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Vindicated by History

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Turns out that bad reviews are really the warmest place to hide.
"Some are born posthumously."
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist

Some works that are well-received remain so, long after they get released, eventually being acclaimed as classics. However, some works that are well-received at their debut will fade into the mists of time as the public moves on to the newest thing, doomed to obscurity.

Then there are these.

A few exceptional (or lucky) works with unexceptional debuts will be rediscovered and reanalyzed, and in some cases may even become critical darlings or timeless classics in the eyes of the public after about 20 years, usually when their authors/producers are no longer around to bask in their belated fame. Unconventional and gloomily-themed works that star little-known actors are the most prone to this.

Inevitably causes most critics to rush to hail them as classics that were grossly misunderstood in their time, but now can be worshiped as the masterpieces they truly are. Oftentimes people in general forget that they were bombs to begin with. Parodies and Critical Backlash inevitably follow in their footsteps.

This is mostly a film/literature phenomenon: TV mostly avoids this, as how great or awful a series is tends to become clear during its longer run (or at least a few years later on DVD). Video games have a different problem in that Technology Marches On, turning old titles into Abandonware.

Then, of course, there are historical events that were controversial at the time, but later are felt to have been the right decision. Values Resonance is prevalent in many instances of this trope, as they were simply too far ahead of their time.

The Real Life counterpart of It Will Never Catch On. It can also lead to Follow the Leader, Hype Aversion, Hype Backlash. A Sub-Trope is Vindicated by Cable and Vindicated by Reruns; also arguably, as already mentioned, Better on DVD. Often these works were the victim of an Award Snub. For when something is discovered to not be as bad as its detractors made it out to be but it's still not quite vindicated, see Critical Backlash.

Compare Germans Love David Hasselhoff (when a different country does this instead of time), Cult Classic (when something gains popularity but not on a widespread/mainstream scale, although the two tropes sometimes overlap), Posthumous Popularity Potential (when the belated popularity occurs because the artist is no longer around to bask in it), Rescued from the Scrappy Heap (when this happens to a single character) and Acclaimed Flop (when the work is a critical success but a commercial failure when it comes out). See also Popularity Polynomial. Nostalgia Filter may factor into this, although anyone that hasn't grown up with the work will still likely see it for what it is. Contrast Condemned by History (when something goes from insanely popular to a popular target of mockery), And You Thought It Would Fail (when a work that's expected to be a flop instead becomes a smash hit) and Seinfeld Is Unfunny (when a work was beloved in its heyday, but is seen as boring or stale (at best) by history, though usually with the appreciation that the work was revolutionary at the time). See also Character Perception Evolution for when a character's reception changes over time.

Beware the risk of Overly Narrow Superlatives or Gushing About Shows You Like. Practically anything could seem vindicated by history if the reference pool is small enough.

Works must be at least five years old to be added. This is to ensure that history has judged the work more favourably than at release.

