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Born in the Wrong Century

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"Most people think Marv is crazy. He just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century. He would've been right at home on some ancient battlefield, swinging an axe into somebody's face. Or in a Roman arena taking a sword to other gladiators like him. They'd have tossed him girls like Nancy back then."
Dwight McCarthy, Sin City, "A Dame to Kill For"

There's a certain type of character who yearns for Ye Goode Olde Days, when things were more exciting, or simpler, or better in some other way. Or maybe they feel they'd fit in better in a time other than their own. Or maybe they're just history buffs and would like to have been around when all that history was happening. Maybe it's the romance they miss.

Or maybe the character is an inventor ahead of their time who just can't convince anyone that their crazy ideas could make a benefit for mankind, or a sci-fi buff who only wishes that all those stories about spaceships and flying cars were real, or a subculture waiting for the time when the world will be ready for them. Or, conversely, they might be a master of an Obsolete Occupation that would have been really impressive back when it was cutting edge a few hundred years ago.

No matter what the reason, though, this character feels that they were born in the wrong century.

Characters of this sort often find themselves involved in Time Travel adventures — maybe they jump at the chance to test out some new time travel technology; maybe they're selected because their knowledge of the era will be useful to their fellow time travelers; maybe they just want to travel through time so badly that the fabric of spacetime folds itself for them for no adequately explained reason. Sometimes, these characters learn that the time they wanted to live in isn't so great after all, but just as often they don't. If so, they may choose to stay.

Note that this trope usually involves characters who live in modern industrialized democracies where they have a great deal of freedom and luxuries, which can make their nostalgia hard to take seriously. Characters from a crapsack country ravaged by plague, famine, or an evil dictator, are probably justified in feeling this way, but are rarely depicted unless they live in a future dystopia. Alternatively, like in the page quote, these characters are people who would like to return to a time when physical violence was a good pathway to fame and fortune.

Meanwhile, outside of science fiction and fantasy, characters like this are just stuck in the present day. Sucks to be them.

Such people do exist in Real Life, by the way; the time travel part, on the other hand, is probably not Truth in Television. Compare with Fan of the Past and Disco Dan. See also Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be for cases governed by Nostalgia Filter or The Theme Park Version of Ye Goode Olde Days, and Original Position Fallacy if the character specifically imagines they'd be in power "where they belong": heroic examples of this trope usually accept that the era had flaws but love it anyway.

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Examples With Time Travel

    Anime and Manga 
  • Nobita in Doraemon was pretty much a loser in his time where his only useful skill is his super-accurate marksmanship. In the stories in which he Time Travels to The Wild West, he often ended up becoming a hero due to said-marksmanship which drove away the bandits.
  • Yuri, of Red River (1995), is a more understated instance of this trope. While she enjoys life in her own time and country, she is spirited away to and grows to love Anatolia so much that she gives up her last chance to go home, in favor of staying. She does use more modern discoveries while there, among them ideas like keeping the injured and sick in sanitary conditions, but she also connects insanely to the land, the people, and the culture. Note that despite time travel being possible in this world, Kail himself is an example of the second form of this trope. While he's not able to travel to present times, a lot of his viewpoints (citizens being treated equally, being monogamous in marriage, etc.) are ones that would be perfectly normal in modern times but pretty unusual in his time.
  • Vinland Saga, set at the time of Vikings, briefly features a character that still lives as if the Roman Empire never ended.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: In a Batman and Martian Manhunter team-up in Detective Comics in 1997, Wally Dalbert, a 27th century thief who committed his crimes by travelling backwards in time but had no way of travelling forwards, eventually settled to become a philanthropist in 19th century Gotham, where he had previously indicated he would feel more at home.
  • Birds of Prey: Zinda Blake, better known as Lady Blackhawk, is a fighter pilot and hero from the 1950s who found herself in the modern day after a time warp sends her forward several decades. Due to her highly liberal and controversial beliefs, such as her determination to become a fighter pilot, she finds herself much more comfortable in the modern-day DCU than she did back in her own era. The only notable problems she seems to have is that her taste in music is a few decades behind the times, and she can hardly get anybody to honor her senior citizens discount.
  • The Flash: Subverted by the time-travelling villains Abra Kadabra and Professor Zoom, who travelled to the 20th century because they felt out of place in their own eras, and turned out not to fit in very well there either.
  • Green Lantern: Knodar comes from the year 2447 A.D., when everyone's needs and whims are met by machines so that there is no incentive to steal, and therefore no crime or criminals. The one person who liked this idea of being a criminal was Knodar. He was inspired from old gangster movies. In his initial try at being a criminal he was caught and placed in a cell for all to see as a social anomaly. He escaped to 1947 and began a crime spree with stolen tech from his time period in an era where a criminal was regarded as a threat rather than an oddity.
  • The Invisibles: Locked up for obscenity in the 18th century, the Marquis de Sade finds himself embraced with open arms by the fetish club scene of present-day San Francisco.
  • Runaways: Played with in the case of Klara Prast, who travelled forward in time from the early 20th century to the early 21st. On the one hand, she doesn't miss her old life of being married to (and exploited by) her abusive alcoholic husband at the age of eleven, or the persecution she used to suffer because of her plant-controlling abilities. On the other hand, she finds many aspects of the modern world baffling (it doesn't help that her guide to the modern world is Molly Hayes, whose own understanding of the world is rather spotty.)
  • The Warlord: Not exactly time travel, but close enough — Travis Morgan was a lot happier in the savage Lost World of Skartaris than he ever had been in the 20th century.

    Fan Fiction 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Back to the Future, Doc Brown longed to be back in the days of the Wild West, which he manages to visit in Back to the Future Part III. In fact he actually thrives there: he becomes the well-respected town blacksmith and even finds love. He even requests in a letter that Marty not go back for him. The IDW comic book says the same of Doc's wife Clara, an intelligent, strong-willed woman who loves Science Fiction but was born in the 1800s. As shown in the movie, this ends up becoming the common bond that leads to their falling in love.
  • Invoked and deconstructed in French-Italian musical comedy Beauties Of The Night. A music teacher Claude lives a very unsatisfying life in the 1950s. His job sucks, children hate his lessons, he writes music at night and keeps falling asleep at day, making the whole town sneer at him; he is harassed by Obstructive Bureaucrats, debt collectors and neighbours, who take their jokes too far. One day he falls asleep at a lesson and dreams that his music is appreciated in The Gay '90s. Then an old man in a bar tells how good 19th century was and Claude's dream continues. Then in his dream the same old man gets nostalgic about 1830, and Claude slips to 1830s and heroically fights some colonial war. Then the old man gets nostalgic about Louis XVI, and Claude starts giving lessons to aristocrats and campaigning for The French Revolution. He enjoys his three dream lives far more than the waking world (for one, he's more popular with women there), so he downs extra sleeping pills "to never wake up", prompting his friends to start trying to save him. Then the dreams become nightmares: revolutionary court mistakenly sentences him to death, sultan chases him for visiting his sister and his symphony premiere flops because he inadvertently included every modern sound he hates (klaxons, jackhammers, vacum cleaners). He wakes up, friends try to help him, but nightmares get progressively bizarre and he is chased by anachronistic angry mob through all history from Stone Age through the Deluge, Ancient Rome, The Middle Ages and so on. Eventually friends help to solve Claude's legal and financial troubles, his music gets its due recognition, pills wear off and he confesses his love to the Girl Next Door.
  • The whole premise of The Brady Bunch Movie is that the '70s incarnation of the family is transplanted into 1995 and comically unaware of the world around them being different than it was back then.
  • In Last Night in Soho, the protagonist Eloise is a teenager who was presumably born in the early 2000s, but believes she should have grown up in the 1960s and is deeply nostalgic for the era. The movie is about her finding out about the darker parts of the era via a form of Mental Time Travel and coming to terms with the fact that the past isn't as glamorous as she imagined.
  • Last of the Dogmen: Twentieth-century Bounty Hunter Lewis comments that he was born a century too late and that his anthropologist associate Lilian was born a century too early.
  • This is the whole premise of Midnight in Paris; the protagonist feels like he would have loved to live in 1920s Paris, only to find a way to visit that era. There, he falls in love with a woman who wants to live in the 1890s, and when the two visit that time they find out the people back then wanted to live in the Renaissance.
  • Somewhere in Time has the protagonist falling in love with a long-dead actress from the past.
  • In Time After Time, Jack Richardson (aka Jack the Ripper) gloats to Wells on how in 1893, his brutal murders were too horrific to contemplate. When he travels to 1979 San Francisco, he realizes that in the late 20th century, such violence is almost quaint compared to what is seen on the daily news.
    Richardson: Ninety years ago, I was a freak. Today, I'm an amateur.
  • Timeline: Archaeology student André is a fan of the Middle Ages who eventually gets his wish of visiting them. Unsurprisingly, he chooses to stay and ends becoming the very knight whose tomb he was excavating in the beginning of the book.

