Follow TV Tropes


Briefer Than They Think

Go To

"Historical time has not yet run out for these tales... but even in the early nineteenth century the year contained only twelve months, and it is possible that in the near future the author (if the readers will bear with him) may be led to make use of hypothetical years, rather like those hypothetical moons used in the calculation of Easter: an 1812a as it were or even an 1812b."
Patrick O'Brian, introduction to The Far Side of the World

A form of Hollywood History related to Newer Than They Think, Older Than They Think or both. When a period of history (real or fictional) is given such weight and importance as to make it seem to have lasted a lot longer than it really did. Sometimes this can happen because the event was Short-Lived, Big Impact, having a greater influence or achieving more in a small stretch of time than whatever succeeded or preceded it.

Compare Frozen in Time and Medieval Stasis. For works of serial media, see Short-Runners. See also Extremely Short Timespan. Not to be confused with Small Role, Big Impact, which is about onscreen performances. Given Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale, some timespans are treated like this no matter how illogical.



    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Alan Moore came to prominence for the work he did in The '80s for DC Comics, where he worked on Swamp Thing, Watchmen, The Killing Joke as well as a few Superman stories. This was a five-year period, a small part of his career where, for the most part, he has worked for alternative and independent publications as well as self-published ventures.
    • Furthermore, his four-year run on Swamp Thing was really the only pre-existing DC property Moore spent any substantial time on. Apart from his own original creations in Watchmen and V for Vendetta, Moore never wrote more than three issues of any other DC character.
    • The year before The Killing Joke, Moore wrote another Batman issue called "Mortal Clay". These are the only two Batman issues Moore ever wrote.
  • A fandom example: the Legion of Super-Heroes has had some eras that were either famous or infamous, but they really didn't last long at all:
    • Supergirl only had about 14 substantial appearances during her run (depending on how you count), with another 9 in the 1980s. The run of "Supergirl and the Legion" from 2006-2008 had about as many issues as Supergirl's entire set of Legion appearances back to 1960, and most of her early ones weren't even full length stories.
    • The Legion of Super-Pets only appeared 7 times and only had major roles in around four, also depending on how you count.
    • The Adult Legion appeared in 9 stories total (plus LSH #300, which wrote it out of continuity).
  • Batman first appeared in 1939's Detective Comics #27. Robin the Boy Wonder debuted the following year in Detective Comics #38. Modern retellings of the Dark Knight Detective's early solo career have stretched that era out to at least two years, a very busy period covered by Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween, various issues of Legends of the Dark Knight, a guest appearance in John Byrne's The Man of Steel, and featuring the debuts of the Riddler, Two-Face, the Joker (as the Red Hood), Catwoman, and Hugo Strange. Most of these villains originally debuted after Robin. Some of these modern retellings, however, may no longer be canon.
    • The infamous "Batman uses a gun and kills criminals" era, often used to justify Darker and Edgier portrayals. Based on retellings of it, you'd think that it'd lasted until the mid-50s and Seduction Of The Innocent. In reality, he stopped using guns almost entirely after a few issues, and the first indication of him having a code against killing dates to Batman #4, less than two years after his creation. (Though he was a target of Seduction of the Innocent, it focused on purported Homoerotic Subtext, not violence.)
  • Between The Golden Age of Comic Books and the Silver Age was The Interregnum, often thought of as a lengthy dark drought in the superhero genre.note  If one measures it from the last appearance of the GA Flash (1951, All-Star Comics) to the first appearance of the SA Flash (1956, Showcase), it was only five years long. Given that DC Comics considers Superboy an Earth-1 (i.e., Silver Age) character, and Superboy debuted in 1945, it could even be argued that the Golden Age and Silver Age overlapped, and the Interregnum thus had negative length!
  • Ask any moderate comics fan who the core members of The Defenders are, and you'll immediately hear "The Incredible Hulk, Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, and Namor the Sub-Mariner." Sometimes they'll add Nighthawk, or maybe Valkyrie. While Strange and Hulk have been on most versions of the Defenders, with Strange usually being the de facto leader, Namor and Surfer quit after just a few issues. People familiar with the original run will tell you that the Defenders never had a consistent lineup, and variously included nearly every hero and some villains active at the time. This is part of the reason that modern revivals of the team tend to get cancelled quickly. As it turns out, not many writers can make the "classic" lineup work, since all the characters involved are grotesquely overpowered and relative loners, but they assume that it has to work because the original comic made it work, right?
  • Similarly, nearly every adaptation of The Avengers either mentions The Incredible Hulk or makes heavy use of him: see The Ultimates, the movie, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!, etc. How many issues of the comic was Hulk a part of the team (not counting guest spots like his brief stint as an Avengers reservist in an Evolutionary War annual)? Two. He rejoined the team in Avengers vs. X-Men, to capitalize on the movie, but that was a comic written in 2012, and that was the first time he'd ever officially rejoined. Flip open a comic from the '60s or '70s, and you're much more likely to see Black Knight, The Vision, Beast, The Incredible Hercules, or Moondragon, none of whom have managed Hulk's prominence on the Avengers in other media. Even Red Hulk was on the team longer!
  • Wonder Woman's controversial 'I Ching' period was only twenty-five issues of her original run, extended to five years' time-wise by an intermittent publishing schedule. But it was during that period that the pilot movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby was developed, which lead it to look In Name Only in comparison with the better-known take of the character, and in turn led to the pilot movie for the series featuring the more traditional take starring Lynda Carter being called The New Original Wonder Woman. The Pilot Movie is known to even non-comics' fans, the original storyline, not as much, except for Gloria Steinem's denouncement of it.
  • In an early '70s issue of The Brave and the Bold, Catwoman appeared in a new costume and also joined the ranks of the remorseless killers in Batman's rogues gallery. Editors and fans alike denounced this so hard, it was Canon Discontinuity almost as it hit the shelves, and was even declared to happen on an alternate Earth not seen before or since. But Mego made its Catwoman figure based on this new costume, and in the age before endless variants were the norm, this was perhaps the only Catwoman figure made until Batman Returns came out.
    • Costumes can be particularly vulnerable to this, if they're associated with a sufficiently iconic time. For instance, Superman's very earliest appearances sometimes colored the yellow parts of the S-shield black and drew the symbol itself as more of a badge shape. By 1940, this Early Installment Weirdness had largely ended and Superman's outfit was almost indistinguishable from the classic look. Despite this, Darwyn Cooke, when drawing DC: The New Frontier, drew Superman with a black badge outfit to imply the time period... even though Superman had stopped wearing the black badge for over a decade by the time the comic takes place.
  • X-Men adaptations like X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men will often depict Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver as members of Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. In the actual comics, the two were only members of the Brotherhood for a handful of issues, and quickly defected after realizing what a monster Magneto actually was. They joined The Avengers in 1965, and have subsequently been heroes for the vast majority of their published existence.
  • From the time of his introduction in 1966 until 1987, the Silver Surfer was trapped on Earth by the power of his scorned master, Galactus. This was the prime central fact of the character for two decades. 1987 saw his new series and his freedom, and while his status varies, as of the mid-2010s, this once-ubiquitous fact about the Surfer has been outdated longer than it was ever his premise.
  • After debuting in The '80s, Elektra quickly became one of Marvel's most popular and iconic Anti Heroes. The amount of time between her first appearance and her infamous death? Less than a year. It wasn't until 1994 that she was permanently resurrected and began appearing as a frequent player in the Marvel Universe.
  • Ronald Searle's fame as a cartoonist is still largely defined by his popular cartoon series St Trinians. Yet in his long, long, long career which spanned almost half a century how long did St Trinians last as a series? Answer: Only four years! Even Searle himself had a Creator Backlash over the fact that he was still first and foremost remembered for this series, even decades after he drew the final episode. Especially since he drew so many different cartoons and illustrations.
  • The Spirit is remembered as Will Eisner's way of delivering thoughtful humanism and avant-garde storytelling every week from 1940 to 1952, but the time the comic actually fits that description is a lot shorter. Eisner was off fighting in WWII for most of the comic's early years and did not develop his distinctive experimental style until he returned in 1946, and by 1949 he had grown tired of The Spirit and left it in the hands of his staff for its final years. Most of the issues people remember come from that 1946-49 period, rather than from across the book's entire twelve-year run.
  • The Dark Age of Comic Books is usually associated with the entirety of the late 80s and the 90s, but its actual heyday was a fair bit shorter. Though Watchmen is the most commonly given start date, it took a while for it to leak into general comics, as Watchmen wasn't initially a chart-topper in sales. The late 80s were still largely a continuation of The Bronze Age of Comic Books, with much of DC's work deliberately emulating Marvel's earlier output and Marvel under Jim Shooter mostly continuing what it did best. Most events from the era were straightforward big battles like Acts of Vengeance or Legends, with darker storylines confined to imprints like Vertigo Comics. The era's signature artstyle didn't start to dominate until Rob Liefeld's 1990 work on New Mutants, and gimmick covers showed up at around the same time. Most of the iconic stories and events of the era, including the creation of Wizard Magazine, The Clone Saga, The Death of Superman, the foundation of Image Comics, Jim Lee's X-Men and Chris Claremont's departure, and a number of major Dork Ages, happened during this period, which lasted about seven years. After The Great Comics Crash of 1996, the Dark Age was mostly dead on its feet, with Heroes Reborn underperforming and being widely mocked, and the explosive success of Grant Morrison and Howard Porter's JLA (which was very much a throwback to the bombastic, optimistic style of superhero tales from the Silver and Bronze Ages, albeit with a modern edge) the following year more or less sealed the deal.
  • The much-hated "Teen Tony" era of Iron Man, where Tony Stark was killed off and replaced by a time-displaced younger version of himself, was much shorter than people remember. Teen Tony took over as the series lead in Iron Man #326, but the series was cancelled at #332 because of Onslaught and the subsequent Heroes Reborn relaunch of the book, which once again starred an adult Tony.
  • Pretty much everyone thinks of Spider-Man as a high-schooler. This period lasted about 28 issues, a little over two years, after which he graduated. Early Marvel frequently averted Comic-Book Time, and Spider-Man was probably the biggest expression of that, visibly aging over the course of Lee's run from fifteen to his late teens or early twenties. This one likely owes itself to adaptations, which always start off with him in high school and often don't bother to age him up (including, ironically, Ultimate Spider-Man, where he was still in high school 200 issues in).
  • When Marvel changed Carol Danvers' codename from 'Ms Marvel' to 'Captain Marvel' in 2012, a number of fans complained about the sudden change to such a long-lasting character. In actuality, 'Ms Marvel' is only one of several names the character has used, having also used Binary and Warbird. 'Ms Marvel' was the name she first used when she became a superhero (in 1977, nine years after her initial debut in 1968), but her time as Binary (from 1982 to 1998, 16 years) and Warbird (1998 to 2006, 8 years), both lasted longer (Ms Marvel, in comparison, lasted less than 5 years initially, and when she resumed it in 2006, only lasted another 6 years). This, in turn, makes her name/costume changing a case of Older Than They Think. The thing that muddies the waters is that for most of Carol's run as Binary, she just wasn't appearing in comics outside of occasional guest appearances in Uncanny X-Men, and even when she came back as Warbird in the Heroes Return era, she was a supporting character in the Kurt Busiek Avengers and Iron Man books. (It certainly didn't help that her Warbird costume was identical to her Ms. Marvel costume.)
  • In a similar case, Spider-Woman getting a costume redesign in 2014 lead to complaints about a drastic redesign of a costume that had gone unchanged for decades. Many were unaware that, while unchanged, the suit was unused for the bulk of the character's existence. In 1988 she had retired the name and costume, operating as simply 'Jessica Drew' and being a non-costumed superhero private investigator, starting 11 years after her debut. She wouldn't be depicted as Spider-Woman, at least in-canon, until another 21 years, at least technically.note  The costume change was an attempt to reconnect her with her private investigator role, a place she occupied for most of her existence.
  • The Mighty Thor: When the layperson thinks of Thor's primary Love Interest, they think of Jane Foster. While it's true that the two have always had chemistry, the truth is that Jane's ship was pretty much sunk back in 1967, within Thor #136, where Odin's manipulation caused her to fail her Engagement Challenge and be sent back to Earth with her and Thor having no memory of each other. After that, she married and had a child with a Suspiciously Similar Substitute named Dr. Kincaid and the two never really got back together again. Still, Thor (2014) shows that Jane is still very bitter about what Odin did to her, and her infatuation with Thor actually caused the end of her marriage.
  • X-Force is known for being the comic that launched the infamous Rob Liefeld's career into the stratosphere, and it's often held as being the type of shallow Darker and Edgier fare that his other works are known for. Thing is, Liefeld's entire run of X-Force lasted a whole nine issues. After that, he left Marvel to form Image Comics alongside the other artists who quit, and began working on the series' even more infamous Spiritual Successor Youngblood. X-Force co-creator Fabian Nicieza would salvage the team by having Cable leave while bringing back more New Mutants members, shift the series to a Lighter and Softer tone with more emphasis on Character Development, and when Cable returned, was retooled into the grumpy but likable father figure type he's known as today. Many other writers would take a crack at the X-Force team, with Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force in particular being acclaimed as one of the best X-books of any title, which is in stark contrast to the perception of the series being nothing more than dark age excess.
  • Considering how grandiose the Galactus Trilogy tends to be in Marvel lore, it can be a little funny to hear that its name is literal: it was exactly three issues long. Arguably less, since the story is resolved partway through the final issue. "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny also applies, as doing any kind of issue-to-issue story arc was a big deal back then. Compare that to the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy, which lasted fourteen issues spread across three miniseries.
  • If people know two things about Roy Harper/Speedy/Red Arrow/Arsenal, it's that he's Green Arrow's sidekick and he was addicted to heroin. The massive number of storylines to call back to the latter incident or have Roy struggle with being on the wagon might make you think it was pretty lengthy, similar to "Demon in a Bottle" or Harry Osborn's issues with addiction. It lasted exactly two issues, with Roy having his addiction introduced in the first issue and going cold-turkey in the second.
  • Barbara Gordon's actual career as Batgirl wasn't short by any means, but it also wasn't as long as a lot of future writers seemed to think it was. She debuted in Detective Comics #359 (1967), and her last significant adventure in-costume was in #527 (1983), with her putting on the suit a couple times in Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) more or less as a callback and a special released in 1988 explained she had retired. During that period, she never held down any kind of solo series (unless you count the short-lived anthology Batman Family or backup stories in Detective Comics) and wasn't on any teams or a regular partner for Batman, so her actual appearances were often pretty intermittent. Part of the reason The Killing Joke happened was that Barbara was seen as pretty expendable by the Batman editorial offices at that point. Her time as Oracle (1990-2011) was actually significantly longer; by the time she resumed her "iconic" identity in The New 52, she'd been out of it for more time than she'd been in it, and racked up several times as many appearances without the identity. But Barbara's ubiquity in adaptations like Batman: The Animated Series created the impression that she'd been around a lot longer.
  • The classic "Big Seven" lineup of the Justice League of America has a rather disputable length, but most casual fans tend to think of it as covering the whole Silver Age. At its most liberal guess, it lasted nine years, with Wonder Woman leaving the group in 1969 due to the aforementioned I-Ching era, but several of its members were being phased out long before that—by 1964, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman were frequently absent. If you consider it to have only lasted when the team consisted of just the Big Seven, then that shrinks it down to just six issues, at which Green Arrow joined. And Superman and Batman did not play significant roles in those six issues and were clearly there for Wolverine Publicity, which has caused some to suggest that it never truly existed at all.
  • Perhaps the most famous period of Jack Kirby's life is when he left Marvel in 1970 to work for DC instead, tired of what he saw as mistreatment and lack of credit. Every biography or article on the guy will prominently mention it, and in comics culture as a whole, it tends to be seen as an End of an Era, since Kirby had been a major creative force within Marvel for decades. There have been countless callbacks to the era, and it has a pretty rarified place in DC's mythos as a whole. So how long was he active at DC? About five and a half years. As it turned out, Kirby didn't have a very pleasant time at DC, either, and most of the books and concepts he created for the company didn't last long, often failing to make it to 20 issues. Combine that with the DC Implosion, which saw the company suffer significantly, and he ended up briefly jumping ship back to Marvel for a couple years before spending the rest of his days working in animation or the independent comics scene. He did do some work for DC afterwards, but his total writing and art credits barely broke the double digits. Of course, it certainly doesn't hurt Kirby's reputation that he was an astoundingly prolific creator during that period; he was routinely putting out four or more issues every month at his height and created a whole mess of characters and concepts.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 


