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Dead Unicorn Trope

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Don't be sad — it was never alive in the first place.

A plot, character, or story element which is parodied or mocked as overused, even though it wasn't in broad use to begin with. The result is a strange metacontextual trick where viewers congratulate themselves on the death of something that never lived (hence the title).

The Butler Did It and Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000 are two of the most well-known examples.

Related concepts:

  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!, where a commonly quoted statement never existed in that form (at least by whomever it was attributed to).
  • Shallow Parody, where a work is spoofed for qualities that it doesn't actually have or are grossly inflated.
  • Windmill Political, where a political threat is rallied against that doesn't actually exist.
  • Newer Than They Think, where a seemingly "age-old" trope has actually existed for a much shorter time than is frequently assumed to be the case.
  • This Index Is Not an Example, where an iconic line or scene named or inspired a trope, but is in and of itself not a straight example.
  • Lost in Imitation, where tropes and other plot devices actually originated in later adaptations of a work.
  • Outside Joke: where something's only amusing if you don't know anything about the subject.
  • Unbuilt Trope: where a Trope Maker or Ur-Example play with said trope(s) before later works play them straight.

A note for adding examples: Do not add examples to this index simply because you have personally never heard of them. Younger tropers should be especially careful of adding tropes that date back before their births: tropes such as the white wedding dress signifying virginity or the purported stupidity of Polish-Americans were real tropes at one point. Beware of your own small reference pool. Do not add examples just because they were never Truth in Television; they might still have been used seriously as tropes.

Another note: This trope is not about ideas or practices that the media depicts as being or having been common place, even though nobody seems to have ever actually done that (such as Droit du Seigneur); it's about parodies and deconstructions of tropes that never seem to have been played straight in the first place. Take Tinfoil Hat for example: few people can say they've ever met an actual conspiracy theorist who wore one of these, but the trope still doesn't qualify as a dead unicorn, as it is indeed played straight in the media quite frequently. If, however, we lived in a universe where fictional characters only ever Lampshaded the fact that conspiracy theorists don't actually wear these, even though no work had ever presented them as doing so, then it would qualify.

Not (usually) related to actual dead unicorns.

Compare Cowboy BeBop at His Computer and "Common Knowledge".

Contrast Undead Horse Trope, where the trope continues to be frequently played straight in spite of an abundance of parodies and subversions that would normally discredit it.


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  • Aliens Steal Cattle is a mashup of two separate ideas: aliens abduct people and mutilate cattle. Only parodies use this trope, and there is almost no straight example of aliens seizing cattle (or other livestock).
  • Anal Probing: This trope is rarely, if ever, taken seriously in fiction, and even when it's supposed to be seen as something truly horrible and undesirable, there's usually enough room to interpret the trope's use as Comedic Sociopathy. Real Life UFO abduction communities, which would seem like the most likely place to hear straight-forward examples, don't even discuss probing as something that exclusively involves the rectal cavity (if they do at all).
  • Black Dude Dies First: This trope is far more often parodied and lampshaded than it is played straight. A review of all the major horror movie franchises will show that if there's a black guy at all, he's usually either one of the last to die, or even one of the few survivors.
  • Brain Food: The idea of zombies eating brains is commonly believed to come from the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead or one of the many zombie films that followed it immediately afterward. It doesn't; in fact, it comes from The Return of the Living Dead, which was released in 1985. And that film is a much more comedic and less serious take on the zombie movie genre than most other zombie movies, hence why it's almost impossible to find any other movie where the zombie actually say "Braaaiiins". The trope appears to be a conflation of two unrelated aspects of George A. Romero's zombies: they eat human flesh, and the only way to kill them is to destroy their brains. (Notably, Return only follows the former rule, its zombies' individual limbs able to keep going even after they're dismembered, causing the protagonists to have an Oh, Crap! reaction when a zombie gets up after taking a pickax to the skull.)
  • The Butler Did It is a particularly famous example. The origin of the phrase was not a literal description of a common plot in old mystery novels, but rather a summary of a broader and more common trope: an unimportant background character turns out to be the culprit. It doesn't have to be the butler, but the butler is a good choice to illustrate the trope. The butler only ever actually did it in a couple of old mystery novels. There is a sizable list of examples on the trope page, but almost all of these come from after the twist had become a Dead Unicorn Trope and are either parodying it, playing with it, or using its notoriety to make it a case of The Un-Twist. The butler's specific popularity may have come from an incident where a man tried to spoil The Mousetrap (a play famous for swearing its audience to silence as to the culprit's identity) by shouting to the line at the theater that the butler did it, when the play doesn't even have a butler. More detail here.
  • Captain Space, Defender of Earth! is a parody of the kind of central character who appeared in old Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials — except the concept of a character actively adventuring around the cosmos and fighting evil never really existed before the parody became a trope. The protagonists of early 20th-century Space Opera serials were typically either heroic everymen (like Flash Gordon) or exceptionally courageous military men (like Buck Rogers or Kimball Kinnison) who just rose to the occasion when the day needed saving. The Captain Space, Defender of Earth! trope is more of a conflation of the Space Opera genre and the Superhero genre, which both became popular around the same time.
  • The Dyson Sphere was a concept proposed by Freeman Dyson as a thought experiment on how a civilization could most effectively harness the energy of its star. Science fiction stories like to show their smarts by criticizing the viability of such a construction. To do this, they usually describe a Dyson Sphere as a solid shell fully enclosed around a star, with the entire inner surface of the sphere as a living habitat spanning an area equivalent to trillions of Earth-sized planets. While this is indeed impractical,note  this isn't what Dyson originally proposed, nor was it ever very common in science fiction. Dyson's idea was more in line with the most common alternative scheme, which is a cluster of artificial structures surrounding a star, akin to Ringworld's Niven ring. Most fans of speculative fiction these days get around this by dividing the Dyson Sphere concept into several types: the Dead Unicorn version is called the Dyson Shell, while the more plausible original version is called the Dyson Swarm.
  • The horror trope that the Final Girl is always chaste and virginal and utterly virtuous is, if not wholly untrue, certainly not the hard-and-fast Rule of Horror it's often presented as in more "self-aware" horror movies. Classic Final Girls of the slashers of the '70s and '80s could have boyfriends, smoke pot, and, yes, have sex, and still survive the movie.
  • Flat World has, at least since the 19th century, been a stock trope to describe Medieval Morons' ignorance of science. In Real Life, Europeans have known the Earth was round — and been able to measure its circumference to a surprising degree of accuracy — since at least Ancient Greece, when the Earth's dimensions were calculated by the Greek astronomer Eratosthenes. This knowledge was never lost or supressed after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. If you want primary sources, Dante's Purgatorio explicitly locates the island of Purgatory in the Southern hemisphere, and he opens several cantos of the poem by mentioning the position of the sun at various points on the globe (usually Purgatory itself, Rome, and the Ganges River.) Oh, and there's the Globus Crucigernote  which was a Medieval symbol of divine and secular authority depicting a cross surmounting a decidedly round Earth. To the extent that anyone in the old days did believe the Earth was flat after the classical era reached its peak, this was more a rejection of science than ignorance of it, akin to modern-day believers in a flat Earth. Other parts of the world like China did genuinely believe the Earth to be flat until far, far later (and were only dissuaded of that notion by European visitors), but this misconception is almost always applied to medieval Europe. Of course, there's still the literacy bias: all the written sources come from the academic and upper classes, so it inevitably clouds our perception of what "everybody" thought. It's not improbable that the common European believed all sorts of nonsense like werewolves and flat earths.
  • Food Pills are often mocked as Zeerust, except they were never really taken seriously to begin with. The trope's Ur-Example appears to be from the Land of Oz series, where they're more akin to inedible military rations than actual meals; its first sci-fi use is probably the 1930 sci-fi musical Just Imagine, which plays the trope straight but derives humor from the Human Popsicle protagonist having to get used to eating them. This shows that while food pills might have once been thought to be useful,note  nobody ever thought they would be as enjoyable as eating a real meal.
  • Here There Be Dragons is in fact only found on the Lenox Globe (from the 1500s): HIC SVNT DRACONES is written on the coast of east Asia, probably in reference to Komodo dragons. That derived from Roman and medieval cartographers' practice of writing HIC SVNT LEONES ("Here there be lions") on unexplored areas.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: This is an odd one, because the core details of the trope — a quirky female with no independent goals of her own except to liven up the life of a brooding male — rarely appear completely straight. The only three famous examples would be Bringing Up Baby and, several decades later, Elizabethtown and Garden State. And the very next year, the trope was being deconstructed in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Actresses Zooey Deschanel, Audrey Tautou and Amy Adams are often associated with this typecasting in the 2000s, but their most famous Manic Pixie roles in fact play with the trope; the latter two have Amélie and Enchanted but both Amelie and Giselle are the protagonists, thereby immediately disqualifying them from being true Manic Pixies, while the former has (500) Days of Summer as an outright deconstruction. Subversions, deconstructions and reconstructions far outnumber the straight examples. Nathan Rabin, who coined the term in reference to Elizabethtown, later disowned it over blatant misuse; he intended to raise awareness for lack of independent goals in female characters, not demonize any quirky ones.
  • Millennium Bug: Despite the possibility that the Y2K bug would cause major problems around the computer world (spoiler:it didn't), the examples, even before the year 2000, are almost always either exaggerated parodies (e.g. a single noncompliant computer causing The End of the World as We Know It), or strict downplays (e.g. a simple plot device or a minor matter). Whether this was due to the problem being overblown from the start, or because a lot of people worked very hard to ensure that there wouldn't be any problems is a matter of debate.
  • Monty Hall Problem: according to Monty Hall himself, he never actually did this on his show. The question seems to have first appeared in 1975 as a letter written by Steve Selvin to a statistics magazine, although something called the "Three Prisoners Problem" which uses more or less the same math, only with a math problem about whether the prisoners get freed or executed, appeared in Scientific American in 1959. He eventually did do it for real, but only after it had become (in)famous due to the 1990 Marilyn Vos Savant article (where she gave the correct answer, depending on how exactly the problem is phrased, yet tons of people complained that she got it wrong anyway.) More information.
  • Old School Introductory Rap: What media saw for decades as the template to parody or imitate hip hop was practically never used in the genre itself. It is true that name introductions on their own were common in the early '80s, such as the Wonder Mike line from The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight", or Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance". However, as this article points out, the structure most commonly used was only used in one songnote . It's suggested in the article that the phrase's usage in an infamous 1988 Fruity Pebbles commercial may have contributed to its use more than anything else. The eventual disappearance of this trope can be attributed to people who grew up with rap and hip-hop knowing what the genres actually entail, which is why only characters written as ignorant to the genre use it today, thus ending up gleefully mocked in-universe.
  • Old-Timey Ankle Taboo: Pretty much every example of the trope is a parody of Deliberate Values Dissonance, mocking the ultraconservative views of women's dress in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As pointed out on the page, the amount of historical truth behind this trope is dubious for many reasons (e.g. she would easily "expose herself" just by climbing the stairs).
  • Gender-inverted versions of Parenting the Husband and Bumbling Dad. When these tropes became popular in family sitcoms of the '80s and '90s, many viewers assumed that they were intended to invert portrayals of American families from past eras, leading to a common misconception that family sitcoms of the 1950s often depicted wives/mothers as childish, incompetent, and idiotic. In reality, while fathers in family sitcoms of the 1950s were almost always portrayed as intelligent and upstanding, such shows usually portrayed the mother as equally intelligent and upstanding, often depicting her as The Heart of the cast. This misconception might stem from the popularity of I Love Lucy (one of the few sitcoms from the 1950s that many people know), where Lucy Ricardo actually was usually portrayed as a clumsy and childish ditz. It's easy to forget that I Love Lucy was a novelty in its day, and much of its popularity was due to its uniqueness; Lucy Ricardo's portrayal differed strongly from most other television leading ladies of the era, which is why she stood out.
  • Quirky Ukulele: The ukelele played by the quirky Manic Pixie Dream Girl types was almost never played straight in the first place. Ginger in Splendor in the Grass (1961) was probably the earliest well-known example, but is really an Unbuilt Trope as her "quirkiness" made her promiscuous, ruining her reputation (and is implied to stem from some sort of mental issue). Nearly every other example leans towards parody, and note that the more straight examples tend to be men (Tiny Tim being one of the more popular examples).
  • "Reborn as Villainess" Story: Easily the most common model for female-oriented Isekai stories, they feature the lead being reincarnated into the body of the "villainess" (read: Ojou love rival) character in an otome game, and usually takes place in an upper class society on the cusp of war where the villainess is set to marry the game's primary love interest. However, this kind of plotline does not commonly exist in real life otome games. Even considering the Angelique series, most otome games do not match the description of the typical otome game seen in "otome isekai" stories, usually either using a comparatively modern setting or being about something else entirely, even in a medieval fantasy setting. The idea of love rivals and other important girls in otome, while not totally fictitious, mostly gives way to "friendship routes" and occasionally a Gay Option; and as for antagonistic female characters, the ones that feature are usually pure villains. There are some prominent love rival characters in female-oriented works, but more often than not they're featured in shoujo romance manga rather than in dating sims. And even then, that trope had hit its peak in the '90s and early 2000s. It is even lampshaded in one such story, The Old Man Reincarnated as a Villainess, where the protagonist mentions prominent rival characters similar to the villainess of the story — but they are all from classic shojo manga, not otome games.
    • The "otome isekai" genre as a whole may have taken inspiration from the web novel My Motto is Living Honestly and Humbly, where the main character was reborn as the love rival. However, the isekai world was a shoujo romance manga. Later stories added game mechanics from otome games such as event flags, branching paths, and multiple love interests (to develop reverse harems), but kept the typical shoujo manga elements such as the villainess character.
  • The Record Needle Scratch sound effect pops up a lot in commercials and movie trailers, but a lot of parodies of its overuse have it appearing in actual films as well. Generally, the only time this happens is if there's an actual record in the scene having its needle scratched. It doesn't help that it gets mixed up a lot with the Sudden Soundtrack Stop.
  • Rise from Your Grave: While sometimes mocked as being impossible, the vast majority of examples are justified by the person being a monster, superhero, or other creature with Super-Strength. When it's a Badass Normal digging themselves up, there's usually some other justification such as the grave being shallow or them just faking being buried and having a way out.
  • Stereotypical '70s porn music usually associated with the classic adult film era between the early 1970s and mid 1980s was nowhere near as prevalent as people think. Most of the plot oriented adult films during that time period had a regular music score similar to mainstream films, written by legitimate composers; while some of them (most notably Debbie Does Dallas) did utilize the stereotypical "funk" sound, it was usually done in an ironic or satirical fashion.
  • The Scary Minority Suspect hasn't been played straight in a very long time; it was notably condemned in Ronald Knox's "Ten Commandments" of the Fair-Play Whodunnit, which were written in 1928 (more specifically, it was about "Chinaman" villains). Even back in the day of widespread racism, people were sick of obvious minority villain characters in media. Since then, it's almost exclusively been portrayed as a subversion where the minority suspect is a Red Herring, often as a Prejudice Aesop designed to highlight the accuser's bigoted attitudes.
  • The Sheet of Glass is an obstacle that commonly, but never seriously, appears in chase scenes.
  • Singing Mountie: The Broadway operetta Rose Marie and its film adaptations (especially the 1954 version) are among the only works of fiction to completely play this trope straight. Nowadays, contemporary works are more likely to mock it.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Any incident in which "the badass woman is instantly made into a captive when grabbed by the wrist" only happens in parody. Most that are genuinely taken out when grabbed by the wrist are either already beaten, or threatened (e.g. a knife to the throat as well), or are grabbed by someone far stronger then they, or were never action girls in the first place. Note that the page is loaded with subversions, justifications, and parodies.
  • Synchro-Vox was only ever used seriously in a few animated series during The '50s and '60s, notably Clutch Cargo and Space Angel. It was immediately discredited as an extreme form of Limited Animation, and was used only for comedic effect afterward.
  • Take Me to Your Leader is believed to have been started as a parody, first being used in a cartoon in The New Yorker (where aliens give said request to a horse). It has almost always been twisted or parodied since.
  • Three Wishes: A lot of people may think that Genies only granting three wishes is older, probably from Middle Eastern folklore and/or the Arabian Nights; however, that's not the case. Some precedents may exist in literature and folklore mostly from the West, but the oldest version of the three wishes rule appeared for the first time in cinema in 1940's The Thief of Bagdad, and almost all examples of the rule are subsequent. Djinn in Mid-Eastern folklore do not normally grant wishes, but if you managed to magically bind one it would grant you any wish with no limit. It is said that that is how King Solomon built the first temple, for example.
    • On a related note, the actual process of granting the wish in actual Middle Eastern folklore didn't involve the Djinni waving their fingers and magicking whatever you wished for into reality; it was accomplished through mundane means. If, for example, you wished to be the Sultan of your kingdom, the Djinni would simply go and purchase the title from the current Sultan for you.
  • Timmy in a Well: While the trope in general is not a dead unicorn and is closer to a Discredited Trope, the often parodied version of the trope that it is named for is a dead unicorn. Timmy never actually fell down a well in Lassie even though he did get into all kinds of other crazy situations that his Heroic Dog saved him from by getting help. Timmy getting trapped in a well is something that only has happened in parodies of this trope. One of the first episodes of Lassie with Ranger Corey Stewart has him narrowly escaping falling into a cistern.
  • Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: Ultra-violent video games do exist, but anyone who has actually played games like the Grand Theft Auto or Fallout series knows there is a lot more to them than senseless violence. Mortal Kombat (1992) kind of started the trope, but even that wasn't as violent as the parodies made it out to be; the controversy was probably more due to the violence appearing more realistic due to the digitized Motion Capture. Games like the Manhunt series and MadWorld—or even the later Mortal Kombat and Doom games—do sort of fit the stereotype, but they are also largely parodies of this trope and only came about because of it. That's not to say there weren't many games that fit the full stereotype released in the '90s, and even a few in the '80s, but they were generally far from mainstream.
  • Vampire Vords are a parody of Bela Lugosi's accent from his definitive performance of the Classical Movie Vampire in the 1931 Dracula — except Lugosi never talked like that. While he did have a thick accent, he had no problem pronouncing his Ws correctly. And other vampires only talk like this if they're meant to be an incorrect imitation of Dracula or a send-up of him from Eastern Europe. Dracula himself in the novel spoke fluent English, and it was even a plot point that he wanted to remove his accent entirely.

Stories and Genres:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The "Standalone Complex" is a reference to this phenomenon, defining it as an activity meant to be a copycat of an original that doesn't exist.
  • A typical Shoujo love story is said to start with the heroine being Late for School with a Toast of Tardiness in her mouth, giving a quick narration to the audience about who she is before she crashes into her soon-to-be love interest at the street corner. Plenty of anime and manga have parodied this sort of encounter as a "fated meeting", but none use the exact scenario to start a story.
  • The stereotypical "anime badass" look, if the countless (and often heavily mocked) pictures of young men posing with swords in their backyards is anything to go by, is the combination of Fedora of Asskicking, Badass Longcoat, and a katana. Though you do see a lot of characters combining a long coat and a fedora, and quite a few characters combining a long coat and a katana, you'd probably struggle to find an anime character with all three.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman has a lot of so-called clichés that parodies and homages love to send up, but which rarely (if ever) happened in actual Superman media:
    • The trope of Clark Kent changing into Superman in a phone booth was only ever used straight twice, in the Superman Theatrical Cartoons of the 1940s and the Atari 2600 game. Superman did it once in the comic books of the same period, only to note how difficult it is to change costume in a phone booth, meaning this was deconstructed when it was new. All future uses of the trope are parodies or Lampshade Hanging. In fact, it would be kind of stupid for Superman to change costume in a glass phone booth where anybody could see him, and indeed phone booths in the 1940s were made of solid wood — yet every parody or homage will use a modern glass phone booth. Brian Cronin sets the record straight in his "Comic Book Legends Revealed" blog here.
    • The parodists love to make Lois Lane out to be the dumb girlfriend who can't tell that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person and is easily fooled by a pair of glasses. (This even made it into actual Superman media: on Lois & Clark, time-traveler Tempus told Lois the question everyone in the future asked about her was "How dumb is she?") In the comics, Superman used Clark Kenting to extreme effect to maintain his disguise, and Lois is usually the first to figure out that Clark Kent is Superman (or at least is more certain of it than anyone else), forcing Superman to go to greater lengths to throw her off the scent. After the 1990s, most continuities have her completely in the know.
  • The idea of Batman being a grim, brooding, Crazy-Prepared semi-madman is more complicated than you would think. Batman became popular during The Silver Age of Comic Books, when he was more or less a straight-laced Invincible Hero, and later from the 1966 TV series and the 1970s Superfriends, which were unbelievably Campy and where he was the furthest thing from gritty and brooding. He was a grim brooding anti-hero in the early 1940s, but this was also before his Thou Shalt Not Kill phase and can be chalked up to Early-Installment Weirdness. The idea that the modern gritty Batman is a "return to classic Batman" is thus a misnomer, as this version of the character only really came out in the Bronze Age and works like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Tim Burton's 1989 film.
  • Superheroes from the 1950s are usually thought of as obnoxiously patriotic and reactionary, with parodies such as Radioactive Man, Atomic Brain, and Marshal Law mocking Superman types as "making the world safe for capitalism". This has rarely ever been true, however — early comics had a strong leftist bend, mostly by praising the Roosevelt administration, and once they abandoned it, they abandoned politics in general, preferring to keep their villains in the realm of aliens and mad scientists. A lot of Public Service Announcements featuring Superman also leaned liberal, in particular a 1949 artwork encouraging schoolchildren to openly condemn racist remarks on the basis that such attitudes are un-American.
    • Interestingly enough, it was actually Marvel's early Silver Age comics that had a more pronounced conservative bent (though at the time, they were being praised for portraying flaws on both sides of the spectrum). The '50s "Commie-Smasher" Captain America is probably the most infamous of the bunch — enough that the celebrated Steve Englehart run retconned him into an impostor after years of that era being awkward non-canon weirdness that couldn't be addressed without violating The Comics Code — but a lot of early Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Thor stories had the heroes gallivanting around third-world countries fighting Dirty Communists.
    • This may also have some roots in the World War II-era propaganda comics of the '40s, which ranged from the merely violently patriotic (Cpt. America punching Hitler in the face) to the overtly racist and jingoistic ("Superman says: YOU can slap a Jap with WAR BONDS and STAMPS!")
    • A pretty common element of said parodies is also the idea of said heroes being The Fundamentalist, or overtly religious in some other sense, such as the Jesus Society of America from Marshal Law, Oh Father from The Boys, or most supes from the latter's otherwise much more nuanced TV adaptation. For the most part, though, even when comics were at their most conservative, superheroes tend to only acknowledge Christianity in extremely minor ways: they'd celebrate Christmas or say "oh, lord," and that was about it. If a character's faith is a significant part of their identity, it's much more common for them to be Jewish (Ragman, Kitty Pryde), atheistic (Mister Terrific, Quasar), pagan (The Mighty Thor, Wonder Woman), related to esoterism (The Invisibles, Promethea) or even follow a fictional religion (Superman). The rare characters who are explicitly Christian almost never fit the Bible-thumping God-is-good equality-is-Satanic mold, and in fact would likely consider that type of Christian to be heretical; characters who are simply religious (Daredevil, Nightcrawler) tend to be moderate and tolerant, while characters actively empowered by Christian cosmology (The Spectre) tend to take a critical view of it. Major characters who do fit this archetype tend to be villains, such as the Purifiers in X-Men. In short, this sort of Christian was never portrayed positively in mainstream superhero comics, not even in a subtle, dog-whistle kind of way—there do exist uncritically fundamentalist superheroes, but most of them are found in relatively obscure media made by Christians, for Christians, such as Bibleman.
      • Interestingly, Christian characters like the aformentioned Daredevil, Nightcrawler or Starlight will be more likely to have their inclusive and healthy faith be questioned by a Politically Incorrect Villain religious extremist. Hell, DD and Kurt's Devil iconography/appearence is more central to the character than their faith.
  • Golden age parodies and homages often have superheroes wearing double breasted uniform coats, usually with a logo on their chest—that was unheard of back then. Early comic-book superhero costumes were inspired by circus performers (such as Superman or Batman) or, more rarely, something closer to a Coat, Hat, Mask look. Captain Marvel has a somewhat similar look, but it's not a coat so much as a standard spandex outfit with some buttons on the front.
  • When a story needs a parodic name for a hypothetical superhero, it'll more often than not be in the pattern <adjective> <verb>er, with the adjective and verb part alliterating. E.g. Avid Avenger, Purple Pugilist, etc. Just about the only well-known real superheroes whose name actually follows this formula are Martian Manhunter and Silver Surfer. However, other Superheroes may have nicknames in this style (e.g. Comic Book/Superman being nicknamed Big Blue (or the Big Blue Boy Scout), Iron Man being nicknamed the Armored Avenger, The Incredible Hulk being nicknamed the Green Goliath), making this misconception understandable. See Superhero Sobriquets for more details.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Silent Movies:
    • The Dastardly Whiplash was barely ever used, much less in its iconic form, in silent film. It was mostly used in vaudeville and stage melodramas of the day, which was where the overuse really came about and led to all the parodies of the concept, even though the trope was already discredited by the time the 1930s hit. The only significant use of the trope in silent movies was in The Perils of Pauline, but even that example is quite different from the standard whiplash stereotype.
    • The image of a silent movie villain who leaves a woman Chained to a Railway isn't real. The trope has origins in Victorian theatre, but there it was dashing Two-Fisted Tales heroes who'd get tied to the tracks, and it would be women who rescued them. (Though most sources are rather insistent that some of the lost footage from the aforementioned Perils of Pauline does indeed contain an instance of Pauline getting tied to a railroad and getting rescued by the male hero.)
    • Silent films are popularly portrayed as having Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness in their word cards, mostly to evoke an archaic feel. While occasionally words might pop up that aren't commonly used anymore, most silent films were very visually-driven, kept the dialog very simple, and only used word cards to move the plot along. (Which is probably what you'd *want* out of a silent movie, come to think of it.)
  • Frankenstein: The codified form of The Igor first appeared in Mel Brooks' parody, Young Frankenstein, rather than either the Universal Horror films or the original novel. Brooks' Igor was a Composite Character of two figures: Fritz, Dr. Frankenstein's hunchbacked assistant in the first Universal movie (who fulfills the basics of the trope, but wears modern clothing, not hooded Medieval peasant garb), and Ygor from the third and fourth movies, a non-hunchbacked (though broken-necked, which caused him to carry one shoulder higher) schemer who wanted to reanimate the monster for his own personal gain.
  • During the heyday of the "quirky indie" style of movie, parodies and jokes about it often included barbs about them always featuring a guy hooking up with a gorgeous girl far out of his league. But while this is a common sitcom trope, it doesn't describe these movies too well. Usually in such films the female lead is a more down to Earth, cute Moe type, with the male often the equivalent; he may not meet the conventional standards of "handsome", but is not unattractive (think Jim Carrey, Michael Cera, Paul Dano, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt). It tends to be more about the social (not socioeconomic) status of the characters — they aren't cool enough. In silent and early sound films it is socioeconomic; a working class guy tries to succeed to become worthy of a higher-class woman. (She already loves him — the one he has to impress is her father.)
  • Pop culture zombie tropes are often thought to be derived from African or Afro-Caribbean legends, but they're hardly alike. In those traditions, zombies are corpses resurrected by magicians to be slaves. These zombies will not attack you (unless, presumably, their masters order them to) and can't "spread" their condition to you. The threat of becoming a zombie is scary, but the idea that the zombies themselves hurt people has no basis in folklore. Likely it's a misappropriation of Ghouls in legend, undead who would, sure enough, eat people, but these creatures come from Middle Eastern legend. In fact, at no point in Night of the Living Dead (1968) is the word "zombie" spoken, but "ghoul" is (the ending credits does list "featured zombies" though). The fans ran with zombies, though, and the term stuck as the film spawned an entire genre.
    • It's also common in parodies of zombie fiction to set a Zombie Apocalypse against the backdrop of 1950s suburbia, even though Night of the Living Dead didn't come out until the very late '60s.
  • Many parodies and pastiches of Jason Voorhees, villain of the Friday the 13th films, show him wielding a chainsaw, even though his favorite weapon in the movies is just a machete. Indeed, he has never used a chainsaw for any purpose — the closest he came was using a circular saw once (and interestingly, a chainsaw is used against him in the second movie). Most likely, his attributes are being mixed up, intentionally or otherwise, with those of Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
  • Many parodies of the Terminator have the character as a Dumb Muscle. In the original film, the Terminator was actually very intelligent, and in fact this was a big part of what made it so threatening. It knew to retreat from a bad situation, how to repair itself when damaged, how to find its target via the phone book, and search a house for identifying information about the target.
  • Most parodies of and homages to Film Noir have moody jazz scores, but the real classic Noirs from the 1940s had the typical orchestral scores of that period of Hollywood music. It was the late '50s-early '60s TV shows inspired by Film Noir (like Peter Gunn) that used jazz. This article explains it in detail.
  • Most parodies of Godzilla and other classic kaiju films tend to mock concepts that never actually existed in the genre. Perhaps the most stubborn myth is that the miniature cities destroyed by the monsters were constructed quickly using cardboard and not really meant to be convincing. In reality, the miniatures in even the worst Godzilla films are easily the most expensive and time-consuming element of the production (just one of these sets could take up to 35,000 man hours to build), as they were lavishly detailed and built using the same materials as real buildings, mostly wood and plaster. The high cost of this could be mitigated with reliance on Stock Footage (a scene from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster of Rodan destroying a city could be reused in Invasion of Astro-Monster, for example) or else by setting a scene out in the wilderness instead (the climax of Godzilla vs. Megalon is set in a field somewhere). Also, the commonly-mocked scene of a crowd of Japanese pedestrians running down the street while pointing back at the monster and yelling "RUN! IT'S [NAME OF MONSTER]!" rarely, if ever happens in a real kaiju movie despite being nearly universal in parodies of the genre.
  • James Bond:
    • The notion that in the films the villain always tells Bond what his evil plan is is not entirely accurate, as often Bond already knows or has figured out what the plan is already, and the villain is just filling in some details (usually for the benefit of the audience). Indeed, on several occasions it is Bond who actually explains the evil plan to the villain, often to stroke their ego, distract them to buy time, or get them to drop their guard.
    • The notion that "the main Bond girl works for the villains until she falls in love with James Bond" has only happened once, with Pussy Galore from Goldfinger. While Bond has slept with evil henchwomen before (Thunderball, Goldeneye, Die Another Day), the aforementioned Goldfinger is the only case where he slept with a henchwoman who changed sides as a result. (Bond did sleep with May Day, who later changed sides, but these events were not related.) The rest of the time, they were either completely innocent but just happened to get involved with the villain's plans (Honey Ryder, Christmas Jonesnote ), on Bond's side to begin with (Kissy Suzuki, Tracy Di Vincenzo), working for the villain but having no idea what their plans were (Tatiana Romanova, Octopussy) or effectively a slave of the villains (Domino, Solitaire).
      • Even in Goldfinger it had less to do with Bond sleeping with her and more to do with Goldfinger lying to her about using "sleeping gas" on Fort Knox when it was actually lethal nerve gas.
    • Speaking of Goldfinger, that movie contains perhaps the most frequently parodied and referenced scene in the entire James Bond franchise. The one with Bond strapped to a table with a laser beam aimed at his crotch about to slowly bisect him. And nearly all of those feature the villain leaving Bond in the Death Trap that he then easily escapes. See Bond Villain Stupidity. Nothing like this happens in the actual movie. In the movie, Goldfinger has Bond dead to rights and stays in the room to watch. Bond only "escapes" because he manages to convince Goldfinger that he's of more use alive and he turns off the machine. Even then Goldfinger thinks Bond is probably bluffing, but didn't want to take the chance and Bond stays his prisoner the rest of the movie until the army eventually rescues him.
    • Mocking the notion that James Bond would stick out like a sore thumb because he wears a tuxedo everywhere. Except Bond doesn't do that; throughout the films he only wears a tuxedo to places where it would make sense to wear one (such as a luxurious casino), and otherwise dresses appropriately (if perhaps more stylishly than average) for the places he's going.
  • "In a World…" is the most clichéd way to open a movie trailer, but the number of actual, non-spoof trailers that use the phrase at all is smaller than one would think, and ones that actually open with it are rarer still. It originates with the works of Don LaFontaine.
  • The notion that characters in The Western wear hats that are Colour-Coded for Your Convenience (heroes wearing white hats and villains wearing black hats) was never really a thing, except for children's shows and the occasional B-movie. All the way back to The Great Train Robbery (1903) hat colors were fairly evenly distributed, and once films went to color most characters had brown hats in any case. Shane is probably the only big budget western that plays it straight.
  • More a meme than a trope, but the idea of comedy movies starting In Medias Res with some wacky scenario (often in a crowded setting) that culminates in a freeze frame, Record Needle Scratch, and the voice of the main character narrating something like "Yep, that's me. I bet you're wondering how I got into this situation..."note  and then segueing to the start of the story while music (usually "Baba O'Riley" by The Who) plays. While a lot of movies have individual parts of this, few people can name a movie where all of the above happens. Commonly cited films include Megamind, which opens with a similar line and a segue, but over a slow motion shot rather than a wacky scenario and a freeze frame, The Emperor's New Groove, which has Kuzco narrating something similar in the opening without the record scratch, Premium Rush, which does something like this (complete with "Baba O'Reilly") but without dialogue, and Ratatouille, which opens with Remy being thrown out of a house, with a freeze frame followed by a voiceover that goes "This is me," but the scene in question takes place before the rest of the story and doesn't segue into anything other than the very next moment. The closest fit is probably the third Robot Chicken Star Wars special, but that's a) a parody and b) still missing a few elements. It is played straight in most episodes of What's with Andy? and a few episodes of The Loud House, but those are both cartoon TV shows rather than live-action films. Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) has everything but the music, although it's so recent that the meme might've influenced it.
  • A common joke about movies featuring scenes from the Vietnam War is that they will play Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" at some point. However, as far as anyone can tell, the only film ever to unironically do this is Forrest Gump, which similarly uses period-appropriate popular music (e.g. "Turn, Turn, Turn", "California Dreamin'", etc.) in numerous other scenes set in the 1960s.
  • When The Smurfs came out, the Internet acted like its premise of "beloved cartoon characters get sucked into the REAL WORLD" was already a cliché and the premise of every live-action reimagining of a classic cartoon. Except it had only happened twice before, in The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle and Fat Albert, which hardly anyone actually saw and most such critics forgot even existed. (And those films were a lot more Roger Rabbit-like in their approach, as the characters are explicitly extracted from cartoon-land into a world where they are already recognized as cartoon stars.) The premise would eventually get played completely straight in Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), to a mostly positive response.

  • Everyone knows that most “elevated horror” films are about a depressed person or grieving family being haunted by a monster that is a metaphor for trauma. Except, this idea was popularized by The Babadook, which leaves the nature of the titular creature ambiguous enough that viewers can interpret it as either a direct metaphor for grief or a monster that feeds upon it. While personal tragedy is often used as a plot element in modern horror, such as in films like Midsommar or A Quiet Place, quite rarely are its antagonists directly metaphorical to grief or trauma.

  • Fairy Tales:
    • Fairy tales' supposed idealism and inevitable happy endings are commonly mocked and "deconstructed", most people being unaware that the real stories were often violent, cynical, and depressing. It's something of a Cyclic Trope, since the original stories had such a grim tone, before being bowdlerized and Disneyfied because Children Are Innocent (which is in itself an example of this trope), causing the stories to end up in an Animation Age Ghetto, which left them filled with Fridge Logic and other ripe fodder for deconstruction. On the other end of the spectrum, the belief that all fairy tales were originally gory grimdark horror stories before their Disneyfication is similarly exaggerated; the most common gratuitously violent passages that modern adaptations tend to leave out involve the deaths of the villains at the story's end. Grimmification as a trope is a rather ironic appellation, as The Brothers Grimm were in fact the Ur-Example of Disneyfication, with many of their stories being even darker before the Grimms retold them (but still not the nightmare gorefest people like to think).
    • True Love's Kiss is not an original element to most fairy tales, but is rather a Disneyfication element. Many fairy tales' protagonists did indeed have The Big Damn Kiss, but it's not meant to be something especially powerful or magical, like a Deus ex Machina. Taking a survey of the most popular such kisses: in the Grimms' version of "Sleeping Beauty", the prince does awake the title character with a kiss, but that's just coincidence because he happened to be there when her hundred-year curse expired;note  and in "Snow White", the prince never kisses Snow White, but instead drops her coffin and dislodged the chunk of poisoned apple stuck in her throat. The Ur-Example of the trope was in Norse Mythology, of the Valkyrie Brunhilda who was punished by Odin to sleep on a couch surrounded by fire and was awakened with a kiss from the hero Siegfried.
    • The Knight in Shining Armor rescuing the Damsel in Distress from a dragon is commonly associated with fairy tales, but this is rather rare; The Brothers Grimm only used it twice.
    • The Unicorn is even more rare. If you do catch one, it won't be the delicate and pure creature like the modern trope, but the fierce and dangerous version of actual medieval legend.
    • The Fairy Godmother is extremely rare and appears to have been introduced from literary variants. Sleeping Beauty is often just the victim of a prophesied fate. Cinderella is generally helped by her dead mother in some way, or by some magical beings whose good will she's earned. Even when she appears, it's not that "fairy godmother" is a type of supernatural being akin to a "guardian angel", but rather that a character's godmother, someone everyone in medieval Christendom would have and would already know as a close family friend, is unexpectedly revealed to be a fairy in disguise.
    • Fairies themselves. Almost any conversation involving them will bring up that in the original tales fairies weren't good or helpful but were supposedly all represented by the most sinister interpretations of The Fair Folk. In reality fairies in the old tales and mythology tend to run the whole gamut from being good and/or helpful to being downright vicious. In many tales the behaviour of the same fairy type or fairy character can vary wildly depending on how a human interacts with them (usually courteous and virtuous behaviour will be rewarded, while vanity and other character flaws will be punished)
    • The idea that every princess ends up with Prince Charming originates from 1987's Into the Woods, a Deconstructive Parody in which the Charmings are portrayed as vain, impulsive womanizers. In fact, no character named "Prince Charming" appears at all in any traditional fairy tale; the closest they come is the Charming King in The Blue Bird. There is a Prince Charming in the Disney Animated Canon, but he's just one of many royal love-interests to appear throughout the franchise, and there's nothing indicating he was ever interested in any heroine other than Cinderella. Beauty and the Beast (1946) also has a character named Avenant, which is French for "charming", but he's not a prince, doesn't end up with Belle, and isn't actually charming in the slightest.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: A gender-based scenario was mentioned in which mostly girls get to ride on dragons. The thing is, that while there are books with female Dragon Rider characters (e.g. Dragonriders of Pern), there doesn't seem to be any series in which that was an exclusively female activity—it's closer to exclusively male in the Pern books,note  and the Pit Dragon Chronicles likewise features males making that bond, and all of these books were written before the Guide was published. It is worth noting, however, that Jones wrote it after reading umpteen Tolkien-esque, Tolkien-length submissions for The Encyclopedia Of Fantasy (1997). Jones was probably not referring to any published books when she wrote this.
  • Many of the entries in Roger Ebert's Glossary of Movie Terms are Dead Unicorns, particularly the classic Fruit Cart on the street and the ability to hide in a St. Patrick's Day parade at any time of the year.

    Live-Action TV 
  • MythBusters wound up doing this a lot, busting myths that weren't really myths to begin with. This was especially an issue in later seasons, when they had fired their folklorist and had to do episodes on more obscure myths, leading them more to finding out what is possible than setting the record straight. Specifically:
    • While tackling the myth that steel-toed boots could actually sever toes instead of protecting them (busted, by the way), Adam commented about "samurai movies" where the tip of someone's boot would be cut off, but the toes are intact right behind where the tip was severed. This occasionally appears in comedy, but its appearance in a "samurai movie" is highly dubious at best (not least because the typical samurai costume includes sandals).
    • They tested the claim that Japanese armor was better because it was made of lacquered wood — except it wasn't. They used leather, and later lacquered iron (metal was expensive in Japan, and iron rusted easily in the humid climate). Or, to put it another way, there was such a thing as wood-crafted ceremonial armor, but mistaking it for the real thing is akin to thinking that European knights rode into battle in ruffled collars and ring-covered hands.
  • Doctor Who, being a Long Runner and pop culture phenomenon in Britain, generated a lot of misconceptions of how things typically went:
    • Not many of the Doctor's companions actually twisted an ankle, and very few were helpless screaming women. In fact, Susan is the only one that comes to mind who did either, and even she shared the TARDIS with another female companion, Barbara, a strong-willed teacher who Minored In Ass Kicking. The Second Doctor used Victoria's screaming to defeat a foam monster, and even then it was subtly pitched as a send-up in Victoria's last story to something she had seldom done. That said, the producers seemed to think this was the case, and new companions were often promoted in the Radio Times with promises that they wouldn't be screaming girls like in the old days. Mel in particular was introduced as an "homage" to 1960s companions, but she more resembled a B-Movie scream queen than anything that had appeared in the series before.
    • The Doctor travelling with only a female companion is also Newer Than They Think. In the 1960s, he tended to fill his TARDIS with rotating man/woman pairs, with an occasional "child" character to round out the team; the sole female companion only became the norm in the mid-late 1980s, although for a period in the late 1970s there was only one human(oid) companion and a robot dog.
    • The line about Daleks being unable to climb stairs was trotted out right up until their return in 2005, even though it was implicitly obvious they could in the 1960s and actually shown on screen in the 1980s. In fact, in the Daleks' second appearance (in the Dalek Book) they were shown flying with transpolar discs.
    • People often misremember Doctors' personalities. William Hartnell is remembered overwhelmingly as being grumpy and a Token Evil Teammate when he spent more of his tenure being silly, grandfatherly, and giggling about one of his schemes. Patrick Troughton is remembered as the giddy, recorder-playing fool he was in "The Three Doctors" rather than the often detached and authoritative character he was. Tom Baker is much more associated with his CloudcuckooLander Invincible Hero characteristics despite spending most of his tenure as a gothic, detached Byronic Hero who could be as disturbing as he was silly. And Peter Davison is often decried as being a boring Nice Guy despite being a Deadpan Snarker Determinator who was much more likely to just shoot the monster than most other Doctors. Much of this is down to gimmicks being remembered better than a whole portrayal, or disproportionate weight given to certain eras and scenes.
    • Robert Holmes is stereotyped as always using Obstructive Bureaucrats as lead villains. He only had them as lead villains in "Carnival of Monsters" and "The Sunmakers", both of which use settings where this would be unavoidable (customs officials and a taxation dystopia). Usually, his lead villains were more dynamic types — even in "The Deadly Assassin", which was much criticised for turning Gallifrey into a bureaucratic parliament, the bureaucratic Time Lords are Lawful Neutral at worst, and the villainous Time Lords are a slick and ambitious man of action and a hissing zombie.
    • The idea that the Doctor always goes to Victorian Britain, or someplace with Steampunk "Space Victorians". He really didn't go there all that often in the Classic series, and they didn't make a big deal about it until Season 14 ("The Talons of Weng-Chiang", which used every Victorian London trope in the book). By Season 23's "Timelash" and Season 26's "Ghost Light", the Doctor had become self-aware that it was a bit of a cliché — except it wasn't, really. The Revival series embraced this idea with gusto, in particular having the Eleventh Doctor retire to Victorian London at one point on the grounds that it's a "default" setting. Perhaps the Doctor's Victorian fashion sense gave the idea that he hangs out there more often than he does (or Britain is full of Victorian buildings and the BBC has plenty of the clothes already, so it's cheaper than Aztec period Mexico or early medieval England).
    • The Classic show is often stereotyped as unemotional, whether to criticise it for being nerdy and sexist, or to praise it for its lack of soap opera Glurge. In fact, the Classic series often focused on the relationship between the Doctor and his companions, and it was often modelled after British-style Soap Operas in format and Emotional Torque (all the better when you don't have a big special effects budget). The Fourth Doctor, who had a particularly long tenure and was emblematic of the era, was less emotional and more distant than the others, and that's probably what enforced the stereotype (that and his longest-tenured companion being a Robot Dog), but this was still a character trait of that specific Doctor and mined for its own emotional storylines when his companions try to connect with him.
    • The Classic show wasn't entirely sexless until it became an Enforced Trope in the '80s, by which time the Doctor's asexuality was already a meme. The Doctor did not kiss his companions, and the show was not focused on romance at all, but UST was omnipresent and innuendo was common. Each of the first four Doctors got at least one story where they would be allowed to flirt with a pretty girl or be distracted by one; Implied Love Interest relationships and Ship Tease moments between the Doctor and his companion were common throughout the '70s;note  and the First Doctor was introduced with a granddaughter (which implies certain actions that produce children) and got engaged to a Girl of the Week in one story. The idea was not supposed to be that the Doctor had no sexual feelings — just that the show wasn't about that sort of thing, and so it wouldn't make sense to include a Token Romance. Nevertheless, fandom memory holds that the Doctor was Not Distracted by the Sexy (and possibly without the relevant parts) until the Revival series decided to make him into a Chick Magnet, and jokes to this extent have been made on the show. A disproportionate amount of this came from fans latching onto the Fourth Doctor's notorious "You're a beautiful woman... probably" line in "City of Death", which in context seems more likely to be deliberate mockery of the Countess's villainous attempts to distract him with sexiness than actual asexual innocence.
    • A lot of these misconceptions (as pertaining to the classic series at least) are likely a result of its legendary problems with Missing Episodes (a substantial amount of the stories featuring the First and Second Doctors either partially or wholly do not exist), the lack of repeats outside of a handful of stories here and there, and the fact that it was already a Long Runner by the time home media made it possible to even start circulating the tapes, much less keep doing so. This meant that lot of received wisdom based on hazy recollections was able to build up and be passed off as fact well before the classic series was rebroadcast or released on home media to a sufficient degree to allow people to fact-check this stuff. As an illustration, note how most of the above examples refer more to the First to Fourth Doctors — the Fifth Doctor's era coincided with the rise in popularity of VHS, meaning people were able to create more accurate archives and increasingly purchase the old stories — but on the flip side, people who had grown up with the show were now involved in making it and were basing what they were doing on their flawed recollections of stories they often hadn't seen since they were children.
    • On the other hand, the Revival series is often seen as "reversing" his asexuality into becoming The Casanova. While there is kissing, more often than not he's on the receiving end (and is bewildered by it when he is); in fact, his disinterest in all the people coming on to him has made him look even more like a weird alien asexual. Part of it is that since the love interests are much more forward to him, there's the question of an actual Relationship Upgrade, which he has to reject (partly because It's Not You, It's My Enemies, and partly because he's Really 700 Years Old and it just wouldn't work out). He did get married to River Song, but she described it as a one-way relationship ("you don't expect a sunset to admire you back").
  • Several tropes related to Game Shows:
    • Game show hosts being always-smiling Large Hams who give a "slimy used-car salesman" vibe, crack awful jokes, and wear loud flashy suits. Most of the genre's greats were a bit silly and bombastic at times, but even someone like the famously slick and glib Wink Martindale, Gene Rayburn handling six panelists on the comedy-driven Match Game, or Monty Hall arranging bargains with costumed contestants on Let's Make a Deal, knew when to show seriousness and authority with a big prize on the line. The existence of the highly exaggerated Guy Smiley likely helped codify this image. Gus Glitz from Mr. Game Show in 1987 is based on this, as is his VH1 resurrection on Game Show Moments Gone Bananas in 2005. Many prolific game show hosts are extremely far away from this stereotype entirely, with prolific hosts such as Bob Barker, Jack Barry, Bill Cullen, and Alex Trebek featuring very few to none of the traits associated with such a role.
    • The deep melodramatic Large-Ham Announcer voice that most "parody" game show announcers have is based more on comedy announcers like Gary Owens (the announcer for Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In) as opposed to any announcer whose primary work was in game shows. Don Pardo had a deep and dramatic voice, but it was authoritative and exciting without being over-the-top, in addition to sporting an obvious New England accent. (That, and 99% of his game show career was before 1975; his association with game show parodies is likely due to him being the longtime announcer of Saturday Night Live and therefore filling that role whenever they did a game show parody.) Most game show announcers sound absolutely nothing like that: ones like Johnny Olson, Rod Roddy, or Johnny Gilbert tended toward a higher-pitched delivery, whereas ones like John Harlan, Gene Wood, or Charlie O'Donnell had more relaxed reads. Perhaps the closest any game show announcer has come to playing this straight is Burton Richardson, but even he saved more of the hammy affectations for The Arsenio Hall Show.
    • Having the audience shout the show's name in the intro. Wheel of Fortune and Scrabble are the only shows that have ever played this straight (although the 1985 show Break the Bank did it when throwing to commercial), and even then, Wheel's chant has been the same pre-recorded one on all but a handful of occasions.
  • When being portrayed as a Soap Within a Show, Soap Operas are usually parodied as having frequent Ass Pulls and twists piling up over each other. In truth, regardless of quality, soaps usually keep twists to a minimum, since they're often Long Runners that benefit from milking each plotline over the course of several episodes. Compounding the issue, soap operas are usually produced with the understanding that viewers won't be paying much attention - the stereotype of a housewife leaving the TV on while doing housework implies the stakes in the story should be pretty low. The twists often come in the form of an Internal Reveal, though, allowing viewers to see when the characters find out what the viewers themselves saw as obvious.
  • Star Trek: As this article explains, the original Captain Kirk in The Original Series was a thoughtful and highly intellectual diplomat who preferred to avoid violence whenever possible and was unquestionably respectful towards women. However, the pop-cultural image of him as a brash, gung-ho womanizer has been widely parodied and homaged, including in the 2009 J.J. Abrams reboot.
  • The X-Files: The idea that Mulder is more accident-prone and/or incompetent than Scully. They're equally competent, though Scully is a doctor and Mulder is not. This may have stemmed from the fact that he's a bit of a goof, but he's good at what he does.

  • Country Music:
    • All country songs are about dogs or trucks, or dogs in trucks. That's why many parodies of country music say it's not a country song without a truck or a dog (e.g. David Allan Coe's "You Never Even Called Me by My Name" or British musical comedian Jasper Carrott's routine). Except there are hardly any country songs that are actually about dogs or trucks; only a few mention them in passing at all, and pickup trucks were equally rare until the proliferation of "bro-country" in The New '10s — whose sound hardly has anything to do with country in the first place. (However, the stereotypes of country songs frequently being about booze or adultery are entirely accurate, the latter to the point where there are even country songs about the abundance of adultery-themed country songs.)
    • All country songs are slow, maudlin lists of depressing problems, many of them involving the singer's wife, mother, dog, or truck. While there are a few songs in existence that fit this description (e.g. "Things Have Gone to Pieces" and "These Days I Barely Get By", both recorded by George Jones), they are nowhere near as common as supposed. There is a kernel of truth in this stereotype in that country songs often deal with depressing, real-world subjects, but they are almost never structured in this manner. Quite a few blues songs follow that structure, though.
  • To the general public, Nu Metal means vocals that switch from singing to screaming with occasional rapping, murky downtuned guitars, funk-influenced slap-style bass playing, throaty pseudo-growls, DJ scratching provided by a turntablist as a band member, varying degrees of electronic manipulation, no guitar solos, and a focus on painful experiences and personal crises. In reality, all the qualities put together to make a "pure" nu metal band simply do not exist outside of parody. In fact, there's really no such thing as a "pure" nu metal band as it isn't really a coherent genre, but rather a basic template to add on to or remove as each band sees fit. Under the umbrella of nu metal, it's produced styles as diverse as groovy alternative metal (Korn), experimental shoegazing (Deftones), funky hip-hop-influenced rap metal (Limp Bizkit), pop-punk-rap-grunge-comedy-rock (Guano Apes), death metal-influenced groove metal (Slipknot), dancehall-influenced reggae metal (Skindred), industrial-bent hard rock (Disturbed), electronic rap rock (Linkin Park), alt-metal influenced post-grunge (Trapt), and gothic/symphonic/alternative rock (Evanescence).
  • Public perception of Grunge involves relatively simplistic guitar rock with a bit of feedback and a singer droning apathetically about problems with women and other general life woes. The problem is that no grunge bands really sounded like this, let alone like one another. Much like nu-metal, there was no real unified grunge sound, only a general skeleton that other bands added onto, and individual sounds varied between noisy alt-rock with some power pop leanings (Nirvana), Arena Rock (Pearl Jam before their journey into more outre territory), a mix of noise rock and '70s hard rock (Soundgarden), a strange hybrid of Hair Metal and Doom Metal (Alice in Chains), stripped-down, bluesy, almost protopunk-leaning alt-rock (Mudhoney), Psychedelic Rock (Screaming Trees), Post-Hardcore and proto-sludge metal (Melvins), or Noise Rock (Tad).
  • Emo Music became subject to the stereotype that most bands were whiny high schoolers singing about relationship problems or general Wangst, and that bands would tend to cry on stage. No reliable reports exist of bands doing this, and while bands such as Simple Plan certainly could be seen as fitting for the rest of the description, most of the better-remembered bands of the genre really weren't like this. AFI, who popularized the "dark clothes and fringe hair" look, were 20-30 somethings, who even in their mainstream success brought about by albums like Sing The Sorrow and Decemberunderground continued to write about classical horror-influenced themes. My Chemical Romance never took themselves seriously as a band, shunned their "emo kid" fans and wrote about a fun topic for their final album. Fall Out Boy stopped writing about relationships with Folie a Deux. This is one of those cases where a work's perception is shaped by that of its fans. This also could be attributed to Chester Bennington breaking down while recording Breaking the Habit, with the recording part being lost between tellings, and Linkin Park was considered an emo band back then.
  • Hardcore Punk became heavily associated with the straight edge movementnote  leading to many tropes associated with straight edge associated with it. Straight edge was about abstaining from drugs and alcohol and leading a clean and sober lifestyle, however in the mid-'90s through early '00s it actually started a bit of a moral panic with the claim that straight edgers were in fact militant Knight Templars who were beating up anyone who did use drugs or drink, and this became something often parodied by bands. In reality, the vast majority of Hardcore Punk fans were not straight edgenote  and militant straight edgers were an urban legend. While many bands promoted both straight edge and a sort of "tough guy" image, no actual band actually advocated beating up people who weren't straight edge. The misconception likely stems from the conflation of two unrelated phenomena, one being that some Mormon kids in Utah actually did take Mormon rules on abstaining from drugs and alcohol to a bit of a Knight Templar extreme (even this was mostly just a few isolated incidents), and the presence of "crews", street gangs linked to the Hardcore Punk scene in a few cities, and thus incidents of actual violence breaking out at some shows, even though this was mostly unrelated to straight edge. It also is largely stemmed from the Earth Crisis song "Firestorm" that developed mass controversy for its lyrics that described a mass roundup and killing of drug dealers...but this was never anything but a fantasy of some young straight edgers.
    • Everyone knows that straight edge bands always put X's around their band names, right? Except...they don't. Aside from joke bands or ones that were at least an Indecisive Parody, it's pretty hard to come up with any examples of a band name that included X's as part of the official band name. Bands would sometimes stylize their names like this on shirts, but it was never intended to be the "official" name.
    • A somewhat obscure trope but one that nonetheless exists is the notion that band vocalists often had to tape the mic to their hand to avoid dropping it or it flying into the crowd due to how chaotic the live shows were. This is often referenced and parodied. In reality, there's only one credible report of this being done seriously: by the frontman of Reversal of Man.note  It has hardly ever been played straight.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The school of thought that the woman wrestler of the past was a scary Brawn Hilda and that the women in the sport became Progressively Prettier is actually quite false. In fact the documentary Lipstick & Dynamite shows what women wrestlers were really like; they had to be dolled up to the nines when entering and leaving the arenas, and wrestlers like Mae Young and Penny Banner modelled their looks off various starlets of the time. There was always a mix of glamorous women wrestlers in with the Brawn Hilda performers. In WWE they started bringing in models to specifically be Ms. Fanservice, but the earliest that happened was in the 1990s.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Similar to Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000, the whole idea of Tabletop RPGs promoting Satanism (with Dungeons & Dragons being most frequently accused of this, if only because it was the most well known) was all part of the whole "Satanic panic" of The '80s. While demons and the like do exist in the game, they are explicitly labelled as being evil, and mainly serve as enemies for the players to kill, not worship. Gygax was a devout Christian,note  and it's quite visible in early editions: one of the first gods created in the setting was Saint Cuthbert, who is not only Lawful Good, but is explicitly based on a real-life Scottish saint (and they're even implied to be the same person). The closest thing to a straight example of this is Empire of Satanis, which wasn't invented until 2003 and which the creator eventually revealed was meant more as a joke/troll game, mixed in a lot of Objectivism and the Cthulhu Mythos and was universally panned. Even in spite of all this, some fringe fundies still cling to this mindset, acting like a game being about the occult is the same as the game itself being occult,note  which is like thinking that watching a movie about gun violence will give you lead poisoning.

    Video Games 
  • A lot of Eastern RPG cliches never actually existed. But it certainly feels like they did.
  • Detractors of modern military shooters (and parodies of it) often paint them as jingoistic, racist, pro-war power fantasies where you shoot lots of Middle Easterners without any repercussions and make blatant use of America Saves the Day. Common targets of mockery include Call of Duty (specifically the Modern Warfare sub-series) and Battlefield (specifically the Bad Company spin-offs and the 3rd and 4th main installments) which are the two biggest names in military shooters. However, it's worth noting that none (except Medal of Honor of 2010 and Medal of Honor: Warfighter of 2012, both of which ended up being critical and commerical failures) of their games set in modern times actually fit the stereotypical definition of what a modern military shooter "should" be. The Modern Warfare games were more of an Unbuilt Trope where the actions of the US military make problems worse, it's British soldiers who save the day, and you fight Russians most of the time (none of the listed games have you fighting Middle Eastern insurgents for any longer than, at most, a quarter of the game — in fact, of all of them, only CoD4 even has them past a single level). Battlefield: Bad Company was more of a parody than a straight example, and Battlefield 3 turns the logic of "America saves the day" on its head — due to working under that logic, the CIA ignores everything the protagonist tells them about a plot to detonate a nuke in New York City, except for the parts which they can misconstrue as "proof" that the Russians are the real bad guys, because the Big Bad turns out to be a CIA mole.
  • Pokémon:
    • It's been ingrained in the public consciousness that Pokémon trainers traditionally start their journey at 10 years old. Though the anime notes that 10 years old is the minimum age of an officially registered Trainer, the only actual Pokémon protagonist who is canonically 10 years old is Ash Ketchum from the anime. Most others have a Vague Age, and many are implied to be teenagers. The closest are the protagonists of Pokémon Red and Blue and Pokémon Sun and Moon, both of whom are 11 years old. This hasn't stopped most parodies and Fan Fics from making their protagonists 10 years old. Downplayed as, while the protagonists aren't always that young, it is established in Sun and Moon that 11 is around the age most children start their journeys, meaning that the fanon is only a year off.
    • Every trainer seems to get their starter Pokémon handed to them by a Pokémon professor. While the player character gets their first Pokémon this way in most mainline games (as does Ash in the anime), this is generally a unique situation, as the professor lives nearby and (in the Kanto, Johto, and Unova games) are a family friend. Meanwhile, the Hoenn and Sinnoh games have you borrow and steal a Pokémon from the local professor, respectively, with them letting you keep it. This special situation is also highlighted by you receiving a Pokédex, a piece of tech that is explicitly stated as being something most trainers don't have; you're getting one to help said professor with their research. Various NPCs state that their first Pokémon was either self-caught in the local area, or a gift from a family member or an established trainer: the Hoenn games show a local Gym leader (your dad, in this case), loaning out his Pokémon to help a local boy to catch his first, while the player character gets their starter Pokémon from an established trainer in the Alola, Galar, and Paldea games.
  • Mario and Luigi are often criticized for being "stereotypical Italian plumbers". In North America, where Mario is generally assumed to be an Italian-American or adjacent thanks to various adaptations, ethnically Italian immigrants would be stereotyped as blue collar in the early 20th century (see also Ethnic Menial Labor); but the idea that they'd be plumbers specifically is not common at all.
  • The video game adaptations of the live-action Street Fighter movie were never actually titled "Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game", they were simply titled Street Fighter: The Movie. In fact, the movie itself is simply titled Street Fighter, with no subtitle to indicate it was an adaptation. However, it's not uncommon to find web coverage of the games refer to either of them "Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game", likely for disambiguation purposes.
  • From Yume Nikki, the "Vomit-Chan" meme never happened. At no point in the game does Madotsuki ever throw up; the piece of fanart that inspired this meme was entirely the invention of a guro artist.
  • The Fire Emblem Heroes fandom often depicts Reinhardt with an evil or creepy grin (such as here), presumably to show how powerful he is in-game. Truth is, he is a very serious Anti-Villain (all his official art does not have him smile) who despises the motivations behind him and is quite conflicted toward his sister Olwen's path.
  • Tetris is often viewed as an overtly political work created by the Soviet Union to spread their culture and ideology to the first world. Truth is, the Russian and Soviet music and imagery were not in the original, but added by American and Japanese developers for marketing and style after they got the license — the original game was just a Tech-Demo Game to test out the Elektronika-60 hardware. It had no music or advanced graphics, let alone any Soviet politics or propaganda — see it originally played here. WARNING  In fact, some of the added imagery was misaimed — once ELORG was made aware of these (such as Mathias Rust landing in the Red Square, after breaching nearly all of Soviet air defense) they were mad as some of those images like the stunt were major embarrassments at the time.
  • Indie RPGs, especially those made with the RPG Maker or Game Maker engines, are frequently stereotyped as quirky Mother-inspired games with heavy Art-Style Dissonance, typically about heavier topics like depression. This is often a conflation with well-known freeware horror RPGs that have offbeat presentation and gameplay (such as Yume Nikki or The Witch's House), games with unconventional character design that deal with dark topics in general (like LISA or OFF), and games that really are Mother- inspired and have a primarily lighthearted tone (such as Undertale). The only mainstream game that appears to meet all these criteria is OMORI, which the developers admit had elements influenced by some of these games.

    Web Original 
  • "Humanity, fuck yeah!" stories are usually claimed to be a subversion of humanity being a weak and dull species in sci-fi by depicting humanity as a highly dominant and feared power in a Space Opera setting. However, while Humans Are Average is indeed a trope, it's a trope far more associated with fantasy than sci-fi (and even then, it's less "humans are boring" and more "humans are the baseline and everyone else has tradeoffs", with humanity almost always being the most widespread and common sapients). While there are stories out there where a sapient alien species is shown to be far superior to humanity in technology and/or morality, this is mostly confined to stories like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) where humanity's technology is only modern. In a Standard Sci Fi Setting, it's far more common for humanity to be at worst a peer power to other alien races, and more often a superpower, usually only being truly outclassed by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens or by an antagonistic threat that our human protagonists ultimately overcome. Humanity Is Superior and Humans Are Warriors are far more common in these settings—John W. Campbell famously turned down any story that didn't play the former straight.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Many political commentaries with a liberal or a left-wing bent portray caricatured conservatives who are mocked for believing in "trickle-down economics", even though "trickle-down economics" was never a real theory or policy—the closest thing to how it's most commonly described is called "supply-side economics" by its proponents, but even then, it isn't given quite the same reasoning. The earliest references to the concept of money "trickling down" originated from the liberal writer Will Rogers, who intended it from the beginning to be a nonsensical parody of right-wing views, and since then has only ever been used by various politicians as a vague pejorative to describe their opponents.
  • In the late 2000s, comedy acts frequently made fun of Sarah Palin over that time she supposedly said she could see Russia from her house. This quote actually originated from Tina Fey doing an impression of Palin in a Saturday Night Live skit. The skit was inspired by an actual interview where Palin claimed that there was territory in Alaska from which you can see Russia, which is true—the original mockery was just that Palin had used this as a proof of foreign policy credentials.