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Before My Time

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Homer: Adam West?! Hey kids — Batman!
Lisa: Dad, that's not the real Batman.
Adam West: Of course I'm Batman. See, here's a picture of me with Robin.
Bart: Who the hell is Robin?

Funny thing. This Wiki has entries relating to The Maltese Falcon, Sherlock Holmes, and many, many connected to William Shakespeare. Does this mean that a large number of Tropers are Really 700 Years Old? Probably not. More likely, their education and particular interests have left them with knowledge of things that happened well before they were born.

The opposite is often true of people — and especially young people — in fiction. Barring special circumstances, characters will be limited in knowledge of movies, music, politics etc. to things occurring after their birth. In some cases, the ignorance extends to some time after they reached high school.

Before My Time is a kind of in-universe version of the Fleeting Demographic Rule, wherein a character demonstrates glaring ignorance of anything significantly in the past. Frequently this involves blank stares and crickets chirping in response to something said by an older character.

Sometimes inverted wherein an older character will beg off or dismiss a phenomenon as "after my time."

A more technologically-oriented version of this is What Are Records?. Can overlap with Popcultural Osmosis Failure.


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    Comic Books 
  • Shana and Aja from Jem and the Holograms (IDW) get into a debate on what constitutes as a "Rickroll". Their eighteen year old sister Kimber gets fed up of the conversation and says she doesn't even know who Rick Astley is.
  • In Marvel 1602, Peter Parquagh tells Sir Nicholas Fury that he's unaware of previous events in that timeline, because, as he justifies it in his own words, "I wasn't born yet". Fury responds by telling him the importance of knowing about history.
  • In Mighty Avengers, Hank Pym snaps about Cassie Lang going on her own on missions.
    Hank Pym: This is not a John Hughes movie where the kids know everything and the adults are all morons!
    Cassie: Who's John Hughes?

    Comic Strips 
  • In The Boondocks the Freemans' neighbor asks Huey whether he's named after Huey Lewis, and Huey actually responds, "Before my time." The subversion comes in the fact that Huey has just given an erudite lecture on Black Panther Huey Newton. He may just be baiting the poor guy.
  • Inverted possibly to excess in 9 Chickweed Lane. The post-adolescent characters frequently speak in pulp detective slang and reference old movies like Casablanca, but seldom talk about contemporary culture. Of course, Juilliard arts majors can be a little eccentric.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the film adaptation of Jack Higgins Confessional, a British Intelligence boss is briefing an underling on Liam Devlin and says he's "Before your time." Given that (in the novels at least) Liam fought in World War 2 he certainly would be.
  • In Monster-in-Law, Jane Fonda is a newscaster interviewing a "dumb blonde" type famous pop singer, who mentioned that she liked really old movies, and gives some examples, none of which are more than ten or fifteen years old.
  • In Dragonslayer, the king asks Galen if he had heard of the king before him, but then says, "No, of course not, you weren't even born." (The fact that the king had already acquired a low opinion of Galen by this point probably played a part in him deciding Galen wasn't very intelligent.)
  • In Zombieland, Talahassee (after being informed of the concept of Hannah Montana) bemoans the fact that young people don't know who Bill Murray is, and that it's like saying they don't know who Gandhi is.
    Little Rock: Who's Gandhi?
  • The "after my time" inversion is a running gag for Captain America in The Avengers (2012), what with him having been frozen in ice and out of the pop culture loop since World War II. When someone mentions "flying monkeys", he reacts with "I got that one!", while non-human Thor looks confused instead.

  • Wolf in Shadow:
    • Franky often makes literary references that the younger Rhian does not understand. This causes Frankie to bemoan the state of the British education system. Subverted later when Rhian fails to understand a Shakespeare reference but it turns out that she was just joking and points out that the education system is not that bad yet.
    • Max falls victim to both the "before my time" and "after my time" versions at the same time. He is an ancient vampire who was hibernating for a large chunk of the 20th century. He had not had the time yet to get himself acquainted with all the cultural and historical developments that he missed so he is regularly baffled by references to things that happened after he went to sleep but before he woke up. He is particularly annoyed when both Frankie and Rhiam make repeated references to something called "Star Wars".
  • In Orson Scott Card's novel Treasure Box, published in 1996, Madeline uses this to justify not understanding protagonist Quentin's 1980s pop culture references, which is one of the first clues that Madeline is not what she appears to be.