  • It's a topic of debate among historians about when the real start and end of The Golden Age of Hollywood really is, especially the era as it is imagined and come to be remembered. As film historians have long noted, what is called the Golden Age is just an umbrella term for a very diverse three decade era (1930-1960)note .
    Peter Bogdanovich: One time while I was bemoaning the end of the golden age of pictures, Welles laughed and said, 'Well, come on, what do you expect? Even the height of the Renaissance only lasted 60 years!
    • Screwball Comedy (dealing with fast-talking repartee, male-female Slap-Slap-Kiss dynamic) was more or less a mid-30s phenomenon, between 1934 (Twentieth Century) and Bringing Up Baby (a flop at the time but Vindicated by History) and the comedies of The '40s (by Preston Sturges) and The '50s (by Frank Tashlin and Blake Edwards and Billy Wilder) were quite different in style and content. Indeed, Some Like It Hot was set in The '30s precisely because the writer-director saw it as a Genre Throwback and Homage but it's often seen as a straight example. The Western enjoyed the height of its popularity in the Silent Era and became finished for The '30s until John Ford's Stagecoach revived it in the late-thirties. The period of the "classic Western" was really The '50s where it was the most popular genre which means that the phenomenon and conventions the so-called "revisionist Westerns" were attacking in The '60s was a highly recent phenomenon, and most of those films got credit that rightly belong to films made before that had most of the Unbuilt Trope (The Searchers, Run of the Arrow, Pursued, The Naked Spur).
    • Film Noir more or less began in The '40s and ended by the late-fifties. But specifically, the classic image of Film Noir, i.e. — private-eyes in fedoras, glamorous Femme Fatale, Art Deco interiors and exteriors is more or less a phenomenon of the early to mid-forties. The vast majority of Film Noir were B-Movie, featuring unglamorous and seedy working-class type characters and by the Mid-40s and fifties, many noir inspired by Italian neorealism and documentary films were actually trying to shoot on location and de-glamorize itself. Indeed, the French historian Raymond Borde said that this classic noir had become such a Dead Horse Trope and cliche, that it was parodied in the final number of an MGM Musical The Band Wagon. As for The Musical, there are three-kinds of musicals people remember, the Busby Berkeley kind (an almost entirely Pre-Code to Mid-thirties phenomenon), the Astaire-Rogers musicals (almost entirely a post-code to late-thirties phenomenon) and the MGM Musical which in its classic form was late-40s to mid-50s.
    • The Epic Movie is often typified in people's minds by films like Gone with the Wind but that film was so expensive and such a Troubled Production that most studio chiefs and observers saw it as a lucky shot and cited producer David O. Selznick's failures to repeat that phenomenon as case in point. The real Epic Movie craze began in the middle of The '50s, many of them set in Hollywood History of Ancient Grome, with large sets and casts of thousands, and most of these films weren't made in Hollywood but in Rome's Cinecitta's studios.
    • The classic "studio system" era lasted from 1929-1947. A antitrust decision handed down by the Supreme Court in 1948 stripped the studios of much of their influence and the Hollywood of The '50s was a very different decade. This was the decade of Brando and James Dean, when actors, directors and local distributors were no longer held in control by the major studios, where you had such cynical and cold films as Sweet Smell of Success and other censorship pushing Genre-Busting directors like Samuel Fuller, Nicholas Ray and Anthony Mann who J. Hoberman noted were the unrecognized New Wave who actually inspired The Auteur Theory.
  • Grace Kelly's movie career lasted just 5 years (1951 to 1956). James Dean's movie career lasted several years and 3 movies. His first lead role, East of Eden was released only six months before his death and that was also the only film whose premier Dean attended. Rebel Without a Cause and Giant were both posthumous releases. Bruce Lee's film career included many bit parts in Hong Kong, but he only starred in 4 complete films over a 3 year period (plus Game of Death, which was unfinished).
  • "Blockbuster" movies have not been particularly "cool" (as opposed to "popular", which is not quite the same thing) for a long time now. Among some circles, they are still not cool. That said, if you were to believe some people's memories the entire quarter-century between Jaws (1975) and 9/11 was one long carnival of Hollywood hoopla and goofiness. In truth, the blockbuster mentality reigned unchallenged in Tinseltown for only about a decade or so after Jaws and Star Wars (1977). Blockbuster mania only really swept in around 1984, which saw the beginning of several boffo franchises: Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Terminator, Gremlins alongside the Indiana Jones franchise, or the semi-successful attempt to continue the Conan franchise with Conan the Destroyer. It was during the mid-to-late 1980s that Sequelitis and The Merch became cultural jokes, and the stock complaint that "everything in the movies now is a sequel or a remake or an adaptation of something" began to be heard. This "first" blockbuster Era began to fade in 1994, with an interim period of "indie" films Pulp Fiction and Clerks before a second "blockbuster" era erupted in The Oughties and The New '10s, typified by superhero films and fantasy films.
  • Despite a fifty-plus year career in film including some of the largest franchises of all time, George Lucas only actually directed six films in his life: THX 1138, American Graffiti, the original Star Wars, and the prequel trilogy. He was also a co-writer for other two films of the original Star Wars trilogy. Every other film he was involved in was merely as an executive producer and/or general ideas guy.
  • Bela Lugosi will forever be known as the definitive onscreen actor of Count Dracula, which could easily lead one to assume that he appeared in that role in a great many films, but in reality he only did so twice (Dracula and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein). He was actually more associated with his frequent stage performances as the Count during his lifetime. For comparison, Christopher Lee played Dracula nine times. He was even rumored to have said that he would play Dracula again if someone would write a film adaptation true to the original Stoker novel... which of course no one did.
  • While the Godzilla series has a 60+ year history, the time period most fans regard as its golden age is actually pretty short. If we narrow it down to the period when all five "Fathers of Godzilla"- director Ishiro Honda, composer Akira Ifukube, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, special effects technician Eiji Tsuburaya, and writer Shinichi Sekizawa -were consistently active and the films were consistently financial and critical hits, we end up with only four movies, released from 1962 to 1965- King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, and Invasion of Astro-Monster — ironically, the first film is not part of this era. After that, Honda and Ifukube became less involved in the series, the budgets began to decline rapidly due to Japanese audiences shunning the cinema in favor of color television, and Tsuburaya's unexpected death in 1970 dealt another big blow, and the original Godzilla run (that is, the Showa continuity) ended in a box office whimper with Terror of Mechagodzilla.
  • The image of Clint Eastwood as the poncho-clad, cigar-smoking "Man With No Name" has become such a monolith of the western genre that a misconception has arisen that Eastwood played the character for decades in many different films, but in reality the Dollars Trilogy directed by Sergio Leone is the only time he played that exact role- three movies, three years. Hang 'Em High, High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider, and Unforgiven are commonly mistaken as being additional chapters of the Man With No Name's mythical story (sometimes even the DVD packaging makes this claim) but Eastwood plays distinct characters in all of them.
  • The "Hitchcock blonde" unleashes a perennial groan from many Hitchcock scholars. Alfred Hitchcock had a career from The '20s to The '70s. Before The '50s, the only real major blonde actress is Anny Ondra in Blackmail made in 1929. In between, most of Hitchcock's leading ladies were black-haired or brunettes (Sylvia Sidney, Joan Fontaine, Ingrid Bergman, Teresa Wright). It is only in the '50s that you see prominently blonde actresses (Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Eva Marie Saint, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh, Tippi Hedren) and as Hitchcock explained this was because blondes were popular in the '50s, and as a mainstream film-maker, he more or less did reflect popular ongoing trends in his movies. Film scholars and at one point, Hitchcock himself, also pointed out all his characters are subversions of the Dumb Blonde stereotype.
  • Although The Little Rascals series ran for over two decades (1922-44), the tremendously high cast turnover meant that entire lineups seldom lasted for more than a year. One reason the "classic" lineup of Spanky-Alfalfa-Buckwheat-Darla is so well-remembered is because all of them had long (and overlapping) tenures with Our Gang... but they still only formed the core ensemble for six years (1936-42).
  • As for International and Non-Hollywood Cinema:


  • The famous "kissing in the surf" scene in From Here to Eternity has been parodied and homaged a dozen times or more. In the original, it's three seconds long.
  • Citizen Kane somehow has acquired the reputation of being a very long movie. In fact, it doesn't even hit the two-hour mark (just barely, though: it runs 119 minutes). This is actually more of a generational thing: many movies of the 1930s were less than 90 minutes long (some weren't even 80 minutes long), so Kane seemed interminable by comparison. Kane also covers nearly 70 years of history, so it definitely has an epic feel.
  • The climax of Home Alone, from the clock striking to Harry getting hit with the shovel, lasts under fourteen minutes. This is also pretty much the only scene where Marv and Harry suffer any physical harm. From the way most people remember it and the massive amount of knockoffs featuring near-identical scenes, you'd think the entire movie was just Kevin pranking the bandits. (The sequel, on the other hand...)
  • Despite Anthony Hopkins winning an Oscar in the role, Hannibal Lecter doesn't appear in that many scenes in The Silence of the Lambs. In fact, it is said that Hopkins set a record for the actor winning Best Actor appearing in the least amount of time.
  • Although most would describe the premise of It's a Wonderful Life as "a dude's guardian angel shows him what the world would be like if he had never been born," this actually doesn't happen until the final half-hour of a film that runs 2 hours and 10 minutes. Most of the movie is actually just showing us all of the sacrifices that George has made during his life and where it has gotten him; his declaration that he wishes he was never born is essentially the beginning of the third act.
    • The movie is also constantly perceived as a "Christmas movie"; as with the "alternate timeline" premise above, the Christmas-laden atmosphere also doesn't take a prominent hold until the third act, when George nearly gives up on life on the holiday.
  • A particularly thrilling action sequence in a film may be so memorable that it seems longer than its actual running time; an "epic" score on the soundtrack certainly helps.
    • A good example is the tank chase through the desert in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It takes up eight minutes of screen time...but it's so momentous and packed with action (at one point the shots are alternating within a second or so of each other) that it seems twice as long.
    • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the iconic scene with the rolling boulder lasts less than twenty seconds.
  • The Halloween series is often remembered as about Michael Myers hunting his sister, Laurie. However, the revelation that she was his sister was completely absent from the original film, and was the twist in the last fifteen minutes of the second film. Laurie was then absent for the next three movies, returned as a main character in the seventh movie (by which time Jamie Lee Curtis had aged 20 years), to be killed off at the beginning of the eighth. So, H20 is the only film in the original series in which the brother/sister dynamic was prominent, although it was played to full effect in the remake and its sequel. And notably, the angle was dropped entirely for Halloween (2018), since by that point, the opinion had become fairly common that the idea of them being siblings was a mistake.
  • The Back to the Future trilogy:
    • Marty's complete Iconic Outfit with the jean jacket and "life preserver" vest only ever appears in Part I, and even then he doesn't don the vest until about 15 minutes into the movie. He also doesn't exactly keep it on for the whole film, and there are plenty of notable scenes (like the skateboard chase or the prom) where he wears a different outfit. Similarly, Doc's iconic yellow 2015 garb is only seen in the last scene of Part I and the first scene of Part II, for maybe a grand total of 15 minutes.
    • The DeLorean's famous OUTATIME license plate is only seen on the car for a few minutes, and gets knocked off during the first time travel experiment. It stays off the car for the rest of the movie, and is replaced by an orange barcode license plate (from 2015) in the sequels.
    • The DeLorean is famously remembered for flying, but only ever flew during Part II (aside from the ten second Sequel Hook gag at the end of Part I). For the majority of Part I and the entirety of Part III, it drives on the ground like a regular car.
    • Marty's rival Needles only appears during two brief scenes in the entire trilogy, and only during the sequel movies.
    • The mall and the Libyans only appear in Part I, and are not referenced again in the sequels.
    • Marty's pink hoverboard from 2015 is regarded as a quintessential icon of The '80s (as depicted in a second season episode of The Goldbergs). However, Part II came out on November 22, 1989, meaning that, aside from trailers and pre-release materials, hoverboards were only in the public awareness for the last 40 days of the decade.
    • Jules and Verne Brown featured prominently in the animated series and the comic book, but were only ever in the movies proper during the last five minutes of Part III, without any lines.
    • Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson both play major roles in all three movies, but only have one scene together, with only a single exchange of dialogue between their characters, when Doc and Lorraine exchange an awkward "Hi" in Doc's garage in Part I.
  • While often parodied (and the inspiration for the 80s arcade game Charley Chuck's Food Fight), the infamous "FOOD FIGHT!" in Animal House lasted for a few seconds at most, and we only see the start. (The humor was more in the buildup, and that grown adults are doing it in a mundane cafeteria.)

