Some moral values just don't travel well. The attitudes of our society have changed, or the issue they addressed has become obsolete.
But others—like a good wine or fine cheeses—only get better with age. Years after the original author and audience have passed, new generations will still look at the given Aesop and say "Damn straight." Maybe some authors knowingly spoke to issues that were years ahead of their time. Maybe many of society's questions are just Older Than They Think. Maybe they just got lucky. These are the principles that stand the test of time and have outlived the original moral issue they were meant to address a hundred times over.
Even when a work is non-ideological, it can still resonate due to tapping into a style or gimmick that would not become popular for many years. Art historians have pointed out, for example, that paintings in the nonrepresentational or abstract style were created in the 16th century by Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo—a full 300 years before expressionism became fashionable in Western art.
Keep in mind that this is somewhat a subjective trope, as what resonates as an accurate observation for a conservative may not be the same as a liberal, for a woman may not be the same as for a man, for a devoutly religious person may not be the same as an atheist, for a citizen of one country not the same as a citizen of another, and so on. The best advice (as always applicable when one deals with the internet) is to keep an open mind. Likewise, do not assume that merely because it is old that it is accurate.
But while this is somewhat subjective, there is a key guideline that should be borne in mind when considering examples. The key element of this trope is that the value or values presented or portrayed in the example resonate with an audience culturally removed from the originally intended or expected audience. It is not resonance when the values in a work are significant or meaningful to the audience for which the work was originally made; a thing does not resonate with itself. That usually requires that the work is from an earlier time or from a different culture than the audience with whom the work is resonating. There is some flexibility here for certain media or works where the intended audience moves on after only a few years, but even that flexibility is limited, since, just because the audience has moved on, it does not follow that the work is now being consumed by a fundamentally separate culture.
Compare and contrast with Fair for Its Day, where the morals the work presents are kind of squicky, but compared to other opinions from its age, very forward-thinking. Contrast Unintentional Period Piece, where the setting and narrative fluff of the work ties it to a single time period (though note that it can still overlap with this if the themes are louder than its cultural trappings). Also compare Politically Correct History, which is when modern sentiments are presented in-universe to purposely elicit the same effect.
Note: Examples regarding the resonance between time periods require a 20-year waiting period before they can be added.
- In 1947, the PSA "Don't be a sucker" was produced by the US Department of Defense. It debunks racism and religious intolerance, explaining how it leads to division, and also explains how intolerant speech led to the rise of Nazi Germany, The Holocaust and WW2 and how normalizing the hatred of minorities could cause the same to happen in the USA one day. The video would then go on to become viral because of its relevance to certain incidents after the 2016 US election (e.g. the 2017 Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally) due to how prominent racism had become around that time.
- Claudine...! has a rather sympathetic portrayal of a transgender person, despite having been written in The '70s. And although a significant number of elements of the plot can still be regarded now as unintentionally transphobic or Dead Horse Trope (especially Bury Your Gays), it is still quite a friendly and up-to-date story, while even now most transgender people are portrayed in anime either as perverts or as flat comedic characters.
- People complain that Sailor Moon is outdated and all, having been created in the very early nineties, but it has several concepts that are timeless:
- There was a lesbian pairing portrayed in a sympathetic light (Haruka and Michiru), and the villainous gay couple from the anime loved each other deeply despite their alignment (Zoicite and Kunzite).
- The girls themselves had all kinds of different personalities and were still friends in spite of how different they were. They also encouraged each other's goals note and supported each other when needed instead of throwing each other under the bus for their own benefits (and the girls who did it weren't supposed to be in the right). On a related note, all of the Sailor Senshi's individual personality traits often bust up stereotypes as well. For instance, the character who states her dream is to "be a bride" in the manga, Makoto, is also a black belt in judo and one of the physically and mentally strongest characters in the Sailor Moon universe. And Michiru, the Yamato Nadeshiko Elegant Classical Musician, is all but stated to actually be the one with the reins in her and Haruka's relationship.
- Similarly the series emphasizes the importance of female friendship and sisterhood, something that many female-centric series including ones that attempt to be feminist, still struggle to capture to this day as the opposite is more common.
- Mamoru helped them, but he also needed help and protection from Usagi and the girls. In fact, he needed more rescue than Usagi herself! And while he sometimes worried a lot about Usagi's safety (to Idiot Ball levels in R), he didn't do it out of manly pride but out of sincere concern.
- The manga in particular emphasizes that Usagi is a sexual person and has had sex with her boyfriend Mamoru to the point of being shown lying naked in bed with him on several occasions, but she's never portrayed as dirty for this or that it somehow disqualifies her from being both the hero and the epitome of Incorruptible Pure Pureness, with her sexuality simply being a part of the larger picture of who she is. She's also shown to be absolutely head over heels in love with several girls (including Rei, who gives her literal heart eyes when they first meet) but again, it's simply a part of who she is.
- In Sailor Moon's prequel manga Codename: Sailor V, one chapter has an obsessive Otaku who keeps harassing Minako because he simply can't deal with the fact that she beat his high score in a video game (even going so far as to assume that she must be a guy in drag), plus his whole spiel about how girls shouldn't be "invading" arcades. When his harassment goes too far, Minako (as Sailor V) proceeds to knock him out. The manga started in 1992, but this particular chapter is still pretty relevant today, especially with the surge in harassment of female gamers and fans during The New '10s for supposedly being "fake geek girls".
- While certain aspects like the teacher-student romances have not aged well, Cardcaptor Sakura's matter of fact, wholesome depiction of bisexual characters is something rarely seen in modern adult entertainment, let alone a kids' show from the '90s. Yukito and Touya are also a rare explicitly stated and canon gay couple in an anime not of the Boys' Love Genre, and their relationship is a lot healthier than a lot of relationships in that genre to this day.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena features largely modern views on homo- and bisexuality, defying traditional gender norms, and domestic abuse. It stars a girl who excels at sports and swordfighting, who dresses in male clothing, and dreams of becoming a "Prince" while falling in love with the "Rose Bride" Anthy Himemiya. Compared to how these subjects were usually played in the 1990s when the series was made, the show comes across as being twenty years ahead of its time.
- Romeo's Blue Skies is an anime about a boy who sells himself to become a chimney sweep and in the process, finds many good friends who help him whenever he has trouble. This show is NOT subtle in its message that The Power of Friendship is awesome and how it conveys this with the two main characters, Romeo and Alfredo. Considering how nowadays modern-day boys get persecuted by showing even the tiniest bit of friendship-like (whether romantic or not) affection for other boys just because others say it's gay, this message gets more and more relevant every year.
- In Sorcerer Stabber Orphen, the deal with Stephanie being a transgender person is not handled for cheap and offensive laughs. When Orphen explains to Cleao and Majic how she went from the male-bodied Stephan to the female-bodied Stephanie, he does it in a matter-of-fact way and doesn't think less of her for it, and later the audience is not supposed to side with Cleao when she makes a careless comment about it. And Stephanie herself is portrayed as a normal and kind person who deserves respect and affection like anyone else, and the cast treats her with true affection.
- Dirty Pair had an episode with a sympathetic depiction of a trans woman during a time when most anime wouldn't even touch the subject, except as a source of comedy. What's more, Kei and Yuri actually shout down the bigot who has a problem with her, arguing that there's nothing abnormal about transgender people.
- Genma Wars (the '80s film, not the TV series) had a diverse cast consisting of men and women from various countries and ethnic groups, and a message about how people from all walks of life need to get along and work together to make the world a better place. Atypical for a lot of anime of the time, there's even a plot point about one of the heroines, Luna, needing to confront and overcome her racism towards black people.
- Candy Candy is a Shoujo manga from The '70s that spreads two very important messages: "women can be anything they want to be in their lives if they work hard on making their hopes and dreams come true" and "romantic love is important in a woman's life, but not necessarily the be all and end all of it."
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is of course about the usual War Is Hell theme that Gundam is famous for, but one of its major plot points revolves around the use of unmanned weapons and the implications of wars without soldiers. This really became a huge issue 15 years after its release when American forces began employing drones in the Middle East.
- Jun Honoo from Great Mazinger is the daughter of a Japanese woman and an African-American soldier stationed in Japan, and in-story she's been heavily discriminated against in Japan for her heritage. The story was written in The '70s, when issues like racism were rarely discussed in the Japanese media at all, let alone in children's programming.
- Attack No. 1 has a lead female character, Kozue Ayuhara, whose priority is her own life and her dreams for the future, rather than solely having a love interest... in The '60s and The '70s. From The Other Wiki:
"[Feminist writer] Kazuko Suzuki describes Attack No. 1 as an "innovation on the campus story", where a heroine would go to college and meet her future husband. She describes Kozue as "psychologically independent", as Kozue has realised that she must strive to create her own happiness and continues to strive on after her boyfriend's death."
- Even though MW has a stereotypical Depraved Bisexual Big Bad, one of the later chapters actually has an extremely positive depiction of a minor lesbian character. The character even gives a speech about how homosexuality is completely normal and healthy, and shouldn't be seen as something shameful or indecent. This was in the '70s when Japan was even more conservative about sexual minorities.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- A frequent topic that was discussed was that men and women aren't that different. Considering that gender roles have become a much more controversial issue nowadays, this was definitely An Aesop that was ahead of its time.
- Kaworu is depicted as a morally gray character in his every appearance, but the ambiguously queer love between him and Shinji is never subjected to any homophobia in the text proper. While Kaworu always ended up being buried by the end of his appearance, that's really just the way Evangelion rolls.
- The anime frequently delves into various characters' mental states, and very few of them are stable. This became especially relevant in The New '10s with movements to destigmatize mental health problems, as well as increasing awareness of the effects of parental abuse and neglect.
- This is probably one of the main reasons that DEVILMAN crybaby, a modern retelling of the original Devilman, was such a smash hit with modern audiences, as most of the messages of the original manga (War Is Hell, discrimination and xenophobia being horrible, and Ryo Asuka being gay for Akira in the end of the manga without being seen as a negative thing) were around in the 1970s, and with today's political and social climate, the morals of old have only gotten stronger today.
- Transformers: Super-God Masterforce has two deeply relevant examples:
- The indigenous peoples of Karin Island are depicted as completely ordinary, their culture and beliefs are not depicted as inferior or freakish, and when one of the main characters unwittingly calls them savages, the show portrays said comment as a deeply offensive insult. This type of portrayal is rare even in Western media, where Indigenous nations still suffer from harmful stereotypes.
- Cancer is a complete aversion of the Ethnic Scrappy trope that befalls the majority of characters who are Chinese in Japanese media. He is portrayed incredibly sympathetically, actually has a powerful character arc, and ultimately becomes heroic. Given how heavily Japanese media portrays fictional Chinese characters as villains or as jokes, Cancer is very progressive.
- A major theme is turning on a superior because the superior is doing something incredibly wrong. In Japan, strict obedience is seen as normal, and any form of treason is a disgrace. It already was a deeply progressive message, but in an age where there is an increasing willingness to vote for a party candidate no matter who they are or what they did simply because the other option is from another party, this message is deeply relevant.
- With the Light: With subject matter like autism, job loss/transfer, illness, and natural disasters, you'd think it was made yesterday. But nope! The manga began in 2000, just 20 years after autism was first added to the DSM and only six years after the APA first started recognizing how broad the autism spectrum actually ran. Not only does it treat its subject well, but it also addresses (and berates) common Japanese stereotypes related to autism, such as the Japanese's words' meaning.note This manga's messages become more and more relevant with each passing year, especially now that the majority of autistic people are becoming adults who may very well need support in a world that feels they either need to be fixed/murdered or that they're incapable of anything.
- When it first came out in 1953, Princess Knight seemed to portray Sapphire as a Tomboy because of her stereotypically masculine interests, with the justification that she was mistakenly given a blue boy's heart by an angel. Nowadays, it's popular to interpret the character as transgender—despite the fact that the manga presents a very stereotypical portrayal of masculine and feminine interests.
- Serial Experiments Lain first aired in 1998, at a time when the internet had only been widely used for about three years. Its main message, that the world of the internet has just as much impact as the real world but that the latter should never be forgotten, has only become increasingly important in an age of constant connection, social media, and virtual reality.
- Banana Fish originally ran from 1985 to 1994. Despite the series' sometimes questionable portrayal of gay men (most men who show sexual interest in other men are depicted as pedophiles and sex traffickers), the largely sexless romance between main characters Ash and Eiji (who are both male) is now praised for being ahead of its time, with their relationship being deeply significant for people who have gone through sexual trauma, and for people who identify as asexual in any way.
- Perfect Blue was released in 1997, but it still perfectly predicted the ways people discuss how women are viewed by the media, how damaging the idol industry and its surrounding culture are for the idols within it, and how the Internet can create toxic and dangerous fans.
- Hieronymus Bosch, in his painting "The Garden of Earthly Delights", shows both white and black people alike enjoying heaven together. It was painted around 1500. While this isn't as unexpected as it may seem, given that heavy anti-black racism largely started in order to justify the Atlantic Slave Trade, which hadn't begun by that point, it's still incredibly thoughtful for a reclusive artist who lived in the 15th-century Netherlands.
- Captain America's comic from 1982 (issue #268) became more relevant today, now that there is much more acceptance of LGBT people in society than at the time, due to its positive attitude towards homosexuality based on Captain America's speech that Arnie—his gay friend—is a kind-hearted man rather than a freak.
- An issue from the 1970s satirizes the over-the-top and offensive personalities that people use while speaking on CB radios. Its commentary on anonymous personalities is eerily predictive of G.I.F.T.
- The parody "What's My Shine!" from November 1954 is a satire of McCarthyism done through the lens of an episode of What's My Line?. It holds up in the 2020s mostly because of its depiction of political theater with serious consequences being used as crass entertainment.
- The early years of the Silver Age Hal Jordan Green Lantern were innovative for its time with the hotshot test pilot have Carol Ferris, his girlfriend, being unambiguously an adept corporate executive and his boss, while Tom Kalmaku may have been stuck with the embarrassing nickname "Pieface", but he was still a smart and brave Inuit aerospace engineer.
- An issue of a comic called the Green Lama, dating to WWII, preaches against racism explicitly—the "bad guy" the Green Lama goes to defeat isn't a supervillain, it's the racist attitude of a white soldier against a black one. A couple of pages are thrown in showing him fighting Nazis, and they try to claim that racism was caused by Nazi fifth columnists in the US, but even ignoring those, the message being so explicit is remarkable for its day.
- X-Men's storyline "God Loves, Man Kills" has its relevance in the power of televangelism that can be seen today with their power of persuasion and funding's on anti-homosexual groups. X-Men in general also tend to be looked upon favorably by various autism rights groups.