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  • The original World Trade Center in New York City was incredibly controversial when construction on it first began in the late '60s. The aesthetic of the boxy Twin Towers was compared to filing cabinets and "the boxes that the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building came in", its massive amount of office space was seen as merely compounding the problem of office vacancies that the city was facing, and its 'superblock' was criticized for bulldozing most of the still-bustling Radio Row neighborhood, disrupting traffic in Lower Manhattan, and limiting access to the waterfront. When first completed in 1973, it was regarded as a potent symbol of The Big Rotten Apple, a landmark to the city's downward spiral more than anything, and many New Yorkers probably would've welcomed its destruction in a terrorist attack. But by the time that indeed happened, it had come to be recognized as a true landmark in the proper sense of the term, such that one of the most popular proposals to replace it was to just rebuild them as they were, albeit with modern construction techniques. The fact that they weren't has left a bad taste in many New Yorkers' mouths, and it doesn't help that the new set of buildings taking their place has been the subject of much criticism.
  • The Eiffel Tower in Paris, built for the Exposition Universelle in 1889, was similarly hated when it was first built, especially among the city's art community, who regarded it as an eyesore and a symbol of industrial modernity thrust into the heart of a city synonymous with artistry and romanticism. Guy de Maupassant frequently ate lunch at the Eiffel Tower's restaurant, specifically because it was the only place in the city where he couldn't see it, and he and forty-six other Parisian artists and writers attached their names to a "Protest against the Tower of Monsieur Eiffel". Others, however, embraced it as a symbol of avant-garde modernity, and its Mundane Utility as a broadcast tower saved it from the wrecking ball in 1909 when Gustave Eiffel's lease expired. Nowadays? It is arguably the symbol of Paris, such that we even have a trope named after it.
  • San Francisco:
    • When construction began in 1971 on the Sutro Tower to coordinate television reception in the city (whose many hills previously made it famously hard to pick up TV broadcast signals), many residents furiously protested the enormous 977-foot lattice tower, with local columnist Herb Caen saying that "I keep waiting for it to stalk down the hill and attack the Golden Gate Bridge." Today, it's as celebrated a San Francisco landmark as that bridge itself, especially among locals, and considered one of the quirkiest and most beautiful broadcast towers in the world. It helped that much of the acrimony had been fueled by the television stations themselves, largely because ABC (through its owned-and-operated station KGO-TV) owned the site of the tower and the other stations saw them as a rival. Once a consortium was created that would give each of San Francisco's four major TV stations an ownership stake, most of the opposition from the press (especially from the San Francisco Chronicle, which owned the then-NBC station KRON-TV) evaporated.
    • The city's other famous landmark tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, got an even more scathing reception when construction started in 1969. The original design, standing over a thousand feet tall, was so derided that its height was ultimately reduced to 853 feet (which still made it the tallest building west of the Mississippi River at the time), which did nothing to assuage its critics. Assemblyman John Burton claimed that the skyscraper would "rape the skyline of San Francisco and virtually destroy the delicate beauty of Telegraph Hill and the Jackson Square area of the city," and architecture critics across America were similarly colorful in their criticisms. For many San Franciscans, it became a symbol of the city's "Manhattanization" in The '70s, leading to height restrictions being passed limiting the construction of such skyscrapers out of fear that they were turning the city into a concrete jungle. Years later, after seeing the finished building, many of its former critics would admit that they were too hasty in their initial assessments, praising it as a unique structure that was ahead of its time (anticipating the throwback skyscraper styles of the '80s and '90s that eschewed flat roofs for tapered points) and blended into the San Francisco skyline far better than many of the buildings surrounding it.

  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder was dismissed as a lightweight during his life time. He painted so many peasant scenes that people looked down upon his art, solely because of the subject matter. Only centuries later has his work been added to the pantheon of history's greatest painters.
  • El Greco was seen as an incompetent painter during his lifetime. Only in the 20th century did the modern art movement embrace his work as a visionary and personal style.
  • Caravaggio was obscure to infamous until the 1920s. It did not help that he painted the equivalent of Doujinshi. His normal works were considered so blasphemous that some tried to kill him. Nowadays, his Calling of St Matthew is practically the Trope Codifier of Baroque painting.
  • Piero Della Francesca was fairly obscure until the 1920s. He is now considered one of the greatest quattrocento artists.
  • Artemisia Gentileschi one of the few truly relevant Baroque female painters, was for a long while looked down and seen as dependent on the fame of her father. Then the Feminist Movement came by. What's that you say, a 1600s woman painter that focuses on pictures on women and whose masterpiece depicts the biblical Judithnote  violently decapitating King Holofernes a.k.a. in a position of strength? There's also speculation that King Holofernes was painted in the image of Agostino Tassi, a man that had raped her and who had failed to be punished by the courts due to the values of the day.
  • The Impressionists (Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Édouard Manet, etc.) were ridiculed at first (at their first joint exposition, the public came en masse to mock their work; the name of the movement was even originally coined by a sarcastic Caustic Critic), even though they were more successful later on. Today, well let's say that many of the world's most expensive paintings are by them...
  • Vincent van Gogh is a popular example of this, but he is actually not a great example. There was only four years between Van Gogh's visit to Paris in 1886 (when his Signature Style started emerging) and his early death in 1890. This is an incredibly short time by the standards of the art world, but Van Gogh was already beginning to attract serious attention before his death, and was highly regarded by influential artists such as Gauguin. Had Van Gogh lived just a few years longer, people would likely be telling the story of his meteoric rise to prominence; the fact that he was not recognized until after his death has more to do with his early death than with his reception in the contemporary art world.
  • The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, painted by John Singer Sargent, was originally disliked by critics for being too big, having too much empty space in it, and having the subjects scattered about randomly. Now it is considered one of Sargent's better works, and features in several plays, poems, and mystery novels.
    • Portrait of Madame X: When originally exhibited, caused a great deal of scandal in the art circle. Sargent was forced to leave Paris as a result. The painting would become one of his and the era's most iconic pieces.
  • For most of M.C. Escher's life, he was looked down upon by "serious" artists (as were all artists who specialized in lithography). He is now a fixture of art history textbooks (as well as poster shops) and your math teacher's walls.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: No one really cared about the English dub when it originally aired on some countries' Disney Channels. No one made much of a note of it and very few people shared stuff relating to it online. After Disney stopped airing it, people became interested in it and they set out to find the dub and learn more about it. They were successful since Creative Power Entertaining decided to upload it due to an increase in fan demand.