  • In "April in Paris" by Ursula K. Le Guin, Barry is a lonely Cloud Cuckoolander professor from the 1960s who really cares for nothing but poets of medieval France. Kislk is an interplanetary archaeologist from the 8th millennium AD who is utterly bored in her all-perfect world. Both get transported to the early 15th century and are very happy with it.
  • The eponymous character in Nancy C. Swoboda's "Christopher Frame," who wished that he'd lived back in the days of real craftsmen, discovered that he could travel to the period when a photograph was taken if he put it on his dresser, set his developing timer and then went to sleep. He managed to stay in the past by asking a girl from the period to hold his hand and not let go when the timer was about to go off.
  • It isn't actually time travel, but the Darkover novel Two to Conquer gives the same effect with Paul Harrell — quite explicitly described as being in the wrong century — being transported from the Terran Empire to the feudal-era Lost Colony of Darkover.
  • The protagonist of The Door into Summer signed up for cold sleep in 1970 only because he was binge drinking after friends betrayed him. But when he woke in 2000 and took several months to adjust, he found that a genius inventor can get by just as fine, but with extra comforts like controlled weather and anti-caries drugs. In the end, he doesn't want to go back.
    • An arts professor Leonard Vincent wanted to travel 500 years to the past or future, because anything would be better than his 1980s. He may have become Quetzalcoatl, Leonardo da Vinci, both or neither. We never learn the answer.
  • Hans Christian Andersen's "The Galoshes of Fortune" featured a man who always said that life in Medieval Denmark was much better... until he got there himself.
  • Alfred Bester's short story "Hobson's Choice" deconstructs the hell out of this trope. The main character lives in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse. He believes he lives in the worst time ever and dreams of escaping to the past. He discovers time travelers appearing from a small town and finds out that they are being sent there as a form of therapy because they believe that his time period is a Golden Age. The time travel technicians point out to him that in real life it would be nearly impossible for anyone to adapt adequately to live in a past time period. The time travelers are being sent back as a form of therapy to get them to readjust to life in their present, and most soon come back after finding they can't live in that time period. It is also pointed out that there is probably no point in time that someone, somewhere, and somewhen doesn't think is a golden age.
  • In Island in the Sea of Time, Marian Alston goes from being a lonely, closeted Coast Guard officer to a beloved and respected war hero after the Event sends her ship back in time to the Bronze Age. The only thing she seems to miss about the 20th century are tampons. Similarly, William Walker rather likes the opportunities presented by a world in which "might makes right" is still a respected principle.
  • Outlander features the protagonist, Claire, who is sent to the 1700's. She eventually fell in love with and married Jaime Fraser and stopped him from killing Jack Randall who is the ancestor of her 20th-century husband, Frank. By the time she got back to her time, she's pregnant with Jaime's daughter and the animosity grew between her and Frank with Claire secretly asking Brianna's boyfriend, Roger, to research on Jaime's whereabouts and Frank, knowing that Brianna is not his daughter since he's sterile. After Frank died in a car accident, Claire went back to the 18th century and decided to stay there and used her 20th-century medical ideas in helping others, particularly saving John Grey's nephew from a life-threatening bullet wound.
  • The book The Sterkarm Handshake features a tramp on the streets of Edinburgh who is given a chance to travel back to 16th-century Scotland, where he fits in a lot better.
  • The protagonist of Jack Finney's Time and Again wants to live in the 19th century, so he volunteers for a time-travel experiment. And the follow-through: he ultimately decides to stay in 1882.
  • The main character in Edward Ormondroyd's Time At The Top, a grade-school aspiring actress, wished that she could've lived back when women wore long dresses that went "swish." Fortunately for her, the ditsy old lady she'd helped with her potatoes and hat on a windy day granted her three trips back to the past via the elevator in her apartment building.
  • André Marek in Timeline is an interesting case — he is deeply interested in medieval combat, language, and culture, but seems to hold few illusions about the morality that goes with them. When he is exposed to a past full of backstabbing, grime, and cruelty, he elects to stay behind, and marry the Femme Fatale.
  • In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol, Everard wishes that people from his time who talked of the "noble Nordic" could see the Dark Ages peasants he is seeing.
  • For the protagonist of Caroline B. Cooney's Time Quartet, just briefly wishing that she lived a hundred years in the past seems to be enough to send her back in time. She winds up discovering that the Victorian era is not as great as she thought it was. A later book has an ahead-of-her-time Victorian girl travelling to the 1990s, with similar results — the culture shock is just too great for her to feel comfortable staying there.
  • TimeRiders: Liam seems to be consistently much more at peace in the past then he ever is in 2001.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Dead Gorgeous, Hazel adapts extremely easily to the modern world and, unlike her sisters, seems much happier in the 21st century than she ever would have been in the 19th.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O plays it straight with Geiz and Tsukuyomi, both of whom adapt extremely easily to living in 2018...mostly because 2068, the year they hail from, is an apocalyptic nightmare world and it's all Zi-O's fault, which is why they came back in time to either kill him or keep him from becoming that era's Evil Overlord. By the end of the series, Zi-O rewrites time to make both of them into actual residents of his era when he successfully erases the Bad Future. The show also plays the concept for laughs with Hiryu Kakogawa, Zi-O's Evil Counterpart, who returns in the post-series stageshow and decides that his repeated defeats are the result of the Heisei calendar, meaning he just needs to get rid of both Heisei and Reiwa so that the franchise can go back to Showa. The theater audience audibly breaks into laughter when Hiryu declares this trope by name.
  • Amanda Price from Lost in Austen yearns for the manners of the early 19th century. Luckily, she gets to stay there. Elizabeth Bennet, meanwhile, would rather live in Amanda's time.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Gettysburg", Andy Larouche, a borderline white supremacist and the descendant of a Confederate Army veteran, is Still Fighting the Civil War and regrets that he was born more than 100 years too late to actually fight in the conflict. To a lesser extent, he believes that he unfairly missed out on World War II, Vietnam and Desert Storm.
  • Oliver O'Toole, the main character of Signed, Sealed, Delivered, prefers quoting Shakespeare and writing letters to spending time on the Internet.
  • The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" has Edith Keeler, a pacifist activist who was born in the wrong century. Her ideals match the future Federation's exactly, but had her movement succeeded, Hitler would have won World War II. She herself is not a time traveler.
  • Star Trek: Picard gives us Cristóbal "Chris" Rios, a former Starfleet officer in the early 25th century, who ends up feeling right at home in the 2020s (real cigars are a big plus for him).
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "A Stop at Willoughby", Gart Williams is not temperamentally suited to the stress that being an advertising executive entails. He begins to dream about an idyllic small town named Willoughby in 1888 where he can live his life full measure at a slower pace. When Gart tells his wife Janie about Willoughby, she retorts that he was born too late and that it was her mistake to marry a man whose ambition in life is to be Huckleberry Finn.
    • Subverted in "Once Upon a Time". Rollo, a scientist from 1962, goes back to 1890 with Mulligan expecting simpler times, only to realize that they also didn't have the simple pleasures of his time such as spring mattresses, TV dinners and bikinis. Mulligan sends him back to 1962 as he has begun to annoy him.
    • Subverted again in "No Time Like the Past". After thrice failing to fix history, Paul Driscoll decides to go back to 1881 where none of the modern world's problems exist. After inadvertently causing a fire he intended to stop, he accepts that history has always had disasters none of which he can stop, so he decides to return to his own time and to work to make a better future.
  • Captain Jack Harkness, from Doctor Who and Torchwood, was born in the 51st century, but has a deep fondness for the 1940s, to the point where he impersonates (and/or enlists as) an American volunteer in World War II at least three times.
    • The first time was just part of an elaborate con to sell an alien ambulance he was claiming was a warship. It was sitting on the exact spot a bomb was going to hit, and he planned to take off with the money.
      • There's also something of an inversion in Torchwood in that he sometimes seems to be living in the wrong century, considering 21st century social and relationship mores as being "quaint little categories". The current day attitude to relationships seems very different from in his time...
    • A much darker example, as well as a slight subversion from the same 'Verse is Professor Yana, an elderly genius scientist who just happened to live at the End of the Universe, when all the stars had long since burned out. When the Doctor encounters him and realizes that he built elaborate circuits out of food, he remarks that Yana would've been revered all across the galaxies if he'd been born earlier. But those galaxies, as Yana puts it, "just had to go and collapse on us." Ironically, Yana turns out to be The Master, the Doctor's former-best-friend-slash-archenemy, who had gone as far as to turn himself into a human and erase all of his memories to escape the horrors of the Time War. When he finally regains his memories, he is able to steal the Doctor's time machine and fly to the present day — but as his insanity had returned hand in hand with his memories, he no longer intends to use his genius for the greater good...
  • Warehouse 13 gives us a female H. G. Wells, who after over a century of being suspended in bronze, shows little surprise at the wonders of the 21st Century, as she had already predicted most of it in her writing. At various points, it could even be argued that given the ingenuity she displays in evading Warehouse agents, as well as her century old gadgets still outclassed them, even the 21st Century may still be a century or two behind her.

  • The protagonist of the Tony Banks song "Throwback":
    I walk the backstreets
    Of every dirty city, searching for the route
    That leads me back to where I belong
    I don't know how, but I'm trapped in the wrong time
    If you know someplace I can go
    Then I ask you, lead me to the door!
  • It has been said that Nick Drake would have been better off in Elizabethan England rather than the 1960s-1970s. He was known for his love of the poet John Keats.
  • "Tribute To The Past" by Gamma Ray.
    Prepared to go where my heart belongs — back to the past again

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Safe Havens gives time travel as the reason Leonardo da Vinci was born in the wrong century, and why his inventions were ahead of his time: while he was born in 1452, his formative years were spent in the late 2010's, thanks to both him and his mother (herself born in 2018, and actually delivered by her future self) being time travelers.

  • Van Rijn from Girl Genius. He died 200 years before the events of the story, and the exquisite craftsmanship and intricacy of his Muses remain unsurpassed by other clank designers. He was also able to make sentient clanks, something that's considered widely to be impossible even 200 years later. Although there have been hints he got a leg up thanks to his conversations with The Muse of Time.
  • Hatsune Rondo of Mayonaka Densha pines for 19th century London as she has become disenchanted with modern day Japan, and also wishes to escape from her unhappy home life. While she does get her wish and meets a dashing hero in typical romance novel fashion and meets her hero Sherlock Holmes when she gets there, living in Victorian London seems to be frequently costing her large chunks of her sanity. Hatsune is constantly exposed to dismembered corpses, attacked, tortured and almost violated by criminals and forced to confront traumas from her life back in the present day. And it turns out her dashing hero is just as lonely and insecure as she is. Yet she still prefers it to her own time.

    Western Animation 
  • Philip J. Fry of Futurama states at one point that he's much more comfortable in the future (i.e., the show's present) than he had been in the 20th century. This is displayed several times, particularly the episode with his "girlfriend"; indeed, one of the first things he does on realizing he's in the future is realize that everyone he ever knew is dead, and then cheer — and while he later laments this fact, he quickly gets over it. This was actually a surprise to the creators; much of the humor planned for the show was going to be Fry failing to fit in with the world of the 31st century, but when they realized that Fry was adjusting so well they had to switch to other joke vectors quicker than anticipated.
  • Used twice with Jebidiah Townhouse in Regular Show, who was born during the early 1800's and always acted like he was in the 1980's the locals disapproved of this, so he decided to travel 200 years into the future, where his style is considered as old.
  • Time Squad: The two of the main characters share a fondness for another time; Buck Tuddrussel has a genuine interest for the days of when America was settling the Wild West in the 19th century, and gets teary eyed when able to experience it for himself. Otto is perfectly happy with living a million years into the future, as he had no real chance of a good life of his own in the 21st century. But even though he has a well rounded knowledge on history, he shows a very passionate interest in Colonial/Revolutionary War era America, with some of his heroes being George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
  • Ninjago: Acronix, one of the Time Twins, was born decades ago and had travelled 40 years into the future and is amazed on how advance society has become, much to Krux's annoyance. It's heavily implied that, despite saying otherwise and unlike his brother, he much rather continue living in the future rather than use Time Travel to bring Ninjago back the way it was before technology.