- Quino's Mafalda derives much of its humor from the observation of human nature, which is so accurate that it remains relevant to this day Let's not forget we're talking about a work from the 60s here. This is something that didn't make Quino himself happy in later years, considering those issues attacked back in the day still subsist.
"...and remember, boys and girls, your school—like our country—is made up of Americans of many different races, religions, and national origins. So...if YOU hear anyone talk against a schoolmate or anyone else because of his race, religion, or national origin—don't wait: tell him THAT KIND OF TALK IS UN-AMERICAN."
- The poster◊ shown above toasted the ideals of inclusiveness and spoke out against discrimination, and urged kids to do the same. And it was produced in The '50s, coming from a 1949 book cover:
- The story of Superman's father Jor-El, whether it's the Silver Age's tragic story of a utopia or Byrne's final days of a stagnant culture, is one of a scientist desperately trying to convince his peers about the impending destruction of their homeworld, only for his warnings to be dismissed by the ruling bodies of Krypton. With climate change becoming a serious threat to human civilization in the 21st century and many governments refusing to take action to mitigate its effects, the fate of Krypton serves as a cautionary tale about failing to take the warnings from the scientific community seriously.
- Comics published during The Golden Age have a well-deserved reputation for being really racist, but there's a heartwarming aversion in an old Christmas issue of Green Lantern in Comic Cavalcade #9. Alan's friend Doiby is shot, and the only surgeon in the city who can save him can't do so because the hospital doesn't allow Jewish doctors. Alan discovers that the man who convinced the hospital to have such racist and antisemitic rules is a racketeer who has been convincing institutions across the city to enact similar codes as part of a money-making scheme. When Alan catches the racketeer, he angrily tells him that he's perverted the concept of patriotism and used it as an excuse for racism, all so he could line his pockets. To drive this home, he then reveals that the men who helped him track down the crook were Mike Reilly (an Irishman), Abraham Lincoln Jackson (a black man), Wun Lee (a Chinese man) and Sammy Cohen (a Jew), feeding into Alan's point about America being a land for everyone, not just white Christians. The issue ends with a very strong indictment of those who hold bigoted views. Keep in mind, this was all published in 1944.
Alan Scott: Now maybe you'll understand...when you hate a man for his race, creed or color, you're just a sucker for those who hate America!
- Judge Dredd: Overlapping with Harsher in Hindsight, the theme of the police's relationship with society became more relevant due to the controversy of Police Brutality in the US. This is more pronounced in the "Democracy" storyline and other stories dealing with questioning the limits of the Judges' powers and the effectiveness of the Judge system.
- Sensation Comics: The Dr. Pat feature holds up remarkably well over time, encouraging people to follow their dreams and find their own balance between their private and work lives whether they're women or men. It's jarring when it's followed by the Romance. Inc. feature which has not aged well with its ideas that women should bend over backward and give up on their dreams to make their boyfriends happy.
- Beauty and the Beast, which came out in 1991, contains a very powerful message on the nature of a woman's choice, depicting Gaston's Entitled to Have You attitude towards Belle as what makes him the villain. The fact that he goes to such extreme lengths to get her attention, despite her turning him down multiple times, only emphasizes his villainy. Even in today's world, women can still be vilified for not returning feelings or for not liking someone who's effectively sexually harassing them, so its message of showing that it's Belle's choice that matters and not Gaston's is very refreshing.
- As time has gone on, The Little Mermaid (1989) and its protagonist Ariel, have come to be seen in a better light. For years she was dismissed as a shallow character who abandons her home for a guy she barely knows - but there has been a considerable backlash to what is essentially Slut-Shaming and bad faith criticism towards a female character's flaws. Nowadays, many fans have come to Ariel's defence for her display of a three-dimensional personality - someone who is flawed and makes mistakes, but still has a lot of virtues and an active role in her story. What also helps is that she is a teenager who has to put up with King Triton's short-sighted nature.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame: In her video about the movie, Lindsay Ellis defends the movie from accusations that it lost the real meaning of the original novel, firstly because the original theme, the lack of care for the architecture of France, is no longer relevant considering how much care France has for its historical buildings now, and the themes that the Disney adaptation has, justice for the oppressed, fascist behavior, treating women as objects and so on, are much more relevant to the time it was released. She ends the video by saying that those themes are even more relevant on the time of the video (2017), and the movie would probably be much more popular and less scrutinized if it came out now.
Lindsay: It's still a cut above what people give it credit for and I think it would be more appreciated if it came out today. Because we need stories like this today. Fascist abusive Frollo, justice for the oppressed, the focus on how some men really do loathe the object of their desire, the wholesale demonization of ethnic groups. Maybe this movie wasn't really appreciated in its time because it didn't resonate as much in 1996, but it does resonate more in 2017. [...] And consider that hokey as it may be at points, like Hugo's message about the importance of architecture in the 1830s, this might be what we need in our time.
- Pocahontas does get a lot of flak for its liberties with history, but it has also been noted to contain a powerful message about prejudice and how innocent people are still going to be hurt in a conflict, regardless of how justified it is. Even in the 2000s, media could often paint a Black-and-White Morality view of a conflict, so its messages about not dehumanizing your enemies hold up very well. And of course the fact that Pocahontas is undeniably the lead character - shown as powerful and brave, while also intelligent and caring - and she chooses to help her people rather than follow her love interest, still ending the film happy and whole even with the sadness that comes with separating from John Smith. Her actress Irene Bedard agrees:
"I think it is a beautiful story that talks about how we look at each other as human beings first, before anything else. We all share the same mitochondria."
- A Wedding (1978): Gay groomsman Reedley is devoid of any stereotypical traits, his sexuality is an Open Secret at the Military School, and no one displays any obvious homophobia toward him.
- Much of the anti-war message of All Quiet on the Western Front has lasted well past the 1930s. Not every war film made during that period has aged as well. The book the film was based on is an example as well.
- The Crapsack World of Brazil features a bureaucratic government that responds to terrorist attacks with a cut down on liberties and the detainment and torture of its citizens—meaning that a story made during the background of The Troubles takes on a whole new meaning in The War on Terror. Director Terry Gilliam even joked about wanting to sue George Bush and Dick Cheney for the unauthorized remake of his movie.
- The message of peace and understanding in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) has aged pretty well, even withstanding a remake of questionable quality.
- Few movies on the subject of the inherent madness of nuclear war have endured the way Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb has.
- The original Miracle on 34th Street of 1947 feels marvelously ahead of its time with Doris Walker being a senior business executive and a single mother with no one questioning her fitness at either because she is a woman. Its cutting attack on the overly commercialized holiday season seems far more relevant these days. Finally, it presents characters regarding a mentally ill man with delusions of being Santa Claus (maybe...) as nonetheless undeserving of institutionalization because despite his apparent delusion he is not a danger to himself or anyone else and he is still quite capable of taking care of himself on his own, subverting the Insane Equals Violent trope.
- The 1936 Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times has been praised for being even more relevant today with its satire of big business, the proliferation of technology, and the plight of the unprivileged in modern society.
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington portrayed Congress as morally bankrupt; full of bribery, deceit, and other underhanded techniques; absolutely unfriendly to newcomers; the movie being very cynical for the era (and especially for Frank Capra) despite having a happy ending. It seemed oddly pessimistic for its viewers at the time, but as the American government becomes more and more transparent, and more corruption scandals leak out with each passing year since Watergate (which wouldn't happen for another three decades), this film has reflected closer and closer to how Americans largely see Congress. Approval ratings for Congress are lower than ever now, and bipartisan faith in the U.S. president has plunged dramatically in the past two decades.
- Mädchen in Uniform was the first movie to have a pro-lesbian storyline (and the two females are explicitly in love). Not only that, but neither one dies (one attempts suicide, but is stopped by her classmates) or turns Psycho Lesbian. This movie was made in 1931 and it still has plenty of relevant themes and motifs in terms of feminism and lesbian sexuality, back when neither ideology had much mainstream acceptance.
- James Bond:
- The franchise at one time seemed to lose its relevance with the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, but after the trauma of September 11th and which resulted in The War on Terror and international terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, James Bond and his battles against eerily similar villainous groups like SPECTRE suddenly felt brilliantly pertinent again, as acknowledged in Skyfall.
- Even though it doesn't mention the internet, Tomorrow Never Dies paints a surprisingly accurate picture of mass media scaremongering tactics today. Elliot Carver's line "Words are the new weapons; satellites, the new artillery" seemed plain hammy when first released, but the rise of 24-hour news networks like Cable News Network, MSNBC, and Fox News, along with TV political pundits, increasingly polarized news judgments (including fake news and misinformation), and electronic warfare make Carver's line hit home harder than ever. In addition to that, the major reason why the villain launches his whole scheme is because China refused to allow him access into their markets, similar to how many Western companies are either banned or must submit to heavy Chinese regulation to be able to operate within China today. That Carver is a satire of media barons like Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner, William Randolph Hearst, etc. also makes sense given that the same news networks are owned by large conglomerates.
- Starship Troopers: At first glance a typical Hollywood soap action movie, but actually a deeply scathing critique of the book it was based on and militarism in general. Yet it later became popularized as a critique of The War on Terror, due to the many parallels between several parts of the movie—governments using acts of terror to justify war, sending countless people to their deaths, employing torture, etc. People who watch it today are even surprised that this film was actually produced half a decade before the Iraq war.
- Even though it was based on the (relatively) old French play La Cage aux folles, the 1996 American film The Birdcage did a very good job of updating the material for the '90s, and it still resonates in the 21st century. Of particular note is an outright mention of "same-sex marriage": not only was this a revolutionary concept at the time, but the very terminology was rare compared to the much blunter phrase "gay marriage."
- This happened to Demolition Man. In The New '10s, with Moral Guardians and their polar opposite being louder than ever before, both factions paint a pretty relevant picture. Especially with its surprisingly nuanced ability to portray both the positives and negatives of both sides of the argument, and how people like Raymond Cocteau and Simon Phoenix can and will weaponize things like political correctness and freedom of expression, respectively, for their own selfish ends without caring how its harming others.
- The King of Comedy is a surprisingly bleak deconstruction of celebrity culture, fandom culture, and the kind of obsessed person that would seek out their 15 Minutes of Fame with their idolized celebrity. All of this is more relevant with the rise of social media and the internet, where the biggest fans are unironically proud to be called "Stans" for their idols, social media has made it possible for them to keep track of their idols 24/7 and even interact with them more easily, and websites like YouTube and Twitter have made it so much easier for the ordinary person to be noticed not just by their idols but by everyone else for a brief moment.
- They Live! was made as a critique of the rampant consumerism, greed and shallow conformity of the 1980s. Over 30 years later, those messages show no signs of being dated anytime soon.
- Network was intended to be an over-the-top satire of the news media when it was produced. Forty years later, the points it makes about corporate-run, sensationalist media and its impact on society are, if anything, even more relevant. Arthur Jensen's speech about corporations being the real nations of the world today seem frighteningly prophetic after decades of increasing globalization and corporate 'synergy'.
- The concerns of Being There with style being elevated over substance seem more relevant every year.
- In the horror film The Rage: Carrie 2, a bunch of Jerk Jocks at a high school are targeted for death by a teenage girl whose best friend was Driven to Suicide due to a toxic combination of rape culture, machismo, and a MadonnaWhore Complex. This film was directed by a woman, and the aforementioned characters were loosely based on a real-life scandal from a few years prior involving high school athletes from the Spur Posse group treating their female classmates like sex objects. No, this film did not come out in 2016, inspired by the Steubenville rape case, Rolling Stone/UVA controversy, Brock Turner scandal, or anything of that kind. It was released in 1998, long before the current debate on campus rape, toxic masculinity and athlete entitlement, or support for fourth-wave feminism that addressed it, was anywhere close to the mainstream.
- The Best Years of Our Lives deals with soldiers having to return home from World War II and struggling to adjust to normal lives when they can no longer relate to their old friends and family. The message is one that has continued to endure, as films such as Stop-Loss demonstrate.
- WarGames was released in 1983, when personal computers were still new, and networking them was a decade away. Even though the subject of nuclear war isn't as relevant as it was during the Cold War (and, to be fair, the dangers of all-out nuclear war are so well-worn the relevant lesson enters Captain Obvious Aesop territory), the dangers presented by computer security threats are even more pertinent to the present than they were in The '80s now that Everything Is Online and talk of cyber-warfare abounds, and many of the basic security mistakes featured (such as putting a list of passwords on a sheet of paper right next to the computer) are sadly still with us today, toonote .
- Now, Voyager is very ahead of its time in its treatment of mental illness. Charlotte's mother believes her nervous breakdown is "all nonsense" that she needs to snap out of. Even after Charlotte has gone through counseling and therapy (and given herself a glamorous makeover) her life problems are not automatically solved - and she needs to work hard to properly take control of her life. The film is also very feminist, as Charlotte chooses not to get married because she doesn't love her fiancee - even if they would be a smart match - and she instead devotes her time to taking care of a young girl who's similarly dysfunctional, using her own experiences to help. The film ends with the implication that she'll use her family's wealth to help more people struggling with mental illness.
- Educating Rita subverts the Stay in the Kitchen mentality of Rita's husband and family, who expect her to have a baby by the age of twenty-six. When they disapprove of her desire to improve her life through education, she leaves her husband and starts her life over. Wanting to improve your life despite others around you trying to prevent it is a story that has endured well over time. Julie Walters said that for years other women came up to her and said the film inspired them to change their lives too.
- Christmas in Connecticut: This 1940s romantic comedy has a plot that could easily be written today. After it's revealed that a Martha Stewart-type magazine writer is a fraud who can't cook and is terrible at being a typical housewife, she ends up re-hired as a writer at double her original salary and gets engaged to a man who's perfectly happy to be the one more interested in child-rearing and housework.
- Natural Born Killers is a merciless shredding of the 24-hour tabloid news cycle that was just coming into its own in the early '90s, and has only grown since then.
- Videodrome: Although the movie takes it to acid-trip and Body Horror levels and applied to television, the medium du jour, its prediction that people would primarily contact each other through video screen machines, adopt "strange new names" (i.e. online avatars), and become increasingly intertwined with a virtual world has become more relevant with the prevalent role of the internet in everyday life. Even the satirical element of having unscrupulous Moral Guardians trying to control it to advance their own ideology has become strangely prophetic in light of the attacks on Internet Free Speech and FCC's repeal of net neutrality.
- Amazon Women on the Moon and their "Dial a Date" sketch. Rosanna Arquette's character has a machine in her home that allows her to dial up all kinds of ugly dirt on her prospective date. While the fax-line interface and printouts are very 80s, the idea that your date can and will dig up all kinds of dirt (substantiated or not) via social media and potentially weaponize said information is definitely relevant.
