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Reality Subtext

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"Funny story about that font... so we had to write a tool to convert a bitmap sheet into our proprietary font format. I wanted the tool to support kerning really bad, but the programmer working on it didn't know what kerning was, and was skeptical it was necessary...So I made the first font (used on the menus) really extra slopey and obnoxious looking if it didn't have kerning. I showed him contrived examples [...] So I got my kerning support."
Adam Pletcher, regarding the fonts used in Descent

The Reality Subtext extends past the Fourth Wall to issues surrounding the production itself or on an even larger scale.

During the creation of a work, the rest of the world and its struggles go on. Maybe the author or actor is having relationship issues, or drug issues, or got pregnant, or someone close to them died. Or something major happened in the world: a disaster, a war, the death or birth of a public figure, a chaotic political climate, what have you.

Often these events have an effect on the work, but not one that is visible to the viewer or reader unless they are privy to that outside knowledge. Some subtext is only speculative, and some come from first-hand sources such as interviews and DVD Commentary. Either way, it is either not intentionally called out within the work, or the reference is oblique except to those who are "in on it".

A Sub-Trope of Real Life Writes the Plot.

See Harsher in Hindsight, Heartwarming in Hindsight or Hilarious in Hindsight for unintended cases of this, as Reality Subtext is at least semi-intentional. Also compare Enforced Method Acting and Throw It In. May overlap with Creator Breakdown, Memorial Character and Write What You Know.

Example subpages:

Other Examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • Coca-Cola's first television ad with newly signed spokesperson Jordan Spieth was intended to feature the golfer enjoying a Coke on the golf course during a hot day. However, the day the commercial was being shot, it began to pour rain and would not let up. This forced the creators to change the ad concept on the fly. The result? Spieth trying to pass time while waiting for the rain to let up so he can film a Coke commercial.
  • Portland, Oregon station KPTVnote  was known as "Oregon's 12" for a few years in the '90s. In 1996, the stars of some of the shows they ran (such as Judge Judy, Seinfeld, and Baywatch) did a few plugs for the station, but unfortunately a lot of them pronounced "Oregon" as "Ore-gone." So they made an ad campaign poking fun at this, with some local personalities joining in on the fun.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Barefoot Gen is basically an adaptation of Keiji Nakazawa's life in Hiroshima before, during and after the atomic bombing as he and his Author Avatar Gen were raised in a house of outspoken and ostracized pacifists and both of them lost nearly all their family members from his burning house except for his mother, elder brothers, and infant sister who died from malnutrition stemming from food shortages.
  • The ComiQ has an in-universe example, as Ryota's work has parallels to murders that took place three years ago, specifically a symbol found at the scene of the crime. The backgrounds turn out to be drawn by the supposed murderer, who is actually innocent and seeking a way to clear his name.
  • The story in Grave of the Fireflies was based closely on the experiences of the writer, Nosaka Akiyuki, in World War II. In Real Life, Nosaka watched his little sister die of starvation the same way the main character of the movie did. That the said main character later starves to death on the floor of JNR Sannomiya Station in the opening of the film should tell you a bit about how he still feels about that.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Evangelion parallels director Hideaki Anno's real-life battle with depression (hence mental illness being such a major theme of the show), as well as his growing distaste for Otaku culture. The infamous masturbation scene from End of Evangelion is often cited as an especially blatant middle finger aimed at the audience.
    • Likewise, Anno later recovered and eventually entered into a happy marriage with Moyoco Anno. It's widely believed that his new lease on life was responsible for the comparatively upbeat and optimistic tone of the first two Rebuild of Evangelion movies. Shortly thereafter, his mental health plummeted once again for the third movie... and, this being Anno, this too is evident in the movie.
  • Hayao Miyazaki made Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea partly as an apology to his son Goro, who he had publicly feuded with during the production of Tales from Earthsea, Goro's first movie. Word of Miyazaki is that Sosuke is modeled after young Goro and his mother after his wife, which by logic would make the father who's always away is Miyazaki himself. The Morse code messages the father sends them from his ship when he tells them he's not coming home yet — "I'm sorry and I love you" — are thus meant for Miyazaki's family.
  • Takotsuboya, known for his Dark Fic doujins, comes from a background of soul-crushing tragedy of failure after failure as he wanted to become a mangaka but failed in his dreams completely.
  • Pokémon Adventures: In the ninth volume, it's revealed that Red's hands have gotten numb due to his predicament with the Elite Four in the previous chapter, which causes him to have a hard time to even catch a Poké Ball. In real life, the manga's illustrator Mato had been diagnosed with tendonitis, which forced her to retire from the series and to Satoshi Yamamoto to replace her ever since. Thankfully, she is nowadays doing well enough to continue on with regular illustration jobs, but she has never returned to serialized manga again.
  • Unico:
    • Osamu Tezuka first designed Unico during a trip to Los Angeles, California on June 1976, while the manga begun publication on Lyrica during November of that same year. A central theme in the manga is the importance of empathy, compassion, kindness, and love. At the same time, The Vietnam War ended which quickly became a hot topic with the general public (especially in the United States) along with the conclusion of The '60s, which was a decade that was notably violent and cynical. Which explains why Unico carries a melancholy tone, but focuses on the titular protagonist's preferences of non-violence while encouraging compassion and kindness. The manga was also written during a darker period in Tezuka's life, with Unico being written the exact same time as his MW manga.
    • "The Cat on the Broomstick" chapter was inspired from a brief period when Tezuka was hospitalized in 1977, causing the manga to enter hiatus on Sanrio's Lyrica magazine. The chapter features Unico alongside Chao/Chow befriending an unnamed old lady (referred as "The Old Lady", "Old Beggar Women" and "Granny") who's homeless, fragile, and losing her memories. The chapter ends with Unico using his powers to secretly heal Granny from the illness which she almost succumbed to. Other emotional and heartfelt moments between Unico and Chao were also influenced by Tezuka's mostly unpleasant hospital experiences, particularly when Chao cries into Unico's arms as the little unicorn reassures her by saying "Don't cry, at least you aren't dead".
    • The scene in "The Tale of the Fangs of Athens" chapter where Unico witnesses Piro's mother dying, gently breaks the news to Piro/Marusu of his mother's death, and consoles Piro as he's mourning her death was influenced by witnessing his wife and children being very concerned with his health, while his two children feared that he might die.
  • The author of the Light Novel Welcome to the NHK! (a black comedy slice-of-life show about a hikikomori) is an actual hikikomori, and even admitted in one of his author's notes that he's been living off the royalties of the book and delaying his work on other novels. Also, the dub of the anime based on the book cast Chris Patton as the lead character. Patton has admitted to having anxiety issues (including a time in high school where he refused to leave his room). It's hard to tell if this influenced his casting or not, but it certainly helped inform his acting—his work in the show has ended up being one of his most critically praised roles in anime dubbing.
  • Your Name:
    • One can feel the influence of the 2011 great earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan on certain parts of the film. It's no coincidence that the Time Skip at the last part is 5 years at least from Taki's perspective, just like 5 years passed between the great earthquake in 2011 and the film's release in 2016.
    • Mitsuha's Small Town Boredom and desire to move to Tokyo reflect the gradual dying-off of rural Japan as their young move away to urban areas.
    • The novelization has an exclusive scene where, after the Shinto ritual, Mitsuha and Yotsuha have to entertain some guests and they note afterward that the party was full of elderly, most likely a jab at the silver tsunami Japan's facing.

  • Young Sick Bacchus:
    • The reason why Bacchus' pose is so awkward was that Caravaggio painted it using a convex mirror.
    • It is often disputed as to why Bacchus in this picture looks the way he does. Some credited it as bad lighting when it was being painted. Others believed that he painted it just after being relieved from the hospital, having been recovering either from malaria or being kicked by a horse.

