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Spiritual Antithesis

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"I came home from these regular monthly drinks that we have in London and grabbed one of the nice hardback comics next to the bed—and in this case it was [Frank Miller's] 300. I picked it up, flipped through it, really not very much paying any attention to it. And one of the speeches about 'The only free men the world has ever known', and literally had a moment of incandescent rage and shouted at the book, ‘You hunted slaves!’ And at that second the entire plot of Three downloaded, including the twist, the structure, everything."

The Spiritual Successor's Evil Twin,note  the Spiritual Antithesis is referencing an earlier work by using similar characters and themes, but going in a completely different direction. Often set at the opposite end of Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. May serve as a Deconstruction (or Reconstruction if the original work was a deconstruction itself) or Stealth Parody of the original work.

It can best be described as the concept of foils applied to works instead of characters. Often seen as a Take That! against the original work (though it may simply be meant as commentary or as a What If? scenario, and is occasionally even made by the same people), and closely related to Satire. May involve Whole Plot Reference. Sometimes is actually a sequel to the original work, in which it usually serves as an Internal Deconstruction. The Moral Substitute is a related trope, where the work is meant to be the antithesis of what its creators see as moral failings within another work or genre.


Of course, nothing prevents a work from being the Spiritual Antithesis of one work and the Spiritual Successor of another at the same time, which may often result in said work being X Meets Y or This Is Your Premise on Drugs.

Genres that play this role to each other:


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    Films — Animated 
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas can be considered one to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Both feature the Villain Protagonist dressing up as Santa Claus before realizing how wrong their actions were. But whereas the Grinch dressed up as Santa in order to steal gifts from the Whos, Jack did it because he wanted to spice up his life and add a new spin to the holiday. The Grinch's malevolent intentions end up not really harming anyone, while Jack's benevolent intentions end up causing mass mayhem.
  • Both Pixar and the Disney Animated Canon have contrasting takes on the Superhero genre: The Incredibles and Big Hero 6: The Incredibles stars a Caucasian, Badass Nuclear Family (and a Black Best Friend) with innate superpowers facing a tech-based villain, his gun-wielding mooks and his robot. Their setting is retro fifties-flavored suburbia, and while they don't deliberately kill the villains, if they die while attacking the heroes no one's upset. Big Hero 6, on the other hand, features a Five-Token Band of friends united by an orphan as science heroes with their powers derived from technology and individual expertise -— with a robot among their ranks -— while the villain is definitely a solo act equipped with a swarm of Nanomachines. Their setting is neon, skyscrapers and advanced cybernetics, If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him is in play, and high technology is central to all elements of the plot.
  • Inside Out could be considered this to Poison Berry in My Brain. Aside from the Western/Eastern cultural differences, whereas the outside protagonist for Inside Out is a 11-year-old girl in elementary school, the outside protagonist for Poison Berry is a freelance 30-year-old woman. The way the insides of their heads work may be similar, but are still remarkably different; while the controllers in Riley's zany-landscape head are made out of surreal shapes to represent well-known emotions, the board members in Ichiko's more sophisticated castle-landscape head are humans of different ages to represent the more psychological aspects of human outlooks and actions. Both Riley and Ichiko lose their senses of positivity near the end, but regain them through different manners: Riley aborts her running away mission and returns home to her genuinely loving and caring family, whereas Ichiko breaks up with and abandons the jealous Saotome in order to maintain her self-love.
  • The Book of Life and Coco are both films set in Mexico about young men, conveniently with names that start with an "M", who aspire to become musicians and travel into the world of the dead. But that's where the similarities ends. The first is about a Love Triangle, the second is about learning the mystery behind a family secret. In the former, Manolo is an aspiring musician who is forbidden to follow his dream because his father wants him to be a bullfighter like his ancestors. In the latter, Miguel is an aspiring musician who is forbidden to follow his dream because his great-great-grandfather supposedly abandoned the family to become a musician (It turns out that while Hector did try a musical career, he decided to return but was murdered before he could do so, and his wife and daughter never found this out), so his shoe-making family banned music from their household so no other Rivera would go through that heartbreak. Manolo willfully allows himself to die by snake poison when he believed the woman he loved died; Miguel steals the guitar of the man he thinks is said ancestor and is cursed by being sent into the Land of the Dead. Manolo gains aid from his ancestors as he seeks to earn his life back from deities when he realizes he was tricked; Miguel avoids his ancestors as he wants to earn the blessing of his musician relative so that he can follow his dream. The primary villain of The Book of Life is Xibalba, a Dark Is Evil deity who interfered with Manolo's life so that the woman Manolo loved would marry another to win a bet, though he gets a Heel–Face Turn. The primary villain in Coco is Ernesto De La Cruz, a Light Is Not Good singer who Miguel believes is his ancestor but is really the man who murdered him to achieve fame and is so obsessed with his fame and ego that he doesn't reform. Manolo proves his musical worth by playing a song to earn forgiveness from the spirits of the bulls his family killed; Miguel does so by playing the real version of "Remember Me" to his great-grandmother Coco, proving her father didn't abandon their family and lifting the ban. While both movies deal with themes of Be Yourself and the importance of family, The Book of Life leans more to the former while Coco leans to the latter.
  • The Road to El Dorado and The Emperor's New Groove. Both are fantasy films about a pair of mismatched buddies on a difficult journey through the jungles of pre-Columbian South America, and both of them feature an emperor's duplicitous court magician as the main antagonist. But The Road to El Dorado is a mostly serious adventure film (though not without its humorous moments) about a pair of lowly con men who end up being worshipped as gods by the Maya, while The Emperor's New Groove is a wacky Looney Tunes-esque comedy (though not without its dramatic moments) about a mighty Inca emperor who's forced to seek help from a lowly peasant after being turned into a llama. note 