  • Bettie Page. Almost completely forgotten by the 1980s, she has emerged as the Fifties pinup queen, as well as a highly memetic mascot for the neo-rockabilly culture currently popular in Southern California.
  • The freakish photos of '50s/'60s cult photographer Diane Arbus have gained a reasonably wide following only in the past decade or so.
  • Vivian Maier lived in obscurity unknown and unpublished, pursuing a photography as her hobby. Now she is considered a major street photographer of the 20th century.

  • The South Park pinball machine initially got a lot of complaints, both because of its offensive content and because of its layout and rules, so much so that Sega, the company that made it, quit the pinball business. Due to changing attitudes, with the controversy over the show dying down, the South Park pinball machine now brings in good money when out in public (even where lots of kids are present), is one of the more sought-after South Park items for collectors, and is genuinely liked by pinball fans who get its numerous Shout Outs and thus why the machine plays the way it does. (It's a different story altogether for those who dislike or are indifferent to the show, however.)
  • High Roller Casino came out a year after the well-liked Star Wars Episode I and fell into obscurity as victim of a Tough Act to Follow. Whereas Star Wars: Episode I used a monitor, was full of voice clips, displayed live-action footage made just for the machine, and a rather complicated set of rules, High Roller Casino used an old-fashioned dot-matrix display, the rules were seen as overly simplistic, and the miniature slot machine was unimpressive. On top of that, High Roller Casino was released in 2001, right at the nadir of modern pinball's popularity, so despite its lower price, few people were interested in putting it up for public display and thus few people had even heard of it. High Roller Casino machines were then used in competitions in 2013, where it gained new popularity now that the machine can stand on its own merits (as well as pinball players learning the machine exists) and that its rules are not so much simplistic as they are uncluttered. Much demand now exists for High Roller Casino to be included in the compilation video game The Pinball Arcade, and it was indeed added in 2014. Meanwhile, Star Wars: Episode I fell out of favor due to its monotonous gameplay and corny acting (the movie's bad reputation didn't help either), and it would be near impossible to find a pinball fan nowadays who prefers Star Wars: Episode I over High Roller Casino.
  • Twilight Zone is so well-liked among pinball fans that it may be hard to believe that it was not that popular when it was new. It currently ranks at or near the top of lists on various pinball sites. The result of Pat Lawlor getting carte blanche privileges after the success of The Addams Family, the machine is crammed full of things and has among the most complicated sets of rules to have ever been in a pinball game, even compared to today's digital pinball. It was this complicatedness, and ruthless difficulty, that scared passers-by away from playing more than a few games before swearing it off. In addition, because it had so many parts, it broke down easily and frequently; the game was designed in such a way that if even one thing is slightly below maximum capacity, the game was rendered barely playable. The Twilight Zone only started getting respect when large amounts of them started entering private use. As the player can play it as much as he or she wishes, the complicated rules go from intimidating to a source of tremendous Replay Value, and if it ever breaks, the owner is always on hand to act upon it.
  • Iron Man was a rather rapid case of this. Released in 2010, this was Stern Pinball's opposite of High Roller Casino: coming off a series of mediocre releases like NBA and 24, people did not think too highly of the straightforward playfield layout of Iron Man, which made operators and home buyers alike hesitant to buy Iron Man. It didn't help that the build quality was so poor that the screws would come loose in as little as six months. However, eventually, people modded their Iron Man machines for increased sturdiness and found that its rules complemented its play-field very well, and the game eventually became popular enough for Stern to issue a re-release in 2014.
  • Safe Cracker was a highly gimmicky machine: It was shorter than usual, with smaller flippers. It had a timer-based system in which once time ran out, draining the ball instantly ended your game. But most importantly, it had a token system in which you could either collect them (with 25 of them in all) or put them back into the machine to play a bonus mode called "Assault on the Vault." All of this came together for a disastrous release, with the unconventional size throwing people off, the timer-based system meaning newcomers would get hosed, and it turned out people preferred to collect tokens, and with Williams Electronics issuing only one run of the tokens due to low sales of the machine itself, the machines quickly ran out of tokens and whatever appeal Safe Cracker had was lost. Things changed many years later though, when, like with The Twilight Zone, Safe Cracker machines entered home use. With them set to play for free, there was little loss on games that end quickly, and with these owners dedicating themselves to learning its rules and how to maximize the time bonuses (as well as discovering there were ways to restore time even after it's reached 0), as well as having access to tokens so they could play "Assault on the Vault," the games found themselves a lot more respect. It is still a ravenous and unforgiving quarter-eater though, and because of the tokens system, it is very rare to find a Safe Cracker for public play.


