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Two Decades Behind

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"Does anyone else our age even listen to '90s music? Or it is just mostly 30-year-olds who tend to write characters in our age group?"
Lionel, Dear White People

For some reason, there's often a twenty-year lag between reality and TV-land. Works that are supposed to be set in the present day turn out as Anachronism Stew with the inclusion of elements that are out of date.

On television, everyone speaks Totally Radical and enjoys the hottest new music, trends and technologies. This trope comes into play when styles and trends from 20 years ago are presented as current, edgy, or at least still popular when they no longer are. Because Most Writers Are Adults, this often occurs when writers decide to Write What You Know or rely on Pop Culture Osmosis to inform depictions of the generation below them.

In newer works, this is often seen with technology. Smart phones and the Internet have changed society in ways that may cause problems for writers. Some writers may consider omitting or using obsolete tech as an Acceptable Break From Reality, though it raises the obvious question of why the writers didn't just set the work before the technology in question was invented (setting a spy thriller in the Cold War to avoid widespread Internet or mobile phone access, for instance). Older works may entirely ignore major social changes, such as the Sexual Revolution. This was sometimes enforced due to censorship.

This is particularly common in Long-Runners, where anachronisms may be The Artifact.

Setting your work 20 Minutes into the Past can avoid this issue. Due to the Popularity Polynomial, sometimes out of date trends can still come across as cool and add interest to a modern setting. Having a character be a Fan of the Past is smoother way to integrate old trends into a current or future setting.

Compare 20 Minutes into the Future, where the future resembles the present, and Disco Dan, a specific character that personifies this trope. Fashions Never Change, Pac-Man Fever, Zeerust, Long-Runner Tech Marches On, Totally Radical, and any Dead Horse Trope or Discredited Trope are common signs of Two Decades Behind.

Contrast Present-Day Past, when current culture sneaks into a Period Piece, and Unintentional Period Piece, where instead of being behind the times, a work of fiction is all too obviously of its time. See also Retro Universe and Purely Aesthetic Era. Retraux and Genre Throwback are deliberate efforts to emulate things from the past. Technologically Blind Elders is an application of this trope to characters in-universe.


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  • Chuck E. Cheese was still in his not-fooling-anyone skater drag until 2012, when he was finally given a much-needed makeover.
  • The incredibly early '90s commercial for the toy Skip-It remained on TV for eight years with occasional minor modifications.
  • The original Baby Bottle Pop commercial, from 1998 mind you, looks like it's straight out of 1988. Made even worse by the fact that the commercial ran into the early 2000s.
  • TV spots for the Brooklyn, NY area burger joint Roll N Roaster have run in a mostly unedited form for about forty years. You can see it here. Unfortunately, the waitstaff no longer wear berets.
  • A 1995 commercial for Eggo Cinnamon Toast Waffles exemplifies this trope to a tee. In it, a kid suggests combining his school with a music video. What follows is a school with its kids dressed at least a decade out of date, wearing spandex and ridiculous amounts of hairspray, topped off with a voiceover by a Joey Ramone soundalike. If the advertisers did their research regarding what was hip when the ad came out, the boys would've all had Kurt Cobain haircuts and dirty clothes. The girls, meanwhile, would've either cut their hair really short or dressed like Cher Horowitz. These styles were in the mid-1990s still popular in many parts of the American Midwest, which is supposedly where the "average" American consumer lives; hell, in some cases those styles are still popular in the Midwest today.
  • Microsoft's "Child of the 90s" ad for Internet Explorer relies entirely on associating the product with all the stuff from the '90s that people are nostalgic for nowadays, in lieu of actually saying anything about Internet Explorer.note  The commercial ends saying that Internet Explorer has grown up (along with the audience) since the '90s - which runs sort of contrary to the nostalgia indulgence that the rest of the commercial glorifies.
  • Advertisements in the 2000s which wanted to play on family and nostalgia would often use a 8mm home movies look, with shaky camera work along with film scratches and grain. However the adults in the advertisement would have been kids in the 80s and 90s, when video cameras were more common.
  • Averted in a Taco Bell commercial with a guy who has been stuck in 1984 and decides to get with the times.
  • Captain Birdseye has used the same old-fashioned grey bearded sea captain for decades on their logo. For a short while during the 1990s they gave the character a more trendy, updated look and replaced him with a much younger man. The make-over didn't catch on and they soon returned to the old captain again.
  • Israeli advertisements aimed at children used the word madlikHebrew , ‘radical’, for years after it went entirely obsolete in actual spoken Hebrew.
  • This iconic ad for the Marineland Canada amusement park has aired unchanged in the Greater Toronto Area and Western New York since 1998. More modern versions actually do exist, but the 1998 version in particular continues to be aired to this day for whatever reason, even despite being Overshadowed by Controversy in 2012 with the Toronto Star printing an exposé accusing the amusement park of abusing its captive mammal collection.
  • Life Alert (previously Life Call) had aired this commercial since the late eighties with minor changes to the script. Like with the MarineLand example, modern versions do exist and air on TV, but the earlier versions from the 80s and 90s managed to keep airing well into the mid 2010's.
  • In the Chicagoland area, there is this commercial for Victory Auto Wreckers, which was filmed in 1985 and continued airing on television well into the 2000s. For those who lived in Chicago during the 80s and 90s, this is a commercial they know by heart. It was finally updated—in 2016.
  • Tootsie Roll Industries has their Tootsie Roll Pop commercial that dates back to 1969, and still gets aired to this day. Ever wonder how many licks it takes? It has bewildered many people alike for over fifty years now. The company later made an online series based on the commercial in 2016.
  • Invoked in a series of French billboards displaying an American cultural icon and its respective release dates on either side of the Atlantic (chewing gum, 1870/1918; sneakers, 1864/1935; electric guitar 1955/1964; cupcake 1952/2012; skateboard 1957/1965; jeans 1874/1945) before asking "Why should the Americans get everything before us?" Then revealing it's for a channel that shows Game of Thrones simultaneously with the U.S. broadcast and one of the Houses' symbols.
  • An intentional seasonal example: The "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" Hershey's kiss commercial has run every year since 1989, only getting a widescreen facelift in the early 2010s. This is done so that the Hershey company doesn't have to spend its advertising budget on new commercials for the holidays, and can use the money on employee bonuses instead.

    Anime and Manga 

  • Paintings by fantasy artist Larry Elmore almost always feature characters with 1980s hairstyles, even if the painting was created in the 1990s or 2000s.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe's disco-themed Dazzler (a.k.a., sometimes "The Disco Dazzler") got her solo series in 1981... by which point disco had fallen out of style.
  • You're not going to understand half the jokes in Scott Pilgrim unless you're familiar with early video game titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System & the Sega Genesis. This was a common critique of The Movie.
  • A common criticism of DC Comics's New 52 (2011) is how much it reminded some readers of the early 1990s Dark Age. The talent on most New 52 books was and remains heavy on 1990s stalwarts like Jim Lee, Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Brett Booth, and even Rob Liefeld. Special mention should go to George Pérez, whose work on "World's Finest" didn't look so hot due to his clearly not taking modern digital inking and coloring into account. Not to mention incorporating WildStorm characters into the DC Universe, such as Zealot, Voodoo, Fairchild and Grifter.
  • Speedball was essentially a Silver Age character created by Steve Ditko in 1988. The character fared somewhat better in The New Warriors, but his poorly-received revamp as Penance, essentially a '90s Anti-Hero played completely straight and introduced over a decade after such characters were considered hip, wasn't any better.
  • Batman:
    • Appeared in some comics of the 1990s, with some of Bruce Wayne's high-society friends still saying "old boy" and other faux-British expressions, even though it hadn't been fashionable to say such things since the 1930s at the latest. Since Wayne pretends to be an out-of-touch rich guy and his friends are largely Upper-Class Twits, this was probably just satire.
    • Nightwing's original costume was heavily disco inspired despite being in the '80s, well after disco fell out of fashion.
    • Batman: Fortunate Son — the infamous one-shot comic where Batman is revealed to hate rock music — just-as-infamously has a pretty loose grasp on what "Rock" music even is. Despite the fact the comic was released and takes place in 1999, a vast majority of discussion of the genre refers specifically to classic Rock & Roll from The '50s (Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Buddy Holly, etc.), at most featuring a Sid Vicious expy in a Punk Rock club. The main plot is driven by the extended breakdown of a "rockstar" in the present day (who can be read as a very loose expy of Kurt Cobain), but there's no mention of any Grunge, Heavy Metal, or other forms of rock music past The '70s.
  • Tintin: Despite moving along with the times in general the comic strip still had Tintin wear his old plus fours pants up until the penultimate album. Only in "Tintin - Tintin and the Picaros" (1975), the final book in the series, do we see Tintin wearing modern jeans trousers.
  • Lucky Luke: The comic strip is more or less a satire of western movies, especially the classics by John Ford and Sergio Leone. Morris never liked the westerns that were made after the 1960s, when political correctness stepped in and many of the ancient stereotypes were removed for a more realistic and historically accurate approach of the Wild West. Thus many of the later Lucky Luke albums are still referring to western movie iconography that died out since the sixties and western films most of his younger audiences have never seen.
  • Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber: This comic strip was made in The '50s and despite being in syndication for four decades it remained frozen in the 1950s. The characters, fashions, backgrounds... everything!
  • A poor quality Dark Age pinup-style Ironheart variant cover garnered many complaints for the way it drew a 15-year-old girl as a Hotter and Sexier 20-something woman, and several more complaints suggesting it was the dated fashion that made it come across as sexualised. One commentator suggested that many comic book artists get stuck on late-90s/early-00s fashion due to it being what sexy women wore when they were learning to draw, and called it the equivalent of 'drawing characters with flip phones'.
  • Kronblom, a Swedish comic still running since 1927 in a case of Comic-Book Time gone mad, is now at least four decades behind. There will be occasional references to a modern technology, popular culture and changes in society. But it mostly feels like the characters still live in the 1970s, or perhaps even the 1950s. The clothes and the women's hairstyles are very old-fashioned, and it seems like life in the Swedish countryside hardly has changed at all in the last forty years. Most notably, they still have a (very old-fashioned) store in the village. That has become more and more implausible for each decade since the 1960s, even if the writers occasionally put some realism in it by letting the store-keeper complain that he may soon have to close the store, because people have started to do most of their shopping at the supermarkets in town...
  • Il Giornalino is an Italian weekly comic book of Catholic inspiration, whose publishing house was founded by a Catholic priest. Most references to youth culture in its stories are at least 20 years out of date. Example: a story in a 2013 issue was basically a rant against people who follow fashion, except that the main character, whom the readers were supposed not to follow, was head over heels about a style of shirt that was popular in the mid-1990s. Another story in the same issue was a rant against playing video games for too long: the main character was addicted to his "Wii"... that looked like a Sega CD.
  • Although Mortadelo y Filemón have run on Ripped from the Headlines for two decades now to the point one can pinpoint the exact year based on world events and celebrity cameos, the fashions, cars and backgrounds seem perpetually stuck in the books's golden era of the late 70s and 80s. Things that were rare in a large city even then, like wooden fences, street dogs and animals pulling carts will show up for the sake of a joke.
  • An intentional case in Revolutionaries— when legendary WWII hero Sgt. Robert Stephen Savage is brought forth to 1994 by the Talisman, he immediately adapts to his new time period, embracing 90s culture in every way. Then the Talisman sends him in time again, this time to 2017, where the Revolutionaries are rather confused at a WWII legend snarling "Eat my shorts" and gushing about Sonic the Hedgehog. It doesn't stop Sgt. Savage (already a Super-Soldier / Expy of Captain America) from being great, though.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Some have noted that many elements of Ken Penders' run make it feel like something from 20-30 years earlier at times, due to his attempts to ape things he was into when he was younger. As game developer and amateur comics historian Bobby Schroeder put it:
    Now, there’s nothing wrong with bringing in outside influences (as I write this, IDW‘s Sonic is trying to stop a zombie apocalypse), but Ken’s tastes are very… narrow. Star Trek, the works of Jack Kirby, Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy. That sort of thing. He’s very much your typical nerdy baby boomer. So in the ’90s and early 2000s, you had this hip and trendy video game franchise for kids known for its use of pop, rock, and rap music, and the comic adaptation read like a bizarre Silver Age comic or a D&D campaign.