Examples Without Time Travel

    Anime and Manga 
  • Arata: The Legend performs this with Oribe, a schoolmate of Arata Hinohara. She admits to feeling out of place in the world and life she's living in, having been rejected by her mother from an early age on, and even says she feels like she was born in the wrong century. Turns out that Oribe is originally a citizen of Amawakuni. She was one of the maidens born to the Himezoku and was thrown into the forest, to keep her safe from those that were assassinating all the Himezoku maidens. Oribe took the place of a girl in Japan, while said girl was brought to Amawakuni and raised as Mikusa.
  • Bleach character Yoruichi is hedonistic, egalitarian, and emotionally expressive, although she was born in a highly regimented society akin to feudal Japan. She tries to live up to her aristocrat family's expectations (and succeeds for a while, because of her courage and martial skills) but didn't think twice about leaving when Aizen's machinations forced her into exile. This is the main reason why Ichigo was surprised by The Reveal of Yoruichi's origins.
  • Raoh and Toki from Fist of the North Star were both powerful practitioners of Hokuto Shinken, and would probably have become famous heroes of the style had they not had the misfortune of being born in the same generation, and also sharing said generation with Kenshiro. Kenshiro went on to become the successor and the two brothers were forced into different roles, which ended with Raoh and Toki dead alongside many other who fell afoul of Raoh's ambitions.
    • The spin-off Gag Series DD Fist of the North Star plays with the idea of Kenshiro being the destined "hero of the end of the century" by reimagining him in a world where the apocalypse didn't happen. Turns out the same skills that made Kenshiro the savior of humanity After the End have very little application in the modern world. This also applies to the other martial artist characters, like the aforementioned Raoh and Toki, but isn't emphasized nearly as much as it is with Kenshiro himself.
  • A Serial Killer in Franken Fran was noted as having attributes (genius-level intelligence, physical perfection, total lack of empathy/conscience) that would have made him a great king in the ancient world: an Imagine Spot of this depicts him slouching on top of a mountain of naked women.
  • Saeko Busujima exhibits qualities of this in High School Of The Dead. She's the Heir to the Dojo and a Yamato Nadeshiko of the dangerous variety with a thirst for blood and violence. In the 21st century a warrior of her caliber is an anachronism; she'd be much more at home on the battlefields of the Tokugawa era.
  • Marie from Innocent Rogue gets always enraged by misogynists and often advocates that women should have as much rights as men do, but in 18th century France she's never taken seriously. Also, an Imagine Spot of Jacques Damiens' ambition shows literally modern France. The two have a brief debate about it when they've met.
  • Hajime Kashimo from Jujutsu Kaisen is a downplayed example. He was born in the Edo Period and spent his life fighting everyone he perceived as even remotely powerful, eventually defeating all challengers and becoming bored and sedentary in his old age. He accepts Kenjaku's offer to be reincarnated in the present because he missed the Heian Era, the Golden Age of Jujutsu where absolute monsters like Ryomen Sukuna, Yorozu, Uraume, Michizane Sugawara and many other bigshot sorcerers who went to form the major clans of Gojo, Kamo and Zen'in were at their peak. Many of whom are now running around in one way or another due to the Culling Game.
  • Yami from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. They are bored with the peaceful times without war, as they believe their martial arts are rusting from it. Thus, they decide to cause World War III.
  • Goemon Ishikawa of Lupin III is a man who basically lives and dresses as a 17th century Samurai, but since he exists in the 20-21st century, he sticks out like a sore thumb.
  • Crank Zent and Carta Issue of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans are Gjallarhorn officers who believed in honor, justice and valor, in a Post-Calamity War corrupt organization. When their opponent is a Combat Pragmatist Child Soldier, they urged for Combat by Champion when the later literally has no concept of honor.
  • Tsurezure from Ojojojo has been noted to act like he's from the 1950s in regard to his tastes in clothing, music, et cetera.
  • Shishio Makoto and the Juppongatana in Rurouni Kenshin aren't too happy about the upcoming peaceful Meiji era, because it doesn't present them many opportunities for conquering Japan and rebuilding it as the nation where strength is the only thing that matters. Of course, they (and many other samurai characters in the series) were born in the right era, they just managed to outlive it, and now have to figure out what to do with themselves now that they're in a new era that doesn't need or want them anymore. The answer the villainous ones tend to come up with is to try to bring the old era back, by force if necessary.
  • The motivation of Samurai Champloo's Big Bad, Kariya Kagetoki. Feeling that he was "born into the wrong era", he decided rather than try to live by the strength of his own sword, which he views as a futile though noble effort, he would simply use the corrupt lords to his own ends. While he extends this motivation to Jin as well in a "Not So Different" Remark moment, Jin gets over it by finding people for whom he is willing to put his life in line. Best demonstrated in the following exchange:
    Kariya Kagetoki: Why are you here? Are you trying to throw away the life that you so narrowly managed to keep? As I recall, you once said there aren't any lords worth risking your life for.
    Jin: That's right. For my entire life, I have chosen to fight for no one but myself. My dedication...and my study for the sword were for no one but myself...Until now. I swear I always get stuck with it.
  • Exaggerated with Furuya in Seitokai Yakuindomo, who, being Shino's predecessor, is at most two years older than her. Yet she uses Japanese slang from The '80s unironically and is so bad with technology that she uses a pocket abacus instead of a calculator.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • More like born in the wrong decade, but Misawa of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is a Badass Bookworm who gradually gets treated with less and less respect (by the characters and writers alike) as the series progresses—he's a highly intelligent and analytical duelist who ultimately comes up with a highly analytical and hypothetically effective control deck, but the show and the main characters use impractical combo decks and rely on New Powers as the Plot Demands to give them the cards they need under any circumstance. Contrast the next series Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, where every main character is some sort of genius that relies on careful strategy and setting up plays turns in advance. He'd have fit right in.
    • Yuya, the protagonist of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, would have fit right in the GX era for the aforementioned reasons; while he actually has a practical deck, he still abuses New Powers as the Plot Demands and is extremely Hot-Blooded, but most people in Arc-V actually use dependable Meta-Decks.

    Comic Books 
  • A constant implication about Cacofonix in Goscinny's run writing Asterix. Several scenes, interactions, aesthetic suggestions and lines suggest that Cacofonix may not be a truly Dreadful Musician at all, but The Rock Star, tragically living over 2000 years before anyone can appreciate his musical style or any musical instruments were made to exploit it. This is especially sad at the end of The Soothsayer, where he is told that voices like his would be popular in the future (by a phony, but soothsayers denounced as phony by the narrator earlier in the story make photographic predictions of the modern world), and later daydreams of himself on a modern stage performing to an adoring audience. This Alternative Character Interpretation is mostly put to rest by Uderzo's stories, which make it unambiguous that he is just awful, depending on how canon you find it.
  • Minor Batman foes the Trigger Twins wish they had lived in the days of The Wild West, and live their lives like a pair of 19th-century western outlaws.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Grandma Duck in Carl Barks' stories still uses late 19th century technology on her farm.
  • It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken: Seth is obsessed with the past and wishes he lived in the 1920s or 30s.
  • The characters in the Manga Shakespeare series. The series uses the original dialogue, so we have modern or even future characters speaking in Olde English.
  • The Marvel Universe villain Turner D. Century, who preferred the U.S. of the year 1900.
  • Practically all the heroes of Preacher wish they were living in a wild west film.
  • The Punisher villain Roc muses as he beats the living hell out of the Punisher that he would have fit in perfectly as a gladiator in ancient Rome. Here and now, though, he's just a violent thug.
  • Robin (1993): Sir Edmund Dorrance certainly thinks so, thinking that Hong Kong had only been made into a great city thanks to its British influence, to the point where he's willing to lay waste to the city rather than have it fall into the hands of the Chinese using an experimental Nazi super-plague. Fortunately for the city, Robin was able to thwart his plans, only for Dorrance to head straight to Gotham and wrest control of the Chinatown district away from the Triads and continue his activities.
  • Sociopathic Hero Marv from Sin City is described as such by Dwight in one story and provides the Trope Name.
  • Superman: General Zod is disgusted that Krypton stopped being a Proud Warrior Race.
  • Charlene, the cowgirl in The Transformers (Marvel), yearns for the Old West.
  • Viz has several characters like this. Victorian Dad seemingly believes he is in the Victorian period and his strict ways cause a lot of embarrassment to his children. Major Misunderstanding is a conservative war veteran who wishes for the good old days — but is evidently senile, frequently mistaking something for something else which he then criticises for being too politically correct. Jack Black And His Dog Silver is similar to 1960s adventure comics, but the time period changes depending on the appearance — the only real constant are the 3 lead characters and their conservative nature.

    Fan Works 
  • Terrence Higgs from Black Sky has a very medieval, courtly relationship with Dorea Black. When he decides to forever swear himself to her as a loyal liege, she laments he ought to have been a resident of King Arthur's Camelot.
  • Lenora in Dear Diary is portrayed as someone whose interest in history makes her wish that Pokémon battles were life-or-death battles of honor like they were in the past. This makes her The Dreaded as a Gym Leader and puts her at odds with reformers who would prefer the league would be more regulated.
  • Dermabrasion: Aparently, in Japan's criminal underworld, even well into the 23rd century, some gang families that are descended from Samurai or Shoguns still act like it. Dabi relays an incident where he got hired by one such family where the family head was caught cheating on his wife by his son. His son ordered him to commit Seppuku to "cleanse the shame" which he did, they bribed the woman he was cheating with to change her name and never speak of this to anyone, and then they decide to burn the body with the house where the cheating took place in (which is where Dabi comes in) so they can erase the taint. They even ask Dabi to wear a ceremonial kimono for that one.
  • The Great Alicorn Hunt: The minor draconequus Malfunziona was most definitely this. Since he is a lesser being than a normal draconequus like Discord, his powers are more specific — he can only grow in power by breaking complex machinery, and the power he gains is directly proportional to the complexity of the device. Since he was active in a pre-industrialized Equestria, where the most complex machinery were farming tools and the like, he was only a nuisance at best. Eventually, he invaded the workshop of a Leonardo da Vinci-expy, Bold Lion, to get something of a power-up (as an inventor's home would be the only place where he could find any machinery of significance), only to be sealed away. Cue several centuries later, in the modern day, where he's released. It took him only an hour to become as powerful as Discord and the Princesses (aided by the fact that he was released at a technology expo), and had he gotten out into the city he would've been nigh-unstoppable.
  • In Flight has Shirou musing that Karasuba would have been hailed as a hero and great warrior if she had been born an Amazon in Ancient Greece or a fighter in mythological Ireland. In the modern era, she only scares and unsettles people by her bloodlust.