  • The Regency only lasted 9 years, from 1811-20. Yet according to the romance novel industry, at least half of England's peerage and gentry must have gotten married during this time.
  • A stereotypical parody/homage of Harry Potter will feature Harry and friends attending Hogwarts while at the same time a corporeal Lord Voldemort is openly fighting to Take Over the World. These things only happen at the same time in one of the seven books, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Interestingly, some parodies featuring this, such as Potter Puppet Pals, actually predate the publication of Half-Blood Prince. The main reason it exists is that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had featured Voldemort's resurrection, leaving audiences three years to assume that the obvious next step was open warfare until Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix featured him undercover and infiltrating the Ministry. Furthermore, few people guessed that the final book in the series, two years after Half-Blood Prince, would feature Harry mostly away from Hogwarts. Because of these factors, "corporeal Voldemort openly battles Harry at school" remained the common assumption of what the next book would be about for seven years, in a series that went on for ten - while the parody was only realized once, the assumption behind it had been around for most of the series's lifespan.

    Live-Action TV 
  • M*A*S*H and Young Riders both were on the air longer than the historical events they portrayed - the Korean War and the Pony Express, respectively. The latter was obsolete a month after it was founded due to the telegraph, and only lasted eighteen months.
    • Also Dad's Army which lasted nine years (which is three years longer than the real World War II lasted).
    • Hogan's Heroes lasted six years, whereas U.S. involvement in World War II only lasted four.
    • Combat! covered World War II from D-Day in 1944 to the end, just over a year. The series ran five years.
  • Speaking of M*A*S*H, the period of the show that could be termed "Original M*A*S*H" note  ended three years into the show's 11-year run, with the departures of both Henry Blakenote  and "Trapper" John McIntyrenote  after the episode "Abyssina, Henry". In fact, all three replaced characters (Blake, McIntyre, and Frank Burnsnote ) had shorter tenures than their replacements, BJ Hunnicuttnote , Col. Sherman Potternote  and Charles Emerson Winchester IIInote note , all three lasted until the series end in 1983, and if you count AfterMASH as Seasons 12 and 13 of M*A*S*H, Potter even lasted till 1985.
  • The classic Batman TV series lasted from 1966 to 1968 — somehow, it ended up forming everyone's opinion of the caped crusader at least until 1989. The fact that it's predominately in a two-parter format for most of the series enabled the series have 120 episodes, far more than enough for a suitable syndication package that can last 24 weeks of syndication stripped weekday broadcasts and thus be viable for reruns for years.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series is the best-known Star Trek series, but it was also the shortest-lived of the five live-action Trek series, staying on the air for less than three years (September 1966 to June 1969). Its ubiquity in reruns in The '70s (and the vibrant Trekkie culture that emerged during this time period) created the impression that it ran for much longer - as late as 1983, in Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek Memories TV special, he claims that many viewers believe that the show is still running.
    • Also, the fact that its famous "five-year mission" apparently lasted long enough to include a virtually limitless number of stories from television, books, comics, etc. In this case it helps that the end (and the beginning, for that matter) of the five-year mission has never been depicted in canon - Star Trek: The Motion Picture picks up some years after the end of it.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: the Borg are iconic to the franchise, so much so that many newcomers are surprised to learn that the Collective proper only appeared a grand total of thrice in the entire 15-year combined run of 178 episodes and 4 movies. Those appearances were in Q Who (their introduction), The Best of Both Worlds (the two-parter where they kidnap Picard and attack Earth), and First Contact (to date, their only film appearance). Rogue drones disconnected from the Collective appeared two other times (I, Borg and Descent). Their constant appearances in the later Star Trek: Voyager and in TNG's spin-off media (novels, games, etc.) gave the impression that they were around in TNG a lot longer than they actually were.
  • Chevy Chase was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for just over a year.
    • Same for Billy Crystal, Martin Short, and Christopher Guest.
    • Steve Martin only appeared in eight episodes of SNL between 1976 and 1980, where he served as guest host. However, owing to his frequent appearances (three in 1978 alone) and his participation in classic sketches such as "The Fenstruck Brothers," it's not surprising that many believe that Martin was a regular.
  • Pointed out in an episode of Horrible Histories, where the cowboys sing about how they "only ruled the range for 20 years."
  • Police Squad! ran for only six(!) episodes, and yet somehow those episodes managed to inspire the enormously successful trilogy of The Naked Gun movies several years later. Of course, part of what made the Naked Gun films such a hit was that Police Squad was one of the definitive Too Good to Last shows.
  • A stereotypical Doctor Who Shallow Parody will often involve Tom Baker's Doctor battling the Daleks—something that only happened in two stories that aired six years apart in the 50+ year history of the series, and only one of which ("Genesis of the Daleks") is considered particularly memorable. The misconception likely stems from the common assumption that the most iconic Doctor and the most iconic monsters had to have fought each other more than twice, even though they didn't.
  • Owing to British Brevity, influential Britcoms and other series are almost always subject to this:
    • Fawlty Towers is widely considered one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. Only twelve episodes were ever produced.
    • Likewise The Young Ones, an enormously influential sitcom for which only twelve episodes were produced.
    • Father Ted (set in Ireland but produced by Channel 4) ran for three years in which only 24 episodes were produced, and yet is widely considered the greatest Irish sitcom ever made, launched the careers of dozens of actors and comedians and is still endlessly quoted and referenced in Ireland nearly twenty years after the end of its run.
    • Many British and some American children have fond memories of Mr. Bean, enough to think he must have been around for ten seasons or so. But no: just 15 episodes were ever made and two theatrical films came later. It poses the question: when does a TV series stop being a TV series and start being a succession of made-for-television comedy specials?
    • Referred to in an episode of Episodes when Matt LeBlanc points out the difference in length between British and American series
  • Friends:
    • Rachel's occupation as a waitress at Central Perk is synonymous with the character despite the fact she only held the job for two and a half out of ten seasons.
    • The infamous haircut which bears Rachel's name lasted for barely more than a season - the last few episodes of season one and all of season two. Jennifer Aniston hated the hairstyle and started wearing her hair differently in the third season.
    • Ross and Rachel are a proper couple for just about a year out of the show's ten-season run: after a couple of false starts, they get together for real at the end of "The One with the Prom Video" (aired February 1, 1996) and break up in "The One with the Morning After" (aired February 20, 1997). By contrast, the Beta Couple Chandler and Monica are together for a full six seasons (starting in the fourth season finale).
    • All three of the above overlap with each other, but for an even more brief span: the second half of the second season, or just ten episodes out of 236note . That this stretch of episodes is considered the very height of the show's golden age is probably no coincidence.
  • Cheers:
    • Sam and Diane may be one of the iconic Will They or Won't They? couples in television history, but the question was answered with "they will" as soon as the first season finale (which, granted, was scripted and shot as a possible series finale, given the show's low ratings at the time).note  They broke up and then got back together on a few occasions after this, of course, but in comparison with many pairings inspired by Sam and Diane which take years to come to fruition (consider Niles and Daphne on Spin-Off Frasier at seven seasons), the contrast is striking.
    • Speaking of Frasier, much is made of his relationship with Diane - he is introduced as her new boyfriend, after all, and she leaves him at the altar - to the point that he consistently remembers her as one of the great loves of his life on Frasier; she even merits a guest appearance in that capacity alongside his two ex-wives and his mother). They were only together for a single season (3). By contrast, Frasier starts dating Lilith in the following season and their relationship lasts for the better part of eight seasons (4-11)... on the other hand, given Frasier's predilection for Girl of the Week on his own show, it's very possible Diane is one of the longest-lasting relationships he's ever had.
  • Mission: Impossible: The cast lineup everyone remembers (Peter Graves as Jim Phelps, Martin Landau as Rollin Hand, Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter, Greg Morris as Barney Collier, and Peter Lupus as Willy Armitage) only lasted for two out of the show's seven seasons (1967-69).
  • 24:
    • Jack Bauer's time as an official CTU agent only lasts for the show's first three seasons. After the third season he is fired from CTU, and is only specially commissioned for the day each season afterwards, with the exception of Season 7 where CTU isn't even involved. Even his tenure as CTU agent doesn't last through the entire three seasons, as during Season 2 he had resigned following his wife's murder and was specially brought because of the circumstances much like the case of post-Season 3 seasons.
    • Aside from Jack, the core cast everyone associates with the show is Kim Bauer, Tony Almeida, Michelle Dessler, President David Palmer, Chloe O'Brian, Bill Buchanan, and Curtis Manning. There's only one season in which all seven characters appear: the fifth. And even then, not all of them appear throughout the entire season's run: Michelle Dessler and David Palmer are both killed in the fifth season premiere, while Tony Almeida only appeared in a handful of episodes in the first half of the season before dying at the beginning of the second half (although the death would later be retconned in future seasons). Kim had also left the series by the end of the third season and appeared in two episodes in the middle of season five in a guest appearance.
  • Everyone remembers Charlie's Angels as starring Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith. Except this lineup lasted for just one of the show's five seasons: Fawcett left after season 1 and was replaced by Cheryl Ladd. Despite seeing out the remainder of the show's run, Ladd has remained in Fawcett's shadow ever since (it didn't help that Fawcett was the only Angel to return for guest appearances after departing). In fact, only one of the three original Angels (Jaclyn Smith) remained part of the series for its entire run.
  • The Honeymooners ran as a stand-alone sitcom for just one season (1955-56) of 39 episodes, and it is these episodes which are the only ones to appear in syndication. However, the Honeymooners characters enjoyed a much longer life as a recurring sketch on Jackie Gleason's shows, starting with his DuMont program Cavalcade of Stars in 1951. He brought them over with him to CBS for The Jackie Gleason Show in 1952, which ran for three seasons. An hour-long variety series, by the 1954-55 season, most episodes of The Jackie Gleason Show were mostly (or even entirely!) comprised of a Honeymooners sketch, which inspired Gleason to attempt making a proper sitcom out of it. He decided it was a failed experiment after its one and only season and revived The Jackie Gleason Show for one more season in 1956-57, with more Honeymooners sketches. Gleason would revive the format occasionally as late as The '70s, but most Honeymooners sketches and specials which aired after 1957 were either remakes or musical episodes (and sometimes both!). However, the core cast lineup of Gleason-Carney-Meadows-Randolph lasted only from 1952 to 1957, with Randolph never again returning to play Trixie Norton after that (although Alice was recast for the show's return in The '60s, Audrey Meadows did reprise her role as Alice in several one-off specials in The '70s).
  • Perhaps due to its influence on popular culture and for how many television remakes it inspired (as well as a movie), many seem to remember the original version of The Twilight Zone (1959) as having run longer than its five seasons (1959-64).
  • if you ever hear people talk about that long-running Japanese superhero series known as Ultraman, feel free to point out that Ultraman only ran for 39 episodes from 1966-1967; what they're really thinking of is the Ultra Series franchise the show spawned.
  • One of the most famous parts of Breaking Bad is Walt's time as a drug kingpin, having defeated all his enemies and set up his own meth operation. Given the prominence of it in media and when discussing Walt as a character, people tend to think of it having been a long and brutal tenure. In reality, this idea is confined to the first half of the fifth season; he decides to start the operation in "Madrigal" (the 48th episode) and decides to back out and retire in "Gliding Over All" (the 54th episode). He also doesn't start to turn a big profit from his deeds until he cuts a deal in "Say My Name"... the episode directly before "Gliding Over All." So that iconic image of Walt in his hazard suit, reclining like a king on his throne with piles and piles of cash in the background? That was effectively only the status quo of two episodes in the last season of the show. This applies in-universe as well, as those episodes (mostly the second) cover a period of about five months, meaning that was about how long "Heisenberg" was considered anything more than a talented cooker by police and the criminal underworld. Of course, the consequences of that period, in particular Walt's inability to simply leave the business behind, end up lasting to the end of the show.