    Tabletop Games 
  • When Eberron was first released, it was very different from any previous settings. Until that point, D&D settings had mostly been Standard Fantasy with Specific Gimmick, exceptions being the occassional weirdness. Eberron, while still ostensibly a fantasy setting, is far more Dungeon Punk and Film Noir-inspired. It also makes heavy use of Magi Tech, and frowns upon the Always Chaotic Evil trope that had been standard until 4th edition. By the time of it being released for 5th edition, however, the entire game had moved more toward Dungeon Punk and averting Always Chaotic Evil, and even the most adamant High Fantasy settings has some magitech going on. Keith Baker himself said that adapting the setting to 5th edition was easy.
  • The fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons was savaged as being "Oversimplified" enough to the point that Pathfinder was created as an alternative and for awhile considered the "Better" version. During The New '10s, it became known (partially through fifth edition) that fourth edition's approachability managed to help newer and younger players learn the rules more easily - even if they would later prefer other games that had more options and rules later on. It also excelled quite a bit with its combat and its easy rules for miniatures. For combat-fans, fourth edition's combat proved to be a very tactical and methodical experience with fights being treated as a linear progression where they would scale higher with each round or turn. One particular thing it was praised for, however, was helping to balance the classes more. 3.5e (and even Pathfinder to an extent) was plagued by hideous imbalances towards spellcasters, who could wipe out entire rooms by the time a martial class could even make their way over, and more utility spells were even made useful in combat due to their ability to affect the battlefield. It is considered to be a great game for those into miniatures - miniatures being more available as well as the increasing availability of 3D Printing helped alleviate the barriers to entry.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • When the Odyssey cycle first came out, many players complained that it was underpowered and too focused on the graveyard. Since then, several of its cards have become staples in Legacy, and it's appreciated for introducing the idea of using the graveyard as a resource.
    • The Kamigawa block was much maligned at launch for being underpowered compared to Mirrodin, as mentioned above. However, it would gain a more positive appraisal later on for multiple reasons. First, several cards from the set would later become prominent parts of decks in older formats, such as Gifts Ungiven, Umezawa's Jitte, and Blazing Shoal. Second, its bevy of legendary creatures gave it a bump in popularity with players of the Commander/EDH format (which requires a legendary creature to be your deck's commander), with many of its legends seen as viable in this format. Finally, the Japanese folklore- and mythology- inspired flavor has also gotten praise. Nowadays, while opinions on the sets themselves vary, the setting is one of the more popular ones, and was brought up as a candidate for being revisited enough that eventually Wizards returned to it in the Distant Sequel set Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, which fared a lot better in terms of power level and flavor.
  • The "Goat Format" of Yu-Gi-Oh! was very controversial during its original run. Coming after the first banlists wiped out many of the strong generic cards, many were angry to see the power level of the game be significantly turned down. They also disdained the fact that many decks shifted to very slow control-based strategies, particularly the infamous and format-naming Goat Control, where the attack-blocking Thousand-Eyes Restrict reigned supreme. However, retrospectives of the format tended to be rather good—as Power Creep kicked back into overdrive, many began to praise Goat Format as a period where games came down largely to strategy and moment-to-moment decisions rather than players racing their way to their win condition in a handful of turns. It also became nostalgically viewed as the time when "classic" Yu-Gi-Oh was at its best, as the banlist had reduced Complacent Gaming Syndrome and made the meta far more diverse than just Thousand-Eyes Restrict. Consequently, fans began holding "Goat Format" duels that attempted to duplicate the era, which blossomed into being the most successful unofficial format of the game's history. Konami even recognized its popularity by introducing an official alternative format called "Time Wizard" that operates using previous periods of time for the legal card set.

    Theme Parks 
  • Six Flags was originally hated by the coaster community after its bankruptcy, but people have softened up within the time since.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • When Apollo Justice was introduced as the new series protagonist in his namesake title, he got a very frosty reception, partially because he was replacing his popular predecessor without bringing much new to the table and partially because Phoenix Wright himself was dramatically retooled in a controversial way to make him better fit in as a mentor figure for Apollo. However, in the years since, Apollo's reputation has been rehabilitated through both getting more character focus and development in later titles, especially since Phoenix Wright's place as de-facto series protagonist is not quite as secure as it used to be.
    • For a long time Justice For All was (aside from the final case and even that has its share of detractors) seen as the worst game in the whole Ace Attorney franchise, for lacking the tight storyline of the first or third games, or the novelty factor of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney or the first Ace Attorney Investigations game. Since then, opinions toward it have warmed considerably, to the point where it's actually now considered one of the better games in the series, only really let down by a poor third case and Franziska being a rather one-note adversary. Even the game's Sequel Difficulty Spike is looked on more favorably when compared to some of the newer entries, which have been criticized for being too easy.
  • Saya no Uta originally sold very poorly and since it's a messy Deconstruction of concepts like Cute Monster Girl and Magical Girlfriend, it got fairly bad reactions as well. Years later, people warmed up to this, it started to sell and has sold consistently ever since. Nitroplus CEO Takaki Kosaka stated it has become one of the best-selling Visual Novels in the company's history.

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 
  • Certain countdown artists were not all that popular during the time they came, mostly because others were stealing the spotlights, but because they survived the transition from text-based to vocal some of their older content suddenly got more views.
    • joshscorcher for one. His older videos were not watched all that much during the time of their release, but due to his bursting popularity with his vocal countdowns they subsequently got more views.
    • Animalguy001 (now Fawful's Minion) is also one of those people. He went unnoticed by the countdown community, until he started releasing his first vocal countdowns.
  • NC17Productions was once one of the most hated video game reviewers on the internet (to the point that everyone riffed on him). As however time passed though he dumped his old review series, made better reviews, tried out new stuff (such as Let's Plays) and he nowadays has a strong cult following.
  • The Irate Gamer was for a very long time considered to be one of the worst web review shows of all time, courtesy of being called an AVGN ripoff and misinformed in terms of research. However some of Irate Gamer's former haters have since warmed up to him, or at least respect him, due to him gradually Growing the Beard over the years. Among these are Aslieri, The Archfriend, Big Al, the late Emer Prevous aka Hellsing920, and even Mike Matei. Newer audiences who got to watch his videos years after the show's detractors moved on from it didn't see the huge fuzz about the series and usually consider it to be So Okay, It's Average at worst while others actually find the Irate Gamer very entertaining. The fact that he and The Angry Video Game Nerd have collaborated on a video together certainly helps. In general, the hate for the Irate Gamer isn't nearly as prevalent as 10 years or so ago.
  • The Nostalgia Critic episode "Let's Play: Bart's Nightmare" has become this over time. When it was released in 2011 many considered it the worst video Doug Walker had ever done, either because you thought the completely different departure from his normal videos was jumping the shark and/or his style of commentary wasn't suited for Let's Plays. But almost a decade later many fans have now warmed up to it, especially with the backlash to his review of The Wall.
  • Back in 2017, LS Mark was quite despised amongst the YouTube community for his then-controversial "Why I Dislike Butch Hartman" video and his bland artwork. Though as his artwork started to improve and by the time Butch Hartman was starting to be a controversial figure, he started to gain quite a huge fanbase.
  • MarioTehPlumber has never had a good reputation because of his poor-quality "reviews" of Sonic the Hedgehog (and later Nintendo) games on YouTube that suffer from his screaming into the microphone, excessive profanity and more focus on character design than gameplay, not at all helped by his aggressive retaliation to those who called him out on his behaviour. However, in his early years he was one of the most despised YouTubers on the site. The main reason for this is that, because the Sonic franchise was already infamous for its extremely divided fanbase exacerbated by a significant Vocal Minority of unpleasantly obsessive fans by the time he first began making his videos, he quickly became subjected to Poe's Law; many of his viewers didn't realise that he is a Troll and believed he was a genuinely horrible person. As time passed and he continued his formulaic style, more and more viewers eventually caught on that he had been trolling them all along and his opinions are usually either fabricated or exaggerated, especially when he uploaded a few videos where he was actually calm. While his videos are still widely agreed to be really bad, the growing consensus that his YouTube persona isn't genuine has mitigated much of the vocal contempt towards him, and he has even managed to gain a small fanbase from those who think his videos are so over-the-top and idiotic as to be funny.
  • When Cara Cunningham's emotionally-charged "LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!" video went viral in 2007, Cunningham quickly became the laughing stock of the internet. Twelve years later, the public became aware of the restrictive conservatorship Britney Spears had been placed under after her mental breakdown, giving her next to no control over her life, finances, or music career long after making a recovery. Not only has Britney herself been vindicated by history and recognized for her performing talent, but people realized Cunningham had a point all along.