    Film — Animated 
  • Tim Lockwood in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has no idea how to use a computer.
  • The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists live like it's the Age Of Sail even though it's the early Victorian Era. Queen Victoria, in the final scene, explains to them that the reason for her hatred of pirates is this - they are a relic of another time.
  • The Willoughbys: The Willoughby family has a whole has shades of this, especially with the way that they live in an old-fashioned home surrounded by skyscrapers that they apparently almost never leave. The parents don't even initially know what the internet is, the children have apparently never seen a television before, and Tim in particular wishes he could have been born into one of the earlier generations of Willoughbys, that were inventors, adventurers, etc.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 2 Days in the Valley: After the up-and-coming hitman Lee Woods brags about how he psychologically torments his victims (Woods gives them false hope that he will spare them and a minute to beg for their lives), his girlfriend Helga comments that he should have been around during The Spanish Inquisition.
  • In 21 Jump Street, Jonah Hill's character laments that he'd be considered cool for his geekiness rather than just geeky in High School if he'd been born ten years later. By contrast his partner 'was' born at a time when his attitude made him cool and finds going back to school a decade later to be far less enjoyable.
  • The entire point of The Brady Bunch movie. The family lives like it's the '70s when it's actually the '90s.
  • In Bronco Billy, Clint Eastwood's character, Billy, is the star of a traveling wild west show. However, he, and the rest of his group, seem stuck in this mentality that it is still the days of the wild west. Or at least that one can live as if it still was...
  • Similarly to Sergio Leone's protagonists, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were Born in the Beginning of the Wrong Century: The Central Theme is seeing those two Lovable Rogues' pathetic attempts to cope with the Twilight of the Old West. If they would have been born just fifteen years earlier, they would have been The Aces between the Outlaws. If they would have born just fifteen years later, they would have been the Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters. Everyone loves them but know that Their Days Are Numbered. Even when they move to Bolivia they still are doomed.
  • One of the defining elements of Maestro Villard in By the Sword. Villard is the owner and master of a fencing school which was founded by his father, a famous fencing champion who nonetheless died in a duel with a student he found out was having an affair with his wife. Villard thus sees his father as something of a highly touted failure, since the father spent decades training his skills only to be killed the first time, he was in a duel that actually mattered, and the younger Villard is desperate to know if his own skills and ruthless Combat Pragmatist philosophy are any better or if he's just been wasting his life trying to master swordsmanship. As a result, he eagerly yearns for the days when he might have fought another master at rapier's point. Eventually Villard learns that the truth about his father's duel is a little more complicated than he believed and has a chance to engage in a real sword fight, which seems to cure his longing to live in an earlier age.
  • In the movie version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Claudia decides she wants an old-fashioned four-poster bed for her birthday, and her older brother mocks her: "You don't want the bed. You want to actually live in the sixteenth century."
  • Both the protagonist and many antagonists from Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai lament the relative timidity of their 20th-century lives compared to the death-centric past their cultural predecessors lived decades and even centuries before.
  • At the end of The Grand Budapest Hotel, the Author claims that Zero still keeps the titular hotel running as a last connection the world of Gustave. Zero retorts that Gustave was born far too late to actually be part of that world but kept a nice illusion. Indeed, Gustave was clearly acting and working as if it was the Victorian era, not the interwar period he met Zero in.
  • Hysteria (2011): Charlotte, with her socialist political leanings and passionate support of women's rights and charity for the poor, is basically a 21st-century radical feminist with the misfortune of being born a few centuries earlier as a lady in Victorian-era London.
  • In Kamikaze Girls, the main character insists that she should have been born in 18th Century Versailles, and to compensate lives as a "lifestyle lolita", practicing embroidery and eating only sweet food. However, in a twist of this trope as it normally applies to lolitas, it's made clear she doesn't romanticize the innocence of the era, but the hedonism — and thus she is willing to connive and sell counterfeit merchandise in order to buy her frilly dresses, seeing this as part of Rococo France as well.
  • In Kill Bill, Beatrix Kiddo, Oh-ren Ishii, Bill and several others are old-school martial arts killers.
  • The Last Samurai:
    • Lord Katsumoto is a samurai who's clinging to the Glory Days of his culture gone by.
    • Invoked by Katsumoto in his opinion on George Custer; while Algren criticizes Custer's Last Stand as a foolhardy jaunt that got him and his men killed, Katsumoto believes that Custer's courage would have made him a great samurai.
  • In Sergio Leone's Westerns, the main characters are usually tough guys who are used to the Wild West of the earlier days, but don't feel at ease in the more modern age.
  • Roland Tembo from The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a Great White Hunter, both by trade and inclination, and very good at what he does. In 19th century America, he would have been a Roosevelt-esque national hero. In modern day America, however, he is considered a living relic at best, and a merciless butcher at worst.
  • The main character of the independent film Man Of The Century talks and acts like a newsman from a 1930s screwball comedy, despite living in a decidedly less-wacky mid-90s New York. Interestingly, he has no hangups about it, and simply lives his life in his own peculiar way, seemingly without even realizing the strangeness of it. (It does mean he sometimes has trouble interacting with people, but he pulls through without complaint, usually.) In fact, he seems to be a happier, more fulfilled person than most of the other characters. The "mother" character seems to date back all the way to the 1850s.
  • The My Big Fat Greek Wedding protagonist Toula is a very narrow aversion of the trope. Her family descend from Greeks who migrated to America, and all of them but her enjoy traditional Greek ways; a very patriarchal hierarchy, having lots of kids, not going to college, etc. After a rough childhood, Toula manages to carve out a fulfilling life as a travel agent and find a husband who treats her like an equal, but if she had been born just a few decades earlier, she would likely have had a very miserable life.
  • General George S. Patton, in Patton is described this way several times by other characters, and himself. As there really was a General Patton, on whose life the movie was based, this is an example of Truth in Television.
    Patton: God, how I hate the 20th century.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Jack Sparrow is a skillset variant. He's the best marksman in the series, frequently making improbable shots, but lives in a time where the number of shots you have is equal to the number of guns you're carrying.
  • In Quigley Down Under the villain, an Australian cattle baron with a fascination for The Wild West, says, "Some men are born in the wrong century. I think I was born on the wrong continent."
  • In Abel Gance's 1923 film La Roue, Elie dislikes the hectic modern life of The Roaring '20s and wishes he had lived during The Middle Ages. He has Imagine Spots in which he and Norma are engaging in Courtly Love with appropriate period costumes.
  • In The Shape of Water, Giles notes that as a homosexual man he was born in the exact wrong era between two right eras. Earlier and he would have been able to fit in with the open secret that many LGBT+ people had, and (he correctly presumes) in the future he would be able to be more open about his true sexuality.
  • Sue Tenny in Sky High (2005) was a Technopath who went to the titular Superhero School in The '70s, when technology was less developed and pervasive, and was put in the Hero Support track and bullied as a science geek by the heroes, leading to her becoming the supervillain Royal Pain. Lampshaded by Gwen Grayson, who in 2005 has the same powers but became a star student in the Hero track instead. She should know — she's actually Sue/Royal Pain, who was turned back into a toddler by the Pacifier and grown back to her teens so she could return to Sky High and get her revenge.
  • In The Young And Prodigious TS Spivet, the boy states that his own father is a perfect Cow-Boy, born a dozen decades too late. Also, the main character himself prefers using old-fashioned tools.