- Heathers is a particularly chilling example of this, as teen bullying, mass shootings, and suicide have only gained more prominence since the late 1980s. When the film first came out, it Crosses the Line Twice because of course, it was absurd that white, middle-class teenagers would want to slaughter their classmates. Now, however, it just crosses the line, to the point that a TV show based on the movie was repeatedly delayed and eventually dropped entirely. With two of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history happening within three months of each other in 2018, and these types of tragedies happening practically every week, it's always insensitive.
- Heathers also brings up rape culture in a way that was very unusual for the 80's, with Kurt and Ram unambiguously being portrayed as assholes for spreading a rumor about Veronica giving them oral sex and sexually assaulting Heather McNamara and it is not played for a joke. Heather Chandler is also being shown being pressured into giving a college guy oral sex and later is seen washing her mouth out with a traumatized expression on her face, later lashing out at Veronica who managed to resist the peer pressure to do so, implying that some of her Alpha Bitch tendencies are a cover for all she's sacrificed in the name of appearing popular and cool. J.D also slips a couple of notches down the villain scale when Veronica tries to break up with him and he shoves her back down on the sofa and plants a Forceful Kiss on her, though fortunately he doesn't go further once Veronica tells him to get lost.
- The movie also goes out of its way to show that getting rid of one bad person doesn't solve anything in the long run and that a victim can turn into a bully easily, as when Heather Chandler dies, Heather Duke promptly takes her place and starts bullying Heather McNamara in exactly the same way, much to the frustration of Veronica. When J.D suggests killing off Heather Duke as well, Veronica points out that killing Chandler just made her into a martyr and they can't go around murdering whoever they feel like, but J.D doesn't listen to her. This becomes all the more relevant in the New 10's with school bullying coming under much sharper focus.
- Daughter of Shanghai is a B-movie from the 30s that had Asian leads who averted any stereotyping, were able to be the heroes of the piece and the man and woman were shown to be equally competent. It was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress for this reason — and star Anna May Wong listed it as her favorite role.
- Flower Drum Song was notable for having an all-Asian cast of characters who averted most stereotypes and were played by Asian actors. The film toned down the patronizing aspects of the stage show and focused on the Culture Clash in San Francisco between Chinese natives and second-generation young people. The themes of trying to move with the times and still upholding traditions of your culture are very relevant.
- Born in East L.A. is a largely forgotten Cheech Marin comedy about an American-born man of Mexican heritage who is mistakenly deported to Mexico, a country he's never known. With immigration becoming a major political football, the themes of race, citizenship, and forced deportation of Mexican-Americans have never been more relevant.
- One reason the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy films, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith were Vindicated by History during The New '10s was that by that time, the trilogy's themes of the decline of democracy and the toxic influence of wealth in politics had become more relevant than before. When The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, people thought a trade war started by a Trade Federation was preposterous, but with subsequent events like the "Citizens United" Supreme Court case, which ruled that "corporations are people" and equated money with free speech, and the War in Iraq suspected of being driven by the desires of obtaining Iraq's oil supply, it didn't seem so outrageous anymore.
- The World of Suzie Wong pulls no punches in challenging the racism of rich white expats in Hong Kong towards the Chinese locals, features the titular Suzie supporting Robert financially for a time and depicts an interracial relationship where the race is almost incidental. Suzie is an Asian female lead with depth, an arc and subverts a lot of offensive Asian tropes of the day. She's also able to be funny without being a punch line or a Flawless Token.
- Shanghai Express from 1932 as shown here drops the anvil hard on Slut-Shaming by showing two female characters being empowered by their sexuality and depicting the characters who look down on them for it as pompous or in need of learning An Aesop. A religious man learns that prostitutes can have souls too. The women also save the day - Shanghai Lily by offering herself to Chang in exchange for Donald not being blinded (she turned down his previous offer, making it clear she has the power here) and Hui Fei by stabbing Chang as revenge for raping her. Hui Fei is a prominent Asian lead, shown as intelligent and resourceful and played by an actual Asian actor.
- The Company of Wolves from 1985 is a Feminist Fantasy of Red Riding Hood, subverting the Unfortunate Implications of the original tale by having the heroine learn to be empowered by her sexuality, and become more than capable of standing up to a predator. Its statements about female sexuality have aged very well.
- Early in Monty Python's Life of Brian, one of the (anatomically-male) members of the People's Front of Judea keeps insisting on gender-inclusive language; when Reg gets annoyed and demands to know why they're so insistent, they say they want to be a woman and asks everyone to call them Loreta. Reg dismisses this, since Loreta doesn't even have a womb... but then at the end of the movie, everybody casually calls her Loreta. This was a funny joke in 1979, but 40 years later, it comes across as a more sympathetic portrayal of transgenderism.
- Miss Congeniality:
- The film combats the Not Like Other Girls trope in a refreshing way. Gracie starts out initially being scornful of the pageant contestants, but as she gets to know them she becomes good friends with several of them and gains a lot of respect for both the girls and herself in the process, as by the end of the movie she's still a badass FBI agent and considerably more well-groomed and refined, showing that you can be both and they are not mutually exclusive.
- The movie also brings up rape culture when a drunk Cheryl rather nonchalantly admits her college professor sexually assaulted her. When a horrified Grace asks if she reported him, Cheryl says she didn't and then adds, "I know that happens all the time!" Grace tells Cheryl in no uncertain terms that it does not, that she should always report such things and then decides to try and teach Cheryl how to defend herself (though Cheryl passes out before she can get far), but Grace doesn't ever blame Cheryl for the incident or shame her for not telling anyone sooner, and Grace is inspired to use her training to do some impromptu self-defense lessons during the talent portion of the competition, so many young girls watching the show will see it and have something to fall back on.
- Black Christmas (1974) is considered to be just as resonant nowadays as it was in the 70s. To wit: the killer, who harasses the girls over the phone before he comes to kill them, is basically a woman-hating internet Troll before the internet. This harassment isn't taken seriously until it's too late, the film not-so-subtly blaming the community for allowing it to reach that point and fester within their midst (the famous line "the calls are coming from inside the house" can just as easily be seen as metaphorical). Finally, its portrayal of its sorority sister protagonists is quite sex-positive, especially by the standards of the time and the genre, including having the Final Girl not only be sexually active, but planning to get an abortion despite the wishes of her boyfriend.
- Strange Days: The 1995 film presents a dystopian Los Angeles of 1999 in which the police are growing increasingly militarized, violent and racist. The murder of a black man during a traffic stop drives the plot. In modern times, issues with police militarization, violence and racism have all become even greater causes for concern, with fatal encounters between black men and police receiving significant coverage and controversy.
- El Norte is a 1983 film centered around an immigrant couple from Guatemala who flee from a hostile living situation to the United States in hopes of a better life, only to face a variety of challenges, such as tension with other Latinos (the protagonists natively speak Mayan, not Spanish), the culture shock they face when they finally settle in the U.S., to crackdowns on undocumented immigrants like the two protagonists. All of which still affect millions of Latino immigrants today, especially in the 2010's when the U.S. federal government doubled down on enforcing immigration protocols to the letter.
- Scary Movie, of all things. A recurring gag throughout each movie is that while the wholesome white girl is guaranteed to live (though she does get hit by a car in the first film's conclusion), all the black characters are fully aware that they only exist to be killed off. With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, audiences are now more likely to sympathize with the black characters.
Brenda: Another little white girl done fell down a well. Fifty black people got their ass beat by police today, but the whole world gotta stop for one little whitey down the hole.
- The Caine Mutiny's far more sympathetic portrayal of Captain Queeg compared to the book version and Greenwald's verbal beatdown to the mutineers for continuing to give Queeg nothing but attitude and thinking only of how his paranoia and instability affected them instead of trying to help him when it should have been clear to them he was suffering from mental illness is more poignant than ever due to the greater awareness of the problems of untreated PTSD in the military and the selfish attitudes of people in general toward The Mentally Ill.
- The Three Stooges Meet Hercules has an opening narration about the heroes of the past. One of these is Leif Erikson, who "discovered the New World centuries before Columbus". This was in 1962, a time when general consensus was that Columbus discovered the New World, which today is all but discredited in favor of Leif.
- While Mac and Me is largely known for being a gloriously bad movie, it's also one of the few movies whose primary protagonist—not Token Minority—is in a wheelchair, isn't Inspirationally Disadvantaged, and whose character doesn't revolve around their disability. It was rare when the movie was released in 1988, and it's still fairly unusual... for all the movie's other glaring flaws.
- Part of the reason for The Craft's enduring popularity as a Cult Classic is down to this:
- Some of the themes explored in the film around slut-shaming, sexual entitlement, bullying, mental illness and suicidal ideation in teens are (sadly) still as relevant in the 21st century as they were in 1996, if not even more so considering the rise of cyberbullying, increasing awareness and understanding of mental illness, and movements such as Me Too and Time's Up to raise awareness about and combat rape and sexual harassment. The Craft also notably averts Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: the scene where Nancy is caught seducing a drunken Chris by glamouring herself to look like Sarah (which could be considered rape by deception, as well as taking advantage of an intoxicated person) is depicted as disturbing and crossing a moral boundary.
- When it comes to mental illness, Sarah is not demonized for her suicide attempts in the past - nor is she shown as weak or unstable. Her arc is that of a mental health survivor simply trying to live her life and, although she is triggered multiple times by bad influences and has her dark moments, she finds an inner strength and comes out on the other side. And this is well before films such as The Babadook started incorporating legitimate mental health struggles into the horror genre.
- Can't Hardly Wait:
- While there are some homophobic moments in the film, Preston's mellow reaction to being Mistaken for Gay by the stripper has aged decently.
- In one scene, an Abhorrent Admirer forcefully grabs and kisses Amanda for several seconds without permission as she struggles. When he argues that she was giving him signs that he wanted it, Amanda's reaction makes it clear that what he did was not okay and is deserving of scorn.
- Kenny's friends get chased out of the house when they try to invoke N-Word Privileges.
- The Distinguished Gentleman (1992) is a comedy about a conman who gets himself elected to Congress, but is appalled at how much influence wealthy interests have in Washington D.C., a problem that has only become more apparent today than it was at the time.
- Gaslight examines psychological abuse that can happen in marriages and relationships, and Paula comes out the other end able to confront her abuser and not let what he did to her rule her life.
- Dead Poets Society (1989): Though set in 1959, Neil's suicide is all the more topical as awareness of mental health issues among men became a major talking point in The New '10s - spurred on, ironically enough, by the suicide of Robin Williams himself in 2014. And the thing that led to Neil's death was that he couldn't deal with the immense pressure from his father to succeed in academics, as nowadays, many students of all ages are also having trouble with that same sort of pressure.
- It's a Wonderful Life:
- The film's lambasting of the amoral way Potter runs the town bank, up to and including flat-out robbing his customers, remains ever relevant in light of the Great Recession, as is him getting away with it, and being untouchable despite all the stuff he does.
- The present day timeline has many references to the war and how it affected daily life. However the fact that it showed Pottersville as being a seedy and decrepit place compared to the wholesome Bedford Falls actually made it out of place for 1946, and likely led to the film not being a hit at the time. Remember that in addition to having just lived through WWII Americans had spent the previous decade living through the Great Depression as well. As a result a fun place like Pottersville was much more appealing to the average American than a poor sleepy place like Bedford Falls.
- Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A woman is raped, escapes the rapist, falls in love, and is rejected by her husband because she's not a virgin anymore. She then is forced to become her rapist's mistress in order to survive. This was presented as a tragedy—with the heroine being innocent—and controversial in the time it was written, while nowadays most people would agree that of course Tess is not to be blamed for the rape, and that the double-standard her husband (who lost his virginity in consensual sex) uses to justify his leaving her is despicable. The message against victim-blaming is still an anvil that needs to be dropped, sadly, even though attitudes on virginity have relaxed.
- Les Misérables is sadly resonant with society today, seeing men persecuted simply for their past reputation, families dividing over petty issues as political fanaticism, officials emphasizing rules over care and consideration, and scoundrels abusing their position of 'caretaker' simply for the money. Victor Hugo's urging that these ills must be faced is every bit as relevant today as they were in post-Revolutionary France. This is acknowledged by Upton Sinclair in his preface to the novel: "...so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless."
- Upton Sinclair's own novel The Jungle may have led to the creation of the FDA and food safety laws, but many workers and immigrants, especially in non-unionized workplaces, are still suffering as much as in the novel over a century later.
- Uncle Tom's Cabin, particularly the ideas of passive resistance and racial equality. It wasnt until after the Civil Rights Era that Harriet Beecher Stowe was fully vindicated as being on the right side of history.
- The Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Yellow Face": The sympathetic treatment of interracial marriage, which in its time was (consciously) controversial, now comes across as proper and endearing; so much so that readers who aren't aware of historical prejudices could find the plot, which revolves around an attempt to conceal said interracial marriage, confusing and unnecessary.
At the bottom I struck my head against a stone, and I remembered nothing more. When I came to myself I was lying among some low bushes, not far from the railroad track, and somebody was bathing my head with a wet handkerchief. It was Sparrow MacCoy."I guess I couldn't leave you," said he. "I didn't want to have the blood of two of you on my hands in one day. You loved your brother, I've no doubt; but you didn't love him a cent more than I loved him, though you'll say that I took a queer way to show it. Anyhow, it seems a mighty empty world now that he is gone, and I don't care a continental whether you give me over to the hangman or not."He had turned his ankle in the fall, and there we sat, he with his useless foot, and I with my throbbing head, and we talked and talked until gradually my bitterness began to soften and to turn into something like sympathy. What was the use of revenging his death upon a man who was as much stricken by that death as I was?
- Overall the original Sherlock Holmes stories are either Fair for Its Day or this trope when it comes to race or gender. The Ku Klux Klan makes an appearance as a deadly effective but unsympathetic terrorist organization— which it was for most of its existence but was not universally perceived as such until long after its demise. Even the portrayal of Sherlock bears mention, as he is a relatively well-written, if very high-functioning, autistic savant avant la lettre (if you had to diagnose him with modern terms), whose depiction is especially notable for the fact that he is shown to be capable of living a fulfilling independent life and is not utterly helpless outside of his specialized strengths. Small wonder that when the 2010 series was airing, it amassed a large number of autistic fans who identified with Sherlock.
- A Scandal in Bohemia probably deserves special mention, as Watson notes Holmes being dismissive of womens' intellect and then being bested by Irene Adler - not merely because she is really good at what she does, but more importantly because Holmes makes truly asinine mistakes merely because he does not expect her to act intelligently (with a principal mistake being that Holmes does not immediately seize upon the photograph once he has tricked Adler into revealing its whereabouts but leaves it for later, giving Adler time to not just make her exit but also figure out the truth behind Holmes's trick). Watson then goes on to note that that episode was the end of Holmes's misogynism.
- One of the key motivations behind Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' revamping of the character when creating Sherlock was their realization that Dr. Watson's backstory as a wounded and invalided veteran of a British military campaign in Afghanistan was, in light of The War on Terror, just as relevant at the beginning of the twenty-first century as it had been at the end of the nineteenth when the stories were first being written.
- Sherlock Holmes is what would be known today as asexual and aromantic, as his total lack of romantic/sexual interest is consistently presented; while this was probably written into his character to emphasize how dedicated he is to logical pursuits, he's also never accused of or implied to be sociopathic or otherwise mentally ill, and aside from one dehumanizing "he's like a machine" comment from Watson, Holmes' staunch bachelorhood is neither made fun of, nor is it treated as a saintly, unattainable ideal. This was in an era and place were people were generally expected to get married, as marriage was an important part of forging connections, cementing your place in the social ladder, and producing heirs for any fortune you might have. He's just a human who is accepted for who he is. Original ACD Holmes, that is— most adaptations tend to ignore or overlook this (though to be fair, this is a Values Dissonance in it of itself, as until fairly recently asexuality wasnt too well known as an actual orientation, with most characters such as Holmes being perceived as simply Chaste Heroes). The 1984-1994 Granada Sherlock Holmes largely follows the ACD portrayal (including the glimpses of Holmes' empathy that are often downplayed in modern interpretations like House and Sherlock), as does the BBC radio series starring Clive Merrison that was broadcast throughout the 1990s and 2000s - though it is also possible to interpret some Ho Yay in Holmes and Watsons relationship as well.
- There's also a lesser-known non-Holmes mystery short story by Arthur Conan Doyle with the title The Man with the Watches, which is remarkably gay-positive or at least advocating for tolerance. Alright, the narrator is a homomisiac/transmisiac jerk, the story still ends in tragedy, and the gay couple are criminals (card sharps) willing to use violence, but the narrative supports the reading that the tragedy wouldn't have happened if the narrator hadn't been such a bigoted bully, and the surviving partner of the pair (who'd been presented as a "seducer of the innocent" by the narrator up to that point) is explicitly shown to not be evil or inhuman. And for a mainstream author in the Victorian era, writing this story for the family-friendly, middle-class The Strand magazine, a story that not only shows the "love that dare not speak its name" in fairly unmistakable ways at all, but also invites the reader to sympathize with the gay characters, is pretty amazing already. Basically, the whole thing wouldn't feel out of place as an episode of Ripper Street, which combines modern social sensibilities with sometimes pretty bigoted protagonists. note
- The oeuvre of Charles Dickens frequently comments on the plight of the disadvantaged, perhaps best known in his works A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, and A Tale of Two Cities. As income inequality continues to widen in many parts of the world, these themes remain just as relevant as ever.
- A Christmas Carol is also an interesting case in that it helped in creating its own Values Resonance; the wholesome, family and generosity-centric Christmas it presents actually wasnt the mainstream way Christmas was celebrated at the time, until that point being mostly a strictly religious holiday or an excuse for adults to get drunk. While forcing workers to work on Christmas may be presented as a Kick the Dog moment among a long string of them from Scrooge, at the time it would have been fairly common. Exploitative bosses forcing their employees to work even on holidays is probably something that still resonates with many people, especially those in retail.
- Tibullus, an ancient Roman poet who lived in the 1st century BC wrote an elegy (the eleventh) where he states that war is madness and wishes for peace.
- Robert "Rabbie" Burns' poem Holy Willie's Prayer, written in 1785 about a hypocritical church elder who condemns others for perceived transgressions, whilst giving spurious justifications about his own. Compare with the various evangelists caught out and their own justifications for their behavior today.
- The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner was a brilliant look at psychology and the use of religion to excuse yourself while denouncing everyone else. It was written in 1824 by a poor Scottish farmer.
- All Quiet on the Western Front has actually been said to resonate with some people more than the more modern War Is Hell novels do. It's required reading in many schools in both the US and Germany. Its general War Is Hell message works particularly well with the anti-military values transmitted by the German education system ever since the end of World War 2. Also, it teaches teenagers not to blindly follow authority, especially not jingoistic adults who tell them that it's "glorious" to fight and die for one's country.
- 1984 was thankfully not an accurate prediction of The '80s. Yet its message of extreme surveillance became even more prevalent in the following years, particularly once The War on Terror led to a bump in government-endorsed CCTV and wiretaps. It says something that once Edward Snowden leaked NSA's surveillance info, the book's sales skyrocketed.
- Brave New World (1931) still manages to resonate. Some have argued that it's actually more relevant today than it was in its time, as people seem increasingly willing to give up their rights in the name of immediate pleasure and entertainment. It also predicted greater drug use and looser sexual mores, though in the book this went much further than reality. Aldous Huxley himself began dreading his nightmare vision of the world was coming true a lot sooner than he predicted.
- Fahrenheit 451 predicts iPods, earbuds, flatscreen TVs, Video Games, the decline of quality in public schools, prescription drug abuse, people abandoning books and their loved ones for new media, and everyone living in fear over war. The book's plot imagines a world where people have become so averse to complex thought and discomfort that they have censored all books to avoid offense and spend all their time fixated on insipid entertainment. This has become even more relevant today, with the propagation of "outrage culture" policing what people can and cannot say to avoid causing offense, as well as the rise of simplified and bite-sized avenues of expression through social media. The 2018 film adaptation updates the setting to highlight social media and emojis, showcasing the continuing relevance of the story.
- Maurice was written in 1913 but wasn't published until 1971 because it had the weirdo idea that homosexuals could actually have happy endings that didn't involve death or being cured of their mental illness (yes, once upon a time, homosexuality was considered a mental problem — in fact it was listed as such until 1973 in the US).
- The sentiments of Siegfried Sassoon's poem "Aftermath" resonate just as strongly today as they did immediately following World War I, perhaps even more so given all that's happened since it was written in 1920. This is, in fact, true of many of the anti-war poems that came out of the First World War.
- The E.M. Forster story "The Machine Stops" must have seemed wildly far-fetched when it was published in 1909. Now, aspects of the story make one wonder if Forster had done some time-traveling to the early 21st century.
- In Sir Walter Raleigh's The Nymph's Reply to The Shepherd the nymph rejects all the riches promised to her by the shepherd, claiming these things get old after a while. It reads like an indictment of consumerism and materialism in the era of Wal-Mart and Costco.
- Don Quixotes satire will live as long as the justice system will be made of human judges capable of corruption that let criminals go for a price. Or as the people who direct The Government only care about ruling the people without making any effort to enhance the lives of his subjects. Or while the Moral Guardians are useless because of his own Condescending Compassion. Or while there are people who fanatically defend any kind of entertainment work no matter its faults. Those examples are only a few
- Gone with the Wind, published in the 1930s, actually Deconstructed the stereotypical Southern Belle and many tropes concerning the antebellum South. The heroine Scarlett O'Hara also commented on how she was disapproved of for running her own business in order to take care of her dependents, which is even more relevant in modern society now that more women take on jobs.
- The titular heroine of Jane Austen's Emma learns that interfering in others' love lives is wrong, and nobody has any right to assume they know everyone else and their circumstances well enough to arrange their destinies for them, especially when it comes to romance. 200 years later, and we still haven't learned that lesson.
- Another Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice, aside from its perpetually relevant moral of not prejudging others or thinking too highly of yourself because of your status, showcases the perils of marrying for convenience or looks and elevates the notion of marrying for love, an ideal that would have been considered rather quixotic at the time. Many of its characters will also be eerily familiar to modern readers, both in real life and in contemporary fiction: Mrs. Bennet, the crass gossip and social climber; Mr. Bennet, the distant husband who openly mocks his wife and daughters for kicks; Lydia, the bratty, reckless teenager who sees nothing wrong with her irresponsible behaviour and ultimately ends up screwing up her own life; Jane, who is so nice and self-effacing that she endangers her own happiness; Wickham, who fools everyone with his charm but is in fact a mid-functioning sociopath; Caroline and Lady Catherine, the Rich Bitches; and of course, Elizabeth, the intelligent, perceptive, quick-witted protagonist with a playfully snarky sense of humor. The characters resonant enough today that a modern-day adaptation in the form of a video blog, which for the most part did not change the main characters' personalities and struggles, was frequently thought to be a real video blog by many first-time viewers (apparently fewer people have read Pride and Prejudice than one would like to think).
- By The Waters Of Babylon by Stephen Vincent Benét is a post-apocalyptic short story about a primitive man exploring Ruins of the Modern Age. Despite being written in 1937, it might well have been an archetypal post-nuclear story from the 1950s or 1960s.
- Similarly, there's the short poem There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale which considering its topic of humanity's self-destruction through apocalyptic war and its Gaia-theory-like environmental sensibilities seems like it could have been written in the 1980s or later. In fact, it was published in 1918 — 25 years before the invention of the nuclear bomb.note
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
- The Great Gatsby as a critique of the emotionally and morally vacuous upper class of America. It's really no wonder it received another film adaptation in 2013.
- When Invisible Man was written by Ralph Ellison in 1952, white racism was a topic scarcely touched upon in the mainstream culture. Invisible Man discusses that a lot... and it also discusses black racism, liberal guilt, the Black Power movement...
- The Adventures of Pinocchio, the children's novel from 1883, has prompted many computer scientists nowadays to see parallels between Pinocchio, a man-made being who wants to become a "real boy", and artificial intelligence, decades before other such media like I, Robot.
- Judy Blume's book Blubber is a book about bullying. This was written in 1974. Its grimly realistic outlook and lack of sugarcoating made it the target of Moral Guardians, but with an increased focus on the effects of bullying and the growing anti-bullying movement, it's as relevant as ever.
- In his 1907 novel Le Meraviglie del Duemila ("The Marvels of the Year 2,000"), Emilio Salgari imagined a world in which every country had renounced war due to all of them having access to what are basically nuclear weapons, anticipating Mutually Assured Destruction and its fear.
- The morals of most, if not all, of Aesop's Fables are timeless and deal with fundamental aspects of human nature.
- Vilhelm Moberg's four book suite collectively referred to as The Emigrants is almost more topical today than when it was originally written in the 1940s and 50s. The story is set in the mid-19th century and follows a group of people in Småland, Sweden, who become the first in the parish to emigrate to America. The first book ("The Emigrants") follows the characters until they have landed on American soil and the following three ("The Immigrants", "The Settlers" and "The Last Letter Home") chronicles how they build a new life in their new homeland and stays with the characters until most of them are dead. Among the group of emigrants are Karl Oskar Nilsson, a farmer who can't provide for his family at home and dreams of the vast farm land of North America, and his wife Kristina, who doesn't want to emigrate but agrees after their oldest child dies of starvation. Karl Oskar prospers in the New World but Kristina spends her life plagued by homesickness and never becomes "Americanized" or even learns the language. While the Swedish mass-emigration to the US isn't exactly an ongoing thing, the core of the story is very, very topical as of this post being written in 2015. The number of refugees worldwide today from impoverished third world countries, the debates on whether or not they should be allowed to enter the countries they flee towards, and the growing anti-immigrant sentiment on the right and pro-immigrant on the left, makes the story feel very modern and relevant. The characters in the novel are all so well-written and fleshed out and their various hardships so relatable that even though they are 19th-century peasants from Protestant Sweden they can easily be recognized in people of all origins and faiths in modern times. In particular, their voyage across the ocean in the first book is almost uncomfortable to read about (and watching it in the movie) today when there are so many people still risking their lives on the seas to escape to a better life. Sweden itself is today oftentimes hailed as a land of milk and honey in the countries that see a lot of its citizens fleeing there, which comes off as ironic as the character Robert constantly hails America that same way in the first two novels.
- The Secret Garden:
- The book is written in the early 1900s but contains a rather progressive attitude towards classism and racism. Mary displays racism towards her servants in India and even gets violent with them if they don't do her bidding - and it's used to show her as a brat. Martha likewise calls Mary out for her anger at Martha assuming she'd be "a native". And it's illustrated that bringing such a young girl up to think she's inherently superior to everyone around her - just because of her birth status - is what made Mary so dysfunctional in the first place.
- The book criticizes the hell out of neglectful parenting too. Mary's parents were distant and just foisted her into the care of various servants, which is what led to her becoming so cold and sour, to begin with. It also shows that non-malicious neglect can still be damaging; Colin's father doesn't neglect him out of laziness or cruelty - he's just broken by his wife's death. But the story goes out of its way to show that children need love and care from their parents. This is from an era where upper-class children were handed off to nannies and governesses, treated more like heirs to hand the property over to than actual human beings.
- The World According to Garp contains an early transgender character, Roberta Muldoon, who In-Universe makes a highly publicized transition from a professional football player to an activist for women's rights. The character is treated in a surprisingly serious manner, in that she's rarely played for laughs (or at least no more so than the rest of the cast) and is one of the few characters who come across as consistently kind, generous, and level-headed (she experiences deep regret that she did not take the bullet that killed Jenny Fields and later serves as an affectionate substitute mother for the Garp children after their own parents die). There is a particularly touching scene after Roberta's death in which televised sportscasters make a point of honoring her life's work by not misgendering her.
- Although Mark Twain's anti-religious works may look very old-fashioned or even strange from the point of view of modern readers when the church has much less power and influence over Western countries, his other works are still surprisingly perceptive. In particular, although formally colonialism is already in the past, the idea that large states do not have the right to manipulate or dictate their will to weaker countries only on the basis of the law of force remains relevant even now, especially in the context of geopolitics.
- The Divine Comedy:
- Even after seven centuries that saw Christian society change radically, The Divine Comedy continues to be admired throughout the Church for its genius portrayal of a life that begins in sin and misery, strives to do better, and ultimately finds rest in Love. It is difficult to find a better endorsement for an author than to have the Pope call you a "prophet of hope" when your poem sets a few Popes on fire.
- Although he affirms his respect for the Papacy and the Church's authority, Dante spares no venom when cutting down the corruption in the priesthood and religious orders, and has no problem using the Saints as mouthpieces for the sake of this condemnation. Hearing this from the greatest Catholic poet of all time earned the work special appreciation from the Protestants who sought to reform the Church and those struggling with faith in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal.
- A Canticle for Leibowitz revolves around the efforts of a post-apocalyptic abbey of monks to preserve the wisdom and literature of the pre-war world for posterity in the wake of a backlash against intellectuals known as the 'simplification'. In some places in the world today, the Catholic clergy are still doing this.
- Annie on My Mind is a book about two high school girls who are lesbians and fall in love, with a heavy emphasis on pro-acceptance. This kind of book featuring gay characters is pretty common these days, but remember, this was published in 1982, just after the AIDS crisis began and homophobia was incredibly rampant. Some people even burned the book in public for daring to have sympathetic lesbian characters who got a happy ending, and weren't cured, made villains, or killed. It helps that the author was a lesbian who had difficulty accepting herself and being accepted by others and wrote the book based on her own experiences. The Gay Aesop is one certain people still can't get through their heads today, but its messages are just as important now as they were in the 80s.
- While H. P. Lovecraft's Out of the Aeons is a shining example of his notoriously antiquated racial politics one thing that does ring truer than ever today is that it also showcases Lovecraft's utter disgust towards sensationalistic tabloid journalism and the kind of people who are attracted to it.
- A Confederacy of Dunces
- In the beginning, Ignatius goes into a rant on how corrupt New Orleans has become, listing off all the vices and crimes going on there. Among things like drug addicts, prostitutes, and gamblers, he lists "sodomites" and lesbians. Of course, arch-conservative that he is (or thinks he is), he would probably say the same thing today. Part of this is because Ignatius is supposed to be an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist who thinks civilization took a wrong turn at the Renaissance, so having his views become slightly more out of date doesn't really change his characterization at all.
- Burma Jones's experiences with racism as a black man in 1960s Louisiana are pretty relevant in the present. Not just the blatant discrimination he suffers from the police and in the workplace, but the casual racism he faces from the more sympathetic white characters. Ignatius's sham rally of Levy Pants's black workforce shows how social justice movements can either be ineffective or also be manipulated for selfish reasons.
- John Brunner:
- Stand on Zanzibar, written by in 1968 and set in 2010, describes among other things people being overwhelmed by information, which is provided at all times in small, sensational chunks and is also personally tailored to them.
- The Sheep Look Up, written in 1972 and set in unspecified future, deals with environmental problems, famine in underdeveloped countries, lack of corporate responsibility—as well as the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. All still valid concerns today.
- The Handmaid's Tale, originally written in 1985, fell into this following the release of the 2017 television series. Much of the book's themes of sexism and religion creeping into politics seem just as relevant today as they did 30 years ago. Handmaids became a staple of left-wing protests nowadays, especially those dealing with women's rights (particularly abortion).
- In its portrayal of a young woman trying (and failing) to handle misbehaving children who are being ignored by their wealthy parents, Agnes Grey feels resonant with the difficulties that modern teachers and childcare employees have to go through.
- Oliver Button is a Sissy, a children's picture book published in 1979, stars a boy who doesn't enjoy sports and prefers singing and tap dancing. Even though the other boys make fun of him for it (the title comes from a mocking message written on the wall of his school), he keeps doing what he loves. In the end, he finds validation after performing at a talent show and then coming back the next day to find that the graffiti, instead of "Oliver Button is a Sissy," now reads "Oliver Button is a Star!" The book's message is especially meaningful in the 21st century, when it's become much more accepted for boys to enjoy things perceived as feminine, or girls to enjoy things perceived as masculine.
- Duke Nukem Does the Internet is an instructional book released in 1996, in which Duke Nukem himself helps the reader set up an internet connection and teaches them how to safely browse the web (yes, it's real). Although most of the advice in the book is obviously outdated, one notable passage has him warn the reader that Usenet's accessibility, combined with its valorization of free speech over everything, led to some parts of it becoming a haven for Nazis, racists, homophobes, and other unsavory types. While modern internet users might be left scratching their heads about what the hell Usenet even is, many other modern-day social media platforms, such as Reddit and Twitter, are commonly used by bigots, so the message about avoiding parts of these sites where these groups congregate and watching out for trolls who share their hateful rhetoric in unrelated spaces is even more important nowadays than it was in The '90s.
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld series was published over a span of 32 years, from 1983 to 2015. While it certainly tackled topics of the day as it went on, even thirty year old entries show remarkable resonance with today's topics and values. This is because one of the foundational tenets of the series is that people are people. They may be bastards, they may be saints, but above all, they are people, and the core of many sins and crimes is to treat people as things.
- Voltaire defended freedom of speech, religious toleration and secularism in a time when these things were highly controversial notions (totally contrary to French laws). Not only with words either-he campaigned to save religious dissidents persecuted under his country's government, saving some. He also criticized slavery harshly. Voltaire endorsed cultural pluralism, saying Europeans had slandered the Chinese since they held different beliefs, praising Confucianism, Hinduism and the Persian culture at a time when Western thinkers often disparaged Asian people wholesale. He also praised Native Americans, such as the Incan Empire.
- Earth's Children: The Valley of Horses (published in 1982) and The Plains of Passage (published in 1990) both contain scenes where a man, namely Jondalar, is sexually harassed by women, and rather than it being Played for Laughs, downplayed or portrayed as a 'seduction', it's Played for Drama and condemned. Jondalar being surrounded and groped by a group of women despite his protests greatly upsets him and culminates in him pushing one woman to the ground; he regrets hurting her but she is also told to apologize to him for her unwanted overtures. Shamud points out that no one ever wants sex to be forced on them and that there's a huge difference between encouraging someone and forcing them. Later, when Jondalar finds out Attaroa has been known to offer captive men freedom in exchange for having sex with her, he's repulsed and calls Attaroa out, saying it's a perversion of "the Mother's Gift".
- The Once and Future King: Mordred's conception is portrayed in a particularly disturbing manner, with Arthur's seduction by his half-sister Morgause basically being presented as sexual assault by an older woman towards an inexperienced man, completely averting Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male and not in any way being played for laughs. Arthur is treated sympathetically for this and not at all at fault, being taken advantage of. With growing awareness of the effects of sexual assault on men in the 21st century this comes across as a much more positive message.
- The Twilight Zone (1959):
Now the questions that come to mind: Where is this place and when is it? What kind of world, where ugliness is the norm and beauty the deviation from that norm? You want an answer? The answer is...it doesn't make any difference. Because the old saying happens to be true. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In this year or a hundred years hence. On this planet... or wherever there is human life, perhaps out amongst the stars. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lesson to be learned... in The Twilight Zone.
- "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" is a classic episode about aliens who use good old-fashioned human prejudice and hysteria while they just watch and laugh. This was an allegory for the Red Scare, warning how communism is a danger, but the self-destructive anti-communist hysteria among the American people at the time was actually the best way for the real communists to win. The episode was remade for The Twilight Zone (2002), with the communist threat changed to terrorism. No other changes were made... or needed.
- "He's Alive" is another good contender, on how we keep monsters like Adolf Hitler alive so long as we spread intolerance, no matter of what kind.
- "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" and its theme of over conformity and the Hollywood obsession with beauty (especially female beauty) is probably even truer today than it was back then. Eerily, it takes place in the year 2000.
- "Eye of the Beholder" has similar themes. The Closing Narration even invokes this:
- "Night of the Meek" (the Christmas episode) is basically a big Aesop about belief and the goodness of charity and giving as opposed to blindly and selfishly asking and receiving. Its message is even truer today, as the commercialization of the holidays is greater than ever.
- "The Shelter" is a good example, whose message is somewhat similar to 'The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street', showing how when people turn on each other in times of crisis, it only leads to destruction. Incidentally, "The Shelter" is one of only a few episodes that keeps a fully realistic setting (no science fiction or supernatural elements), driving the point home that much harder due to the fact that it comes off as something that could actually happen in real life.
- Thanks to theories on global climate change that are increasingly agreed to be true, the depiction of people going mad and dying from extreme heat in "The Midnight Sun" is far more unsettling today. And that's an episode that wasn't intended to be a moral lesson at all!
- The infamous Diff'rent Strokes episode "The Bicycle Man" is best remembered for dealing with molestation, but the writers actually threw in a line that shot down the notion that All Gays Are Pedophiles, with a detective telling Willis that there's a world of difference between gay men and child molesters.
- Star Trek has managed to come up with many stories that are excellent examples of this trope.
Spock: An inexorable evolution toward a Vulcan philosophy has already begun. Like the first Vulcans, these people are struggling to new enlightenment and it may take decades or even centuries for them to reach it but they will reach it... and I must help.
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" demonstrates the absurdity of racism when an alien with a half white / half black face expressing contempt for another of his race because "His face is white on the right side. All his people are white on the right side!" This was relevant during the Civil Rights movement of the late 1960s when it aired. It still applies unnervingly well to all the racial and religious fanaticism of the early 21st century.
- An episode of Star Trek: Enterprise made during the 21st century depicted a similar issue but with regard to the destructive power of religious extremism, purposely made as a tribute to "Last Battlefield" to show that this type of story is just as true, if not more, today.
- The theme of TOS's "A Taste of Armageddon", about the dehumanizing effects of computerized warfare, was haunting enough in 1967, when the computer was still in its infancy. Today, with things like UAVs and computer-guided missiles becoming indispensable parts of modern warfare, it hits harder than ever. Its message that when war becomes convenient and easy people stop trying to find peace is also relevant in an America that spent 20 years fighting a war in Afghanistan that cost trillions of dollars and resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths while most Americans went on with their lives completely unaffected and barely thinking about it.
- "The Devil in the Dark" has always aged beautifully with a Green Aesop theme that gradually becomes obvious in a natural way.
- "The Omega Glory" is extremely divisive, especially among international Trekkies, but its message of how dangerous jingoism and nationalism can be still rings true, particularly since the surge of hyper-jingoism that emerged in the US after the September 11th attacks. Especially after how NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick peacefully protested against police brutality by kneeling during renditions of the national anthem only to have conservative critics claim he was "disrespecting" both the flag and anthem. Kirk makes the admonition that "these words must apply to all, or they mean nothing!")
- The Next Generation's "The Drumhead" and Deep Space Nine's "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost" both carry strong messages of not sacrificing liberty in the name of security, messages that remain very important to this day.
- The episode "The Outcast" explored sexual orientation through a monogendered race, and their society is very strict on any individual who deviates from their norm. While the episode got flak for other issues (all of the monogender aliens were portrayed by women, making it seem more like militant lesbians harassing a heterosexual traitor), it took on new life as the in-show outrage over the violation of individual rights still hit hard and the sci-fi analogy made it applicable to many sexual orientation and transgender issues beyond its original intention.
- The TNG two-part episode "Unification" has Spock traveling to Romulus and helping a youth movement trying to restore peaceful ties between the Romulans and Vulcans. Nowadays, it isn't hard to compare Spock with politicians like Bernie Sanders in the US or Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, or for that matter progressive Trek actors like George Takei, as elder statesmen who strike a chord with younger activists hoping to make their world better. Spock's last lines to Picard still resonate thanks to the populist wave of The New '10s.
- Deep Space Nine originally aired in the 90s, but the series themes of handling the fallout from an occupation, religious extremism and necessary terrorism all became even more relevant after the invasion of Iraq.
- Dr. Bashir having been non-consensually genetically enhanced because his parents couldnt deal with his unspecified learning disability is still quite a relevant topic to autistic people in an age where autism is considered a literal Fate Worse than Death by anti-vaccination proponents, and autistic kids are still generally treated like they're idiots that can't do anything, or get abused (by family or other caretakers), fed bleach and even murdered.
- In the episode "Blood Oath" Kor greets his old friend Dax by her old name Curzon, but when told it's Jadzia now immediately corrects himself and uses her proper pronouns from then on. Even decades later it's one of the best examples of straightforward acceptance of a transgender friend in television.
- Star Trek: Voyager:
- The episode "Critical Care" — in which the Doctor is forced to try to ethically navigate an alien crapsack hospital where treatment is given based on the wealth of the patient, not medical need — would be an on-the-nose commentary about US healthcare if it aired today.
- In the episode "Blood Fever" Tom Paris refuses the advances of a Pon Farr-suffering B'Elanna Torres because she isn't in a state of mind to properly give consent. This has resonated with a lot of viewers with the increased publicity of various sexual assault scandals and the growing awareness of when a person cannot consent to sex.
- The episode "The Voyager Conspiracy", in which Seven of Nine absorbs months worth of information in a few hours and begins to hold paranoid delusions that both the captain and her second-in-command deliberately stranded the ship in the Delta Quadrant for a sinister purpose, has only gotten more relevant with the passing decades. Not just because real conspiracy theories have only gotten more popular since the episode aired, but because the nature of Seven's malfunction is very on-the-nose in the infobesity age.
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" demonstrates the absurdity of racism when an alien with a half white / half black face expressing contempt for another of his race because "His face is white on the right side. All his people are white on the right side!" This was relevant during the Civil Rights movement of the late 1960s when it aired. It still applies unnervingly well to all the racial and religious fanaticism of the early 21st century.
- In Blake's 7, Blake rebels against a totalitarian government that drugs its populace. He gets framed for molesting children. Hell, the entire series starts with a shot of a CCTV camera monitoring the citizens — before said cameras became ubiquitous in the UK.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus has the 'Prejudice Sketch', which not only portrays racism as ridiculous but does the same to homophobia in the 1970s; the "Blackmail" game show that looks almost tame compared to some modern reality shows ("no we don't morally censure sir, we just want the money!"); and all of the self-deprecation and the letters of complaint about The BBC still rings true, given how much flak the corporation often gets from other media outlets and Moral Guardians: "I'd like to complain about people who hold things up by complaining about people complaining, it's about time something was done about it".
- Family Matters:
- The episode "Good Cop, Bad Cop", in which Eddie is profiled by a racist cop, distressingly holds up water after the murder of Laquan McDonald revealed the racism and corruption in the Chicago Police Department.
- At the end of one episode of Monkey the narrator says, "To some of us, opinions are so precious that we will die for them". And then the internet came along...
- Doctor Who:
- "The Curse of Peladon" was an allegorical story about Britain's relationship with the European Economic Community, and all the xenophobia and genuine wariness such a thing entailed. It gained relevance again in 2016 when the Brexit referendum happened.
- "Carnival of Monsters", which involves a couple of carnies stuck in a nightmarish airport security line due to xenophobia, and ending up scapegoated as terrorists in a political coup, works a lot better in the post-The War on Terror era of zealous airport security and refugees being blamed for terrorist attacks, which is seen by another section of people as a way by unscrupulous politicians to gain support.
- The 1978 story "The Sunmakers" combines this with Broken Aesop. In 1978 it was a right-wing allegory about how taxation is evil, but in the late 00s and 10s, it's a left-wing Occupy allegory about how forcing the tax burden on the poor to benefit big corporations is evil. Complete with a gas that makes everyone afraid of being pumped into everyone's houses - an allegory for news media, which has become much more omnipresent and sensationalist since 1978.
- "Vengeance on Varos", despite being made in 1985, could easily be seen as parody of certain modern Reality TV shows, seeing as Varosian society (with televised Bread and Circuses entertainment and viewers voting if people live or die) almost seems to resemble Big Brother or The X Factor meets 1984.
- "O.B.I.T.", an episode of The Outer Limits (1963), is about an all-seeing surveillance device that constantly monitors the workers at a US government research lab, creating an atmosphere of paranoia by destroying their privacy. The O.B.I.T. machine turns out to have been invented by alien invaders who are using it to demoralize humanity, thus making it easier for them to take over. For a story written decades before The War on Terror and the resulting surveillance state, the episode is eerily prescient.
- It's surprising how relevant some of the political issues explored on Yes, Minister (though by no means all) still hold true in later decades. For example, one episode deals with upgrading the British nuclear deterrent to Trident, over time the issue has been replacing Trident; despite being set in the Cold War, it's portrayed as just as ridiculously pointless as many think it to be now. Other issues including government waste, data-gathering and privacy concerns, Britain's place in Europe... The episode where Hacker becomes Prime Minister, partially through twisting truth about a new EU directive and then claiming a great victory over Brussels, can even seem like an allegory for Boris Johnson, who is widely believed to have supported Brexit so he could become PM and before doing so made a name for himself in spreading fictitious stories about Brussels directives. He and Hacker even both have an obsession with portraying themselves as Churchill, which is used as a way to mock Hacker in that despite his pretensions of being a great statesman he is often hopelessly out of depth, which is an accusation often levied at Boris Johnson.
- While the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "I Robot, You Jane" is clearly made in the late nineties and occasionally veers into New Media Are Evil territory, the basic message of the episode - about being careful online, as people aren't always who they say they are - is more relevant now in an era when every teenager spends most of their time online, than it was when it aired back in 1997, when the internet was still a fringe interest and social media wasn't really a thing.
Xander: I mean, sure, he says he's a high school student, but I can say I'm a high school student.
Buffy: You are.
Xander: Okay, but I can also say that I'm an elderly Dutch woman. Get me? I mean, who's to say I'm not if I'm in the elderly Dutch chat room?
Buffy: I get your point. I get your point! Oh, this guy could be anybody.
- The Andy Griffith Show might come across as quaint and hokey at times, but in a time of increased tensions over Police Brutality and frequent police-involved shootings, a friendly, compassionate lawman who wants people to respect him for his integrity and commitment to justice, rather than fear him for his gun (which he rarely carries anyway) is very refreshing.
- Perfect Strangers: "Sexual Harassment in Chicago" has a magazine editor named Olivia make a pass at Balki and then threaten his job when he refuses her advances. The episode makes it clear that what this woman is doing is wrong and that sexual harassment in the workplace is unacceptable. What makes this episode especially great is that it came out in 1987 while a lot of modern fiction treats harassment or abuse of men by women as acceptable or funny.
- The Jerry Reed song "Lord, Mr. Ford", first released on the album with the same album in 1973 and criticizing the car-obsessed United States resonates quite uncomfortably in the Era of SUVs, global warming and Peak Oil.
Lord, Mr. Ford, how I wish that you could see
what your simple "horseless carriage" has become.
It seems your great contribution to Man
to say the least, got a little out of hand.
Lord, Mr Ford, what have you done?!
- Swedish singer Karl Gerhard wrote the song "Nu ska vi vara snälla" ("Let's be nice now") in the 1930s. One verse is about how Sweden has a minister of defense, but no actual defense, since what military it does have is constantly being reduced and downsized. Karl Gerhard's suggested solution to this is that when the enemy planes arrive in Sweden, all the Swedes will simply hide, so the enemy won't have anybody to fight. Now, over seventy years later, it's safe to say that the observation about the state of the military, as well as the suggested solution, is as relevant as ever.
- "I'm Afraid of Americans" (1997) by David Bowie is one big sardonic call-out towards the prevalence of gun violence, poverty, and overall degeneracy in American society. Granted, it's not as harsh towards America as "Born in the USA", but the message is still pretty powerful today, especially after several deadly mass shootings* brought the issue of gun control back into the public eye, police brutality became a serious issue, anti-immigration rhetoric became increasingly common, increased awareness in sexual harassment crimes with the #MeToo movement, the 2016 presidential election dividing Democrats and Republicans even further away from each other and the fact that 2016 was also the year Bowie died.
- While initially written as a song promoting racial harmony in the context of the Rodney King beating, "Black or White" by Michael Jackson easily resonates in the latter half of The New '10s as a call against identity politics as a whole, with increasing polarization among racial and political groups becoming a serious topic in public discourse and a point of disdain among moderates and centrists. Jackson's message of "why can't we all just get along" is a question that many of these people have been asking, with many agreeing that "Black or White" is especially necessary nowadays.
- The song "Spaceman" by Babylon Zoo features lyrics condemning "the sickening taste" of "homophobic jokes" and "images of fascist votes", lyrics that, while nowhere near as bad as back then, do continue to ring true today.
- A lot of the Pop Punk from the late 1970s onwards sounds more contemporary than one might think. There are rock songs from 1978 that for many listeners could pass for songs from 2008. (Try playing Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" or Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)" for a group of 14-year-olds sometime and kidding them that it's a "new" song; odds are at least one person will believe you.) It certainly helps that the style of and philosophy behind those earlier hits has made a major comeback in the 21st century. Most amusing of all, those '70s tunes have aged a lot better than the '80s New Wave hits that replaced them.
- "Biko" by Peter Gabriel was an ode to slain South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko. While apartheid has ended in South Africa, the lyrics remain relevant, with increased awareness of ongoing police brutality against black people in the West. With the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, and dozens of others, the song shines more light on the uncomfortable truth that killings like that of Biko are most certainly not the exception for countless black Americans.
- "Media Overkill" by Scorpions is about media manipulating people with lurid stories, which is just as if not even more relevant today.
- Also "Wind of Change", which was originally written about the end of the Soviet Union and being hopeful for the future, is now pretty relevant again with North and South Korea having a historic summit and finally putting an end to the Korean war after over 70 years. Ironically "Wind of Change" was played during the end credits of The Interview which features North Korea's dictatorship finally being broken up.
- Just about all of Bruce Springsteen's music remains popular around the world to this day because the themes of working-class desperation, growing cynicism, and hoping for a better life in the future are so timeless and universal. It's even explored in the 2019 film Blinded by the Light, a Coming-of-Age Story about a Pakistani-British teenager in the late '80s discovering Springsteen's music and realizing just how much the lyrics about '70s middle class New Jersey perfectly describe his own life's situation.
- If you listen to "American Skin (41 shots)" you could be forgiven for thinking that it was made in response to the various controversial police shootings in the mid 2010s like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Freddie Gray, and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In actually, it was released in "2001", in response to the controversial shooting of Amadou Diallo, who was indeed shot 41 times, after pulling out his walletnote .
- The Rolling Stones' song "Mother's Little Helper" deals with prescription drug abuse, which is as relevant today as it was in the '60s.
- The message of just living in a simple of the world where there's nothing worth fighting or dying for presented in John Lennon's "Imagine" is just as relevant today as it was back then.
- Chicago's "Dialogue (Parts I and II)", from 1972, is a conversation between two young people; the first is concerned about such things as war, starvation, and repression, while the second maintains that "everything is fine." As Part I comes to a close, the first character seems to endorse the other's worldview:
Thank you for the talk, you know you really eased my mindI was troubled about the shape of things to comeWell, if you had my outlook, your feelings would be numbYou'd always think that everything was fine
- Great White's song "Lives in Chains" is about the ridiculousness of talk shows and how those that watch them are far too obsessed with watching other people air their dirty laundry, that song came out in 1996 and has only grown more relevant in the two decades since then.
- The name and basis for Devonote came from the group's beliefs that people were starting to regress and become dumber based on the dysfunction and herd-mentality of early 70s society. Fast forward to today where world events are shaped by unregulated and unaccountable social media, groups like the Flat Earth Society and anti-vaccine movement are gaining traction, and the American political system struggles to address the rise of terrorism, gun violence, and racial tension in society.
- The B-52s "There's A Moon In The Sky (Called The Moon)" features the line "If you're in outer space, don't feel out of place, cause there are thousands of others like you". At the time, it was a veiled message to reassure the gay community that if they lived in an area that was hostile to them, there were many more in the same boat. In the days of the internet, many people are finding that they can relate more closely to online communities made up of similar people to them than they can to people they know in real life.
- Aaliyah's music has endured in the years since her death not just because of her singing talents but because her songs avoided The Unfair Sex and usually made good statements about female sexuality.
- When it was released in 1980, The Police's "Don't Stand So Close To Me" was unusual in treating a relationship between a young adult male and a teenage girl "half his age" as a bad thing to be (as the title suggests) avoided, for the social stigma they both suffer as a result.note Society has caught up since then.
- The Cars' hit "Let's Go" had the singer respecting the wish of the girl he was singing about to not lose her virginity just yet.note This was more unusual at the time than it would be now.
- S Club 7 and their debut single "Bring It All Back" - while giving a simple family-friendly 'follow your dreams' Aesop - is still a good anthem about working hard to achieve your dreams rather than waiting for them. Likewise, the message that the world is going to get tough while you're trying to work your way up resonates even more with the current generation of aspiring artists and creatives.
- Queen's "Scandal" A searing assault on sensationalist tabloid media is just as relevant today as the press continues to sell sensational sleaze.
- Red Rider's 1981 single "Lunatic Fringe" was written as a response to the resurgence of antisemitism that had developed through the 1970s. With the rise of alt-right, nationalist and antisemitic fringe groups in The New '10s, galvanized by increasingly nationalistic right-wing political parties and culminating in the infamous 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the "lunatic fringe" is just as big a concern now as then.
- The Replacements' song Androgynous came out in 1984, and with the defiance of gender roles becoming more mainstream in The New '10s, the rise in people identifying as non-binary, and the subsequent backlash, the song's simple message of love and sympathy to those not conforming to conventional gender roles is more relevant today than it was even at the time. It even discusses the trope and its inverse in the lyrics, claiming that the song will be Values Resonance in the future, and aggressive gendering will be considered Values Dissonance in turn.
- The Bob Seger song "Old Time Rock And Roll" was released in 1978 but the song could have easily come out in any year since then when one reminisces "about the days of old with that old time rock and roll".
- Aerosmith's "Walk This Way", released in 1975, is a double example. It relates the story of a virgin losing his virginity to a sexually experienced woman, and both the narrator and his partner are treated very well. The woman's experience is treated as a positive, and her enthusiasm helps the narrator along. In turn, the narrator is seen as a fairly well meaning person who only needs a little bit of instruction as opposed to a deficient person for being a virgin. In an era where Slut-Shaming is being questioned more and more, and where a good deal of debate is being had around Virgin-Shaming, a 45-year-old song feels almost refreshing in its discussion of both ends of that spectrum.
- Weezer's album Pinkerton deals with themes of loneliness, sexual frustration, isolation, and unsatisfaction with one's life. While the album was first released in 1996, its themes are still relevant today as birthrates and romantic relationships decline and as people argue that social media and the social isolation brought about by the COVID-19 lockdown have made people more unhappy and isolated from one another than ever before.
- Part of the reason behind "The Dark Side of the Moon"'s public longevity in spite of Progressive Rock's short mainstream lifespan is that the themes tackled by the album, including job anxiety, mortality, the frailty of mental health, and the ills of war culture and capitalism, have only grown more relevant with each passing decade since it first released in 1973, especially in the 21st century, where the 20-year War in Afghanistan, the disastrous Iraq War, the Great Recession, and the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting quarantines all remain fresh in public memory.
- Marilyn Manson:
- "Antichrist Superstar" uses its premise as a metaphor for perceived fascist elements of conservatism. The resurgence of the far-right in The New '10s shows that the album's themes are still relevant two decades later.
- "Mechanical Animals" focuses on fame and drug use damaging one's life, as well as the media's glorification of such. Death of celebrities (including ex-bandmate Gidget Gein) by overdosing since its release in 1998 still show the album's relevancy.
- "Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)" was created as a response to the media falsely accusing the band for influencing the perpetrators of Columbine, and criticizes media for capitalizing on mass shootings and scapegoating entertainment for such. The themes of the album continue to be relatable as mass shootings are still a regular occurrence in the U.S. two decades after its release.
- Elvis Presley: "In the Ghetto" describes the cycle of poverty, crime and violence in impoverished areas such as it was in the The '60s, but describes the cycle of poverty, crime and violence in impoverished areas today just as well.
- Ray Stevens:
- From 1970, we have "America, Communicate with Me". Although the second verse clearly ties to its release year by referencing the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr., lines like "the answers aren't all yes or no / To or fro, stop or go / Everything's not left or right / Black or white, day or night" hold up very well as criticisms of how petty political differences can split people apart.
- His 1987 hit "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex" was at the time a Religion Rant Song against the then-blossoming televangelist movement. His criticisms of flashy, telegenic preachers who push a message of God-given wealth while still soliciting their viewers for money are still valid criticisms of more contemporary "prosperity gospel" evangelists of the 21st century such as Joel Osteen. The second verse also takes a shot at preachers who push their political views ahead of a religious message, a criticism that has also persisted into modern times.
- Phil Ochs' 1966 song "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" is an indictment of Bourgeois Bohemians who only support left-wing and progressive aims as long as it isn't personally inconvenient to them, and is noted to still hold a lot of water today. Even covers that change the lyrics to fit modern social causes often leave "And I love Puerto Ricans and Negros / As long as they don't move next door" mostly unchanged, as redlining and NIMBY-ism remain very significant problems in wealthy liberal areas.
- Garth Brooks' "We Shall Be Free" came out in 1992 and was inspired by the Los Angeles riots, but lyrics such as "When there's only one race and that's mankind" and "when we're free to love anyone we choose" have held up considerably well as protests against racism and homophobia have gained considerable prominence in the 2010s and 2020s.
- In 1985, Hank Williams Jr.'s backing band The Bama Band released a song called "What Used to Be Crazy". The first verse includes the lyrics "Grown men wearing dresses, women in three-piece suits / Psychiatrists say it's normal, they're just trying to find their roots" and "You can be a man or a woman, no matter what you were before / What used to be crazy ain't crazy anymore." Regardless of the originally intended tone, the lyric can definitely read to modern ears as a tacit support of the transgender community.
- "Mister Integrity" by L7 is about a dogmatic, overly self-righteous punk, but its lyrics could apply to any left-wing activist movement that inadvertently excludes others: "Mister Integrity/I'm not the enemy/Please don't preach to me."
- Sawyer Brown's 1998 single "Another Side" is about a soldier in The American Civil War fighting for the Confederacy but having conflicts due to his brother fighting for the Union. While the divided family eventually unites, the narrator comments on the divisiveness and wishing how there was "another side". This lyric has only become more relevant in the 2010s and 2020s, as sociopolitical divisiveness has become a much bigger part of the conversation.
- "Feed Jake" by Pirates of the Mississippi is another early-1990s country song (1991) with a Gay Aesop. The third verse points out that not everyone adheres to stereotypes, and pleads for : "Now if you get an ear pierced, some will call you gay / But if you drive a pickup, they'll say no, you must be straight / What we are and what we ain't, what we can and what we can't / Does it really matter?" Even at the time, this lyric was seen as a surprisingly progressive viewpoint (especially given country music's historical conservatism), and more than thirty years after its release it is often held up as an extremely ahead-of-its-time Tear Jerker.
- Eminem's 2000 album The Marshall Mathers LP is filled with outdated pop culture references and uses language about gay people and women that was controversial at the time, let alone now. However, it's still his most beloved album, rediscovered constantly by younger generations, and has endured for decades for good reasons:
- The concept of the whole album is Eminem expressing confusion ("Who Knew"), rage ("The Way I Am"), despair ("Marshall Mathers"), delight ("The Real Slim Shady") and occasionally fear ("Stan") about the size of the platform he suddenly has, the fact that he's being campaigned against by both left-wing activists and right-wing reactionaries because of his offensive jokes, the damage he's doing to the people who do take him seriously, and people he does not know or care about being obsessed with him and demanding things from him he can't give them, ruining their own lives in the process. In the year 2000, this is a position that only very famous people, like Eminem, would have ever been in. Due to the rise of social media, non-famous people now also share the opportunity to experience fear of backlash, unwanted parasocial obsessions from strangers, and vast seas of anonymous hate, making Eminem's lyrics highly relatable to anyone who's ever had a persistent creep in their DMs, or had a Tweet go viral for the wrong reasons.
- Songs like "The Real Slim Shady", "Who Knew", "I'm Back" and especially "Criminal" argue that everyone is responsible for how mad they get about the stuff he's saying to piss people off. While it's difficult to come out with a firm answer over whether it was morally OK for him to have made a sick joke about the murder of Versace, it raises questions about how helpful performative outrage actually is, since his songs stress that he doesn't mean it (and this is supported by his real life actions, in which he's campaigned and donated money for LGBT+ rights and against racism). In her essay "God Sent Me To Piss The World Off", Ciara Moloney credited Eminem's music with helping her overcome her indoctrination into shallow, essentialist, privilege-checking "Vampire's Castle" social politics, and move towards a more progressive and positive view of free speech maximalism and focus on class.
- "Stan", a song about an obsessive fan of Slim Shady who becomes increasingly unhinged when he doesn't get a letter back from his idol, to the point of committing a Murder-Suicide of himself, his girlfriend and their unborn child, has become so relevant in the era of social media fandoms that 'stan' is now used as a word to mean a specific, devoted fan subculture. The song also does a good job explaining why toxic parasocial fandoms happen in the first place - Stan in the song comes from an abusive family and doesn't have anything other than Eminem in his life, something relatable to a generation that came of age with limited resources and moved straight onto internet fandom.
I can relate to what you're sayin' in your songs
so when I have a shitty day, I drift away and put 'em on
cause I don't really got shit else, so that shit helps when I'm depressed
I even got a tattoo with your name across the chest
- In "The Real Slim Shady", Slim makes comments about sexualised, Crosses the Line Twice pop culture, which argue in favour of gay marriage, and point out the link between cultural censorship and antifeminism. By comparing it to bestiality and making a cartoon 'eurgh' adlib, as you'd expect from Slim as an Anti-Role Model character, but the fact that Eminem supported gay marriage outside of kayfabe suggests he meant something genuine here.
Sometimes I wanna get on TV and just let loose
but can't, but it's cool for Tom Green to hump a dead moose
My bum is on your lips, my bum is on your lips
and if I'm lucky, you might just give it a little kiss,
and that's the message that we deliver to little kids
and expect them not to know what a woman's clitoris is.
Of course, they're gonna know what intercourse is...
[...] But if we can hump dead animals and antelopes
then there's no reason that a man and another man can't elope
- Jamiroquai: According to Jay Kay, "future's made of virtual insanity." And twenty-five years into the future, the omnipresence of the internet thanks to the social media boom has, indeed, led to more and more people experiencing their fair share of insanity in virtual spaces. It's gotten even more insane than it has back in '96 when "Virtual Insanity" was first released in the advent of cryptocurrency causing chip shortages and NFTs negatively affecting the environment, so in essence, people's lives have become, "governed by this love we have for useless, twisting, other new technology."
- Bob Dylan's song "The Times They Are A-Changin'", originally written to criticize opponents of the Civil Rights Movement, can apply towards opponents of any progressive movement, such as the LGBTQ+ movement.
- A lot of things in Mesopotamian Mythology are shockingly prescient, showing that no matter how much things change, they stay the same:
- The Epic of Gilgamesh throughly deconstructs hero standards of the time, showing its semi-divine overpowered ruler not as a flawless example but rather as a rapist brat who needs a serious lesson in humility. Compare for example anyone supposed to be heroic in Classical Mythology.
- A recovered text on Humbaba shows it as a noble guardian of the wilds and lamenting the destruction of the environment by humanity.
- Tiamat is a monster, but only on the most literal of senses. She is depicted as a grieving wife who's forced to retaliate against her own children. Quite a lot of sympathy at a time when the combination of being a woman in power and a non-human being would make the end of her portrayal one dimmensional.
- The Chinese folk tale of The Fox and the Scholar has as its moral a pro-LGBT message, stating that love is love no matter what. It features a scholar and a fox, who were husband and wife in a past life, but reincarnated as males. Nonetheless, they still want to make it work and succeed.
- Shinto, the traditional religion of Japan emphasizes respect for nature and the environment, and regards things like sex, dance, and revelry as good things, celebrations of the goodness of life. As society simultaneously becomes more open about those things and is dealing with a climate crisis, Shintoism seems shockingly relevant to the modern world.
- The idea that punishing children is ineffective for managing bad behavior, or that positive techniques of behavioral management work a lot better, can be found prior to 20th century, and even in otherwise "conservative" religious circles. In 1877 (that's 26 years before Dr. Spock was born), the Catholic priest St. John Bosco wrote a treatise in which he contrasted his own preventive method of behavioral management with the traditional "regressive system" which relied on reward and punishment.
- Stan Freberg:
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, upon hearing the mice's plan to take to the chat show circuit with the Ultimate Question, which is what the philosophers did at the time the Ultimate Answer was revealed, Arthur asks if anyone does anything except appear on chat shows. This was in 1978. Since then, the number of such shows have only increased since they are very cheap to produce.
- The writer's guide for the The Lone Ranger radio series made it very clear that Native Americans were never to be the villains of the story (although white people seeking to frame Native Americans for crimes they didn't commit showed up regularly). This was unique for Westerns at the time, and carried over to the TV and film adaptations.
- Andrea Chenier: Stalking is not romantic or even impressive. When Charles Gérard confesses to Maddalena de Coigny he has been stalking her for ages using first his job as a Beneath Notice servant and then his position as a revolutionary leader with a spy network, Maddalena is horrified and cries shed rather get lynched by a mob than accept his feelings. For that matter, Gérard himself admits he is a textbook case of Love Makes You Crazy. This opera was composed long before it became a legal offence, but though Gérard is a tragic character and his feelings for Maddalena run deeper than Entitled to Have You, his stalking of her is clearly depicted as major creepiness.
- Othello. By William Shakespeare. For North American audiences, a lot of baggage was added by the use of Africans in larger-scale Atlantic slavery. But generally speaking, the play has a lot that resonates with modern audiences; attitudes to cultural/ethnic minorities, minority attitudes, the troubles of career military men in domestic settings, the destructive power of rumors.
- The Clouds, by Aristophanes, mocks both conservative and left-wing Strawman Political types, with the former being portrayed as not using actual arguments, just saying "this is the way we've always done it" and "Doing it differently will make you gay" and the latter controlling most of Socrates' Academy and being able to convince anyone of anything, including that the only reason it isn't acceptable for sons to beat their fathers is that there's a law that says there isn't. Today, gay rights and moral relativism are actually points of debate.
- Lysistrata has an overriding message of peace and, like many Aristophanes' plays, claims war is being prolonged by corrupt politicians. Due to this, the play ended up being performed a lot in the year the Iraq War began. It also has quite a bit to say on feminism and the kind of power women have. Not bad for a play that, even back then, was a raunchy sex comedy.
- Chicago (both the stage musical and the movie). Its view of the celebrity that comes from scandal seems to be getting more relevant every year. A lot of people took interest in the whole "celebrity defendant" phenomenon after the OJ Simpson trial and the 1996 revival has been running ever since. In fact, the program for one touring production described it as "scandalous in the 20s (when the nonmusical play came out), controversial in the 70s, and now just reads like a documentary".
- Spring Awakening (the original play) was written just before the 1900s, but still holds a lot of Values Resonance on cultural/religious repression and sexuality. The musical outright invokes this by using contemporary style/slang for the songs. And it works. The show is essentially about what happens when you refuse to give teenagers The Talk. It was radical when it was written, but today it seems like a massive takedown of the abstinence-only subculture.
- Arthur Miller stated that The Crucible goes through waves of popularity when people feel that tyranny is coming, or has just fallen. Apparently, people in China found it especially relatable after the end of the Cultural Revolution and the Reign of Terror created by the Gang of Four.
- Inherit the Wind: With the rise of the power of the political Religious Right and later the countering rise of the more assertive New Atheism doing battle in the courts like over religious pseudo-sciences like "Intelligent Design," this play's conflict between faith and secularism is still powerfully relevant today.
- A Streetcar Named Desire: The play symbolizes the struggle between the Old South and New South that was taking place at the time. Blanche was an antebellum Southern Belle left over from before the Civil War (being played in the movie by Scarlett O'Hara herself, Vivian Leigh, only added to this,) and Stanley was a more modern, industrial blue-collar immigrant, symbolic of the direction the South was heading, and the clash between those who wanted to go back to the Good Old Days and those who wanted to embrace progress. Important in 1947 since the South was still recovering, but the same Old Guard vs. New Blood debate is showing up all over again, with a younger generation of more diverse, liberal, and progressive Southerners butting heads with the much more religious, staunchly conservative and heavily white previous generation. Of course, the analogy falls apart once you realize that many modern conservatives would sympathize with Stanley more than they would with Blanche.
- Blanche's line, "What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the heart of a human being?" In context, "straight" just means "proper" or "okay", but the statement resonates with many people because of the modern meaning of the term.note The fact that the line does relate, albeit indirectly, to a question of sexual orientation (that of Blanche's late husband) only makes it more poignant.
- H.M.S. Pinafore: While a lot of the other Victoriana hasn't aged particularly well, the mocking of political appointees with no experience in their field and over-inflated egos (in this case, a First Lord of the Admiralty whose closest connection to the Navy is a partnership in a law firm), will probably never cease to be funny as long as back-room political dealing and nepotism are a thing.
- An Inspector Calls tells of a young working-class woman Driven to Suicide by poverty, and sharply interrogates the culpability of the British upper and middle classes in the desolate lives of the working classes—each member is not to blame individually, but functioning as a class they oppressed and hounded a woman to her death. The play depicts and mercilessly deconstructs the every-man-for-himself individualism of the bourgeoisie as represented by Mr. Birling, with the central Aesop being that all people are connected and that the rich and powerful must take responsibility for the impacts of their actions on others: "If mankind will not learn that lesson, then the time will come soon when he will be taught it, in fire, and blood, and anguish." Written in the 1930s and set in 1912, and extremely resonant in Conservative-governed Britain in 2015, when 6 million people tuned in to a BBC TV film adaptation.
- Lessing's Nathan der Weise still resonates with its message of tolerance, even though it is only limited to Muslims Christians and Jews in the narrative and the famous ring parable that even (daringly for its time) suggested that all three of them were wrong. Dust off the somewhat antiquated language and you could make it a modern movie with little to no effort, even though some of its narrative devices have not aged as well as the message.
- One of the reasons Romeo and Juliet has endured over the years is because of its Aesop about how parents pass things down to their children - including prejudices. The young have to suffer from the mistakes of the old, and it takes the death of the two lovers to finally make the families realize how senseless the conflict was. One of the reasons there are many Whole Plot References to it is because the story is one that's easily applicable to modern life. In fact the majority of fans of the 1968 film version were the teenagers of the day, who could relate to the passion of the story. Olivia Hussey, who played Juliet in that version, says she continued to get fan letters from young teenagers decades after the film came out.
- The Trojan Women was a play written by Euripides that focus on the women's roles and perspectives in the Trojan War. It resonates well throughout centuries as it's one of the very earliest pieces that taught War Is Hell and marked the tragedy of the innocent civilians who suffers from it (especially the women). It was especially relevant back when it was written, as Euripides wrote this during The Peloponnesian War when the Athenian were subjugating and enslaving the people in the Island of Melos.
- The Skin of Our Teeth, written in 1942, has a lampshaded reference to the question of taking in refugees. At the time, Wilder wrote it in reference to issues concerning Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazisnote , but over time, debates in various countries (especially the United States) over accepting refugees from the Middle East have made the reference relevant again.
- Every Fiddler on the Roof production that has ever run on Broadway (and there have been several since it premiered in the early 1960s) has come out in a time where there are news stories about refugee crises or religious persecution, the most recent aligning with the Syrian refugee crisis.
- Fake Values Resonance is a common theme for Urban Legends, examples from Snopes follows. Unless noted otherwise, these are false:
- The circumstances of the 2000 election supposedly mirror an 18th-century professor's predictions of the fall of democracy: here.
- The rationale for the invasion of Iraq supposedly mirrors a 1944 Reuter's article concerning the invasion of Nazi-conquered France: here.
- The rationale for removing troops from Iraq mirrors another supposed 1944 Reuter's article concerning the removal of troops from World War Two's European Theater: here.
- A quote from Julius Caesar supposedly explains how to use the threat of war to convince citizens to fall in line with the government: here.
- This similar quote from Hermann Goering also drew attention—however, this one is real.
- A (real) article from 1922 warns that climate change is melting Arctic ice and disrupting wildlife: here.
- Kurt Cobain predicted (and implicitly endorsed) Donald Trump's presidency in 1993. A different debunk by factcheck.org noted that Kurt could be politically outspoken in interviews, and did once note he wished someone who was not a career politician would run for president... but in the same interview he dismissed third party Ross Perot because "he's rich, I don't trust him as president".
- Final Fantasy V has a Green Aesop about overuse and misuse of natural resources that is demonstrated largely in the first half of the game. When the party travels to Walse, they attempt to convince the King to shut down the crystal amplifier because one crystal already shattered from it, but he dismisses the risk citing a "lack of evidence" and that he doesn't want to take the political risk. In Karnak, the inventor of the amplifiers actually tries to shut them down, but Queen Karnak throws him in jail and then censors any further dissent by building a wall between the town and the Great Library. Inevitably, both crystals shatter regardless of the denials. It's not a million miles away from the political mess surrounding the politics of climate change (resulting in a great deal of inaction) in The New '10s.
