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Parody Displacement

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Above: A YouTube upload of the song "Jeopardy". Below: Weird Al's parody. Notice how the parody has almost four times the views.

"Spoof films used to be so good that they'd eclipse the movies they spoofed."

When a parody has become more popular than the property that it's a parody of, often to the point where those unfamiliar with the source material will believe that the parody is its own thing. Perhaps the original work loses cultural relevance while the parody has more staying power. Alternatively, the parody could appeal more to a different demographic through its humor or content.

Often, people who are only 'familiar' with a work through the parody are surprised when the subject of the parody turns out to be better than they thought.

Occasionally this can overlap with Ret-Canon, where aspects of it get associated with the original work, even if the parody is forgotten.

Related to the concept of a Forgotten Trope, except it is not tropes but works or personalities that have been forgotten. See also Adaptation Displacement, Pop-Cultural Osmosis, Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure, Older Than They Think, The Coconut Effect, Covered Up, Sampled Up, Revival by Commercialization. Contrast Shallow Parody, when lacking knowledge of the original work merely renders the parody meaningless.

Be careful: If the original still has a respectable pop culture presence, then claiming the parody is better known may tend toward Fan Myopia.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • The Energizer Bunny, mascot for the Energizer brand of batteries for over 20 years, was originally a parody of an ad campaign by rival Duracell, in which a small and cute bunny with a small drum powered by their battery would last longer than one powered by their chief rival — which in the commercial was Everlast to not name Energizer (owned by Eveready at the time) by name. (Energizer's ad was that its bunny, like its battery, was too large and impressive for Duracell's ad.) In part due to its effectiveness as a campaign and in part due to Duracell not keeping up with the trademarks, the original bunny is all but forgotten in North America (although still active in other continents). Duracell claimed that 40% of the audience thought they were still Duracell ads, but never really tried to back that up.
  • The phrase, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature" has been used and re-used so often (just as often as a parody as not), that it's approached the point where many people have no idea where it actually came from (for the record, it was from a 1970 commercial for a butter substitute called Chiffon).
    • Similarly, the phrase "that's-a spicy meatball-a" is used in a few places. It was originally from a fake ad for meatballs inside an Alka-Seltzer ad from 1969.
    • And again for a very distinct, hushed delivery of "We've secretly replaced somebody's 'X' with 'Y.' Let's see if they can tell the difference." Originally from a Seventies and Eighties ad campaign for Folger's Coffee Crystals, but the references to it have far outlasted the ads.
    • This is, in fact, pretty common with commercials. The endless repetition of them can easily create annoyance, which means writers and creators will see them as ripe for parody in their work, with the end result being the parodies can live on even when the ad campaign itself ends.
  • You know the funny-but-bizarre slogan from the software Winamp "It really whips the llama's ass!", right? They didn't make it up. Actually, it's a quote from one of many other bizarre songs by outsider artist Wesley Willis.
  • A 2013 Super Bowl ad set in a library, in which a whispered argument over Oreo cookies escalated into a brawl, prompted the creation of a sign proclaiming, "In light of recent events, NO OREOS will be allowed in the library." In the years since, this sign has frequently circulated on social media—shared by puzzled library-goers who have no idea what it's talking about.
  • Unless you're a pretty major film buff, chances are pretty good that you've heard of Segata Sanshiro long before you heard of the Akira Kurosawa film Sanshiro Sugata. By a similar count, the frequent Actor Allusions to Kamen Rider probably flew over the heads of most Westerners.
  • The song used in the Atari 2600 Mario Bros. commercial is actually a parody of the Expository Theme Tune for the 1961 TV series Car 54, Where Are You?.
  • The famous jingle from this Bagel Bites ad ("Pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at suppertime...") is actually a spoof of a real song, "Sugartime" by the McGuire Sisters.
  • This Nickelodeon UK advert featuring images of SpongeBob popping up all over London is actually a parody of the launch advert for T-Mobile in the UK, right down to the same music ("So Easy" by Royksopp). However, as comments on the SpongeBob ad can tell you, the connection is easily missed, especially by viewers from outside the UK.
  • In France, "Wazzup" became memetic... but only the Scary Movie parody of it, since the Bud ad never aired there.

  • Some quite famous or well known people from previous centuries are nowadays better known because they were painted or sculpted by world famous artists. So whenever, for instance, the Mona Lisa is parodied, most people aren't aware that she was an actual aristocratic 15th-16th century lady.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion and Martian Successor Nadesico are a Deconstruction and a parody, respectively, of the Humongous Mecha series of their day. Ten years later, who can remember their contemporaries?
  • Gunbuster was actually a parody of Aim for the Ace! a tennis manga and anime series; as well as Super Robot anime programs like Mazinger Z and Getter Robo.
  • Dragon Ball originally started as a parody of Journey to the West, which, while still popular in Asia, is more or less unknown in many countries Dragon Ball was released in except those that had Monkey on their TVs.
  • The speech "Sometimes I'm a..." is closely associated with Cutey Honey, so much so that the original source (Tarao Bannai) that Cutey Honey was parodying with that speech has been long forgotten.
  • Fandom example: At least on this wiki, it appears as if the use of the term "White Devil" in reference to Lyrical Nanoha protagonist Nanoha Takamachi has almost completely eclipsed its original use as a canon nickname for the RX-78 and/or Amuro Ray of Mobile Suit Gundam.
  • In the Western world, Naruto has completely overtaken terms and names like Fuuma Shuriken, (Kage) Bunshin, Kawarimi;note  a ninja called Sasuke;note  and a trio with the names of Tsunade, Orochimaru and Jiraiya with powers based on snails, snakes, and frogs, respectively.note 
  • Ouran High School Host Club is seen far more on its own merits rather than as the parody of shoujo romance tropes it was concieved as. The surface humor and well-developed characters serve to attract people who don't get the joke.
  • Sgt. Frog: The anime commonly includes Shout Outs to older works to entertain some of its older audiences, so naturally for many younger viewers, it's often the first they've ever heard of certain things. Lampshaded by the Dub, in which the narrator tells people to search for Space Sheriff Gavan on YouTube. Interestingly, that show actually was shown in America, but it's highly likely that most viewers never saw it.
  • The gaudy clothes, pencil-thin mustache, and uncommonly large overbite of Osomatsu-kun's Iyami is much more well known to Japanese audiences than Tony Tani, the vaudeville comedian who inspired him. Even his trademark "zansu" tic came from Tani's act.
  • A general example: The sheer amount of references to the Ultraman franchise in anime is staggering, ranging from blatant parodies of the entire franchise to extremely subtle nods to specific episodes of specific series, but most are rarely understood by non-Japanese viewers, especially since Ultraman is usually brushed off as "that low-budget Power Rangers ripoff" by many. A particular case of this is Neon Genesis Evangelion, which bears many resemblances to Ultraman, and whose creator, Hideaki Anno, is a massive enough fan of the franchise that he made his own fan film at one point.
  • Pretty Cure is used in many stock shout-outs to Magical Girls but the references fly over many international fans heads. In most countries, Pretty Cure has never had the same mainstream accessibility as Sailor Moon, or even anime like Tokyo Mew Mew, largely due to Late Export for You and No Export for You. Many English-speaking anime fans know of Pretty Cure parodies more than they know the actual Pretty Cure characters.
  • While Anpanman is very popular in Asian countries, in the West most people are familiar with One-Punch Man, a parody work inspired in said character.

    Fan Works 
  • While "Stronger Than You" is the Signature Song of Steven Universe and is quite popular, a large number of people think of it as an Undertale song due to a fanmade parody of it sung by Sans during his boss fight. If you search the song on YouTube, more Undertale versions appear than Steven Universe videos and various Undertale versions have more views than the Garnet version. There are even several "Stronger Than You" parodies which are based on the Undertale version, with the original's focus on how love is stronger than hate lost in favor of particularly mean-spirited jabs (the original not containing anything much harsher than "I think you're just mad 'cause you're single") and/or a battle to the death (while there was always fighting involved, it wasn't to the death in the original), more akin to the Sans version. That said, it's difficult to tell how many people really believe that the Undertale version came first, and how many are just playing along and/or trolling Steven Universe fans.
  • Lullaby for a Princess is well-known amongst bronies but, because it is a fandom-centric Filk Song, it's prone to this when parodies. For example, many Warriors fans know of Lullaby For A Warrior, a version about Bluestar and her sister Snowfur, before the original.
  • "Ready As I'll Ever Be" is Tangled: The Series' Signature Song but it's most popular with amateur animators. As a result, many people learn of it from animatics without realizing it's from a Disney cartoon.
  • Many fans of Homestuck do not know the words to "Fergalicious", but do know all the words to its fanmade parody "Karkalicious".
  • MF 217 adopted a serious take on the R-1000 enemies from Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, which are depicted as liquid metal Velociraptors who are vulnerable to being frozen and smashed to bits. MF217 had known about these enemies for at least a decade and a half prior to him learning about the T-1000, from whom the R-1000s were meant to be a parody of due to both being cybernetic creatures composed of liquid metal physical structures.
  • Bowsette originated from a comic parodying Peachette, a Toadette-exclusive power-up form from New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. Bowsette's popularity was such that she and other fan characters based on her were directly referenced in the Neptunia series, with no mention of Peachette.

    Films — Animation 
  • Of course, Genie's impressions in Aladdin were always meant as a Parental Bonus, but some are getting obscure even for the adults, at least the ones who weren't already adults in the 1990s. You know when Genie says there are provisos and quid pro quos? That's an impression of William F. Buckley Jr., whom you're unlikely to be familiar with if you're either not American or not old enough to remember the Reagan administration.
  • Dumbo's name is based on the legendary circus elephant Jumbo, something not many people nowadays remember or know (his proper name is given as Jumbo Jr., while "Dumbo" is a mean nickname given to him by the other elephants).
  • In Rockadoodle, Pinky is to Colonel Tom Parker what Chanticleer is to Elvis Presley. Young kids who grew up in the 90's probably knew who Elvis was, but the Colonel, not so much. The name/character of Chanticleer himself is from one of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, who took it from the body of folk tales about him and Reynard the fox. But you would have to be a medievalist to make that connection.
  • Many young viewers watching the Shrek movies will not realize that Puss in Boots is an Affectionate Parody of the titular character from The Mask of Zorro, even being played by the same actor. This applies both to when Shrek 2 was released, as it came out six years after Zorro, and to the present day, where the Shrek fandom is still very active despite no new releases in years, while the Zorro franchise hasn't been in the limelight for some time. Because of this effect, it can be humorous when fans of the film grow up and realize that Puss, who has become an iconic character in his own right, is so heavily inspired by another classic character.
  • While older audiences and rock fans likely know of the song, the target audience for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie typically know of "Goofy-Goober Rock" before the original 1980s song "I Wanna Rock" by Twisted Sister. This extends to fans who were kids at the time of release but are now adults.
  • The Furious Five from Kung Fu Panda were named after the band Grand Master Flash And The Furious Five. Most fans of the franchise have no idea that the name is even meant to be a Shout-Out.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The 1980s Anime series Jushin Liger is likely known in the West because the Japanese wrestler Jushin Thunder Liger based his gimmick on it, even using the show's theme song as his entrance music.
  • Sting's famous gothic-themed gimmick, first unveiled in 1996, was originally very heavily inspired by The Crow and its popular 1994 film adaptation (hence why the persona is often called "Crow Sting" by longtime fans). While The Crow is decently popular, and the 1994 movie has a respectable cult following, they're nowhere near the bona fide cultural icon that Sting was at the height of his fame.

  • Many of the radio parodies Bob & Ray did. Perhaps the most durable example was their spoofing the then-hit Soap Opera Mary Noble, Backstage Wife as "Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife". The former was a deadly-earnest story of an 'ordinary woman' married to a matinee idol; the latter... culminated, around 1970, in Mary and her family leaving showbiz altogether to open a toast-themed restaurant. The series having earlier openly mocked Senator Joseph McCarthy at the height of the Army hearings. It is still one of B&R's best-known skits.
  • I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: "The antidote to panel games" was born from the creative minds behind I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again and conceived as an unscripted parody of panel shows. Clue has been on the air for over 40 years now and is better known than the shows it parodies, as well as itself becoming not so much an antidote but a template for the next generation of panel games.
    • The "mystery voice" who provides answers for the listeners at home is a reference to "Twenty Questions", a venerable old panel game which was still running when Clue' made its debut. Everybody would have got the reference in 1972; not so much nowadays.
  • A lot of 1930s and 1940s American radio shows are totally forgotten nowadays, but live on as punchlines in Looney Tunes and Tex Avery cartoons. The funny thing about it is that even back in the day these jokes were completely incomprehensible to people outside the USA or people who didn't listen to the radio. Modern audiences nowadays will probably be amazed how many of these recurring catch phrases and punch lines actually originate from radio shows, movies and even commercial jingles:
    • "Turn off that light!" (reference to air raid wardens during World War II)
    • "Was this/that trip really necessary?" (reference to a slogan used to encourage people not to take unnecessary trips to free up gas and rubber for the war effort and to free up space on trains to ferry troops to their duty locations. )
    • "It's a possibility!" (reference to Artie Auerbach's catchphrase as Mr. Kitzle during Al Pearce's radio shows)
      • "Nobody home, I hope, I hope, I hope" - Al Pearce
    • "That ain't the way I heard it!" (reference to The Old Timer character from the radio series Fibber McGee and Molly)
      • "'T ain't funny, McGee!" – Molly's frequent line in Fibber McGee and Molly)
      • "I love that man!" - (reference to the character Beulah (Marlin Hurt) on Fibber McGee and Molly.)
      • "Operator, give me number 32O.. ooh, is that you, Myrt? How's every little thing, Myrt? What say, Myrt?" - (reference to the character Fibber, whenever he made a phone call to a certain Myrt in Fibber McGee and Molly. )
      • "Well now, I wouldn't say THAT!" - (reference to the character Peavey (Richard Le Grand) in the radioshow The Great Gildersleeve)
    • "Don't you believe it!" was the title of a 1947 radio show in which popular legends, myths or old wives' tales were debunked.
    • "Aha! Something new has been added!" and "So round, so firm, so fully-packed. So free and easy on the draw." (reference to Lucky Strike cigarettes)
    • "B.OOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" from a commercial for Lifebuoy soap against B.O. (body odor)
    • "Ain't I a stinker?" (Lou Costello from Abbott and Costello)
      • "I'm only three and a half years old!" - From a character named Martha (Billy Gray) on the Abbott & Costello radio show.
    • "Ah, yes! (Insert statement here), isn't it?", "Yehudi?", "Don't work, do they?" and "Greetings, Gate! Lets osculate!" (Jerry Colonna, sidekick on Bob Hope's radio show.)
    • "I dood it!", "He don't know me very well, do he?" and "You bwoke my widdle arm!" – Red Skelton's radio comedy character Junior, aka Mean Widdle Kid
    • "Of course you realize this means war!" (Groucho Marx)
    • "Ain't I a devil?" - Ralph Edwards in Truth or Consequences.
    • "Which way did he go, George? Which way did he go?" and "I'm going to hug him and pet him and hug him and pet him..." (reference to John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men)
    • Several dimwitted characters were based on Mortimer Snerd, a puppet character by puppeteer Edgar Bergen, created in 1938.
    • "Henry! Heeeeeeeeeeen-RY!" "Coming, Mother!" (reference to The Aldrich Family, a radio sitcom)
    • The NBC Chime
    • "Monkeys is the cwaziest peoples." - A catch phrase from Lew Lehr. In parody the word "monkeys" was often replaced by other animals or people.
    • "Ah say! I'm from the South, son!", "That's a joke, son!", "Pay attention now, boy!" - Kenny Delmar as Senator Claghorn in "The Fred Allen Show". The Looney Tunes character Foghorn Leghorn was entirely based on this radio personality.
    • "See?" - A verbal tic actor Edward G. Robinson used. When characters in Looney Tunes use it, it's usually in a police or gangster context.
    • "I'll moida da bum." - A reference to boxer Tony Galento.
    • "I have a problem, Mr. Anthony!" - Reference to John J. Anthony, who presented the daily radio advice program "The Goodwill Hour".
    • "Train leaving on Track 5 for Anaheim, Azusa and Cuuuu-ca-mon-gaaa!" - Mel Blanc usually said this, quoting a character he played on "The Jack Benny Show".
    • "Come with me to the casbah" - Reference to Charles Boyer as Pépé le Moko in the 1937 film Algiers. Interesting detail: the line was prominent in the trailer, but not in the movie itself.
  • The signature station ident of the BBC World Service for decades until 2008 was a jolly tune, dating from the late 17th century, called Lilliburlero. People not familiar with the music of Restoration England tended to wonder why Britain's English-language service to the world uses an up-tempo version of the nursery rhyme Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top/When the wind blows, the cradle will rock... as its theme tune.
  • Baba Booey, the nickname of Howard Stern's producer Gary Dell'Abate, is probably more well known than whose name it was a mispronunciation of - Quick Draw McGraw's sidekick Baba Looey.
    • Double Inversion, as Baba Booey is so commonly screamed after a golf swing on TV that some think it is just something you scream when golfing.
  • The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy, in its various incarnations, is much better known these days than The Hitch-Hikers' Guide to Europe, the real travel book that inspired it.
  • Many episodes of the 80s comedy Radio Active are parodies of specific and now long-forgotten shows, though if (as is highly likely) you don't know the original shows, they still work as send-ups of a general type of programme.

  • Many AFL clubs' theme songs are better known to Australians (at least in AFL states) than the songs they are based on. Even where those based on songs that are still widely known (Adelaide: the "Marines' Hymn" (as in the US Marines); Brisbane: "La Marseillaise"; Geelong: Song of the Toreador from Carmen; Hawthorn: "Yankee Doodle Dandy"; St Kilda: "When the Saints Go Marching In"), people are more likely to be familiar with the club song lyrics, while once-popular songs used by other clubs (Carlton: "Lily of Laguna"; Collingwood: "Goodbye Dolly Gray"; Essendon: "Keep Your Sunny Side Up"; Melbourne: "Grand Old Flag" (which is very well-known in America); North Melbourne: "Wee Doch an Dorus"; Richmond: "Row, Row, Row" (not to be confused with "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"); Sydney: "Victory March" (the University of Notre Dame fight song); Western Bulldogs: "Sons of the Sea") are now known almost exclusively as the club songs. Here are some of the original versions.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Brian Posehn, a Weird Al fan, brings this trope up while talking about how he is unsure of the proper way to introduce Weird Al's music to his kids.
    Brian: Should I make him listen to the original song first, and then go "Okay, here's Weird Al's parody of it"? Or should I pretend they're all completely original songs? That would be easier, but it might mess him up a bit, like when he's 16 and at some party and Michael Jackson starts playing, and he goes "Wait a minute! What the hell is this?! 'Beat It'?! Well it sure sounds a hell of a lot like 'Eat It'! Somebody needs to get sued."

  • Hardly anyone realises that the willow song in The Mikado was actually a parody of the song Desdemona sings in Othello.
    • Which itself was a well-known tune at the time, a fact that is lampshaded in the play when Desdemona accidentally starts singing the wrong verse and catches herself.
    • Ruddigore is mostly a parody of a kind of melodrama no one watches anymore.
  • The famous quote from Twelfth Night, "some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em" is a parody of Matthew 19:12: "For there are some eunuchs, which were so borne of their mothers belly: and there be some eunuchs, which be gelded by men: and there be some eunuchs, which have gelded themselves for the kingdom of Heaven." (From the Geneva Bible, a modernized version of the translation Shakespeare would be most likely to have read, omitting the annotations telling to take it metaphorically.) Between the Squick of this verse and Shakespeare's importance, the first quote has become far more familiar than the second.
    • And many people associate it with Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (his version substituting "mediocre" and "mediocrity" for "great" and "greatness" respectively) rather than Shakespeare.
  • A few Shakespeare scholars suspect that this effect accounts for a lot of puzzling things the Bard wrote. Several parts of his early comedies and later romances (the ending of Two Gentlemen of Verona, Posthumus' notorious vision in Cymbeline, most of Titus Andronicus, etc.) are not just generally deemed bad ... they're bad in bizarre, far-out-in-left-field ways that have left centuries of readers stumped as to what Shakespeare even thought he was doing. However, these scholars argue, many of these plays fall into focus if we picture Shakespeare writing them as merciless parodies of other popular Elizabethan plays, which are now lost to history.
  • It cuts both ways. Many people have searched the Bible in vain for the line "The devil can cite Scripture for his own purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a smiling cheek." not realising the provenance is Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice, Act One, Scene Three. Shakespeare is referencing something that actually happens in the Bible, at least (the Temptation in the Desert, which appears in three Gospels).
  • "Whatever Lola Wants" has been used in so many commercials like this one for Levis Jeans: (NSFW) [1] that many people don't know that it was used in the musical Damn Yankees.
  • Everyone remembers Harry Houdini, but the man whose name he stole as his pseudonym, magician Jean-Baptiste Houdin, is nowadays very obscure.
  • Indeed, the parody sometimes outlives the original, as many of the plays by famous Greek tragedians which were made a mockery of in Aristophanes's plays are now lost.
    • Aristophanes was also parodying and making satirical references to comedy works by his rivals, such as Eupolis and Cratinus. He is the only writer of Old Comedy whose works survive to the present day, and we know little about his contemporaries.
    • Some of the politicians and generals satirized by Aristophanes suffered the same fate. Lamachus was a real-life general of the Peloponnesian War, and was killed in combat (along with most of his unit) in 415 BCE. But he is mostly remembered because he is the antagonist in The Acharnians, one of the most famous among Aristophanes' surviving works. Cleonymus of Athens was a real-life general and politician, who reportedly threw away his shield during a battle and run for his life. Aristophanes often mocked him for his cowardice. More that 2000 years later, most people (including scholars) know Cleonymus due to Aristophanes' jokes about him, rather than anything he did in life.
  • A number of scenes in works by Euripides seem to satirize or point at plot holes in the older works of Aeschylus. Modern readers often have to read annotations to get the references.

    Video Games 
  • My Singing Monsters: Shugabush Island has become more popular than the song it is based upon, "Love or Money" by Sugarland.
  • Metal Gear's Solid Snake (and to a lesser extent, his predecessors Naked Snake and Venom Snake) has become a more popular character than Snake Plissken, the character he was originally a pastiche of.
  • Duke Nukem was not the first guy to make a One-Liner regarding the kicking of asses and the chewing of gum. In general, a lot of lines thought of as Duke Nukem lines came from various 80s and 90s action films, most notably Army of Darkness.
  • Dan Hibiki from Street Fighter Alpha (and following Street Fighter games) was a parody of the two main characters from Art of Fighting: Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia. This was a result of the original Street Fighter designers jumping ship to SNK and helping create Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. Suffice it to say, Capcom was not happy, and the two companies shared a deep rivalry throughout the 90s. However, Street Fighter is much better-known in North America than The King of Fighters and has moved much further into the mainstream due to several separate factors, so it is not uncommon for an American fan of the series to not know that Dan is a parody of anyone specific, or to assume that he is just a parody of Ryu and Ken.
  • While it is very well known in Japan, not many Western fans of Touhou know that the title of the "Marisa stole the precious thing" meme is a parody of a line by Inspector Zenigata from The Castle of Cagliostro. Possibly because the original line was translated differently in official Lupin material, with the wording of "He (Lupin III) stole something outrageous — your heart."
  • Sure that Stop Motion animation from the Cuphead trailer for PS4 looks kind of creepy, too bad almost no one knows that this is an Affectionate Parody of the stop motion animations from The Golden Age of Animation such as Puppetoons. Cuphead, in general, can yield quite a lot of this trope, especially among people without exposure to Golden Age of animation cartoons. While some parodies are more obvious than others (such as the titular character being partially an expy of Mickey Mouse), many of the cartoons Cuphead references throughout the game are completely obscure for modern audiences.
  • Most people today will probably be more familiar with Morrowind, an area in The Elder Scrolls, than they will be with Morrowindl, an area in The Heritage of Shannara that it was likely named after.
  • In the memetic exchange between Richter Belmont and Dracula from the Castlevania: Symphony of the Night localization, the line "What is a man!? A miserable little pile of secrets!" is actually a quote from the preface of André Malraux's Antimémoires.
  • The Koopalings from the Super Mario series are all named after many long-forgotten 80s personalities, like Morton Downey Jr. and Wendy O. Williams. And, in one case, a classical composer. The tie-in book Dinosaur Dilemma did something similar with a bunch of officials named after real people whose last names were "Cooper" or "Koop" that the target audience probably never heard of, like C. Everett Koopa.
  • Dr. Slump was one of the most popular Anime & Manga of its era in Japan, but it had has had little to no exposure outside of Japan. Early games in the Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog contain quite a few nods to Dr. Slump (such as Mario running with his arms raised by his sides and wearing a winged cap in Super Mario 64, and Sonic peeking out of a star-studded bannered ring on the title screens of his first two games) that Westerners have come to consider original to those franchises.
  • Shulk's "Now it's Shulk time!" quote in the 3DS and Wii U editions of Super Smash Bros. is a reference to the character Reyn from Shulk's home game, Xenoblade Chronicles 1. Reyn would frequently say, "Now it's Reyn time!" during battle, and the line became a common in-joke among players. Because the Smash Bros. series is much more mainstream than any of the Xenoblade Chronicles games (the original Wii release and 3DS re-release of Shulk's game sold a combined 1.5 million compared to Smash 4's collective 15 million), Shulk's version of the line has become much more well-known among the general gaming audience.
  • Undertale:
    • Sans and Papyrus, a pair of skeleton brothers, are a parody of a webcomic called Helvetica and its eponymous skeleton protagonist. The joke was that Helvetica is a font that is beloved by typeface aficionados, while (Comic) Sans and Papyrus are fonts that are widely derided. But Undertale became far more popular than Helvetica, and Sans and Papyrus are two of the most popular characters in the game, to the extent that even people who have never played the game know about them.
    • The line "you're gonna have a bad time" was a preexisting meme from South Park.
    • According to Twitter, kids who grew up after the 2000s don't know about Tokyo Mew Mew and believed that Mad Mew Mew was an original concept.
  • The "here lies andy. peperony and chease" tombstone joke from The Oregon Trail is a reference to this '90s Tombstone Pizza ad.
  • beatmania: The song "Bloomin' feeling" is known as the "Jack Black Octagon Remix" due to a Voice Clip Song of Jack Black's appearance on Sesame Street, seen here, which isn't even the original upload.
  • Tokimeki Memorial has so many parodies, pastiches, and satire due to it being the Trope Codifier of Dating Sims, but due to its No Export for You status, many people outside of Japan have only seen those parodies without ever knowing what it was they were parodying. The dating sim genre, in general, gets this a lot to the point where certain modern dating sims are confused for a parody, a Stealth Parody, or even a Deconstruction, when they're actually straight takes on the genre just with an unorthodox cast (Hatoful Boyfriend being a notable example).
  • Hat Kid's "smug dance" in A Hat in Time is based on a similar animation from Animal Crossing, with the "Peace and Tranquility" screen that prominently features it being a direct reference to this video. However, the dance became so heavily associated with Hat Kid that when another game, Blue Fire, included it as an unlockable emote it namedropped her specifically.
  • Neco Arc of Nasuverse fame is a goofy joke catgirl version of the relatively serious Arcueid Brunestud, one of the main characters of Tsukihime and its fighting game spinoff, Melty Blood. Neco Arc is a tiny gremlin-like catgirl creature compared to regular Arcueid and her moves are basically as comedic a take on Arcueid's as you can get. It was around late 2021 that Neco Arc suddenly exploded in popularity not just among Nasuverse fans but video game fans and memers in general, and before long, Neco Arc started popping up everywhere. It got to the point that, true to this trope, memes now exist that consider Arcueid to be Neco Arc's alternate "humansona" or generally referring to her as "human Neco Arc" (she's a vampire but still). It is rather hard to tell whether the memes are just memes or if some people really do consider Neco Arc the original and Arcueid the spinoff.
  • Treasure Master is a fairly old NES game that would've faded into obscurity if not for the "Nihilism: Stereotype vs. Reality" meme that, for humor, re-characterized the Totally Radical kid on the boxart as The Anti-Nihilist and compared him to a Straw Nihilist. While the meme is rather popular, Treasure Master itself is barely talked about regarding it.

  • MS Paint Adventures:
  • This strip of Luke Surl Comics points out how knowledge of classic literature is gained not from reading it but from seeing it referenced in cartoons.
  • One Shortpacked! comic mocked a Batman figure from the Justice League toyline that, for some reason, had a helmet that didn't cover the top of his head. It claimed that this is because "I'm Batman, and I can breathe in space." Due to being an inherently funny line, it caught on among Batman's Memetic Badass following, and even named a trope. Many people don't even realize it's talking about a specific action figure, and the figure in question is long forgotten even among toy collectors (it's a rather generic Environment-Specific Action Figure in a line full of them).
  • Brian Clevinger's 8-Bit Theater has had this effect on the original Final Fantasy. Many of the concepts featured in the comic (the White Mage being female, the Black Mage being non-human, the Fighter being an Idiot Hero, etc.) are either totally invented by it, or are references to/parodies of longstanding Final Fantasy Fanon and memes, but many people assume them to be canon to FF1 even though they're really not. A lot of this can be blamed on the fact that FF1 is both a very old game (one that younger readers are less likely to be familiar with) and a very bare-bones one compared to later entries in the series; Clevinger wasn't twisting the personalities of the characters for humor, he was inventing personalities for them where they had none before.
    • Even among people who do remember the original Final Fantasy, or at least know about it through various spinoffs and tie-ins, some characters are still better-remembered as their Clevinger versions. Characters like Sarda or the unnamed king of Corneria have little dialogue and even less discernible personality in the original game, and their role in the plot is just to give you an item or open up another part of the world. They became major recurring figures in 8-Bit Theater, and consequently, when you say, for example, "Sarda" to someone, they're much more likely to think of the Clevinger version.

    Web Original 
  • There was a popular AMV called "Euphoria". It combined the song "Must Be Dreaming" with the anime RahXephon. Rather better-known these days is a parody from AMV Hell 3: "Osaka Must Be Dreaming" (same visual effects, same song, but with clips of Osaka).
  • Atop the Fourth Wall:
    • Linkara's catchphrase "I am a man!" followed with a punch is actually a reference to infamous comic Superman: At Earth's End, one of the first titles he reviewed.
    • Another phrase of his, "It's magic, I don't have to explain it." is a reference to Joe Quesada's disliked explanation for One More Day.
    • Inverted whenever '90s Kid appears. Many people assume that's Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" playing in the background, but Lovhaug actually uses the Weird Al parody "Smells Like Nirvana."
  • Speaking of Channel Awesome, how many people do you suppose get Doug's repeated references to the TV show One Step Beyond (1959)? Most people are far likelier to have heard of The Nostalgia Critic and therefore assume the catch phrase originated with him.
  • The Biting Pear of Salamanca, also known as the LOLWUT Pear.
  • There's a CollegeHumor video in which someone tells a story of Amir ordering "Gangsta's Paradise" on karaoke only to sing "Amish Paradise." The owner of the bar later said that they actually had "Amish Paradise" in the machine.
  • The Kitsune^2 song, Avast Your Ass is a popular song for remixes. One such remix, Avast Fluttershy's Ass (or whatever title the author has changed it to by now) is more often searched for than the original, and has over twice as many views. The fact that it's about Fluttershy is most likely a huge contributing factor to this.
  • One case that somewhat depends on whether you're a bigger fan of hip-hop, or Game of Thrones. If the latter, you're likely more familiar with Backflip Wilson's version of Black and Yellow than the original.
    • Green and Purple by Kritikal is so wide-spread by Internet memes, most don't know it's a parody. It's popularity is mostly from the titular colors, rather than the subject of smoking marijuana. And in an even stranger version of this, this Team Fortress 2 music video has almost double the views than the song on Kritikal's official YouTube channel (the former video).
  • Quite a few people are only familiar with the relatively obscure anime Irresponsible Captain Tylor because the Empress Azalyn character is the Author Avatar of YouTube Pooper RootNegativeSixteen.
  • Weiss Reacts was actually an Affectionate Parody of an older, moderately well-known fic the author happened to like based on a similar premise about the characters of RWBY reacting to fanfiction. Nowadays, the former fic is so famous and well-known that the latter was actually called a rip-off of Weiss Reacts, even though it came first. The authors of both fic take it in stride, as the latter fic, Dear Fanfiction is actually featured in the former.
  • In a bizarre case of the parody artist himself getting this treatment, very few fans of NintendoCapriSun are aware his catchphrase "IN THE BATHROOM" comes from a "Weird Al" Yankovic song. ("A Complicated Song", to be exact.)
  • Many younger fans of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic tend to believe that Luna's song in "Children Of The Night (Duo Cartoonist)" is an original song rather than being from Hocus Pocus. Complicating things is the fact that "Children" uses original lyrics not featured in the original movie that were added years after Hocus Pocus' release in a fanmade cover of the song.
  • One comment in the comment section of the obscure song The Midnight Tango by Herb Alpert said it better.
    That moment when a parody involving a dog barking the melody has more views than the original.
  • Mike Stoklasa of RedLetterMedia based the character of Mr. Plinkett on a character in one of his earlier films, where Plinkett was played by Rich Evans. The Plinkett reviews have proven so explosively popular that Stoklasa's version of the character has far eclipsed Evans's, to the point that Evans's reprising of the role for Half in the Bag was mostly met with They Changed It, Now It Sucks! - even RLM has come to call Evans's version "Fake Plinkett."
  • The Twitter parody account @seinfeldToday got very popular in 2014-2015 sharing imaginary Seinfeld plots based around modern technology, and was widely criticised for being lame and uninspired (including by Larry David). One of its critics started a parody account of the parody account, @seinfeld2000, which contained dreadful spelling and grammar, surreal and horrifying plotlines, and very well-produced parody Mashup videos and music. @seinfeld2000 has outlived @seinfeldToday and made Seinfeld a popular meme.
  • These days, it's nearly impossible to find references to the original 4 Non Blondes song "What's Up?". It has been almost entirely supplanted by the He-Man parody remix, "HEHEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA" (part of a larger parody, "Fabulous Secret Powers, by Slackcircus created in 2005).
  • In one of The Reacts Channel regular segments "Do Teens Know 90s Music", Gangster's Paradise was played. At least one teen recognized it as "The song Weird Al parodied". He couldn't actually name the song beyond that.
  • In a case of a work doing this to itself, memetic Homestar Runner song "Trogdor" features the line "And the Trogdor comes in the NIIIIIGHT!", a Call-Back to the Strong Bad Email "guitar", where Strong Bad improvised a song that included the line "And the dragon comes in the NIIIIIGHT!" As "guitar" is a fairly early email that's on the obscure side, and the Trogdor theme is popular even outside the site, chances are very likely anyone who heard the original heard the Call-Back first.
  • There are quite a few people who have never heard of Dr. Dre's "What's the Difference" before hearing the Bill Cosby Pokémon rap using that song's background music and audio samples of Cosby from The Simpsons and Family Guy.
  • Those who saw the viral video "She Blocked Me" from Albino Blacksheep may be hard-pressed to find that it's a parody of the lesser-known song "She Hates Me" by Puddle of Mudd.
  • In 1953, German playwright Max Frisch published Biedermann und die Brandstifter (or The Arsonists in English), a stage play about a pair of psychotic arsonists who pose as simple traveling salesmen, and use their charm and wit to persuade a perfectly ordinary man to help them in their arson spree; written when Adolf Hitler's rise to power was still in recent memory, Frisch intended the fire as a metaphor for fascism, and used the play to demonstrate how otherwise good people can be taken in by evil. If you're below a certain age, though, you're probably more likely to know the Philosophy Tube episode that was inspired by the play (and the subsequent episodes where "The Arsonist" became a recurring character).
  • Happened to "Weird Al" Yankovic on This Very Wiki. Most tropers may be more familiar with the tropes named after the song "White & Nerdy", (Asian and Nerdy, Black and Nerdy, and Jewish and Nerdy) than the song itself.
  • CaptainSparklez's "Revenge" Minecraft Parody of Usher's DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love. For a while it had more views that the official upload of the original. Despite Executive Meddling from Usher's label taking the video down and forcing Captain Sparklez to change the sound, the original is back up with still more likes than the original. The original has since, however, overtaken the parody in terms of YouTube views.
  • The "Out Of Your Friends, Which Are You?" meme originated from an earlier image that played all four roles fairly straight as a vaguely redneck-ish portrayal of a friend group. This was then given a parodic edit which swapped out the third position for an eerie-looking image of a Deathclaw and the text "друг", creating a surprisingly creepy effect. The edit became far more popular than the original ever was, and nearly all permutations of the joke are based on the "друг" version.
  • The Rickroll is supposed to be a variant of Duckroll, which had a similar premise involving tricking people into looking at a picture of a duck on wheels. Rickrolling is still popular to this day and helped "Never Gonna Give You Up" achieve 1 billion views on YouTube while Duckrolling never really caught on outside of 4chan.
  • As of July 2023, this Half-Life-themed meme on YouTube has 622k views, but the source material, a skit by Vic Dibitetto, has only 139k views.note 
  • One of Captain Disillusion's videos covers a poorly-faked viral clip of a statue of the Virgin Mary being carried down a flooded street, with the "statue" just being a flat image motion-tracked over a preexisting video of a recycling bin in a flood. Unimpressed, he shows the audience how to make a more convincing version using a realistically lit and reflection-mapped 3D model of a Buddha statue in place of the Virgin Mary. However, people ended up taking the final result and reposting it out of context, where it spread even further and became its own popular viral hoax. The Captain addressed this in his next episode, which opens with him being flooded with requests to cover the Buddha video and ends with him covering the screen in "FAKE!" watermarks during another VFX-heavy shot to make sure the same thing doesn't happen again.
  • During the early 2010s, the Tumblr user early-onset-of-night made a post describing how fast-food chicken is produced in nauseating detail, accompanied by a photo of a cardboard box being filled with a pink, paste-like substance. Another Tumblr user, turboslime, created their own parody version in response that kept the original caption word-for-word but switched the photo out for a picture of the Tubby Custard machine. While the original was only moderately successful, the parody became an enduring meme both on and off of the site— and ironically, with the original forgotten, is often mistaken for a genuine example of people using Tumblr to spread misinformation.

  • The phrase "Unholy Alliance" is commonly used in a wide variety of contexts, but almost nobody remembers that it was originally a parody of the "Holy Alliance" of Russia, Prussia, and Austria that formed in the early 1800s.
  • You always remember people based on the physical features and characterisations that are different than others. As a result people you know are remembered as caricatures of their physical features or behaviour more than how they actually look and behave. For instance:
    • King Charles' ears have been exaggerated in cartoons so often that many people often imagine them to be Dumbo-sized. In the BBC documentary series The Human Face they used him as an example by first simply tracing the lines of a photograph of him into a realistic drawing. As a result he was unrecognizable. Only when they exaggerated his features into caricature you instantly recognized him as then-Prince Charles.
    • The vocal patterns and mannerisms of George H. W. Bush are much more remembered through Dana Carvey's exaggerated impression of him than by video recordings of his actual voice and physical presence. Indeed, once Carvey's impression gained traction, anyone else's impression of Bush Sr. was most often an imitation of Carvey's impression.
    • Many dictators like Adolf Hitler, Muammar Gaddafi, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein... have also been caricatured as Ax-Crazy lunatics. This is also how they live on in people's perceptions, even though if they were all as nuts as some parodies make them they would have never been able to remain in power for so long.
      • The widespread belief that Adolf Hitler was a hyperactive madman is derived from his highly threatrical speeches, where he deliberately shouted at the top of his voice and rapidly waved his fists around in a dramatic, passionate manner to excite crowds.
    • Elvis Presley's greasy quiff has been elongated to such absurd lengths in caricatures that people may actually be surprised to learn it was actually not five feet long in reality.
    • Ringo Starr has been caricatured as a dimwitted Manchild in so many parodies that people may be surprised to realize that he actually is a smart, normal-behaving adult.
    • Napoléon Bonaparte was caricatured by 19th century British cartoonists as a small dwarf with a large hat. This is also how he lives on in our minds. In reality he was of average height for his time.
  • Bill Cosby did a retelling of a sketch from an old radio drama called "Lights Out" about a chicken heart that ate up New York City. Since he was a kid, he thought the chicken heart was coming to eat him, and he promptly smeared Jell-O all over his floor and set his sofa on fire to discourage the "monster." Cosby's routine is now much better known than the original sketch. Ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump...
  • The Chicken Joke: "Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side". Despite being used as the mascot of joke-telling, it's really a parody of other jokes. Where most jokes end with some kind of pun, "To get to the other side" is a straight answer that only works if the listener was expected something absurd.
    • This joke in turn has been the source of thousands of parodies.
  • Plenty of modern media references "Do Not Adjust Your Set" to mean "this weirdness is real". The phrase was first used in this sense in The Outer Limits, but it originated years earlier as a warning to viewers that the station was experiencing technical difficulties. "Do Not Adjust Your Set" meant "the problem's on our end, not yours, so don't go fiddling with the antenna".
  • The expression "technical difficulties" is now highly likely to be used as a euphemism for a person (or even a society) going insane, or even for something disastrous or off-color (as, most hilariously, in Problem Child 2), rather than something as mundane as a problem with a broadcaster's equipment.
  • Any cartoon, video game, film, etc. made prior to The '90s that wasn't Disney-popular that was parodied in and after The '90s will get this effect in Eastern Europe due to that region locked away from Western pop-culture for 50 years (where only the very best of the West passed the border).
  • The name "Barcalounger" (the brand of reclining chair) is a play on a the name of a type of sailing ship, the Barca-longa. No one but naval historians and readers of the Aubrey-Maturin series (which are not such distinct populations) would know that now.
  • Any denizen of the Internet knows about demotivational posters. On the other hand, the kind of motivational posters they're based on aren't nearly as well-known, especially outside the USA.
    • Anyone who's worked in any kind of office environment is likely to recognize them, or at the very least take a closer look to see if it's a demotivator or the real thing.
  • Chef Al Yeganeh, the New York proprietor of "Soup Kitchen International" (later "The Original Soupman"), and the real life inspiration for Seinfeld's Soup Nazi was in business about ten years prior to the episode that made him famous. Despite his insistence to the contrary, prior to Seinfeld, Al Yeganeh was an obscure New York figure known mostly to certain circles of affluent late 80s/early 90s Manhattan yuppies who were willing to pay $30 for a pint of soup. Nearly everyone else knows of him because of the Soup Nazi episode. In one TV interview, he seriously claims that he made Seinfeld famous. In an interesting subversion of the trope, many feel that the Seinfeld version is relatively tame compared to the real man who has been known to use profanities such as calling a female reporter a "bitch" on camera in one instance. Woe betide the person who mentions the parody to him-he once cussed out the real Seinfeld for it, and hates this generally.
  • Seinfeld also popularized the "Dingo ate my baby!" meme. Outside of Australia, it's largely forgotten that this joke references a real event, the death of Azaria Chamberlain, the (false) accusations that her parents murdered her and the media circus surrounding the case. note  This is lampshaded in Tropic Thunder, where the Australian Kirk Lazarus reminds another character making these jokes that it was a real case and he doesn't see the humor in it.
  • Conservative cultural critic Rod Dreher came up with the term “earwabbit” to describe when you can't hear a traditional song or piece of classical music without thinking of a pop culture spoof. He chose “earwabbit” as a reference to the Looney Tunes spoof of “Ride of the Valkyries”, which is discussed elsewhere on this page.
  • Brown Windsor Soup is a by-word for disgusting British cookery at its early-to-mid-twentieth-century nadir. Problem is, there are no reliable references to it existing before the mid-1940s, and the majority of references for the first few decades afterwards are Self-Deprecation jokes about horrible British railway/hotel/restaurant cuisine. In fact, it appears to have originally begun as a comic reference to a real, but now forgotten product called Brown Windsor soap, obviously the reverse of anything made for human consumption. Despite this, some "traditional British" cookbooks and websites, including Jamie Oliver's, have attempted to reverse engineer an (edible) Brown Windsor Soup, usually involving some kind of meat consomme.
  • German comedian Otto Waalkes (just think of his Pfefferkuchen epos parodying the Neue Deutsche Welle) but in general, this is less pronounced in Germany.
  • The term "Bazooka" for rocket launchers began as a reference to their visual similarity to the instrument of the same name. Now, the name has become far better known for the weapon, with the instrument itself largely unknown.
  • Jonestown, the Jim Jones-led People’s Temple commune in Guyana that ended in a political assassination and subsequent mass suicide, has a near-legendary reputation and its name is often shorthand for "cult gone horribly wrong". Oddly, Jonestown is more famous than Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, upon whose name Jonestown was a bit of a pun.
  • New Math was a very short-lived, much-derided US education trend of The '60s, based on teaching children abstract mathematical theory rather than basic arithmetic. It's basically forgotten outside educational circles, but has a minor place in pop culture for inspiring Tom Lehrer's song "New Math" and a 1965 Peanuts series where Sally struggles with it ("ALL I WANT TO KNOW IS HOW MUCH IS TWO AND TWO?").

Alternative Title(s): Parodied Up