    Newspaper Comics 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • As EMLL and CSP developed into two different versions of the World Wrestling Council, WWC became a spiritual antithesis of CMLL. Two out of three falls became the standard in EMLL and pretty much a must in championship matches while one fall became he default in CSP. Perhaps not by coincidence CMLL title belts became known for how difficult they were to win while WWC's belts for how difficult they were to hold on to. WWC was also a pioneer in many of the gimmick matches CMLL would become known for shunning, a contrast that became more apparent as CMLL featured less and less bloodshed over the years. In the beginning EMLL was content to be a regional promotion while CSP has always had universal ambitions but in a bit of irony, CMLL would become the more international of the two while WWC would end up fairly isolated.
  • The difference between the northeastern and southern styles of wrestling can be summed up with the title hunts. NWA and later WCW favored fan-favorites chasing heel champions, WWF/E preferred face champions taking on heel challengers. This was also behind Hulk Hogan leaving th American Wrestling Association, as he liked being a champion more than chasing one.
  • Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling's intent was to be an antithesis to the "Japanese mainstream", namely All Japan Pro Wrestling's "realistic" presentation of the sport and New Japan Pro-Wrestling's "strong style" of wrestling, adopting an "anything goes" approach where the referee existed mostly to declare winners.
  • ECW was this to WCW to the point of bitter rivalry. Though both were offshoots of the NWA, World Championship Wrestling had the support of a major media company and their tradition established as an NWA member to determine their direction of their production (at least until Hogan came along). Extreme Championship Wrestling had a far more contentious break with NWA, had a roster full of castoffs, a small budget and a do-it-yourself attitude that forsook the traditions of pro wrestling to present something far darker. Most notably, both were the antithesis of the then-cartoony World Wrestling Federation, which had to become the antithesis of its past self to compete with WCW and the nWo.
  • Ring of Honor is the spiritual antithesis of Combat Zone Wrestling, created by RF Video after it couldn't get CZW to agree do a deal. They have employed some of the same wrestlers over the course of their existences, the key differences being in how long and how they use them, ROH not being nearly relaxed as far as rules and conduct go, and a much stronger focus on the 'wrestling' aspect of the product, as opposed to the "ultra violence".
  • After witnessing the decline and failure of Universal Wrestling Federation, a company based on 'shoot wrestling' and mixed martial arts, in the face of comparatively traditional pro wrestling promotions, Nobuhiko Takada tried again with Fighting Opera HUSTLE, which aimed less for realism and plausibility and more for flash and dramatic overacting.
  • WSU for SHIMMER. Both were the first two major all-women's promotions on the American independent circuit. SHIMMER had a family-friendly product centred more around pure wrestling. WSU was a Darker and Edgier product (the U standing for 'Uncensored') with lots more cursing and brutality. SHIMMER would usually bring in a wider variety of international talent while WSU would focus mainly on American and Canadian talent.
  • Celtic Championship Wrestling and Over The Top Wrestling — the two biggest promotions in Ireland, who both run monthly shows. OTT is an exclusively over-18's show with emphasis on larger than life gimmicks, extreme rules matches and general drunken fun. CCW is family friendly with a lot more focus on wrestling. They do the occasional over-18's show themselves however.
  • WWE and New Japan Pro-Wrestling, as regards to their world champions. WWE has never been a meritocracy, so the top guy in the promotion tends to be the one who sells the most merchandise. New Japan unapologetically puts their top titles on their best workers.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons was this to the tabletop war-game Chainmail. In Chainmail, each player commanded an army against another player's army. But with Dungeons & Dragons, each player was controlling a single character, and was instead teaming up with other players and their own characters in a series of cooperative dungeon raids. Plus, Chainmail was more geared towards combat and competition, while Dungeons & Dragons was, instead, primarily a storytelling and adventure game.
    • Eberron was consciously created to be this to more traditional D&D worlds by creating a fantasy world without clear lines between good and evil, and with more focus on practical applications for magic...oh, and Orcs saved the world at least once. Needless tp say, there's a Fandom Rivalry.
  • Paranoia is this for the more common type of game in which the PCs are generally expected to work together toward common goals.
  • Warhammer 40,000 is this for the idealistic Space Opera genre as a whole, especially Star Trek. Your average Space Opera follows the principle that Humans Are Special and shows them living peacefully with other races and defeating various space evils. In contrast, The Imperium of Man is utterly racist, a behavior learned from their alien neighbors, and its position at the galactic power table was paid for with the blood of millions of humans. Examine the Rogue Traders specifically: Brave and intrepid captains who go out on long missions to find and contact new worlds and new civilizations, with the mandate to exploit the heck out of them, or even wipe the natives off the face of their worlds outright in order to take what's left. Slightly different than the prime directive!
  • Adventure Board Games and Euro Games; the former features, well, adventure scenarios, light role playing, and a greater consideration of production values. The latter are focused more on mechanics, and feature far more mundane tasks like running a farm or a power plant.

  • August Wilson's Fences to Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. They're both frequently cited as the definitive American plays about the complications of pursuing The American Dream, but they examine it from completely opposite perspectives. Death of a Salesman is about about a middle-class white family in the New York suburbs, and the protagonist Willy Loman is a frustrated salesman who tries to push his sons to follow in his footsteps. Fences, meanwhile, is about a working-class African-American family in the Philadelphia suburbs, and the protagonist Troy Maxson is a frustrated garbage collector who tries to push his son to attain the kind of future that he could never have for himself.

    Willy's treatment of Biff and Happy is presented as the result of painful naiveté, and the story ends with him dying prematurely after being laid off. Troy's treatment of Cory is presented as well-intentioned Tough Love, and the story ends with him dying at a ripe age after managing to improve his station by a tiny margin. Perhaps most notably, one of Willy's defining traits is that he cares way too much about being "well-liked" by others, but doesn't care nearly enough about responsibility or work ethic; one of Troy's defining traits is that he doesn't care at all about whether people like him, and he drives away most of his loved ones in his search for money and respect.
  • In Ancient Greek theatre, "New Comedy", as popularized by Menander, is the antithesis of the more-recognizable "Old Comedy", by the likes of Aristophanes. While Old Comedies were often political Satires (though not called that yet) with lots of Toilet Humor, supernatural elements and frequent dissing of contemporary figures, New Comedies were more like Slice of Life affairs, comparatively realistic and tame, providing light-hearted, escapist wackiness.

    Theme Parks 
  • As the world's two biggest rivals in the theme park business, Disney and Universal Studios have long framed themselves as contrasting foils of one another. Disney parks have traditionally drawn most of their inspiration from Disney's animated films, and they're famous for their commitment to building immersive experiences that encourage guests to lose themselves in elaborate fantasies; as a whole, the parks often celebrate the innocence of childhood, with "magic" being a frequent buzzword. note  By contrast, Universal Studios parks have traditionally been a gleeful smorgasbord of American pop culture from multiple companies and mediums, and they opt for the look and feel of a movie backlot, often celebrating the illusory nature of pop culture instead of trying to convince the audience to believe it; they're also much less shy about dipping into properties that don't necessarily target kids, with occasional moments of violence and horror to balance out the frivolity.