- Final Fantasy VII's Green Aesop on the short-sighted policies of Shinra Corporation on the extraction of Mako energy without concerns for the planet's decay mirrored real-life energy companies' tendency to profit from environment-damaging methods while avoiding the consequences of the law thanks to their wealth and influence. In addition, it also included the influences of private enterprises over social and political level along with abuses towards employees and citizens emphasized by Midgar's socioeconomic inequality and sufferings thanks to Shinra's prioritization of profits over welfare. That is if one ignores the Broken Aesop of coal being portrayed as one of the nature-friendly alternatives to Mako Energy.
- It could be read as illustrating a detail that differs a lot from real life. In the FFVII world, coal stopped being a ubiquitous power source once Shinra started investing in and pushing mako energy, even in the mining town of Corel. That could mean a return to pre-industrial levels of atmospheric co2, so the use of fossil fuels could take a while before they reach dangerous levels. Also, mako kills the planet in itself, while fossil fuels causes climate change.
- The Oddworld series has a heavy anti-corporate, pro-environment message with corporations being depicted as evil bastards who will do anything to make a profit including slavery and torturing their employees, and are polluting and destroying the environment of the world. With the rise of corporatism in America, corrupt business practices and sleazy laws favoring corporations over people, as well as climate change and pollution being a big issue now, the message of the games is more relevant than ever. Furthermore, it also shows that the reason these big corporations came into power was partly thanks to the apathy of those who could have stopped them.
- While our planet hasn't thankfully turned into the Crapsack World of Deus Ex, the game's messages about mass surveillance, mass hysteria caused by terrorism, increasingly oppressive laws passed to combat it and government favoritism towards corporate elite at the cost of ordinary citizens rights hit much closer to home today than they did in 2000 after events like 9/11 attacks, War on Terror, Occupy movement's protests and the disclosures about NSA's national surveillance program starting in 2013. Hell, in the original game (released in 2000) the New York skyline lacked the Twin Towers (in reality, because of memory issues), because they'd been destroyed in a terrorist attack.
- Alpha Centauri became more relevant in The New '10s as its context—both gameplay and lore—of conflict based on political-polarization with each faction, and environmental consciousness.
- While the War Is Hell message of the Metal Gear franchise wasn't particularly new for its time, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty made a lot of novel points regarding the then still relatively new Internet, particularly how disinformation and "Memes" (referring to cultural messages that are spread) would be used to manipulate the population at large as mass communications get more and more normalized.
- Rolo to the Rescue was released in the early 90s, at a time where an elephant saving his friends from the circus would be seen as a fantasy. Fast forward to The New '10s, and Rolo's cause is certainly a lot more heroic now that the general public has turned against traveling circuses for their mistreatment of animals.
- El Viento: Created in 1991, it is still unheard of in video games today for a main character like Annet (a dark-skinned Peruvian woman) to exist, let alone not be condescending towards her.
- Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge has no less than two scenes where characters react with complete indifference to crossdressing - the first being when showing that Largo LaGrande has had a bra dry-cleaned, and the second being in which Guybrush wears a dress to gain access to Elaine's party (in context, he wins a probably-stolen ticket in a game of roulette, and the dress has been reserved for the ticket holder).
- Blue from Overly Sarcastic Productions notes that Confucius' beliefs that a government that fails in serving its people has lost legitimacy because it is no longer fulfilling its intended purpose is shockingly appropriate, especially since the video came out during the 2020 protests against police brutality.
- The anti-war short "Peace on Earth", released on the eve of World War II about the horrors of World War I, still carries a haunting message applicable to today's world. It became far more profound from the 1950s onward and was even remade at the time (as Good Will to Men), as the Cold War made its metaphor of human extinction a chillingly literal one.
- Tex Avery MGM Cartoons:
- Tex Avery's "TV of Tomorrow" contains much commentary on television that mostly rings true today, such as a family life (literally) based around the TV set, a man keeping his face glued to the screen in the living room as his wife drags his body into the kitchen (only pulling his outstretched head in to eat his dinner), a lack of variety in programming (the old "X number of channels and there's nothing on" problem), TV shows being adapted into movies (a man who's sick of watching Westerns on TV goes to the movies. He thinks he's seeing a romantic film—but it turns out to be the Western he was trying to avoid at home), and TV being on-the-go (the Scottish flashlight TV is more-or-less similar to mobile devices having Internet and video capability).
- The "Farm of Tomorrow" and its omnipresent, often disfiguring genetic engineering. And also for inventing Longcats.
- As Told by Ginger is an early 2000s Slice of Life cartoon aimed at middle school girls. Its messages resonate especially well with today's youths. It covered many mature topics for a Nickelodeon cartoon, such as Slut-Shaming, depression, bullying, and puberty. It features several Ambiguously Gay and Ambiguously Bi characters as well.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: As stated by this video, the episode "Ripped Pants" perfectly captures the fleeting nature of meme culture even when it was released in 1999. By ripping his pants, SpongeBob becomes the most popular guy on the beach, but by trying to ride on its fame a little too much, the joke loses its value, alienating even his closest friends.
- Schoolhouse Rock!:
- The pleas for conserving natural resources in "The Energy Blues" are as relevant now in The New '20s as they were in the 1970s (possibly because the need to do so hasn't faded from the public consciousness).
- The "Tyrannosaurus Debt" song isn't that dated, considering concern about the economy and the U.S. owing money to other nations.
- The episode "Economics of Recess" focuses on the lead character TJ using cheap labor from younger kids in order to eventually obtain all of the playground's monster sticker currency and own everything, which makes it impossible for any of the other kids to enjoy anything. At the end of the episode, TJ is persuaded to sign a contract that prevents monopolies in the schoolyard. The episode feels even cleverer today, with the 2016 and 2020 Bernie Sanders campaigns calling for change as higher-income citizens amass more power and aren't taxed fairly, while corporations such as Apple and Amazon pay their employees poorly and give little despite being insanely lucrative.
- The episode "Recess Is Canceled" focuses on how the government attempts to raise test scores by eliminating recess. This results in just the opposite, necessitating the return of recess. Even today, whether recess is good for elementary-school children or a waste of valuable time still arouses heated debate. Fortunately, plenty of research shows that at least 20 minutes of recess per day is beneficial for students, whereas kids who don't get recess are less likely to actually learn and more likely to fidget, making this episode very much Truth in Television.
- One of the reasons for Rocko's Modern Life lasting appeal is how it's the first cartoon to discuss the struggles of "adulting" (i.e., being self-reliant in your early twenties), a universal concept among young adults in The New '10s and The New '20s. And the running gag with the in-universe corporation Conglom-O is that it owns everything. With the buyouts of Marvel, National Geographic, Star Wars, and Fox by Disney, it's hard not to draw comparisons.
- The DuckTales (1987) episode Blue Collar Scrooge dealt with themes of respecting workers' rights and the relationship between bosses and employees. Needless to say, still very relevant as of today.
- Daria: Jodie's struggles and discussions on race relations were relevant during the Turn of the Millennium, but have obviously become a lot more relevant now, so much so in fact that a new series is in the works with Jodie herself as the main character.
- Lil, the most prominent girl of the babies, is quite unconventional for a female character in the 90s. She enjoys doing gross boyish things like playing in the mud with her brother, but also happily playing with dolls and having other girly past times. At an age where pink frills and saccharine cuteness are often foisted on young girls, it's very refreshing to see Lil have a mixture of masculine and feminine traits without affecting her friendship with the others. Susie and Kimi have their own positive character traits as well (intelligence and maturity for Susie, imagination and bravery for Kimi) to create a nice collection of diverse young girls with their own interests.
- The episode "The Clan Of The Duck," where Chuckie and Phil wear Lil's dresses with a hugely positive message about not conforming to gender stereotypes. That was in 1997! More than 20 years later, the DK-published Rugrats Guide to Adulting acknowledged the resonance.
- The Mother's Day special has earned lots of praise, retroactive and otherwise, for a number of reasons. First of all, in one of the flashbacks, Betty is depicted breastfeeding a newborn Phil and Lil, and this depiction is a loving depiction, in a time when negative attitudes toward breastfeeding were still entrenched in some countries. Second of all, when the babies discuss what a mother does with her baby, Chuckie realizes that his widowed father, Chas, is as nurturing as any mother, with a positive message that a "mother" need not necessarily be female.
- This video made by NickRewind highlights all the progressive aspects of the series, including feminism, gender nonconformity, tackling heavy subjects like death, breastfeeding, and holidays like Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Passover.
- In Duckman, the titular character launches into a rant against super-sanitized comedy, something that is more relevant today than when it originally aired in 1994.
- Thomas & Friends: "Thomas in Trouble" explores abuse of power by law enforcement, especially against people who did nothing wrong. Toby even stands up to the Jerkass cop by ringing his bell at him, scaring him off in the process. During the protests against police brutality in 2020, many fans cited the episode as being relevant today.
- The Fillmore! episode "Test of the Tested" tackles standardized testing and how it hurts kids. It's even more relevant nowadays due to the problems stemming from standardized tests, which include stifling the creativity of students and lesser impact on their ability to apply them to real life.
- "One Flew Over the Cuckoo Clock" has some Surprisingly Realistic Outcome when Slappy suffers a nervous breakdown; Skippy is forced to commit her to a nursing home and take over the household chores. The short emphasizes that this situation is not okay, and the adults in Skippy's life interfere when his teacher notices that he's Asleep in Class and stressed. She calls a social worker, who takes the time to assess if Slappy is at home and waits to get Skippy's side of the story before taking him to foster care. It's quite poignant that all of the adults in the short are legitimately concerned for Skippy's well-being and telling him he doesn't have to take on such a burden.
- The "Please Please Please Get a Life Foundation" sketch, where the Warners mock fans who argue over the insignificant details of their show, became even more relevant as the Internet and social media became more accessible, leading to increased fandom visibility and online Caustic Critics being more prevalent. It's become a common meme nowadays to link a screenshot from the bit as a response to heated fandom drama or nitpicking.
- Johnny Bravo
- Johnny's womanizing may be Played for Laughs, but it's at Johnny's expense as it almost always ended with him on the receiving end of some physical pain (usually from the woman herself), making the message quite clear that that kind of attitude is no way to earn someone's affections.
- Even disregarding that, Johnny ended up the way he is due to a (horribly misguided) attempt to give his then-girlfriend the man he thought she deserved, rather than who he was back then. He also has nothing but respect for women, treating them all equally and accepting rejection rather than getting upset or blaming the woman. He also loves his mom to death and is willing to help others not for a chance at a date, but because it's the right thing to do. Despite his bad behaviour due to not knowing any better, Johnny does legitimately love women and wants the best for all of them.
- "The Sensitive Male!" shows how the titular character the episode is named after is actually a manipulative Jerkass, who is using fake sensitivity in order to win over women. At the end of the episode when his true nature is revealed (and Johnny rats him out to other women, while also calling him a jerk), he is tied up and carried away by them to be given further punishment. Thus giving us a relevant message to this day about how faux nice guys can be just as bad (or even worse) as their macho meathead counterparts.
- King of the Hill: "Trans-Fascism" isn't just a swipe at fad diets, but it shows how prohibiting a substance for the sake of public health does more harm than good, and the people who promote such regulation are often status-seeking hypocrites. As the failure of the War on Drugs becomes increasingly apparent, and many jurisdictions roll back the prohibition of narcotics, this episode is surprisingly relevant.
- Batman: The Animated Series: The episode "Lock-Up" had as its antagonist an Arkham security guard who brutalized the Arkham inmates, believing it was for the good of society. The debate over the treatment of guilty people has become more relevant as "tough on crime" has gained more scrutiny.
- "We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy—sun, wind and tide I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."—Thomas Edison, 1931. However, in this day of fluctuating gas prices, environmental awareness, and resource scarcity, this quote is more relevant than ever.
- "No freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way harmed, nor will we go upon him nor will we send upon him, except by the legal judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." — Magna Carta. Not bad for 1215, though part of the reason that the Magna Carta resonates with our values is that our values are in many ways descended from the Magna Carta.
- John Laurens was the son of a wealthy plantation owner and a colonel in the Continental Army during The American Revolution. In contrast to most of his contemporaries, he believed that black and white people were equally human, and it was disingenuous of the nascent nation to espouse liberty while keeping a subset of humanity in bondage.
"We have sunk the Africans & their descendants below the Standard of Humanity, and almost render'd them incapable of that Blessing which equal Heaven bestow'd upon us all."
- The American Declaration of Independence is an exquisite distillation of much of the philosophical thought and political theory of the Age of Enlightenment. As such, its text forms the underpinnings of practically all Western-style Democracies today, clearly elucidating what government is for, and why: to serve The People. In particular, the first half of the second paragraph is specifically cited by most countries when forming a democratic government as the guiding principles of how that government is to function. Not bad for almost 250 years.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
- Through his work, William Blake advocated for an end to slavery and total racial equality, equality of men and women, per his admiration of Mary Wollstonecraft, who was the first feminist, and argued emphatically against homophobia and the shame and stigma against sex work. Not bad for someone who died in 1827.
- Friedrich Spee (1591 1635) was a German theologian who had been complicit in the torture of accused witches, became horrified with his actions and wrote a book, Cautio Criminalis that highlighted the absurdities of torture note , documented the barbaric and cruel acts performed on women accused of witchcraft, and was an early advocate for the right to a trial, an attorney, and legal counseling, which most modern countries provide. He also pointed out the Original Position Fallacy of advocating for torture to get confessions out of suspected witches, since they would inevitably be tortured into naming accomplices, those accomplices would later be tortured to also name accomplices, and so on, until the original advocates of torture are the ones named as accomplices.
- Jean-Paul Sartre wrote The Anti-Semite and the Jew in 1944, shortly after the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation. He discusses the mentality of the kind of person who would argue from a position of hate solely because that hate gives them certainty, and how they will argue the indefensible in bad faith simply because it serves that certainty no matter how little sense it makes in any other context, in part because they find it amusing and affirming of their own certainties to offend and confound others. In the information age where conversations and debates in digital public forums are routinely invaded by people who come to argue without intent to persuade or being enlighten, or drop short, pithy, and wrong arguments just to move on, or simply come to start fights and derail threads, or brigade in the name of trolling, his analysis seems remarkably prescient:
The anti‐Semite has chosen hate because hate is a faith; at the outset he has chosen to devaluate words and reasons. How entirely at ease he feels as a result. How futile and frivolous discussions about the rights of the Jew appear to him. He has placed himself on other ground from the beginning. If out of courtesy he consents for a moment to defend his point of view, he lends himself but does not give himself. He tries simply to project his intuitive certainty onto the plane of discourse....Never believe that anti‐Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. It is not that they are afraid of being convinced. They fear only to appear ridiculous or to prejudice by their embarrassment their hope of winning over some third person to their side.