    Comic Strips 
  • Many Newspaper Comics are legacy Long-Runners to the extent that pop culture references might be Three Decades Behind, while styles of clothing (especially if meant to denote a character type, such as Beetle Bailey's Rocky being "the rocker", or even the attire and props of a one-off background character) can be Five or Six Decades Behind, an example of The Artifact. Beetle Bailey is also notable for the way the military equipment is frozen in about 1952. Beetle and his fellow soldiers still wear M1 helmets and carry Garand rifles with bayonets instead of M16s or M4s. Sarge wears a garrison cap, which hasn't been official Army headgear since 2004. He also tucks his tie into his shirt, a practice which ended in 1966.
  • Blondie (1930):
    • Dagwood still has his 1930s-style clothing and hairstyle (while Blondie keeps her curly bob hairdo, she primarily wears more contemporary clothing) even though they use modern technology such as flat screen TVs and smartphones.
    • In a 1970s comic, Dagwood enters a record store and asks for the "The B's". The clerk assumes Dagwood is asking about Bach, Brahms and Beethoven but is shocked that Dagwood actually wants "Bop, Be Bop and Boogie." (Even given that a 1970s Dagwood may have enjoyed these musical genres when younger, it is unlikely that anyone in the 1970s would have still found 1940s music edgy or disturbing).
  • Hi and Lois:
    • One strip depicts Chip's room with posters of Bob Dylan, The Who, and Led Zeppelin. As the Comics Curmudgeon commentary puts it, this guy is not the mom's son, but her dad with those musical tastes. Most modern teenagers would not be fans exclusively of 40 and 50 year old music, so this trope is in effect.
  • Similarly, in Curtis, the title character idolizes rappers while his father has nothing but disdain for "that rap junk". The elder Wilkinses, though, seem to be in their early forties, meaning that they would have been kids when rap first became popular. Styles have changed, but the strip doesn't go into those nuances.
  • Another similar example can be found in Zits, where Connie and Walt, the parents of the 16-year old main character, are portrayed as baby boomers who used to be hippies in The '60s. The strip started in 1997, when it was still credible for former sixties hippies to be parents of a teenager, but since the characters don't really age due to Comic-Book Time, the hippie past of Connie and Walt becomes increasingly unlikely as years go by. It's lampshaded a few times that Jeremy's taste in music is still stuck in the 90s, with members of his favorite bands having kids his age now.
  • The Family Circus seems to languish in a world as much as six decades behind, with a brand of humor that makes Full House seem edgy. For instance, one March 2014 strip features the mother scolding her child for calling her "dude" and telling her to "chill out". Perhaps the Eighties are finally beginning to set in for the strip after all.
  • FoxTrot:
    • Walking Techbane and Bumbling Dad Roger Fox has been described as "still trying to catch up with the technology of the seventies". Made worse by Comic-Book Time, since by now he'd have been born in the seventies.
    • For some reason, most strips that involve Peter mowing the lawn depict a non-motorized manual "reel" lawn mower, even though both motorized push mowers and riding mowers had long since been commonplace when the strip started in 1988.
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • In some strips, Dad was seen going to work sporting a black hat (either a fedora or a homburg, from the looks of it), although men his age hadn't been seen with hats since the early 1960s at the latest. Occasionally he'd wear a Conspicuous Trenchcoat as well, but at least that was only on cold days. This partly stems from the fact that Calvin's Dad is based closely on creator Bill Watterson's own father, and also because Watterson deliberately gave the strip a generic 20th century aesthetic rather than tying it to a specific decade, which also resulted in minor Anachronism Stew, such as the household using rotary phones (much of it may also be a deliberate choice by Calvin's dad, who frequently shows disdain for anything modern). Mom, meanwhile, was once shown doing housework in Capri pants, a short-sleeved dress shirt, and a "Rosie the Riveter" head-scarf. Calvin's fantasies would also at times show men wearing fedoras and women with heavy lipstick, but at least those could be explained as Imagine Spots based on what Calvin saw on television.
    • "Tracer Bullet' and "Spaceman Spiff", parodies of pulp heroes from the 1950s and 1960s (specifically Film Noir and Raygun Gothic, respectively), are the fantasy alter egos of Calvin, a six year old living in the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s.
    • Both Calvin and Hobbes often gave their opinion on the state of the entertainment industry, such as movies, TV and music. However, the comic never once mentioned video games even though the comic was being published at the same time the medium was skyrocketing in popularity. Calvin, known for his love of new and controversial media, never once visited an arcade or asked his parents for games, not even when the family got a home computer late in the comic's run. Instead, his idea of wasting an afternoon was to go to his local drugstore and read comics all day.
    • Some of the technology used in the comic also seem chronologically out of place, even in the 1980s. For example, Calvin's television has antennae and dials, rather than buttons, and the phone they use is a rotary model, both of which were already being phased out in the 1970s.
    • Calvin's ultra-sugary breakfast cereal, Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs, feels a bit out of place in the era when the strip ran. While kid's cereals were alarmingly sugary once upon a time, companies started to reduce the amount of sugar in them as a response to increasing health concerns beginning at the tail end of the 1970s.
    • One strip has Calvin's dad panning a cartoon his son's watching as a boring, preachy glorified toy commercial with extremely Limited Animation. Aside from the "glorified toy commercial" part, most of these qualities became less prominent starting in the 1980s.
    • Calvin's Free-Range Children lifestyle was becoming outdated even when the strip started due to a fever of "stranger danger" paranoia among middle-class American around the early 80s. As was Calvin's parents leaving him in the car alone while they went shopping, which would've been a no-no, even back then. Watterson, not having kids himself at the time, admitted to being a little behind on parenting trends.
    • Similarly, whenever Calvin is show riding in the family car, he's only strapped in with a two-point seatbelt. The three-point seatbelt was invented in 1959 and became standard practice in the backseat by the late 1970s. He should have also been in a booster seat, which were made standard by the early 1980s and were already widespread in the United States by the time the comic began.
    • In a few strips, Calvin is punished by the teacher for making some kind of ridiculous statement by being forced to sit in the corner with a Dunce Cap. Punishing schoolchildren with a dunce cap was out of date in the 1960s, never mind the 80s or 90s.
    • There are numerous references to media from the mid-20th century that have since fallen into relative obscurity, and would've been unlikely for Calvin to have heard of in the mid 80s to mid 90s, such as Bedtime for Bonzo, Dick and Jane, The Blob (1958), and How Much is That Doggie in the Window?.
    • In the earlier strips, Bill Watterson drew the dinosaurs as he had remembered them as a child of the 60s, with lumpy proportions, standing upright with their tails dragging, and alligator-like scaly bellies. This was eventually subverted when Watterson decided to do some more research on dinosaurs, discovered how knowledge on dinosaurs had changed in the last twenty years, and put much more effort into portraying them as contemporarily accurate.
  • The Far Side: Female characters are often depicted as having 60s-style beehive hairdos and cat-eye glasses, even though the strip started in 1980. This could be justified by the fact that many of these women are middle-aged or older, however.
  • For a work that symbolizes a medium (and a decade) often brushed off as old-fashioned, Garfield is an impressive aversion of this trope among long-runners, with Jon's 70s-era appearance and personality running on Rule of Funny, being played up as years went by. Lampshaded in a 2003 comic where the then-current Garfield meets his 1978 incarnation:
    1978's Garfield: I hear a lot has happened since 1978.
    2003's Garfield: Like what?
    1978's Garfield: I hear disco died.
    *Jon disco-dances by*
    2003's Garfield: Not in this house!
  • As the long running Swedish comic 91:an Karlsson is mostly written by those who were conscripts themselves and makes use of their experiences in the comic, things such as fashion and technology tend to be a decade or two behind the current year. Of course, there are some things that never change no matter how old the comic gets.

    Eastern Animation 
  • The abandoned 4th season of the Hungarian cartoon Mézga család is a layered example. Its two completed episodes feature the characters from the original 1968 season, still inexplicably the same age (at least a few of them got a wardrobe update), trying to buy their first home computer and discover the digital world. This was already a dated topic by the end of the 90s when home PCs became widespread, but the episodes are from 2005. As the original series' head writer passed away in the 80s, this ill-fated revival was helmed by his co-writers. Being in their 60s and 70s and having little understanding of computer tech, their humor and general style of writing seemed to be stuck in the mid-1900s, with lazy puns like mistaking a computer mouse for a living one and even a buck toothed, yellow skinned, slant eyed, heavily accented racist Chinese caricature who wanted to eat the family dog (for what it's worth, such jokes were very common and topical even during the 2000s as Eastern Europe experienced an influx of Asian businesses and immigrants). This out of touch thinking also lead to the series' cancellation. The creators insisted on expensive, hand drawn traditional animation that was simply unfeasible in the country at the time even with digital tools, as their studio had been on a massive downward spiral since 1990.
  • Russian animator Yuri Norshteyn has been producing a stop motion adaptation of The Overcoat since 1981 using hand-drawn cut-outs and sets along with a traditional animation camera using real film. By the time production stretched into the 2010s, cut-out animation had transitioned into Adobe Flash, and the film cameras needed to make the movie were long obsolete, with the film development lab in Moscow he was using having gone under nearly 20 years prior. He refuses to make the transition to computers, as he wants to complete the film using the same process he's been using for years. As of 2017, the film is still in production and Yuri Norshteyn is considered the last animator to produce animation using pre-digital methods and technology.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): This Godzilla MonsterVerse fanfiction has no reference to the COVID-19 Pandemic or social distancing, despite mainly taking place in 2020 and being written during that year. Possibly justified, since this is set in a world where Kaiju emerged from slumber in mid-2019 and had a terraforming effect on the Earth's ecosystems so a pandemic on what’s essentially a super cold kind of takes a backseat.

