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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: Ohhh, 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 exist 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.

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

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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, and Obscure Popularity.

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 and Manga 
  • 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.
  • Gon is already an obscure manga character in Japan, but few people in America know him for anything more than being in Tekken 3.
  • One Piece is exceptionally well known in its country of origin, but outside of Japan it the manga and anime were hampered by an incredibly poor English dub from 4Kids that fundamentally changed large swaths of the dialogue and edited scenes to make it more kid friendly. Despite this, a cult following found itself watching the subbed version of the original Japanese and people eventually found the English dub from Funimation that keeps most of the dialogue intact without removing any scenes. Bringing up scenes to someone who hasn't kept up to it, or pointing out to them how there is over 900 episodes of the anime can catch someone entirely off guard, and even if they want to join the series at this point, they have a lot of catching up to do.
  • Sazae-san is an incredibly popular anime and manga franchise in its native Japan. Airings of Sazae-san on Sunday evening regularly have viewership numbering over a tenth of the Japanese population. However, it has never been released outside of its country nor has it been dubbed in any other language besides Japanese.

    Comic Strips 
  • Conversed 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.

    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.
  • 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 a hot cocoa. The owner’s son is bewildered, as cocoa doesn’t exist there.

    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 of the show's existence. The show is now on BET but even when it was on CW, it never really found a strong white audience.
  • 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 was at least inspired by it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bizaardvark. It’s a popular show with young teenagers on Disney Channel, but how many people outside the audience know anything about it other than the fact that highly controversial web video star Jake Paul was on it?
    • As of 2021, with Olivia Rodrigo now being a world-famous pop star, people now acknowledge it as the show that Olivia was on before she made it big.
  • Degrassi:
    • Degrassi Junior High and its sequel Degrassi High were a big deal in Canada during the 80s and 90s; they aired on primetime network television, drew Beatlemania-level adulation of its cast, and critics showered it with rave reviews, calling it a superior alternative to the moralistic and heavy-handed very special episodes of American sitcoms. The Toronto International Film Festival named it a historically significant work to Canadian culture in 2017. Outside of North America (and to an extent, a certain portion of Gen X) however, either people barely remember it, or have never even heard of it, whereas they are more likely to have heard of its long-running 2000s reboot, Degrassi: The Next Generation, which had quite a few commercial and promotional advantages over its predecessors, such as airing on Nickelodeon's The N in the States (compared to the original series airing on low-rated PBS stations: a result of WGBH co-producing those shows).
    • Degrassi: The Next Generation in of itself is mostly known to younger and non-Canadian audiences as the show that Aubrey Graham was on before he became Drake. Finding someone in that demographic who actually saw the show is a lot harder.

    Print Media 
  • Rolling Stone has been accused of having a rock bias. RS is also accused of 60s-70s bias in their lists.
  • The Source magazine, being a genre-specific mag, is this by default.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Radio 
  • John Peel was one of the most influential trend-setters in the British music industry, and famed for his willingness to play just about anything if he liked the sound of it, regardless of what the higher-ups might think of it. A number of artists who would go on to be big names in the punk, metal and alternative scenes got their big break by mailing a demo-tape to his PO box at the BBC. Outside the UK, however, he's almost unknown, outside of a few people who might have heard his show on the BBC World Service and/or have heard of the Peel Sessions albums by artists who appeared on his show.
  • Willis Conover hosted a daily Jazz show on the Voice of America that had a huge audience in Eastern Europe during the height of the Cold War, and he's often credited with singlehandedly spurring interest in jazz in the region. But nobody in America had any clue of who he was. There were two main reasons why: one was that VOA only broadcast on shortwave, and just a small fraction of Americans had shortwave radios. The other was that, while VOA was easily heard by Americans with shortwave sets, federal law prohibited VOA from targeting a domestic American audience, so the station couldn't promote Conover's show at all in his home country. What fans he had in America had to discover the show on their own.
  • As with the WGN example listed in Western Animation, the 1937 Christmas-themed children's Radio Drama The Cinnamon Bear has fallen into obscurity except in a few locations where it airs daily each December. Most notable among these is Portland, which has been crazy for The Cinnamon Bear since its debut, when it aired on two different stations. Even today multiple stations in Portland air it, and many other stations in Oregon do as well.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
    • So much so that the BBC news website headlined one story about it's 25th anniversary with 'Why are grown men still launching tabletop war?' - much to a torrent of derision in fandom pointing out that 'grown men' also watch twenty two millionaires kick a football around a field every weekend. And it was newsworthy that Games Workshop registered £180 million in sales during the Covid 19 pandemic 'despite shop closures', plus the article handily explained that it made 'fantasy role-playing games' in case the reader didn't know, and made a point to note that it was 'FTSE-traded' like a proper public company.
  • To the average board game player who tends to play the classics like Monopoly, Sorry, Trouble, etc, specifically with kids because those games are functionally designed for families, they may be surprised to find that companies like Fantasy Flights or others like Cool Mini or Not have a catalogue of dozens of games with decent rulebooks that are designed for adults. The market on these games is not particularly large (which is why major retailers don't tend to carry them), but is big enough that they are met with large numbers of preorders.