  • The protagonist of Robert E. Howard's sword-and-planet tale Almuric is portrayed this way, more at home in a world not unlike the ones that Howard's Barbarian Heroes roamed than the world he was born in:
    Many men are born outside their century; Esau Cairn was born outside his epoch. Neither a moron nor a low-class primitive, possessing a mind well above the average, he was, nevertheless, distinctly out of place in the modern age. I never knew a man of intelligence so little fitted for adjustment in a machine-made civilization.
  • Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables complains that modern-day (early 1900s) Avonlea simply is not romantic enough to suit her. She pines for the medieval days.
  • Tauran Union General Janier, in the Carrera's Legions series, believes himself to have been born centuries late, and that he really belonged in the 19th century serving with Napoleon. He even goes as far as to have a custom recreation of the uniform of a Marshal in Napoleon's army that he often wears.
  • Asimov's The Caves of Steel features an organization of "medievalists" who detest their living conditions of overpopulated Earth (entire cities made into gigantic Domed Hometowns) and yearn to return to living in outdoor cities and villages. Like all other inhabitants of the giant metropolises, however, they are all instinctively agoraphobic.
  • Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces also yearns for the medieval years but is far more opinionated about it.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever, the gangster Seraffimo Spang is a fan of The Wild West, and has refurbished a train and an entire town from that era. He is also wearing a cowboy attire when James Bond comes face to face with him.
  • In the Discworld novels:
    • In The Fifth Elephant, newly appointed Low Kingnote  Rhys Rhysson describes his primary political opponent as this, claiming said opponent would have made a fine king two hundred years ago, but now he would be a disaster because the times have changed and the other dwarf hasn't. Mind you, as a dwarf, said opponent was probably alive two hundred years ago, but probably not eligible for kingship at the time.
    • In The Truth, William de Worde notes that although Sacharissa is not especially attractive by modern standards, each of her features were considered the height of beauty in one time period or another, so from a sort of pan-historical perspective, she's one of the most beautiful women in the world.
    • In Maskerade, Agnes Nitt is said to have been born too late. In the context of the story, looks and a lack of good sense matter more in Opera than actual talent at the present time. 20 years ago, actual singing mattered more, and all the greats shared her girth (if names like 'Expando' and 'Gigli'note  are anything to go on).
    • Ginger actually discusses this trope in Moving Pictures, observing that some people might have had the potential to be great artists or inventors, but because they were born in a time or place lacking the means to actually do something with it, they had to settle for being bad blacksmiths or farmers instead. She's very happy that she happened to live during the era of moving pictures, where she could be a great star.
  • Don Quixote wants to live in The Theme Park Version of the past, in the world of Medieval romances, filled with knights errant, loyal squires, good and bad wizards, fierce giants, fabulous monsters, imaginary kingdoms, epic battles, lovesick princesses, funny dwarfs, squires made counts and a lot of outrageous adventures. At one point, Don Quixote, an impoverished Hidalgo like his author Cervantes, deplores the time of the gunpowder and the artillery, two technological advances that means the end of the cavalry and the initiation of new strategies and organizational forms in the armies, as well as a redefinition of the role of nobility in a society where individual courage and skill are useless, and the organization of nameless masses of soldiers (infantry) becomes important. Cervantes is saying that for him, and for all the nobility (rich or poor), they were born in the wrong century, and they must renovate or die. And then, four centuries later (the first part was published in 1605), we see the nobility reduced to a mere showcase of frivolous magazines.
  • The Dresden Files: Nicodemus invokes this idea of John Marcone, the top crime boss of Chicago. Marcone took over and enforced the "organized" part of organized crime. He brought the drug trade under his tight reign and has a few rules people won't cross, namely involving children in drugs, prostitution, or hurting them as retribution. Nicodemus comments a few centuries ago, a man like John Marcone could carve out a kingdom and rule it with the kind of stable, effective-if-ruthless government that people really would appreciate. But it's been a long time since that age of warrior kings. Marcone seems to be aware of it himself, if his choice of magical employees is any indication. Harry appears to take it to heart in Skin Game, where Marcone honors an ancient Norse-Germanic tradition of weregild and pays the crime boss for the henchman who died during the robbery to smooth things over. Marcone, after some deliberation, decides he likes the idea (and the fact that the offered payment was a shoebox full of precious gems) and accepts.
  • David Levin in Everworld doesn't get to travel in time, but he does get to go to another world where all the old pagan deities went after people stopped worshipping them. Which is close... sort of.
  • Not quite the wrong century, but Henry Harrison, the title character of The Extra Man, would have fit in much better in the '20s than The '80s.
  • A zig-zagged version in The Full Matilda by David Haynes. The eponymous Matilda basically lives the lifestyle of The Edwardian Era / early 1920s rich women. Even though she was born when that lifestyle would be possible, by the time she was a preteen that life was dying out (due to The Great Depression, people could not afford to have that lifestyle). Also, even if she could afford it, being black there was no way she would get to live that life during the time it was popular.
  • The Garden of Sinners doesn't draw attention to Shiki Ryougi's anachronisms, but they nonetheless show how much of a physical aberration she is to modern and non-magical human society as she is mentally and cosmologically: she's a warrior woman who only feels alive in a fight to the death, her weapons of choice are knives and swords, she wears a traditional kimono whenever possible and she barely uses any modern conveniences (the lights and refrigerator in her apartment, and a phone she doesn't actually use).
  • Grettir's Saga: Grettir tries to fashion his life after the model of the monster-slaying heroes of old, and he has the format for it; but his pride, his desire to test his strength, and his aversion to do productive civilian work make him a social misfit in his own time.
  • In Heart of Steel, Alistair Mechanus is a modern-day Mad Scientist who talks, acts, and dresses like a character from a Jules Verne novel. Then again, he acknowledges that he's crazy, and this is what resulted after a Heroic BSoD in his past.
  • Mr. Prosser, the council employee in charge of demolishing Arthur Dent's house in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is a direct male-line descendant of Genghis Khan. He doesn't know this but has urges to move to a quiet cottage with axes over the door, and occasionally gets visions of lots of hairy horsemen shouting at him. He also wears a little fur hat. Since that was written we have discovered that direct male line descendants of Genghis Khan are actually quite common.
  • In Homchen by Kurd Laßwitz, the protagonist (a smarter than average mammal in the age of dinosaurs) is very sad about the fact that, while he is capable of thinking, he cannot make others follow him, and countless generations will pass before truly free and sentient creatures arise.
  • Momoko from the novel (and movie) Kamikaze Girls wishes she'd been born as a European aristocrat in the 18th century Rococo era.
  • Joe Mack, of Louis L'Amour's Last of the Breed, is a college-educated Native American Air Force Pilot who deep down wants to go back to the days of bows and arrows, and surviving off of the land. Getting dropped in Siberia during the Cold War was a bit of a blessing for him and partway through the book, he realizes that he's never going to be able to enjoy civilization again, and considers staying in Siberia forever.
  • This is how G. K. Chesterton characterised the historical John of Austria, "the last knight of Europe", in his epic poem Lepanto.
    The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
    That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
  • Many of H. P. Lovecraft's characters (largely because Lovecraft himself seems to have felt that way — see below).
  • The title character of A Man Called Ove fits the trope to a T. He detests everything modern and doesn't comprehend why people can't live the same way they've always lived before.
  • The sentiment "to be born too late" is mocked in the satirical ballad "Miniver Cheevy" (1910) by Edwin Arlington Robinson.
    • The poem spawned at least one parody, "Miniver Cheevy, Jr.", whose title character pines for a different era.
  • Jules Verne's character Robur the Conqueror evokes this trope at the end of the novel of the same name.
  • In S. E. Hinton's Rumble Fish, it is said that the Motorcycle Boy would have been better suited being a knight in the middle ages.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place", Watson describes Sir Robert Norberton, known for horse-racing, womanizing, inveterate spending, and a violent temper, as "one of those men who have overshot their true generation. He should have been a buck in the days of the Regency."
  • Guy Crouchback in Sword of Honour by Evelyn Waugh. Crouchback always tries to be a Knight in Shining Armor — during World War II. Funny thing is, he actually is a rather effective soldier. But he always seems out of place.
  • In There's More Than One Way Home, Anna thinks that Jack's unpleasant teacher Kristin Scarborough could have had a fulfilling career accusing people of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Salem. She was born too late for that, so she's stuck teaching fourth grade instead.
  • The scouts and guides of Time Scout don't necessarily hate the present, but they love the past. Skeeter Jackson, with his special history, counts two different ways as being actually born in the wrong century.
  • In Victoria, William Kraft sometimes wishes he could have lived a hundred-some years ago, so he could fight for Kaiser and Reich in World War I.
  • The five Lisbon sisters in The Virgin Suicides are off by one decade. Their empathy for others, concern for the plight of nature, and distaste for their prudish elders clearly mark them as children of The '60s, but unfortunately they're growing up in an ultraconservative Detroit suburb in The '70s amidst economic chaos. Tragically, none of them can take it, and every last one kills herself, as if "called to another place" as the narrator puts it.
  • Villainous example in John C. Wright's War of the Dreaming: Wentworth, a Corrupt Government Official hates his superiors, his job, his country, and wants nothing more than to be an (honored, trusted) courtier—and is willing to resurrect the God of Evil to get it.
  • Miles Hundredlives in the first book of the Wax and Wayne series, "The Alloy of Law", seeks to overthrow what he believes to be an oppressive and evil government. Protagonist Waxillium Ladrian at one point muses that if Miles had been born a few centuries earlier, when the world really was ruled by an evil tyranny, he would have been a hero. Now, sadly, he is only a petty crook and mass murderer.
  • The Almuric quote above might be an allusion to the description of Professor Challenger in When the World Screamed:
    He is a primitive cave-man in a lounge suit. I can see him with a club in one hand and a jagged bit of flint in the other. Some people are born out of their proper century, but he is born out of his millennium. He belongs to the early neolithic or thereabouts... It's the greatest brain in Europe, with a driving force behind it that can turn all his dreams into facts. They do all they can to hold him back for his colleagues hate him like poison, but a lot of trawlers might as well try to hold back the Berengaria. He simply ignores them and steams on his way.
  • The short story "Mute Inglorious Tam" by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth has a Saxon serf breaking clods in the fields for his Norman masters; he has a dangerous mental illness called "conceits". He imagines being able to own and decide things for himself, or being able to give his kids better food — illegal thoughts because they're against his owners' divine right. Worse yet, he imagines things like a cart that moves by itself or even flies through the air. Finally his wife has to keep him drunk so he won't speak these blasphemies aloud.
    For the rest of his life sometimes he dreamed those dreams again, immense dreams, dreams that — had he the words, and the skill, and above all the audience — a hundred generations might have remembered. But he didn't have any of those things. Only the beer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Brisco is in a Western, but has modern day mannerisms and verbal expressions; his friends and enemies tend to look at him funny.
    • Ironically, his arch-enemy William Bly actually is a time traveler from the future, who returned to the past and lived as an outlaw to find the all-powerful Orb.
  • Bones: Max Brennan is described as better suited to be an ancient king or a warlord than a science teacher, especially after he found the guys who destroyed his family and burned them to death. Max himself is quite comfortable in the present; the present, however, is incredibly wary of him.
  • Richie from Bottom believes this. However...
  • Elementary: While attending an AA meeting Sherlock Holmes shares that he's often wondered if he would have been better off living in an earlier time period. His heightened senses and observation skills are constantly being stimulated by the modern era's endless flow of information. He turned to drugs to try and cope with being so overwhelmed. He muses that if he'd lived in a quieter time period, such as the Victorian era, with fewer demands on his attention then he might not have needed to use drugs.note 
  • From Family Ties:
    Alex: I would've been more at home in The '50s.
    Stephen: I think you would've been too conservative even for then.
    Alex: The Seventeen-Fifties.
    Stephen: I think you still would've been too conservative.
  • House of the Dragon: King Viserys has no problem appointing his daughter as his successor, will defend his grandsons to the death while knowing full well they're bastards sired by a man not said daughter's husband, and prefers diplomacy and negotiations over fighting. The man would have made an excellent head of state in modern times. A shame he reigns in a patriarchal, martial medieval time.
    • His daughter and chosen Heir Rhaenyra also was born in the wrong time. She would have been much better of in more modern, liberated times.
  • From the very start, Justified has lampshaded how Raylan Givens would have been perfect for the U.S. Marshalls in the Old West but in the 21st century, his style has...issues. The opening scene of the show has Raylan giving a mobster in Miami 24 hours to get out of town or Raylan will shoot him. Naturally, the mobster thinks it's a bluff and is more amazed than afraid when Raylan shows up to do just that which earns a talking to from his boss.
    Supervisor: You realize that the U.S. Marshals don't just shoot people and haven't in oh, over a hundred and fifty years?
    • This pushes Raylan back to his hometown in Kentucky which mixes an old-school style of crime fighting with modern times. The fact Raylan walks around in a cowboy hat and has little problems firing a gun if need be just shows he's a man out of time.
  • The Law According to Lidia Poët: Lidia is a bold, outspoken, liberated young woman who has sex out of wedlock and wants a career in a profession considered unacceptable for women in the 1880s. She is essentially a 21st century modern woman stuck in the 19th century when such changes were still just beginning to occur.
  • Life on Mars had "Man Out of Time", a man who had chivalrous ideals, but ended up believing that the best way to fit would be to be the villain.
  • In the Whodunit episode of Lizzie McGuire:
    Veruca: I just love these costumes. They're so dramatic! Do you ever wish you were born in a different century?
    Tudgeman: I always thought I should have lived in the Third Age in Middle Earth.
  • NCIS: Gibbs is clearly not at ease with contemporary technology. Cellulars? USB ports? If they fall into his hands, you may never see them again.
  • In The Night Manager Richard Roper is a particularly nasty version, as he's nostalgic for the days of British colonialism and doesn't even believe in any of the justifications for it. He just likes the notion of going somewhere and setting himself up as a de-facto monarch with absolute power over people he considers lesser, and sets out to do it in the modern day. His method mostly involves the sale and use of weapons banned under international law.
    Roper: You know what this reminds me of? Winston Churchill and TE Lawrence in a Cairo hotel dividing up the Middle East over champagne and a cigar. Drew a map on a napkin and shook hands. Kings of Arabia.
  • Haley in One Tree Hill expresses to Skills in the season 4 episode "Pictures of You" that she feels that she was born in the wrong time, and she wishes that her son will have a greater feeling of belonging.
  • Rimmer from Red Dwarf longs for the glory of colonial days, seeing himself (incorrectly) as a brilliant tactician who could have put Napoleon to shame, and thus wasted as a vending machine technician.
  • From the Goth Talk sketches on Saturday Night Live: "Azrael Abyss, the Prince of Sorrow" had the plaintive, high pitched cry, "I wish I had been born in the fifteenth century!"
  • The Sopranos: Tony and his friends are well aware that the mob's heyday is long over with, but they have a hard time coming to terms with it. Especially with the fact that modern technology and science continues to make running protection rackets and committing crimes without getting caught more and more difficult.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Julian Bashir likes to pretend to be a certain Cold War Spy. Jadzia of course really was born in that century and still longs for it sometimes.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "First Contact", a progressive scientist is greatly disappointed that her President believes their race isn't ready to meet alien life (humans) and turns away the Federation's offer of First Contact. She gets a consolation prize in getting to leave with the Enterprise.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Marla McGivers in the episode "Space Seed" wishes she lived in the more interesting times of the past, which is why she's enamored of Khan Noonien Singh.
  • Tom Paris of Star Trek: Voyager is a real 20th century aficionado. Since this is the Star Trek universe, this knowledge proves useful time and time again, whether it's actually time travel or just a holodeck misadventure.
    • And Janeway is a big fan of her last century; she says about Kirk and co.:
      Janeway: It was a very different time, Mister Kim. Captain Sulu, Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy. They all belonged to a different breed of Starfleet officers. Imagine the era they lived in: the Alpha quadrant still largely unexplored... Humanity on verge of war with Klingons, Romulans hiding behind every nebula. Even the technology we take for granted was still in its early stages: no plasma weapons, no multi-phasic shields... Their ships were half as fast.
      Kim: No replicators. No holodecks. You know, ever since I took Starfleet history at the Academy, I've always wondered what it would be like to live in those days.
      Janeway: Space must have seemed a whole lot bigger back then. It's not surprising they had to bend the rules a little. They were a little slower to invoke the Prime Directive, and a little quicker to pull their phasers. Of course, the whole bunch of them would be booted out of Starfleet today. But I have to admit: I would have loved to ride shotgun at least once with a group of officers like that.
      • Interestingly, all of these comparisons were bases for complaints from fans.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look: One sketch has a brilliant Renaissance inventor who can apparently see the future (but only indistinctly) and keeps on inventing things which he sees can be useful someday (like a computer mouse) while he can't quite understand how.
  • Peter Mannion in The Thick of It is essentially an old-school Tory whose career has lasted long enough to see him almost, but not quite, completely left behind by the media savvy, image-conscious, management-speak-bullshit infused nonsense his party has evolved into. He's clung on just enough to not quite be entirely irrelevant, but he also makes no secret about the fact that he hates almost everything and everyone about the party he's a member of.
  • The episode 'Wanted' in Without a Trace had a man as one of the suspects who actively lived like it was the 40's. Dressing, speaking, and furnishing his home like that time period. Even reading archived newspapers from the library rather than new ones
  • In Wizards of Waverly Place, the otherwise reasonable authority figure Mr. Larritate would much rather be in the Wild West than be the principal of Tribeca Prep. A spell to make everything like it was in the old west (passed off as a dream of course) proves that he would have been an excellent sheriff.

  • Unsurprisingly, given that it's by Ronnie James Dio, the Black Sabbath song "Falling Off the Edge of the World" seems to be about this:
    I'm living well out of my time
    I feel like I'm losing my mind
    I should be at the table round
    a servant of the crown
    the keeper of the sign
    to sparkle and to shine...
  • Jimmy Buffett's "A Pirate Looks At 40"
    Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
    The cannons don't thunder, there's nothin' to plunder
    I'm an over-forty victim of fate
    Arriving too late, arriving too late
  • While his voice was quite suitable for what he did, Pissy (best known as a member of Intestinal Disgorge) also showed at points that he was quite fit to sing Hair Metal or Disco.
    • The Howling Void, said band's frontman, occasionally displays his interest in Elizabethan-era writing. Prior to the release of "Dripping in Quiet Places," he began quoting passages from The 120 Days of Sodom on the band's Facebook page.
  • "Born Too Late" by Saint Vitus.
  • Sandi Thom's "I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair)." She pretty much wishes she was born a few decades earlier so she could have been a hippie or a punk rocker. Or both. Or really anything other than what is available now.
  • Mentioned in the Velvet Underground song "Heroin"
    I wish that I was born a thousand years ago
    I wish that I'd sailed the darkened seas
    On a great big clipper ship
    Going from this land here to that
    On a sailor's suit and cap
  • Discussed and Deconstructed by Taylor Swift in her song "I Hate It Here". In the second verse she explains her friends used to discuss what past decade they'd want to live in, and mentions that her answer was the 1830s... before proceeding to roast how things that are unacceptable today were normal back then, such as casual racism and arranged marriages, ultimately averting the trope for herself.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Due to his dad's technophobia, Calvin remarked (in the 20th century) that he's "a 21st-century kid in a 19th-century family".
    Calvin: Yesterday Dad went to buy a hardcover novel. He said he wanted to read something long, rich and thought-provoking for a change, and he wanted a cloth binding so his book could be carried around and reread later. Then he said he was going to buy the book with cash, so nobody could trace the purchase to him and exploit his interest for commercial purposes.
    Hobbes: Your dad's going into the future kicking and screaming, isn't he?
    • To hear Hobbes tell it, Calvin himself should have been born in the 70s (although "Me Decade" name aside, it sounds like he's describing the 80s):
      Calvin: I hate hearing about social responsibility! Whatever happened to unbridled greed, the conspicuous consumption of wealth, and the get-ahead-by-any-means credo?? Don't tell me it's all over! I didn't get to participate! They can't change the game before I'm old enough to play! It's not fair!
      Hobbes: The "me decade" left without its poster child.
  • Maakies author (or at least a stand-in for him) Tony Millionaire wishes he'd been born in the past. He perks up at what sounds like a horse-drawn carriage, but it's only a dominatrix taking her be-hooved gimp for a walk.

  • Sketch comedy show Son of Cliché used a wrong century gag about Margaret Thatcher.
    Mrs Thatcher was elected on the strength of promises to take Britain back to the Fifties. It wasn't until she reintroduced the Black Death, feudalism, and burning at the stake, that people realised she actually meant the 1450's.

  • Windsong on NoPixel fancies herself as a late-1960s acolyte in the modern day. She wouldn't look out of place at Woodstock and only listens to Sixties/Seventies psychedelic rock despite never having even lived in those decades. That said, she's also a bit of a hypocrite; she happily drives a modern electric car and uses a smartphone on a daily basis.
  • Panopticon Quest: Jamelia muses that Siddharth and his hardline anti-Reality Deviant views would have been perfectly at home in the pogrom-happy pre-1999 Technocracy.

  • From William Shakespeare we get Prince Hamlet, who famously said "the time is out of joint, o cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right," which roughly translates to the trope name.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado has the song "As someday it may happen" a.k.a. "I've got a little list" which mocks this: one of the types of people on the list is "the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone, All centuries but this, and every country but his own..."
  • In Hamilton, the title character's sister-in-law Angelica Schuyler is shown to be very intelligent, opinionated, and politically-minded. This trope isn't directly invoked, but you can't help but feel that if she had been born two centuries later, she could've had a political career of her own rather than being relegated to wife and socialite.

    Video Games 
  • Air Force Delta Strike has an old guy from World War II, Jamie Jones, who brushes aside the age of jet engines entirely despite the fact they technically were invented then. To the point he takes flight with your unit...using such planes as a P51 Mustang or IL-2 Sturmovik in dogfights! Against modern aircraft, and even futuristic experimental craft! Amazingly enough, the AI Jamie will occasionally score kills since rockets deal the most damage, usually a one-shot kill for low-armoured planes. Probably more than you will in his place since he seems to have a mobility boost.
  • According to the opening cinematic of Brütal Legend, our hero Eddie Riggs apparently feels like this as he sadly watches a performance by the "nu-metal" band he's working with.
    Eddie: Ever feel like you've been born in the wrong time, like you should have been born earlier? When the music was... Real?
    Roadie: ...Like, the seventies?
    Eddie: Earlier... Like, the early seventies.
  • Bully:
  • In Dandy Dungeon, Masamune, the second son of the Big Bad Amanokiji, dresses and acts like a samurai from Feudal Japan. He's in charge of the weapon branch of his father's MegaCorp. Appropriately, his dungeon is full of samurai-themed enemies.
  • Ensemble Stars!: Both Souma and Shinobu act like they're from a time hundreds of years before the present day, though the specifics are a little different - Shinobu is a really big Ninja fan and acts that way out of Chuunibyou delight, while Souma's family is just incredibly traditional and old-fashioned. Also, while Shinobu is actually not that great at being a ninja, Souma really does carry a sword around and knows how to use it, sometimes expressing a desire to cut people down with it and referring to himself as though he really is a Samurai. It's also worth noting that Souma's unit, AKATSUKI, is explicitly about combining traditional Japanese themes with modern styles.
  • In Fallout 4, Nick Valentine dresses, talks and acts like a Hardboiled Detective straight from a dark 50's thriller... in a post-nuclear apocalypse Massachusetts circa 2287. That's because he really was a cop, or at least, his personality and memories are based on one who lived before the war.
  • Urki of Far Cry Primal, a caveman who thought of constructing a wingsuit, ballistic armour, and animal repellent spray, all of which fail fantastically due to him being a caveman with limited resources, and not being very bright even by their standards.
  • Fate/Samurai Remnant: Miyamoto Iori trains in swordsmanship and dreams of mastering the blade, but he lives in a time of peace where swordsmen are seen as redundant. His adoptive father Musashi and Musashi's female counterpart both describe him this way since he was born just a few years after an age of conflict. In a bad ending, Iori pulls a Face–Heel Turn and tries to use the Waxing Moon's wish to plunge Japan into a Forever War so that he can experience what his father experienced, only to face off with Saber in one last battle and ultimately falling by their sword after a close fight. Notably, Iori could have used his remaining Command Spells to weaken Saber and make his victory certain, but that wouldn't have sat well with him considering how much he embraces Saber's fighting skill.
  • Johnny Klebitz (And really the entire Lost MC in general) of the Grand Theft Auto IV expansion The Lost And Damned would have fit perfectly into the heyday of Badass Biker clubs of the 60's and 70's. Problem is, they live in 2008 Liberty City. The game goes out of its way to show their lifestyle is outdated and dying (If not dead already) and there is no future in it.
  • Hades: The Blood Knight War God Ares, in one of his monologues to his cousin Zagreus, expresses disappointment about being part of the 2nd generation of Olympians, since it means he didn't get to participate in the greatest war there ever was, the Titan/Olympian conflict, alongside his parents.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn's setting is a post-apocalyptic Earth where most animals have been replaced by machines. Naturally, most scholars there are only interested in studying the machines- extinct species and small creatures of flesh are considered totally unimportant. But there is one guy, Enjuk, who wonders about things like why foxes have red fur or what bears ate when they were alive. Nobody really shares his interests, but he takes comfort in the fact that many people in the Old World were interested by the topic of "biology".
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: Marz is the typical modern-day, first-world teenager: she likes shopping for clothes, being The Fashionista, consuming new media and making a little extra money on the side selling her own hand-crafts. There is just one problem: she's born on a Colony Ship half-way to Settling the Frontier on an entirely new planet, fleeing a dying Earth where wealth inequality got so bad there was little-to-no middle ground between the lucky few Fiction 500 and those definitely too poor to afford her ideal lifestyle. Even after the ship lands, the adults are perstering Marz to watch how many resources she's using due to a mix of ideals and pragmatism. She reaches the point of "no more new clothes until you recycle somehting" quite fast. She has grown bored of the existing media archive and creating new entertainment isn't a priority. The closest thing the colony has to money is Good Behavior Points that can be exchanged against a limited selection of luxuries at the Only Shop in Town, which is the only place that allows for proper transactions.
  • Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name: Kiryu points out that Shishido had been Kiryu's age and come up through the Yakuza in the Eighties, the Yakuza's golden age, his stiff-necked attitudes towards rank and status and capacity for violence would have seen him skyrocket to the top. In the modern age, when the Yakuza are a dying breed and intellect and deception are a Yakuza's primary tools, Shishido is nothing more than a relic of a lost age with no place and no path forward.
  • Mattias Nilsson of Mercenaries belongs on a Viking longship circa 800AD instead of a modern day professional army. Mattias is a fatalist, in a vein that would be very familiar to the Vikings he admires and seeks to emulate. To modern people, his views border on Blue-and-Orange Morality and make him seem borderline Ax-Crazy.
  • Outlast: Whistleblower has Eddie Gluskin, who looks like he's just stepped out of a Clark Gable romance, complete with Waistcoat of Style and old-fashioned platitudes on marriage and womanhood. Of course none of it is meant to be at all charming, as he is a misogynistic Serial Killer.
  • Reinhardt Wilhelm from Overwatch considers himself a Knight in Shining Armor, and for the most part he's right. It just happens to be Powered Armor, and he lives in an age of sapient robots. In one of the comics, he goes up against a biker gang called the Dragons, and imagines them as Lizard Folk on horseback, with their leader as a giant dragon.
    • Cassidy similarly acts the part of a Cowboy right out of The Wild West, wearing Western-themed attire and choosing to use a revolver in an age of energy weapons and machine guns (though his revolver does have some advantages thanks to some upgrades).
    • Ashe also follows a western theme, using an upgraded lever-action rifle, double-barrel shotgun, and a bundle of dynamite.
  • Thanks to Anachronism Stew, Professor Layton can fall prey to this. Layton himself is surrounded by advanced technology, a seemingly modern-day London, rock music, and other combinations of technological shenanigans, but he and his apprentice Luke look like they belong in the early 1900s, especially since Layton wears a top hat. Mask of Miracle only increases the confusion, because it shows us the young Layton—and he has an afro.
    • Though we also learn the top hat was a gift given to young Layton by his girlfriend at the time, symbolizing him become a proper gentleman in her eyes... which has become a Tragic Keepsake when we learn of her death... only that said death (due to being a time travel experiment gone wrong) sent her to the future and having to lose her again breaks Layton's heart (and the audience's for that matter.)
  • Jean Bison of Sly 2: Band of Thieves was born in the right century, but after getting frozen in ice in the mid 19th century and thawing out in the late 20th, his obsession with taming the west is no longer welcome. Sly even admits that in his own time period he'd be considered a heroic pioneer.
  • Charles, from the game Space Colony, has the mannerisms, vocabulary, style, etc. of an officer in the British Royal Navy circa World War I. Yet he was actually born sometime in the 22nd century and currently lives on an experimental space colony. While he's a consummate gentleman and a skilled worker, his employers and fellow colonists are extremely perplexed by his personality.
  • Stardew Valley: Elliott has a reclusive dreamy artist personality with a Pretty Boy appearance to match. If courted, Elliott fixes up a rowboat and takes you out on the water to confess his feelings. Elliott can be usually found by himself, either reading in the library or standing outside watching the water. The man spouts some really flowery romantic lines without a trace of self-consciousness. Depending on what you tell him about your taste in books, he may in fact write a romance novel dedicated to you.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair character Peko has exactly the skills and mindset of a traditional samurai (in part because she was raised to serve a yakuza organization), but was born in modern times. Her ruthlessness and lack of self kinda freaks out the other teenagers. Even her execution cutscene is animated in ink-lined, woodblock style.
  • Rin Tohsaka from Fate/stay night. Apparently being a magus means that you won't have any contact with technology, since she doesn't even know what a VCR is!
    • Technophobia is trait common to most Association mages in the Nasuverse. The only mages shown to employ technology have been renegades of one kind or another, such as Shirou and Kiritsugu.
    • Rin is noted for this in-universe. She's a magus from a respected family who not only inherited a great amount of power from her bloodline, but has the focus, discipline, and mental acuity to really take it places. If she was born a couple of centuries ago, she'd be making waves in the magic community and go down in history as one of the greatest. Today, she's a case study in just how isolated and irrelevant mages are when the rest of the world has moved on without them.

  • Patches in Catena, the lovable blonde, remains in the dark that the '80s have ended. She happily flounces around in legwarmers and bangle bracelets, singing hits by Cyndi Lauper and the Bangles. The other characters seem to feel it's in everyone's best interest that they not tell her the truth.
  • Dinosaur Comics give us a term for this, "protonostalgia." Don't you miss being a pirate?
  • In Ghastly's Ghastly Comic Bobby calls Smokey out on stereotyping gay men as effeminate, Broadway-loving drag queens, declaring that "this is the twenty-first century" and they should be past all that. Cue the entrance of his (tentacle monster — it's a long story) boyfriend, swishing and singing show tunes. Embarrassed, Bobby admits that F'ga hasn't realized what century it is yet.
  • Tigerlily Jones in Skin Horse is a walking blaxploitation homage despite being a dot-commer who wasn't around in The '70s at all. At the Institute for the Sane Study of Mad Science, she's held in the "Temporally Confounded" section along with Debbi, who is similarly trapped in The '80s, and Immogene Frog (who is actually from The '50s, so has an excuse).
  • Wil from Questionable Content talks, dresses, and acts like a Victorian-era poet. Fortunately for his work life, there's a Victorian-themed pub in town, and arriving for his interview in Gorgeous Period Dress gets Wil hired on the spot.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: A few things about Tuuri hint that she may have been much more at home before the Zombie Apocalypse than ninety years into it:
    • A conversation with Emil hints that Finns speaking Swedish such as Tuuri are a rare sight in their time, while such a thing is quite common in The Present Day.
    • Mechanical vehicles are so high-maintenance by After the End standards that only the military uses them, while civilians stick to horse-drawn carriages. Spending her formative years as one of the few technical civilians in a military base enabled Tuuri to learn how to drive mechanical vehicles, but the skill is implied to be unusual among civilians overall.
    • She craves exploration in a time during which the activity is considered a Suicide Mission due to the areas outside of safe settlements having turned into a Death World. This in particular seems to be part of a general disconnect on Tuuri's part from the combined facts that she is not The Immune and that the world outside of safe settlements is full of Plague Zombie monsters.
  • Templar Arizona has the Pastimes, citizens who dress from other eras (and sometimes long for their preferred time). Flannery is appalled at being called a Pastime because of her love of '20's garb. She points out her ex-boyfriend (with his stupid powdered wig) repeatedly stated only land owners should have voting rights despite being a renter himself.
  • In The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage Lovelace discovers a gaping hole in her life when she attempts to Twitter and realises that her head of state is Queen Victoria, and the item she's carrying is actually a fan.

    Web Original 
  • Bernadette Banner discusses this idea because it's something many often accuse her of feeling. It’s rare to see Bernadette use a sewing machine for her projects, much less a modern one and she wears a vintage inspired wardrobe. Meanwhile she’s quite aware that history is full of inequality and has mentioned and done an entire video addressing the Vintage Fashion not Vintage Values mindset of the history bounding crowd.
  • Brutally mocked and deconstructed in the CollegeHumor sketch, No, You Weren’t “Born in the Wrong Decade”. Siobhan repeatedly tries to claim this, only for Trapp to point out the horrible downside to whatever time period she names. When she tries to gloss those parts over he points out that she doesn't get to only have the good parts of whatever time she is thinking of, and that even if the present isn't perfect it's still objectively better than it was in the past.
  • Trilby Dogtooth is potentially the greatest monster hunter who ever lived. Problem is that he lives in a world where every monster worth slaying has already been slain and the only ones left are minor nuisances who aren’t even worth killing. This means that he’ll never get a chance to truly prove himself, a fact he is painfully aware of.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10 (2016) gives us Steam Smythe, a villain who speaks like someone from the 19th century, and is fixated on reverting the world back to the way it was in the early 20th century (at the latest).
  • Bob's Burgers: In "Zero LARP Thirty", Linda Belcher is a fan of the period drama "Winthorpe Manor" and says she was born in the wrong century. She changes her mind when she participates in a "Winthorpe Manor" LARP as a maid and sees how bad life was for most people.
  • Bojack Horseman: Paige Sinclair, star Intrepid Reporter, in her Mid-Atlantic accent and flowing dresses and fancy hats of the early twentieth-century, is Quitting to Get Married as soon as she cracks her latest story so she can become a dedicated Housewife, saying "the newsroom has no room for a domesticated woman"; she's basically the female protagonist of a Screwball Comedy (most obviously His Girl Friday), and her partner for the investigation seems to also be from one of those films (as the male lead who has sparks fly with the headstrong female). Only thing is, Paige is an anthropomorphic pig. Paige's sister (who definitely is in the right time period) openly questions why her sister talks like that, since they're from Fresno.
  • Gravity Falls: Sev'ral Timez, a Boy Band whose members all act as though they debuted in the late 90s or early 2000s despite the show being set in 2012. Dipper even calls them "the boy band that came a decade too late".
  • King of the Hill: Hank Hill often laments about how everyone has forgotten the values he once believed in, like modesty, decency, and plain old common sense.
  • Over the Garden Wall: Wirt is a sensitive, artistic boy who writes poetry, plays the clarinet, and is knowledgeable on classical architecture. Despite the show being set nebulously in the Antebellum period of American history, Wirt and Greg are actually from, at the absolute earliest, the mid-1980s.
  • Transformers: Animated: Captain Fanzone frequently reminds us how much he hates machines and is once shown using a rotary cell phone the size of a 1980s "Brick phone". The show is set in the 2050s at the earliest. Hell, his catchphrase is "This is why I hate machines!"
    • Most of the human villains share in this too, with different levels of Disco Dan — Headmaster is a late-00s internet/video game geek, Angry Archer indulges in mangled medieval talk, both Meltdown and Porter C. Powell look like they never got over the end of the 70s, and Slo-Mo is direct from a Screwball Comedy. If season 4 had been made, a villainous Steampunk commune would've been introduced. This is all likely to contrast the generally high-tech aesthetic of the futuristic Detroit and the Cybertronians (making all the villains feel even more out of place).