    Comic Books 
  • After World War II, there was a substantial drop in the popularity of superhero comic books that led to the vast majority of them being cancelled—only Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and a handful of other characters who co-starred in their anthology books (Aquaman, Green Arrow) managed to hang on. The Comics Code Authority essentially destroyed crime and horror books and dealt a heavy blow to romance, and not long after, superheroes became the dominant genre in the industry. Because of this, multiple superhero universes tend to refer to a similar drought in the postwar period, such as the Justice Society of America being Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee and disbanding or the Minutemen facing a rapid decline as its members broke off and retired.
  • Spider-Man: The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #416 (October 1996) included a story by Tom DeFalco where the Daily Bugle is facing financial problems and has to lay off many of its personnel. Meaning that established supporting characters such as Kate Cushing were Put on a Bus, with their fates in doubt. Peter Parker himself, who had only recently returned to New York City with the promise of a permanent staff position, was among those fired and faced an unstable future. The story reportedly served as a way for DeFalco to work "through his feelings" concerning the ongoing financial difficulties of Marvel Comics and a series of Marvel staff layoffs. Some were staffers whom DeFalco himself had hired for Marvel, and he felt partly responsible for the company letting them go like this. Per "The Life of Reilly": "In his Daily Bugle scenes, Tom D. worked in a lot of in-jokes and references to what was going on at Marvel, all of which probably went over the heads of people on the outside, but were glaring obvious to anyone who was working (or had been working) at the company."
  • In the Batgirl tie-in to Future's End, Barbara Gordon tells Cassandra Cain that she admires how Cass never gives up despite having gone through absolute hell. While this fits in-universe, it also references the fact that from 2005-2015, the character was put through a lot of shit by DC editorial. She was turned into an evil Dragon Lady, then stripped of the Batgirl title so that she could be replaced by Stephanie Brown, then dumped into Comic-Book Limbo, and then brought out of limbo and given a new identity only to be Retconned out of history after the New 52. It's been a roller coaster ride to say the least, but her fanbase never gave up on her.
  • Batman: In the final issue of Batman, Inc's second volume, Talia al Ghul goes on a villainous rant to Batman about how little his whole crusade to keep Gotham safe actually matters, and declaring that he's wasting his life on pointless nonsense. This was after Grant Morrison, who wrote that issue, had spent years doing an extensive reworking of Batman and his mythos to make for a more worldly and complex vision of the character... only to see the New 52 undo a lot of the run's impact and reset as many things as possible back to square one. For instance, one of Morrison's main ideas was to make Dick Grayson the next Batman, hoping the change would stick for at least a decade—instead, despite Dick's time in the cowl being widely acclaimed and selling very well, he was reverted back to being Nightwing again. Hence, Talia's frustration at Batman's shortsightedness is essentially Morrison's own frustration shining through.
    "You, with your Jokers and Riddlers, your evil doctors. All those grotesque mental patients you choose to 'match wits' with. You'll never rise above them. You'll play in the mud for the rest of your life."
  • Partway through Captain America and the Mighty Avengers, the Big Bad is revealed to be CEO of the Beyond Corporation, prompting Monica to go off on a rant over how everybody acted like the things she went through with Beyond never actually happened. For years, the editors of Marvel have made it clear that Nextwave (of which the Beyond Corporation was the main antagonist) is strictly non-canon, so this was just as much Monica airing her grievances as it was the writers airing theirs for keeping one of the most beloved comics among Marvel staff on the shelf.
  • Captain Marvel:
    • When Peter David's Captain Marvel series saw flagging sales, he did a storyline where Mar-Vell fought Entropy.
    • The final issue of Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps ends with the title characters flying off into the unknown space outside of Battleworld, with the narration commenting that while there's a good chance they might all die, death is better than simply sitting around and refusing to explore what else is out there. Some have read this as commentary from writer Kelly Sue Deconnick, as this was her last Captain Marvel story before she left Marvel Comics to focus on her creator-owned stuff like Bitch Planet.
    • In Secret Empire #7, Carol Danvers is lamenting to the comatose body of the female Quasar that she's the reason for Steve Rogers and HYDRA taking over the United States and Earth's most powerful heroes are stuck behind an impenetrable shield. That she started off the second superhuman civil war that divided the superhero community again because she was too stubborn to back down, that she wanted people to love her and instead gave them a reason to hate her. This is seen as reflecting on the Character Derailment done to Carol due to the story, as well as the fact that Civil War II was seemingly intended to help solidify Carol as an A-lister but resulted in her being far more widely disliked instead.
  • Shazam!: When Captain Marvel (the other Captain Marvel, that is) and Superman see each other, they usually end up throwing punches, much more often than is typical for Let's You and Him Fight. This is largely a nod to their very first battle in court. DC Comics sued Fawcett over Captain Marvel being too similar to the Man of Steel, and eventually got the book canceled. Comic writers have since explored this situation decades later by having the two of them fight one another in the panels.
  • A few years before Stan Lee introduced Doctor Strange, he created a similar, but far less successful supernatural hero named Doctor Druid. The two characters had strikingly similar origin stories, and many comic historians have commented that Druid was likely a precursor of sorts to Strange. Many years later, Avengers Spotlight #37 revealed that Doctor Druid and Doctor Strange had actually been empowered by the same man, the Ancient One, and that Druid had essentially been used as a guinea pig to make sure that it would be safe for the Ancient One to make Strange the new Sorcerer Supreme:
    Doctor Druid: ...But I never imagined I was simply...a test run for Dr. Strange!
  • Paul Cornell has written that the Doctor's increasing feeling that he needs to get away from UNIT and twentieth-century Earth in his Third Doctor Doctor Who (Titan) miniseries was an expression of his own decision at the time to stop doing work-for-hire or licensed work completely and only work on his own stand-alone works.
  • Dwayne McDuffie:
    • McDuffie's final Justice League of America arc, which saw the team struggling to stay together and Black Canary questioning whether she even cared enough to continue with the group, was meant as a metaphor for McDuffie's own deteriorating relationship with DC Comics. Not too long after, he was fired for publicly speaking out against the Executive Meddling his run had received.
    • His earlier storyline with the team captured by Anansi was also a commentary on Executive Meddling. Anansi rewrites reality and causes a bunch of For Want of a Nail moments that result in a radically different Justice League, mirroring the way Dwayne felt his own storylines were being twisted and taken away from him.
  • The 2023 Fire & Ice: Welcome to Smallville mini-series takes the real world obscurity of the titular heroines and uses it as a major plot point. The first issue even has Fire bitterly lament how she's not famous despite having fought alongside the likes of Batman and Superman back when she was a member of the Justice League International.
  • The Flash: The out-of-universe Fandom Rivalry between the second and third Flash, Barry Allen and Wally West, and the Executive Meddling from fans of the former who had began Running the Asylum, has repeatedly influenced stories in the comics.
    • Back in 1992, The Return of Barry Allen was written as something of a retraction to people who were refusing to accept Barry Allen's death, with the Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne, getting a backstory that explains he was a Loony Fan who stole Barry Allen's identity in order to 'fix the mistake' that was Barry's death and Wally taking over the mantle. The story ends with Wally proving himself not just Thawne's superior, but also proving to be just as good a Flash as Barry Allen, if not better. Something he would continue to prove for the next two decades.
    • Barry Allen's eventual return in 2010, and subsequently the New 52 reboot that erased Wally West, Jay Garrick, and the extended Flash Family so that Barry Allen was the only Flash, was in large part motivated by Dan DiDio (evidently, one of the kind of people the aforementioned story was griping about) having disliked Wally West for replacing Barry, and believing that Barry Allen's story is simpler and much easier to follow. This in-turn is likely why the extended Flash Family were also erased, as they were largely characters who had become prominent in Wally's tenure, and because erasing them meant more focus could be used on just Barry.
    • In 2016, Wally West returned to the DC Universe after being Exiled from Continuity since the New 52 reboot, where it's explained he was literally exiled from reality, trapped in the Speed Force by a being (Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen) who decided to interfere with the fabric of the DC Universe because they didn't understand it. Geoff Johns has confirmed it was meant as a criticism of the Misaimed Fandom of Watchmen and how some creators have tried to emulate it in all the worst ways, and portraying his rewrites to reality as an invasion of the universe and an attack on everything that made it great really makes it obvious it was specifically criticizing the people behind the New 52.
    • During Joshua Williamson's tenure on The Flash, Executive Meddling greatly hampered many of his stories, such as forcing him to repeatedly abandon any time he tried to give Barry Allen Character Development that resulted in Barry looking like an uncaring dickhead with Aesop Amnesia, and refusing to let him revive the Flash Family. During this time, other books also affected the Flash line, such as Teen Titans having the new Kid Flash, Wallace, help Damian Wayne with some shady shit, and more notably, Wally West being sent to Sanctuary, where he had a mental breakdown and his powers accidentally kill a lot of heroes. Williamson's final story, Finish Line, ends up providing an In-Universe explanation for all of these poor creative decisions with The Reveal that Eobard Thawne had been responsible for forcing people into making bad choices. Barry Allen pushing away his family, Wallace joining Damian Wayne's fascist Teen Titans, Wally West causing the massacre at Sanctuary, Barry not seeking help and prioritising saving the Flash Family, all of it.
    • Speed Metal and Infinite Frontier #0, have Wally and Barry discuss the things Wally has endured in recent years, and how they were largely the result of Wally being pushed aside by Barry's return. In-universe, this is because they started with Flashpoint, an event Barry caused, and that many of them could have been mitigated had Barry put in the effort to help Wally. Out-of-universe, it's because Creator's Pet and Creator's Pest treatment for the two caused Barry to be given preferential treatment at Wally's expense. Barry makes amends by stepping aside and letting Wally be the Flash again, just as Joshua Williamson steps aside to let a new writer take over the Flash book with Wally as the lead once more.
  • The Image Comics miniseries Shattered Image was intended to be a reverse Crisis on Infinite Earths, where the characters from the various studios making up Image would be briefly shunted off into separate universes, then joined back together, mostly. The original notion was that the Silvestri characters would get their own 'verse, while the Liefeld characters would stay part of the whole. Instead, due to real-world machinations, the Liefeld characters vanish without anyone noticing partway through the series (replaced by similar heroes from other 'verses), and the Silvestri characters leave in a solemn parting scene, then return suddenly in the very last panel.
  • The first issue of Invader Zim (Oni) begins with Zim having disappeared for some undisclosed but apparently very long amount of time, playing on the show's sudden cancellation and decade-plus Sequel Gap. Dib has become a gross, overweight shut-in as a result. The movie (apparently set in an Alternate Continuity from the comic) does the same thing.
  • Similar to Dwayne McDuffie above, James Robinson's final issue of the series (and the last issue of Justice League of America before the 2011 reboot) was very obviously a bitter commentary on the behind the scenes issues of the series itself. In the issue, Dick Grayson and Donna Troy lament that nobody will remember their League, but that they're proud of the work they did, and that they will never forget it. This incarnation of the team was going to be rebooted out of continuity, along with all of the team's members aside from Dick himself, who Robinson also commented on regarding his return to the Nightwing role after being Batman for a few years.
  • Last Days of the Justice Society (the story used to write the JSA out of the DC Universe following Crisis on Infinite Earths) opens with the Golden Age Hawkman giving a speech about how the team has become redundant and irrelevant in a world full of younger heroes with the same powers (and sometimes even names), the exact editorial justification for getting rid of the Justice Society in the first place.
  • Tom King's Mister Miracle (2017) does this a couple times over, the first being based on subtext related to his personal reality, the second being on that belonging to Mister Miracle's original creator, Jack Kirby:
    • Much like most of King's work, the series is heavily rooted in the psychology of its hero and examining themes of PTSD and depression, things that King himself had suffered through in his life. In a more specific case, the main narrative conflict of Mister Miracle is protagonist Scott Free waking up and feeling like the world suddenly doesn't make any sense, with unexpected tragedy and trauma coming at him out of nowhere. In 2016, not only was King facing increasing existential anxiety over Donald Trump's inevitable presidency, he suffered a massive panic attack that landed him in the hospital, citing the experience of waking up and everything suddenly feeling "wrong" and being forced to just live with it being his inspiration for the plot, just heightened to a more supernatural sense of reality literally breaking apart.
    • King also wrote in elements that allude to and pay tribute to the life of Jack Kirby, King interpreting Mister Miracle/Scott Free as something of Kirby's personal avatar: a super-Escape Artist who was ostensibly a widely-beloved "god" of his own field, but always yearned to grow beyond the confines of said field through ambitious feats, and also one who felt in many ways never fully appreciated by the powers that be or his peers. One major throughline of King's miniseries involves the character Funky Flashman, who Kirby created as a very unflattering caricature of Stan Lee, a former co-creator and friend whose relationship turned sour as Lee soaked up more of the attention and credit due to his outgoing showmanship, something they only really reconciled with just months before Kirby passed away. King further gave the two a further symbolic reconciliation by introducing Scott's son, Jacob (named after Kirby's birth name), with Funky becoming a loving Honorary Uncle who creates stories with the kid, including one tale about a "star eater and his herald". Funky repeatedly insists to Scott that "Genius Jake provides all the imaginations! I do the words!", alluding to how Lee himself saw his working relationship with Kirby, in turn how despite the animosity, he held the man in glowing respect as the true mastermind of all their beloved works. Funky's last words about Jacob in the final issue are "We have nothing to reproach ourselves about!", which were reportedly what Kirby last said to Lee before passing away.
  • The Multiversity:
    Heroes are for movies. The super-hero is dead.
  • The marriage of the New Gods characters Scott Free and Big Barda is based on that of their creator, Jack Kirby, and his wife Roz to whom he was Happily Married for fifty years.
  • Peter David has expressed displeasure over the fact that Christopher Priest killed off Ned Leeds in the Spider-Man versus Wolverine one-shot without consulting him, as David had planned on revealing that Leeds was the Hobgoblin. In the tie-in issue of The Amazing Spider-Man that dealt with the aftermath of Ned's death, The Kingpin angrily tells the Foreigner (the man who arranged Ned's murder) that he should have consulted him first, and that such a rash move displayed a complete and utter lack of respect.
  • The last Scrooge McDuck story Carl Barks wrote before going into semi-retirement was King Scrooge the First (written 1966, published 1967). It is the story of an immortal man who is tired of his long life and seeks death. He describes himself as "tired, and old and lonely". The story is considered to express the 65-year-old Bark's own feelings of fatigue and decision to end a whole era of his life.
  • The Marvel Comics hero Shang-Chi was initially created as the son of the infamous Yellow Peril villain Fu Manchu. Since Marvel lost the rights to Fu Manchu in the ensuing decades, whenever Shang-Chi's father appears, he's never referred to by name. This is Played for Laughs in an issue of Black Panther, where T'Challa tries to speak Fu's name, only to be cut off before he can say it.
  • According to the introduction to the Fleischer/Aparo The Spectre trade, the only reason the Spectre was revived as a character at all was that then-DC editor Joe Orlando was mugged and the thief got away. This left him longing for a superhero who punished the wicked after every legal recourse has failed. A little research into The Golden Age of Comic Books later, he found some early Spectre stories that were just up that alley, and voila.
  • What If?:
    Uatu: I have watched a million worlds where the best of humanity has fallen too soon. The course of history is always shaped by such events. Often it is the path to ruin. Except in the best of all possible worlds. The shining triumphs of those lost inspire others to take up their cause... to be better than they were before. Worlds like this I watch the closest, for if there are truly answers to the mysteries of the universe, here is where they will be found. For I am The Watcher, and this is my task... and my honor.
    • An issue focusing on a what-if of Annihilation had Nova acting utterly incredulous upon learning of the events of Civil War (2006), angered that at a time when the cosmic side of Marvel was fighting for its collective life in a war that saw the deaths of countless billions and the destruction of multiple planets, its Earth-bound heroes were at each other's throats over the passage of some law involving their secret identities. Once the heroes of Earth become aware of the events of Annihilation (which proved even more apocalyptic in this universe), they more or less forget the entire question of hero registration in favor of banding together to protect Earth from Annihilus. This echoed a gripe brought up very frequently at the time: Annihilation was perceived as a Bat Family Crossover at most, received relatively lesser treatment and promotion, and was barely acknowledged in the wider universe, whereas Civil War received tons of promotion and proved almost inescapable across Marvel's line for some time. Nova's anger is more or less a rephrasing of how many fans at the time felt that Annihilation, not Civil War, should have been treated as Marvel's big event of 2006.
  • The premise of the 2017 Youngblood relaunch is a new team being formed as a Redeeming Replacement for the original team, which has long since disbanded and is publicly reviled for being overly violent and arrogant and putting themselves above the law. Likewise, the 2017 relaunch itself is an attempt to revive and update for the modern age the Youngblood franchise itself, which has fallen a long way since its heyday in the early 90s and is now largely remembered as an example of everything wrong with that period of comics.