    Note that this has started to be downplayed in recent years, as the parks have gradually started learning from each other in certain areas. Case in point: Universal Studios now has The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is the sort of painstakingly detailed immersive attraction that Disney is better known for; and with the unveiling of Pandora – The World of Avatar and the upcoming Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Disney Parks have shown a new willingness to embrace properties outside Disney's traditional oeuvre.note 

     Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Decades of Darkness, a story featured on, can read as this to two separate Alternate History works.
    • The first is S.M. Stirling's The Draka series, which was intentional on the writer's part. He found the series, which revolves around an evil South African slaver empire that takes over the world, to be wildly implausible from an allohistorical standpoint, so he wrote Decades of Darkness as basically "the Draka, but done right".
    • The second is the mockumentary C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, which probably wasn't intentional. Both CSA and DoD depict worlds in which the values of the Deep South's planter aristocrats took over the United States, the nation subjugating Latin America under an apartheid-like system while keeping black people enslaved well into the 20th century, all while a less-powerful nation in the northern half of North America (Canada in CSA, an alliance of Canada and New England in DoD) fiercely opposes everything it stands for. The difference is in tone. CSA plays fast and loose with plausibility and is largely Played for Laughs as a Black Comedy satire of American race relations, the film's Confederacy ultimately portrayed as Not So Different from our world's America. Decades of Darkness, meanwhile, strives for plausibility, and is very much not played for laughs — by the end, its oppressive, dystopian society is so unrecognizable from our world's United States that readers have taken to calling it "the *US", with a conspicuous asterisk.

     Web Video 
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd Complains About Games He Doesn't Like, most of which probably deserve it. The Happy Video Game Nerd Gushes About Games He DOES Like, all of which definitely deserve it.
    • Another example to the AVGN is Cygnus Destroyer's The LJN Defender. Whereas the Nerd considers LJN Toys his Arch-Enemy and rarely sees much (if any) good in their games, Matt does his best to find the good in their games, and usually (though certainly not always) finds himself enjoying them, warts and all.
  • Similar to the above, while CinemaSins judges movies on how they suck based on their Sins, Cinema Wins does the opposite by praising how great movies are based on their Wins.
  • Likewise, Bob Chipman created the show Really That Good as a more upbeat alternative to Caustic Critic web shows like CinemaSins, The Nostalgia Critic, and RedLetterMedia. He felt that too many online film critics had a tendency to Accentuate the Negative for the sake of getting viewers, playing into stereotypes of the Straw Critic in the process, and that there was a dearth of web shows devoted to exploring why good films were good rather than why bad films were bad.
  • Both RebelTaxi and The Mysterious Mr. Enter are animation-focused Video Review Shows whose hosts prefer not to be seen, but that's where the similarities end. The two are very much the Technician vs. Performer of animation reviewers: Pan Pizza is easygoing, jokey, and perverted, and while he does know a well-written work from a poorly-written one, he cares more about a work's overall entertainment factor in his reviews. On the other hand, Mr. Enter is an Asexual Byronic Hero who is very brusque in his method of critique, and takes decent storytelling far more seriously, being far less forgiving to shows that fail in that regard.
    This is best shown in their additudes towards crappy works that nontheless have a lot of effort put into them. Pan Pizza believes that it's better to at least give it your all even if it turned out poorly, and even a total crap-fest can be entertaining in its own ways. Mr. Enter, however, believes that working hard on something that sucks doesn't change the fact that it sucks, and in a way, all that talent and effort only serves to accentuate how much it sucks.
  • Super Minecraft Kid is this to Sammy Classic Sonic Fan. Both are young children who are obsessed with video games and get very angry easily, but while Sammy is a fan of retro games who rants on camera, SMK's videos are all behind his computer and hates Nintendo and classic games. (Though he seems to believe Minecraft was made in the 1960s) Sammy notoriously replaces all profanity with "frick," while SMK is a bit more... open with his language. Outside of their normal content, Sammy makes lighthearted videos of himself related to Nintendo, and SMK makes "animated" videos with content much closer to what you'd expect out of this kid.
  • MauLer to Zero Punctuation. Both are Caustic Critics with british accents known for their biting criticisms of various forms of media. But while Yahtzee is a fast-talking, unserious rambler whose criticisms are mostly just exaggerated jokes for humor in the form of short videos at less than 5 minutes, MauLer is a serious, in-depth, and steadily talking reviewer who rarely cracks jokes, aiming for objective looks at films with videos that can take hours to cover every aspect.

