  • This is one of the points of Hitler Rants (in this case it's used for the Rule of Funny), which in their classic form feature Hitler, in his bunker during World War II, using Internet-age technology and complaining about some modern-era controversy (like Donald Trump's election).
  • The Irate Gamer:
    • In the first episode, after reviewing the Back to the Future game for NES, IG goes back in time to kill the CEO of LJN, preventing the game from ever being created; apparently they already had cordless phones and flat-screen TV's back in 1987.
    • In a joke, IG claims that one obstacle to dodge in Space Race were Imperial TIE Fighters. Space Race came out in 1973, and the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, came out in 1977.
  • Jim Sterling's Commentocracy series features Jim dressed as a Victorian aristocrat, talking about video games, interspersed with silent-film style title cards and film grain.
  • TMK is set in 1996, shortly after the release of Kirby Super Star, but certain episodes use material from Kirby Super Star Ultra, a remake released in 2008.
  • Used as a gag in a Todd in the Shadows review where Todd points out a pay phone is an anachronism in 2012, yet 2012 saw a song about this "antique" item.
  • Unwanted Houseguest is a downplayed example. Crossovers and some of the stories the Houseguest reads imply the series takes place in the modern day, but Aberfoyle Manor's most advanced technology appears to be a landline phone. That said, the Houseguest has said he rarely ventures out, and Aberfoyle does seem to be fairly inaccessible, so it makes sense newer technology hasn't been installed.



Video Example(s):


Hip-Hop Dog Rant

Jon is... more than a little bothered about a rapping dog in the early 1900s.

How well does it match the trope?

4.74 (47 votes)

Example of:

Main / AnachronismStew

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