    Fan Works 
  • Facebook's 7teen Fanfiction Series did this with the Dunphy clan of Modern Family, creating an Expy for each Dunphy family member and giving them similar first names (exceptions being Terry and Susan to Phil and Claire, respectively). Each story arc that features them has Michael, Jonesy's Dad, give Susan a "The Reason You Suck" Speech on why she is a terrible person and why Terry (as well as anyone who associates with her) deserves better. Why? Because the author of 7teen despises Claire Dunphy's character and includes legitimate gripes that he (and other people who hate Claire) have with her character in Michael's speeches. However, he has also openly stated that Phil is his favorite character because of his goofy, laid-back, genuine Nice Guy demeanor and always felt as though he was often mistreated by her.
  • The Best Revenge, among its other changes from Harry Potter canon, puts quite a bit more focus on what exactly happened to Lily and James's possessions after they died. As the author explains in her notes, her brother died shortly before she started writing the fic, and being the executor of his estate taught her that "personal possessions sometimes matter very much for all sorts of reasons."
  • Citadel of the Heart:
    • Truth and Ideals had Chapter 72 ending with Grandis in a rather downer mood on a snowy night during the conclusion of the 8th Gym Arc. As the story progresses until its conclusion, Grandis shows a lot of signs of slacking off on the job as he begins drowning his sorrows with either non-alcoholic, sugar-filled drinks and soda or eating a huge amount of pizza and junk food. In the end, Grandis was very quick to leave once he was no longer necessary, as he felt the need to just take time off and relax for who knows how long for at least the remainder of the year. In what ended up being a more Life Imitates Art example of this, the author confirms he had been slacking off much of the remainder of 2017; often drinking caffeine-filled soda and eating pizza and other junk food, and being incredibly lazy as he had a lot of anxiety issues over the fact a story he had worked on for over three years was finally over. Due to this, now that he had no need to work on it any time soon, he developed an Empty Nest syndrome regarding it that prevented him from focusing on his other fics.
    • Digimon Re: Tamers has the Downer Ending of Chapter 16 being a reflection of the immeasurable Creator Breakdown that occurred with MF 217 because of the sheer, blunt impact of the death of his own grandfather about 11 days prior to it being posted. Grandis dying in said chapter reflects the fact the author felt dead inside while writing that chapter because of the influence of his grandfather's death throughout all of January and parts of February.
    • Another one from Truth and Ideals has Fennel saying the following: "Precisely! There are several other features as well, but one of which I'm afraid no longer has official support ever since last year." She is referring to the C-Gear's connectivity to Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection; Chapter 9, where this quote originates, was published in 2015, a year out from the shutdown of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection on May 20th, 2014.
    • In Sword Art Online: Special Edition Chapter 24, Mirror M mentions how he keeps forgetting that it's currently Christmas Eve, considering he's mistaking the date as being closer to Halloween instead. This is due to the fact that, while it was already obvious from the snowfall that Sword Art Online: Special Edition takes place in December, Chapter 24 of the fic was posted on October 25th of 2019.
  • Jim Sangster's Doctor Who Novelisations-style adaptation of "Dimensions of Time" has several tongue-in-cheek references to the peculiar nature of the production, the most blatant being his version of the scene where Mandy intervenes in the confrontation between the Rani and Liz Shaw, which was originally subject to a phone-in vote between the two parts of the special, with the audience choosing between Mandy and Big Ron. In Sangster's version, the Rani's sidekick Cyrian mind-controls Big Ron to get involved, but the two trapped Doctors are able to alter the time bubble so that he chose Mandy (who is less of a physical threat) instead. When Cyrian checks the dimensional readings and discovers they've changed slightly, the correct and actual figures are the relevent phone numbers for the two characters.
  • Appropriately for a Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfic, the author of Doing It Right This Time draws heavily on his own history of depression when writing Shinji.
  • When Mykan explained his story of why he hated My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, he stated that one of the reasons why is because friends over time either used him as a means to an end, bullied him in secret, or moved on and even pretended that they didn't know him. Now compare that to one of the reasons why Beast Boy became Count Logan in The End of Ends, especially the last part.
  • Gensokyo 20XX:
    • The instance in 20XXV where Reimu gets a hold of rat poison was based on a recent time when the author, Amoridere, had found her young nephew, who likes to get into things, with Windex, though that ended differently than what had happened in the story. Note 
    • Yume Ni beating up or otherwise fighting with the other kids is based on the fact that Amoridere does not have a good relationship with her siblings. Chapter 82, where Yume was stabbed with a pair of scissors, highlighted the fact further in what partially motivated her to write was a spat she had with her sister.
    • Some of Reimu's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Baka was based on something Amoridere wanted to tell her older brother, the relationship with whom is strained.
  • The Legend of Total Drama Island:
    • Izzy's (presumably) Imaginary Friend Sunshine is the alter ego of a certain Duncan fangirl, who created the characternote  in part to be a Parody Sue proxy for her fangirlism.
    • The author describes himself and his wife as essentially a real-life Noah/Katie pair. Guess who Noah's crushing on?
  • In the infamous My Immortal, this happens to the character Willow, who is based on the author's real-life friend Raven. When Tara and Raven have a falling out over a sweater and a poster of Gerard Way, Willow fails all her classes and is expelled, after which she is killed by B'loody Mary Smith, and has her corpse raped by Loopin. When the two make up, Willow is brought back with no explanation. It's that kind of fic.
  • In the Real-Person Fic Ice Ice Baby, the authors frequently base events off of real-life celebrity scandals and drama. Also, the authors, two theater kids, have recently been adding many musical theater-inspired subplots to the fic, including Zachary Quinto's production of "Cobweb!", which features several references to their own high school theater experiences.
  • Kill la Kill AU, by the author of the above Gensokyo 20XX series'', has some of this as well.
    • Ragyou and Soichiro's divorce is because Amoridere's own parents divorced when she was around Satsuki's age in the earlier half of the series.
    • ''Feel' has a chapter with Rei being on oxygen therapy; it's implied by the next chapter that Rei had passed on. This was based on the fact that Amoridere's grandmother (who also suffers from breathing problems) was in hospice, and later became a tad Harsher in Hindsight when her grandmother did pass away.
  • Pokémon: A Marvelous Journey:
    • At one point, Julia catches a red Gyarados which she names Geraldine. A regular Gyarados would be troublesome enough, but Geraldine has been forcibly evolved against its will, was captured by Team Rocket and experimented on, is scared of Pokémon battles, and developed some form of PTSD because of her experiences. Ultimately, Julia comes to sadly realize that simply giving Geraldine love and care won't magically heal her and that she needs professional help, so she gives Geraldine up to a Pokémon Rehabilitation Facility that can give her the therapy and support that Julia can't give her. This story arc was based on the author being forced to give up one of her cats because she was unable to pay for or help it with its many health issues.
    • Saoirse the Snubbull suddenly dying from a heart defect that nobody knew about until the autopsy was based on what happened to another one of the authoress' cats.
  • The Power Rangers fan film Power/Rangers (Bootleg Universe) does this with two of the original Rangers from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and the actors who played them in the series proper, as it had Trini's funeral after the Rangers' final battle (reflecting Thuy Trang's passing) and Billy is shown as having come out as gay (reflecting David Yost, who is gay himself).
  • In the Skyhold Academy Yearbook series, it's explicitly stated that the founders of the eponymous school decided to establish it for the children of Thedas because they were never able to have children of their own. This is also true of one of the authors.
  • The rise of The Sharing in Sporadic Phantoms is shown to explicitly play on the feelings of isolation that people felt during the COVID-19 pandemic, touting their safe in-person gatherings and feelings of community to draw people in.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fanfic When I Finally Break, Chloe's daily harassment on her, along with her difficult family life outside her parents, leads Marinette to start cutting herself and hiding her problems from her friends. The author has admitted in updates that her home life is dysfunctional and has a history of depression and self-harm that she keeps from her friends.
  • Why Am I Crying?:
    • Sweetie Belle's arc is based on the author's experiences in learning about — and accepting — the concept of death.
    • The stuff that happened to Silver Spoon at the camp, including bullies burning her teddy bear in a campfire and leaving her tied to a tree in the woods, were actual things that happened at a camp where a friend of the author was a counselor.
    • Cheerilee's speech to Scootaloo and not letting her hate and anger consume her enough to become a bully was partly based on an experience of their author's where he attacked a bully and choked him until he turned blue after having all he could take from him.

    Films — Animation 
  • An American Tail: Fievel Goes West:
    • During the production of the film, Steven Spielberg had just finished a nasty divorce with Amy Irving, voice actress of Miss Kitty. What does the film introduce Miss Kitty doing? Breaking up with Tiger.
    • Similarly, this was Jimmy Stewart's final film role, making his closing speech resonate for its Passing the Torch qualities.
  • As is noted in the booklet that came with the Legacy Edition of the movie's soundtrack, "The Mob Song" from Beauty and the Beast reflects how AIDS was viewed at the time the song was written and the conditions in Howard Ashman's life as a sufferer of the disease.
    We don't like what we don't understand
    In fact, it scares us
    And this monster is mysterious at least
  • Foam Bath's director György Kovásznai originally set out to become a storefront decorator, but the art community of the time considered it a lowly job and even academia was split between the "real arts" and "window dressers." The character Zsolt is therefore a hysterical window decorator who strives for his art and work to be appreciated and even rants about the lack of respect his kind gets. The rest of the movie reflects on real life parenting trends of the late 70s East Bloc.
  • Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus begins with Zim having disappeared for some undisclosed but apparently very long amount of time, playing on the show's sudden cancellation and decade-plus Sequel Gap. Dib has become a gross, overweight shut-in as a result. The comic (apparently set in an Alternate Continuity from the film) does the same thing.
  • Throughout The Little Drummer Boy, Aaron is embittered with hatred for all humans due to the murder of his parents until playing for the newborn Jesus. When his lamb returns, Greer Carson's narration mentions that "Aaron's heart was filled with joy and love. And he knew at last that the hate he had carried there was wrong. As ALL hatred will ever be wrong." A valid point regardless of when it aired, but the moral seems especially directed to those struggling with the horrible events of 1968 (a year that saw, among other things, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King that April; followed exactly two months later by the assassination of New York Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy along with race riots following Dr. King's death, and another riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, instigated by the Youth International Party/Yippies, who instigated a similar riot at Disneyland two years later; the year would've been viewed with scorn had it not been for Apollo 8).
  • Ratatouille: Janeane Garofalo plays a woman who had to fight tooth and nail to become successful in a career dominated by latently sexist traditions. She famously left the writing staff of Saturday Night Live after one season because the male-dominated team made it what she called a "boy's club."
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: During the climactic brawl in Nueva York, Migel furiously rants to Miles that he's "not supposed to be Spider-Man" because the spider that bit him came from a different universe, meaning said universe was robbed of its own Spider-Man. According to Word of God, this is a subtle reference to the racist backlash toward the character of Miles Morales for "replacing" the true owner of the mantle. This makes Miles' Shut Up, Kirk! moment all the more awesome, as it reinforces the series' Central Theme that "anyone can wear the mask".
  • The Tragedy of Man carried the same message of preserverence despite the loss of faith throughout its production, but it proved especially proignant when director Marcell Jankovics lost his studio backing right as he started animating and struggled with completing the film for 23 years (closer to 28 if you include preproduction), with seemingly everything working against him. The messages of God and Adam at the end, "Struggle and have faith." and "The end is death, life is a struggle. And man's end is the struggle itself." were the core mantras that kept him going and not giving up on the project.
  • Turning Red: A couple minor characters have insulin pumps on their arms because the film's technical supervisor Susan Fong lives with type 1 diabetes and wanted diabetic representation in the film.