    Theatre 
  • 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 
  • In-universe example: Grand Theft Auto's radio stations are a great example of this. Some of the DJs even take shots at the other stations.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Club Penguin was a casual Massively Multiplayer Online Game that was especially popular amongst 2000s children, but it rarely gets mentioned outside of the fanbase due to being a "kid-only" game that older gamers and reviewers weren't interested in, contrasted to more "adult" and well-known MMOs like World of Warcraft.
  • Puyo Puyo is a pop culture icon in Japan and is seen as the other face of the Falling Blocks genre alongside Tetris, but it struggles to find that same status in the rest of the world, even with localized releases.
  • Pokémon is the biggest Cash Cow Franchise in the world, but due to its early years during the 1990s being also being the height of its popularity, many assumed that it was another Flash In The Pan Fad once it stopped dominating the conversation. When Pokémon GO became big with the mobile market in the late 2010s, older adults and former fans who had "outgrown" the franchise were often confused that the series was still ongoing; which led to countless articles and newsites citing Go as a reboot of a 1990s classic.
  • Battle Garegga is easily one of the most infamous shmups within the shmup community, thanks mainly due to its rank system that cranks up the game difficulty as the player collects items, fires their weapons, and simply survives, and if not managed deliberately (through abstaining from picking up power-up items and intentionally dying), the rank can spike to a point where the game goes from Nintendo Hard to nigh-Unwinnable by Design. The Real Is Brown aesthetic that was unique at its time, the more iconic boss designs like that of Black Heart, and the game being Manabu Namiki's debut as a game music composer also further establish Battle Garegga as one of the most iconic shmups, and nearly everyone in the shmup community has a strong opinion on it (whether good or bad). Outside of said community, however, almost nobody has even heard of it. While this can be attributed to the game being largely inaccessible to the Western world due to its arcade release being limited outside of Japan and its only port for almost 20 years being a Sega Saturn port that, in addition to being on a system that sold poorly, was released in Japan only, even after the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ports made it to the West it's still not something that is going to catch the average gamer's eye, not helped by its high price for a shmup at 34.99 USD. Likely, by the time the game got a home port in the West, the lack of pre-existing brand name recognition (like for Gradius and Raiden), middling bullet counts (as opposed to the "dodge THIS" factor of games like Touhou and CAVE games) and lack of colorful visuals made it seem like just another arcade shmup from the 90s.
  • CHUNITHM is one of the highest-grossing rhythm games in Japan and one of the most sought-after in the non-Japanese rhythm game community, thanks to its refinements to vertical-scrolling lane-based rhythm games, with many people who play it regarding it as one of the best rhythm games since beatmania IIDX; particularly rich rhythm game players will gladly pay thousands of US dollars just to have reverese-engineered cabs with the Copy Protection disabled shipped to their homes. Perhaps because of this foreign demand, SEGA would later release an international version of the game in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. Likely due to being an Arcade Game with No Port For You, it is virtually unknown outside of the non-Japanese rhythm game community, with many Westerners in particular still believing that DanceDanceRevolution is Japan's premier rhythm game by a wide margin.
  • BEMANI is Konami's series of rhythm games, still being top-grossers in arcades in Japan and with several games in the series still being actively maintained, such as beatmania IIDX, DanceDanceRevolution, Sound Voltex, and GITADORA. In just about any rhythm game community you can expect to find many people who are familiar with at least one of their games. BEMANI is notable for being one of the least-affected Konami video game properties in the wake of the scandals that rocked Konami in the mid-2010snote . However, outside of the rhythm game fanbase, and due to arcades and arcade games being not all that big anymore outside of the Asia Pacific region, nobody seems to be aware of the BEMANI series except maybe for old versions of DDR, i.e. "Konami doesn't make games anymore."

    Webcomics 
  • Homestuck achieved utterly preposterous levels of fame and infamy, but outside of certain areas of the internet is practically a non-entity; the author did a signing event at a Comic-Con, and the staff was unprepared for the gigantic mob of fans that showed up. Those outside of internet-comics communities who are aware of its existence generally either have friends who are fans, or are only aware of the comic due to the rampant chaos some fans stirred up at conventions in the fandom's early years (infamously, some cons were overrun by mobs of troll cosplayers who failed to properly seal their body paint, left gray paint smears everywhere, and behaved very inappropriately).

    Web Animation 
  • There are two giants in the Japanese Virtual YouTuber scene: Nijisanji and hololive. However, international fans heavily gravitated towards hololive, leaving Nijisanji as a non-entity outside of its home country; this was cemented by hololive being the first to introduce a branch of Vtubers aimed at English-speaking fans that quickly exploded in popularity. Nijisanji would finally solve this trope by introducing English-speaking male talents, which covered a niche completely ignored by hololive to that point and resulted in a massive influx of new viewers.

    Web Original 
  • The Chilean youtuber Germán Garmendia is very popular in Latin American countries (to the point where he has over 40 million subscribers, and at one point, he was 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.
  • 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 isn't really aware that other services exist.
  • Ryan ToysReview has over 23 billion views and has his own Nick Jr. show called Ryan's Mystery Playdate, but he's virtually unknown outside of kids under 8 and their families.
  • 4chan, while a cornerstone of Internet culture, is rather obscure outside it. When brought up at all it's mostly known for "The Fappening", right-wing radicalism, and Anonymous (the latter of which is often deemed to be some sort of evil ring of hacker-terrorists, rather than a collective nickname for the various anonymous users of the site).
  • Because the series of Unus Annus was shortlived by design (376 videos posted once a day for a year and then the channel was deleted deliberately), fans within the sphere of Markiplier frequently reference the Unnus Annus merchandise, quotes, memes, and screenshots to the bewilderment of other Markiplier fans who may have known about Unnus Annus or had seen a few episodes of it, but now have no way of watching it themselves outside of finding an archive by someone who downloaded all of the episodes via an external video downloader. As such, scrolling through the Markiplier reddit can be confusing even for people who have diligently watched Markiplier. This can be made even more confusing as Mark has several Let's Play videos directly referncing Unus Annus or at least showing the countdown timer to when it is deleted. People who saw Unus Annus will get it. Anyone who missed out or didn't want to watch it will just be confused.
  • Ask anybody who wasn't a internet user in the 2000s or a site member what Fark.com is, and expect to receive blank stares.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Early during its run, it became popular to the point of ubiquity on the internet, especially in animation fan circles, but was still relatively obscure to a lot of people who didn't frequent forums and imageboards much, or don't get the cable channel the show is broadcast on; other media are more likely to reference or parody My Little Pony in general rather than Friendship Is Magic specifically. Most of its exposure from mainstream media was poking fun at the sudden rise of its adult male fanbase, i.e. "bronies", with such coverage assuming that they were fans of the older cartoons rather than the 2010s one.
  • The Simpsons: 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!
  • In 1951, Centaur Productions made two stop-motion animation musical shorts, The Three Little Dwarfs (Hardrock, Coco, and Joe) and Suzy Snowflake. Shortly after producing those shorts, the company went out of business and the cartoons fell into obscurity ... except in Chicago, where WGN-TV has been running them every Christmas season since 1956 (along with UPA's Frosty the Snowman). The cartoons are completely unknown to most of the world, while anyone who grew up in Chicago can't imagine Christmas without them.

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