  • The Onion and Clickhole are run by the same creative teams, but their respective styles of humor are so fundamentally different that they may as well call Clickhole "The Anti-Onion". The Onion is a parody of traditional newspaper and television journalism that, like the best satires, uses self-aware humor to force its audience to think about the inherently absurd aspects of society. Even at its goofiest, it's usually making some intellectual point about politics or modern culture. Clickhole, on the other hand, is a parody of new media in The New '10s, and it discards satire in favor of absurdism and Surreal Humor; most of its humor comes from how it deliberately refuses to make a coherent point about anything. The Onion has its share of Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped moments related to hot-button social issues, while Clickhole is infamous for its occasional Crosses the Line Twice moments that treat those same issues in as blasé a manner as possible. Case in point: The Onion attempting to discuss racism, vs. Clickhole attempting to discuss it.
  • Citizendium was created by Larry Sanger, one of the co-founders of Wikipedia, in 2006 as an alternative wiki that corrected what he felt to be that site's problems with allowing poorly-sourced misinformation to flow unchecked. Whereas Wikipedia allows anybody to edit, Sanger's plan for Citizendium was to recruit experts in their respective fields to curate articles and hold final approval over the editing process. For various reasons, including the site's bureaucratic structure and top-down leadership, Sanger's biases as to what should be considered notable or accurate information, and credentialism allowing assorted cranks (most notably alternative medicine promoters, industry flacks, and people who faked their credentials and expertise) to gain control of articles that pertained to their pet hobby-horses, Citizendium never took off despite media hype, and by 2011 it was mostly moribund. This article goes into more detail, as does this page on the site from Rational Wiki.

  • Part of the reason why the Afro is considered a culturally significant hairstyle is that it was conceived as an antithesis to the conk, which had previously been the most popular hairstyle among black men in the US from the 1920s through the '50s. Where the conk involved artificially straightening naturally "kinky" hair with corrosive chemicals (implicitly in an effort to adopt a more "white" hairstyle), the Afro grew directly out of the Black Power movement in the 1960s as a backlash, and it involved emphasizing the natural curl and volume of black people's hair. Even the Afro's name alludes to this: it's an abbreviation of "Afro-American", the label that many people involved in the Black Power movement adopted for themselves, wanting to express pride in their African roots.
  • The pinball designers Steve Ritchie and Pat Lawlor take opposite approaches to the machines they've designed. Most of Ritchie's tables are designed for the ball to travel quickly with little stopping or deceleration and are focused on ramps and loops. Lawlor's tables, on the other hand, have comparatively few ramps and are downplayed in favor of scoops, targets, magnets, and other mechanisms that stop the ball. Together, this means Ritchie's tables are focused around speed and action (not that they can't be slowed down either, but that's done deliberately by the player), whereas Lawlor's tables are about trapping the ball on a flipper and then taking careful aim. To pinball fans, whether a table is "flow" or "stop-and-go" is Serious Business and has long been easy Flame Bait material. In a sense, Steve Ritchie is also the antithesis to his brother Mark Ritchie in theme: Steve prefers high-concept themes where you fight an adversary, but all of Mark's tables have mundane themes about everyday life.
  • The Prairie School of architecture, most associated with Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, was created as a backlash against the Greco-Roman neoclassicism prevalent in American architecture in the 19th century. Originating in the Midwest, especially Chicago after the city's 1893 World's Fair (which held a preponderance of neoclassical architecture), the Prairie School focused on open plans, horizontal lines, and minimal ornamentation, meant to evoke the feel of the open plains as a uniquely American, modern, and organic alternative to European styles that tended towards the grandiose and larger-than-life.
  • Many nostalgia cycles, at least as presented by popular culture, occur as backlashes against both their immediate predecessors and the time in which they emerge, often trying to craft a narrative of the decade as the antithesis of both (and oftentimes as an example of what society should be like) while ignoring things that would make the decade Not So Different from what they're reacting to.