  • The Aeon 14 novels feature heavy use of Bio-Augmentation for aesthetic reasons as well as utilitarian ones, and body dysphoria is referenced on several occasions (particularly with the mechs in the Rika's Marauders series). Primary author M.D. Cooper came out as a transwoman in 2019.
  • Aftermath: Empire's End contains a brief appearance from Jar Jar Binks, who is now a street performer and said be beloved by children but hated by adults. This is, of course, a nod to the fact that he was originally a Kid-Appeal Character utterly despised by the majority of the franchise's adult fanbase.
  • Amoridere:
    • Broken Gate has a rather upsetting case of this that the author rather candidly reveals in a note at the end of the final chapter, where she mentions and her relatives (a family of nine, the which included an older brother) once lived together in her home, where, after some time of living stably and accommodating, it turned into something of an abusive situation, which took a terrible toll on her mental health (to the point where she implies that she's contemplated suicide). Eventually, she got him out of her home but she had to resort to using a restraining order. She goes onto mention how she didn't want to resort to that and wishes things could have been different and how she based the story and characters off of her own experiences.
    • According to the author, the "Sometimes, its more than the person that dies" line in Turning the Hands of Time, Part I of the Madgie, what did you do? series came from the fact that the story was written either sometime around or after her maternal grandmother had passed and that, afterward, she found it hard to remember her since, recalling certain things about her briefly and vaguely.
  • In A Clockwork Orange, the scenes of ultraviolence were written based on Anthony Burgess' memories of his wife's rape. Apparently, he was pretty consistently drunk during this period, and always regretted that the book became most remembered for the violence.
  • There's a throwaway line in A Feast for Crows where Petyr Baelish expresses surprise at how quickly the new regime is dissolving into chaos, as he'd based his plans on the expectation that he'd have four or five peaceful years to consolidate power in his new position. This is a sly reference to the fact that George R. R. Martin had initially wanted to put a five-year Time Skip between the novels, but due to all the disparate plot threads he couldn't make it work.
  • The Dementors in Harry Potter are the personified result of J. K. Rowling's own battle with depression. She's also mentioned several times that her mother's death significantly affected her writing, especially in regards to the themes of love and death in the story. One of the most haunting moments in the first book is when Harry finds the Mirror of Erised, which shows him his long-dead parents, looking at him and smiling with pride.
  • When mystery author Howard Engel suffered a stroke that left him with alexia sine agraphia (a neurological condition where he is unable to read words while retaining the ability to write), he decided to give his protagonist the same condition in the following novels.
  • In the Kay Scarpetta series of novels by Patricia Cornwell, Scarpetta's niece Lucy is a lesbian who has several different relationships with women while working with the FBI. The Reality Subtext is that Cornwell herself was having an affair with a married female FBI agent, and the affair came to light when the agent's former husband tried to murder her. Lucy also suffers from anorexia nervosa, something Cornwell has also struggled with. An incident in The Body Farm where Lucy is in a drunk car crash in Scarpetta's Mercedes was also based on something that happened to Cornwell.
  • Tamora Pierce stated at a note at the end of the final book in the Protector of the Small series, Lady Knight that the destruction of Haven had been planned beforehand, living in New York City on 9/11 left an indelible mark on her writing. Particularly because she had, by coincidence, been about to write that part when it happened, and it was what she came back to when she was able to write again.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings during World War II while his sons were serving in the British military, which accounts for the significantly darker tone. Although Tolkien was far more deeply influenced by World War I in which he fought himself, and about which he later pointed out, "By 1918 all but one of my closest friends were dead." The discovery of the Apocalyptic Log in Moria marks a point where Tolkien stopped writing for a good while.
  • A running theme in Marian Keyes's novels is that some of her characters will suffer from depression, suicidal tendencies, or alcoholism. Marian herself has struggled with depression and alcoholism her whole life and after a suicide attempt and going sober, turned to writing to cope. After her most recent bout of depression, she wove her experience into Helen Walsh's story in The Mystery of Mercy Close.
  • Cecelia Galante's The Patron Saint of Butterflies, about a group of kids who grow up in an abusive Christian cult, is based on Cecilia's own experiences growing up in a cult. In fact, when her father read it he thought she was trying to insult him.
  • Johnny's search for his father in A Prayer for Owen Meany mirrors John Irving's search for his own father.
  • Actress Clara Salaman wrote her novel Shame on You based on her own experiences of growing up in a religious cult, reported by some sources to be the St James School of the School of Economic Science.
  • Stephen King:
    • He wrote in his accident with a hit-and-run driver into The Dark Tower series, where his Author Avatar suffers the same accident.
    • Heck, Stephen King's work in general is one giant Reality Subtext. He's a teacher who used to work at an industrial laundry? His first novel deals with school life with a protagonist whose mother works at an industrial laundry. He makes it big as a writer? 'Salem's Lot has a writer protagonist (as do many of his other stories) and The Shining has a teacher-turned-writer protagonist. He lives in Maine? His stories take place in Maine. He moves to Colorado? His stories take place in Colorado. He becomes an alcoholic and addicted to different meds? His stories start featuring metaphors for addiction or outright addiction. Seriously, just track the recurring features in his work and you've basically written a biography for him.
    • Specifically, he openly admits to being coked out of his mind while writing The Tommyknockers. Said story features a group of people who find a deadly object which grants them great amounts of energy and a superficial kind of creativity, and then kills them with a slow wasting disease. Nose bleeds feature prominently. In perhaps the most on-the-nose example, the first invention created under the influence of the alien object is a psychic typewriter that effortlessly translates broad story ideas into beautifully written manuscripts.
  • Tigana: After Devin kills a man for the first time, he is musing about deaths, and to what extent they do or do not define the lives that preceded them. He wonders if Stevan had lived and died so that Brandin might cause the destruction of Tigana. In a philosophical sense, probably not, but in a literary sense... yes—as a character, Stevan did exist for that purpose.
    It was difficult to sort out though. Had Stevan of Ygrath lived and died so that his father’s grief might work the destruction of a small province and its people and their memories? Had Prince Valentin di Tigana been born only to swing the killing blade that caused this to happen?
  • Steven Erikson's father passed away shortly before he began writing Toll the Hounds. The book deals with themes of depression and death to a much larger degree than the others and Erikson even dedicated it to his father's memory.
  • V. C. Andrews was confined to mostly bed or a wheelchair for most of her adult life due to various factors (including crippling arthritis). This is possibly reflected in Seeds of Yesterday when Jory is crippled after an accident during a ballet performance and is confined to a wheelchair as well. And, while she said that none her writings were in any way autobiographical, according to an interview in Faces of Fear, she stated that her grandfather was a religious fanatic that forced Andrews' family to go to his church, which Andrews later saw in a negative light. In turn, this seemed to have influenced the use of sinister religious characters in her work, notably Malcolm and Olivia Foxworth in the Dollanganger series.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Victory Unintentional": The Jovians are a racist, expansionist empire. The story was written during World War II.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • The reason behind the characters Brightspirit, Shiningheart, and Braveheart in Long Shadows is that a ten-year-old Warriors fan named Emmy and her parents died in a natural disaster. The news eventually made its way to the authors, who shared the story with the online fandom so that the Warriors community could show support for Emmy's friends and family. The members of the site decided to honor the young girl and her parents by giving them warrior names, and Vicky was so touched she gave them a cameo as members of StarClan (the cats' Heaven) in the next book they were writing.
    • Briarlight was originally not going to survive for too long after the falling tree paralyzed her in Fading Echoes. However, a few months after that was written, Vicky's cousin Dan was paralyzed similarly in a diving accident. The character became a lot more personal to Vicky, and so she decided that the young cat's journey would echo Dan's.