    Films — Animation 
  • It has been some time since pizza delivery companies offered "delivered within 30 Minutes, or It's Free!". Not in movies, it hasn't. The most heinous example is probably Meet the Robinsons, where this rule still exists in the far future. It didn't even exist when the movie came out!
  • This is actually the plot for the 2019 television movie Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling as the title character has been stranded in space for 20 years with his friends and, upon his return, becomes alienated by how drastically different and advanced society has become since the '90s.
  • The US Army in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut wears Vietnam War-era uniforms despite the movie being released in 1999 and featuring Saddam Hussein as a character.
  • This is explored in the Toy Story series.
    • In the original Toy Story, Andy is a boy who's obsessed with cowboys. While not impossible for a boy in the 1990s, this is something more associated with the cowboy fad of the first half of the 20th century. Likewise, Woody gets displaced by a space-age character, which is what happened when sci-fi became big in the early 1960s. The sequel Toy Story 2 rolls with all of this. Woody actually is an old toy dating back several decades. He's based off an old 1950s show called Woody's Roundup. The show was canceled on a (possible) cliffhanger because kids became more interested in sci-fi than westerns thanks to the Space Race (Stinky Pete sums it up by citing Sputnik as the reason for the show's abrupt ending).
    • Buzz Lightyear has shades of this as well. The creators claimed to have based him on the coolest toy of their childhoods, which was the original twelve-inch-tall G.I. Joe, and he overall comes off as a far more advanced version of those old action figures, with a host of gimmicks and features all packed into a single design. By the 90s, boy-aimed figures of that size and ilk were vanishingly rare, with the industry having shifted in the direction of a large number of much smaller figures after the success of Kenner's Star Wars (typically between three inches and six inches tall) and focusing more on a "collect them all!" strategy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Some of the films of Albert Pyun feature this.
    • His first feature The Sword and the Sorcerer (1981) advertised a sequel during the end credits called Tales of an Ancient Empire. However the movie wouldn't see a release until 2010, a full 29 years after the first movie's premiere; by which point Sorcerer had long been forgotten outside of the B-Movie circuit, and by then Sword and Sorcery films were dying down in Hollywood in favor of superhero titles.
    • Captain America (1990) gives off this vibe for most audiences. The lack of fight scenes and special effects along with the slow pace, darkly lit and barren set pieces, and the color pencil-like font for the opening titles feel right at home for a '70s made-for-TV superhero movie.
    • Radioactive Dreams does this intentionally. The two main characters were locked in a fallout shelter during a nuclear strike in 1996 with 1950s detective fiction and swing music as their only source of knowledge and entertainment. By the time they escape from the shelter in 2011 the duo are sporting fashion trends and attitudes of the '50s in a post-apocalyptic society of mutants.
  • Check out some of the Disney live-action comedies from the 1970s, where it's apparently still the fifties: milk is still delivered to doorsteps; women are still housewives; and the chances of seeing any hippies, punks, or glam rockers are slim to none. In many cases the sideburns on the male characters aren't even that long! Occasionally the writers would slip in something Totally Radical, but that worked about as well as you'd expect. Children who watch these films (and remember, these are some of the first live-action films they see) often end up assuming that hardly any big change happened in the '60s and '70s. This still happens today, to an extent; although since the 1990s, this has been more intentional, often in an Affectionate Parody intent. One reason given for this is that Walt Disney was very old-fashioned and conservative as in the case of his immediate successors, and thus, the studio was always a step or two behind the rest of Hollywood until the arrival of Michael Eisner.
    • A glaring example is The Shaggy D.A. (1976), a sequel to The Shaggy Dog, made in 1959, which was about a teenage boy who was turned into a sheepdog by an ancient curse. In The Shaggy D.A., he is now in his thirties and is an aspiring politician. But to judge by the clothes the characters wear, the cars they drive and so forth, you'd think that curse had not only given that kid dog DNA, but caused him to age 17 years in less than a third of the time.
  • Parodied in Airplane!: News reporters still wear fedoras in 1979-1980, everyone in the plane wears formal clothing, a pair of nuns is seen in traditional (pre-Vatican II, which concluded in 1965) garb, a character tells his wife over the phone to stop having the milkman deliver cheese to their doorstep (milkmen having become scarce since the 1960s, when supermarkets took over American life), and a number of male characters display embarrassingly sexist attitudes that, while undoubtedly still present in the late '70s, were nowhere as socially appropriate as the movie makes them seem. To top that, in 1980 a commercial flight with that many crew and passengers makes a propeller sound! Most jarringly, Striker's flashbacks to what would logically be the Vietnam War include shots of World War I triplanes and even a pre-Wright-Brothers whirlygig. Despite that, the jukebox in his flashback plays The Bee Gees. A lot of this is a result of Airplane! being a pseudo-remake of 1957 Zero Hour! (1957) ("the war", while not specified, was obviously World War II). The very outdated script was kept almost intact, with all the hilarity that entailed.
  • Notoriously, Tim Burton's Batman (1989) and Batman Returns depicted Gotham City being four decades behind. Even though it's clear from the context that the stories are occurring during about the last decade of the 20th century, newspapers still cost about 25 cents, a chemical plant still dumps its toxic waste in the river, suburbs are nonexistent (except for Wayne Manor), the town is without solar or even nuclear power, women still have no way to fight back against discrimination in the workplace, fedoras and late-1940s "New Look" dresses are everywhere, criminals fire Thompson submachine guns, and while the cars are at least contemporary, Bruce Wayne thinks nothing of having Alfred drive him around in a very old-fashioned 1930s Rolls-Royce. Some of this can be justified by Purely Aesthetic Era.
  • The Bridge to Terabithia film has a Setting Update from the early 1970s to the late 2000s; however, it's all surface-level. The cultural differences were not taken into account for the changes made. As a result, Leslie is a free range child despite formerly being a city kid, no one reacts to a character having Abusive Parents, and Jesse's teacher just takes him on a trip by herself without anyone questioning this. The only major cultural changes were that the characters no longer run around without shoes, Jesse's parents no longer worry that he's gay because he hangs around girls and is into art, and Leslie received a design and personality overhaul because her original tomboy version isn't nearly that weird anymore.
  • The Craft, released in 1996, looks like it was written in c.1984-85: has one teenager refer to another as looking like Loni Anderson, who was best known during the late 1970s and 1980s, and was already on the wane by the late 90s. The comparison was true, however. Others may point to the open racism of the popular girl and her lackeys as this trope, but one could make the case that it's actually an example of reality is unrealistic.
  • Dangerous Minds: While the real LouAnne Johnson helped her students learn through using the work of then-contemporary hip-hop artists like Tupac Shakur, the movie's version of her instead uses 60s musicians like Bob Dylan as teaching tools.
  • With the exception of some CG effects, most people who've seen the unreleased Fantastic Four movie think it was a product of the '70s given that it has similar production values to other superhero titles of that time. That's why many are usually shocked to learn that the film was produced in 1994... a full year after the release of Jurassic Park!
  • Footloose
    • Watching the first few scenes of the original 1984 film, you'll be forgiven for thinking the story takes place in the 1950s instead of the 1980s, based on the way the teenagers are dressed and the small-town pastor's sermons against the evils of rock music, as well as apparently every kind of music except for classical music. (Even country music is implied to be too wild for this town!) The sermons, at least, were Truth in Television, since the movie was based on a real-life court case.
    • The 2011 remake of the film retains the plot of the adults of the town being vehemently against music and dancing. As pointed out by Roger Ebert in his review of the film, since the film now takes place in the 21st century, the adults of the town should have all grown up with modern music so it's much harder to believe that they would all be so determined to condemn it.
  • For One More Day has flashbacks that portray the main character being a child in what appears to be living in The '50s. However, he is played by a 41-year-old Michael Imperioli (born in 1966) who doesn't look at all like someone in his '60s. You could argue that the film isn't set in The Present Day (after all, Imperioli uses a rather old car and a pay phone), but a flashback to nine years earlier shows him working in an office with fairly new-looking computers.
  • A common comment on the original Fright Night (1985) is that despite its Eighties setting it feels very much like the Fifties with the way it portrays teens and the way they act and speak. Aided by the fact that the monsters are heavily inspired by Hammer Horror films from the 1950s. Though the soundtrack is very distinctly '80s, with bands like April Wine and Autograph.
  • Deliberately invoked in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). Star-Lord was abducted by aliens in 1988. Fast forward to contemporary 2014 (both in the setting and year of release), his only connection to Earth is his Walkman and mix tape of '80s music. From Avengers: Infinity War:
    Star-Lord: Is Footloose still the greatest movie ever made?
    Spider-Man: It never was?
  • It's unclear what year Hesher is set in (the film itself was released in 2010). But the clothing, dialogue, and automobiles make it feel like it's set in either the late 1980s or early 1990s.
  • Home Alone: Peter claims that locks for the doors and electronic timers for the lights are about the best anyone could do for home security. Even at the time the movie was released, home security systems were available, and an affluent family like the McCallisters would be especially likely to have one.
  • E.B. from Hop feels like a walking 90s ad in the early 2010s.
  • If it weren't for the computers and a few other things, you would swear that Hot Rod takes place in the 1980s.
  • Jem and the Holograms (2015):
    • Many viewers pointed out how the group's wardrobe resembled something an 80s new wave/hair metal group would wear rather than a pop band from the 2010s. This could have been intentional given the film's origins and how current pop groups tend to dress this way as a nod to the decade, but there's nothing to point this out in-universe.
    • The footage from Jem's childhood is shot like a home movie from the 80s, with videotape quality and decade-appropriate fashion sense. However, if you do the math, her childhood would have been around the early 2000s, when VHS cameras were starting to become discontinued and the 80s wardrobe would have been considered an embarrassment (at least for a child or teen).
    • The footage with the squirrel on jet skis was an act that began in 1979 and didn't receive mainstream notoriety until 2004 with films like DodgeBall and Anchorman, both of which were made 11 years prior to Jem.
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space, despite being released in 1988, has a very 1950s vibe to it. Likely done on purpose as the film was meant as an homage to horror films of the 50s. True, the teenagers are decked out in "cool" '80s fashions, but their "gee-whiz" attitudes hearken back to the '50s.
  • As often happens with portrayals of ice hockey in U.S. media for some reason, The Love Guru did this through Justin Timberlake's character. His Jason Voorhees-style goalie mask was about thirty years out of date, as was his personal appearance.
  • The Naked Gun: One of the anti-American leaders at the opening Beirut conference is Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, who was overthrown and forced into exile by a Tanzanian invasion nearly a decade before the movie was released.
  • Played with in Napoleon Dynamite: While the movie is stated to be set in 2004 (present-day at the time of shooting), almost every character's fashion sense seems to be stuck in the eighties or even seventies, Napoleon uses his trusty Walkman to great effect, a fair deal of 80s music is heard (Alphaville's "Forever Young", Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time", etc.) and cordless phones (not to mention cellphones) are absent. Clearly overlaps with Anachronism Stew, since Kip is stated to chat online with "chicks" via a 90s style dial-up connection (as pointed out by Uncle Rico) on a computer which uses floppy disks as a storage medium, and Summer uses a Backstreet Boys song to accompany her election skit. When the film's writers were asked when the story was set, they replied, "Idaho".
  • Quadrophenia (1979) cannot seem to decide whether it's set during the Sixties or during the Mod revival in 1979 when it was actually made. For example, the characters have their weekly bath at the local bath-house (which would have been common in inner-city areas in the early Sixties yet by the late 1970s, the vast majority of working-class houses in Britain had bathrooms and such community facilities had nearly all been converted or closed) - and then go home through the streets of contemporary West London.
  • The short film Rock: It's Your Decision, though set in 1982, feels like it came out about two decades too late, what with its entire message of rock and roll being a tool of Satan worshipers - as well as the whole "rock and roll teen vs. parent who just doesn't get it" trope (which was mostly dead outside of period pieces by the early '70s) showing up early in the film. All the generic rock music used is clearly in the style of early '70s Classic Rock. In Real Life, Jeff would more likely be listening to stuff like Van Halen, Def Leppard, The Cars and Devo. At another point, the now-turned-religious-blowhard Jeff laments that the average age of a person buying a KISS album is twelve. By 1982, liking KISS was unacceptable to most people.
  • The date on Royal's tombstone being listed as "2001" is likely to be a surprise during a first viewing of The Royal Tenenbaums, which otherwise looks to be set somewhere between 1976 and 1984.
  • Slender Man, released and set in 2018, has main characters who despite being in high school and therefore having likely spent the majority of their lives with Internet access, seem to require a ton of exposition on even basic actions like opening a video file.
  • The initial marketing for Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) seemed unsure of who to be aimed at - audiences familiar with the newer games, or the older ones. Not only does 90s-famous actor Jim Carrey play the villain in the actual movie, who is named Dr. Robotnik (his old name) instead of Dr. Eggman (his name in the 21st century), but the early ads featured the 90s Coolio song "Gangsta's Paradise," a song modern audiences would be utterly unfamiliar with.
  • The 2008 film Taken makes the curious choice of having the teenage Kim travel to Europe to follow around the tour of U2, a band that was at its height around the time her character was born.
  • In the 2019 film Booksmart, all the teens at a Wild Teen Party gather around to karaoke Alanis Morissette's 1995 song "You Outta Know," a song six years older than the kids singing it.
  • PCU: Instead of a rapper or alternative rocker playing the big college party, it's George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, a band that peaked in the 1980s playing a genre that was long on the decline by the mid-1990s.

