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Pop-Culture Isolation

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Max: It's only Powerline, dad. The biggest rock star on the planet.
Goofy: Ohh, not bigger than Xavier Cugat, the Mambo King! Everybody mambo!
A Goofy Movie (1995)

Pop-Culture Isolation is basically a case of pop-culture myopia of sorts, where celebrities, music genres, media or events are huge and significant in one subculture or ethnic group, but elsewhere nobody knows they exists or is indifferent to them altogether. We're not talking about separate countries here, but within the same country or region. A lot of this is especially prevalent in entertainment media, affecting music in particular (radio is usually fingered as being the main cause, as it was and still is very isolated in terms of programming and format, leading to accusations of segregation).

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Let's face it, there are cultural barriers, and people thrive in their own microcosm. Another likely reason for this is because mainstream media is so homogenized and is prone to favoring monochrome pop culture that other cultures start their own pop-culture media outlets. That fuels this trope even further for better or for worse. This isolation of pop culture can lead to such ignorance as Cowboy BeBop at His Computer. It's even possible for this trope to happen within the same culture. This, in turn, resulted in a pop cultural Broken Base or Fandom Rivalry. Hip-Hop is a good example of this (see Hip-Hop's Broken Base entry). This trope possibly could lead to Monochrome Casting.

Expecting Pop-Culture Isolation not to be an issue is a sure way to incur Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure. Can also result in people outside the subculture experiencing Informed Real Life Fame.

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For some people with a certain ideology, however, Pop Cultural Isolation may be seen as a good thing.

Contrast Small Reference Pools, and Pop-Cultural Osmosis. May lead to Germans Love David Hasselhoff or Americans Hate Tingle. Could also overlap with Critical Dissonance. This trope along with Public Medium Ignorance goes together like peanut butter and jelly. This often is the cause of Minority Show Ghetto. Compare with Fan Myopia, which is when the fans of a particular form of pop culture believe it to be far more well-known amongst the general public than it actually is.

By the way, did you know there are people and places out there who discuss and list the tools of storytelling but have almost no knowledge of wiki editing or TV Tropes? It's very true. Do you know about them? Probably not.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • A good deal of anime and manga, outside Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, Speed Racer and the like, is not well known outside the fanbase. Just see the Trope Namer for Cowboy BeBop at His Computer for a specific example. It's certainly not helped by the Animation Age Ghetto and the stereotype that anime is misogynist, tentacle-obsessed trash. (The obvious inconsistency of these two stereotypes doesn't seem to matter.)
  • The Super Robot genre is popular among anime fans, but is fairly obscure outside of those circles. If giant robots are mentioned by people outside the anime fandom, they'll usually be referring to the Transformers Film Series, the Megazord from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, or Pacific Rim.
  • This even shows up within manga fandom itself. Creators like Naoki Urasawa and Fumi Yoshinaga (of Antique Bakery fame) have multiple series published in the US, constantly appear on "best of" lists, and have won tons of awards - yet are virtually unknown outside of the "grown-up comic fans" circle.
  • Not only creators, but some manga magazines have a chance of remaining obscure despite their large fandoms. Magazines like Big Comic Spirits, Manga Action, or B's Log don't get much press outside of their respective fanbases outside of one or two well known series, especially if there isn't a popular anime made from one of them to boost recognition.
  • Norio Wakamoto, Rie Kugimiya, Jun Fukuyama, Kanae Ito, and many other popular Japanese voice actors definitely qualify. Mention the name "Norio Wakamoto" to any random passerby. The chances of it even threatening to switch on a light bulb are low indeed. Even within anime fandom, if a fan primarily watches anime dubbed and/or doesn't interact with fans who concern themselves with the voice actors on the regular basis, it's not unlikely for them to not be familiar with even the biggest names in the anime Japanese voice acting circle. Likewise with dub voice actors and anime fans who don't watch dubs. Most of them know Steve Blum and Crispin Freeman, but when you move beyond that, you're likely evoke a "Who?" response.
  • Gon is already an obscure manga character in Japan, but few people in America known him for anything more than being in Tekken 3.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, X-Men (at least Wolverine and possibly Cyclops and Storm), Aquaman, The Flash, Iron Man, Captain America, The Mighty Thor, and Incredible Hulk are the only superhero exceptions to this trope. Even then, the only of their supporting cast to be generally known by people are The Joker, Lois Lane, and possibly Lex Luthor and Catwoman. J. Jonah Jameson may have crossed the threshold as well, helped by J. K. Simmons' performance in the Spider-Man Trilogy.
  • Female and black superheroes are a big victim of this trope. Whenever a new (or newly popular) black or female character is mentioned in a news story (especially when the entire point of the story is that most superheroes are white men, such as when a paper interviews a local artist who's just getting into the industry, almost always involving a quote along the lines of "reading comics as a kid, I always wondered why there weren't more characters who looked like me") the article will act as if there are, at most, three black superheroes (the average non-comic-reader might recognise Storm, Luke Cage and Black Panther, and John Stewart if they grew up in the nineties) and no superheroines except Wonder Woman. It's the same with gay and lesbian characters, except worse, because trying to discuss gay or lesbian superheroes often seems to attract homophobic trolls, plus there's still the assumption that only kids read comic books. Anytime an article in mainstream media talks about a gay or lesbian superhero, you can expect to see a shitload of comments about the "gay agenda" or "gays forcing acceptance down children's throats"...
  • Speaking of the assumption that comic books are for kids, whenever a comic that is specifically not kid-friendly gets adapted into a movie, such as The Crow, Watchmen, or Deadpool, you're definitely going to hear stories of unsuspecting parents bringing their kids to see it (despite the R-rating!) and then being shocked and appalled when an R-rated movie based on comics meant for adults is filled with graphic violence and sex. In fact, the creators of Deadpool outright predicted this and warned those unknowing parents "don't bring the kids" right in the trailers - not that this kept them from doing it anyway, of course. Even reviewers get in on this at times. One reviewer of Watchmen spent most of the review lamenting that we were now marketing extreme violence and adult content to children. When tons of readers commented that the movie and comic both were meant for adults, the reviewer stood by her words, stating that the existence of Watchmen action figures proved this movie was meant for children. Evidently she had no clue that nerd culture includes grown men and women collecting action figures and that there are many lines of action figures marketed exclusively to adults.
  • Ask anyone outside of comics fandom to name a comic book writer, and you'll probably get a mention of Stan Lee (his legendary cameos in Marvel superhero movies probably help). Maybe Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman as well, if they're a certain sort of literary. Any other name will be met with a resounding "who?", no matter how popular or prolific they are within the comics industry.
  • Underground Comics: Massively influential in the 1960s and 1970s, read by many young people and graphic artists. Yet to the general public the genre literally is "underground", because they are hardly aware of any titles or artists existing, or if they happened to read one in a store they assume it's all Porn Without Plot. The only artist to get some kind of notoriety in the mainstream is Robert Crumb, yet most people only know him for Fritz the Cat.
  • Many European comic strips are well-known in Europe and nowhere else. Ask a typical American citizen about The Smurfs, and they'll probably know what you're talking about, if only because of the cartoon, but Johan and Peewit will probably draw blank stares (unless they've seen the episodes of the show featuring them). Some may have heard of Tintin. A small handful might know about Asterix & Obelix. Anything else might as well not exist.

    Comic Strips 
  • Most comic strips start out in only one newspaper (usually a paper in a region of a country where the cartoonist works) and then are nationally syndicated, sometimes not until years later. More than a few strips have ended up dying on the vine — at least in some parts of the country — due to censorship.
  • Referenced in Dilbert when a schoolboy sarcastically comments on the fact that Dilbert considers it a shocking failure of public education that the boy can't name the highest waterfall in Africa, but Dilbert himself doesn't know who MC Hammer is and dismisses it as worthless trivia.

    Disney 
  • As strange as it may sound today, Disney fell victim to this trope for a very long time within the United States. While the studio was always massively popular from Chicago (Walt Disney's birthplace, though he preferred to think of Marceline, Missouri note  as his true hometown) to the west coast (especially in California), everywhere east of Chicago its reception was a bit more lukewarm. Film critics considered the studio's output kitschy at best, and people used the term "Mickey Mouse" to refer to something poorly constructed or put together. The main reason for the Disney attractions at the 1964 New York World's Fair was for Walt Disney to prove to his studio that there was a market for Disney on the east coast, an experiment which proved successful and ultimately culminated in the opening of Disney World in central Florida in 1971; but even then, they didn't really gain the reputation they have today until the late 1980s/early 1990s.

    The "proof in the pudding" example of this that really forced the studio to make a push eastward was probably the 1984 corporate leadership change that saw three outside studio executives take control of the company. While new president Frank Wells was a California native who was very familiar with Disney, the two New York City natives were not: new studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg's knowledge of Disney came from seeing Pinocchio once when he was a kid, while new CEO Michael Eisner had never seen any Disney film growing up, which led to some serious culture clashes (particularly on Katzenberg's end) in the first few years with the California-based creatives that Wells often had to mediate.
  • Despite being one of the biggest Broadway stars in history, Idina Menzel is known to the mainstream for one role: Queen Elsa from Frozen. It reached memetic levels when John Travolta bizarrely butchered her name into "Adele Dazeem" at the 2014 Oscars.
  • Almost anything related to the Disney Theme Parks are going to be confined to that particular fandom compared to the movies and television shows, which due to their relative ubiquity and more easily accessible mediums can reach a far larger number of people. This is true even within the larger Disney fandom - while names like Jack Wagner, Peter Renaday and Wally Boag are revered by a particular segment of the fanbase, other Disney fans may be hard-pressed to have heard of them.

    Fan Works 
  • There's a whole subculture dedicated to this. But it's only popular with the geek side of the Internet.

    Literature 
  • Phenomena: is quite a big hit in Norway with the books often sold out in bookstores and the board game is completely out of stock. It has been translated to only a few languages, making it very little known about with other people around the world.
  • Zane novels, black erotic literature, probably count.
  • You probably know the Cthulhu Mythos. You probably also know who H.P. Lovecraft is. But do you know the names of Jim Turner, Robert Bloch,note  or Robert M. Price? No, Lovecraft didn't write all the Mythos. It's actually sort of like Star Wars Expanded Universe. Moreover, could you name any of the actual works of the Mythos? Probably Call of Cthulhu or if you're really in the know, At the Mountains of Madness may ring a bell. Same goes for any deities other than Cthulhu like Yog-Sothoth, Azazoth, or Nyarlathotep.
  • Young adult literature, obviously. Because these novels and short stories are read neither by single, middle-aged or elderly adults (unlike generally "serious" fiction, which is acknowledged by critics and the media) nor by young parents with prepubescent children (as is Dr. Seuss, etc.), they are relegated to the readership of adolescents and tweens, whom mainstream culture tends to ignore except as a marketing demographic (and today's businesspeople are not trying to sell a lot of books). Go ahead: ask your typical fiftysomething Baby Boomer who Wilson Rawls was; they probably won't remember, if they ever knew about him to begin with. Some series, such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, do manage to "cross over" and become popular with audiences outside their intended 12-19 year old demographic.
  • Same thing could be said for Speculative Fiction (Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror). This also swerve into Sci Fi Ghetto territory as well. For Sci-Fi, the Big Three of Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke are most likely to be known, at least in regards to their most famous works. Fantasy writers are limited to J. R. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling, and then only as the authors of The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit and Harry Potter, respectively. George R.R. Martin is starting to become this as well; see his entry below. The only well-known modern Horror writer is Stephen King, and most of his best known works are better-known through film.
  • In-Universe example meets Truth in Television in Jorge Luis Borges short story "Averroe's Search" : Averroes, a philosopher confined to the Islamic orb, never could understand the terms Tragedy and Comedy.
  • It's amazing how many people appear not to have heard of Terry Pratchett, even though he is the second most-read author in the UK, and the seventh most-read author in the USA, across all genres. One newspaper interview lampshaded this with the introductory paragraphs including the line "Terry Pratchett, for those of you still pretending to have no idea who I'm talking about, is..."
  • In Murderess, when Lu crosses over to Greywall’d, she enters an inn and tries to order hot cocoa. The owner’s son is bewildered, as cocoa doesn’t exist there.
  • George R.R. Martin, best known as the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire, is another example. He and his series are household names amongst fantasy book fans, but to mainstream audiences the franchise is only known for serving as the source material for its far more famous TV adaptation Game of Thrones. Not only are these audiences probably unaware he's written anything else, most of them didn't even know of the series', or his, existence until after the show became a hit — or, for that matter, the fact that the book series is called A Song of Ice and Fire and not Game of Thrones (the first book in the series is called A Game of Thrones).
  • Ripley's Bureau of Investigation: Barely anyone, not even fans of Ripley's Believe It Or Not, know about it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Game (2006) is one of the most, if not the most, popular drama/comedies in the black community. Most white people aren't even aware the show exists. The show is now on BET but even when it was on CW, it never really found a strong white audience.
  • George Lopez and Chris Rock are interesting examples since before they had their own self titled sitcoms they were well known, but they weren't well liked by anyone outside of their targeted demographics.
  • Steve Harvey is a very popular comedian in the black community, but outside of it, he's mostly known for being the host of Family Feud and the guy who screwed up the announcement of the 2015 Miss Universe pageant winner. This is arguably true of most Black comedians before they land a sitcom deal, or hell, any comedian since they tend to only be popular within a certain niche (women, college students, blacks, Latinos, Asians, other ethnicities, etc.)
  • The Cosby Show subverted this; on the other hand, it was Bill Cosby's intention.
  • Roseanne contrasted with The Cosby Show, not in terms of race, but class. In fact, you could swap out Roseanne for Good Times and get the same results.
  • MTV was also the cause of a lot of this, so much so that MTV refused to acknowledge that 90% of the songs on the chart were by black singers and kept trying to push a next Big White Hope like Winger or Warrant. There was such an embarrassing disconnect between their Top 20 played videos and the Billboard charts back then. David Bowie called them out for it during a interview with the network. They eventually caved in with the meteoric rise of Michael Jackson though. The '90s version of MTV subverted this trope, though, by basically not putting music in a box or programming block (Yo! MTV Raps, 120 Minutes, and Headbanger's Ball being the exceptions). On the other hand, this might be why they started putting music in a programming block and eventually stopped showing vids all together circa the early 00's. Simply put, nobody was gonna wade through rap vids to see a rock vid or vice versa.
  • The popularity of Martin. VH1's I Love the '90s actually brought up that the show was virtually unknown to white viewers, in part because it was scheduled against Seinfeld.
  • Similarly, Living Single contrasted with Friends, some even going as far as to say the latter ripped off the former or at least inspired by it.
  • According to VH1 Classic, New Wave and Hair Metal were the only music genres in The '80s. Care about college rock or old school hip hop? Hope you're willing to stay up until 3:30AM! VH1 Classic's That Metal Show definitely seems to have a bias towards hard rock and heavy metal bands from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Interviews with metal musicians from more recent bands are few and far between.
  • Doctor Who provides an age-gap version of this trope all by itself; there are passionate fans of the series who either had (or continue to have) no idea that there was a show before 2005 and / or have no interest in watching any of the old series.
  • As surprising as it may seem on the Internet, there are other TV shows beside Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, Sherlock and Supernatural. There are still lots of people who don't subscribe to premium cable channels or subscribe to cable at all. And who presumably do not illegally download them.
  • In-show example: in the BBC documentary Deborah 13 Servant of God (about a young girl from a fundamentalist Christian family who was very zealous in her faith) there was one point where she is asked if she'd ever heard of the likes of Britney Spears- and being not immersed in popular culture like most teenage girls (having no television, being homeschooled etc.) she didn't. In response, however, she asked if most people knew who a certain (fairly obscure) Biblical character was.
  • Arguably one factor counting for the success of The Arsenio Hall Show in The '90s was the fact that he, being a hip, younger, black late night talk show host in a field mostly populated with older white hosts and audiences, booked celebrities, politicians, music acts, activists, etc. (particularly those who catered to urban audiences or were in an ethnic or sexual minority) that his competition would rarely to never touch, while still being mainstream enough to appeal to a mass audience. Ultimately this would help Arkansas governor Bill Clinton reach audiences he likely would never reach on other talk shows, which would help him get elected in 1992.
  • Christian-themed television shows can be slightly puzzling to non-Christian viewers. Touched by an Angel is probably the most prominent example of this; it lasted for 9 seasons mostly off the backs of its devoutly Christian audience.
  • Almost Live! was a Long Runner in Seattle and a television icon. MADtv was not even going to be shown in Seattle because the local FOX affiliate didn't think the show could stand against it. Even now, you could probably get half of the city to give up coffee for a month to get a box set note . When Comedy Central picked it up during the Nineties, during the world's grunge-induced fascination for all things Seattle, it crashed and burned hard because much of the humor was based on local-area customs and stereotypes. It was still a great springboard for Bill Nye the Science Guy, however.
  • An interesting example of Genre overlapping with Region. In the '80s, Canada began to aggressively court American film and television producers as a relatively cheap filming location due to the exchange rate between the US and Canadian dollars. The one genre that really snapped this up was sci-fi/fantasy (The X-Files, The Stargate-verse, Smallville, Supernatural, Arrow, The Flash etc.) possibly to allow the lower production costs to offset the higher special effects costs that sci-fi inevitably has. Due to the use of local Canadian actors, it creates the interesting situation of Canadian actors being easily recognizable to American sci-fi/fantasy fans, but unknown to the mainstream. A similar effect happens with the combined talent pool of Australia/New Zealand, thanks to New Zealand-filmed shows such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, Power Rangers and Legend of the Seeker, alongside The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film series.
  • Before the 2000s, most Americans who weren't serious comedy nerds had probably never seen a British TV show. Most of the shows that did cross The Pond were classic comedy shows like Monty Python's Flying Circus and Are You Being Served?. These were usually seen on low-rated PBS stations. With the rise of BBC America and Internet distribution, Doctor Who (which was previously only a Cult Classic in America) and other British shows have garnered wide stateside audiences.
  • Victorious. During its run on Nickelodeon it was a very popular show with a large fanbase. After it ended, Ariana Grande (who wasn't even the lead star of the show) embarked on a massively successful career as a pop singer, and hasn't looked back since. For most people outside the fanbase, if they even know about it in the first place, they only know it as "the show Ariana Grande was on before she got famous". Those people aren't even aware of its actual lead star, Victoria Justice.
  • The X Factor: One of the most popular shows of all time in the U.K., it's known internationally almost exclusively for discovering five teenage boys and turning them into a boy band. That boy band would be christened One Direction and would completely eclipse the show they were born on in their global takeover over the next half-decade.
  • Although Jimmy Savile was one of the most popular British entertainers when he was alive thanks to his hit show Jim'll Fix It, internationally he was unknown until the revelations of his horrific sex crimes after his death.

    Pinballs 
  • Pinball has been hit with this extremely hard. Despite being a major part of American culture for nearly a century, most people would be hard-pressed to name more than one or two pinball manufacturers or designers, if at all, and as far as the games themselves, you won't hear much beyond The Addams Family, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, or Jurassic Park. The history of the field is an even bigger mystery to most — folks who recall the controversy behind Tipper Gore and the Parental Advisory labels, Mortal Kombat and the ESRB, or Frederic Wertham and "Seduction of the Innocent" will seldom have any knowledge of the nation's thirty-year ban against pinball.
    • It's rather telling that TV Tropes itself went for nearly a decade with only one page about Pinball. There Is No Such Thing as Notability, indeed.
    • On a similar vein, the aforementioned naming of pinball manufacturers and designers would be some very obscure trivia to a normal person, but they are common knowledge among pinball fans, and some of these communities (thankfully just a minority) could mock and look down on you for not being familiar with them, even if you've just gotten started.

    Print Media 
  • Rolling Stone and similar mags have been accused of having a rock bias. RS in particular is accused of 60s-70s bias in their lists.
  • The Source magazine, or any genre specific mag is this by default.
  • Lowrider mags, vs custom car mags (like DUB magazine), sport tuner car mags, and American muscle car mags. There's over-lap but they're somewhat significantly separated. Plus each scene has its own car culture, and preference of female models. Mags like DUB almost always have black girls AND Hispanic females, whereas the lowrider mags are more or less exclusively Hispanic, the tuner mags are almost always southeast Asian, and the muscle car mags are almost always white. Illustrative example: Ask a gearhead what a "Donk" is and he/she will reply that it's any car with huge rims, very thin-walled tires, a very expensive and flamboyant paint job and other hallmarks of "bling." Ask an editor at a Lowrider mag (or any "authentic" Lowrider enthusiast) and he/she will tell you that it's specifically a 1970s Chevrolet Caprice (independent of whether or not it's stock or blinged out - it's just a slang term for that specific type of car. He/she will also tell you that "Bricks" are 80s Caprices and "Bubbles" are 90s Caprices due to their general shape). Of course, ask an average person on the street and expect to get a blank stare.
  • When Fine Scale Modeler did an article on GunPla] — the hobby of building Gundam plastic model kits — it was an unusual and controversial step. This despite the fact that the GunPla market dwarfs FSM's target market, American modelers of realistic vehicles. This is not unknown in the plastic modelling community; in Great Britain, the "orthodox" historically-based hobby tends to look down on sci-fi and fantasy modelers. The respective readerships of Military Modelling and White Dwarf do not overlap, and Warhammer topics almost never make it into the "mainstream" modelling press - Mil Mod got complaints from readers when it tested this particular water.
  • Erotic or porn magazines like Playboy, Hustler, Mayfair, Penthouse,... are all well known as brands, but to most people in the mainstream this mags are just "titles". People will probably recognize Hugh Hefner as chief editor of "Playboy", but have no idea what other writers or cartoonists regularly contribute to these pages.
  • Paper is a small, independent entertainment magazine. While they do have a following in the New York City Area, they're known to the general public only for the Kim Kardashian "Break The Internet" cover.
  • Few people outside of France know anything about Charlie Hebdo magazine other than the fact that its offices were subject to a terrorist attack in January 2015.
  • Light Novel magazines. There's a good chance the titles may reach the mainstream — Haruhi Suzumiyanote  and Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsunote  to name a couple — but the magazines themselves will only be brought up in reference to them or remembered as a collected work's publishing imprint.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • The territory days of Pro Wrestling used to define this trope. A wrestler who may have been huge in one area may have been relatively unknown to fans in another area. The WWF expansion and cable tv pretty much put an end to this however.
  • For that matter, wrestling itself could be a victim of this. Wrestlers like Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Bryan Danielson, and CM Punk are household names among wrestling fans, but have little or no mainstream recognition. Only a handful of wrestlers are known to non-wrestling fans (i.e., Hulk Hogan, André the Giant, Randy Savage, The Undertaker, The Rock, Steve Austin, John Cena, etc.)
  • It's often joked that wrestling is Two Decades Behind in pop culture. A lot of that can be attributed to Vince McMahon, who is widely cited by just about everyone as incredibly out of touch with not only the wrestling audience itself, but with pop culture in general. There are numerous stories of how Vince put the kibosh on a popular gimmick (i.e. Pirate Paul Burchill) referencing a current pop culture phenomenon because he didn't know anything about its source. Hell, despite being seen eating one numerous times, he had no idea what a burrito was until someone brought it up.

    Radio 
  • Radio is usually blamed for this phenomenon when it comes to music isolation.
  • Several radio hosts, presenters, and stars are unknown to the general public unless they also happen to appear on TV.

    Tabletop Games 
  • To most people, Roleplaying Games other than video games is maybe something nerds did in highschool, and they may have heard the name Dungeons & Dragons, but the idea of it being a complex hobby mostly pursued by adults is unthinkable. "Board games" means Monopoly or Risk. Miniature wargaming can only be explained in terms of chess and toy soldiers.
  • Similarly, most trading card games. Thousands of dollars in prizes are given away worldwide in some of the bigger tournaments (mostly Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh!), but most people still consider them kids' games, and would only recognize a "professional" player if they cross over into something slightly more mainstream, like poker.
  • And even with poker, only a few of the big names are well-known. And with the consequences of the poker boom, very few outside hardcore poker nuts could tell you who won the most recent World Series of Poker main event.
  • The Warhammer 40,000 universe is a behemoth in geek circles and on the internet; besides being the dominant miniatures wargame with several other tabletop spinoffs there have been several popular videogames and hundreds of novels, many of which have cracked best-seller lists. In the mainstream it's almost completely unknown.

    Theater 
  • Since theatre actors are usually not famous to the general public unless they appear in film or TV you can have actors who have a long and successful theatrical career, yet are completely unknown unless you often go to the theater.
  • Broadway actors often refer to themselves as "only famous for a couple of blocks". There are performers with astounding track records of roles and piles of awards who are absolute unknowns outside of New York City. Some have shaken this with success in film and television (such as Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Cheyenne Jackson, Aaron Tveit, Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff, and Mark Rylance in recent years), but going through a list of names of Tony winners will leave the average person scratching their head. From The New '10s winners alone: Norbert Leo Butz? Sutton Foster? Audra McDonald, who won a record-setting sixth acting Tony in 2014? This is somewhat justified. A successful Broadway show can launch a tour or sister production in another city — most often London; the cities are Transatlantic siblings since it's easy to transfer a show from one to the other as there's no need to translate it into another language — but the original leads usually don't leave New York. Most theater productions are not recorded for posterity, aside from cast albums for musicals, limiting the audience for these actors to devoted Broadway fans and those who come to New York and see them. This also applies to London's West End stars; just substitute Oliviers for Tonys — Maria Friedman? Michael Ball? Douglas Hodge? All unknown to the masses, and usually relegated to supporting/minor roles or guest spots in film and TValbeit well-compensated ones — if they work in those media at all.
  • Theatre in general, at least in North America, has become something of a niche medium in the mainstream media. The Tony Awards are still regarded as one of the big four awards shows, along with the Academy Awards (film), Emmy Awards (television), and Grammy Awards (music), but posts far smaller ratings than those three, owing to declining interest in what's making waves in New York City. Even entertainment-focused outlets tends to ignore live theatre unless someone famous in another medium decides to take a stab at Broadway. This, combined with a desire to bring in people who wouldn't see a show otherwise, leads to Stunt Casting and/or limited-run shows that can accommodate a superstar's other commitments.
  • The 1712 play Cato, a Tragedy is largely forgotten today, but odds are you'll recognize a few lines from it: "Give me liberty or give me death," "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country," and "It is not in the power of any man to command success; but you have done more—you have deserved it." That's right, it was so popular at the time of the American Revolution that it was quoted several times by major figures, including Nathan Hale choosing to reference it as his last words before being executed.

    Video Games 
  • GTA's radio stations are a great example of this. Some of the DJs even take shots at the other stations.
  • Various 1980s computers, such as the ZX Spectrum, the Atari ST, the Commodore Amiga, the Amstrad CPC, the BBC Micro, and the Acorn Archimedes are fondly remembered in Britain and Eastern Europe, but rather obscure in the United States.
  • Similarly, the MSX, the NEC PC-98, and the Sharp X68000 were huge in Japan, but unknown in America.
  • Consoles (not counting shady NES clones) were a niche market in Eastern Europe for the better part of the nineties. If you went to Poland about 1992 or so and asked a random gamer about Metroid, Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda, he'd stare at you blankly, then ask what computer were they released on.
    • In some parts of America, Nintendo was a byword for "gaming console" throughout the 90s due to their enormous market share in the industry, especially due to its revival of the home console market after The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. For a while, even dedicated gamers of a certain age would refer to most consoles as "a nintendo" (small "n" usually), even if it wasn't Nintendo made. Outside the US, Nintendo didn't have as much of a visible impact since gaming was largely PC driven.
    • In Russia a similar thing happened in the 90s: in the absence of PCs and consoles, the NES clone "Dendy" became a generic name for any gaming console, and a lot of popular NES-era games were unknown because they were neither sold nor pirated.
  • Similarly, the Sega Master System was popular in Europe and was so huge in Brazil that production of the console continues there to this day, but it stood no chance (despite its technical superiority on most fronts!) against the juggernaut that was the NES in North America and Japan and is little more than a footnote in gaming history there.
  • How many people (including gamers) do you think have even heard of The Great Video Game Crash of 1983? Let alone know that it nearly spelled the end for console gaming as a whole?
  • Just Dance is one of the most popular gaming franchises in the world, being the second most profitable franchise for Ubisoft (after Assassin's Creed). Yet at the same time, gamers and gaming review sites barely acknowledge its existence. It's perhaps one of the few games that sells a lot, but isn't talked about a lot outside of its core audience.
  • Hidden object games can consistently sell well over a million copies on the PC market without them being on mobile platforms or Steam and are big enough to be a thriving industry themselves (though they are moving to the mobile market). Yet very few people into video games and PC games even know what a hidden object game is.note 

    Web Comics 
  • Virtually any webcomic, no matter how popular, will go almost entirely ignored by the mainstream media. This can be observed by their Wikipedia articles — many webcomic articles have been deleted, while the few holdouts are widely padded with self-reference, and at best one or two third-party sources. Homestuck, for example, achieved utterly preposterous levels of fame (and infamy), but outside the internet-comics community it's a non-entity; the author did a signing event at a Comic-Con, and the staff were unprepared for the gigantic mob of fans that showed up. Newspaper Comics and superhero comics still reign supreme in mass-media-land, but a few webcomics have ascended to mainstream notability:
    • xkcd, the official Nerd Comic and probably the most well-known webcomic to the general public, though it has many competitors in the nerdy-people community.
    • Penny Arcade and possibly Ctrl+Alt+Del, the official Gamer Comics, with an obscene quantity of imitators that the mainstream media never mentions. Megatokyo, oddly, started out as one of these cult imitators, but reached modest mass-market success through Cerebus Syndrome.
    • Axe Cop may have finally ascended into the mainstream in late 2013 with the arrival of its cartoon adaptation on Fox. If so, it would be the first pop-culture-breakout webcomic that was not one of the pioneering webcomics.

    Web Original 
  • YouTube user Hola Soy German is very popular in Latin American countries (to the point where he has over 27 million subscribers, making him the second most subscribed person on YouTubenote ), but is almost completely unknown outside of them. He didn't even have an article on The Other Wiki until May 2014, and still doesn't have one on this Wiki.
  • A lot of Internet culture and memes cause this. Anything that becomes popular on the Internet tends to stay in that particular sector of the Internet and completely unknown to those who don't use the Internet much or stay in a few social circles. Memes are an especially visible example: Familiarity with very popular ones like Longcat or Trollface is a good Internet-savviness litmus test. Periphery Demographics are another example; Pokémon is still seen as weird for adults to enjoy, for instance, among casual Internet users. Because things that become popular on the Internet rarely make much headway offline, spending large amounts of time on the Internet can cause a pretty skewed idea of general trends. There are exceptions though, most notably teenage girl phenomena that lead towards mainstream commercial success, like Justin Bieber, or concepts that get popularized in mainstream media such as the YouTube memetic videos referenced in the South Park episode "Canada on Strike." In fact, whether or not an Internet meme has been featured on mainstream media is generally considered a good indicator of whether or not that meme is now Deader Than Disco.
    • This can also get into Black Comedy. One 2016 example is that a few Alt-Right people used Pepe memes (a picture of a stoner frog from the Boy’s Club comic paired with a random slogan) along with many others. Despite being a very old and played-out meme (around for more then 8 years), the media mistook it for a new white supremacist icon. The comic's creators were not amused.
  • Being a famous video producer on the Internet is kind of a half fame. On one hand millions of viewers world wide can check a certain producer out, but at the same time many are only famous to people who regularly visit the Internet and even then some may be unaware of highly successful sites, unless they stumble upon them. The Nostalgia Critic is a good example. He's been active since 2008, gained quite some notoriety due to his high production values — releasing new videos every week — and has a large enough following to make a living off of it. Yet he still hasn't made much of a mark in mainstream media and even on the Internet itself there are many people who have never seen one of his videos or are only vaguely aware of him.
  • Nostalgia Critic affiliate Film Brain admitted that this is even tougher for producers who use a video hosting service that isn't YouTube, as the general public aren't really aware that other services exist.
  • Speaking of YouTube, this extends to YouTube celebrities. Millions of subscribers, but the odds of your average person knowing one of them isn't very good. The reactions on the YouTube React channel sometimes hints that most of them don't actually get this.
  • 4chan, while a cornerstone of Internet culture, is very obscure outside it. Its main claim to fame outside of it is "The Fappening".
  • Finger Family videos on YouTube get tens of millions of views, but if you're not a toddler or in preschool, or are the parent of such a child, it will likely be completely unknown to you. That being said, there are two factors here: Little kids love repetition (it's how humans learn) and may watch a Finger Family video dozens or hundreds of times per day, driving up the video view counts well beyond their actual audience's size by two or three orders of magnitude; and some people suspect the view counts are artificially high due to bots viewing it and, because Finger Family videos have ads in them whose sponsors pay based on view count, may just be ad fraud.

    Western Animation 
  • As referenced in Anime above, many Voice Actors are unknown to the mainstream unless they've done some sort of live-action acting. It's a rarity that a voice actor is known for just their voice acting; even Mel Blanc was known mostly for being on The Jack Benny Program before the popularity of Looney Tunes shot through the roof.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Popular to the point of ubiquity on the internet, but still relatively obscure to a lot of people who don't go online much, or don't get the cable channel the show is broadcast on. If anything, it's likely to get most of its exposure from mainstream media poking fun at its adult fanbase, i.e. "bronies". This may lead to the impression that most of the fanbase is just weird.
  • Grandpa Simpson puts the generational divide of pop-culture into perspective for his then-teenaged son, Homer.
    Abe: I used to be with it, but then they changed what "it" was. Now what I'm with isn't "it", and what's "it" seems weird and scary to me. It'll happen to you!

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