  • The Notorious B.I.G. only recorded two studio albums during his life, both with Harsher in Hindsight titles. Ready to Die was released in 1994 with Life After Death following three years later, less than a month after the rapper's death. Most of his best known songs ("Juicy," "Hypnotize," "Big Poppa," "One More Chance," "Mo' Money Mo' Problems") come off of those albums.
  • Almost all of the musical works Kurt Weill wrote in collaboration with Bertolt Brecht were created between 1927 and 1930. The Seven Deadly Sins (1933) is the only significant exception.
  • No matter how you slice it, the golden age of Rock & Roll, the most influential genre of popular music in the 20th century, lasted for less than the length of one US presidential administration: it started with the release of Blackboard Jungle on March 25, 1955, and ended, at the latest, on The Day The Music Died: February 3, 1959 - less than four years. Many commentators in fact peg the start of the decline of rock and roll music earlier: Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his cousin (May 1958), Elvis Presley being drafted into the army (March 1958), or Little Richard's religious conversion and retirement from secular music (October 1957, barely six months after his album Here's Little Richard was released). It was well and truly over by the start of The '60s, after Chuck Berry was arrested and several key figures in the genre (including Alan Freed, the man who coined the term "rock and roll") were brought down in a payola scandal.
    • Similarly, the notion of rock and roll being "the Devil's music", which supposedly dominated the 1950s, was, in historical terms, over almost as soon as it began. Barely more than two years after the release of Blackboard Jungle, on April 10, 1957, Ricky Nelson performed Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'" on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, signalling that rock and roll had fully entered the mainstream. While parents still didn't like rock music after that, they understood that, if Ozzie and Harriet could give it their stamp of approval, it must not be a social menace after all, and were at least able to tolerate it. That said, it made a comeback during the Satanic Panic (mostly in the '80s and '90s) and continues in some areas even to this day.
    • Likewise, Buddy Holly's music career lasted a year and a half until his death in a plane crash.
  • The Sex Pistols, credited with starting the Punk Rock movement, were together initially for only 2½ years, produced four singles and one album.
    • Sid Vicious, practically the Face of the Band, was with the band for such a short time that they only recorded about 3 songs with him.
    • If the releases of the albums Ramones by The Ramones and London Calling by The Clash are viewed as the beginning and end respectively of the classic punk era, it lasted just 44 months (April 1976 to December 1979). And since punk rock didn't gain mainstream-media attention until late 1977 at the earliest, the era was effectively even shorter.
  • Nirvana's mainstream popularity lasted about 2½ years before Kurt Cobain's suicide ended the band. After Cobain's death the popularity of the band rose to even greater levels. Their posthumous releases easily outnumber the releases they made when he was alive.
  • Jane's Addiction lasted only 6 years in its original, and most influential incarnation. Their only pre-major label release was their self-titled live album in 1987. Their two critically acclaimed and influential albums, Nothing's Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual, were released within the next few years, right before calling it quits on top of their popularity and influence in 1991. The breakup tour served as a foundation of the Lollapalooza festival.
  • The Lollapalooza tour lasted only 6 years in its original incarnation, due to Perry Farrell abandoning the project owing to growing disillusionment in 1996 following the addition of Music/Metallica, the relative decline of alternative music, and also the Lilith Fair stealing a good deal of the buzz.
  • Lilith Fair itself is a good example of this, running for only three years in its original incarnation (1997-99), with a failed revival in 2010. It is often conflated with the alternative music scene and third-wave feminism in general, despite not lasting for nearly as long as either of them.
  • Considering how strongly associated they are with the subject, The Beach Boys only sang about surfing from November 1961 to July 1963 (less than two years). The main reason it lasted that long at all was because Capitol Records and Murry Wilson constantly urged them for new material and they wrote new songs on the subject to pad out the three albums they did in that period (most evident on the second album Surfin USA). Even though they have been widely recognised as mature artists since Pet Sounds, they're still viewed by the general public as Those Guys Who Did Songs About Surfing And Cars.
  • The "classic" Guns N' Roses released three original albums (Appetite for Destruction and the Use Your Illusion twins), a Cover Album and a compilation mixing their first EP with some new songs before the band was effectively over, yet similar to the Nirvana example they have been treated like they went on for years. A few years later Axl revived the band on his own, but for most fans it's Fanon Discontinuity (specially as aside from keyboardist Dizzy Reed and a cameo every now and then, only Axl remained from the golden years until Slash and Duff returned in 2015).
  • The Spice Girls had maybe a grand total of 6 years together with 3 albums, 2 with the entire group, and two tours to their name.
  • Delta Goodrem, despite her immense success and opening the door for singer songwriters in Australia, has only had 4 albums out in the last 10-11 years. Influenced the likes of Gabriella Cilmi and Missy Higgins.
  • Amy Winehouse only released two albums in her lifetime, yet despite this she inspired and paved the way for arguably the most successful female singer songwriters of her generation. Adele, Lady Gaga, Paloma Faith, Rebecca Ferguson, Emili Sande, Jessie J, Duffy and Florence Welch have all personally cited Amy Winehouse as both a huge influence on their music as well as for paving the way for them and making it easier for them to enjoy huge success all over the world.
  • Disco's heyday was just a flash, it didn't enter the mainstream until 1974 and it wasn't until late 1977 that most hits associated it with it came out along with Saturday Night Fever. Disco Demolition Night, meanwhile, was less than two years later in July 1979, and by the end of 1981 it had all but faded entirely (only in the US, of course).
  • The era of "classic rock" - defined here as all non-psychedelic, non-metal, non-"alternative" hard rock of The '60s and The '70s - began on April 16, 1964 with the release of The Rolling Stones' first album and ended on October 28, 1977 with the release of Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols; Eagles' Hotel California, released ten months before Bollocks, is perhaps the last truly great album of the classic era. That's certainly a long time, but you'd be forgiven for thinking that era lasted until the 1990s or even later, judging by the continuous lionizing and pop-cultural appropriation of the classic bands for decades afterward - not to mention the condemnation and even outright ignoring of post-1977 hard rock by much of the mainstream music media.
  • Cream lasted from July 1966 to November 1968, but produced four studio albums, one a Distinct Double Album with a live disc, the other a posthumously released album also partially recorded live, and a number of posthumous live releases. However, in that time, they became one of the most influential bands of The '60s.
  • Similarly, Jimi Hendrix in his lifetime only managed to produce three studio albums (one a double disc), several standalone tracks released as singles, an album of live-recorded originals with Band Of Gypsys, and a large catalogue of unreleased and unfinished material, live recordings, demos, runthroughs, rehearsals, jam sessions, session work, sittings-in with various artists, alternate takes, etc. which still (as of December 2013) have yet to be fully unearthed and released. And his highly influential and revolutionary career as an artist in his own right only lasted from September 1966-September 1970; his last official album release came out in 1969. And that's not counting his pre-Experience career.
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival lasted only five years, 1967 to 1972. And yet this was enough for an acclaimed and extremely productive period where the group recorded six albums in three years (their self-titled debut in '68, three the following year, and two in 1970), after which Tom Fogerty left, and the band's attempt at surviving as a three-piece didn't stick.
  • David Bowie's star-making stage persona Ziggy Stardust came and went in less than two years. He toured as Ziggy from January 29, 1972 to July 3, 1973, during which time the The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Aladdin Sane albums were released. By the end of 1973, he'd jettisoned his Spiders from Mars backing band, with The British Invasion Cover Album Pin Ups and the 1980 Floor Show TV special featuring them, and while the Ziggy look persisted for a while afterward, by the 1974 Diamond Dogs tour he'd left that behind too.
    • Even shorter-lived than Ziggy is the Thin White Duke persona, even though Bowie's post-glitter career is often equated with it. The Duke was created for the barely LP length Station to Station and Bowie toured in character for a few months. Then he moved to Berlin to clean up from his prodigious drug use, effectively starting the next phase.
  • They've now got major legs - perhaps forever, or at least until the group's core members die - thanks to the Nostalgia Filter, but Kiss were at the top of the rock-music charts for a relatively short time. They didn't gain a mass fanbase until late 1975, hit the peak of their popularity in the summer of 1977, and were already slumping by 1979. Since then, they've had only scattered success as recording artists, notably Lick It Up in 1983 and Psycho Circus in 1998.
  • The Velvet Underground are widely considered to be one of the most influential bands of all time, being considered a significant precursor to both Punk Rock and Alternative Rock, as well as being one of the first bands to address taboo topics such as drug addiction, prostitution, and societal oppression of transgender people. Despite this level of influence, the band stuck around for less than a decade, spanning from 1964 to 1973. Even then, the tail end of their run was spent as the Velvet Underground In Name Only, being relatively inactive save for one final album that was simply a Doug Yule solo album with the band name slapped on for contractual reasons. The general consensus is that Lou Reed's departure in 1970, just six years into the band's run, marked the de-facto demise of the Velvet Underground.
  • Janis Joplin recorded four albums in three years—two with Big Brother and the Holding Company, and two as a solo artist. She became a star with the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and was dead three years later.
  • That most 1980s of pop-music styles, Hair Metal, more or less corresponded to the stereotypical Eighties decade itself (see below). Its beginning is often marked by Quiet Riot's release of Metal Health in 1983 (although QR were arguably less the first of the hair bands than they were the last of the "arena-rock" bands a la Kiss and Aerosmith). Due in part to a lull period in 1985 (MTV had largely cut back on metal, for instance), its uprising started in 1986, with "Home Sweet Home" from Mötley Crüe codifying the Power Ballad and Bon Jovi putting the genre on the map with the release of Slippery When Wet. The genre's peak lasted until 1988, when Guns N' Roses' topped the charts Deconstruction of the hair lifestyle, Appetite For Destruction. While the subgenre continued to be popular until about 1991 or so (and for that matter, there were songs from as early as 1975-1976 that could pass for Hair Metal), after 1988, which also marked the release of the film The Decline of Western Civilization II, it was very hard to take the hair scene seriously anymore.
  • "New Wave" music manages to be both this and Longer Than They Think. Many people are not aware that the style developed surprisingly early in The '70s, there are some very '80s-sounding songs out there that are actually from 1978 or 1979. On the other hand, the New Wave craze did not last until the end of the '80s; by 1986 it was already pretty old-hat and by 1988 had almost disappeared from the charts entirely. Depending on your definition, you could say it began either in July ‎1979 after Disco Demolition Night or in August 1981 with the debut of MTV.
  • Joy Division were only around for three years in which they produced a mere two albums, and yet they more or less invented the Post-Punk genre, paved the way for Goth Rock while they were at it, and served as an enormous influence on innumerable artists in the Alternative Rock genre and beyond. For only one of those three years did they gain any mainstream media attention, beginning with part of an NME magazine cover in January 1979, through to May 1980, were featured briefly on a few television guest spots, and only gigged outside of the UK on a few occasions; their 1979 tour was supporting Buzzcocks, and the last ever show being in a university student union.
  • The unbelievably influential proto-punk band New York Dolls only existed in a meaningful sense from 1971-75 and only released two proper albums and a couple albums of demo material. The band reunited in 2004, but the bassist, Arthur Kane, died shortly after the reunion, leaving only two surviving members: David Johansen (singer) and Sylvain Sylvain (rhythm guitar). During their brief career, the New York Dolls inspired everyone from The Sex Pistols to Motley Crue, and without them, it's safe to say that punk and glam would look very different.
  • Despite existing, albeit with temporary breakups, since 1979 and arguably pioneering the black and thrash metal subgenres Venom was only impactful for about 2 years. Welcome to Hell from 1981 and Black Metal a year later influenced countless bands in North America and Europe to turn up the speed and brutality of their music and by 1983 the more experimental At War with Satan and Possessed, while still appreciated in the underground, were considered inferior to what Bay Area, Swedish and German scenes were producing. The classic Cronos, Mantas, Abaddon lineup broke up in 1986, lasting only six years.
  • The "dead period" of the harpsichord where it became obsolete and a forgotten instrument only lasted about 30 years, although one could argue that this never happened as popularly imagined. In fact the early harpsichord revival efforts and the last uses of the harpsichord in contemporary popular music actually overlapped by at least two decades as its use in basso continuo and bass recitative were still common enough for those interested in the harpsichord to take notice. If anything, it's analogous to what happened with the piano in the 80s, 90s, and 00s with it being supplanted by the keyboard synthesizer in popular music and sometimes even classical music and in schools. However, the piano never was in true danger of being a forgotten instrument, and the beginnings of revival are being seen in The New '10s.
  • The "hip-hop chic" period of the 00s where the charts were dominated by rap and hip-hop only lasted from late 2003 until summer of 2007. 2007-2009 was dominated by a danceable form of electropop by artists like Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and Rihanna. 2000-2003 were a continuation of late 90s trends like Nu Metal, boy bands, and upbeat bubblegum pop. 2001-2003 saw a rise in patriotic music due to 9/11.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Odyssey devotes Books 9-12 of a twenty-four-book epic to the part of Odysseus's journey between him leaving Troy and him washing up on the shores of Ogygia. This entire narrative is a single flashback and contains nearly all of the iconic events of the story: the Lotus Eaters, Polyphemus the Cyclops, the Land of the Dead, Scylla and Charybdis, Circe, Aeolus, and so on. Most retellings of the story stretch it from one-sixth of the story to about 80% of it. The Laestrygonians in particular, despite having by far the highest kill count of any of Odysseus's encounters, last about four paragraphs.
  • Scholarly consensus on Jesus of Nazareth is that he started preaching and gained followers in his early to mid thirties and died somewhere around that same age. All in all the time Jesus went around preaching with his disciples cannot have lasted more than a few years - if that.
  • The Babylonian exile in the Old Testament, where the Jews were forcibly deported from Judah and the First Temple destroyed, is portrayed as hugely symbolic event, and their eventual return home is presented as something long-waited for. The exile, based on the Biblical dates, only lasted about 50 years. The Biblical prophet most associated with the exile, Daniel, was already a young man when Jerusalem fell, and most of the most well-known parts of his story (such as his time in the lions' den) take place after the end of the exile (Daniel chose not to return to Jerusalem). However, if modern biblical scholarship and theology is to be believed, this overlaps with Short-Lived, Big Impact as many biblical texts have likely been written/edited/composed during that phase and some even say that the exile was the moment when Judaism finally converted from a polytheistic religion with El/JHWH as the highest god to one with JHWH as the only god, no "JHWH and his wife Ashera" and no "JHWH and Baal" any more.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The "Attitude Era" was relatively brief, lasting almost exactly five years. It's often cited as the phenomenon that epitomized WWE in The '90s, although the first stirrings of the Attitude Era didn't occur until the decade was more than half over. The Attitude Era officially began when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin delivered his "Austin 3:16" promo after winning King Of The Ring in 1996, and ended abruptly when WCW and ECW were purchased by WWE, and Austin shockingly joined forces with Vince McMahon and Triple H at WrestleMania X-Seven, both of which happened in March 2001.
  • Speaking of the legendary "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, despite being one of the biggest, if not the biggest, wrestling superstar of all time, his entire in-ring career from start to stop spanned less than 14 years, barely half of which were actually wrestled as his iconic "Stone Cold" character.
  • Running concurrent with Austin's run as "Stone Cold", Dwayne Johnson also made such a monumental impact on the industry, which he springboarded into becoming one of the biggest movie stars in the world, that it's easy to forget he was not in the business that long. He debuted at Survivor Series in November 1996, didn't turn heel and become the Third-Person Person "The Rock" until September 1997, and was done as a full-time every-week competitor by August 2002 at Summerslam (when he took a hiatus to film The Rundown and only returned as a "special attraction" from that point on). All in all, just six years as a weekly television presence, and five properly known as "The Great One", "The People's Champ", etc., almost perfectly coinciding with the runs of both Stone Cold and the Attitude Era itself.
    • One of Rock's most successful gimmicks was "Hollywood Heel Rock", when he came back fresh off the success of The Mummy Returns and starring vehicle The Scorpion King, and had just wrapped The Rundown. Playing off crowd jeers the previous year, The Rock came back as a narcissistic, self-absorbed Hollywood star who resented the fans for calling him a sellout. This led to numerous memorable moments — the heel-turn promo in Toronto, the "Rock Concerts", the feud with The Hurricane — enough that it's easy to forget he only did the gimmick for three months, from after the Royal Rumble in late January and ending with his match against Goldberg at Backlash in late April. Once he came back from filming Walking Tall (2004), he was a well-received babyface once more.
  • In his autobiography Controversy Creates Cash, Eric Bischoff brags that WCW Monday Nitro regularly beat WWE Raw in the Nielsen ratings. This happened for only about two years - in other words, less than half the time span during which these two shows were competing.
  • Many major wrestling angles in the modern era wrap up after a surprisingly brief amount of time, largely because the belief Viewers Are Goldfish. The huge "Immortal" angle in TNA, for example, lasted only about a year and a half; for context, WCW's New World Order (the stable that directly inspired Immortal), lasted twice that long.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The era of classic Beatdown in Yu-Gi-Oh!, typified by strong Normal Monsters and overpowered Spells and Traps, is probably the most iconic period among casual fans and associated with the original Yu-Gi-Oh! anime as a whole—whether being fondly recalled as the glory days of simplicity or decried as bland and strategy-free. If you look at tournament results, though, it becomes pretty clear that the deck's heyday was pretty brief. Going by North American dates, it emerged at the game's launch in March 2002, was dethroned as the top deck by Hand Control and its variants in summer of 2003, and by March 2004, which saw the release of Chaos, Beatdown was basically nonviable in tournaments—even after the first banlist restricted Chaos, the decks that succeeded it were mostly control and OTK decks. That's a two-year period at most, barely halfway into the anime's run. Plenty of the iconic cards of the era had even shorter periods of usability, with Summoned Skull being mostly supplanted in October of 2002 by Jinzo. The reason for why it's remembered as longer than it was is simple: the majority of players were young, extremely casual, didn't keep track of the meta, and mostly used what they could get in starter decks. This meant they rarely ever encountered the signature cards of Hand Control and Chaos and could keep trucking along with obsolete decks well past the end of the original anime before being curbstomped by a more on-the-ball player.