  • Children's and Young Adult books from the 1980s and early 1990s sometimes feel this way. In many cases, the social mores seem more in line with the 1950s-1960s than the time in which the books take place. For example, many books from that time period will have characters shocked by divorce, or have people be shocked by a mother working outside the home.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club had this issue during the entire first run of books. Set-ups that were rare or unique in the mid 1980s, such as Claudia having her own land line (making it possible for the sitters to not tie up another house phone during meetings), became more mainstream through the 1990s. Characters frequently made references to older media from author Ann M. Martin's youth (like Stacey's favorite movie being Mary Poppins) and no references to any media more modern than that occur, despite the characters being teenagers in the entirety of the 1990s. Fashions that were popular in the late '80s and early '90s remain through the series, despite Stacey and Claudia being touted as the most up to date on fashion as the two "coolest" members. (Stacey's hair remains permed even as big curly perms fell out of fashion.) The characters also continue to use Claudia's personal landline for their calls and have to meet in person at one house during a set time to be able to schedule their clients properly, and using computers is almost never mentioned. This is kept all the way through to the end in 2000, even as more modern media and technology came into play. The 2020 series updates the setting and character references and have the teen girls use online databases to keep their club notes and create schedules for each other, but embraces the landline phone's anachronism by having their club phone be a retro phone that takes calls via VOIP. The graphic novels make modern references to newer media, technology, and fashions as well, but keep some of the older references.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (2014): At one point in the book, the Heffleys lock their keys in the car. This isn't possible with electronic locking systems, which have been mainstream in American cars since the 1990s, and the car's curved body shape indicates that it was not made before then.
  • The First Men in the Moon, believe it or not. It was written in 1901, which is long after astronomers knew for certain that the Moon is an airless, lifeless world. Many assume that it was written thirty or forty years earlier, not just because of its portrayal of the Moon, but also because of confusion with Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, which really was written in the 1860s.
  • In Harry Potter, it appears that the wizarding world - or at least the wizarding UK, even in the "modern era" of the 1990s - is a few decades behind the Muggle world and Muggle trends in terms of fashion, ideals, morals, technology, and other areas. Not only does the wizarding world, likely due to its small size, lack many features standard of modern Muggle society, but outright rejects many Muggle concepts, believing magic and wizarding culture to be superior. Based on the designs for Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which was in turn based on the film set, as well as the books' description, plus wizarding newspaper depictions in the films, the wizarding world itself seems to still appear quite Victorian or Edwardian (1800s-1914) in terms of style; people dress in robes and wield wands, the same as witches and wizards a thousand years prior, listen to radio instead of watching television, and more. According to a later explanation by author J.K. Rowling, the reason for wizarding culture remaining relatively unchanged, even across centuries, is due to wizards' "condescending [attitude]" towards Muggle technology, such as the Internet, and trends. Wizards and witches treat Muggle objects and culture as a "curiosity" and an "amusement", not really seeing the "terribly exciting" nature, or need, for technology when they have magic. Attitudes, prejudice, and persecution against magic from Muggles have not helped, with witches and wizards having previously suffered from centuries of Muggle "witch hunts" and "witch trials". Likewise, the British Ministry of Magic has refused to allow the broadcasting of wizarding material on any Muggle device, which would (it was felt) almost guarantee serious breaches of the International Statute of Secrecy. Wizarding radio, however, is allowed on the grounds that the "radio-listening Muggle population seems altogether more tolerant, gullible, or less convinced of their own good sense". Although it would seem that other Wizarding communities around the world are more open to technology. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the American wizards use it quite freely. There are elevators and bewitched typewriters in the Magical Congress of America's headquarters (since the movie takes place in 1926, they were high tech at the time). Elsewhere in its series, it's also averted with the clothing. While protagonist Newt dresses a little behind the times, almost everyone else wears clothing suited to the era. While the first film could have made this an American wizarding custom, the second even show Dumbledore wearing era appropriate clothing. note 
  • As Orwell notes, 1930's young adult literature in Britain was quite deliberately 3 or even 4 decades out of date, being both capital C politically Conservative and just "the status quo really shouldn't change" conservative.
  • Although the works of P. G. Wodehouse are best known for (and indeed written during) their Genteel Interbellum Setting, George Orwell pointed out that their depictions of aristocracy and the class system make his stories fit much more in The Edwardian Era when Wodehouse himself came of age, rather than the 1920s or 30s in the aftermath of the war that destroyed the noble class.
  • It's not uncommon for illustrated children's books to look twenty or thirty (or more) years out of date; this is usually due to invoking a Grandfather Clause. One relatively recent example is the Pigeon Series, in particular the volume Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, in which the pigeon's owner is headed to bed himself and is wearing an old 1920s style floppy night cap and carrying a candle. This series began in 2003, and this book is the second volume. Justified, as the nightcap-and-candle is a Grandfather Clause dating back to A Christmas Carol.
  • Ready Player One came out in the 2010s, but uses leet-speak and gamer culture tropes that were already beginning to show their age in 2003. It may also seem generally weird that in a story set in a pop-culture immersed 2045 everyone is obsessed with the 80s, with the most recent references being from the late 90s, but the story actually takes some time to justify it: it's explained early on by the main character to be the result of everybody obsessing over the hobbies and passions of a deceased eccentric billionaire who was himself obsessed with the pop culture of his teenage years. The reason poring over these old shows, movies, music, and video games is so popular is because he set up his last will and testament to leave everything (his massive fortune and legal control of the immersive VR world that everybody uses constantly) to somebody who can find and solve the clues he's hidden in it, which are all based on detailed knowledge of this pop culture.
  • In The Twilight Saga, it appears that Bella lives in the early nineties where they don't have pop-up blockers yet. Justified, since she is also supposed to live in the town where time stood still and is implied to be Hopeless with Tech. Also, the clothing, especially Bella's, likewise seems to be 90s-era Grunge; however, that might not be very surprising, considering it's set in some podunk town in Washington state, which is where the whole Grunge scene got kick-started.
  • The Venus Prime series was first released in the late 90s and is set maybe 200 years into the future... but its vision of the future is based on the technology and political realities of the 80s, when Paul Preuss began working on a text-game adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's Catching Strain that never got off the ground (the script from that game became the basis for the first novel.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Spoofed with the Robin Sparkles videos in How I Met Your Mother, which were supposedly from the mid-1990s but look as if they were made in 1986. Robin explains that "The '80s didn't come to Canada until 1993." The gag continues in a later episode, where Robin is credited in Canada with having invented Grunge as a genre... in 1996.
  • Shawn and Gus do this very self-consciously on Psych, where it's obviously supposed to be an In-Universe character quirk (other characters often call them out on it), but in the Class Reunion episode, their reunion seemed to be playing an awful lot of '80s music, given that they graduated in 1995. Even worse, Shawn and Gus are Californians, and the Golden State made the transition from the '80s to the '90s pretty darn quickly. In fact, by 1995 the '80s were already retro in the minds of many California teenagers!
  • Camden in My Name Is Earl seems to be stuck in the late '80s or early '90s, even though that time was at least 10-15 years before the start of the series. Possibly justified; Camden is a pretty podunk county and it often takes a while for trends and technologies to catch on. Plus, many of the characters we see are either older or low income, two groups less likely to use new technologies as they come out.
    • Catalina's uncle in the episodes "South of the Border" is pretty anachronistic, because he was fortunate enough to have satellite TV in The '80s, and watched a lot of American television from that time period. But then his satellite broke.
  • British TV comedy Butterflies is a prime example of this: a classic sitcom of middle-class suburban manners in which an aloof dentist is married to a dissatisfied housewife who dithers on the brink of an affair. They have two sons, meant to be hip and fashionable, but who in 1974 speak youth-argot which would have been dated even in 1964.
  • Inverted in The Big Bang Theory. When Sheldon discovers his mother is having sex, he warns her "it's not all soda jerks, sock hops, and segregation out there", leading her to ask "How old do you think I am?"
  • Done intentionally in Flight of the Conchords, where all the media from New Zealand is several decades behind the times. Their technology is also several decades out of date, to the point that they are currently running TV ads for "the telephone."
  • Meta Guy Abed on Community makes non-stop '80s references, with some stretching back from the late '70s and occasionally forward into the early '90s. This is despite Abed being in his early/mid twenties, and as such his reference pool should be mostly from works in the late '90s onwards. The real reason is that the creator of the show Dan Harmon was born in 1973 and thus his reference pool is mostly works from the '80s. The best example of this is that Abed has an encyclopedic knowledge of Who's the Boss?, despite the fact that the show would have started before Abed was born, and finished before Abed would have started pre-school. The show has lampshaded the oddity of Abed's reference pool; it still stands out as unusual, but not too unusual. The '90s, particularly early on, was the height of cable TV as a haven of reruns, and so many kids in the '90s found themselves watching shows that hadn't aired new episodes since 1989, to the point where someone who was born in '92 could easily be familiar with Who's the Boss. Add to that the fact that Abed is TV Tropes on wheels, and it holds up that as a kid he could have gone out of his way to watch shows whether they were new or not.
    • There are still some things that make no sense, like Abed using 2nd edition D&D - it's what Harmon would have played, but someone Abed's age would be more familiar with 3.5 or 4e.
  • The premise of Portlandia, as explained in the debut episode's first sketch, is that Portland, Oregon is still stuck in The '90s.
    "Remember the '90s, when everyone had a handlebar mustaches, rode bicycles and brewed their own beer? [...] No not the 1990s, the 1890s."
  • The Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey seems to dress this way... that is, one or two decades behind the show's 1910s setting. When the second series wraps up at the brink of The Roaring '20s (with Lady Mary mentioning "the boys' haircuts they're wearing in Paris"), the Dowager is finally catching up to the fashions from the beginning of the show (in 1912).
    • Justified in that she was around 70 years old already when the show began, so she wouldn't have been that quick to follow the new trends.
    • Also justified in that women of the day often kept to the clothing styles of their youth, if only because they'd become accustomed to wearing the underthings (and especially the corsets) that matched those styles.
  • Referenced in Arrested Development. When performing as part of Tobias's band, Lyndsey complains about being dressed like it's The '60s, stating that "It's the twenty-first century. We should be dressed like it's The '80s".
  • Played with on Chuck. Casey keeps a photograph of Ronald Reagan in his apartment which he salutes at every opportunity (though it's also a bit of Actor Allusion, as actor Adam Baldwin actually is a huge fan of President Reagan's in Real Life), to the point where Beckman reminds him that "the '80s are over." Most of the references to music, television, films and video games are also centered around the period from the late '70s to early '90s, during the time in which the characters (and the actors and the show-runners) grew up.
  • Parodied on The Colbert Report in the April 26, 2012 episode. Stephen talks about how he can relate to today's youth much better than Barack Obama. He says things like "Turn off your Atari, Obama, because the game is over" and "They know I'm young because I always carry around a full deck of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and I love the Power Rangers."
    • Stephen discussed this trope during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, as pundits tried to wonder what prominent figures from The '60s, like Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., would think about then-nominee Barack Obama.
    Stephen: We stick with these 40-year-old battles because they are comfortable and familiar. We know how to take sides in these arguments. Besides, if we didn't, we'd have to address the problems of the present, and who wants to do that? Those things are monsters!
  • Saved by the Bell fell victim to this by about its final season (1992-1993), as the costuming and set design were firmly rooted in a hyper-idealized early-eighties, although some have speculated that it might have been partially intentional. Some wonder if they didn't hang on to the bright and colorful eighties look over the grim and drab nineties simply to grab kids' attention while flipping through the channels.
  • British soap EastEnders falls victim to this trope often. One one notable occasion in 2019, character Jay Brown calls his friend Ben "Arthur Daley", a reference to 80s show Minder, which ended before either character had even been born.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation clung to its vivid '80s hairstyles and decor well into the 1990s. This in itself isn't so noticeable (not counting the getup on Tasha Yar's sister). However, Star Trek: Voyager began as a semi-continuation of that show, with costumes/sets redressed from the TNG era. This had the unfortunate effect of making VOY's aesthetics seem oddly retro in the late nineties. Throw in a quasi-religious devotion to past continuity, and you wound up with a 24th-century Earth where everyone dresses like they've come back from Woodstock (a relic from Gene Roddenberry's time).
    • An in-universe example occurs in Star Trek: Voyager, as Starfleet changed their uniforms after Voyager was stranded in the Delta Quadrant, specifically in Star Trek: First Contact. Even after establishing long-range communication with Earth, they still continued to wear the old-style uniforms.
      • This can be handwaved aside with the theory that the reason they didn't switch over was due to energy conservation (it's noted that replicator use is rationed due to wanting to save energy) and not wanting to replicate more clothes than they needed to, and while the crew still has usable uniforms in the old style, it's not worth replicating new clothes for everyone. If crew members do need new uniforms, it's easier to keep using the old style until they get home, and everyone can get the new style at once so the crew doesn't look mismatched.
      • In "In the Flesh", Voyager discovers that Species 8472 has an outpost in which they were training to infiltrate Earth disguised as Starfleet officers. Since the only Starfleet information Species 8472 has came from Voyager, they are dressed in the division-color-over-black ensembles from TNG/early DS9/Voyager rather than the black-and-grey uniforms from First Contact.
    • This would tend to happen in-universe whenever characters got tossed back to Earth history or something like it. In one episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, the crew visits one near-Earth planet with costume from the 1770s, then the 1870s, and both are wrong (the people are in early 20th century clothing). In the Voyager two-parter "Future's End," Tom tries to reference the Cold War, which is about a decade out of date.
  • Frasier's portrayal of talk radio represents the climate of the '70s and '80s, before the politicization of the medium sparked by the launch of Rush Limbaugh and the subsequent flood of imitators.
  • Guy Fieri, host of Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, seems to have just gotten off the bus from 1995.
  • In Modern Family Claire (born in 1970) comments "Oh, this takes me back", when the car radio turns on to play Steppenwolf's Born to Be Wild - a 1968 song popularized by a 1969 movie. Of course she could have still listened to the song in her youth, but this line has a very strong baby boomer vibe where it is presumed that people must have lived their youth in the 1960s/1970s. For Claire, the hits of her late teens would have been late 80s songs.
  • Mickey Pearce in Only Fools and Horses, best known for his fondness for wearing Zoot Suits (known in the UK as a "spiv suit"). Not too unusual in 1983 when he made his first appearancenote , but as the show entered the '90s and 2000s, it became a Running Gag that his sense of fashion was seemingly locked in the 40s or 50s and refused to budge.
  • Sex and the City:
    • Invoked in the episode where the characters go to Staten Island for the night, to some function where they dance to disco classics. Carrie's closing voice-over says it reminds her of going to Europe because all the music is at least twenty years old. Also, the idea that Europe is automatically that far behind also shows the character's ignorance.
    • In a later episode, Samantha's young assistant says that the difference between them is that while Samantha waited in line to get into Studio 54, she waited in line to get into Studio 54—the movie.
  • Understandable due to the Walt Disney Company's longtime moral standards, but on the early '90s Disney-aired (but Canadian-produced) children's show Under the Umbrella Tree, Iggy the Iguana, a fan of rap music, was still listening to relatively innocent '80s-style rap (think Beastie Boys) in 1991, even though gangsta rap was rapidly gaining popularity by that time. Since the show began production in 1986, this can easily be dismissed.
  • In Supernatural, Dean listens to music from the '70s and '80s on his collection of cassette tapes, while driving his late-'60s muscle car. Mostly justified, as Dean has a strong emotional attachment to his car and simply likes the older music (both of which are a connection to his father), but it's less clear why he thinks Sam installing an iPod jack is heresy. Later seasons do show them updating their phones to modern smartphones, however, and becoming aware of things like Netflix.
  • In an episode of The Golden Girls, Blanche accidentally gives away Rose's teddy bear to an evil little girl scout who holds it for ransom. Dorothy gets fed up and threatens to call The School for Bad Girls, who would put her in a sack and take her away, and finishes with, "and you will never eat ice cream or play jump rope again!!!" Funny scene, but the episode was made in 1987, and jumping rope was no longer standard "little girl" behavior. It would have been when Dorothy was a little girl, though.
  • In The Honeymooners, the Kramdens' apartment is relatively antiquated, with an old sink and an icebox, as though it hadn't changed one bit in forty years. Alice continuously complains about how they have no modern amenities, because Ralph is too cheap for them.
    Alice: (to Ralph) To you, this place looks like George Washington's birthplace or something: it has to be preserved exactly as it was. You know what it looks like to me? It's more like Abraham Lincoln's birthplace.
  • Oddly present on Wheel of Fortune. Puzzles pertaining to popular culture (such as the categories Song Title, Song Lyrics, Movie Title, etc.) will usually have the answer be something from the '70s or '80s. Modern pop culture has been referenced very rarely in puzzle answers since the mid-2000s, and categories that have relied most frequently on contemporary pop culture (such as Headline or Star & Role) can go entire seasons without use. However, the Classic TV category is almost entirely MIA too...
    • This may be because older media from the '70s and '80s are more widely known and established than more contemporary media. Even among people who are otherwise great at keeping up with modern day pop culture, works that are already-established standards are usually easier to spot than works that are only a few years old. A lot of sitcoms and dramas are also very conservative about referencing more recent media for the exact same reason.
  • A documentary show entitled Channel 3 Moscow, produced for American public television in The '80s taking a look at Soviet television of the era, demonstrates this was apparently the approach with Soviet TV towards the USA. One feature criticizing American rock music doesn't seem to know the difference between Elvis and Twisted Sister, and juxtaposing it with old film from the '60s to show the alleged evils of rock. Another on extreme right wing movements deals with old footage of the KKK and American Nazis which took footage from the documentary The California Reich made in 1975.
  • Some of the portrayals of out-of-touch seniors in Saturday Night Live's Amazon Echo Silver ad parody seem a little out-of-date Kenan Thompson wanting to know how many people Satchel Paigenote  struck out the night before and Echo playing swing when another character says he wants to hear "black jazz". Those would have been funnier in the 1980s, not the 2010s.note 
  • Ziggzagged in the 2015 public access show Sprinkler's Clubhouse, who's title character is a firefighter clown. Despite debuting in 2006, the creator seems to be unaware that clowns have been irrelevant in children's media since Bozo the Clown's cancellation in the early 2000s. note  This trope would be played straight as the show continued its run, which seemed to have concluded in 2011.
    • Also played straight in the "Basic First Aid" episode, where a rap song about the importance of first aid shows Sprinkler performing a freestyle in a Michael Jackson's Thriller jacket while his friends shout "Go Sprinkler, it's your birthday!'' These examples are fresh out of the 1980s for a show made in the 2000s.
    • In an episode regarding Internet safety, the gang plays an educational web game about the topic, with the host being a '90s surfer guy who frequently shouts slang like "Dude" and "Radical".
  • Despite being filmed between 2005-2011, Aussie show Spicks and Specks rarely acknowledged anything after 1989. On rare occasions when they did, it was usually presented with a tone of "look at what rubbish this is". They even did a series of special episodes which covered the '50s, the '60s, the '70s, the '80s... and then stopped. The only notable exception is the Never Live It Down moment when Myf Warhurst failed to identify "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
  • Before time-traveling back to the Fifties, Sarah Jane Smith of The Sarah Jane Adventures is asked why she has so many Fifties outfits in her wardrobe as she would have been only a baby back then. Her answer was "The '50s came back in The '70s. I remember when this was quite the thing."
  • The Christian superhero show Bibleman was a victim of this. Most of the jokes in the show consisted of the characters or captions pointing out they knew they were characters in a TV show or jokey references to things star Willie Aames remembered from his childhood, things like Cagney & Lacey or Donnie and Marie, or his own acting career from the 70s and 80s. That is, things that people in the target audience, whose childhood was in the late 90s-onward never would've heard about. The cartoon version launched in 2016 followed this proud tradition by trying to present The Mall as a popular hangout with the kids the heroes lectured. One such episode had the villain's plan to corrupt children with an evil online game he and his sidekick handed out physical pass cards for from a mall kiosk. Doing this he succeeded in reaching practically every kid in town!
  • Lampshaded, sort of, in The Wire, after Snoop returns to Marlo's gang with the $668 nail gun she bought with $800 cash and then told the salesman to keep the change: "He said it was the Cadillac of guns. He meant Lexus."
  • Deliberately invoked in The Young Ones, as the main characters had little contact with the outside world, particularly with Mike, who claimed to be "The Cool Person", yet his fashion sense was stuck somewhere in the 1970s.
  • Most of Sunnyvale Trailer Park is portrayed as this in Trailer Park Boys. Most cars are from the 70s and 80s, the interiors of the trailers look like they haven't been redecorated since the 1970s, the electronics are all wood-paneled stereo sets, big bulky console televisions, or Nixon-era (Pierre Trudeau-era?) Polaroid cameras. Justified somewhat as most Sunnyvale residents border on extreme poverty and probably can't afford to update.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: During a game of "Questionable Impressions," Wayne Brady went through it pulling out impressions of radio personalities such as Ed Wynn. At one point, Greg Proops—in full Peter Lorre mode—snapped, "Haven't you got anyone from the last twenty years?!".
  • The Alternatino skit Latin Pop Star, White Audience makes fun of the "Despacito" fad. The parody of Justin Bieber is almost ten years out of date. It references his boyish teen years.
  • Parodied in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia as a Running Gag with The Waitress. Despite being in her thirties and forties, the Waitress consistently fails to keep up with modern technology, her cellphone is at least a decade old, and she isn't familiar with the internet.
  • Season 1 of The Umbrella Academy canonically takes place in 2019, yet there isn't a single cell phone in sight. At one point, two of the characters stuff themselves into a phone booth to make a call.

