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Time Marches On

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You're older than you've ever been, and now you're even older,
and now you're even older, and now you're even older.
You're older than you've ever been, and now you're even older,
and now you're older still.
Time is marching on, and time... is still marching on.
They Might Be Giants, "Older"

Any story must be written over some period of time. It can only be read at a later period (occasionally overlapping, but still later). Usually, this is fine. Some stories remain classics thousands of years after they were written. Others, not so much. The world shifts around them and they become less plausible, less interesting, less relevant, less funny, or even less comprehensible.


Contrast It Will Never Catch On, which is part in-universe example, part Historical In-Joke - though examples of those may, ironically, fit one of these tropes later on down the road. See also Discredited Trope and Forgotten Trope, for tropes of the past that have lost relevance and fallen out of use.


  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The work mentions something from the past that is obscure but really existed, while the audience assumes this was made up for the work.
  • Canon Marches On: Tie-ins, spin-offs and other "expanded universe" franchise works that are rendered non-canon by later official installments.
  • Cosmetically Advanced Prequel: A prequel has a more advanced look to it than the work it is intended to take place before, due to the production team having access to better equipment and techniques.
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  • Dated History: New discoveries render previous documentation of an event or time period inaccurate.
  • Failed Future Forecast: A work that attempts to make predictions about the imminent future inadvertently becomes an Alternate History, after real history passes the work's time frame and disproves its assumptions.
  • Fashion Dissonance: Clothing, hair and makeup once seen as stylish look strange to modern audiences.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Something from a work becomes less funny (a funny scene/joke doesn't age well) or even worse (a dramatic/sad scene doesn't age well) because of future events.
    • Heartwarming in Hindsight: Something from a work becomes more endearing and heartwarming because of future events.
    • Hilarious in Hindsight: Something from a work becomes funnier or more relevant because of future events.
    • Not So Crazy Anymore: A cultural, scientific or technological concept that a work presents as absurd or far-flung, only to become an unremarkable aspect of real life.
  • Future Society, Present Values: Beyond superficial trappings, the culture and social norms of the future are portrayed as being mostly unchanged from the author's own time.
    • Eternal Prohibition: Laws and taboos regarding unhealthy substances (drugs, alcohol, etc.) in the future are identical to whatever they were at the time the work was written.
  • Get Thee to a Nunnery: Euphemisms that lose their original connotations over time, due to changing vocabulary and cultural context.
    • Have a Gay Old Time: Terms that used to mean something innocent, but nowadays have much saucier meanings.
  • The New Adventures: A sequel work is titled in a way that advertises how new it is, despite being years old and/or no longer the most recent work in the series.
  • Production-Related Period Piece: The work was produced with certain elements in place that are no longer present when the work was reproduced, or the work is part of a larger body that is not as well-known, and may confuse people when taken out of context.
  • Retroactive Recognition: A minor or even bit-part role in a work is played by an actor/actress who would go on to become famous years later.
    • Billing Displacement: After said actor's breakout into stardom, the old work is repackaged to emphasize their presence, at the expense of other actors who otherwise had more important roles.
  • Science Marches On: Scientific facts presented as true in a work are later proven incorrect in the real world.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: A work that was innovative at the time nowadays comes off as uninspired and unremarkable.
  • Technology Marches On: Emphasis is placed on technology considered cutting-edge at the time, which has since become outdated.
    • Long-Runner Tech Marches On: A series that's run for a long time stays up-to-date by replacing old technology with more modern technology.
  • Two Decades Behind: Fictional depictions of pop culture are prone to Anachronism Stew, blending the modern day with an earlier time period that the author is more familiar with.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: A work that is nominally set in the Present Day, but is loaded with so many references to pop culture, politics and cultural quirks specific to the time of its creation that it ends up resembling a deliberate homage/parody of the period.
    • Fad Super: A character is designed to tap into an ongoing pop-culture phenomenon, only to lose relevance after the fad inevitably dies off.
    • Narrow Parody: A comedy/parody work that only makes jokes about very recent pop culture, unabashedly dating itself and becoming impenetrable to later audiences.
    • Ripped from the Headlines: A plot based on a then-current event.
    • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: An antagonistic alien race is explicitly based on a foreign nation or political ideology regarded as a cultural boogeyman during the author's time.
    • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: A long-running series tries to update its old-fashioned image by making references to current events or pop-culture, which only serves to date the work a second time.
  • Values Dissonance: Something from a work viewed as perfectly normal in its native time period is considered strange or morally wrong by modern audiences.
    • Fair for Its Day: An older work presents views and ideas that sound backwards to modern audiences, but were strikingly progressive by the standards of its own time.
  • Vindicated by History: The work was unpopular when it was originally made, but has since gained more attention and praise.
  • Zeerust: Science-fiction aesthetics that were seen as suitably futuristic at the time the work was written, but now serve only to date the work.
    • Zeerust Canon: Modern installments of a long-running franchise that preserve the outdated aesthetics for the sake of continuity.