  • Warren Zevon's final album The Wind carried a much more depressing tone than his previous albums, as Zevon was dying of lung cancer and the album was meant to be his swan song.
  • Most of Queen's later songs are about the futility of life and the inevitability of death. At the time Freddie Mercury was dying of AIDS.
  • In 1991, most of Reba McEntire's road band was killed in a plane crash. The next album she released, titled For My Broken Heart, was a collection of heartbreaking songs. McEntire explicitly stated that the project was intended to help her and her team through their grief.
  • The most famous Ur-Example for a generation may be Alanis Morissette's biggest hit, "You Oughta Know" from Jagged Little Pill, based on a former bad relationship of the Canadian singer. It's still debated who that guy was, with pro hockey players and Full House's Dave Coulier being the most popular choices.
  • From the same generation comes Eric Clapton's song "Tears in Heaven". It was written in the immediate aftermath of his young son's death, and the song quickly became far more famous as his personal response to that tragedy than for ostensibly being a soundtrack song for the movie Rush.
  • Similarly, the song "All My Love" from Led Zeppelin's album In Through The Out Door, was about front-man Robert Plant's son's sudden death from a stomach infection.
  • Much of Rush's 2002 album Vapor Trails deals with overcoming tragedy. This is based on two events: First, the deaths of lyricist Neil Peart's wife and daughter within a year of each other, shortly after the release of their previous album, Test For Echo (particularly "Ghost Rider"). Second, the 9/11 attacks the previous year (most blatantly "Peaceable Kingdom").
  • David Bowie's 1993 song "Jump They Say" was inspired by the suicide of his schizophrenic half-brother Terry in 1985.
    • His late-1970s works saw Bowie in the throes of cocaine addiction and divorce. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) depicted Bowie recovering from the addiction.
    • In late 2014, Bowie was diagnosed with liver cancer. , recorded early the following year, was composed as a way for Bowie to reflect on this information and the very real possibility that the disease would kill him. It did: his cancer was declared terminal in November, and he passed away on January 10, 2016, two days after both 's release and his 69th birthday.
  • Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends" from American Idiot is about Billie Joe Armstrong's father's death from cancer when Billie was 10. The funeral was at the beginning of September, and when he came home from it with his mum, Billie locked himself in his bedroom, telling his mum to wake him up when the month ended.
  • Harry Chapin's song "Cat's in the Cradle" was based on a poem his wife wrote and was inspired by not being present at his son's birth.
  • Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Cinderella", about a father reflecting on how quickly his daughter is growing up and that he needs to be there for her even when he's busy, was originally inspired by his young daughters trying to get his attention by putting on Cinderella costumes and dancing while he was rushing through their bedtime routine so that he could get to the studio and work. The song—which features lyrics like "Soon the clock will strike midnight and she'll be gone"—took on a tragic meaning later when one of his daughters that inspired the song, Maria Sue, was killed when her older brother accidentally ran over her in the driveway of their home. Although Chapman originally decided to never sing the song live again, he later decided to use the song to reflect his hope that he'd see his daughter again in Heaven, changing the final line from "she'll be gone" to "I know the dance will go on."
  • In-Universe example: in the film A Mighty Wind, Mitch Cohen's solo work after the breakup of the group Mitch & Mickey mimic his growing depression and mental instability, featuring such albums as "Cry for Help" (cover: Mitch in a padded room restrained by a straightjacket) and "Calling it Quits" (cover: Mitch waist-deep in a grave holding a shovel, with a tombstone behind him reading "RIP Mitch Cohen"). Like almost everything else in the movie, this is played for laughs.
  • Teen Pop example: Miley Cyrus wrote the songs on her Breakout album following her breakup with her first serious boyfriend, Nick Jonas. Several of the songs refer to the breakup.
    • In turn, The Jonas Brothers album Lines, Vines And Trying Times might contain songs written from Nick's standpoint about that same breakup.
    • Miley's 2013 New Sound Album Bangerz was recorded at the age of 20-going-on-21 following a transitional period in her life. She had stayed in Detroit filming LOL, then shot So Undercover in Philadelphia, where according to Word of God Miley had for the first time in her life truly grown up, away from her family, her comfort zone in Toluca Lake, California, and her Disney bubble. She had gotten her first tattoo away from the supervision of her mother, went clubbing, gotten to walk around freely in the streets of Philadelphia without paparazzi, enjoying life, and she had gotten a pixie haircut. She left her manager and record label, decided after the limited releases and subsequent flops of those films to concentrate almost exclusively on music and worked on developing a new sound and mature lyrical/musical approach to the album, working with producers Mike Will Made It and Pharrell Williams. She had worked so intensely on the record, apparently her most personal record, that her longtime relationship to fiance Liam Hemsworth deteriorated. They called off their engagement not long before the album came out. The album's lyrics reflect these changes; in keeping with her new image and Hotter and Sexier approach, the album was released with an Explicit Lyrics sticker for the first time in her career.
  • Elton John and his lyricist partner Bernie Taupin were on a career high in 1976. Albums were debuting at #1, and Elton was perhaps the top solo artist of The '70s. Personally, though, Elton and Bernie were both burned out from the rock lifestyle and superstardom. Elton broke up with his boyfriend, manager John Reid, while Bernie's first marriage was collapsing. Elton and Bernie had taken to drugs and alcohol, and Elton would soon reveal himself as a bisexual (in 1988, he would come clean as gay) to Rolling Stone magazine, leading to a backlash in Middle America. Elton's mental health was eroding as well, leading to depression and failed suicide attempts. This would be the context of Elton's 1976 double album Blue Moves, an album filled with dark, introspective, despairing songs about failed relationships and dark character studies, with bits of bitter irony scattered around. Oddly enough, it would later be cited as one of Elton's favorite albums that he made.
    • The One and songs like "Runaway Train", "Simple Life" and the title track, and subsequent songs like "Weight Of The World", "Dark Diamond", "The Bridge" and "My Elusive Drug" reflect on Elton's rehabilitation in 1990.
  • 1978 saw Progressive Rock band Genesis score their first hit, an (at the time) uncharacteristically romantic pop ballad called "Follow You Follow Me". They embarked on their longest, most successful tour yet, with a new audience thanks to FYFM's popularity. Phil Collins returned to an empty home, his wife having left him (she had an affair with the house painter, then left for her native Canada) and taken the kids and dogs with her. Phil and the band took a hiatus for Phil to (unsuccessfully) repair the relationship. He channeled his grief and frustration into his first solo album, Face Value. the songs he contributed to Genesis' Duke album, and some of Phil's Hello, I Must Be Going album. "Against All Odds", in fact, was written around the same time.
    • Collins later channeled the grief of his second marriage collapsing in songs on his But Seriously... and Both Sides albums. "Dance Into The Light" and Testify, more "up" albums lyrically and musically, celebrate his romance to Orianne Cevey, who would be his third wife (they'd sadly divorce as well).
  • Earlier, former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel felt stifled. The band wanted to lean more towards top 40 material, whereas he wanted to continue experimenting with Progressive Rock. This was as the band was starting to reach mainstream success, and Gabriel's personal life (troubled marriage, sick daughter) meant that giving up his creative ambitions looked like a sensible option. He rejected the "sensible option" and started his solo career with the triumphant "Solsbury Hill," about his decision to take that risk and leave.
    • His 1992 album Us was written while Gabriel was divorcing his first wife Jill, going through a breakup with actress girlfriend Rosanna Arquette, and estranged from his daughter Anna. The resulting album lyrically deals with dysfunction and miscommunication in relationships.
    • Up deals with mortality and death, a reflection of the death of his father and that of a mutual friend.
  • Alan Jackson's "I'll Go On Loving You" (self-explanatory) was released around the time that he and longtime wife Denise were going through some rough times, and actually spent some time apart from each other to cool down.
  • Demi Lovato recorded their hit, "Skyscraper", during the time period when their then-unknown depression, eating disorder and self-harm issues were at their peak, and their bulimia was damaging their voice. They claim the raw, emotional vocal take used was Demi singing from the heart as a kind of cry for help. A more technically polished take was apparently attempted post-rehab, but they preferred the more raw and emotional performance from the year before.
  • The nostalgic, fun-loving album An Innocent Man was recorded in 1983 during Billy Joel's courtship to supermodel Christie Brinkley, who would be Billy's second wife. The bitter, self-reflective River Of Dreams was recorded in 1994 following his legal battle with his ex-brother-in-law (to his first wife) turned financial manager, and while Joel was breaking up with Brinkley.
  • Afro Celt Sound System's song "Release" is sung from the perspective of someone dead, encouraging the living to not "argue amongst yourselves / because of the loss of me", and to "be happy for me". These lyrics were written in the aftermath of keyboardist Jo Bruce's sudden death—the rest of the band had to put their upcoming album on hiatus as they mourned. Sinead O'Connor penned the lyrics, and it was the inspiration the band needed to come to terms with Bruce's death.
  • Pink Floyd's The Wall was actually Roger Waters' way of dealing with the realization that he was becoming a cold and destructive person, like Pink, the eponymous character of the album, and a way for him to reverse course on that. There are numerous other references to Pink Floyd's internal issues throughout the album as well, such as Pink saying that he has "a grand piano to prop up my mortal remains" being a reference to Richard Wright's cocaine addiction.
    • Waters wrote The Wall, The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking and parts of The Final Cut (mostly songs left off of The Wall) in the same 1978-79 period, during his Creator Breakdown. The songs are lyrically and musically similar to each other and share similar themes of adultery, divorce, alienation, personal reflection, paranoia, fear, war, lack of communication and aging.
    • The Dark Side of the Moon was written while Waters was 29, and fearing time pass him by while he felt disappointed that he hadn't really had a real breakthrough success with Pink Floyd in the years following Syd Barrett's departure. Much of the album deals with mortality and the meaning of life. The follow-up, Wish You Were Here (1975), was built around the pressures of the music industry, the band's disjointing and lack of focus when under pressure to record DSOTM and watching the positive and negative effects of their amazing success affect the band.
    • David Gilmour wrote The Division Bell after a period dealing with cocaine addiction and overeating, adultery, legal issues, a painful divorce from his first wife, an initially sometimes-rocky relationship with his current wife, troublesome relations between himself and his Pink Floyd band members, a period of writers block and his estrangement from Roger Waters. The album deals with breakdowns in communication and the struggles he faced during that time.
    • The themes of lack of communication between band members and their wives are equally explored on albums like Obscured By Clouds and Atom Heart Mother, notably "Stay", "If" and "Summer '68". All four band members' first marriages would break up by the end of The '80s and would contribute to the Creator Breakdowns of each member (Gilmour, Wright, and Mason would be affected vias strong cases of Writer's Block, which would lead indirectly to their estrangement from Roger Waters).
  • John Lennon, with The Beatles and as a solo artist, often wrote songs based on his personal life, sometimes as events were happening to him. Most famously, his Mind Games and Walls And Bridges albums (1973 and 1974 respectively) were written as John and Yoko separated and as John moved to Los Angeles to go through a painful two-year alcoholic binge he later referred to as his "lost weekend". Double Fantasy (1980) and Milk And Honey (recorded in 1980; posthumously released in 1984) saw John five years later, having reunited with Yoko, moved back to New York City, cleaned up, taken control of his life and living away from the music industry for five years to raise their son Sean and become a house-husband.
  • Lennon's ex-writing partner Paul McCartney wrote the 1972 song "Dear Friend" as a peace offering to Lennon during the pair's very public feuding, and the 1982 song "Here Today" as a posthumous tribute to John. "Put It There" was a tribute to Paul's then recently deceased father.
    • Paul's Driving Rain album was written while he was in the glow of love to second wife Heather Mills. Chaos And Creation In The Backyard, in retrospect, may have reflected the pair's strained relationship, which would end in a bitter divorce.
    • Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch struggled with drug and alcohol dependency, and his two Wings compositions, "Medicine Jar" from Venus And Mars", and "Wino Junko" from Wings At The Speed Of Sound", seem to reflect on his struggles. He died in 1979 of morphine and alcohol poisoning, two years after leaving Wings and a short stint in The Small Faces.
  • The Kinks' "Two Sisters" is about a young woman who is married with children - she starts off being jealous of the more glamorous life led by her single, freewheeling sister, then realizes she's better off because her children are important to her. Ray Davies actually meant the song to be a Gender Flipped portrayal of the relationship at the time to his band-mate and brother Dave Davies: He was married with children, while Dave was single and more free to live the rock star lifestyle.
  • Metallica's St. Anger was born out of struggling with diminishing relationships between the band members, alcoholism and never getting over Cliff Burton's death. This is all painfully documented in the rockumentary Some Kind Of Monster.
  • Taylor Swift's romantic relationships and personal life are often reflected upon in her songs, sometimes to the point of humorists joking that she must start and end romances to provide subject matter for her music.
  • Due to the sometimes foul mood Ian Anderson went through recording Jethro Tull's Minstrel In The Gallery album, at a time when Ian was going through a divorce from his first wife, and he felt his band splintering and not playing as well together or concentrating on the music as well as they could have been (much of the album was acoustic/acoustical as a result), and he was busy writing the music in tax exile in Monte Carlo while watching "grotesque" tourists lounge around on the beach, the album had an even more cynical, darker (and self-reflective) air to it than usual. Ian would in later years see it as well-recorded but humorless, and would cite it as one of his less favorite albums as a result, in spite of it being a fan favorite to this day.
    • Benefit saw Ian coping with success, the pressures of being seen as a countercultural hero, mistaken as a drug user/hippie for his madcap performing image and long hair, and his alienation at not really relating to many aspects of the counterculture who idolized him, such as recreational drug taking. He also saw conformity in how the counterculture conducted themselves, and in interviews expressed his distaste for the "seas of blue denim" flocking to his concertsnote . He'd explore this further in Thick As A Brick.)
    • Ian also suggested the reasons for A Passion Play being written so complexly and with so little chances for the listener to breathe, is because Ian was fed up with drunken audience members whistling and screaming for "Aqualung" or "Locomotive Breath" during the soft acoustic passages during Tull's performances of Thick As A Brick, a decision that in hindsight, Ian regrets, and felt helped lead the album to be a hard listen (even for Ian) and so critically panned.
  • Tragically, the pained breakup songs written by Motown staff writer Rodger Penzabene, including The Temptations' hits "I Wish It Would Rain", "You're My Everything" and "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)" and the Gladys Knight/Marvin Gaye duet "The End Of Our Road" were inspired by the songwriter's Real Life heartbreak over his wife's adultery, and the couple's subsequent divorce. According to The Other Wiki, Penzabene would commit suicide on New Year's Eve 1967, one week after "I Wish It Would Rain"'s release.
  • Much of the music and lyrics written by Elvis Costello, at least judging by the liner notes of the 1990s remasters of his albums, seemed to be written by Costello as he gradually took on the same Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll lifestyle (mainly pills, alcohol and one-night-stands) he promised himself he'd never get involved in. Armed Forces and Get Happy!! in particular are filled with songs of regret, anger, and heartbreak. His lifestyle, and the dissolution of his friendship with Attractions bassist Bruce Thomas, also seemed to accelerate the end of his first marriage, which would inform latter-period albums like Goodbye Cruel World and Blood & Chocolate.
  • "You Try Somebody Else (We'll Be Back Together Again)" was one of the last songs written by B.G. De Sylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson before De Sylva left the songwriting team. De Sylva did go on to write songs with other collaborators (as did Brown and Henderson after they broke up a few years later) but never reunited with Brown or Henderson, and ultimately gave up songwriting to become a movie producer.
  • Dennis DeYoung of Styx, similarly to Roger Waters, felt disenchanted and disappointed in his lack of success in the music industry, and had seriously considered quitting music to be a professional teacher in 1976; thankfully, his wife talked him out of it. Much of his music on The Grand Illusion, Pieces Of Eight, Cornerstone and Paradise Theatre are filled with songs of hope and affirmation. He claims he wrote the songs about himself to raise up his own hopes to and convince himself to never give up, and that it was a bonus that it touched so many other listeners similarly. Likewise, a lot of Killroy Was Here came about because conspiracy theory about alleged Satanic lyrics in their music and the attempts by said Moral Guardians to try and ban rock albums.
  • The sole member of Grottomatic was so frustrated with the Brony culture that he wrote the song “The Bronies Have Landed,” portraying the whole Brony concept as a serious problem. By the time he had finished recording the song, he had learned to love it, and he soon wrote a followup called “Girly Cartoon About Ponies,” which praises the show.
  • The Rolling Stones were on the verge of breaking up due to differences between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards by 1986's Dirty Work, a fact reflected in the conflictive/bitter lyrical content of the album's lyrics/song titles. By 1989's Steel Wheels, they had patched things up (quite possibly reflected in the album's lead single, "Mixed Emotions").
  • Lisa Loeb's song "I Do" was written to sound like a breakup song, but it is also a Take That! to the record label agents who claimed they didn't hear a single on the album Firecracker.
  • George Michael wrote the song "Freedom '90" expressly to commemorate the end of his contract with Sony Records. His music video for the song included, among other things, him burning his iconic leather jacket which he had worn in videos and promotional artwork for Wham.
  • A particularly notable example would be the song "Save the Last Dance For Me". Its composer, Doc Pumus, suffered from polio and was inspired to write the song after watching his wife dance with other people at their wedding.
  • At the time Dolly Parton wrote "I Will Always Love You", she was on Porter Waggoner's syndicated TV show. She wanted to leave the show to foster her budding solo career but wanted him to know that she appreciated all he did for her, and her thoughts resulted in the song. After she played it for him, he decided to release her from her contract as long as she had "Love You" recorded. It would go on to become a huge country hit and the rest is history.
  • "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" is a hymn about someone in deep despair begging God to comfort them and give them strength. Thomas A. Dorsey wrote it after his wife Nettie died giving birth to their son, who also died two days later.
  • The Headstones album The Oracle of Hi-Fi has a number of songs that reference rehabilitation, addiction, and mistakes. This album was recorded after lead singer Hugh Dillon got treatment for drug addiction. Incidentally, it is pretty apparent during the title track of their previous album, Nickels For Your Nightmares, that this album was recorded before his rehabilitation.
  • Lesley Gore's 1972 album, Someplace Else Now, was written entirely by Gore and her writing partner Ellen Weston after a five year absence from the music business, during which Lesley had graduated college, come to terms with her sexuality, found herself becoming less and less in favor in the music industry after her Mercury Records contract expired and opportunities dried up, took on non-musical jobs for a while before deciding to move to California and make a return to the music industry, and refashioned herself as a singer-songwriter in the mold of the then-trendsetting Carole King and Laura Nyro as outside writers failed to present her with challenging material to record. The album is much more introspective, ambitious, and darker-themed than any Lesley album before (or maybe since).
  • "I Was Born (A Unicorn)" by The Unicorns has a call-and-response bridge, presented as a musical argument between members Nicholas Thorburn and Alden Penner: This includes exchanges like "We're never gonna stop / I think I wanna stop!" and "I write the songs / I write the songs / You say I'm doing it wrong / You are doing it wrong!". Though it's played for laughs in the song, the band would break up a year later, citing Creative Differences and other tensions between Nicholas and Aiden.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • One strip features Calvin getting upset over going to bed because it means that he can't play with Hobbes. Then he realizes that going to sleep doesn't have to mean being apart, because they can always play together in their dreams. Bill Watterson wrote the strip because his cat — who served as the inspiration for Hobbes — had just died, and what made him feel better was realizing that they could always be together in his dreams.
    • In-universe, Calvin imagines himself as various alter egos, the most common ones being Spaceman Spiff, a heroic explorer, Stupendous Man, a superhero, and Tracer Bullet, a detective. They all are touted as huge badasses in Calvin's imagination, but because they go up against people with more power than Calvin in real life (such as his parents, his teacher, and Roslyn), they always lose.
    • There's a Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip where Calvin's father says he sees everything in black and white, which leads Calvin to vividly imagine such a situation, and another with the same premise except with Calvin's father saying the boy doesn't have any sense of perspective, leading to Calvin being trapped in a world with no vanishing points. Both strips are based on Watterson's arguments with his syndicate on merchandising, where the company would accuse the cartoonist of seeing no shades of grey and having no perspective.
    • Another brief story arc in the strip saw Calvin placating the monsters under his bed by feeding them garbage, according to Watterson himself, a testament to how he sometimes felt in writing the strip.
  • Jim Davis once noted in an anniversary collection that whenever he has to go on a diet, so does Garfield.
  • A series of Heart of the City strips focused on Heart's friend Dean having a pet cat - Spock - who's so sick that his parents are about to have him put to sleep, but in the end, it turns out that it's a dog with the same name as the cat, and the cat is going to recover. The last strip of the series reveals that the cat who inspired the comic version has died.
  • Peanuts:
    • The 1966 story arc of Snoopy's doghouse burning down was the result of Schulz's own studio catching fire.
    • Here. "It's getting dark..." "We had fun, didn't we, Marcie?" It's the last Sunday strip of the comic.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In 2020, Roman Reigns underwent a well-received Face–Heel Turn where he started calling himself "the Head of the Table" and developed an Awesome Ego, claiming essentially that he made WWE successful, was better than every other wrestler on the roster and having a match against him would be the highlight of their career, and pretty much doing whatever he wanted, even ignoring or belittling the on-screen authority figures. Since it's no secret that WWE has pushed Reigns at the expense of everyone else on the roster, and often let him get away with things that lesser wrestlers would get punished for, and that he has made similar self-serving interviews in the past, it seems like his heel character is WWE embracing all those criticisms of him rather than trying to hide them.
  • Melina's on-screen Go Seduce My Archnemesis moment where she was sent by Johnny Nitro to seduce Batista in an unsuccessful attempt to wear him out before a tag team match can certainly be viewed in a much more different light when one reads all the rumors and dirt-sheets of Batista and Melina engaging in a sexual relationship in real life with Morrison being the supposed Emasculated Cuckold, though Batista officially stated in his autobiography that he did sleep with Melina but it was during a period of time when she and Morrison had broken up.
  • One of the grievances Dominik Mysterio aired about his father Rey Mysterio during their feud was the latter's Parental Neglect during the former's childhood in favor of his prioritizing his career, including missing Dominik's eighth grade graduation for WrestleMania. A close look at Rey's match record shows that Rey actually did have several matches during his son's various birthdays, meaning he likely missed other major milestones as well, which added a bit of realism to the feud since it was easy to imagine Dominik being legitimately bothered by this.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Bear in the Big Blue House:
    • Lead puppeteer Noel MacNeal stated in an interview that the show's warm atmosphere and gentle-hearted title character was written in response to Barney & Friends, which was under fire from Moral Guardians for emphasising its hyperactive tone and sappy, sugary writing over any real substance found in previous childrens shows. Noel even claims that during development, the writers actually described Bear as "the anti-Barney show" to him.
    • During the three year gap between seasons three and four, the writers noted that the show's target audience was growing up and likely starting school by that point. This lead to season four shifting focus towards exploring the town Bear lived in and its inhabitants along with episodes focusing on the child characters going to their first day of school or learning to riding a bike.
    • The first two episodes of season four, "Welcome to Woodland Valley", involved Bear and Ojo's public library being destroyed by a fallen tree as the town's community comes together to repair the building. The episode was made in response to the September 11th attacks which had occurred nearly a year before the season's premiere.
  • In an episode of the Christian series Joy Junction, Marty the puppet recounts how he once turned down an offer from some kids to look at dirty pictures, to which his puppeteer Ronald Brown reminds the children watching about how it's a sin to view such materials. Ron himself was already in possession of child pornography at the time of filming and wouldn't be caught for it until 2013, when the FBI learned of his plans on a cannibal forum to groom and eat a child.
  • When The Muppets (2015) returned from its midseason hiatus, it had a new showrunner, who had listened to the fans and decided to give it a bit of a Retool to make it "more Muppety". In the first post-hiatus episode, Up Late With Miss Piggy is given a new showrunner who wants to give it a Retool but doesn't listen to what anyone wants, prompting the Muppets themselves to make the show more Muppety.

  • Adventures in Odyssey, "The Triangled Web" features a reunion of a number of the original kids. It is mentioned that Jack and Lucy went to the same college in Texas and got married by the end of the episode, reflecting how their voice actors Donald Long and Genni Mullen got married and moved to Texas as well.
  • Done many times in The Archers: it's such a long-runner that a number of characters have been around long enough to become elderly - as have their actors. Dan Archer (the original patriarch), Tom Forrest and Mrs. Antrobus were all given radio deaths because the actor had died of old age. This hasn't always been played straight; when the actor playing Nelson Gabriel died, the character was Put on a Bus instead and other characters continued to refer to him as alive for some months. (News of his death was eventually mentioned.) A non-death example is that sometimes actors become well-known and aren't often available: Tamsin Greig's character, Debbie, has moved abroad but comes back every so often. However, in a similar situation with Lucy Davies (Dawn from The Office, Shaun of the Dead) her character, Hayley, was recast.
  • When Barton Yarborough died, Ben Romero, his character on Dragnet, died as well. Romero wasn't killed in the line of duty but rather died at home of a heart attack. The cast responds to his death and spends the next several episodes grieving.
  • In the early days of The Lone Ranger, Reid's voice actor, Earle Graser, died in a car accident. As a result, The Lone Ranger was laid low for about a week and a half, and could only speak in whispers, until they found Brace Beamer, who would keep the role for the rest of the radio run.
  • On the Superman radio show, Collyer's vacation times were covered by having the series focus on Batman and Robin instead.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • From Dino Attack RPG:
    • After the 2009 BZPower Time Slip (also known as the Great Dataclysm), which erased six months of Dino Attack RPG content (including the entire Goo Caverns Story Arc up to that point), the Dino Attack RPG players agreed to start up again at a time and place shortly before the Time Slip occurred. Since this led to rewriting several scenes that were erased by the Time Slip, Sauro-Hunter remarked that he was experiencing deja vu.
    • During his time as a Stromling, Zachary aged at an accelerated rate. The amount of time he physically aged is equal to the time between the end of Dino Attack RPG and the start of Dino Attack: At War's End.
    • According to Dino Attack RPG's timeline, LEGO Themes take place during their year of release unless otherwise noted. Some Dino Attack RPG players were confused on whether or not Pharaoh's Quest is one of those exceptions, since it was released in 2011 but some sources say that it takes place in 1924; however, 1924 was confirmed as the canon date by Word of God. As a result of this confusion, Lord Sam Sinister announced that he was going on an expedition to Egypt in 2011 to recover the golden treasures of Pharaoh Amset-Ra, unaware that Professor Archibald Hale's team had already uncovered those treasures in 1924.

  • Chess is a musical famous lyricist Tim Rice wrote while having an affair with Elaine Paige, starring Elaine Paige as a woman with whom a famous chess player has an affair.
  • Closer Than Ever has several songs inspired by the authors' personal experiences:
    • At the time Richard Maltby Jr. wrote the lyrics of "Fandango," his son was one year old, his wife, Janet Brenner, was co-producing Closer Than Ever and Maltby himself was simultaneously working on Miss Saigon.
    • "Another Wedding Song" was originally written and performed by David Shire at his own second wedding to actress Didi Conn.
    • The cast recording's liner notes on "If I Sing" bear quoting in full:
      Maltby and Shire are both sons of orchestra leaders: bandleader and recording artist Richard Maltby, Sr. and Irving Shire, for fifty years a leading society bandleader in Buffalo, New York. When, after Williamstown, there was a need for a dramatic turn for the baritone role, Maltby suggested it was time they wrote about their fathers. He already had a title in mind. Shire wrote the melody and sent it to Maltby in London. While waiting for a reply, Shire visited his father in Buffalo, and the events described in the song occurred. When the authors started work on the lyric, Shire described his trip, and Maltby realized that was the story of the song. In a way the song is about itself, for the melody referred to in the lyric is the very melody that Shire played for his father that day in Buffalo.
  • "On the American Plan," a sketch presented in the 1932 Broadway revue Flying Colors, is set at a hotel which caters exclusively to the suicidal. At the end of a sketch, a man comes on and introduces himself as a theatrical producer, and the receptionists immediately tell him "Say no more!" as they hand him a pistol. Though The Great Depression was obviously fatal to many renowned producers' careers (Ziegfeld left behind massive debts when he died in the same year), Max Gordon, the producer of Flying Colors, really did attempt suicide during the show's tryout when he realized that the Troubled Production was certain to lose its investment.
  • Some Shakespeare historians think the decidedly grim tone of his play Hamlet may stem from the recent death of his eleven-year-old son, Hamnet. (Note the name similarity.) Having numerous character deaths is par for the course in Shakespearean tragedies, but in the original play, Hamlet won and lived Happily Ever After. When one remembers that Hamnet had a twin sister, there's also a subtext to be seen in Twelfth Night, in which the heroine's twin brother, unlike in life, turns out to be alive after all.
  • During the runaway success of H.M.S. Pinafore, Gilbert and Sullivan had huge trouble with people pirating their works on the other side of the Atlantic. They arranged to have their next show produced simultaneously in America and in a small English village, in an attempt to get better legal protection from such pirates. And what was that new show? The Pirates of Penzance.
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, about a man's triumph over his older siblings, was created for Andrew Lloyd Webber's older brother.
  • Marat/Sade is about Marquis de Sade getting inmates of Charenton, a mental institution, to put on a play. There's some truth behind this.
  • "Opening Doors" from Merrily We Roll Along loosely reflects some of Stephen Sondheim's own early career struggles in the 1950s. "Who Wants to Live in New York?" from this sequence has definite parallels to "What More Do I Need?" from his early musical Saturday Night, both being Berate and Switch List Songs about the hassles of living in New York City. "What More Do I Need?" was supposedly written around the time the authors of Saturday Night were desperately seeking out new backers following the unexpected death of Lemuel Ayers. Both in Real Life and fiction, the song wasn't enough to interest potential backers and the production died.
  • The Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies closely follow the relationship of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sarah Brightman. The first one is more of a case of Harsher in Hindsight, as it premiered in 1985 and the pair separated in 1990.
    • In the first show, the Phantom fell in love with Christine when he heard her sing, made her the star of an existing opera, then wrote an opera for her to star in. But as Christine realizes he's a murderer and stalker, she leaves him for the Viscount Raoul de Chagny. Lloyd Webber met Brightman when she auditioned for Cats and was cast in the role of Jemima. He wrote a successful classical song for her, Pie Jesu, and specifically wrote the part of Christine for her (keeping the character design close to her style, added dance moves in Hannibal so that she could show off her footwork, and the cadenzas in the title song and Think of Me for her vocal range). He left her for another woman after six years of their marriage, and as Christine clearly still loves the Phantom but cannot stay with him, which the Phantom also acknowledges, the feeling is supposedly identical between Brightman and Lloyd Webber.
    • In the sequel, Raoul became an alcoholic and a gambler (metaphorically cheating on her with his addictions), and his marriage with Christine deteriorates. Christine gets fatally shot by a jealous Meg Giry after an accidental slight from the Phantom, professing her undying love for the Phantom with her last breaths. He gets acknowledged by his son with Christine, Gustave, who was previously thought to be Raoul's son. This mirrors the prevalent attitude of the fandom - that Erik (the Phantom) and Christine are the real crowd-drawer of the show, and that Christine should have chosen to stay with the masked composer in the first place. Raoul's character is completely out of line with his portrayal in the first show, as Erik/Christine shippers tend to turn him into Ron the Death Eater or make him Die for Our Ship.
  • Henrik Ibsen had a serious fallout with his Norwegian audience in the early 1860s. He left Norway for good and moved to Italy, where he lived for 16 years, only sending his plays home for printing. The last play he wrote before leaving, The Pretenders, has the main antagonist giving a jarring "The Reason You Suck" Speech pointed directly towards the audience. Later Brand shows off the same attitude. Ibsen had a lot to stress about.
  • A 1995 production of The School for Scandal starred Tony Randall — who had just married a woman 50 years his junior — as Sir Peter Teazle — whose first line is "When an old bachelor marries a young wife, what is he to expect?"
  • The Sound of Music: Before leaving Austria, Captain Von Trapp sings "Edelweiss" as his last song at the music festival. "Edelweiss" was the last song Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote together before Oscar Hammerstein's death.

  • The main author for the BIONICLE media, Greg Farshtey, when asked why the Humongous Mecha Mata Nui never paid any attention to the fact that some of the tiny beings inside him were plotting to take over his body, would often use the analogy of a normal person who goes about their daily life, focusing on the outside world rather than paying attention to what the cells in their body were doing. However, he said, if that person was to have a health scare, then they would feel more inclined to keep an eye on what was happening inside them. Greg later revealed that he himself had been diagnosed with diabetes.
    • Similarly, the series creator Christian Faber said the idea of Bionicle came about after he had been diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that required him to take a pill to weed out the tumor. He had wondered if a pill like this was like a warrior going inside his brain to fight off an evil infection threatening his life and ultimately working together in unity with his bodies enzymes and would cure him of this ailment. Thus the idea for the first three years of Bionicle got concocted.

    Video Games 
  • It was long time since the original Back to the Future and the video game released in 2011, but they managed to get much of the cast back. In the interim years, for instance, Christopher Lloyd had gone (mostly) bald. The plot involves Marty feeling lonely and depressed after Doc leaves at the end of Back to the Future Part III, and he eventually meets an alternate version of Doc Brown, who's got the same balding as Lloyd in real life.
  • Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time: Yes, the game is about Time Travel, but the title means this just as much as "after 19 years it's about time we got a true sequel!"
  • Disco Elysium:
    • One of the main ways (and most useful ways) you can have your detective act is by making him become an Art Cop ("the worst kind of cop!") who sees art in everything, lords his Actual Art Degree over people, and is savagely critical of all other attempts at art that don't fit his vision. This is perhaps a reference to how ZA/UM was previously famous for taking over an Estonian fine art magazine in the mid-2000s in order to (in ZA/UM's view) fight True Art Is Incomprehensible, "give a more normal view of this country to its residents" and cover more video games, or (in the view of the staff they replaced) mean-spirited, undemocratic and not taking the remit seriously. Robert Kurvitz (the director of Disco Elysium), was editor of the mag, and got into trouble for printing a poem written by one of the departing magazine staff with line-by-line commentary making fun of how bad it was (he did not have permission to print the poem).
    • The storyline to do with Fortress Accident, a computer game developer trying to make a groundbreaking fantasy RPG, somewhat analogises the struggles the team had trying to put the game together, complete with the game having a staggeringly overambitious remit despite being based out of a tiny office in a (potentially literal) economic black hole.
  • In Duke Nukem Forever, the first level is the final boss from Duke Nukem 3D. After its defeat, it's revealed that it was Duke playing a video game based on himself. Someone asks him if the game was good and he says, "After 12 fuckin' years, it better be." This is referencing the fact that it took over a decade for Forever to be released. Also, the game actually takes place over a decade after 3D.
  • Doug TenNapel, the creator of Earthworm Jim, is a conservative Christian. The character of Professor-Monkey-For-A-Head, one of the bosses in the game, is not only an example of his wacky, absurdist humour; it is also TenNapel's mockery of Darwin's theories and evolutionism.
  • Advertisements for Final Fantasy XVI heavily involved the line "The legacy of the crystals has shaped our history for long enough." While it actually does involve the game's plot, it doubles as a reference to the Fabula Nova Crystallis: Final Fantasy project, which was originally designed to bring back crystals as a plot device in the series. Due to Development Hell, Schedule Slip, and general mission creep, FNC and its related projects ended up defining pretty much everything Square Enix put out relating to Final Fantasy for the better part of a decade, between Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XV (which started life as a spinoff of XIII), and many different sequels and spinoffs between the two, to very mixed reception. Furthermore, XVI is mostly the work of the creative team of Final Fantasy XIV, the main new property of that era to have no connection to FNC.
  • Jinsei Owata no Daibouken II (the sequel to the game that inspired I Wanna Be the Guy) was released in 2020, the last full year before Adobe Flash's discontinuation. The plot is about Owata's last adventure before the world ends, mirroring the fate of many Flash games and animations when Flash finally goes offline.
  • The time gap between the release of the original Kid Icarus game in Europe and North America and the release of its sequel for the Nintendo 3DS, Kid Icarus: Uprising, is a whopping 25 years, month up month down. This is referenced in the plot of the sequel, which takes place 25 years after the events of the original. The very first thing Pit says as the game begins is "sorry to keep you waiting!" and it's directed at the audience as much as it is to Palutena.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty can be read as a giant parable by Hideo Kojima for how "the Patriots" (i.e. Japanese ultranationalists) want to delete Japanese war crimes from school textbooks and shape the minds of the next generation. Snake's ending monologue, about letting children read "our" sad and messy history, is a pretty big clincher.
  • Missile Command's chilling "THE END" Game Over screen was, according to the developer, Dave Theurer, inspired by the recurring nightmares of nuclear war he was having by that point in the game development process. (The six cities that the player defends were, in the original design, six Real Life cities along the Pacific coast of California: Eureka, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego.)
  • Given it's a series personifying the Console Wars, it's unsurprising the Neptunia series is loaded with this.
  • The knight training academy in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The game was released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the series.
  • Multiple pre-fight dialogues in Mortal Kombat 1 have characters express dismay over how Sindel turned out in the previous timeline — a rather obvious nod to the negative reception surrounding the Retcon in Mortal Kombat 11 that she was Evil All Along, which was harsh enough to be swiftly reversed here.
    Mileena: I can't imagine my mother ever having been evil.
    Geras: It was not a look she wore well.

    Sindel: My past iteration sounds like a screeching harpy.
    Liu Kang: Many are thankful for the changes I made.
  • No Man's Sky: In-Universe, even. Many aspects of the NMS universe are extrapolations of what the Atlas sees in the real world. For example, the Korvax are based on brain-scanning technology.
  • Overwatch: The New Blood arc retcons Jesse McCree to having been the criminal alias of Cole Cassidy, which is eventually forsaken by the character. A few months before the New Blood event, Blizzard Entertainment had been engulfed in a massive sexual harassment scandal that had implicated, among other employees, the actual Jesse McCree, forcing Cassidy to be Renamed to Avoid Association.
  • In Red Dead Redemption, the protagonist John Marston is voiced by actor Rob Wiethoff, who (somewhat famously) retired from acting immediately after the game was released, only temporarily returning for the sequel eight years later; despite being one of the most acclaimed and iconic voice performances in video game history, it ended up being his only major acting role. For many players, this adds an extra layer of poignancy to Marston's decision to leave his life as an outlaw behind and settle down with his wife and son. Particularly since Wiethoff (by his own admission) retired from acting for exactly the same reason: he wanted to focus on starting a family.
  • Sakura Wars (2019):
    • Sakura Amamiya being a huge fan of Sakura Shinguji is a commentary on how the latter character was received in real life.
    • Komachi Oba originating from Osaka is due to the fact that her actress, Ryōko Shiraishi, was born in the same location.
  • Silent Hill:
    • Silent Hills's infamous P.T. demo, in many subtle ways, references Hideo Kojima's falling out with Konami over the development of Metal Gear Solid V, and Konami corporate's treatment of him in his final months with the company.
    • Every Silent Hill game has this subtext, the development team being composed of members "orphaned" from other projects suffering from Executive Meddling under Japanese work culture.
  • SNK:
  • Level 10 of Stinkoman 20X6 begins with the Shadowy Figure getting angry about how long Stinkoman's been outside his castle, with 1-Up and Pan Pan having waited so long the former grew a beard and the latter had 100 kids. This mirrors the 15-year wait after the release of Level 9, though in-universe Stinkoman merely fell asleep for a while.
  • There Is No Game is a game about the fact that there is no game due to the fact that the in-game developer ran out of funding in a manner similar to the developer in real life.
  • While Touhou Project has made nods to real life events, Touhou Kouryuudou ~ Unconnected Marketeers is the most blatant about it:
    • One of the main villains is Chimata Tenkyuu, goddess of the physical marketplace who has been losing power thanks to the rise of online shopping. Additionally, this game was released in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic, when lockdown regulations cause physical markets to be downright prohibited. Also, Chimata's domain more specifically covers marketplaces to commemorate specific Comiket or Reitaisai, where Touhou games are usually physically sold by ZUN himself. This is the first Touhou game to be released digitally first, thanks to aforementioned events being cancelled by the lockdown.
    • This game's incident, the Ability Cards, bear some uncanny resemblances to cryptocurrencies, which are at the height of popularity when the game was released. The Ability Cards have their power if you follow the rules, but will turn into worthless scraps otherwise, just like how cryptocurrencies only work if people agree on their value. Additionally, the process of gathering more cryptocurrency is frequently called "mining" while here we have Momoyo literally mining the currency in a cave .As summed up by one forum user:
      I still can't get over the fact that ZUN actually made a game about a bunch of people running a crypto scheme:
      A powerful figure who try to turn their own TCG project into a crypto scheme under certain influences? Check
      A legendary miner who literally mines the magical sauce from a mine to power the cryptocurrency? Check
      A God with zippers (read: the block chain) and sky cape (read: the Cloud) who creates smart contract that makes the crypto scheme work in the first place? Check
      A crypto shill that causes the above 3 to align? Check
      NFT: The Game confirmed. Well played, ZUN.
  • The storyline to the Wipeout games (which is dizzyingly detailed... if you hunt down supplementary material) was often heavily influenced by fans. This is best seen between Fusion and Pure. Fusion received a very mixed reception from fans, citing the game's heavier focus on combat over skillful racing, new teams replacing old favorites, and some subpar course designs. Pure was not only hailed as a return to form, but the backstory revealed that In-Universe, the change in focus was due to the shady Overtel Corporation seizing control of the race commission and doing what they liked in the name of profit, almost all of the new teams were in on the scandal or otherwise crooked and were dismantled during the league's collapse allowing the popular teams they absorbed to re-emerge, That One Level was the site of a catastrophic accident precisely because of shoddy course design, and the new league harkened back to the old style of racing in an attempt to recapture the audience and distance itself from the scandals.

    Visual Novels 
  • Villainous Nights: One of the final scenes of Lorelei's last season has the Syndicate parting ways after a night of karaoke, with Juliette becoming distraught because she's not ready to say goodbye yet. This was the last release of the original four love interests, and at the time, the future of the series as a whole was uncertain.

  • Commander Kitty has a minor example: Fortiscue asks about tabla lessons because the author was learning to play at the time.
  • Kevin & Kell takes place in an alternate Earth, where characters have similar events to what's happening in the real world. For example, comics in June 2020 have characters using masks to slow down a disease.
  • The Order of the Stick: The character of Wrecan is a tribute to a late member of the Giant in the Playground forums who went by the screen name "Wrecan". Strip #1025, Wrecan and Roy's last meeting before Roy leaves the godsmoot, has a few moments in particular to this effect:
    • Wrecan's remark about counting the appearances of legacy bearers is a reference to how the real life Wrecan started the "number of appearances per character" thread.
    • Their words of farewell to each other, with the "camera" angle facing Wrecan head-on for the second half, as if he's addressing the reader:
      Roy: I'm...I wish there had been more time. To get to know you better.
      Wrecan: There's never enough time. Every day, one after another, until we wake up and it turns out that's the day our world ends. You have to do what you can, when you can — because who knows if tomorrow is even happening, you know?
    • The strip is titled "Mark of Distinction" as a reference to his real name, Mark Monack.
  • pictures for sad children is set in a very cynical (and surreal) reality with a strongly nihilist tone where characters live meaningless, joyless lives. Considering that the author has expressed experiencing a rough childhood, lifelong identity issues, increasing drug use, and suffered from clinical depression for years, which culminated in a severe mental breakdown that brought the comic down with it, it can be easy to see the whole thing as one long Author Tract.

    Web Original 
  • While filming his Angry Video Game Nerd episode about the Atari 5200, James Rolfe had considerable trouble getting the console to work and was even tricked into buying an incompatible controller online that falsely claimed it was for the 5200 when attempting to replace the console's regular controllers that also didn't work. This became the plot of the episode, where he never once actually plays a game and instead spends his whole time fighting with getting the thing set up, as it was not only damned funny in its own right but also a very clear illustration of how poor the console was.
  • Wonder why the penultimate episode of Brawl of the Objects was a lot shorter than the rest? That's because in March 2016, creator Anko6theAnimator had been diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma and feared he was going to die with the show incomplete. After he entered remission, the Grand Finale ended up becoming the show's longest episode.
  • Doug Walker shaved his goatee to appear on a PBS comedy special. To explain the lack on facial hair in his shows, he stated that The Nostalgia Critic and Ask That Guy with the Glasses had placed bets that require them to shave if they lost and that Chester A. Bum had shaved in order to fit in with the other two.
    • In a more dramatic example, the climax of To Boldly Flee had Doug sadly watch the Critic make a Heroic Sacrifice to save the world. He later confirmed that the movie was made to be the Critic's Fully Absorbed Finale. (though the show ended up Un-Cancelled)
    • Also in To Boldly Flee, the subplot about the proposed SUCKA Act was a direct riff on the SOPA and ACTA Acts that were being debated in Congress in early 2012 and was of particular concern to the reviewers on the site, since they feared that they could be used to shut down their site and damage their livelihoods.
    • And the Demo Reel/The Nostalgia Critic episode The Review Must Go On is this, as Doug is tormented by the star of the latter show, who is revealed to be the star of the former..
      • Speaking of Demo Reel, Doug showed just how much he was wrapped up in making the show work by indulging in a lot of this. Both Donnie's fear of failing as a director and his Ethical Slut behavior were his own, he said later that he would have made a Lighter and Softer episode about TMZ to work through his issues with them, and Rachel got involved by admitting her bad experiences with modeling and acting were what drove the sexism rants Rebecca kept having.
    • In the Les Miserables Musical Episode, Paw Dugan sings a love duet with Elisa from Vampire Reviews. The two were engaged at the time, and later got married.
    • The Nostalgia Critic almost always in-universe refers to himself or is referred to as The Nostalgia Critic, or Critic for short, but in his review of Doug's First Movie, his explanation of why he hated the Doug cartoon was actually related to real life teasing that Doug Walker experienced (not the Critic character, Doug himself) over his name and comparison to Doug Funnie, while admitting that the cartoon itself is just So Okay, It's Average.
  • Out of apparently nowhere, The Nostalgia Chick developed an obsessive crush on fellow reviewer Todd in the Shadows. The two had started a long-distance relationship in real life, but it didn't fit for their characters to do the same.
  • Also, most of the humor in Panshy's video Shit TGWTG Producers and Fans Say.
  • Similarly, Atop the Fourth Wall took SOPA/ACTA and used it as the basis of a Backstory for a character. Essentially, the bill (unnamed, but heavily implied to be SOPA or a similar bill) caused a Big Brother Is Watching You style setting for the character's home, which was what a lot of people had been fearing if such a bill passed.
    • It was not the last time Linkara would verge into this territory - A Voice from the Dark, a reunion of former Channel Awesome producers, features people such as Marzgurl and Welshy frequently complaining about being lied to, manipulated abused, distrusted, blamed for things they didn't do, and overall being put in massively high-stress environments due to the previous anniversary specials. While this could just mean how the In-Universe setups for Suburban Knights and other anniversary specials involved them being lied to, it's talked about in vague enough terms that it could just as easily be talking about the Real Life issues at Channel Awesome that they all experienced.
  • A Very Potter Senior Year is thematically focused on Harry Potter adjusting to the end of his time at Hogwarts and his life afterward, reflecting Team StarKid and the fandom's thoughts on growing up, moving on, and letting go of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. The characters agree that while they loved their time at Hogwarts, they can't spend forever dwelling there and have to look forward to what's next.
  • The Teaser for Rainbow Dash Presents: "Captain Hook The Biker Gorilla", with Rainbow Dash failing to convince Twilight with help her in hacking the Trixie Variety Show site to get her videos noticed, was motivated by Greg's venting his frustrations towards Equestria Daily and their tendencies to ignore or downplay his submissions to the site with them usually calling his videos "low-effort" despite the heavy amount of planning, writing, and editing that goes into them, not helped by the EQD staff being on the Friendship is Witchcraft side of the Fandom Rivalry and numerous other low-effort works somehow making front page despite user complaints regarding their quality. The video title being intentional click-bait was his way of getting back at them, and the staff was force to relent with a simple "you win".
  • RWBY
    • Volume 3 starts with Ruby talking to her mother's grave, and the shot of the crows flying into the setting sun is deliberately designed to form the shape of Monty's artistic personal signature. Monty Oum died before the start of the volume, so Ruby talking also acts as the crew of Rooster Teeth talking to Monty; the scene of Ruby talking to her mother's grave was the last scene Monty ever worked on. At the end of Volume three, after several deaths in the show, a slow song mourning the loss of someone who changed the lives of those around them plays over the credits, which end In Memoriam to Monty. Two songs used in the show also carry this subtext: "Let's Just Live" from Volume 4 is a tribute to both Monty and the character deaths, while Volume 6's "Indomitable" is a tribute to both Ruby's fighting spirit and Monty's inspirational impact on his colleagues.
    • The Volume 8 episode "War" has two moments that are coloured by real life context that can be connected to the scene:
      • The Ace-Ops tell Ren, Jaune and Yang that, when team members die, the team should just move on and replace them with someone else, essentially arguing that personal bonds and the pain of loss are meaningless. Ren explodes at that, furiously telling them that no-one is replaceable. While this has the obvious in-universe connotations of what Jaune, Ren and Nora went through after their team-mate Pyrrha died, the line takes on a reality subtext for those fans who know that Ren's voice actor, Neath Oum, only stepped in to the role after the death of his brother Monty, the creator of the show and Ren's original voice actor.
      • When Weiss struggles to let go of her blood-ties to Atlas in favour of helping Mantle, she asks if May, who also comes from an elite Atlesian family, feels the same way. This triggers May into giving an extremely raw emotional outburst about the rejection she experienced from her family because she's a trans woman. Her voice actress, Kdin Jenzen, is also a trans woman, making the scene a very real moment for anyone who knows that.
  • The second part of the 100th episode of The Music Video Show ends with the third season host argue with the second season host and calling her out for the quality of the latter's season. This reflects Kiara's attitude towards the second season.
    • The second season host calling out the third season host could be interpreted as Kiara regretting letting the show lay dormant for two years.
    • In Episode 226, the host wonders why she's still in his season nine clothes, only to be told on the phone because of arson, alcoholism and anger management, leading her to extend the season for a while longer. She then, once again, apologizes for seasons five through seven. At one point, she checks his wrists and then her neck, saying, "Yeah...I feel the marks." According to an earlier video, she had attempted suicide years earlier and had suicidal thoughts during season five.
    • The season 10 premiere has the host look at the clothes she is wearing for the new season, which is a woman's shirt and a skirt. She then feels it, smiles and says, "This feels nice." Months earlier, the creator of the show came out as genderfluid and then, after the show ended, came out as transgender.

    Western Animation 
  • In As Told by Ginger, in the episode "No Hope For Courtney", Mrs. Gordon dies. Originally, Mrs. Gordon was supposed to come out of retirement, but her voice actress (Kathlyn Freeman) died, so the writers redid the ending to reflect this (and dedicated the episode to Freeman).
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Tales of Ba Sing Se" is a breather-episode made up of short sketches, each focusing on a different major character and how they interact with the city. Iroh's story featured him mourning his late son, Lu Ten. In reality, Iroh's voice actor, Mako, had coincidentally just died. The episode was even dedicated to him.
    • Although Iroh appeared in the first four episodes of season 3, he never utters a word. The production based reason is that the creators wanted to give viewers time to adjust to a new voice actor. In-universe, he is silent out of despair over Zuko's betrayal, therefore refuses to talk to Zuko when he visits.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes episode "Everything Is Wonderful" can be seen as a commentary on Disney's controversial buyout of Marvel Comics, with Iron Man acting as Disney and Wonder Man acting as Marvel (or the Marvel fans who accused the company of "selling out"). The most blatant bit is when Wonder Man angrily accuses Tony of having stolen his company, to which Tony replies by claiming he only bought the company to save it after its years of financial troubles.
  • Bojack Horseman: "Thoughts And Prayers" is an episode that has this In-Universe. Princess Carolyn's project "Ms. Taken" is an incredibly violent movie about a girl going in gun violence-filled Roaring Rampage of Revenge that gets almost shelved due to the recent shootings. The episode shows the higher ups trying to release the movie at all costs while basically feigning sympathy for the victims in order to not come off as insensitive.
  • In Season 2 of The Critic, Jay mentions in a few episodes that his in-universe film review show Coming Attractions previously ran on ABC before getting cancelled and moving to another network—a nod to the show's Real Life Channel Hop from ABC to Fox.
  • The DuckTales (2017) episode "The Duck Knight Returns" had a boatload of this.
    • Launchpad tells Drake Mallard to become Darkwing Duck for real "For Jim [Starling]", the in-universe actor for Darkwing, who was also voiced by Darkwing's original voice (and a case of The Danza), Jim Cummings.
    • Around the time the episode aired, Jim Cummings, who voiced the original Darkwing Duck and voices the in-universe actor, Jim Starling, was involved in a nasty custody battle with his ex-wife, who levied accusations of rape and animal abuse against him.note  Thus, this gives an unexpected perspective on Launchpad's loss of respect for Starling after Starling snaps.
    • The episode address issues and questions involved with reboots, something the show itself had to deal with.
    • Showrunner Frank Angones once dressed up as Darkwing Duck at school as a kid, much like the 2017 reboot's Drake Mallard did.
  • Family Guy:
    • Several episodes have poked fun at Chris (Seth Green's character) about Robot Chicken. In "Something, Something, Something Darkside" Chris proclaims he won't let it get to him.
      Peter: OK, I have another story. It's called Without a Paddle.
      Chris: Fuck you, dad!
    • In "Trump Guy", Donald Trump tells Peter that people have gotten their favorite jokes about Jews, blacks and gays from his show, to which Peter responds "In fairness, we've been trying to phase out the gay stuff." A day later, the show's producers confirmed that the show will be phasing out the homophobic jokes that have long been an infamous aspect of the series.
  • Grim & Evil: "Chicken Ball Z" ends with Mandy buying Bunny Island. After that segment, Evil segments phased out entirely.
  • At one point in Looney Tunes, director, Friz Freleng left the studio to work for MGM. After a miserable year, Leon Schlesinger gave him his old job back. It's believed that his cartoon, You Ought to Be in Pictures, where Daffy tricks Porky into quitting his job to go into feature filmsnote  was his way of saying thank you to Schlesinger.
  • Possibly unintentional, but the wrong anthem incident in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode Equestria Games had a real-life precedent in 2012, when the parody Kazakhstan anthem from Borat was played at the Kuwait International Shooting Grand Prix when Kazakh Maria Dmitrienko won.
    • A girl whom Lauren Faust used to babysit posted a thank you video for her. A month later, an episode came out where we meet Princess Cadance, who used to babysit Twilight Sparkle. Fans were quick to point out the parallel.
  • In ReBoot, in the second season finale, one of the binomes makes a comment about how Megabyte's Armored Binome Carriers (ABCs) had betrayed them. This was after ABC, who have been creatively strangulating the show for two seasons, dropped them unceremoniously.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "The Joy of Sect": Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson) is a member of the Church of Scientology. Bart's line, "Church, cult. Cult, church. So, we'll get bored someplace else on Sunday. Does this really affect our day-to-day lives?" is a subtle burn against Scientology (and organized religion in general) — one that apparently didn't cause any backlash from the Church of Scientology (unlike what happened with the South Park episode "Trapped In The Closet").
    • During Bart's Imagine Spot in "Bart vs. Thanksgiving", Uncle Sam appears and tell him it's his fault America has lost its way. This is a reference to politicians and conservatives deeming Bart (and the show) a bad influence during the show's early years.
    • Word of God says "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" reflected the strains they felt balancing the expectations from both fans and the network, torn between being relatively realistic and being wackier, such as in the focus group scene.
      Focus Group Guy: Now, how many of you want to see Itchy and Scratchy face real-life problems, like the ones you face every day?
      Kids: Me! Me! I would!
      Focus Group Guy: And how many of you would like to see just the opposite? Getting into far-out situations involving robots and magic powers?
      Kids: Me! Me! I would!
      Focus Group Guy: (Beat) want a realistic down-to-Earth show...that's completely off the wall...and swarming with magic robots?
      Kids: Yeah, that sounds good.
  • South Park:
    • Isaac Hayes, another member of the Church of Scientology, left the show after an episode ("Trapped in the Closet") parodied it. The following episode "The Return of Chef" used splicing to ridicule it much much more, as well as killing Chef off.
    • "Terrance and Phillip: Behind the Blow" has a lot of hidden references to actual South Park fans' reactions to Terrance and Philip, such as people being confused whether they're supposed to be animated characters or real people and "Terrance and Phillip in: 'Not Without My Anus'" preempting a popular TV show (see the entry on the April Fools' Day page for an explanation of that one).
    • "Death" was meant to satire how parents reacted when South Park first went on their air. The same thing goes to the movie.
    • In "Fishsticks", Jimmy writes a joke that Cartman seeks to publicize as their joke, even though he sat on the couch and ate chips while Jimmy came up with the actual joke (although Cartman remembers it as being the other way around). Much of the episode is dedicated to this conflict, and the episode ends with Cartman apologizing to Jimmy - for not accommodating Jimmy's belief that he wrote most of the joke. The season that contains this episode was the first to not co-bill Matt Stone as a writer for the show, and during Jimmy and Cartman's interview with Ellen, Cartman is shown with the same hair and clothing that Trey Parker is seen wearing in interviews. However, nobody on the Internet has commented on this because everybody focused on the episode's treatment of Kanye West.
    • Stan's whole final speech in "Ass Burgers". The previous episode, "You're Getting Old" had looked like it might change the show dramatically, and fans (mirroring Stan in-universe) were worried that the change would be bad for the show. So in-universe, Stan gets over his emo phase, gives a whole Aesop about how things can change for the better with the entire speech Leaning on the Fourth Wall... only to play Status Quo Is God, hit the Reset Button, and return the show to exactly where it was.
      • And note that it's not the original status quo but, the last episode where Stan was depressed. Meaning that Stan is still, even if more so, depressed while everything else is the same. Meaning, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny still hang out with Stan, he lives in the same house, goes to the same school, his parents still live together and all this with the added bonus that Stan turned to alcohol to try and be happy.
    • In "Mecha-Streisand", Barbara is portrayed as an egotistical, elitist, and power-hungry maniac, but this was because Matt and Trey truly hate her, after she publicly criticized the people of Colorado over a law which prevented gays from being a protected minority. Her response to the episode, claiming it only "contributed to the negativity of our culture" only made her easy to mock for the South Park creators.
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, the writers were forced to use the Hobgoblin before the more popular and iconic Green Goblin in order to help sell Hobgoblin action figures. Producer John Semper hated this, so after finally introducing Green Goblin in Season 3, he did the "Goblin War" episode, which ended with Hobgoblin being permanently Put on a Bus. As if that weren't enough, the episode also had Green Goblin belittle Hobgoblin by dismissing him as a cheap wannabe, clearly mirroring Semper's own feelings about the character.
  • For the fourth season of Star Wars Rebels, executive producer Dave Filoni's father passed away during the production process, which influenced the storyline with Kanan's death, as he'd been the Team Dad and a Parental Substitute to Ezra and Sabine. While he was always planned to die, Filoni noted that the story was a lot harder to write and there was more focus on the crew dealing with their grief.
  • In Transformers: Prime, Megatron's first line is "Decepticons! I have returned!", drawing attention to Frank Welker assuming the role in a TF series for the first time since the original '80s animated series. Welker did voice the character in video games based on the Michael Bay movies before Prime premiered, but that's not quite the same - especially since he auditioned for the movie itself, but didn't get the part. Previously getting turned down to voice the character that he himself originated adds to the subtext quite nicely.
  • VeggieTales in the House: In "A Gift for Singing", Ichabeezer performs a rap bashing Pa Grape's store that, despite its nasty lyrics, is too much of an Ear Worm for anyone to resist. This may be a reference to the controversy that surrounded the "Bunny Song" from the VeggieTales video Rack, Shack & Benny, which was a Villain Song that, despite its nasty lyrics, was too much of an Ear Worm for children to resist singing aloud (to their parents' dismay).