    Live-Action TV 
  • As the youngest character on 30 Rock, a Dumb Blonde, and one of the only people in the writers' room who isn't a pop-culture junkie by professional necessity, Cerie continuously fails to recognize references to anything from earlier than last month.
  • On Community, one of the characters in a community college study group makes a reference to Sam and Diane.
    Annie: Who are Sam and Diane?
    Shirley: OK, we get it! You're young!
    • Similarly:
      Shirley': And here's Ben dressed like a dragon.
      Annie & Britta: Awwwwww.
      Troy: Here's me & Abed dressed like Eddie Murphy & Nick Nolte.
      The girls & Pierce: Awwwwww.
      Annie: Who's Nick Nolte?
  • Doctor Who: In "The Empty Child", set during the Blitz, Rose jokingly refers to the Doctor as "Mr. Spock". Jack doesn't get the reference and initially assumes that it was the Doctor's name. It's later revealed he's a conman from the future (the 51th century), but it's still not surprising Star Trek reruns wouldn't last that long.
  • On House, the title character is making one of his trademark analogies to Thirteen, in this case referencing Altered States. She tries to shut him down by saying the movie came out before she was even born. Which apparently prevents her not only from having seen the movie, but also from understanding anything he says about it.
  • Lost:
    • The "after my time" inversion was used in those exact words when Locke doesn't recognize Sawyer's reference to Of Mice and Men. Since Locke is actually the Smoke Monster, who's been on the Island for centuries it kind of is.
  • Played with in the Modern Family episode where Dylan comes over to the Dunphy's lawn after Haley has broken up with him and plays music toward her window from his phone. Phil sees this and says "Say Anything...". Dylan, born well after that movie came out, thinks it's a request.
  • Sometimes seen on The Office. In one episode, Michael goes clubbing with Ryan and chats up a girl with a tangent on Back to the Future. She doesn't seem to have heard of it, even though the movie or one of its sequels is basically always playing on some cable channel or other.
  • The British quiz show Pointless, in which contestants must try to give the most obscure answers they can think of to a variety of list-based questions, defies this trope. Players are banned from using: "It's a bit before my time", or words to that effect, as an excuse for not knowing any answers or for only knowing obvious answers.
  • On The X-Files, Mulder goes to interview a retired FBI agent who investigated X-Files in The '50s. The agent asks Mulder whether he's heard of the House Un-American Activities Committee, but immediately assumes that he hasn't. Even if he knew nothing about Mulder personally, the topic is covered in high school history classes.


    Print Media 
  • A column in Doctor Who Magazine describes a hilarious inversion; a woman who insists to a party full of DWM columnists, Universe Compendium writers and obsessive fans that her completely erroneous version of early Doctor Who is correct, brushing off all arguments with "You weren't even born, dear."

    Video Games 
  • One of the things Ellie... borrows from Bill in The Last of Us is a music tape, which she hands to Joel:
    Ellie: Here. This make you all nostalgic?
    Joel: (chuckling) Y'know, that is actually before my time. That is a winner, though.
  • Why Does My New Year's Eve Always Crash and Burn?:
    The best thing about the fifth-floor party room is its name, chosen by your boss's boss Karl Palillo. Palillo is a .com millionaire who went to college in the late 80s and worshiped some band called The Pixies. Evidently Kim Deal was in a band before The Breeders...

    Web Original 
  • When Mikayla gets called a Gremlin in The Most Popular Girls in School she replies with "I was born in 2003. I have no idea what a 'gremlin' is."
  • Exaggerated in the article "READ GAME" from The Escapist, which states that anyone born after 1973 has never heard about Interactive Fiction games in their life, while anyone born before 1973 has a plethora of fond memories about them.

    Western Animation