  • The SR-71/Bowling for Soup song "1985" (released in 2004) is about a woman whose tastes are still stuck in the 1980s, which are contrasted with some very dated "current" styles from the 1990s.
  • Used intentionally in "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry. The people in the video look like they're straight out of the very 1980s Revenge of the Nerds... spreading the word via very 2010s social media, giving an example of the 20-year rule of coolness.
  • One of the more common complaints about Christian Rock is how often it seems to fall into this trope. This was a larger issue back in the 80's and 90's, when a majority of the Christian rockers out there were essentially Church-raised people who had no idea what the youth of the day were really listening to, and thus produced "hip", "mod" music modeled after whatever was popular when they were teens. It only got somewhat better in the late 90's and early 2000's, as the musicians that began to dominate the Christian Rock scene often had come out of the mainstream rock scene themselves, switching to singing for Jesus after a conversion experience, or going back and forth between the two (it still is not uncommon to see the same musician's names in the liner notes of albums from diverse names as the Newsboys and Megadeth, Toby Mac and Chance the Rapper). But you still get a lot of musicians trying their best to reach the kids by imitating fleetingly popular styles but sticking with those styles long after no one cares anymore. dc Talk is a prime example; they were a rap group that came out when most kids were starting to turn to Alternative. So, they eventually transformed into an Alternative group themselves...about five years after that style was starting to be considered passe. At least TobyMac himself appears to have done a boomerang back around the music he started making now that it's cool again...and he's in his 50's.
    • Another, even more hideously embarrassing example would be the explosion of Christian Glam Metal groups that suddenly existed about twelve seconds after Stryper became popular. The difference is that Stryper not only debuted while Glam Metal was in its prime, and could also be considered a sterling example of the genre, Christian lyrics or not. Other groups such as Holy Soldier and Shout debuted (or charted) long after Glam Metal was a dead genre and were considered pale shadows of the real thing regardless.
  • The videos for The Lonely Island songs for "Dick in a Box", "Motherlovers," and "3-Way" go straight for the full '90s style. The clothes, the hair, the interior decorations, and even the backgrounds in the outdoor shots are as '90s as possible.
  • The Eurovision Song Contest is often about twenty years behind what is actually popular in Europe simply to garner as much mass appeal as possible (and perhaps for the camp factor). Lampshaded in Love Love Peace Peace, a 2016 interval act describing a perfect Eurovision song:
    [...] this can easily be fixed by adding a DJ who pretends to scratch. In real life, of course, this is thirty years old, but in Eurovision, it will give your number a contemporary feel.
  • BBC Radio Two's daytime presenter Ken Bruce has a phone-in quiz called Popmaster, in which contestants are quizzed on their knowledge of pop music. Questions are randomly allocated in blocks by year or artiste, and the listener can almost always tell the age of the contestant by the decades they know best (near perfect scores) and the ones where they flounder hopelessly. It is a rare Popmaster who is as clued up on modern music as (s)he is on the music of their youth, or vice-versa.
  • British rock singer Gary Glitter kept on with his glam rock sound and appearance all the way into the '90s, when other glam rock acts had either disbanded or altered their sound completely by the later half of the '70s. His 1991 album Leader 2 took it further with Hair Metal tracks like "The Only Way to Survive" as the genre was already being phased out in favor of Grunge at the time.
  • The 1992 debut album, Generation Terrorists, by the Manic Street Preachers featured a distinct glam rock/metal sound despite the genre having already died out on the radio by then. However the album still managed to turn in a profit from the indie crowd because of its dark themes and punk-rock edge.
  • Tommy, the rock opera by The Who, originally opens after the First World War, which would set the main action in the late 1930s. The movie shifts the action to post-WWII. The lyrics "I think '21 is going to be a good year" are changed to '51' in the film. (1921 changed to 1951)

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Paul Burchill started using a very tongue-in-cheek pirate gimmick in the mid 2000s, capitalizing on the Pirates of the Caribbean series at the height of their popularity. Vince had never heard of the series, and had thought that Burchill's gimmick was a throwback to pirate movies of the Sixties and Fifties. When he was told otherwise, he put the lid on the gimmick, thinking it wouldn't catch on, despite the fact that it had been going over well for a few weeks at that point.
  • Shawn Michaels was a pretty good personification of this trope all through the 1990s and the 2000s, thanks to his hair, attire and ring music, which he never changed. And everybody loved it.
  • Hulk Hogan had this problem in the mid-Nineties, as the gimmick he had in The '80s had become old and stale. He solved it by making one of the most notable Face Heel Turns in pro-wrestling history and forming the nWo, which were decidedly Nineties (they wore a lot of black and had a "graffiti" graphique). Later when he re-joined WWE he reverted to his Eighties gimmick though, by which point it was nostalgic.
  • Thanks to the popularity of Jerry Lawler, Memphis-based USWA was the last full-time wrestling territory in the United States and continued to produce television straight out of the early Eighties, complete with MTV-style music videos and cartoonish gimmicks. Alas, the Monday Night Wars inadvertently led to the death of USWA, as Mondays were traditionally the promotion's biggest gates. For fans of regional promotions, it was the End of an Age.
  • Alexander Rusev is Bulgarian, but achieves most of his heel heat thanks to his manager, Lana. Billed from Moscow (though she's really from Florida), the two of them combined make a textbook example of a Cold War-era Foreign Wrestling Heel, and were modelled after Ivan and Ludmilla Drago of Rocky IV to really drive the point home. Unfortunately, a lot of things have changed since then, and they've had trouble connecting with audiences (it likely doesn't help that he didn't debut until after the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and with the Troubled Production of that event still fresh in people's minds, all of Lana's claims of Russian superiority fall a little flat.) Rusev and Lana later broke up, and now Rusev is back to billing himself as Bulgarian - which isn't too bad, since Americans don't tend to associate Bulgaria with any particular time period. In July 2018, he reunited once again with Lana and was one of the most over superstars with his Rusev Day movement with both her and Aiden English, but they later split again before being released, with Rusev later moving on to AEW as Miro.note  It should be noted that Rusev's and Lana's splits were 100% kayfabed; outside the ring, they've been married since 2016.

  • Survival of the Fittest's v4 prom had started out with this trope, because much of the music requested early on consisted of '80s releases.

  • The 2014 Festigal had a song called "The Selfie Song". It has some outdated slang, breakdancing (which hadn't been in vogue in Israel since The Noughties), cheesy '90s-style clashing colours, a misinterpretation of "selfie" as a picture in a particular pose (tongue sticking out with a wide smile, shot from above), mentioning a children's show that hadn't aired in years, and ending with a New Media Are Evil message. Naturally, the song got negative reviews all around.

    Theme Parks 
  • For all the grief The Simpsons gets for this (see further down), it can be right on in mocking this in some contexts. The "Special Edna" episode from the 14th season has the characters visiting Walt Disney World and EPCOT Center, where Marge and Lisa go on the "World of Tomorrow" ride: '"what the people in 1965 thought the world would be like in 1987." It shows movies of giant robots with the Eastern Airlines logo enslaving people and taking over the world — a perfect parody of the Tomorrowland aesthetic.

    Video Games 
  • In BioShock and BioShock 2, which are set in the 1960's, the denizens of Rapture have considerably dated guns, such as Webley revolvers and Spencer 1882 shotguns. The latest firearms in the game are Thompson submachine guns, which, despite their use in WWII, were designed in the 1920's.
  • Done deliberately in Bully. While set in the present day, the greaser gang looks like it stepped out of American Graffiti or West Side Story, the cars look like they're from The '80s, the computers look like they're from The '90s at the latest, and nobody has an MP3 player or a cellphone (though it is mentioned that they're banned at Bullworth High School). Word of God is that this was deliberate, so as to not date the game to a particular era. Their intention was to make the setting nostalgic for the childhood of a wide range of age demographics.
  • Command & Conquer: Generals: While the American faction uses 20 Minutes into the Future-appropriate high-tech units (tanks with anti-missile lasers, vehicle-deployed drones, supersonic bombers), the Chinese faction uses a slightly more realistic version of the Soviet Superscience C&C is known for (such as nuclear powered tanks and artillery, infantry doctrines that boil down to We Have Reserves, MiG fighters...).
  • By many accounts, Duke Nukem Forever could have been a fine game if it had actually come out when it was supposed to (constant shifting of when that was notwithstanding). Instead, it features gameplay design elements (not to mention pop culture references) that, by its 2011 release, were almost a decade old even at most recent.
    Yahtzee: The interesting thing about Forever is that you can practically cut it in half, and see the entire fourteen years of shooter evolution it was trying to keep up with, like the rings of a tree stump.
  • Though set in the 1990s and released in 1994, the world of EarthBound still bears more resemblance to the Eighties. No one seems to have personal computers, some of the language (in the English version) falls into Totally Radical territory, and Ness's attire isn't all that different from that of his predecessor Ninten, whose game actually was set and made in the Eighties; most other characters' attire is also quite Eighties-like.
  • The Phillips CD-I game Hotel Mario played a lot like a simple '80s arcade game. When The Angry Video Game Nerd reviewed it he said it probably would've gotten better reception if it had come out ten years earlier (it came out in 1994).
  • Leisure Suit Larry has this as part of the premise, with protagonist Larry Laffer sporting a white polyester leisure suit and 70s sense of style in a game series that spanned from the late 80s to the mid 90snote . Taken a step further in Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don't Dry, where Larry is literally time-warped from the 80s to the late 2010s and finds himself struggling with things like social media.
  • Metal Gear's vision of 20 Minutes into the Future (and even The '60s and The '70s, to some extent) is mostly based on late Eighties and Nineties sci-fi movies - things like Total Recall (1990), Max Headroom and Blade Runner. The visual aesthetic, the fashionable clothes and body types (not to mention the hairstyles on the men), the politics, the themes, the Shout Outs and the sense of humour are all based on that tradition. Part of this is Zeerust Canon and is why Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty moved away from the aesthetic a little, but Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots goes back the other way and invokes it as deliberate Zeerust.
  • Although Persona 4 explicitly takes place in 2011, the game has something of a charmingly-lame retro vibe to showcase how rural and rustic Inaba is — most of the characters seem to still own cheap CRT TVs (although the rise of high-definition TVs is a minor plot point, particularly when one character's family upgrades to an HD set in Persona 4: Arena), buildings have subdued, brownish color schemes, and there don't seem to be any computers in town at all. This manifests itself for the audience too, with the synth-heavy J-rock soundtrack and the bright yellow interface. Word of God said this was inspired at least partially by Chie and her attire, a bright green jersey jacket decorated with tacky pins. This is also a deliberate contrast to the ultramodern big city Tatsumi Port Island from the previous installment.
  • Pokémon Red and Blue originally featured a Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the player character's bedroom, which was already pretty indicative of the games' lengthy stint in Development Hell—the Japanese version released the same year as the Nintendo 64, and the American version two years later, by which point the console was basically abandoned. However, it's the first Video Game Remake, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, that really falls into this territory: the player character now owns a Nintendo Entertainment System, an older console that was 20 years old at that point. This was likely a deliberate throwback, as the Game Boy Advance itself could play NES games, and the same generation's Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire had the player own the then-modern Nintendo GameCube. Regardless, Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! took the step of updating it to the contemporary Nintendo Switch instead.
  • Impossible to avoid in Spyro Reignited Trilogy, which features a remake of a game from 1999 with changes to some designs but none of the script. Hunter still acts like the Totally Radical Turn of the Millennium Dumb Jock stereotype he was in the original. He also still gives his birth year as '75, which put him in his mid-20s at the time the game first came out but now makes him seem like a mid-40s Manchild.
  • XIII was made in 2003 and is set around that time period (references are made to the main character having served in Iraq, and the date can be seen in background items such as driver's licenses), and is based on a comic book from the 1980's, but the fashions and architecture are all much more evocative of the 1960's (which makes sense, as the plot is heavily based around a fictional version of the Kennedy Assassination).

    Visual Novels 
  • The Ace Attorney games were created in 2001, but take place in 2016 onwards - yet you wouldn't think so at first. They seem more to be Four Decades Behind and think they're still working on 1980s/1990s technology because their world still has the regular old cellphones with MIDI-formatted ringtones instead of smartphones; pictures are still taken via film, not digital cameras, and all come out in black and white; phone booths also seem to be still around. The majority of these things had already disappeared by the time the games were made.
  • According to Wikipedia, the events of CLANNAD take place starting in 2003, but there are no cellphones or computers seen anywhere, save for the electric company office. Even then, the computer is still running Windows XP, which was a version out of date when the series aired, though XP was still in wide use at the time. Possibly justified in that the main characters are dirt poor. The series could have easily taken place in The '90s or even The '80s. We do see that the Furukawas have upgraded to a flat-screen TV later in ~After Story~.
  • Stay! Stay! Democratic People's Republic of Korea!: The tech in Korea is shown to be very behind. One of the clearest examples is Freddie Mercury's music still being modern, or Donald Trump getting an apparently new phone which is a Motto-Rollah Dyntac model (based on Motorola DynaTAC from 1983).

  • A lot of the guys' hairstyles early in El Goonish Shive are very '90s (but probably were still in style in 2002). Buried within the strip's Art Evolution, Elliot's mullet and Justin's two-level bowlcut have been changed to styles which are less Frozen in Time, while Tedd's iconic, grape jelly-colored shoulder-length curtains stayed for years until he gave himself an Important Haircut. In-universe just over a year has passed.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, it's been long established that Molly (an artificial creature less than a year old) educated herself through any books, TV shows, or what have you that she could get her hands on, and thus peppers her speech with references to works from throughout history - but a disproportionate number of them seem to be from the Eighties. It is finally explained that Bob obsessively videotaped shows throughout his childhood, and that he still has that old VHS collection in the basement. Molly has watched countless hours of this stuff, much of it at high speed.
  • In a strip of Peter and Company, Peter claims to have spent his youth playing 1980s LCD games, even though he was born 20 years too late to have done so.
  • Ménage à 3, and its Spin-Off Sticky Dilly Buns, are about casts of twenty-somethings - whose musical tastes (and chosen styles when they play music themselves) tend towards things like Glam Rock and Classic Rock, despite claims that one lead character is a "punk rock chick". Some characters might just have retro tastes, but this seems to be a consistent pattern. Likewise, at least one character references TV shows such as Three's Company, Magnum, P.I., Columbo, and Kojak. It's a reasonable guess that the writers are older than their characters. Gisele Lagacé, the author of both comics, was once part of a glam rock band herself.note  A strong case of Write What You Know.
  • Shortpacked!: On this early page, Ethan points out to Amber that even today, people still eat up 80s pop culture. So Galasso brings up an 80s figure of his own...