    Real Life 
  • There is a British girl by the name of Molly Harrad who is allergic to almost all modern-day materials and has to live inside a bubble — doctors say she wouldn't have such problems if she was living in the last century.
  • H. P. Lovecraft showed complete disdain for 20th-century Anglo-American culture (to the point where he would attempt to write letters in classical as opposed to modern American English, which he would then date 200 years before the actual time of writing). Despite being a man with strong scientific interests, he was said to have hated modernity, namely the existence of cities, minorities with equal rights, homosexuals in greater public view and Jews no longer confined to ghettoes.
  • Winston Churchill. In a sense, the true-Victorian Churchill was born in the right century — the 19th. He just happened to be born at the wrong end of it. Funny thing is, he managed to convince Britain to want to be like him. Sort of goes with being a Magnetic Hero. Quotes from teleplay Churchill and the Generals: "He's always the 4th Hussar, charging the guns at a gallop...I wouldn't put it past him to take over the 8th Army himself, on horseback, waving a sword". Others put it more critically:
    Eric Hobsbawm: The entire history of modern imperialism, so firm and self-confident when Queen Victoria of Great Britain died, had lasted no longer than a single lifetime — say, that of Winston Churchill (1874-1965).
  • For a rare future case, FM-2030, transhumanist philosopher. As if his name wasn't a good indicator, he had specifically stated as much: "I am a 21st-century person who was accidentally launched in the 20th. I have a deep nostalgia for the future." His goal was to see his hundredth birthday in 2030, a time he believed was magical and utopian. One honestly wonders whether he was just seeing The Theme Park Version of things to come...
  • An interesting case of the Austrians/Austro-Hungarians is how their Empire was seen as both backward and progressive for its time. The multinational, multicultural nature of the pre-World War I monarchy would have looked much more in place during the days of feudalism or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth...just as it would fit very much in 21st-century Europe, where many countries have multicultural immigrant communities. Since the end of the monarchy, the Habsburg family has been in strong support of European peace, The European Union, and European integration.note 
  • The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was also a mix of old and new, out of place in its time and era.
    • It was a major powerhouse in Eastern Europe which was an Elective Monarchynote  that ruled over a thriving multicultural, multi-ethnic societynote  and served as an inspiration for the later Declaration of Independence. In fact, the Poles even take pride in calling themselves the "Republic of Poland" since 1358.
    • On the other hand the Commonwealth, and Eastern Europe in general, rested on something that had already gone out of style in the rest of Western Europe: serfdom.note  The decentralized nature of the Commonwealth meant that any attempts at grand-scale reform to bring Poland up to snuff with its Western neighbors threatened one regional faction or the other, and these factions often allied with neighbouring Russia, Austria or Prussia to protect their interests over that of the Commonwealth. The limit of franchise exclusively to nobles, lack of cultivation of a middle class and at the same time the promotion of "noble equality" meant that Poland was a medieval feudal republic in the age of enlightened monarchs and emerging mass movements.
  • 19th-century King Ludwig II of Bavaria built several palaces in historical styles, including one (Neuschwanstein) imitating an idealized medieval castle, and a French baroque palace (Herrenchiemsee) in imitation of Versailles. Among further planned but unrealized projects were a Byzantine and a Chinese palace.
  • Nikola Tesla is claimed to have invented the radio (Guglielmo Marconi), wireless electricity, fluorescent lightbulbs (Heinrich Geissler), arc lights (Humphrey Davy), alternating current, and (allegedly) the Tesla Coil — a machine that could shoot lightning. He even had plans for a proto-Internet. He also claimed that electrically-powered airships would transport passengers from New York to London in three hours, traveling eight miles above the ground, and imagined that airships might draw their power from the very atmosphere, never needing to stop for refueling. Unfortunately, his rival Thomas Edison did all he could to discredit him. Tesla also had horrible business sense, and so couldn't afford to develop most of his ideas.
  • Leonardo da Vinci was said by many to be at least 500 years ahead of his time in terms of his imagination. The irony being that if he was, many of the inventions we have today inspired from his works probably wouldn't exist. Leonardo's sense of being apart from his time was part of the reason that he was such a great celebrity for his age (and perhaps the first artist-as-celebrity in history), because the period and time he was in, saw itself as modern and on the cusp of great changes, not expecting the Reformation and Counter-Reformation would delay its plans for another 200 years or so.
  • 16th-century painter El Greco, whose art was seen as far too eccentric in his lifetime, was forgotten until art historians rediscovered his work in the 20th century and were amazed how modern it looked.
  • Jules Verne, whose futuristic stories were way ahead of their time.
  • Japanese writer Yukio Mishima pined for the days of Imperial Japan, and actually tried to overthrow the government. When he saw that nobody else listened to his rallying speech, he succumbed to despair and committed Seppuku.note 
  • Dutch author Godfried Bomans lived in the 20th century, but his interests and writing style showcased a strong love for the 19th century.
  • Anton Pieck, a 20th-century Dutch illustrator, note  was well known for his drawings and paintings of 19th-century life. He was very old-fashioned and didn't even own modern technology. Many people assumed he'd already died decades ago, since his art always portrayed scenes taking place in the 19th century.
  • Carl Barks also felt that humanity was its best in the 19th century and went downhill after that. He was born in 1901, by the way.
  • French composer Erik Satie lived near the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, but had a strong emotional connection to the Middle Ages.
  • 20th-century Belgian comic strip artist Willy Vandersteen (Suske en Wiske) drew many stories taking place in different romanticized versions of the historical past. The only time period of his own century he considered to be interesting was World War I and even that only happened in one album (De Briesende Bruid) for a short scene.
  • American comic strip artist Robert Crumb has a strong emotional connection to the 1920s and 1930s and owns a large collection of music records and other memorabilia from this time period. He generally feels that society and culture went downhill after the 1940s. Despite being an icon of the 1960s he despises modern rock 'n' roll and pop music.
  • 29th President Warren G. Harding, whose general recklessness, moral debauchery, and obliviousness to the corruption of his cabinet and general reluctance in office would have fit with Baby Boomer presidents at the end of the 20th and 21st century such as Bill Clinton or Donald Trump than contemporaries such as William Mckinley or Woodrow Wilson. His belief that businesses should should be aided by governments as much as possible would not be out of place in the late 2000s with the use of corporate welfare and the bailing of banks.
  • Children's book author and illustrator Tasha Tudor believed she was supposed to be alive during the 1830s. She owned and used an extensive collection of clothing and artifacts from that time and even went so far as to have her son build her a house from that era (using old-time technology and materials), and said publicly that when she died she was going to reincarnate into the 1830s. She died in 2008 at age 92.
  • Adolf Hitler and many prominent Nazis longed for a revival of the glorious Germany from previous centuries. It comes as no surprise that they all enjoyed Richard Wagner, whose operas show a mythological Germany full of strong, admirable heroes. It should be noted that the "glorious" Germany they longed for was largely invented and dreamt up in the 19th century by the likes of Wagner.
  • Francisco Franco also longed to revive the days of the old Spanish Empire. So much, in fact, that it was the reason he asked Hitler to grant him territories in North Africa (Morocco and the Western Sahara) and the only things allowed in Spain were Baroque architecture/art in general (because it was born in Spain), Catholicism, heterosexuality (gay poets like Federico García Lorca were banned) and women had to actually go to school to get a degree as housekeepers. With so much going on, it's no wonder why many people half-jokingly say Spain did not come out of the Middle Ages until after 1975 (Franco's death).
  • Those who knew Nick Drake said he would have been better off in the 1600s or 1700s, evident from the way he dressed and the way his lyrics usually had to do with the seasons. He is said by some to be the reincarnation of John Keats.
  • It has been said of two famous British Army officers, who achieved renown in the latter part of the twentieth century, that they were born in the wrong century. Both Colonel "H" Jones (who won a posthumous VC for suicidal bravery in the Falklands War in 1982) and Colonel Colin Mitchell (who restored British prestige in the Aden War in 1967 after half-hearted political leadership virtually ceded the colony to Soviet-backed rebels) were fated to fight their battles in a time of global decolonization. It has been said of both that had they been born when the British Empire was in the ascendant, a lot more of the world would have been coloured pink on the map.
    • It has been suspected that "Mad Mitch", as Mitchell was known, was prominent in the rumoured conspiracy to overthrow the Labour government of the 1970s in a military coup d'etat. Establishment disaffection with Britain's slide from superpower status, failing economic power and social liberalisation manifested in hostility to Harold Wilson's government and rumours persist of a plotted overthrowing by force of a democratically-elected government. A charismatic soldier turned very-right-wing Tory MP known to be embittered with his political masters would have been a natural member of such a junta.
    • Another 20th-century British soldier, this one from World War II, might also be a throwback to an older era— Major Jack Churchill, a commando officer from World War II, often went into combat with a sword and a longbow —and he is the last British soldier known to have killed an enemy with a longbow, silently dispatching a German sergeant in the neck during a raid.
  • The Taliban planned to turn Afghanistan back to the old Islamic Caliphate. The Islamic State has similar designs for Iraq and Syria, banning anything "Western" and enforcing draconian interpretations of old Islamic laws (though much like the Nazis, theirs was more of a Theme Park Version of the old Caliphate that never really existed, and at the very least wasn't too fond of destroying entire ancient cities for being "blasphemous").
  • The long-serving Austrian chancellor Klemens von Metternich hated revolutions but had to spend his whole life witnessing The French Revolution and its aftermath. He expressed this exact feeling in one of his letters to Dorothea Lieven: "My life has coincided with a wretched epoch. I came into the world too soon or too late; today I know I can do nothing. Earlier I should have enjoyed the pleasures of my age; later I should have helped in reconstruction. Now I spend my life in propping up buildings mouldering in decay. I ought to have been born in 1900 and to have had the twentieth century before me."
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: This author had strong romantic passion to Tsarist Russia, a time period he never experienced personally (he was born in 1918, a year after the Russian Revolution).
  • European monarchs at the start of World War I still thought with the mindset of their ancestors in previous centuries. They imagined themselves as glorious despots to whom the ordinary people still looked up to. None of them realized that their glory days were on their way out. After the war, many of them were forced to abdicate, as their countries became republics or dictatorships.
  • This was often said of Richard Brautigan both by himself and others. (In The Abortion, he describes himself as "tall and blond and had a long yellow mustache that gave him an anachronistic appearance. He looked as if he would be more at home in another era.") He cultivated an anachronistic look, often playing up his resemblance to Mark Twain. note 
  • At times, Vladimir Putin has been characterized as a Bismarckian nationalist leader who would have been right at home in the nineteenth century, but instead his rule over Russia came in the twenty-first century.
  • Benjamin Franklin: "Furnish’d as all Europe now is with Academies of Science, with nice Instruments and the Spirit of Experiment, the Progress of human Knowledge will be rapid, and Discoveries made of which we have at present no Conception. I begin to be almost sorry I was born so soon, since I cannot have the Happiness of knowing what will be known a hundred years hence."
  • Tom Waits: He started recording in the 1970s and still releases new albums as of this day, but his music is more reminiscent of old 1930s, 1940s, 1950s Jazz, Blues, Folk Rock and Country Music than of music of this day. He uses a lot of traditional instruments and his lyrics refer more to topics from that era than late 19th-/ early 20th-century imagery. Interestingly enough, it does make his work more timeless.
  • Musician and folklorist John Fahey preserved and continued the old blues traditions in his compositions, slipping shellac recordings into thrift shop bins and mailing them to scholars, some of whom believed there actually was a blues musician called Blind Joe Death. Fahey later disparaged his early work and seemed more at home with the experimental sounds of The '90s. The 1990s, that is.
  • John Kricfalusi absolutely loves old stuff before 1970: cartoons, comic strips, toys, music, films,...he would probably be more at ease in that era than nowadays, where he basically feels everything modern sucks to a degree. He has also described himself as being "out of touch" with modern pop culture for the most part.
  • The very existence of North Korea, in a nutshell. In addition to being an enduring, twisted legacy of the Cold War, its unbelievably bizarre and crass blend of extreme nationalism, militarism, xenophobia and Stalinismnote  wouldn't look out of place in World War II. Though it's unlikely that the DPRK would have found many allies had it existed back then.
  • Selena Gomez is a big fan of 1940's fashion and even explicitly tweeted she genuinely feels like she was born in the wrong decade.
  • This ESPN story from January 2019 portrays current NBA journeyman Boban Marjanović as this trope in the sporting sense. Despite being 7'3"/2.21 m, and being (at that time) the most efficient scorer in league history, he's been a DNP-CDnote  in nearly half of his teams' games. As the story put it, "in any other era, he'd be a monster scorer, a likely All-Star and maybe even a Hall of Famer — but in this era, he has been deemed borderline unplayable." The reason? He's slow enough that he can't chase bigs who can shoot from beyond the three-point line, making him a serious liability on defense against teams that spread the floor, use a small-ball strategy,note  or both.
  • A further illustration of the decline of the traditional low-post center in the modern NBA came in the 2023 draft. The draft class featured three highly decorated players of that type: (1) Adama Sanogo, who was named MVP of the 2023 NCAA Final Four for the champion UConn Huskies. (2) Gonzaga Bulldogs icon Drew Timme,note  a three-time consensus All-American (first-team in 2023, second-team in 2021 and 2022). (3) Oscar Tshiebwenote  of the Kentucky Wildcats, two-time Division I rebounding leader, two-time consensus All-American (first-team in 2022, second-team in 2023), and the consensus national player of the year in 2022. All three went undrafted, with Tshiebwe becoming the first D-I POY ever to go undrafted.
  • Hesiod is the Ur-Example. In Works and Days, he writes "Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards."
  • Alexander the Great: although it's more born in the wrong millennium, than born in the wrong century. He identified strongly with the heroes of The Iliad, who supposedly lived at the end of the Late Bronze Age, several hundred years before his time. When he was crowned Pharaoh of Egypt, he decided to use the titles that Old Kingdom Pharaohs had used, rather than the ones used by the New Kingdom rulers: again, suggesting a strong nostalgia for the Bronze Age. On the flip side, the Hellenistic civilization he helped to spread appears eerily modern: enthusiastic about scientific discovery and technological development, favor toward emotional expression in artwork, and a positive view of ethnic diversity as well as treating handicapped people with considerably more respect than in previous times. Also, Alexander generalized the Carian court system rules to his entire Empire, which gave women in the entire Middle East the right to sue in court through a male proxy and legally own any profits from investing their dowry. This had a few effects: 1) it created the first professional lawyers, since women needed a male proxy in court, and then men found themselves getting trounced by these guys who had studied the legal code. 2) there was a small group of independently wealthy women who became politically and socially influential. This small group of independently wealthy women would later play a big role in the rise of Christianity. 3) women became patrons of the arts in their own right, meaning that for the first time we start to see women's preferences reflected in artwork. Also in this vein, cosmetology starts to get taken seriously for the first time: which is a very good thing for the field of chemistry (since many chemical processes and materials, like distillation and kohl, were discovered in the search for new beauty products).
  • King Edward II was not seen as a good king in his day, and many if his quirks were looked down upon by the nobility. What were these "quirks"? Enjoying manual labour, working outdoors, hanging out with commoners, and actually listening to people's problems. Had he been born some time after democracy came into effect, he may have been a much more successful ruler.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were born in the wrong decade. 15 years earlier they would have been right at home with Wild West outlaws like John Wesley Hardin, Jesse James, the Clanton clan and Billy the Kid. 15 years later and they would have become gangsters alongside John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and "Babyface" George Nelson. Instead, they became Wild West outlaws in a Wild West that increasingly did not exist.
  • Ada Lovelace basically invented the algorithm and wrote the book on computer science—a full century before the computer was invented.
  • Christopher Polhem basically invented industrial automation. However, he did so in the late 17th/early 18th century, at a time when the quantities of metal necessary to make his designs truly feasible were Unobtainium. Had he been born a century later, he would have been heralded as one of the fathers of the Industrial Revolution alongside the likes of Henry Bessemer and James Watt. As things are, he is largely relegated to a historic curiosity.
  • The hunter vs. farmer hypothesis is basically an extreme example of this, and it's a proposed explanation for both ADD and ADHD. The theory states that the hyperfocus and impulsiveness of individuals with ADD and ADHD would have been greatly beneficial for hunters in hunter-gatherer cultures, but not so much in the classroom or workplace. According to this theory, individuals with ADD and ADHD aren't just born in the wrong century, but the wrong age.


Video Example(s):


Paige Sinclair

Despite being from the 21st century, Paige talks and acts like someone from the 30s to 40s. She speaks with an outdated phone, is on the verge of quitting her job to get married and acts like someone from a screwball romantic comedy.

How well does it match the trope?

4.88 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / BornInTheWrongCentury

Media sources: