We at TV Tropes often find ourselves fascinated by the long and illustrious history behind the media and genres that houses all our favorite works. Just where did all of these creative enterprises come from, and how did the eternal march of technology and society bring us everything we know today? Which tropes came and went and stayed and changed with the times? To that end, we've compiled several Useful Notes on the histories behind these industries. These may not be the most in-depth guides out there, but we hope that they contain enough information to paint a comprehensive picture if these subjects fascinate you as well.
You'll notice there's something of a pattern to this histories. First, there's an early age as creators experiment with this newly-established field, then technological advancements kick-start a Golden Age as it makes its mark on the entertainment world. It doesn't take long for Moral Guardians to take notice, prompting a Censorship Bureau to demand heavy restrictions. More often than not, this leads to a Dark Age of homogenization that, while nostalgic for some, winds up imposing long-standing stigmas on both the field and its fandom. Naturally, creators strive to reinvigorate the Glory Days, ushering in a Renaissance that helps to shake off the prior doldrums and bring things Out of the Ghetto. Quite often, things end up going full-circle when Franchise Original Sin sets in, and the trends that breathed new life into the field start to sour. Eventually, things settle into a steady series of peaks and valleys for the various studios involved. Now in the time of The Internet and other innovations of the digital age taking off, the winds of change blow faster than ever, and we might even be on the heels of a new era. It's hard to come to a consensus on when exactly eras came and went, but its certainly interesting to see how:
See also our index in Hollywood History for the many historical ages and eras of Real Life. Our pages on The 20th Century serve as a point of reference for what was happening concurrently to most of what's detailed below and how it may have influenced all this.
Note: The page is meant to list off the pop-culture histories that are written about here on TV Tropes. If there is any such chronology you feel is missing from our coverage, we encourage any and all Tropers with an intimate knowledge of the subject to write up the needed article(s) and link them here.
Historical eras and events than span multiple corners of pop-culture
- The Japanese Invasion: The rapidly-growing influx and influence of Japanese media into American pop-culture, giving us video games, anime, The Magnificent Seven Samurai, and all the histories that come with it all.
- Korean Wave: Not long after, South Korea would follow suit with its own catelog of unique K-genres.
Histories of the various mediums and industries of the entertainment world
- History of Hollywood: The rise and evolution of the American film Industry:
- The Pre Hollywood Era: Filming technology is invented, and the first movies are produced. Thomas Edison's efforts to control what he deemed his industry led New York City filmmakers to move westward.
- The Silent Age of Hollywood: Los Angeles proves to be the perfect place for enterprising filmmakers to set up shop. Several high-profile studios and stars rise to prominence.
- Rise of the Talkies: The invention of synchronized sound marks a major shift in the industry, solidifying cinema's place in the entertainment world.
- The Pre-Code Era: This raw, uncensored era spanning the Talkies Age and the first few years of the Golden Age provides us with several iconic genres.
- The Golden Age of Hollywood: Tinseltown's unparalleled peak is both the best and worst of times for the industry; highly talented actors and directors deliver several all-time classics, but the unchallenged Studio System and The Hays Code lead to rampant Executive Meddling beneath all that glitz and glamour.
- The Hollywood Blacklist: Cold War-induced fear of Dirty Communists puts the film industry under heavy investigation, creating a very dark period of dog-eat-dog paranoia.
- French New Wave: The end of World War II allows an Archive Binge of American film into France's theaters, inspiring many authors and critics to try their hand and directing. The Auteur Theory is born.
- Fall of the Studio System: Two major Supreme Court cases, competition from television and foreign cinema, and major stars having enough of their restrictive contracts dismantles the institutions of Hollywood's dominance.
- New Hollywood: With the restrictions of the Golden Age gone, filmmakers young and old flex their Auteur Licence. Movies get Darker and Edgier, Bloodier and Gorier, and Hotter and Sexier before all that Protection from Editors collaspses in on itself in this Short-Lived, Big Impact era.
- The Blockbuster Age of Hollywood: The Summer Blockbuster, home video, multiplexes, and indie films usher in the industry's modern age. Key elements incluse adaptations, cinematic universes, and moichandising, moichandising, MOICHANDISING! The rise of digital distribution and internet streaming (and the COVID-19 Pandemic effectively necessitating these advancements) threatens to send theaters down the way of the arcade.
- History of Animation: The rise and evolution of Western Animation, Animated Films, and Web Animation.
- Early Animation: Long before cartoons as we know them existed, humankind has made many attempts to harness the Persistence of Vision through art and tools such as the Zoetrope, Magic Lantern Shows, and much, much more.
- The Silent Age of Animation: The medium of cartooning truly begins to take form. What we now recognize as the Inkblot Cartoon Style and Deranged Animation exist to make the most of this crude yet highly experimental era.
- The Golden Age of Animation: The advent of sound (and eventually color) brings the sputtering medium into its heyday. The ambitions of Walt Disney pushes animation to new heights and coins The Twelve Principles of Animation, while other studios break the mold with their takes on the Zany Cartoon.
- The Dark Age of Animation: Animation enters television, anime enters the scene, and the Saturday Morning Cartoon is born. Between Limited Animation becoming the norm and Moral Guardians bearing their claws, the Animation Age Ghetto stigmatizes the medium. It wasn't all bad, though; adult animation also got its start in this era.
- The Renaissance Age of Animation: After a wave of Merchandise-Driven shows causes a stir, several studios old and new make a concentrated effort to revitalize the medium with creator-driven, game-changing cartoons on both the silver and small screen. Dedicated cable channels start to make Saturday Morning Cartoon blocks obsolete.
- The Millennium Age of Animation: Modern technology and values reshape animation as it enters the 21st Century. Anime makes its way into mainstream, and trends come and go faster than ever before as the boundaries between creator and audience grow thinner.
- History of Video Games: The evolution of one of the youngest yet fastest-growing mediums we have.
- The Golden Age of Video Games: Specifically, it was the golden age for the Video Arcade. Nonetheless, it was when the medium first hit the big time.
- The Great Video Game Crash of 1983: The American home console market comes very close to dying as quickly as it came thank to Atari's mishandling of the nascent market. As for what saved it...
- The 8 Bit Era Of Console Video Games: Nintendo revitalizes the console market with a business strategy involving a Trojan Horse, a Killer App, and a console eventually housing several iconic 8-bit hits.
- The 16 Bit Era Of Console Video Games: Advancements in hardware and graphical capabilities allows genres new and old to hit their stride. Fierce new competition takes root, leading to the most iconic battle of the Console Wars.
- The Fifth Generation of Console Video Games: The advent of 32/64-bit consoles ushers in the Video Game 3D Leap. While many were ultimately unsuccessful as the industry struggled to adapt, several innovations in both game-play and storytelling were born. At this point in history the PC vs. Console balance is firmly on the side of consoles.
- The Sixth Generation of Console Video Games: Online gaming for consoles emerges, and Multi-Platform titles become commonplace. The big three contenders of the modern Console Wars are set in place, and the "hardcore" gamer demographic becomes a thing.
- The Seventh Generation of Console Video Games: The medium bursts Out of the Ghetto. High Definition, Casual Video Games, Exergaming, iOS Games, Western developers, Indie Games, older series Revisiting the Roots, and avant-garde narratives bring video games on par with (and potentially exceeding) movies as a force in entertainment. PCs make their comeback as the "good enough" gaming PC becomes cheaper.
- The Eighth Generation of Console Video Games: With the modern era fully established, companies and developers continue innovating. Microconsoles emerge, and Indie Games become a major presence in the industry.
- The Ninth Generation of Console Video Games: Hard to see. Always in motion is The Future.
Histories and historical events of the Music industry (could use expansion, please help)
- The British Invasion: Yanks with Tanks stationed overseas introduce Britain to the Blues and later Soul, ispiring undergood Liverpool clubs to try their hand at the sound, which makes its way into American mainstream. There would be later similar invasions of British Media into American pop-culture, but the first is considered the most important and iconic.
- History of Heavy Metal: A look at the long, sprawling history of The New Rock & Roll, Heavy Metal, and its diverse range of subgenres and their various squeedlies, meedlies, and jugga-jiggy-wuggas.
- New Wave of British Heavy Metal: The Short-Lived, Big Impact Genre Relaunch served as England's last hurrah as the genre's center.
- History of Punk: A look back on the antiestablishment underground genre of Punk Rock.
- The Golden Age of Hip Hop: A highly innovative, memorable, and Afrocentric turning point in the history of Hip-Hop.
Histories of other specific genres
- The Ages Of Super Hero Comics: The evolution of the Comic Book superhero, and to a certain extent, its movie adaptations.
- Proto-Superhero: Pulp Magazines create many iconic Heroes long before the modern imagery was established.
- The Golden Age of Comic Books: Action Comics #1 kickstarts the genre as we know it, evolving from its Pulp roots. Heroes were far-removed from the squeaky-clean role models they would since become, and Patriotic Fervor, wartime cartoons, and Values Dissonance abounds.
- The Interregnum: The end of World War II plunges the genre into an all-time low. The Comics Code is established.
- The Silver Age of Comic Books: Holy Genre Relaunch, Batman! Superheroes regain prominence in Lighter and Softer and Denser and Wackier form. Camp, Black-and-White Morality, Superdickery, the influence of The Space Race, and Narm Charm are the era's hallmarks.
- The Bronze Age of Comic Books: The Comics Code begins to loosen, and comics shake off most of the Silver Age's silliness. Captain Ethnics, Fad Supers, Very Special Episodes and iconic issue-spanning Story Arcs take form.
- The Iron Age of Comic Books: The current period of comics can be divided into two major sub-eras (or those two eras can be folded into a single super-age, depending on one's view). The Alternate Continuity rises so as to trim prior Continuity Snarls.
- The Dark Age of Comic Books: Maturity Is Serious Business + Gen-X cynicism = the zenith of grimdark. 'Twas the Dark Age of Supernames, Crisis Crossovers, Bad Girls, and of course, the '90s Anti-Hero.
- The Great Comics Crash of 1996: The comics market is glutted by gimmicky mint-condition Variant Cover holofoil collector's edition issues, leading to an economic bubble burst.
- The Modern Age of Comic Books: Mainstream recognition and influence pulls the genre into present times (although its considered too early too tell exactly where the borders lay). Expect lots of Armed with Canon reconstructions and Schedule Slip.
- History of Biker Media: The evolution of how the biker subculture appears in entertainment.
- Secret Origins: shellshocked veterans of World War II form motorcycle clubs to readjust to civilian life. The Hollister Riot (and the surrounding media circus), the Hells Angels, and The Wild One give rise to the Outlaw Biker.
- Exploitation Era: The Wild Angels kicks off a boom of "Bikerploitation" films in the midst of 60s counterculture and codifies modern biker iconography. The efforts of apologist Sonny Barger and the film Easy Rider codifies a more sympathetic and free-spirited image, but the disastrous Altamont Free Concert damages audience goodwill.
- Novelty Era: Audiences tire of biker movies, prompting a series of Genre Mashups to keep things fresh. Bikers become a staple of The Apunkalypse.
- Revisionist Era: Another effort to shake off the savage stigma begins, with key works being Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, Beyond the Law, and Full Throttle. Unfortunately, History Repeats when the Quebec Biker War breaks out and claims 150 lives.
- True Crime Era: A slow-burn revival of the genre has room for both good and evil depictions of Outlaw Bikers, with shows like Sons of Anarchy and video games like Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned pitting two such MC charters against each other.
- History of the Western RPG: The evolution of Western Role-Playing Games
- The Primordial Era of Western RPGs: Tabletop RPG nerds and computer geeks program the first Text Parser games.
- The Golden Age of Western RPGs: Several fondly-remembered games and studios revolutionize the genre with boundary-pushing innovations (although comparatively low production costs invoke Sturgeon's Law).
- The Dark Age of Western RPGs: The genre struggles to keep up with ever-increasing technological advancements (and budgetary demands), causing many duds and sequel gaps. That said, a few of today's big names managed to get their start during this time.
- The Silver Age of Western RPGs: The double-punch of Diablo and Fallout revitalize the market and established the genre's recognized conventions. The MMORPG sub-genre is born.
- The Bronze Age of Western RPGs: The genre gets a Big Budget Beef-Up as Multi-Platform titles developed by AAA studios becomes the industry standard, with all the polish and innovation that implies.
- The Western RPG Renaissance: Occurring within the Bronze Age is a comeback of mid-budget "B-Titles" and Immersive Sims tackled by developers old and new. Many titles are Kickstarter-funded Genre Throwbacks to the Golden and Silver Ages.
- The Modern Age of Western RPGs: AAA and Indie developers begin to cross-pollinate, and European devs throw their hats in the ring.