    Video Games 
  • Though the console is incredibly iconic and stayed in production for an impressive-by-any-stretch fourteen years, the actual heyday of the Atari 2600 was pretty short. Its initial release in 1977 had it selling somewhat slowly, and it actually underperformed badly in 1978. The console didn't really explode in popularity until 1980, when it got its Killer App of Space Invaders. By late 1983, the Crash was in full swing, Atari was losing money hand over fist, and the 2600 spent the rest of its lifetime as a shadow of its former self. Outside of its launch lineup, the vast majority of classic 2600 games came out between 1980 and 1983, a four-year period.
  • The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 is often thought of as having brought the North American video game industry to the brink of extinction, but its classic definition wasn't as long as you might think. If one puts the start of the crash at the release of ET The Extraterrestrial and the end of the crash at the wide release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, then you get a period of around two years—December of 1982 to August of 1985. Even that's arguable, as it didn't become truly evident that the industry was in a death spiral until late 1983 and it didn't start significantly contracting until 1984 (albeit with most sales coming from shovelware). On the other hand, this is actually somewhat inverted in terms of how long the industry took to bounce back. Many people think of it as an immediate renaissance, but sales of home videogames actually hit their lowest point in 1986, due to the NES being the only real competitor, and didn't hit pre-crash levels until 1989.
  • The classic Sega vs. Nintendo war only really lasted for about five years. While one could argue that the first strike was the "Sega Does What Nintendon't" campaign in 1990, the Sega Genesis was still toiling in Mainstream Obscurity until the release of Sonic the Hedgehog in June of 1991. And the actual "war" didn't start until the launch of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States in September of that year. The war began to subside as early as 1994 and was pretty much over by 1996, with the Sega Saturn doing poorly in the market and the release of the PlayStation in 1995.
  • Sega as a video game company with its own console is also briefer than you'd suspect. The Sega Master System was released in Japan in October 1985 (as the Sega Mark III; the Master System wasn't released in the US until 1986, and in turn Sega redesigned the Mark III as the Master System for Japan in 1987) and they announced the end of the Dreamcast in early 2001. note  Sega has now been out of the market for consoles longer than they were a major player in it. Its' time as a major frontrunner and competitor is even shorter. The Genesis/Mega Drive (1989-1994ish) might be the only period in which Sega was a clearly dominant player in the American industry. Before and after then, it was basically fighting for scraps as a distant second or third (first with Atari over Nintendo's scraps, then with Nintendo over Sony's scraps).

    Western Animation 
  • The original run of The Jetsons was one season of 24 episodes from 1962-63. More episodes were made in The '80s.
  • Recess lasted from 1997 to 2001 with 65 episodes, one theatrical film in 2001, and three direct-to-video titles released between 2001 and 2003. However, because Disney never acknowledged the show ending and promoted it as much as series that were still in production, many fans believe it ran until at least 2006 (not helped by the show having a crossover with Lilo & Stitch: The Series at same year).
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is another Disney example. It originally ran from 1988 to 1991 on ABCnote , but over the course of the '90s and into the mid 2000s, it was rerun seemingly infinitely until about 2006 – notably, aside from Recess (just above), it was the only show to last the length of One Saturday Morning (primarily to fill up the E/I quota for ABC stations). And there so many Pooh-related videos released in the '90s too, so it's likely many people thought it went on wayyy longer than it did (at least three generations probably remember the intro theme due to this).
  • Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat ran in 2001-2002 for about 13 months with 40 episodes, but seemed to last well into the 2000s thanks to being rerun on PBS for quite a few years after it ended.
  • Considering how universally beloved Wallace & Gromit is, it often winds up being a shock (particularly for American fans) to discover that, not counting Shaun the Sheep, the series produced four twenty-to-thirty-minute short films, plus an eighty-five-minute movie – a total of just barely over three hours of footage, shorter than many movies. It's not uncommon for people to assume that what they've seen of Wallace and Gromit is just a few episodes of a lengthy TV series, as opposed to most or all of their output. Of course, Aardman has an excuse on top of British Brevity: stop-motion is hard.
  • Most people know South Park as "that show where Kenny dies in every episode." After Season 5, however, the writers generally kill him off once a season at most, discounting the three episodes in Season 14 where the gag was revisited. Kenny died Once an Episode for only a quarter of the show's total run, and this was phased out before certain other show staples were introduced.
  • Young Justice has the "Original Six" characters, the main members of The Team, that are often seen as the main characters of the show, and stand above everyone else in terms of importance in the Loads and Loads of Characters that make up the series. These six are Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis. How many episodes did The Team consist solely of these six? Thirteen. When it first started, the Team only consisted of the first four, with the latter two not joining until subsequent episodes. Specifically, Artemis didn't join the Team until join until Episode 6, and Episode 19 saw the next member join: Zatanna, with Red Arrow and Rocket joining in subsequent episodes. Season 2 completely shook the status quo by doing a five year Time Skip that shuffled out the members with a whole bunch of new ones including Blue Beetle, Wonder Girl, Batgirl, Beast Boy, Bumblebee and Robin III, among others, and ended the season with Kid Flash dying. The core lineup has never been the same, and only thirteen out of a current seventy-two episodes featured this. In-universe, they lasted 3 months as the show notoriously averts Comic-Book Time (Artemis joined the Team on August 8, 2010 and Zatanna moved to the Cave on November 7).
  • While the Scooby-Doo franchise as a whole has produced countless episodes over various television incarnations, the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! lasted only two seasons for a total of 25 episodes, with another season of sixteen episodes airing eight years later.

    Real Life 
  • While it had enormous influence on the world due to having come around during the age of industrialization, The British Empire was only the world superpower for about a hundred years - from the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 to roughly the Treaty of Versailles in 1920. The United States had surpassed them economically nearly three decades prior to that, but the Treaty of Versailles and America's quick and massive intervention in World War I'' combined with how effectively they were able to throw their weight around at the treaty negotiations (as well as the fact that Britain was heavily indebted to them to pay for said war) pretty much confirmed for everyone that British primacy was dead. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 was the final nail in the coffin. By comparison the Achaemenid Persian Empire ruled over a quarter of the world's population for about 200 years, the Roman Empire was dominant in Europe and MENA for about 700 years (roughly from Caesar's death to the Arab conquest of Egypt), the Chinese Han dynasty ruled most of East Asia for over 400 years, and the Ming dynasty did the same for over 250.
  • While the city of Babylon had been in existence for thousands of years, the Chaldean Neo-Babylonian Empire only lasted from 612-539 B.C., and the empire was already in considerable decline for a number of years before it fell. Barring things from The Epic of Gilgamesh, the entirety of what popular culture considers "Ancient Babylon" — including the Hanging Gardens, Ishtar Gate, etc. — all came from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned c. 605-562 BC). After he died, it all went to seed.
  • Classical Greece: While Greece has a history of thousands of years, almost all of the non-mythical people and events that the average person can name are from 500 to 300 B.C. This includes the rise of Athenian "democracy", the Greco-Persian Wars (when 300 is set), and the rise of Alexander the Great. Most of the ancient writers whose texts have survived to the present day (excluding Homer) had overlapping lifespans. The United States has already been a republic for longer than Athens was an independent democracy.note  This might be from a tendency by the average person to conflate Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome (the latter of which did go on for quite some time). Another factor may be people lumping in the Heroic Age of Classical Mythology, when the stories of Perseus, Heracles, the Trojan War, etc. are set. This setting seems to correspond to the Late Bronze Age, and is thus separated from the Classical period by the centuries-long Archaic period, which gets little play in media despite it being when many famous aspects of Greece's history and culture originated: Homer, the Olympic Games, The Spartan Way, etc.
    • Related, the so-called "Golden Century of Pericles" (as it's called in Greece, as opposed to the rest of the world, where it's just called "The Golden Age") only lasted for 32 years.
  • The "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" were simultaneously intact for 21 years, 247-226 BC. The Colossus of Rhodes in particular was an intact statue for 66 years and a pile of rubble for 880 years.
  • Rome is not free of this either. For example, almost every Roman soldier in fiction will wear Lorica Segmentata, a type of armor that was used from roughly 20 to 300 AD. Compare it with what legionaries wore in the Samnite Wars (4th century BC), Punic Wars (264-146 BC) and the late empire (300-450 AD). The late Roman Army was in fact very "Medieval" looking, with a lot more reliance on cavalry hailing from stone fortresses than on the famed legions of earlier periods. In general, fictional depictions of Rome tend to be concentrated on the very late Republic or the early Empire. Most Roman Epics were set between about 70 BC (Spartacus) and about 50 AD (I, Claudius). A very brief period considering the whole history from the founding of the Republic to the fall of the Empire in the West (and longer if you count the Eastern Empire, which continued for another millennium).
  • It is entirely possible that the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustus (born 460 AD) lived to see Belisarius retake Rome in 535 AD. He would be 75 and the intermediate period of barbarian rule was only 59 years. Unfortunately, there is not much surviving documentation from that period and any supposedly relating to Romulus Augustus is doubtful at best.
  • The Byzantine Empire's reconquest of the lost Western Provinces of Italy, North Africa, and Southern Spain under Justinian in the mid-6th Century is widely viewed as its historical high point, and the closest it came to the restoration of Rome's supreme dominance. This lasted only a few decades, and the empire never really recovered from the early Muslim conquests in the early-to-mid-7th Century. Compare the imperial borders under Justinian in 555 to those, in 650, just under a century later
  • A lot of people get the wrong impression that Muslim Spain was only the Caliphate of Córdoba (or even worse, the Kingdom of Granada) and as a result think that it was a splendid, unified, and tolerant state during the whole period of 800 years between Tariq ibn Ziyah's invasion and the Christian conquest of Granada. In reality, the Caliphate itself only existed between 929 and 1031, and it was downright decadent from 976. Before 929 it was an emirate, not as powerful or splendorous for most of its existence as in the Caliphal period (and quite a bit chaotic during its first decades of existence, by the way), and after 1031 it dissolved into petty statelets that were controlled from time to time by their Christian or (North African) Muslim neighbours and life could be quite nasty there sometimes. The 'Reconquista' itself could be considered another example of this trope, as it actually ended de facto in the 1250s when Ferdinand III of Castile conquered the entire Guadalquivir Valley and Granada became a Castilian protectorate.
  • Many of the classic elements commonly associated with The Middle Ages such as plate armor, longswords, infrequent bathing, etc. were only around in the The Late Middle Ages. Even worse, some things associated with the Middle Ages are actually from The Renaissance. For instance, European witch-hunting peaked during the Renaissance, not the Middle Ages.
  • As with the above entry with ancient Rome and her legions, many themes, tropes, and concepts we associate with Sengoku Japan and the samurai caste came during the final years of the period when Japan was in the process of being unified. In particular, samurai weaponry and armour-especially those associated so much with Japan in popular culture such as the katana-did not exist for much of the feudal period. Not only did weapons and armour vastly differ from period to period, the Japanese even wielded weapons that we would consider foreign to their culture such as sword-and-spear combinations and later musket rifles. A good many of the associated tropes and customs of the samurai, such as bushido, did not even come into being until the advent of Imperial Japan and they were created in the first place to foster the Japanese identity.
    • Almost all fiction on Feudal Japan mostly focuses on the reign of Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu even though the Sengoku Jidai had already begun several hundred years before, and Nobunaga and Ieyasu were relatively minor figures until near their old age. There were hundreds of other Japanese politicians, soldiers, and clan leaders who lived before the climax of Nobunaga and Ieyasu's military careers, who played just as important roles (and many were in the same ballpark in terms of competence). However, pop culture in Japan gives excessive attention to these two figures who had relatively brief reigns that lasted less than half their lifetimes.
  • The Mongol Empire, the greatest land empire the world has ever seen, didn't last very long. It started from the coronation of Temujin as Genghis Khan in 1208 (died 1227), reached its high-water mark in 1254 under Möngke, and began to disintegrate after his death in 1259. After the death of Kublai, the last accepted Great Khan, in 1294, the Mongol empire was no more. The successor states lingered on for some generations.
    • It should also be stressed that Genghis Khan did not conquer the whole Mongol Empire in his lifetime, but "merely" Mongolia, northern China, and the former Soviet Central Asia. Southern China, Korea, Persia, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe would be conquered under his successors. The map of the Mongol Empire stretching from Bulgaria to Guangdong that most are familiar with was an incarnation that existed for at most about three decades- and technically never existed as a unified state (Song China's last remnants were subdued in 1279, and the Mongol civil wars and de facto split started in 1262).
  • Out of over a hundred years of The Hundred Years War (1337-1453), most plays, films etc. focus on Henry V's Agincourt campaign (1415), Joan of Arc's active involvement (1429-1430, 15 months) and her trial (1431, 3 months).
  • For most of their existence, the Aztecs did not have an empire. They were vassals of other Nahua cities up to 1428 and only began to expand in the 1440s. Thus, when the Spaniards showed up in 1519, the Aztec Empire was less than 100 years old and many of its provinces had been held for less than 20 years. Most of the men who fought for Cortés were rival natives looking for a rematch.
  • Similarly the Inca Empire, Tawantinsuyu, was also less than 100 years old (1438–1533), having entered a period of rapid expansion which was going on just before the Spaniards showed up, put on hold as they entered a civil war over who would be Sapa Inca (caused by an epidemic of smallpox that beat the Spanish). As a result, once Pizarro was able to capture Atauhualpa (many spelling variations), who had recently won (and ordered his opponent, Huascar, killed) and decided to kill him, they were able to lead many natives against the remaining Inca leadership. This shouldn't be surprising because the Pizarro brothers were distant cousins of Cortés and they were deliberately emulating him.
  • Christoper Columbus's first voyage across the Atlantic only took a little longer than a month, which isn't very long at all for a sea voyage. It's often assumed to be longer because his crew was on the verge of mutiny; however this was due to the crushing psychological effect of them spending an entire month out of sight of land, and that Columbus lied to them about how far out to sea they were. Another source of confusion is that Columbus sailed from continental Spain on August 3 and landed in San Salvador on October 12; the first month was spent mostly in the Canary Islands, where he was forced to stop for repairs and remained until September 6.
  • The American (i.e. USA) Colonial Period can count as well. Discounting earlier Spanish settlements in Florida and the Rio Grande valley (as US schoolbook history tends to), the era lasted from the founding of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown in 1607, until the official end of the Revolutionary War in 1783. For those keeping score, that's 176 years. By contrast, Mexico was a Spanish colony for exactly 300 years, Cuba for nearly 400, and Bermuda has been a British colony for even longer than that.
    • Also, for most of colonial American history, there were fewer colonies than the thirteen that broke away from Britain in The American Revolution. Georgia, the youngest of the original colonies, was founded in 1733, a mere 42 years before the Revolution started. At the time of independence, its founder, James Oglethorpe, was still alive, as were many of the original settlers. There's a reason that most of the South were Loyalists right up to the end of the war.
  • Boats rowed by slaves were first used en masse in the Mediterranean by the Knights Hospitaller after they relocated to Malta in 1530, as a way to spam ships and rebuild their navy following the loss of their main base in Rhodes. Despite common belief, ancient and medieval oarsmen were free, and were generally either trained professional sailors or were poor citizens carrying out their military service obligation to the state.note  The number of slave galleys began to decline in the 17th century, when the Barbary pirates changed out their galleys for smaller, sail-only xebecs, and they disappeared from Europe around the time of the French Revolution. Nevertheless, the name "galley slave" continued to be used for convict laborers in France, Spain and Italy for another century or more.
  • The "classic" pirate era lasted about thirty years, from around 1680 to 1710. Blackbeard and Anne Bonney were a little after this, 1718 or so.
    • Blackbeard himself was only a captain two years, and spent a part of those two years trying to go legit as a privateer.
    • Granted, most "pirates" had been privateers in the British or French Navy before that, and the buccaneer communities in Hispaniola date back to at least 1630.
    • The exact span of the Golden Age of Piracy is debatable, with some historians including the post-War of the Spanish Succession period (1715 to the 1720s or '30s). That being said, Treasure Island takes place long after the Golden Age ended by any measure.
  • Despite the prominence of the Of Corset Hurts trope in historical fiction set in many past eras, tight-lacing extreme enough to be painful or body-distorting was only fashionable during the latter half of the nineteenth century and the very early twentieth, and even then was by no means universal. Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, the main point of the corset was not to create an Impossible Hourglass Figure, but simply to lift up the bust and make it look larger, like a modern push-up bra.
  • The "Antebellum" Deep South: While technically, perhaps, the term antebellum could mean all of U.S. history before 1860, what most people think of as The Old South, with a cotton-based economy and big white-columned plantations everywhere, was mostly from about 1830 until The American Civil War. 31 years. Less than one person's lifetime. Outside the "tidewater" coastal areas, much of the South was not even settled by whites until after the War of 1812. For example, the Atlanta that burned in Gone with the Wind had not existed in any form at all before 1836, had been called that only since 1847, became a city of any importance only a few years before the war started, and wasn't even Georgia's capital until a few years after the war ended (Georgia has had more places serve as capital than most other states; immediately prior to the American Civil War, the capital was in the tiny town of Milledgeville, and Macon briefly served as the capital in between the two).
    • This was only Truth in Television on the Atlantic Coast - particularly Virginia - and the Gulf Coast (and a few way stations along the major rivers), which is probably where the idea of associating it with the entire South came from. Even in the coastal areas, it was perfectly possible for a person to live from the time cotton began to be grown widely (a little after the cotton gin was invented in 1793) all the way to the time of the American Civil War. This is, admittedly, a little misleading; before cotton was king, tobacco was tops.
      • Robert E. Lee's father had fought in The American Revolution (Robert was a child of his old age). (Contrary to popular belief, his father was not the Founding Father Richard Henry Lee; rather, he was Richard Henry's first cousin once removed.)
      • Abraham Lincoln was a teenager when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died, and indeed, Jefferson was still president (though a lame duck) when Lincoln was born.
  • The (American) Whig Party gets quite a bit of historical attention, but it was dissolved only 27 years after its creation (in 1833), which puts its existence at not only less than a fifth of the entire existence of the Democratic or Republican Parties but also less than the careers of many current Congressmen and Senators. This isn't surprising since when the party was formed it didn't have much of a unifying platform beyond opposition to Andrew Jackson. Once Jackson retired from office, the party lost its purpose and became nothing more than a bunch of squabbling factions incapable of governing effectively. Of the four Whig Presidents, none served a full term, and John Tyler, who held the office the longest, was opposed by most Whigs. The leading Whig Senators Henry Clay and Daniel Webster did succeed in passing the Compromise of 1850, but their party split on the issue, and Clay and Webster dying two years later only hastened the party's disintegration.
  • Inversion: the period of massive immigration to the United States is often perceived as having begun in the 1880s or 1890s and having been largely over by World War I. Actually, there was steady migration from north-western Europe throughout which was supplemented by a burgeoning surge from the 1850s to the 1900s and a relative decline thereafter. However, there were still far more immigrants immigrating post-war than ever before, despite the bans on non-European immigration. Immigration has never dropped below the pre-surge level since the surge ended, even though white people no longer made up the majority of immigrants when non-whites were again allowed in post-WWII. The reason the immigrants from the turn of the century are discussed in American History classes is because from about The '50s to The '70s (and beyond in some parts of the country), most Americans were either the children or grandchildren of these particular immigrants, and so they were more interested in the ones from Europe than from, say, Mexico.
  • The French Revolution on the whole lasted for ten years (1789-1799) where several successive governments attempted to form and centralize authority, sandwiched between an absolute monarchy and an Empire that was even more absolute than anything that came before. The most famous/notorious phase of the revolution, centering on the Reign of Terror, lasted a single year (1793-1794). Maximilien Robespierre, despite being one of the most controversial and notorious figures in history, only held direct power for 11 months and even then he had to share it with other members of the Committee of Public Safety.
    • On that note, the First French Republic lasted for less than 12 years (1792-1804), during which time the form of government changed several times before finally settling down once Napoléon Bonaparte consolidated power.
      • Napoleon himself ruled France (first as Consul, then as Emperor), for a slightly longer period – 1799 until his defeat at Waterloo in 1815. That's sixteen years plus a hundred days. That's about the same amount of time as the Bourbon Restoration that followed (1815-30).
      • Indeed, his nephew Louis-Napoléon (a.k.a. Napoleon III), regarded by most historians and contemporary commentators as a Poor Man's Substitute, ruled for twenty-two years (four as President of the Second Republic and then eighteen as Emperor), six longer than his uncle… and his Empire arguably had a bigger role in shaping contemporary France and Europe – it played a major role in the rise of Imperial Germany, the rebuilding and modernization of Paris, the arrival of the Industrial Revolution in France and the birth of an alliance between France and England that shaped the world wars of the 20th Century, but most people still regard him as The Scrappy.
    • The 1871 Paris Commune lasted between 18th March-28th May, a little over two months, yet is regarded by many leftists as Glory Days and by Communists as the first socialist government. It's remembered mostly for the infamous "Bloody Week" that ended it, in which as many people were killed by the French government as in the Reign of Terror (and that lasted for a year), and for rioting by the Communards burning down famous monuments like the Tuileries Palace and the Hotel de Ville. On the whole, the French Political System is Overshadowed by Awesome. Most people know of Robespierre and Napoleon and the Fifth Republic of Charles de Gaulle, thanks mainly to their larger-than-life personalities, but few are aware of the Third French Republic which lasted for 70 years (1870-1940), still the longest functioning government in France since the fall of the Ancien Régime.note 
  • The Pony Express lasted about a year and a half between launch and its being rendered obsolete by the telegraph. That's from 1860 to 1861 (overlapping with the first year of The American Civil War). It was never profitable.
  • The Wild West: While there are Westerns that take place both before and after, most Westerns are set between the end of the Civil War and 1890, the year the US Census Bureau declared the frontier "closed" – 25 years. Western-themed TV series like Gunsmoke ran for so long that their depiction of this period borders on Medieval Stasis, which is ironic considering that the whole reason this era was an exciting fictional setting in the first place was that it was a time of great change.
  • The zenith of European colonial empires in Africa only lasted two or three generations. A hypothetical African who was born between 1870 and 1880 and died in 1960 or later would have remembered their childhood before the Europeans arrived, lived through the entire colonial period, and died in an independent country.note  This was obvious at the time because it was called the "Scramble For Africa". In 1870, only 10% of Africa was European-controlled. By 1900, only Liberia and Ethiopia were still independent (and the Italians briefly invaded Ethiopia later, while Liberia had begun as a colony and was dominated by "Americo-Liberians".note  until 1980). However, it also lasted a lot longer than you might think, as France and Britain still owned most of Africa as late as 1960 and Portugal did not give up its coloniesnote  until 1975.
  • The Indian Mutiny/Uprising or the Sepoy Rebellion lasted for a single year, but is often remembered in India as the birth of Indian nationalism. In the space of that year, vestigial empires like the Maratha Confederacy and the Mughal Empire became Deader Than Dead, and the East India Company was removed from India as a result of its incompetence. Indeed, India only officially became part of the British Empire under direct administration from Parliament after 1858, who, with independence in 1947, ruled over the subcontinent for a period shorter than the East India Company (1757-1858) by ten years.
    • Mahatma Gandhi's most active and influential period of political activity took place between 1919-1940 but thanks to his personality and Historical Hero Upgrade, a lot of other more important and influential leaders get Overshadowed by Awesome. At the time of his assassination, his political influence had already been in decline, since he was at heart a community organizer and protester rather than a holder of political office. His tragic death made him Too Good for This Sinful Earth for the rest of time.
  • The gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone (1881) lasted about 30 seconds or so in real life. Most depictions of it stretch it out to several minutes because of its legendary status.
  • The gold standard was the international monetary standard for only about 40 years, from the 1890s through the 1930s, give or take a few years depending on the country – shorter than the fiat system currently in place. Prior to that, most countries operated on the silver (or in the case of the US, bimetallic) standard.
    • Though the system of Bretton Woods that was instituted in 1944 was essentially a gold standard on paper and was only rescinded by Richard Nixon, essentially killing any even theoretic possibility of the US Dollar having a fixed value in gold Deader Than Dead.
  • America was only in World War I for about a year and a half officially, from April 1917 to November, 1918. Moreover, they were only engaged in combat for about six months- from the Battle of Cantigny on May 28 to the armistice on November 18. Though that's because Imperial Germany risked and lost everything on the Ludendorff Offensive because they knew they needed to win before the US Army arrived; while the U.S. was only involved in two major operations (Germany's Spring Offensive and the Allies' Hundred Days Offensive), these were probably the two most important operations of the war.
  • Russian Communism from Red October to Mikhail Gorbachev lasted 74 years – Novembernote  1917 to December 1991.
    • The actual Soviet Union lasted for only 69 years, since it wasn't founded until 1922 after the end of the Russian Civil War. In other words, less than one-fourth as long as the Romanov dynasty (1613–1917, 304 years). It was possible for an individual born under the last Tsar to live to see the breakup of the Soviet Union. In fact, many did.
      • For example, Lazar Kaganovich (the last surviving dignitary of the Russian Revolutionary regime) who died a month before the breakup of the USSR. Also, Sergey Mikhalkov, the author of the lyrics to both the USSR's anthem and the post-Communist anthem of the Russian Federation, was born in 1913 and died in 2009. Incidentally, Gorbachev was the only Soviet leader to be born in the Soviet Union. All his predecessors were born in the Russian Empire.
      • This surprisingly short time period is the source of the joke, "Born in St. Petersburg, studied in Petrograd, Lived in Leningrad, Died in Saint Petersburg."
      • While most of the Soviet Republics were under Moscow's control for those entire 69 years, the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), western Ukraine, western Belarus (both were part of Poland at the time), and Moldova (part of Romania) were (re-)occupied by Russia in 1944 and broke away in 1991. That's 47 years.
    • Vladimir Lenin held political office between 1918-1924, and spent the final year incapacitated due to his poor health (oncoming dementia and strokes). This meant that he had the shortest period in office of any premier of the USSR and any office holder of the Russian Federation. This also meant that he had a far smaller role in shaping his government than any major communist revolutionary such as Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, or Fidel Castro.
    • While Josef Stalin has rightly become known for his purges and his mercurial mood, the period of his purges lasted between 1936-1938. He had already ruled the USSR since 1924, a good 12 years before then. Barring isolated incidents such as the Katyn Massacre and the Doctors' Plot towards the end of his life, a lot of his career was purge-free though still highly repressive and draconian.
  • Socialist Yugoslavia only lasted for 47 years (1945-1992). Josip Broz Tito was the the de facto and later de jure ruler for only 35 years (1945-1980). Conversely, this there is an inversion for the time period between Tito's death and the breakup of Yugoslavia (as you may have guessed, 12 years). Popular culture tends to remember the Yugoslav Wars as starting more or less instantly after Tito died, but a full quarter of the country's history occurred between those times.
  • Al Capone was leader of the Chicago Outfit for 6 years (1925-1931).
  • Inversion: The Great Crash of 1929 was not the sudden and screeching halt to the Roaring Twenties it is typically depicted as in fiction. The reality is that there were several warning signs earlier in the year suggesting a speculative bubble that was about to burst. The Crash only set The Great Depression in motion; the American economy continued to slide until hitting rock bottom in early 1933. The wave of major bank failures began in Fall 1930 and went on for several years until Congress set up the FDIC. Basically, the Twenties were a time of looming problems covered up by (the illusion of) prosperity, which served to make he collapse seem far more sudden than it really was.
    • In fact, the American economy was recovering when the Dust Bowl – a product of decades of horrible farming practices come home to roost thanks to a drought – hit Kansas and other Plains states.