    Web Original 
  • Cracked:
    • This trope is discussed in the 2012 article, "7 Ridiculously Outdated Assumptions Every Movie Makes". The example that most fits this is #2, which discusses how high school pranks are often seen as extremely funny in movies, but in real life nowadays students will get arrested for less. Pre-Columbine, the pranks would not have been perceived this way. But even pre-Columbine, there was far less tolerance for high school pranks than how media makes it to be. This is due mostly to the birth of the Self-Esteem Generation (basically anybody born from about 1975 to 1995 was a part of this), the various child/teen-related social issues that sprung up during the '80s (AIDS, molestation, etc.), and the fact that by about 1980, school teachers could no longer enforce physical punishment on students. In fact, one of the central points of Dazed and Confused (made in 1993) is to glorify the comparable freedom teenagers had during the mid-'70s.
    • Cracked itself might actually count as an example. Since the majority of the site’s writers and audience are in their '30s and '40s as of The New '20s, the majority of their articles reference Eighties pop culture, with references to the likes of He-Man, ThunderCats, and the Eighties versions of Transformers and the like.
  • Dinosaur Dracula: This article describes a dollar store on the Atlantic City boardwalk in New Jersey that still sold things like Ghostbusters II keychains and Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers tattoos in The New '10s.
  • Ironically, the site The New Gay, active from 2007 to 2011, was devoted to critiquing a "mainstream" gay culture that had died out by the early eighties. As far as one could tell from that site, the intervening quarter century of gay culture had not happened.
  • This page! Look over it and notice that most of the examples here are from the 1980s and 1990s, because that's when most tropers were growing up.
  • The NSA website for kids is an egregious example. Clicking through you'd think the site was created in the late '90s, because the cartoon mascots and graphics were dated for 2001. Look closely - ''this site was made in 2016 - and has presumably been updated at some point between then and this writing (2017).
  • The /r/music subreddit is widely derided for its focus on classic rock.
  • Homestar Runner characters are commonly seen using technology from the 1970s and 1980s. Most notable are Strong Bad's computers and television; it took three upgrades for him to finally get a modern PC, and only one was by choice. Even the site itself never modernized until the retirement of Flash, still looking the same as it did in the early 2000s.
  • Wikipedia's formality and "Verifiability, not truth" policy often leaves its pages on slang terms empty and out of date. See, their page on rice burners, and compare to that of This Very Wiki.
  • In this story from Not Always Learning, an Information Technology class in the mid '00s is so far behind the times that the class starts with "how to use a keyboard" and the students are using floppy disks their home PCs can't run to save their classwork. After the first few weeks, the teacher has a breakdown and starts smuggling booze instead, and the bored, unsupervised students run wild, ultimately leading to an investigation and the firing of the drunk teacher. The next year, the class content (and equipment) is finally updated.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time debuted in 2010, but features cell phones and video games that look straight out of The '80s. Justified since the series is set a thousand years after an apocalyptic war; technological progress may have gone in some strange directions. One proposed explanation for this is that The Mushroom War was the Cold War ending badly, explaining the '80s tech.
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, the Wattersons are shown using a rotary-dial landline phone and cartridge-based consoles straight out of the '80s. On top of landline phones becoming obsolete by 2011, video game consoles had (with the exception of handheld systems) already abandoned cartridges by the turn of the millennium. The writers have joked on occasion that they can't remember if the show takes place in the 50s, 80s, present day, or 20 Minutes into the Future.
    • In the season 2 episode "The Bumpkin", Idaho is largely unaware of modern society lifestyle (video games, fast food, modern metaphors, etc) despite attending a modern junior high school with Gumball. This is intentional, as Idaho and his family are clearly Amish and he's most likely living in Elmore as part of the Amish rite of passage Rumspringa.
    • Another season 2 episode, "The Internet", features a character who's been working in tech support since the 1980s. This is evident when he tries to help Gumball and Darwin with their computer, as he's unaware of how to block pop-up ads and sends emails through the disk drive. He even tries to delete the Internet by deleting the web browser, before throwing the whole computer away in the trash. The fact that the character is a floppy disk reinforces this trope.
    • Mr. Small is the Butt-Monkey of this trope. He's a '60s flower-child hippie who's often seen driving a '60s Hippie Van in many episodes, and gives terrible advice to the kids on account of his dated philosophies. As a result, he's often the source of many jokes in the show for how out of touch he is with society; such as trying to stop the principal from blowing up the school in a similar fashion to the Tank Man note , or by continuing to dress like a 1960s hippie all the way into Nicole and Richard's childhood. note 
    • The episode "The Web" is centered around Nicole and all of her co-workers being unable to understand even the most basic aspects of using a computer. The episode was released in 2019, and Nicole is somewhere between her late thirties to early forties, meaning she would most likely have been using computers regularly since she was a grade schooler.
  • While The Angry Beavers is set in contemporary times (an episode has them celebrating New Year's 2000), you'd think it was set in The '70s.
    • Barry the Bear is a parody of Barry White.
    • Everyone uses 8-track tapes for music, and disco is still popular. In one episode, the beavers get a #1 disco hit in the late 1990s!
    • There's an entire episode parodying Starsky & Hutch.
    • Another episode has Norb collecting curling irons from 1970s celebrities.
  • Archer is... confusing timeline-wise. Computers look like they come from the early '80s, and the KGB still exists. Cars and planes tend to look like they come from the '60s and '70s. Meanwhile, all the characters carry up-to-the-second cellphones.
  • Arthur: In later seasons, characters continued using computers with bulky monitors well into the 2010s and even the 2020s, even though thinner monitors began to predominate in the late 2000s.
  • Betty Boop is an Older Than Television example, being a flapper throughout The '30s when flappers were more popular during the '20s.
  • Bibleman: One episode has Luxor being able to infect most of the town with his new evil MMO, which he interests people in by handing out physical passcards from a booth in the mall.
  • Invoked on Bob's Burgers. Whatever technological device Bob uses will always be a generation or two behind; he still uses a flip phone instead of a smartphone, and when he needed to record a video of his kids' school recital, he tries to use a '90s-era camcorder, and fails due to how cumbersome it is to use. Other characters kid Bob for being behind the times, but it can be justified by the Belchers being in Perpetual Poverty and not being able to afford upgrading to the latest model of anything.
  • Dino Squad is a series about a group of Totally Radical teenagers who get the power to turn into dinosaurs and fight crime with their new powers while using severely outdated slang and delivering Anvilicious Aesops. From the tropes mentioned, you'd think it was made in The '90s, but it actually came out in 2007. Unsurprisingly, the show flopped. Whether or not the 90's-isms are because of the creators trying too hard to bring that type of cartoon to a new generation or the show being in development in the 90's is anyone's guess.
  • The Disney Channel's Disney BLAM, which consists of scenes from Classic Disney Shorts dubbed over with a Totally Radical narrator explaining why each scene is funny, seem to have been made with the idea that it's still the early Nineties.
  • Don Hertzfeldt animated his shorts using a traditional film and animation camera along with primitive special effects all the way into the early 2010s even though other indie animators had long abandoned these practices in favor of digital editing and animation programs with scanners standing in for the camera. Don eventually transitioned to digital with the 2015 short World of Tomorrow.
  • Family Guy does this intentionally, as many of its gags are reliant on nostalgic pop culture references, particularly from the 1980s.
    • A gag in the episode "Big Man on Hippocampus" (which aired in 2010) has Richard Dawson as the current host of Family Feud (despite the fact that, outside a brief return in 1994, he hadn't hosted since 1985), John Hughes referenced at a rapid-fire pace, Macho Man Randy Savage cutting promos at live wrestling events, and O. J. Simpson's case treated like a current event. The fact that all of the high school scenes look like they're straight out of an '80s teen film might be intentional.
    • Depictions of the Pope tend to be of a rather generic guy with an Italian accent, when the last Italian Pope was John Paul I in 1978. (Pope Francis is ethnically Italian, however.)
    • Quagmire's house is almost entirely Mid-Century designed. Justified in that he acts like a 1950s-era hustler.
  • Futurama:
    • Despite being set in a far future, and despite the fact that Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew have been dead since the 1990s and Henry Kissinger since 2023, the series constantly pokes fun at these politicians from the 1970s, as if there haven't been other mockable politicians around ever since.
    • Despite coming from 1999, Fry's favorite music and video games are mostly from the early to mid-Eighties (although this would line up with his childhood years, in keeping with his general manchild qualities). An "Anthology of Interest" episode features a video game-focused plot, and barring a single mention of "all your base are belong to us", every game featured or referenced (Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Asteroids) is Older Than the NES.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • For a pre-teen girl who was canonically born in 1999, Mabel Pines' cultural tastes are notably late-twentieth-century. She's a big fan of Sev'ral Timez, a nineties-style boy band performing in 2012 ("Aren't they that boy band that came a decade too late?"), she sings eighties songs on karaoke night, she dresses up as a power-suited businesswoman when she gets a chance to run the Mystery Shack, and one of her favorite movies is an old VHS of the ridiculously eighties Dream Boy High. Explained by series creator Alex Hirsch basing many aspects of the show on his own childhood in The '90s, and Mabel in particular on his twin sister.
    • Gravity Falls does avoid the "implausibly old grandparents" version of this trope, however, as the kids' great-uncle Stan is accurately portrayed as a Baby Boomer.
    • One episode is about a video game character coming to life and entering the real world. What kind of character is he? He's a pixel art tournament fighting game character. Tournament fighting games were most popular in the mid-1990s, and outside of deliberate Retraux aesthetics in indie games, pixel art is also a product of the 20th century. It seems strange for a boy Dipper's age to be playing such a game and not at least remark on how the character is pixelated instead of polygonal.
  • In an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy the three main characters go to an old folks' home for monsters. Dracula / Blacula, the Wolf Man and the Bride of Frankenstein are all treated as "Classic" monsters (fair enough) but the "New, Modern" monsters are obvious stand-ins for Freddy and Jason. The episode aired in 2005, after several generations of horror fads had come and gone since the old supernatural slashers of the 1980s. This may be partially justified in that they were portrayed more as the new classic movie monsters, and the fact that they're in the old folks' home in the first place acknowledges their age.
  • Though the time period in which Kevin Spencer takes place in is never stated, it features tons of outdated technology, ranging from the Spencers using a rotary dial phone (the later seasons replaced it with a cordless house phone), Kevin's school computers are shown to be the old, large ones with the giant desks under them ("Good Will Spencer"), and arcade games are still shown to be popular ("Jacked In"), alongside then-modern bands like Spankdriven, Treble Charger, and Sum 41.
  • The 2004 Looney Tunes short "My Generation G-G-Gap" is an almost literal example of this trope. Not only does it depict music and fashions that seem straight out of 1984, but it suggests that rock and roll is still somehow controversial among parents and Moral Guardians, even though it hadn't been controversial since the mid-late 1980s at the absolute latest. Even worse, your average grandparent nowadays was growing up when rock and roll was becoming popular, making the episode two generations behind.
  • Mocked in Phineas and Ferb when they go to a '50s cars exposition and everybody dresses like in the Fifties. Phineas says that in the Fifties, people dressed like series from the seventies.
  • Regular Show seems to be stuck in the late '80s/early '90s, judging by the technology in early episodes, from the crude 8-bit graphics in video games to the boxy computer using Windows 95 in the Park's office. It's later shown that the show does take place in the Present Day — Benson is just too cheap to upgrade the park's technology, while Mordecai and Rigby are old-school gamers who prefer that era.
  • When American Family Studios produced the Christian animated series Ryan Defrates Secret Agent in 2017, they chose to officially release the show one episode at a time on DVD through their website before it was picked up by the Christian streaming service Jellytelly. While it's still common in The New '10s for some movies to skip television and cinemas for a DVD release, producing a TV series specifically for the straight-to-video market had fallen out of favor by the late 2000s as many studios found it easier and more profitable to release their shows through streaming services and the general web.
  • The clothing worn by the Mystery Gang in Scooby-Doo was fashionable in 1968-69 when the series began, but became increasingly more anachronistic and odd-looking as The '70s progressed into The '80s. Daphne's mini-dress and Alice band, right for a stylish teen in 1968, alongside Fred's groovy cravat, froze the show into a perpetual 1969, alongside the psychedelic paint job on the Mystery Van. This has a lampshade hung on it in the first movie, where Fred contemplates his cravat for a moment, shakes his head, drops it back into a draw and then dresses appropriately for the 2000's.
  • Somebody throws out their record player and buys a CD player, but can't get the new-fangled gizmo to work. It's a plot you'd expect from the late 1980s, but in this case it's a Shaun the Sheep episode that aired in the late 2000s, by which time people were buying MP3 players and throwing out their CD players.
  • The Simpsons writing staff are mostly Baby Boomers, including Matt Groening himself, which explains why there's a lot of occurrences with this trope:
    • One of the main problems people have with the later seasons is that, even when the show attempts to tackle current events and issues (such as social networking), it still seems stuck in the late-'80s and early-'90s with its depictions of things like family dynamics (almost all households have first-married parents, something that hasn't been the case since the early 70s — since the mid-90s, it has been more of an exception than the rule) and work politics (Homer manages to get his family comfortable all by himself and is briefly shop steward in an episode aired in 1993, a time when union membership had almost disappeared).
    • The countless 1960s and 1970s references on the show, especially targeting hippies, Richard Nixon, Star Trek: The Original Series, The Beatles, The Vietnam War and old TV series that are no longer in syndication and thus lost on younger audiences. A particular example of this is the 2018 episode "Homer Is Where the Art Isn't" which is an extended parody/homage to the early 1970s detective series Banacek, one of the lesser-known products of the NBC Mystery Movie "umbrella" show.
    • Bart and Lisa (and all the other kids in Springfield) watch The Krusty the Klown Show, a live-action children's show with cartoons in-between, a format similar to The Bozo Show and Captain Kangaroo. Such programs were extremely common in The '50s and The '60s (surviving through the '70s and '80s on smaller UHF/independent stations) but went extinct by The '90s with the imposition of E/I guidelines and the rise of "trash talk" shows, and are now remembered mainly through parodies, if at all. Bart and Lisa also watch Merchandise-Driven Saturday Morning Cartoons, which were current when The Simpsons premiered but later lost their popularity and cultural significance, and were essentially killed off in 2014 by the combined factors of children's cable networks/on-demand programming and streaming, and the E/I guidelines that killed daytime kids shows.
    • Krusty himself became an example as years went by, as while he was (alongside with Pennywise) a key factor in the decline of portrayals of good-natured clowns, the modern perception that all harlequins are evil makes him a relic of another era. His many parallels with Jerry Lewis don't help either.
    • Similarly, Itchy & Scratchy are a parody of violent cat-and-mouse cartoons like Tom and Jerry and Herman and Katnip. Since the late 1990s, most animated shows have featured human characters instead of Funny Animals, mostly except for "legacy" series.
    • This also leads to some characters and satires that were topical in their day and non sequitur today. For instance, Dr. Hibbert and Rainier Wolfcastle are walking references to Bill Cosby and Arnold Schwarzenegger, still kicking around years after The Cosby Show aired its finale (and Bill became notorious for his sexual assault cases) and Arnold switched to politics.
    • The Simpson family dutifully goes to church every Sunday, even in later seasons where Marge is the only strongly Christian Simpson. Once upon a time (between the 1930s and 1960s), even families that weren't religious would go to church at least for appearance’s sake, but this had largely disappeared by the 1970s, as social mores changed. And by the 1990s, religious people would increasingly not consider themselves as "practicing" believers (as in, actually participating in faith-related activities). These days, it's easier to find practicing Christians who don't attend church regularly than it is to find non-religious people who do, if there are any of the latter.
    • Marge's extremely anachronistic beehive (an exaggerated version of what creator Matt Groening's own mother wore in The '60s) sticks like a sore thumb, as women's hairstyles have gotten simpler since the 1990s. And she's a housewife, something that was already becoming outdated in the 1970s and 1980s with the rise of working mothers. In addition, the writers tend to give her the kind of tastes and interests more suited to their own parents' generation.
    • Most TV sets during the "standard definition" era (including the Simpsons' own) sport the look of those from the '50s and '60s. This was later averted by the 2010s, when flat screens were adopted.
    • For a time, literally the only thing consistently modern about The Simpsons was the presence of touch-tone telephones... and they still had the classic "Bell-style" design and the "ring-a-ling-a-ling" chiming sound instead of the more modern looks and electronic "chirp-a-chirp-a-chirp" ringtone many phones had in 1989. Though smartphones became commonplace in the show quite quickly, most telephones are still of the kind you might see in media from the '50s and '60s. This could be due to The Coconut Effect: modern-day phones just look and sound too "futuristic" to be "real".
    • The depiction of computers is often quite behind the times: a 1995 episode has Homer working with an early '80s-looking PC (with green text and no mouse) while a mid-2000s episode has Marge winning a Mac that looks like the late 90s-era iMac.
    • The most glaring discrepancy is that of the early years of Homer and Marge, who (according to the show's original early '90s Canon) graduated from high school in 1974 and married in 1980, with Bart being born in 1981 and Lisa about two years after that. That timeframe obviously became completely unworkable long ago (by the mid-2010s, neither of them would have even been born in 1974), and yet flashbacks to Homer's adolescence will still show him with '70s Hair, and Marge still likes disco music. Things got more complicated when the season 19 episode "That '90s Show" retconned the timeframe of Homer's and Marge's romance as having taken place in the '90s, at the height of the grunge era. Yet in the following seasons, this was disregarded by the show's writers.
    • "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie" is notable in that it was outdated when it first aired. Bart is not allowed to see the Itchy & Scratchy movie in the cinema and thus misses what seems to be the greatest movie in the world. After a while, the movie theaters stop playing it and it disappears from the public eye. Bart never manages to see it until the local movie theater starts playing it again 40 years later. The phenomenon that you could only see films when they were playing in a local movie theatre and had no chance of seeing them again until (and if) they were reissued or showed up on TV was true in the decades before the introduction of home video... which was introduced near the end of the 1970s, while this Simpsons episode debuted in 1992!
    • Bart writes lines on the blackboard as a punishment. He lampshades this in one chalkboard gag by writing: "Do children today do this anymore?"
    • Intentionally invoked with Mr. Burns, who often references things, places, and events that have been out of existence for over half a century and thinks that they're still in use. One example is him mentioning Siam (the country known nowadays as Thailand), Prussia (a former German lander, extinct since 1947) and an autogyro (a predecessor to the helicopter) in the same phrase.
    • When The Who guest starred in "A Tale of Two Springfields" the writers also included drummer Keith Moon, even though he had already died in 1978. They were aware of this, though, and just included him as a homage to the original group. This also explains why he has no lines.
    • In "Bart's Dog Gets an F," Lisa gets the mumps. Even in 1991, when the episode originally aired, she probably would have gotten the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine (while the Simpsons often have to cut corners financially, it's mentioned many times that the kids get vaccinated, and Bart is even shown getting a rubella shot in the flashback episode "Lisa's First Word"). The vaccine came out in the early 1970s, meaning that people the age of the writing staff at the time could have had the mumps as children.
  • South Park, much like The Simpsons, appears to fall victim to this as time goes on:
    • Sharon Marsh and Gerald Broflovski are very stereotypical Baby Boomer parents, even though, realistically, Stan and Kyle should have stereotypical Generation X (or even older Millennial) parents, given their ages and the fact that the show takes place in the present day.
    • Most of the show's adult figures are based on those of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's own childhoods.
    • The actors in the "Bloody Sunday" educational short look like they came from The '80s, but according to the copyright date at the end, it was produced in 2010.
    • Spoofed in "Volcano", when a volcano covers much of the town with lava, and the city screens a 1950s "duck-and-cover" safety short that is so hilariously useless, it actually gets more townspeople killed.
    • The episode "W.T.F." makes fun of professional wrestling for being "fake" and full of theatrics, and accuses its fans of being a bunch of deluded rednecks, even though kayfabe and works had been a major part of the sport for almost a century prior to the episode and it has had worldwide mainstream appeal for decades.
    • In one of the audio commentaries to South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone note that Stan still calling Kyle with a regular phone shows how old-fashioned they really are.
  • Steven Universe takes a lot of influence from the 1980s to early 2000s, despite being set in the 2010s. Televisions are always CRTs, and we see VHS tapes much more than discs (even though Sadie assumed Steven wouldn't know what a VHS was). Practically every electronic device Steven owns besides his smartphone is pre-digital, from his VCR to various consoles based on the Gamecube at latest. Greg and Rose's tape to Steven looks rather old and grainy despite only being filmed in the late 1990s at earliest. There's a slight implication that Steven is a fan of old media and tech, as by Steven Universe: Future he is driving a car that's older than him and kept using the cassette player of all things.
    • That being said, the show does take place in an Alternate History setting (primarily thanks to the Gems' attempted colonization of the planet several thousand years ago), so that may or may not have influenced things tech-wise.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are Totally Radical, as well as bodacious, awesome, tubular and like, cowabunga, dude. This may be a Grandfather Clause, though. In later adaptations, Michelangelo is the only one who's still Totally Radical, and the others usually mock him for it. In Turtles Forever, the 2003 versions of the Turtles openly mock the 1980s Turtles for it.
  • Two More Eggs often explicitly parodies children's programming from The Eighties and The '90s, but even the segments apparently set in the present day exhibit anachronisms. Nineties-type cellular phones show up in both Hector & Kovitch and Panda Bractice, the latter centers around an Eighties-type camper, and none of the kids in either series use mobile devices or mention the Internet.

  • One of Dr. Seuss' political cartoons features Adolf Hitler in a meeting with some of his generals. As the commentary in a treasury points out, said generals have facial hair and uniforms that look more like they belong in World War I than World War II.
  • 1930s Pulp magazine hero Operator No. 5 fought the forces of militaristic European governments... ones that had more in common with the "classic conservative" regimes of World War I (or at least stereotypes of said regimes derived from war propaganda of the era) rather than the communist and fascist dictatorships that had largely supplanted them in threat level by the time the stories were being written (such regimes did still exist, but were generally less bellicose than the communists and fascists).


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Still The Eighties


Bob's Old Camcorder

Bob plans on using a 90's era camcorder to record the kids' performance because people are fools for using a higher quality machine that also fits in their pocket.

How well does it match the trope?

4.87 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / TwoDecadesBehind

Media sources: