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Harsher in Hindsight
aka: Funny Aneurysm Moment

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"But that joke isn't funny anymore
It's too close to home
And it's too near the bone,
More than you'll ever know"
The Smiths, "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"

Harsher in Hindsight is a certain event, plotline, joke or saying where a later event (in the story or real life) comes up to make it worse. It can lead to episodes or issues being pulled or held from re-running if executives want it to be Distanced from Current Events.

This leads to a rather heartwrenching moment and makes some people feel uneasy when they view the event in the original work.

It is different from Does This Remind You of Anything?, which is for works released shortly after the tragic event, and where the similarity in the plot is intentional. Note, however, that there is usually a delay between the creation of a work and the day when it finally becomes available to the public, and sometimes a tragic event similar to a point from the plot takes place in the meantime. Sometimes the work is slightly modified to avoid this effect, but sometimes doing so would change it so much, or would demand so many resources, that the work is released anyway as it was initially conceived.

Compare Distanced from Current Events, Life Imitates Art, Cerebus Retcon (elements that were originally comedic or light-hearted are later deconstructed and played as tragic).

Note that if the event in question is something inevitable, such as an actor dying after having played a character who was killed off, that's not necessarily this. We all have to go at some point. It would only be this trope if the death was somehow similar to how they died onscreen. It is also possible that an actor portraying a sympathetic character turns out to be a heinous person in real life, but that is not enough to deem all of their scenes as harsher in hindsight; the moment in the work must be somehow related to their heinous actions then felt worse because of the scandal. And if a work references something that already was an issue back then, but "recently" became more relevant, such as police racism and brutality, contagious illnesses, or natural disasters, there needs to be specific details in common with the real life event for it to be worth listing here.

Contrast Hilarious in Hindsight, Heartwarming in Hindsight.

This trope usually relates to certain events and plot twists, so beware of unmarked spoilers!

Note: Examples can only be added once the event that makes them harsher has ended. In particular, anything related to a widespread disease, basic hygiene, hoarding of any kind, or something similar to social distancing doesn't inherently mean that there's a connection to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Please don't add examples of this nature.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • This work (warning, NSFW) by Boris Vallejo, painted in 1997, is supposed to depict the ruins of New York City a thousand years in the future (as Vallejo himself commented on after the 9/11 attacks), but the Twin Towers are still standing.

  • While the infamous Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx is often the source of laughs, it can also go the other way.
    • It can't be counted how many times SI features a cover of an athlete with talk of having a great season only for them to suffer a season (if not career) ending injury (sometimes when that very issue is still on the stands).
    • Obviously, any cover featuring O.J. Simpson as everything right about football has a much different meaning today.
    • The 1998 "Sportsman of the Year" issue featured Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, whose home run race had invigorated baseball, dressed like classic Greek Olympians. Today, both men are known to have been taking performance-enhancing drugs during their careers, tarnishing their legacy.
    • In late 2012, SI did a cover story on Notre Dame player Manti Te'o losing both his beloved grandmother and his long-time girlfriend in the same week. It led to a huge outpouring of support to Te'o and pushed his fame. Months later, it would be revealed Te'o's girlfriend never existed with him claiming he'd been "catfished," others believing he had made the whole thing up and the magazine among many with egg on their face.
    • In a 2014 60th anniversary issue, SI noted they had devoted nearly a dozen covers to Lance Armstrong, hailing his heroic recovery from cancer to win seven Tour de France races. This included naming him Sportsman of the Year 2002 Sportsman of the Year and how he was a great ambassador to sports. Thus, they were as rocked as everyone when in 2012, Armstrong confessed to having been taking PED's through his entire career, leading to him being stripped of all those victories, banned from cycling, and destroying his heroic image.
    • The 2020 Baseball Preview special hit newsstands and subscribers on the weekend of March 13...the same weekend the COVID-19 Pandemic caused mass shutdowns of the United States and curtailed the MLB season to a 60-game schedule.
    • The 2021 Olympic preview issue featured Simone Biles on the cover and speculating how many gold medals she'd win. While the issue was on the stands, Biles had to pull out of several events due to various health and mental issues (including her aunt dying) as well as intense public pressure.
  • For its February 1970 issue, the rock music magazine Circus had a front cover showing photos of numerous musicians along with the headline "These People Are Approaching 30 - Will They Survive the 70's?". Among the faces shown: Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. Joplin and Hendrix wouldn't even survive that year, while Morrison would be dead before '71 was half over.
  • The June 1993 Disney Adventures cover featured Michael Jackson carrying a delighted Pinocchio (his favorite Disney character, according to the magazine) on his shoulders. Two months later, Jackson was first accused of child molestation and in the years to come his Neverland Ranch would be compared to Pleasure Island, where young boys were free to play but had to pay a horrific price for their fun — including at his 2004-05 trial on a second set of charges. Similarly, all the "Pied Piper of Pop" accolades that flew around him in The '80s turned sour in the wake of the accusations, as people remembered what happened to the kids he enchanted. (A Cracked back cover in '93 spoofed this with Jackson as "The Pied Piper of Encino".)
  • Charb, cartoonist and editor in chief of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, published a drawing on January 7th, 2015 on the magazine's Twitter feed, titled "Still no terrorist attack in France", in which a terrorist said "[they] had until the end of January for the wishes." A few hours later, two Al-Qaeda members attacked the magazine's offices, with Charb being one of the 12 killed in the process.
  • MAD: In the "20 Dumbest People, Events, and Things" for 2008, Amy Winehouse's destructive behavior was listed at number 11. The end of the entry stated: "It makes us wonder if her next full-house appearance will be at a funeral home." About two-and-a-half years later, Winehouse was found dead in her London flat at age 27.
    • In 2019, the “Dumbest thing” of the year was the assumption that MAD would stop publishing new material completely after firing most of their staff. They insisted new issues would be a mix of first runs and reprints. Which was a 20-80 split. And only for a few more months.
  • The April 8, 2011 issue of Entertainment Weekly had an editor's note saying "we had a tough choice to make" in their covers: Either the planned story on "The Governator", a planned animated series that would be the first big project of Arnold Schwarzenegger since leaving the office of Governor of California or the death of Elizabeth Taylor. EW decided to have the main cover on "The Governator" and a "flip cover" on Taylor and her life. As soon as the issue hit, the reaction made it clear the vast majority of readers felt the passing of an iconic Hollywood and pop culture legend merited the cover more than a cartoon show that wouldn't air for at least a year. But just one month later, Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver, filed for divorce, revealing he'd fathered a child with their maid 14 years earlier. The resulting scandal ultimately canceled the cartoon show to make the cover choice far worse.
  • The July 20, 2012 issue of Entertainment Weekly had a cover about The Dark Knight Rises, calling it "Batman's Killer Finale". This became very unfortunate when a midnight screening for the movie was targeted by a shooter who killed 12 and injured many others.
  • The July 2020 issue of Empire magazine had a list of "50 Greatest Movie Heroes" which included Black Panther, ending the entry with "long may he reign." Three months later, Empire was doing a massive tribute issue following the shocking passing of Chadwick Boseman.
  • The November 2020 issue of Total Film magazine included an in-depth interview with Armie Hammer, including the opening line calling him a "warm and personable man" and gushing on his great career. A few months after the issue, Hammer would be embroiled in controversy over accusations of abuse over years among other dark stories, leading to a full criminal investigation that has damaged his career.
  • The last 2021 issue of People magazine, released on December 30th, had a cover story celebrating the 100th birthday of Betty White, who would be celebrating it on January 17th, 2022. White died on New Year's Eve, 2021 at the age of 99.
  • Naturally, any TV Guide cover featuring Bill Cosby comes off much worse today. Notably, in 2013, he was chosen to represent TV of the 1980s for covers marking TV Guide's 60th anniversary, less than a year before the horrific reports of his crimes came to light.
  • The October 2022 issue of Vanity Fair contained an article that previewed a book discussing how Prince Charles of Wales had his speech prepared for when he became King after the death of his mother. The very day the issue was published, Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96, with the newly crowned King Charles making that very speech the next day.
  • The March 2023 issue of Total Film included an interview with Hayden Panettiere that had her saying "I feel lucky every day, I feel blessed." Just a week before the issue was published, Panettiere's brother Jansen died of heart complications.
  • The cover of Newsweek magazine Jan 26, 1998 was Robin Williams, looking serious, holding a stethoscope to his own forehead, next to the caption "Are We All A Little Crazy?" It's supposed to be a joke, but Williams hung himself after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's, and the autopsy found Dementia with Lewy bodies (which is very similar). In short, he died with brain illness, and took his life with something that's shaped a lot like a stethoscope.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • The Four Gospels: Matthew 25:8-9 has become more disturbing from World War II to this day.
      8 The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'
      9 "'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.'
    • Book of Genesis: Genesis 8:7-12 talks about Noah's Ark during the time when the whole Earth is already submerged in floods. On August 7, 2012, much of Manila, Philippines was submerged in floods due to heavy monsoon rains.
    • Given the Bible's enormous length and scope, there is almost always a passage somewhere that brings contemporary events to mind — people see analogues to the Roman Empire in the European Union, to "the four horsemen" in Genghis, Subotai, Kublai and Ogedai Khan, etc.

  • In the Analyze Phish miniseries of podcasts on the Earwolf Radio Network, comedy writer Harris Wittels and Scott Aukerman attend a 2013 Phish concert in a final effort to get Aukerman to appreciate the band. Before the show, Wittels takes Aukerman around to various drug dealers who provide purportedly psychotropic substances to help get Aukerman in the zone. Through it all, the two comedy writers joke around and make light of Wittels' familiarity with drug culture. The episode did not get released until almost a year after it was recorded due to Wittels checking himself into rehab, and he died of a drug overdose in 2015.
  • Episode 32 of Hat Films' podcast Hat Chat was named after (and had a long segment related to) a Russian space experiment on the impact of zero-gravity on geckos having sex. During the segment, they joked the geckos would probably all die horribly. The satellite eventually returned with all occupants having frozen to death. This is perhaps Hilarious in Hindsight now that Smith owns three geckos.
  • In-story example from Hello from the Hallowoods. Watching Little Mikey get bullied is hard enough on its own, but then we find out two of the bullies picking on him for his "boyfriend" are together as adults, and at least one of them is still dealing deep-seated internalized homophobia. Relistening to the bullying scene becomes darker knowing it's not only coming from a place of self-hatred, but one that hasn't gone away after more than a decade.
  • In 2011, the podcast Lost in the Static did an episode about the Darknets, where at one point the uncomfortable topic of child pornography is broached, and co-host Scott Murray talks about a pedophile's stated motivation, and why it doesn't make any sense to a sane, rational person. A few years later...well...
  • Mom Can't Cook! Discusses this several times:
    • After spending all of the Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century episode joking about how they have no idea what the connotations of the film's expression "blow an O-ring" are, they note in the next episode that they got many emails telling them that the Challenger disaster was caused by a part called an O-ring failing. Both of them are baffled as to why Disney would add this very dark piece of slang into a kids' film (Zenon was adapted from a book, but "blow an O-ring" was a Disney original, so to speak), and seem to consider it an example of this trope. This is brought up in the decription for the episode on Zenon: The Zequel as well:
      Why do they keep saying "blow an O-ring", even though we all know what it means now?
    • When discussing First Kid, they bring up how the titular kid is just talking to and agreeing to meet up with strangers online, and his bodyguard's only concern is if he's told anyone his real identity.
    • The fact that Cadet Kelly was made and set in 2002, a year before the disastrous Second Gulf War, draws quite a bit of attention from the hosts, who assume all the characters were shipped off to Iraq the next year and suffered horribly.
  • My Brother, My Brother and Me:
    • One episode featured a brief bit involving a Robin Williams impersonation which ended in an implied suicide. This episode was released shortly before Williams's death by suicide. The podcast's creators expressed regret over this bit, and removed it from the version of the episode currently available on the show's feed.
    • Another episode had a bit where Travis jokingly suggested that Kevin Spacey was being forced to make terrible movies like Nine Lives (2016) because someone was using damaging information to blackmail him. The following year, Spacey was outed as a sexual predator who was accused of having harassed numerous young men, including Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp, who claims he was only 14 when Spacey tried to seduce him.
  • Like most podcasts produced through a network, Mystery Show ends some episodes with promos for the network (Gimlet Media in this case) and their other shows. Starlee gushing about her employers and their other projects can be uncomfortable considering their somewhat bitter separation after the first season.
  • RiffTrax:
    • During the commentary of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, either Mike Nelson or Kevin Murphy makes an offhand comment about Heath Ledger dying of a drug-related matter. Although this was released back in 2006 while he was still alive, anyone who's heard it after the unfortunate events of January 2008 when Ledger died of a sleeping pill overdose has to just cringe.
    • On the The Avengers (2012) commentary, when Loki grabbed Tony by the neck after talking about "performance issues", Mike Nelson said "Yes! Choke him before he goes full Robin Williams! Thank you". This was two years before Williams hanged himself.
  • The We Hate Movies podcast:
    • The Running Gag in their episode for She's All That is "Do not worry about Paul Walker!"
    • Their episode on Mrs. Doubtfire, recorded before Robin Williams' death, manages to avert this for the most part, given that they do praise Williams for being talented when he does more than just riff countless impressions, and mention that the fault lies more with the bad script and director Chris Columbus for not trying to rein him in. Nonetheless, some moments are... disquieting, to say the least.
    • In the Deep Impact episode (recorded before Williams' death), they suggest that he might have been one of the elite few selected by the government to survive the asteroid in one of the underground caves for "comic relief," with one of the guys groaning "Good Lord. I'd commit suicide if I was locked in a cave with Robin Williams."
    • In the The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day episode, the guys riff on Troy Duffy's feud with Harvey Weinstein and strongly side with Weinstein as the better person, saying that while Duffy is an arrogant hack who makes too many Gay Panic jokes, Weinstein is just a mean studio exec who makes great movies. Weinstein would, a few years later, be accused of a spree of sexual assaults and other crimes, making him even more of a pariah than Duffy.
  • The Worst Idea of All Time:
    • Jokingly invoked in the parody commentary for Batman & Robin, where, while in-character as director Joel Schumacher and writer Akiva Goldsman, the guys brought up the fact that R. Kelly contributed to the film's soundtrack. They jokingly noted that Kelly was still a respected and well-liked singer during the late 90s, and that all the disturbing details about his personal life and sexual misconduct made it difficult for the movie to secure a rerelease to celebrate its 20 year anniversary.
    • In the parody commentary for Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, Tim Batt jokingly claimed that Scott Baio has a close relationship with American law enforcement because he's been arrested so many times. The following year, former child actress Nicole Eggert alleged that Baio molested her on the set of Charles in Charge.

  • Murray Walker signed off the 1994 Pacific Grand Prix coverage by remarking how interesting the season was turning out, and told us to look forward to the next race at Imola where anything could happen. And how it did, as crashes claimed two lives and sent another pilot to the hospital.
    • On the Eurosport coverage of the 2nd qualifying session at Imola, the commentators were joined by one of the team mechanics. The subject of Barrichello's accident the day before was brought up, and the mechanic went into a long spiel of how safe Formula One is now and how the cars protect the drivers so well. Before he had the chance to finish what he was saying, Roland Ratzenberger's shattered car, complete with fatally injured driver, popped up onscreen.
    • 10 years before, Clive James narrated the official season review tape with his signature wit. After a start line shunt in which Nelson Piquet lost a wheel, narrowly missing Ayrton Senna's head, James remarked: "Luckily, the flying wheel did not kill Senna this time". What was a little remark in 1984 now sounds so different post-1994, as Senna's crash was fatal because his own wheel went flying and hit him head-on.
  • A famous boast by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was "I will never have a heart attack. I give them." Come 2010, it was time to receive.
  • The development of Nomex firesuits in the 1960s for race car drivers was brought on by the deaths of three drivers due to fire, and the lackluster protection drivers were offered at the time. The first driver to die was a NASCAR driver by the name of Edward Glenn Roberts Jr. His nickname? "Fireball Roberts!" He really should've picked a better nickname...
  • At the age of 25, college basketball legend "Pistol" Pete Maravich stated in an interview, "I don't want to play 10 years in the NBA and then die of a heart attack at 40." A leg injury necessitated his retiring from basketball after 10 seasons. And he died of a heart attack, at 40.
  • In a 2006 Toronto Star interview, then-Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Wade Belak was asked where he'd be in 5 years, and jokingly replied "Dead". Belak died of suicide 5 years later, in 2011, and the interview was reprinted
  • Eugene Robinson was a longtime free safety who joined the Atlanta Falcons in 1998 after having appeared in the previous two Super Bowls with the Green Bay Packers. The morning before the 1999 Super Bowl (the third consecutive he appeared in), Robinson, who had been outspoken about his Christian faith, received the Athletes in Action Bart Starr Award for outstanding Christian character. That night, Robinson got arrested for soliciting a prostitute who turned out to be an undercover cop. Robinson returned the award.
  • French-Canadian Formula One driver Gilles Villeneuve called the Belgian Zolder circuit "a good killer" in an interview in early 1982. (meaning it would be extremely tiring in the hard-sprung cars of the time). He was killed in a crash at that track later in the same year.
  • Jochen Rindt, upon winning the 1970 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, claimed that his car was so easy to drive that a monkey could have won the race. 2 races later and Rindt was dead, having crashed the very same car. Rindt was advised a year before he died by his manager (one Bernie Ecclestone); "If you want to win, join Lotus. If you want to live, join Brabham". He joined Lotus.
  • F1 journeyman Andrea de Cesaris had an unfortunate reputation for crashing often, gaining him the nickname Andrea de Crasheris. Funny at the time, but now takes on a different meaning after he was killed in a motorcycle accident near his home in 2014.
  • A columnist writing for the San Jose Mercury News joked in his October 17, 1989 column that, as the two teams contesting the World Series were from California (San Francisco and Oakland), an "earthquake could rip through the Bay Area before they sing the national anthem for Game 3". The Loma Prieta earthquake, the most intense earthquake in California for 35 years and in San Francisco for 80 years, struck at 5:04 pm that day... during the warm-up for Game 3.
  • Declan Sullivan, a Notre Dame student, had a job filming the school's football practice from a hydraulic scissors lift. On an extremely windy day, he tweeted, "Gusts of wind up to 60 mph. Well, today will be fun at work. I guess I've lived long enough." During work that day, the lift collapsed and he died.
  • "This is gonna be a spectacle. This is a great way to go out." - Dan Wheldon to ABC during pace laps of the final race of the 2011 IndyCar Series, commenting on the scale of the event and his shot at a $5,000,000 prize in Las Vegas. He would be killed from injuries sustained in a mass accident 11 laps into the race.
    • "You're on board with him, and one thing he was worried about going into this race was all the dirty air..." - the ABC commentator explaining to viewers that Dan Wheldon had expressed concerns about IndyCar's controversial decision to put 34 cars on a track designed for stock cars rather than open-wheelers, Wheldon specifically worrying about the high number of cars dirtying the air, making passing harder, bunching all those cars up and making a big crash more likely. The announcer is interrupted, however, when from Dan Wheldon's on-board camera we do indeed see a crowd of cars begin crashing ahead of him in the distance, just after Wheldon crosses the line to begin Lap 11. Cut to the wide overhead shot...
  • Greg Moore, injured in the paddock following an accident on his scooter the day before the final race of the 1999 CART season at Fontana, gave an interview to ESPN before getting into his car. The reporter handed back to the commentators with the words: "Greg's ready to fly today". Just under an hour later, Greg's car became airborne and hit a barrier. He was killed instantly.
  • Australian Rules Football: In 2013, Essendon's slogan was "Whatever it takes". Then news of the doping scandal broke.
  • In 2020, when the NBA announced new procedures for interviews with the media in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert jokingly touched every reporters microphone and recorders. Just two days later, Gobert ended up being diagnosed with COVID-19, and the rest of the NBA season was postponed.
  • Bradford City FC's nearly century-old home ground, Valley Parade, had become quite dilapidated by the middle part of The '80s, with creaky wooden stands and an accumulation of rubbish beneath the seats. While the club owners had promised to renovate the stadium, they'd dragged their feet, and the local county council sent them several pointed letters about the situation. One warned "A carelessly discarded cigarette could give rise to a fire risk." On the 11th of May in 1985, a massive, quick-moving blaze erupted in the stands at a match, killing 56 people. The investigation did indeed ultimately trace the start of the fire to a fan trying to stamp out a discarded cigarette in the stands.

    Theme Parks 
  • A popular joke on the Jungle Cruise has the skippers advising parents "Watch your children, or the crocodiles will". In June 2016, a two-year-old boy was dragged into a lagoon and drowned by an alligator near Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and the cruise skippers were told to never use the joke again.
  • The now-defunct Busch Gardens roller coaster Python initially had the tagline "I challenged the Python and lived!" Mere weeks after the ride opened, a 39-year-old heart patient died after riding it. The tagline was subsequently retired.
  • In Wondrous Journeys, Disneyland's nighttime spectacular for Disney's 100 Years of Wonder celebration, the last line of spoken dialogue has the narrator of the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh-inspired segment muse, "I, for one, predict that what comes next will be wondrous." From the perspective of the January 2023 premiere, what came next was underwhelming critical/audience reception for nearly every tentpole movie or TV show Disney released as part of the celebration, including the briefly-plugged Wish (2023).

Alternative Title(s): Unfunny Aneurysm Moment, Funny Aneurysm Moment