    • Anyone with a passing knowledge of Southern United States history comes away with a very different picture than just New York ticker-tape and the Kansas dust bowl. In the South, the Depression started earlier and lasted longer. This was in many ways a long-term consequence of the cotton boom of the previous century and its traumatic ending. Not for nothing did Franklin D. Roosevelt dub The South the USA's 'Economic Problem Number One'.
  • Some cultural things that defined The Roaring '20s did not last as long as one might expect. For instance, the popular image of The Flapper, with her short hair and short dresses and long beaded necklaces only went mainstream for only a couple of years from 1926 to 1928 – before and after that, her imagery had a leaner and longer silhouette. The Charleston dance, too, didn't come along until relatively late in the decade.
  • The Empire State Building was only the tallest building in the world for 39 years, from 1931 when it surpassed the Chrysler Buildingnote  to 1970 when the main towers of the World Trade Center passed it. note  Still, forty years is a good long time when you consider that the title of "world's tallest building" moves around every few years now—and had done for a while before then (five different New York skyscrapers held the title between 1908—when the Singer Building took the title from Philadelphia City Hall—and 1931).
    • Inversely, the builders of the CN Tower in Toronto in 1976 thought it would be surpassed as the world's tallest freestanding structure relatively shortly. Instead, the decline in the need for broadcast towers meant that it kept that title for 34 years.
    • Relatedly, the modern pattern of the world's tallest building being some kind of office or residential tower is quite new. The first secular structure to hold the title of "world's tallest" was the Eiffel Tower in 1889; the first secular habitable building to be the world's tallest was Philadelphia City Hall,note  completed in 1894.note  Up to that point, the world's tallest building was always religious: either some Western European cathedral or other (after the completion of Lincoln Cathedral in 1311) or an Egyptian pyramid (for reference, the Great Pyramid held the title nearly 4,000 years, being built in the 26th century BCE—and some fairly tall pyramids were even older than that).
  • The Alcatraz Island prison, a famous name everybody would think of when thinking of an inescapable maximum security prison, has only served such purpose for just barely less than 30 years - from 1934 to 1963, and has been a museum since.
  • Japan was only an expansionist fascist dictatorship with an utter disregard for human life ruled by a cruel emperor from 1926 to 1945. Before then it was a run-of-the-mill weak democracy with strong military, business, and criminal elements.
    • Moreover the Japanese Army was only an Axe-Crazy Blood Knight institution from 1926 to 1945 (mostly from Showa regime indoctrination). Killing POW and civilians for fun would have been unthinkable in the 1895 Sino-Japanese War and frowned upon in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War, but was perfectly acceptable from 1926 onward. (Which is really terrifying, if you think about it.)
      • In fact, Japan was praised for its exquisite treatment of European POWs during the Russo-Japanese War and World War I (the Chinese civilians caught in the middle were a whole different matter).
    • For that matter, Imperial Japan only existed for 77 years (1868-1945), and is not, as sometimes mistakenly believed, a synonym for "all of Japanese history before V-J Day". (This will still be a longer time than postwar Japan has been around until 2022, meaning that everything otaku on either side of the Pacific care about is Newer Than They Think.) It is called that because the emperor was more powerful during this period than now, and its first few years still had enough domestic unrest that it was not able to begin conquering other countries until about 1880. It would not have been unusual for a person to have been born under the Tokugawa Shogunate (or even potentially the isolationist period, which ended fifteen years before the shogunate collapsed) and lived to see the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    • Going hand in hand with the above and also with the below entry about Germany, the concept of a "Japanese" identity as we think of it today is pretty much a Meiji era creation. Prior to the Meiji period, most Japanese thought themselves as members of their clans first before Japanese. While the various clans on what is now called Japan would unite if a foreign enemy such as the Mongols came and proved too strong for a single clan to defeat, just as often would the clans rely on alliances with foreigners to defeat other equally powerful clans. It was precisely this problem why the Tokugawa shogun became very strict on control (especially with weapon laws) and also why the Meiji Restoration did not go bloodless. As a matter of fact, even the current Japanese language is a creation of the Meiji era by the government to ease communications and trade in addition to building a unity of "one nation". Prior to that Japanese language was so full of different regional dialects that they were often mutually unintelligible and even different classes had different dialects that could make communication difficult. The Tokugawa made it mandatory for Samurai to learn calligraphy partially for this reason.
  • Germany is a nice series of contrasts:
    • For the great majority of its history, Germany as it exists today was politically divided and it was only in the age of Otto von Bismarck that it achieved its famous unity… and that unity ended with the arrival of the Cold War and partition of East and West Germany. The German Empire lasted less than fifty years, from 1871 to 1918 – across the reigns of just three Kaisers, one of whom (Frederick III) only reigned for three months. And since the Empire's successor, the Weimar Republic, lasted just fifteen years, a child born in independent Prussia or Bavaria easily could have lived to see the rise of the Nazi Party before the age of 65. Paul von Hindenburg was a junior officer in the army when the German Empire was formed, and a field marshal when the last emperor stepped down. He was elected President mostly on his World War I fame and (reluctantly) appointed Hitler chancellor in 1933 before dying a year later.
    • The Nazis controlled Germany for twelve years, 1933 to 1945, shorter than Weimar Germany that preceded it and greatly exceeded by the successive governments of West and East Germany, as well as the government of United Germany (1990-now) and yet everyone still feels that All Germans Are Nazis. For perspective, Fascist Italy existed for 21 years (and was The Remnant for an additional two years), Japan was ruled by a psychopath for a little under two decades (see above) and even the puppet state of Manchuria existed for two years more than the Nazis (from 1931 to 1945).
    • The Berlin Wall itself stood for only 28 years – August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989, and as of 2018 has been gone longer than it was up. People usually think it was there longer because they conflate the Wall with the Iron Curtain.
    • Any artwork from World War I that features German soldiers will probably have them wearing the iconic pikelhaube (that helmet with a pointy spike on the top). In fact, the pikelhaube was remodeled in 1915 (and by September, solders were officially directed to remove their spikes in the field) and discontinued entirely in 1916, replaced with the more modern stahlhelm, meaning it lasted less than two years. Ironically, it'd been used pretty regularly for seventy years up to that point; World War I was essentially the wakeup call for how outdated and impractical it was. Despite this, it was such a distinctive design and such an easy shorthand for Germany that propaganda artwork almost always used the pikelhaube. It didn't hurt that officers wore it when they weren't in the field.
    • Postwar Germany has had three chancellors with longer tenures than Hitler - Konrad Adenauer (14 years), Helmut Kohl (16 years), and Angela Merkel (16 years).
    • The Holocaust is rightfully seen as the central legacy of Axis. However, about 70-80% of the victims were killed between mid-1941 and mid-1943. This is when half the Soviet POWs died of starvation and exposure in open-air camps while the Germans were deciding what to do with them, and the bulk of the Undesirables who were not useful for war-work were murdered to save on food (for feeding them enough to prevent rebellion) and manpower (for guarding them) demands. The other half of the Soviet POWs died as overworked and underfed slaves in factories, and the fit-for-work Undesirables who became unfit for work (or simply could not be protected from the SS by their employers and the local authorities) were murdered in mid-1943 to mid-1945 period.
  • Treblinka, the second most notorious and well-known Nazi death camp after Auschwitz, was only operational for around 15 months over 1942-43. During that time, around 800,000 people were killed there.
  • Stuff about World War II made in the United States always starts after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and many are set from D-Day onward, unless they're for the fringe market of Eastern Front enthusiasts or fans of Pacific Naval battles. The period from D-Day to V-E Day, when most American-made WWII works are set, was only 11 months, June 1944 to May 1945. This is probably a subtrope of America Saves the Day. It's somewhat justified because the 11-month "Northwest European Campaign" was huge, the second largest land war in history after the Eastern Front. Though, even from an American perspective, this ignores the various battles in the Pacific starting in 1941, the battles over Germany's skies starting in 1942, or the battles in Italy starting in 1943.
    • Fighting on the Chinese Front (i.e., the Second Sino-Japanese War) began in 1937.
    • The PRC and ROC have made claims of WWII starting, undeclared, as early as 1931 - when the Imperial Japanese military invaded Manchuria.
      • For what it's worth, the US training/propaganda film Why We Fight: Prelude to War also pegs the beginning of World War Two to March, 1931.
    • The "Flying Tigers" fighter squadron (the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force) only existed from December 1941 until July 1942 when they were reabsorbed back into the USAAC. This has not stopped various movies and television shows portraying the Flying Tigers as having existed for years, often taking the origin of the Tigers back into the mid 1930s. One such program, Tales of the Gold Monkey, portrayed veterans of the Flying Tigers as having left in the late 1930s to find adventure elsewhere.
  • Inversion: Dictatorships in general in Western Europe. While Germany and Italy were the two most notable dictatorships, variants of Fascism also existed in Spain and Portugal. The former two (and Japan) ended up turning democratic (or communist for East Germany) after World War II thanks to losing to the Allies in World War II. Spain and Portugal, on the other hand, stayed out of the war and managed to remained fascist until well into The '70s due to the ideological opposition to Communism winning the favor of the United States. note 
  • The Apartheid Era system of white minority rule that existed in South Africa, Namibia, and Rhodesia (the southern district of which constitutes modern Zimbabwe) can qualify. Although life for local black Africans in these areas was far from pleasant during the colonial era, most of South Africa (settled by Europeans long before the other two) was in local hands (some black, some white) for much of the 19th Century. The whole of South Africa was conquered by Britain by 1902, and given independence as the Union of South Africa in 1910.
    • Apartheid as a legal framework came into being in South Africa after the Afrikaner-run National Party won the Parliamentary elections in 1948, and it ended with the first multiracial elections in 1994 - just over 45 years. South Africa imposed the system on South-West Africa (modern Namibia, a former German colony) in 1966, and kept it in place until Namibian independence in 1990 - 24 years. The white minority of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) saw what their South African comrades were doing, thought it was a great idea, and adopted it themselves when they declared unilateral independence in 1965, and it remained on the books until the end of minority rule in 1980 - 15 years. Although with that last one was a doozy...
  • It's worth noting that Red China has had a capitalist market economy (1979-present) far longer than it had a mostly centrally planned socialist command economy (1949-1976). Ditto Vietnam, which had a planned socialist economy for all of 10 years after unification (1976-1986) before the Đổi Mới reforms which progressively transformed it into a market economy (with associated rapid rises in income and standards of living, though not as much as China).
  • The "British Invasion" began around 1964-65 and ended by late 1967, while the "Cool Britannia" fad lasted between 1996-7 and 1999.
  • The whole flowers-and-drugs Swinging Sixties was this in England. It lasted for the summer of 1968 for a very few people before realizing they had lives and careers to get on with.
    • The authentic San Francisco/Haight-Ashbury hippie scene similarly only lasted around a year and a half (spring 1966 to autumn 1967).
    • The overall psychedelic period lasted much shorter than popular culture often depicts. Depending on what gets casually called "psychedelic" (long hair on men, colorful clothing, etc.), many people born after about 1960 seem to think it lasted well into the '70s or even later. Here's how it breaks down – it experienced its first stirrings in 1965 (at least with respect to the drug culture, since the style of music had been heard intermittently in earlier years), solidified in 1966, penetrated the mainstream in 1967, reached its peak in 1968, was already on its way out in 1969, and by 1970 was all but dead due to (among other things) the Altamont Speedway massacre, the War on Drugs being launched, and the genres that would eventually coalesce into Heavy Metal and Punk Rock already beginning to supplant the "acid" sound.
    • The "hippie revival" of the late 1990s and early 2000s mostly ended after September 11, 2001.
    • Also in the sixties, most people are aware of the rapid development of the "Space Race" but may not realize how the various missions and phases each last for only a few years. The era when the Soviets had a lead in manned flights really only lasted from 1961 to the launch of the first NASA Gemini craft in 1964. There were six Soviet Vostok missions in three years, and only two Voskhod missions. For NASA, Gemini lasted three years and manned Apollo missions lasted just over four years from Apollo 7 in October 1968 to Apollo 17 in December 1972. The "Apollo spares" missions of Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz took place over three years (1973-1975). Can also apply to individual missions and space flyers; Yuri Gagarin's epochal first spaceflight lasted just under two hours. Alan Shepard was aloft for fifteen minutes in the first American suborbital mission. John Glenn's orbital flight lasted five hours. Even Neil Armstrong himself flew on just two spaceflights. By contrast the NASA Space Shuttle program flew one hundred and thirty five missions, over thirty years, but these are still mostly overshadowed by the pioneering years.
  • The above goes for other iconic decades, too:
    • The Roaring '20s as we know it actually began around 1923-24, when Harding died and Coolidge took over, radio abandoned its experimental period, organized crime became big, and the "Golden Age of Sports" took off. The years beforehand were marked by a Red Scare, a post-war recession, and Prohibition was not much of an issue.
      • Most households didn't have a radio in 1930, although most homes with electricity had one.
    • The '50s - or at least the version thereof everyone remembers - did not last from 1950 to 1959. For starters, calling it "the Eisenhower era" is a misnomer because Harry Truman was in the White House during the decade's first 36 months. Thinking of the '50s as a "peaceful" and "boring" decade also fails to take into account the years 1950-1954 - the height of the second Red Scare - which was just as controversial politically (if not quite socially) as the Vietnam War a decade later. One should also keep in mind that by 1954 most Americans still did not own television sets, and that by the decade's end most people - even most white people - did not live in the suburbs, and in fact would not for a few decades more.
      • Also, the 50s began to end after 1957, when the "space race" began, TV became the dominant medium and the post war "boom" ended.
    • The version of The '80s (and probably early 90s) that everyone remembers, with its "conspicuous consumption" and hedonistic living – and, considering the moral posturing that was never too far away during those years, arguably a good chunk of hypocrisy as well – lasted only from about 1983 (when Ronald Reagan's scheme to kick-start the U.S. economy finally paid off after two years of uncertainty) to 1989 (when the Berlin Wall fell and the early 90s depression began). The years prior to that are better understood as a continuation of The '70s. And the years afterward, if not quite The '90s yet, as a sort of in-between period during which the '80s ethos was slowly fading.
      • To boot, the 80s before 1986 were marked by New Wave Music, arcade games, and yet another Red Scare. Afterwards, home consoles and PC's became commonplace, dance-pop and urban took over the charts, alternative rock began its uprising, the stock market crashed in a heralding of the new depression, and US-USSR relations thawed.
  • If someone tells you to think of television from the 50s, chances are you are imagining a Philco Predicta. Perhaps the most iconic television set of all time, you'd think it was not only standard in the 50s but that there practically hundreds of imitators by its appearance in media. However, the Predicta was only produced from 1958 to 1960 before Philco ran into financial trouble. There were no imitators, but TVs with a detached cathode ray tube are practically mandatory in any 50s Retro Universe.
  • The Khmer Rouge only controlled Cambodia for about 3 years and 9 months (April 17, 1975 to January 8, 1979), which manages to make the utter destruction and massive death toll they were responsible for even more unthinkably horrific. They were overthrown as a result of a war with the neighboring Socialist Republic of Vietnam, a war which went far to cast doubt on the Domino theory that had informed Western strategy in the Cold War until then.
    • It could be easy to get this impression given how long some countries insisted Democratic Kampuchea (the Khmer Rouge regime) should keep Cambodia's UN seat. A number of countries took Vietnam's liberation of Cambodia as a slap to the face.
  • The Gulf War on the ground only lasted 100 hours, though the entire conflict lasted nearly seven months beginning to end.
  • Dynasties in American sports are dominant for a briefer period than it appears, such as the Dallas Cowboys of the early 1990s, the New York Yankees of the late 1990s, and the New England Patriots of the early 2000s. Also, the period during which they are contemporarily perceived as dynasties is even shorter. One of the longest dynasties in pro football - the Cowboys under coach Tom Landry - lasted from 1960 to 1989, but that arguably doesn't count as a dynasty because the 'Boys were a really good team during only about a third of that span at the most (mid-Seventies through mid-Eighties).
    • The NBA in the Eighties is often thought of as an epic struggle for dominance between Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers, and Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, but actually those teams only faced each other in the Finals three times between 1984 and 1987 (with the Lakers winning two).note  One could just as easily conclude it was a struggle between Magic and the Lakers and Julius "Dr. J" Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers, who also faced each other three times in the Finals, from 1980 to 1983, with the same record (Lakers winning two). During that early part of the decade, the 76ers also had a better regular season record than the Lakers or the Celtics. The Houston Rockets also managed to get past the Lakers to face the Celtics twice (the Celtics winning both times), while by the end of the decade the Celtics were toppled by the Bad Boys Pistons, who split two finals with the Lakers.
  • Much like dynasties many sports that become so iconic with a country's identity or as a culture's intrinsic past times actually became popular only recently. Case in point, the Big 3 major sports today often associated with the United States are baseball, basketball, and football and pop-cultural osmosis led many to think those were so traditional they were always America's pastimes. A century ago (1921 as of this writing), only baseball had a well-established professional league; the NFL was only a year old, and the very sport of basketball had only existed for 30 years, and the NBA wouldn't start until right after WWII. College football was more popular than the NFL until roughly 1960, and basketball didn't really reach the mainstream until later that decade. On top of that, for a good 30-year period, the Big 3 were actually boxing, horse racing, and baseball as the dominant sports in mainstream America. Likewise, cricket only became the phenomenon it is today in India after some championships were won post-WWII.
  • Pelé is widely considered the greatest football (soccer) player of all time. Yet his performances on what would today be considered the world stage were remarkably few. Until the last couple of years of his career (when he was well past his prime) spent at the New York Cosmos, Pelé spent his entire career in Brazil (and Brazilian football at the time was mostly regional, with little national competition), and left little video footage. Outside of Brazil itself, and to a lesser extent South America, most people only know Pelé from Intercontinental Cup and World Cup matches - of which Pelé played just 3 and 14 respectively.
  • The rivalry between John McEnroe and Björn Borg is widely considered one of the greatest in tennis history, but it is often forgotten how short it was. The gap between the first and last times the two faces each other was less than three years, and the four times they met in Grand Slams, all finals, all took place within the space of 14 months in 1980 and 1981. As a comparison, the more recent rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (often compared to Borg-McEnroe) has been going 17 years and counting, and has included 14 Grand Slam matches, 9 of them finals.
  • The Taliban only really controlled Afghanistan for about five years (1996-2001). The rest of the time they were just the biggest fish in the pond. You can still find old and even middle-aged men there that remember a time when their women didn't have to be covered from head to toe and not show their faces just to be considered proprietous... and that's ignoring the areas in the northern mountains that the Taliban never conquered.
    • This is also true of many parts of the Muslim world. As recently as the 1970s and 1980s, the vast majority of the Muslim world was dominated by secularism and varieties of "socialism" and there was little difference between women's fashion there and in the West. Since then, however, there has been something of a resurgence of piety – brought on, many social scientists think, by the increasing prosperity and consequent ascendancy of the region's middle class. Some have even called them "the new Calvinists" after the similarly pious and similarly mercantile Europeans of the 16th-18th centuries.
  • Between the start of construction in 1968 and the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the World Trade Center towers lasted a little over thirty years. Furthermore, the towers opened in 1973, so they were only in operation for twenty-eight years.
  • The killing spree of the Zodiac, perhaps the most famous serial killer in American history, was much shorter than you'd think given the nearly mythical status pop culture has given it. It's only known for sure that he killed five people over the span of about ten months, between December of 1968 and October of 1969. However, he continued to taunt the police with cryptic letters as late as 1974 and claimed responsibility for 37 murders that stretched back as early as 1966, which helped to push his reputation far beyond what the facts support.
  • Similar to the Zodiac Killer, Jack the Ripper is one of the most famous serial killers of all time, certainly one of the most famous in British history. His "reign of terror" lasted from August 31st to November 9th in the year 1888, a period of just over two months. During this time, he also is thought to have killed only five women, two of which were on the same night (as it's believed that his first kill was interrupted before he went through his usual routine). The reason the murders get such attention is that the killer completely shattered the notion of a safe and pristine Victorian England, though the ideas and values of the time were already on the way out when the Ripper struck; it just provided a rather gruesome exclamation point to mark the end of an era.
  • The 1967 lines (which all armistice parties at the time insisted were ''not'' borders) only existed for less than two decades - from the armistice agreements after the Israeli War of Independence to the Six Day War. "1967 lines" is also a misnomer, as 1967 is when those lines became obsolete as any even de facto international borders. Before the formation of Israel, Mandatory Palestine included all the current territory of Israel and the PA, excluding the Golan Heights (which were conquered by Israel in 1967) - and it existed longer than the 1967 lines. However, those lines count also as Short-Lived, Big Impact as despite everybody's insistence at the time that the lines did not mean a thing, the vast majority of Israeli society and most people outside Israel agree that some agreement "based on the 1967 lines" should be the solution for the conflict - the big sticking points are of course the details.
  • Although one of the most familiar signifiers of the 19th century, the penny farthing bicycle didn't appear until 1869 and went into rapid decline once the chain-driven "safety bicycle" we know today was introduced in 1885.
  • The Korean War was basically over after less than a year of fighting: North Korea (and China in secret) invaded South Korea in late June 1950, the North Korean armies collapsed under an American-led offensive by October 1951, the Chinese drove the Americans out of North Korea and conquered Seoul by January 1951 in their first three Phase Offensives, Seoul was retaken by the Americans in April 1951, the Chinese fourth and fifth Phase Offensives were crushed by May 1951, and all land taken by the communists was back in American/South Korean hands by the end of June 1951. Over half of all side's casualties occurred in this condensed year of fighting, as did all of parts of the war where territory actually changed hands. The other two years of the war consisted of relatively moderate border battles (note: still hundreds of thousands of casualties) while terms were negotiated, and the armistice settled on pretty much the June 1951 status quo ante bellum.
  • Dick Turpin is probably the most infamous and romanticised Highway man in British history and popculture, despite his contemporary reputation as a cutthroat he has been mythified into a Robin Hood like figure. His actual "career" as a highway man was first recorded as 10 July 1735 until sometime in May 1737 wherein he promptly dropped his former identity and took up the guise of John Palmer. His ultimate comeuppance is also rather unimpressive for a historical figure with his accrued reputation.

