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Continuity Snarl

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Behold, the Hawk-Snarl!

"Thanagar's champion, Hawkman can talk to birds. He also can't talk to birds. Sometimes, he can't even speak normally at all! Even if he could talk normally, or to birds, there are no birds on Thanagar, because it does not exist. Hawkman was sent here to study Earthly police methods, because Thanagar's own methods suck! That's OK though, because Thanagar still does not exist! Yet it is populated by peaceful barbarians! Who are stupid, and also warlike!"

A Shared Universe can become a very confusing place, and the longer they exist, the more confusing they can become. As new creators come on board and take over, continuity eventually gets tangled, convoluted, and increasingly difficult to pick through. Sometimes, it gets to the point that not even the fans who write Wikipedia articles understand what is and isn't in canon.

It goes something like this: in the beginning, The Universe is created, and it's a blank slate. Everything's new; as such, the creators can do whatever they want to do, create whatever they want to create, throw everything in and have fun doing so. Whatever works, works and whatever doesn't, doesn't. So far, so good.

However, the whole idea of a Shared Universe is that different creative teams will eventually take over. Sometimes Writer A of Title A will leave and Writer B will take over, while at other times Writer A's character will guest star or make a Cameo appearance in Writers B's title. People being people, those different creators will have their own ideas. They'll have different ideas about what the 'verse should be, about what has worked and what hasn't, what might work and what doesn't.

The new creative team will also want to make their distinct mark on the 'verse and their readership; as such, they'll have their own things that they want to add, things they disapprove of and want to remove or ignore.

Things that were previously essential may become irrelevant to the new team, and different character traits and events may be emphasized or ignored. They change things.

When another creative team comes along, they'll change things even more; they may even completely override the changes made by the previous team to include things that they want to see or to reassert a previous status quo. Unfortunately, sometimes what they regard as being fundamental to the original continuity was never even there to begin with!

The longer that this goes on and as more teams take over, the chances of Continuity Snarls taking place go up. The more retcons are made, reset buttons pressed, and the more the 'verse enters into a Dork Age.

There is also a bigger chance of certain things simply being forgotten and overlooked (and then possibly rediscovered and revived). As the process continues, more things become confused, convoluted and impenetrable. Weird inconsistencies and gratuitous retcons proliferate. Drastic changes opening up dozens of potentially fascinating story-lines are introduced and then promptly forgotten about and left hanging (or immediately reverted) by another new team, which goes on to do something completely different.

And add to this the problems caused by Comic-Book Time, it gets to the point that trying to keep things straight becomes a nightmare.

And that's just if there's only one main work in the Shared Universe to begin with — if you bring together many different characters and storylines set in the same universe and cross them over with each other, you have many different continuities going on at once. Trying to keep everything straight between them can be an exercise in complete madness, as the continuity between them is completely tangled up and near-impossible for anyone to unpick.

Unfortunate, if you have a fan-base which likes everything arranged in a neat, tidy little pattern and isn't shy about voicing their opinion when this isn't the case.

This is particularly a problem for comic books, especially in The DCU and the Marvel Universe, which have the long-running and tangled continuities of many a character to keep straight. Long-running TV franchises can also suffer from Continuity Snarls — the Doctor Who and Star Trek universes have gotten especially snarled over time (although the former can easily Hand Wave this away because it's about time travel).

A Continuity Snarl can result in Continuity Lock-Out for readers, especially newcomers, as it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of what's happening in the 'verse without a Masters Degree in Continuity Studies. Creators often resort to the Crisis Crossover to try untangling the snarl they've made for themselves — unfortunately, this can just as easily become Continuity Porn, which more often than not just makes things worse. Can lead to a plain ol' Plot Hole.

When canon becomes too involved and self-contradictory, it starts denying new writers "room to move." When writers disagree strongly with what previous writers before them have added to the mix and are overly keen on using continuity to get rid of them (or attack the other writer), then the snarl may come from the writers being Armed with Canon. If worse comes to worst, the writers may simply perform a Continuity Reboot, discarding the old continuity completely and starting over from scratch. (Everything you read or watched before? It never happened! You imagined it! Either that, or it was All Just a Dream.)

Every once in a while, the writer may just give up trying to fix everything and say, "Okay, it happened but not in every detail." Continuity Drift is when a Retcon sloooowly happens over a period of time. Do not confuse with a Series Continuity Error. A Continuity Snarl is when a situation involves layers upon layers of contradictions. A Series Continuity Error is a singular mistake.

Eric Burns of Websnark did a rant about it here.

See Armed with Canon, Comic-Book Time, and Author's Saving Throw for common causes, may result in Continuity Lock-Out, Continuity Porn, Tangled Family Tree, and Timey-Wimey Ball. Multiple-Choice Past is this trope applied to a single character.


Examples:

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    Legends and Folklore 
  • Urban Legends falls under this trope, being a form of present-day Oral Tradition, they often change via Gossip Evolution with every retelling.
  • Arthurian Legends:
    • Who is King Arthur's greatest knight: Sir Gawain, Sir Lancelot, Sir Percival, Sir Galahad, or King Pellinore? Did you even know that in many of the earliest tales, it is Sir Gawain, without question? And before that, it was Mordred as a good guy.
      • And what about Sir Griflet? Originally one of Arthur's most loyal knights, he was supplanted by Sir Bedivere.
      • And Lancelot, the one knight that everyone knows, isn't even part of the "original cast". He was originally the star of his own set of adventures and only got mixed in with the other knights along the way.
      • According to Peter David, Lancelot was "the first Mary Sue." This certainly explains his (or rather his reincarnation's) treatment in Knight Life.
      • In the very earliest stratum Cai was easily the foremost of Arthur's war band.
    • And Morgan Le Fey — once she made the Crossover and stuck, having originally been from the Matter of France — went from being a benevolent sorceress who had saved Arthur's life on multiple occasions to a vindictive yandere bent on breaking up Arthur/Guinevere to the mother of the Big Bad to the Big Bad herself. And even after Mordred was retconned into being her son, he originally wasn't fathered by Arthur. And then the whole Brother–Sister Incest thing got added in.
    • How exactly are Arthur and Mordred related? Is Mordred Arthur's nephew, his son, or both?
    • Another sticking point is whether Excalibur is the same as the Sword in the Stone, or if they are two different swords.
    • Then there's Elaine of Astolat AKA the Lady of Shalott. Half the time she's an innocent maiden who falls in love with Lancelot and then dies of heartbreak. The other half she's still a maiden who falls in love with Lancelot, but instead of being innocent she forces herself of Lancelot with the help of magic and then bears his son.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • All over the place in Classical Mythology, the only long-running franchise to have three millennia of retcons:
    • Case in point, Venus/Aphrodite's origin story. Was she the daughter of Jupiter/Zeus? Or was she born from the sea foam from when Ouranos/Uranus's testicle fell into the sea, long before Zeus was conceived?
      • Or take Eros. Was he the son of Aphrodite and Ares, as he is usually depicted in Western art from the Renaissance onward? Or was he one of the eldest deities of all, born out of the original Chaos alongside his siblings Gaia (mother of Ouranos) and Tartaros, as described by Hesiodus in his Theogony?
    • Hephaestus's origin is a crazy example. Okay, so he was born when Hera gets annoyed that Zeus apparently gave birth to Athena on his own. She tries it, and she gets a very ugly baby. So she tosses it off Olympus. That baby is raised to become the greatest smith ever. He is then welcomed into the pantheon. At some time afterwards, he hits Zeus over the head with an ax while Zeus has a headache, and Zeus gives birth... to Athena. It's like that old "born in a log cabin he helped build" thing.note  Causality is just for mortals!
    • When Perseus was returning from his trip to decapitate Medusa, he met the Titan Atlas and asked to share his hospitality. Atlas was a jerk and refused, so Perseus turned him into a mountain with Medusa's head. Perseus' distant descendant, Heracles, later stopped by the same region, where he got the help of a completely healthy and not-at-all-stone Atlas in stealing some Golden Apples. (Keep in mind, Medusa's effect on people is incurable.)
    • When Theseus first arrived in Athens at the beginning of his adventures, Medea tried to poison him so that the child she bore from Aegeus will inherit the throne. Years later, Theseus would participate in the Argonaut expedition, which brought Medea to Greece. She got married to Jason, was abandoned by him, then went to Athens and married Aegeus.
    • Dionysus was born as a result of his own actions. To elaborate, he was the son of Zeus and Semele, who was descended from Harmonia, a daughter of Ares and Aphrodite who was born after the latter was already married to Hephaestus. However, Aphrodite and Hephaestus only got married because Dionysus got Hephaestus drunk and brought him back to Olympus this way. The reward for bringing Hephaestus back to Olympus was marrying Aphrodite but Dionysus, probably afraid of the already timeline-ripping continuity snarl, refused the reward and said Hephaestus got to Olympus on his own - and he should be the one marrying Aphrodite. Then Aphrodite proceeds to cheat on Hephaestus with Ares and give birth to Harmonia, the ancestor of Dionysus...
  • Japanese Mythology: Was Amaterasu conceived by Izanagi and Izanami while the latter was still alive? Or was Amaterasu the byproduct of Izanagi washing himself of the filth from Yomi? The Kojiki and Nihon-Shoki both say different things. And say nothing of the myth where she sends her grandson to rule over the world...
  • What were the circumstances surrounding the death of Goliath? The story as generally remembered is that David was a shepherd boy bringing food to his brothers in Saul's army when he heard of Goliath's challenge to single combat, introduced himself to Saul, and volunteered to fight... except that he was already serving Saul at this point as a musician and armour bearer; Saul should have known who he was and he should have been with his king in the first place. While all this just comes from the first book of Samuel, the second book of Samuel mentions how Goliath was killed by someone called Elhanan, though some bible translations say Elhanan killed Goliath's brother.
    • Also from the Bible, the books of Luke and Matthew both give geneologies of Jesus which are completely different for every generation after David. There have been multiple theological attempts to explain this; that one is through Joseph and one through Mary (and that her father is coincidentally also named Joseph) is popular, as is the idea that one is the "legal" genealogy and on the biological one (thanks to complicated inheritance laws), but it's never addressed in the text itself.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • One of the duties governing bodies like the National Wrestling Alliance have is to prevent or remove these, at least when they are in danger of becoming painfully noticeable to large amounts of people. Unfortunately the NWA itself started in an age before VHS or cable and neglected to keep track as those things became steadily less expensive until it was too late. Suddenly the large majority of fans who could only watch television of their own territory could see everything at once. For example, there were a dozen different territories with an equally amount of incompatible NWA World Tag Team Champions. This wasn't sorted out until 1992, with everything between then and 1950 being officially listed as "vacant".
  • The WWE's "Kane" character, whose official life story has him having been a hopelessly-insane burn victim in an asylum at the same time he was supposed to have been hanging out in college and going to parties with his sweetheart Katie. Further complicated by the storyline of his "brother", who had a whole angle where he Broke the Fourth Wall and "went out of character". The whole thing got so complicated that they had to have somebody write a book (titled Journey Into Darkness if one should want to look it up) in an attempt to explain it.
    • The Undertaker himself tends to be mildly rebooted when he gets a gimmick change. Different personas don't often directly reference older ones, but this is a double-edged sword; most glaring is when the American Badass started out with the Undertaker doing a worked shoot to sell the idea that he wasn't supernatural in character as well as out, so he could come back as a leather-clad biker, only for Kane to kill him so he could be resurrected as undead.
    • Occasionally a reference is made to their childhood home burning down, but which brother is responsible depends on who's Heel and who's Face at the time. If they're both Face, it was an accident Paul Bearer's fault. With Bearer dead, WWE being PG, and both men at the tail end of their careers, it's probably never coming up again.
  • A good one was in WCW, where a masked wrestler would run out and attack people during their matches. He was eventually revealed to be Rick Steiner. The problem was that the week before said masked wrestler attacked...Rick Steiner.
  • WCW's Black Scorpion was allegedly someone out of Sting's past. It was going to be the Ultimate Warrior, but there was a small problem — Warrior didn't work for WCW at the time. After months of waiting, and literally dozens of people showing up under the mask, they finally made Ric Flair the "real" Black Scorpion. The kicker? The Black Scorpion was created to give Sting an opponent other than Ric Flair.
  • At one point, ECW Champion Christian wanted a match on Raw against WWE Champion Sheamus in 2010, and as part of his pitch to the guest host about making the match, he joked that he and Sheamus were both born without last names. Knowing Christian, it was possibly part of the joke that this statement ran directly counter to the fact that Sheamus O'Shaunessy and Christian Cage both spent years making their names on the independent circuit in their native countries prior to their WWF/E television debuts, upon which said surnames were scrapped.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theme Parks 
  • In Back to the Future: The Ride:
    • The original DeLorean Time Machine makes an appearance sitting in Doc's garage and seems to be in mint condition notwithstanding being destroyed by a freight train at the end of Part III, though it might be possible he simply rebuilt one.
    • The Clock Tower seems to be working, even though it was still broken as of October 21st, 2015 in Part II. The ride, however, takes guests 4 days later to October 25th, 2015. Whether or not it may have been "repaired in four days" is up to you.
  • During the Dementor attack in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the Chamber of Secrets is seen in ruins, yet in the second part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows it is seen in an almost perfectly intact state.

    Toys 
  • The story detailed in the promo-material for LEGO's short-lived Slizers line could never agree on what the characters were (Are they single entities? Or entire species?), in what order the Elemental Nations on their planet followed each other, or just how many regions there were at all. This hit the US market harder (where the series was known as "Throwbots"), since in their story, there were multiple planets, but in the line's second year, they got replaced by the European single-planet setting.
  • Thanks to Mixels being a toyline by LEGO and a show by Cartoon Network working in tandem with each other, it is bound to get things wrong. This includes personalities of Mixels, and, most divisively, whether Jawg or Gobba is the leader of the Fang Gang (toys say Jawg, series says Gobba).

    Visual Novels 
  • The Nintendo DS Updated Re-release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney featured an extra, fifth case which takes place in between Ace Attorney and Justice For All as evidenced by Maya still being away at Kurain Village training wherein Phoenix and Edgeworth work together to assist Ema and Lana Skye in their legal case. However, when Edgeworth reappears in Justice For All's fourth and final case, Phoenix claims not to have seen him since the fourth case of Ace Attorney where Miles was accused of murder and Edgeworth supports this by claiming to have left the country right after said events; neither of them seeming to remember their work together on the Skye trial. This could simply be explained away as a case of Canon Discontinuity by stating that the fifth case of Ace Attorney never really happened in the series proper, due to it being an addition for the remake. But, Ema is integrated with the official continuity in the Apollo Justice arc by having her appear and explain Wright's involvement with her sister's case, thus making Phoenix's and Edgeworth's reactions to each other in Justice for All seem odd in retrospect.
    • It's quite easy to make it fit in canon if you ignore the one part where Phoenix says he has not seen him since Miles' trial and just consider that they were really referring to Case 5 of the first game rather than Case 4 (Case 5 actually does somewhat set up Miles' disappearance). This problem was basically made due to bad porting. If they changed the background in Phoenix's little "Haven't seen him since" monologue, this whole problem would have never existed.
    • What's really weird is, because of the order the games were released in overseas, the translations had every chance to fix this and write it so that no one would notice the problem, and they... didn't.
    • This is fixed in the 3DS Trilogy rerelease. When Edgeworth is brought up in the third case of Justice for All, Edgeworth is stated to have stepped into a courtroom once after his own trial, that time being the fifth case. All references to Case Four being the last time Phoenix saw Edgeworth are removed.
  • The Nasuverse has an interesting approach to continuity snarls.
    • The first comes into place with Kagetsu Tohya, a sequel for Tsukihime. Kagetsu Tohya takes place in a dream world where the continuity is heavily blended and mutually conflicting events all take place together. For example, whether or not Akiha goes to Shiki's school depends on what he is thinking that morning. However, it should be impossible for this to be possible at all because the story is based around Len, and there is no route in Tsukihime where Shiki meets Len (Arcueid's familiar at the time) while Akiha goes to school with him. The continuity snarl occasionally confuses Shiki as well, but he's prevented from really thinking about it by Len.
    • An equally weird example makes up the plot of Fate/hollow ataraxia, which blends the timeline for Fate/stay night. The nature of FSN means that almost the entire cast has to be killed off before the end, but they're all okay again in FHA. Characters who died in all three routes are back. The reason for this is because Tohsaka accidentally merged a large number of continuities together, both ones we saw and ones we did not. Thus while Lancer was always killed, there was a continuity somewhere where he didn't. On the flip-side, Kotomine remains dead since he was fated to die in every possible continuity. Like the above example, dream worlds come into it somehow, but since it hasn't been fully translated it's not quite clear how it works out exactly.
    • Finally, Ryougi Shiki appears in Melty Blood despite word of god stating that she and Tohno Shiki do not share a universe because the odds of two people having the Mystis Eyes of Death Perception at any given time make it impossible. Nobody seems to have had the eyes for several thousand years, meaning the odds of having them manifest are at probably trillions to one. Melty Blood has other issues than this, however. Satsuki is alive and a vampire, Arcueid is still around but not all yandere-y, Kohaku's route appears to have been partially resolved, Vermillion Akiha etc.

    Web Comics 
  • Drowtales' rolling Retcon (repeatedly sequentially updating older chapters with new art and story) causes chaos for many fans' understanding of the comic's backstory, and there are ongoing debates on the forums as to what formerly canon information is current canon and what isn't.
  • The Order of the Stick parodies this trope with an actual entity called The Snarl; created when multiple Gods tried to create the universe and had disagreements about how things worked. The current Fantasy Kitchen Sink of the setting was their way of avoiding this happening again.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: Does the magic department offer introductory classes for people with no previous magical ability? In one story, a magically inclined member of the school board (who, presumably, would know) explicitly says no. And yet, Ayla will be studying magic for the first time in the spring.
    • A partial answer now exists: You need to be able to gather the energies of Magic in some way to take the courses in Magic (and it's explicitly noted that there are (inefficient) ways a normal human can do so).
      • But that still doesn't really work - in There's an Angel in Dickenson Cottage Lodgerman explicitly tells Kerry that her brother can't come to Whateley despite his enormous magical potential because Whateley only trains students who can already use magic. Ayla can't do this, but is somehow getting enrolled in a Magic 101 course anyway. Lodgerman may be lying for some reason or another, of course, but it isn't addressed.
      • It has since been explained that Circe (yes, that Circe) breaks many of the rules on the grounds that she also has a precognitive ability, meaning that those she trains really, really need her training due to some unspecified future event. Those to whom she offers her assistance tend to die horrible deaths — or worse.
  • Homestar Runner is full of this. Strong Bad meets characters from Shows Within The Show whom HE HIMSELF MADE UP.
  • Any attempt to create a consistent origin for Dr. Insano creates an awful one of these, mostly because there is no effort made to keep things in the slightest consistent. The That Guy with the Glasses site featured an attempt to explain his existence, which will probably be made inaccurate next time he shows up (the basic idea is that there are at least 3 of him around). Amusingly, Spoony's explanation for him is "There is no continuity, there is only Insano." Though he did say he was flattered that people cared enough to put forth the effort. Later "explained" in To Boldly Flee as the effect of the Plot Hole, along with any and all other plot holes in the site's continuity.

    Real Life 
  • Trying to keep track of everything that happened after the death of Alexander of Macedon (aka the Great) is almost impossible for anyone, even those with higher degrees in Classical History. The scale of the political maneuvering between his putative successors is too large to summarize. Suffice to say that one Classical Historian has described the carnage and politics between Macedon, Persia, the Ptolomaic Empire, and all the others, as a 'Macedonian Soap Opera'.
  • A similar case can be made in tracing the outcome of the Mongol Horde. It doesn't help that the Mongols didn't have a sophisticated writing system until they began to be assimilated to the culture of the invaded peoples. It doesn't help even further that the Khans valued secrecy if not deliberate obfuscation— where is the Tomb of Genghis Khan? Who was split from who? And the few Europeans who wrote about them had no idea of many aspects of their culture and their own religious and ethnic prejudices to contend with (to say nothing of wishing to please rulers or wealthy people who paid them).
  • The Wars of the Roses are sure to induce headaches in just about anyone studying them for the first time. The family trees are incredibly complicated (which is part of what started the whole mess, really), and the fact that the entire nobility seems to have been determined to choose from the same list of ten or so first names can make one dizzy after a while. For instance, Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, had several sons, the first two of which were Humphrey and Henry. Both sons married women named Margaret Beaufort. (The sons' mother, by the way, was Anne Neville... but not the Anne Neville that married Richard III. Totally different Anne Neville.)
  • Likewise, if you're interested in Dracula enough to study Vlad the Impaler, prepare to pick your jaw up off the floor when you see the preposterously chaotic history of the Wallachian throne. Rulership of the principality sometimes changed hands multiple times in a single year, and some rulers had five or even six separate reigns to their name.
  • Similarly, The Mexican Revolution. Once the United States got involved, it gets even more confusing because the Taft and Wilson administrations supported opposite sides of the conflict. And this is leaving out historiological debates over the whole mess.
  • The Schleswig-Holstein Question. Lord Palmerston is said to have remarked of it, "Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business — the Prince Consort, who is dead, a German professor, who has gone mad, and I, who have forgotten all about it."
    • As a result of a Gambit Pileup that's been going on for centuries.
  • Any time a city has two teams with the same name at different times, it can lead to this. A good example in the National Hockey League: from 1971 to 1996 there was a team called Winnipeg Jets, which has since moved to Arizona as the Phoenix Coyotes (later on being the Arizona Coyotes in 2014). In 2012, the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Canada, where they were rechristened... Winnipeg Jets!
    • Similarly, the NBA's Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, and in 2013 the new owner decided to rechristen them New Orleans Pelicans to lose the Artifact Title (the name came from how in the American Revolution Charlotte was described as "a hornet's nest of rebellion") and get something that fit Louisiana. Then Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats (which started play in 2004), said his team would get the Hornets name back in 2014. Though once the Charlotte Hornets were revived with the rename, they made sure to say that the NBA allowed the "new" team to share the pre-New Orleans history, like...
    • The Cleveland Browns in the NFL. The original team wanted to move to Baltimore, but the city of Cleveland won a lawsuit against the National Football League, in which while the team's roster and staff would move to Baltimore to become an "expansion team" known as the Baltimore Ravens, a new team would begin operating under the old Browns banner three years later. While the new Browns team was originally stocked with personnel in the way that expansion teams usually are, the NFL considers the Browns to be one continuous franchise that "suspended" operations for three years, retaining all the awards the team had won prior to the move.
    • Then there's the Canadian Football League which had, for a number of years, one team called the Roughriders (one word) and another called the Rough Riders (two words). (This is because the CFL was formed by the merger of two smaller leagues, each of which had a team with that name at the time.) The Ottawa Rough Riders have long since shut down as a team, but the name could be reactivated if someone wanted to buy the right to it from the current owner. (A new Ottawa CFL team began play in 2014, but it's known as the Redblacks and has no particular connection to the former Rough Riders except being based in the same city.) The Saskatchewan Roughriders remain in the CFL.
    • When Major League Soccer team the San Jose Earthquakes moved to Houston after the 2005 season, the league's commissioner stated that the Earthquakes' history, records, name, and colors would remain in San Jose, waiting for a new expansion team. The Earthquakes returned in 2008, taking the old team's history.
    • In Romanian football\soccer, CS Universitatea Craiova tries to reclaim the story of another Universitatea Craiova that's currently in limbo due to financial problems, but the national association refuses to acknowledge that.
    • How about a time where one city had two teams with the same name, at the same time? The Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) started their career in 1920, but moved to St. Louis in 1960. At the same time, St. Louis already had a St. Louis Cardinals team: the MLB team. The Cardinals football teams moved to Arizona in 1988, going off to California, being replaced in the '90's by the Rams, from Los Angeles. The St. Louis Rams left in 2015, going back to LA, and becoming the LA Rams again.
  • In American college sports, there have been several examples of this phenomenon:
    • In 1907, the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association was formed. In 1928, the conference split mostly along public/private school lines; both factions claimed the MVIAA name for a time. One faction eventually became known as the Big Six Conference, later the Big Seven and Big Eight. The other became the Missouri Valley Conference. The Big Eight merged with four schools from the disbanding Southwest Conference in 1996 to form today's Big 12 Conference, while the MVC operates to this day.note 
    • There have been two separate leagues known as the Big East Conference. The original was founded in 1979 as a basketball-first league. In 1991, it added football, and entered into two decades of turmoil, mostly involving the split between schools that played top-level football and those that didn't. The conference finally split along football lines in 2013. The seven schools that did not play FBS (top-level) football bought the "Big East" name, and joined with three other schools to form a new Big East Conference under a new charter. The FBS football schools that were left behind, plus other new members, retained the charter of the original Big East, but are now known as the American Athletic Conference.
    • Speaking of the Missouri Valley Conference, it has been involved with an even more confusing example of this trope, one that also involves the conference now known as The Summit League.
      • In 1977, six schools in the Midwest formed the Mid-Continent Athletic Association, a football-only league, with play starting in 1978.
      • Then, in 1982, the Association of Mid-Continent Universities (the conference now known as The Summit League) took over the MCAA.
      • The MVC got involved in this snarl in the same year when its member schools formed the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference, a separate though related league specifically for women's sports.
      • By this time, the MVC was operating a hybrid football league that contained teams both in Division I-A (today's FBS) and the second-tier Division I-AA (now known as FCS).
      • After the 1984 season, the MVC decided to drop football. Coming to the rescue... the Gateway. Yes, the women's league. It took on football as its only men's sport, absorbing both the MVC's I-AA programs and all of the Mid-Continent football teams.
      • In 1992, the MVC took over the Gateway, spinning the football conference off into a new entity which immediately renamed itself the Gateway Football Conference.
      • Finally, in 2008, the football league renamed itself the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
  • The Crisis of the Third Century in Roman History is one to modern historians. Not only were there multiple civil wars and rival claimants for the throne (26 of them over a 50-year period), but the historical records we do have for the area contradict each other regarding when events happened. In some cases, it's unclear whether multiple battles took place at particular locations years apart, or whether there was only a single battle that's been recorded incorrectly.
  • Generally speaking the line between "history" and "pre-history" is drawn where written records exist. However, the vast majority of all the stuff ever written (even all the stuff of historic significance ever written) does not survive to this day and literate and illiterate cultures have existed side by side for most of history. And the sources often had other things in mind than telling an accurate account of history as best they could. Many authors wanted to make one side or political faction look good or bad, delegitimize or legitimize current claims or past acts and of course people were occasionally declared Un-person. Even for periods of the Roman Empire where multiple authors survive, historians tend to mistrust the sources to some degree as they almost all were of senatorial rank and had certain biases. An emperor who pissed off senators is certain to have gotten a Historical Villain Upgrade, whereas an inept or brutal ruler who pleased the senate may have gotten a Historical Hero Upgrade. And when several claimants vied for power, authors writing after the fact were liable to dismiss those that missed out on power or whose memory the current rulers didn't want to evoke, even if they actually got to rule for significant amounts of time.

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