In-universe examples:

    Media In General 
  • Many Long-Runners and Doorstoppers often take place within the time span of a year to ten at most. Even series where the ending chronologically takes place years after the main conflict has resolved, the primary conflict often takes no more than a year with many fictions having it within the time of months. Some great examples include The Lord of the Rings, Saint Seiya, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Inuyasha, where readers assume the action takes as long as the story did to be published, but in each case, the entire plot is wrapped up in a year or less. Often invoked by the main cast, who cannot believe the hardships they have been through took so little time, despite being hardened and traumatised by their stories, and feeling like decades had passed.

    Comic Books 
  • Due to Schedule Slip, Albedo: Erma Felna EDF was published from 1984 to 2005 (almost twenty-one years) (excluding prototype issues, side-stories, the Distant Finale and the sequel Birthright) with 34 issues published irregularly. That means, if all those issues had been published on a regular, monthly schedule, the whole comic would have lasted just under three years before being canceled, while in-universe, the whole plot takes place in just six.
  • In Spider-Man, Peter's relationship with Gwen Stacy. Given all the prominence Gwen gets because of her death, you'd be inclined to believe they were in a relationship for a very long time, but considering Peter only met her in college (when he was 18) and did not immediately get into a relationship with her, Comic-Book Time leaves a window of at most two years for them to actually have had a relationship, probably shorter, as Peter can't have been much older than 20 when she died. It's not exactly short, but it definitely isn't as long as some might be inclined to believe considering how Peter, in Real Life, is still hung up on it four decades later.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • The Empire itself qualifies. It only exists for some 20-25 years, depending on what to set as the date of dissolution. In our own world, some empires have also had short lives (like the Zhong Dynasty, which lasted for about 2 years), but the word is generally associated with much longer polities like the Roman Empire.
      • Not only that, but it lasted 19 years trying to keep up a constitutional façade and only four years without any Senate and with the Death Star and Terror as the means to enforce control. This is actually remarkably similar to how the Roman Empire kept up the facade for centuries (It's after all the Trope Namer and Trope Codifier of Just the First Citizen) and "Emperor" never fully became a title inherited solely by blood until Byzantine times.
    • Likewise, the original Jedi Order is officially only "dead" for 19 years (not much longer than two presidential administrations) before Luke discovers his Force powers with Obi-Wan's help. For perspective, the original Order had existed for around 25,000 years by the time Palpatine executed Order 66.
    • The first two films of the sequel trilogy collectively take place over the course of a few days, with Episode VIII picking up right where Episode VII left off. In that time the First Order effectively takes over the galaxy. There's a time skip of a year between Episode VIII and Episode IX, but unlike the other series time skips, nothing really happens in it and the situation remains more or less unchanged. Episode IX itself then lasts about a day. In short, every event of relevance in this galactic epic took place over less than one non-sequential week.
  • Batman's career in The Dark Knight Trilogy lasts less than a year (most of that being the time skip between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight), with a few days tacked on after an eight-year retirement, followed by a hiatus of some months while he is imprisoned by Bane, and ending with one final day in action.
  • Similarly in the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe the team that brought it all together, that proved a Shared Universe of movies was possible, the great, the mighty, The Avengers as a team only lasted 4 years in and out of universe. Avengers: Endgame confirms that the date of each movie's release was the year it takes place in, which means that the much hyped team's original tenure was from The Avengers in 2012 to Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015 when Thor, Iron Man and Hulk all left the roster, with an extra year added in for a different roster before being broken up completely in Captain America: Civil War. It's a testiment to the hype and quality of the movies, that even though the time with the team was so brief when they broke up it still carried weight to it.

  • The entire main action of The Lord of the Rings takes place within just six months - September 22 to March 25—and that's counting two month-long timeouts in Rivendell and Lothlorien. In fact the Age-ending War of the Ring lasted a mere two weeks, if one takes its official start as being the Great Signal in Mordor on March 10; one can push that back to February 25—a whole whopping month—by counting Saruman's first attack on Rohan.
  • Conan the Barbarian left Cimmeria at the age of 17 and became King of Aquilonia by his forties. Considering that most of the countless stories and comic books about his adventures are set between those dates, he never had a day off.
  • Kir Bulychev's Alisa Selezneva is a similar example. There are dozens of novels and stories about her, and she is almost never described as below 8 or above 12. It makes for some very eventful four years.
  • The main story of A Song of Ice and Fire starts in 298 AC, and is near the end of 300 AC by the start of The Winds of Winter (book six out of seven). Given how long the books are and how absurdly eventful the story is (with multiple continent-spanning wars, entire great houses being extinguished, people completely changing their beings through Character Development, copious amounts of back-stabbing and side-switching, etc.), this is something of a stretch. Especially compared to real historical medieval conflicts, which could last decades.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy Summers spent only slightly over two years as a Sunnydale High School student, arriving in March 1997 and graduating in July 1999 (based on airdates and internal story logic.) In 'Welcome to the Hellmouth' Buffy is already 16 and turns 17 in 'Surprise' which was set and aired in January 1998 meaning all of Season One and half of Season Two have to take place over less than a year. In fact her actual time in Sunnydale during this period is even less as she canonically spent the Summers of 1997 and 1998 in Los Angeles. This period is already pretty full of events for Buffy, even just including the first three seasons of her show but that hasn't stopped dozens of comics, novels and short stories being inserted into the 'High School Era'.
  • Hi-de-Hi! ran for nine seasons over eight years, but the time covered in universe is only from the spring of 1959 to the autumn of 1960 - and that's including a Time Skip of several months, since it's set in a holiday camp which is closed for half the year.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical authors calculated the dates of the foundation and destruction of mythical Troy: it stood for less than a century.

  • The entirety of Romeo and Juliet covers just five days, from Sunday morning to Thursday evening. The two lovers meet on Sunday night, get married on Monday, part on Tuesday morning, and kill themselves on Thursday.

    Video Games 
  • Due to the decent length of the games themselves (30-35 hours each in real time, plus 12 hours of expansions each for 2 and 3), all of the interstellar travelling that goes on (characters regularly go from one side of the galaxy to the other and visit dozens of different planets), how severely characters and their relations change (from total strangers to One True Love or Platonic Life-Partners, from antisocial rogues to True Companions, etc.), and the sheer number of important events that happen including major wars and societal shifts, one would think that the first three Mass Effect games encompass a long, epic saga, or at least a decade or so. In fact, per the official timeline, the time frame of the games comes out to a little over three years, the vast majority consisting of time skips where nothing of note happens and the main characters are separated. Shepard was in command of the Normandy for less than nine months.
  • Bioshock Infinite: it becomes apparent near the end of the game that Comstock's rise to power was extremely rapid. Booker was born in 1874, Booker's baptism and "transformation" was 1890, and Columbia was launched in 1893 during the Chicago World's Fair. It was stated to be launched then because Comstock had become a very influential religious and political leader in the U.S., and had enough pull to convince Congress to invest in the project. Meaning Comstock/Booker went from PTSD-ridden Lower-Class Lout to God-Emperor of the flying city and influential enough to convince the world's most powerful economy to build the thing... in three years. At the age of 19. This also applies to the city itself. Due to how embedded and systemic the totalitarian dictatorship is, and how universally accepted the Deliberate Values Dissonance is (to an extent even late 19th century American would find extreme) among the white citizens, as well as how old Comstock looks, you'd think that it Columbia had been around for multiple generations. Nope. The game takes place in 1913, and Columbia seceded from the U.S. in 1902. Turns out the vast majority of Columbians weren't actually born there, and Comstock, rather than being an octogenarian, is under forty and merely Older Than He Looks due to overuse of the Lutece Device.
  • Halo: the Human-Covenant War between the only two great powers of the Orion Arm canonically spanned nearly three decades across hundreds of planets. But, oddly enough, nearly every single game that focuses on it (including five of the first six Halo games; Wars was the one exception), as well as a considerable portion of the novels and comics, are set between the start of the Fall of Reach in August 2552 and the end of the war in December 2552, a period of only four months.

    Web Comics 
  • The webcomic Freefall has run for well over twenty years and 3,500 strips. However, discussion between fans and the creator established a timeline of only a couple of months. Lampshaded here, at the end of a day-long story arc that lasted almost two years.

Alternative Title(s): Shorter Than They Think


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: