"Weird Al" Effect

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

When a parody remains popular after the original works being parodied are no longer well known to the audience.

Named for the fact that, when listening to the earlier work of "Weird Al" Yankovic, modern fans may be so unfamiliar with the songs being mocked as to not even realize that the Weird Al song is a parody. For example, many people are now more familiar with "I Lost on Jeopardy!" than with the original "Jeopardy" by the Greg Kihn Band (or even the original game show from the sixties). Some may even have forgotten Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park," or Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" (or Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise," for that matter), remembering only Weird Al's "Jurassic Park" or "Amish Paradise".[1]

Often, people who are only "familiar" with a work through the parody are surprised when the subject of the parody turns out to be Better Than It Sounds.

Related to the concept of a Forgotten Trope, except it is not tropes but works or personalities that have been forgotten. Could be an extreme expression of Rule of Funny (The music may not have had much staying power, but at least the parody is funny). See also Adaptation Displacement, Popcultural Osmosis, Older Than They Think, Coconut Effect, Covered Up and Revival by Commercialization.

Not to be confused with some people's tendency to attribute all parody songs to "Weird Al", which is Misattributed Song.

Examples of "Weird Al" Effect include:

Trope Namer

  • For those wondering how people could make such a mistake with "Weird Al" Yankovic, he does also have a lot of original humorous songs. Most of us older folks know him better for his parodies, but he's spanned a few generations since his Dr. Demento days and is still going strong. Moreover, knowing that a song is a parody and knowing the song it parodies are two different things.
    • Coolio was quite peeved about "Amish Paradise", for which Yankovic had obtained permission through official channels but not through Coolio himself. He felt that Weird Al's version trivialized the seriousness of the song.
    • To further confuse matters, a lot of Al's original songs are pastiches or "style parodies", where he parodies a band's/artist's musical style instead of a specific song. Because he does change the music a bit even with parodies, this leads to some thinking that these style parodies are a parody of a specific song. Examples follow:
  • Referenced in The Flash Tub Gamescott Review (which is a parody of both 90's internet videos and internet game reviews) in the end credits, crediting Papa Roach's "Last Resort" to "Weird Al", since Weird Al did cover it in one of his medleys.
  • A commercial for pepperoni featured a parody song of "My Sharona"... except that the performer was using an accordion and one-man-band drum, making it clear it was actually a parody of Weird Al's parody of "My Sharona", "My Bologna"!


  • The Energizer Bunny, Mascot for the Energizer brand of batteries for over 20 years, was originally a parody of an ad campaign by rival Duracell, in which a small and cute bunny with a small drum powered by their battery would last longer than one powered by their chief rival - which, back then, was Everlast (Energizer's ad was that its bunny, like its battery, was too large and impressive for Duracell's ad). In part due to its effectiveness as a campaign and in part due to Duracell not keeping up with the trademarks, the original bunny is all but forgotten in North America (although still active in other continents).
  • In the early 1980s, there was a series of TV spots for Calvin Klein Jeans in which several top-flight fashion models of the day (notably Brooke Shields and Andie MacDowell) would declare that "nothing comes between me and my Calvins", which turned out to be a parody of a series of TV spots for Pan Am in the 1970s, in which several famous people would declare that "nothing beats Pan Am's experience".

Anime and Manga

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion and Martian Successor Nadesico are a Deconstruction and a parody, respectively, of the Humongous Mecha series of their day. Ten years later, who can remember their contemporaries?
  • Gunbuster was actually a parody of Aim for The Ace a tennis manga and anime series; as well as Super Robot anime programs like Mazinger Z and Getter Robo.
  • Dragon Ball originally started as a parody of Journey to the West, which, while still popular in Asia, is more or less unknown in many countries Dragon Ball was released in except those that had Monkey on their TVs.
    • That said, finding more than a few tangential similarities between Dragon Ball and Journey to the West is impossible without tilting your head, squinting, and drinking a bottle of Vodka, so this probably shouldn't be a surprise.
  • The speech "Sometimes I'm a..." is closely associated with Cutey Honey, so much so that the original source (Tarao Bannai) that Cutey Honey was parodying with that speech has been long forgotten
  • Fandom example: At least on this wiki, it appears as if the use of the term "White Devil" in reference to Nanoha Takamachi has almost completely eclipsed its original use as a canon nickname for the RX-78 and/or Amuro Ray.
  • Naruto has completely overtaken terms & names like Fuuma Shuriken, (Kage) Bunshin, Kawarimi;[2] a ninja called Sasuke;[3] and a trio with the names of Tsunade, Orochimaru and Jiraiya with powers based on snails, snakes, and frogs, respectively.[4]
  • Ouran High School Host Club appears to be headed this way, with more people watching the show having not seen any of the shojo it parodies. The surface humor and well-developed characters serve to attract people who don't get the joke.

Comic Books

  • The pirates in Asterix comics are close parodies (allowing for the difference in art style) of Captain Barbe-Rouge (Redbeard) and his crew in the comic of the same name. Originally published in the same magazine as Asterix, Barbe-Rouge is almost unknown outside France. You have a shot at recognizing them if you've seen one of the 90s cartoon shows, but the parody characters have such a distinct look that it's not obvious.
    • Furthermore the pirates, on yet another occasion when their ship is smashed by Asterix and Co, end up in a sequence with them parodying the now somewhat obscure painting "The Raft of the Medusa". Said painting is actually pretty famous in France, and a mainstay of school textbooks on French painting. The parody has untranslatable French puns involving the idiomatic meaning of "médusé" (stupefied). The English translation has them say "We've been framed, by Jericho!" [5]
    • Asterix generally is packed solid with references to French politics, society, and other such in-jokes, which are funny (in their own right) to everyone else, and absolutely hilarious to the French. Well, at least to the French who are old enough to recognize said politicians. These jokes tend not to age very well. For example, the antagonist from Obelix and Co. is supposed to be a parody of Jacques Chirac. Yes, as in former President of France Jacques Chirac, though the parody was back then focused on his largely-forgotten-outside-France stint as Prime Minister.
  • On the topic of comics...how many people today think of the Dalton brothers as the historical Bob, Grat and Emmet, and how many think of the Dalton Brothers as Lucky Luke's Joe, Jack, William and Averell? In Europe and the French speaking world, at least, it's not even a contest.
    • Joe, Jack, William and Averell are supposed to be the Dalton cousins. The "historical" Dalton brothers were featured (caricatured) in the album Outlaw which is probably forgotten because Goscinny didn't write it, plus it's just one album vs. over 20, plus they were actually Killed Off for Real whereas Lucky Luke moved to Thou Shalt Not Kill a few albums later.
    • There are others who may associate the Daltons as Dinky, Pinky, Stinky, etc. from Huckleberry Hound.
  • Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday. Also, he's a zombie. If you know of Solomon Grundy, chances are you probably know him from the comics and cartoon, but not from the nursery rhyme.
    • In Mexico, there's a wrestler known as Solomon Grundy, and we don't know about any rhyme, comic, or cartoon.
    • The rhyme itself IS mentioned in the popular Batman series The Long Halloween. It's also briefly referenced in Justice League.
      • Oddly enough, one Justice League cartoon episode has him sacrifice himself for something (nevermind that being a zombie, he can't really die off permanently). The gravestone shown usually mentions the rhyme.
    • The rhyme is also referenced in the Batman story "One Night in Slaughter Swamp", published in Batman: Shadow of the Bat # 39 (1995).
    • The Crash Test Dummies also used his name for their Superman song, only because it rhymed with money. ...sorta.
    • He recently had a mini where each of the issue titles was a part of the rhyme.
  • Many comic book fans didn't even realize that DC Comics had other characters besides Wesley Dodds and Morpheus who went by "The Sandman" until they saw Hector Hall make an ass of himself in volume 2 of Neil Gaiman's celebrated series.
  • While the characters of Watchmen have become popular and well-known despite only being in that story, the original Charlton heroes that inspired their creation have almost faded into obscurity. The Question, Blue Beetle, and Captain Atom have managed to escape this to some extent, but Thunderbolt and the Peacemaker (Ozymandias and the Comedian's counterparts respectively) have suffered.
    • In Thunderbolt's case, he isn't owned by DC anymore.
    • And Peacemaker only very superficially resembled the Comedian, making any connection ridiculous on its face. (If they ever met, they would not get along.)
    • Another Watchmen one: Moore and Gibbons' use of the 9-panel grid has prompted a lot of people, including comic book historians, to believe that Steve Ditko (the creator of the original Charlton characters) worked almost exclusively in the 9-panel grid format. This is not to say that Ditko didn't use it frequently, but it was hardly his "go to" layout.
  • The Guy Fawkes mask is now associated more with V for Vendetta than with the guy—er, Guy—it represents.
    • In America anyway... Bonfire Night is still a well celebrated national holiday in the UK, and kids are taught about the history behind it in school.
    • 'I see no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.' And, indeed, it hasn't been.
    • Its meaning is shifting even beyond that, now that it's being used as a tool of 4chan/anonymous for their real-world protests—and this applies to both the US and UK as the mask has lately appeared on the office wall of The IT Crowd. Whee!
      • Indeed, in the "set tour" featurette on the 3rd series of The IT Crowd, it's actually referred to as the V For Vendetta mask, rather than a Guy Fawkes mask, by Graham Linehan himself!
    • For that matter, the English word "guy" is itself a reference to Guy Fawkes that has evolved over the centuries be used as reference for anyone, not just an effigy of the original Guy.
  • Deadpool was originally conceived by Rob Liefeld as a rather blatant ripoff of DC Comics supervillain Deathstroke. Later writers took the character and revamped him into a parody to save Marvel some face. While Deathstroke still has a strong fan following, Deadpool has pretty eclipsed him in terms of popularity.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was originally an underground comic strip parody of Daredevil; the most obvious aspects being the Turtles' master, Splinter (as opposed to Daredevil's "Stick") and their enemies, the Foot Clan (Daredevil's were the Hand). I don't even need to say which one is better known.
    • Matt Murdock was hit in the eyes with chemicals in his origin story, while rescuing a blind man from an oncoming truck. In the Ninja Turtles version, the chemical canister bounced off his head, specifically "near his eyes", and a nearby boy's pet turtles took the hit instead. In some versions the second boy resembles Matt Murdock more, but originally it was a boy named Chester.
    • Also, the Turtles names. Most modern junior high students know enough about art to recognize the artists whom Leonardo and Michelangelo are named after, but most need a search engine to find out who the historic Donatello and Raphael were.
  • Even with proper annotation you'll be hard pressed to identify most of the references to Victorian literature in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with bonus points if you're even aware of the original work.
    • To understand how far Alan Moore goes, there are references to Victorian porn novels that have been out of print for decades, and visual reference gags can number in the triple figures on one page. It gets even worse once he gets into the twentieth century.
  • Far more people know Arkham as the asylum populated by Batman villains than know it as one of Lovecraft's fictional haunted towns in New England.
  • Seeing as Viz started as a parody of British children's comics and now the genre it parodies is all but dead with the exception of The Beano and The Dandy and Viz even outsells those two now.

Fan Works

  • My Immortal achieved much of its infamy for taking Harry Potter fanfic clichés to absurd levels. However, My Immortal long ago transcended the Harry Potter fandom and will thus likely by many people's first encounter with Potter fanfiction. Some even Read It For The Meme while being unfamiliar with the actual Potter series. If you're a Potter fan, you may find it amusing to see Draco in Leather Pants taken to the point where Draco is an ultra-sensitive wussy. If not, he's just some guy acting stupid. It's also likely many readers, especially outside the United States, will be unfamiliar with the goth/prep sterotypes which the story runs on. For example, Hot Topic is a U.S. retail chain with a The Man Is Sticking It to the Man reputation, making Tara's view of it as some edgy, non-mainstream place hilarious. But only if you get the reference.


  • Kenneth Alford's 1914 tune "Colonel Bogey's March" is now best known as "that whistling tune from The Bridge on the River Kwai."
  • The classic 1940s-era shorts by The Three Stooges were often parodies of contemporary films; the Stooges are still not as far off the current pop-culture radar as many of the movies they made fun of.
    • In a similar case, it affected former third Stooge Joe Besser as well: While he was quite popular for various comedic roles during his time—most notably his "whiny sissy" act that he carried over to his Stooge role—today, he's known for nothing but being a replacement third Stooge (and a subpar one at that).
  • The movie Airplane! (1980) lifts, often word for word, the story of a 1950s disaster movie called Zero Hour! (As a matter of fact, the Zucker brothers bought the rights to Zero Hour! so they could use its plot so closely without being sued.) Yet many people compliment Airplane! for having its own plot instead of doing a scene-by-scene parody. I challenge you to find anyone who knows what Zero Hour! even is and didn't find out because it was the basis of Airplane!
    • At the time, Airplane! would have certainly been viewed as a parody of the '70s disaster film craze, specially the Airport series, which jump-started it. Which itself is pretty forgotten nowadays.
    • Zero Hour! was itself based on a CBC television movie, Flight into Danger, written by Arthur Hailey, of Airport fame.
  • In Blazing Saddles, the villain Hedley Lamarr is always correcting people who call him "Hedy." There are fewer people today who know Hedy Lamarr than who know Blazing Saddles—or who know Hedy LaRue in How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, a more direct takeoff on Lamarr.
    • Except for those who remember her as one of Grampa's Running Gags from Hey Arnold!.
      • In fact, Half-Life 2 may be the foremost reason the 15-21 demographic knows who Hedy Lamarr is currently.
    • The page quote for Retired Gunfighter is taken from a Twilight Zone episode. Said quote will be immediately familiar to any fan of Brooks' movie, as the Waco Kid's quote about his past is a very closely drawn parody of the (forgotten) original.
    • An even more well-known example from Blazing Saddles: "We don't need no steenkin' badges!" More people know the Blazing Saddles version of this quote than know the original from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
      • Or even Weird Al's version from UHF: "Badgers? Badgers? We don't need no steenkin' badgers!"
  • The titular character of Dr. Strangelove (played by Peter Sellers) was a memorable wheelchair-bound (usually) ex-Nazi scientist with an Evil Hand. Most people who see the movie nowadays don't realize that the ex-Nazi scientist was a stock character in the 50's.
    • Dr. Everett Scott from The Rocky Horror Picture Show is also a parody of this archetype, and being wheelchair-bound is a definite homage to Kubrick.
    • Strangelove was also a parody of Werner von Braun, the ex-Nazi scientist who worked for NASA. Now that the various atomic bomb scientists are less known, people may associate him with John von Neumann or Edward Teller, neither of whom was an ex-Nazi or sympathetic to the Nazis.
      • And how many know Wernher von Braun from the Tom Lehrer song that parodies him?
    • And, the Evil Hand was lifted directly from the Mad Scientist Rotwang from the German silent SF flick Metropolis.
    • Dr. Strangelove is now far more famous and popular then the nuclear holocaust movies it parodied.
    • It is an adaptation of the now long forgotten dramatic Peter George novel Red Alert.
  • Several scenes from the spy thriller Marathon Man ("Is it safe?") are arguably more famous for being parodied than the movie itself.
  • James Bond averts this trope, as the film adaptations started in 1962, are still running and thus more known than the endless parodies (the most memorable being Get Smart in the 60's and Austin Powers in the 90's).
    • It hasn't been the victim of this trope, maybe, but it has been the source of at least one example: most people think the name "Goldfinger" is a preposterous Meaningful Name concoction that Ian Fleming came up with independently, but he actually was inspired by the name of the noted Hungarian architect Ernő Goldfinger. (When the real-life Goldfinger considered legal action, Fleming threatened to rename his novel's antagonist "Goldprick".) Which only makes Goldmember even funnier... It's also been the source of a similar example to this trope: Get Smart is often assumed to be a James Bond parody because the Bond series is so popular, even though it was a parody of other spy dramas of the 1950s and 1960s. Although it parodied some James Bond movies too. Bronzefinger, anyone?
    • James Bond himself is actually named after an ornithologist. Amusingly in light of this, Goldeneye is also the name of a species of duck (although the film is named after Fleming's cottage in Jamaica). Lampshaded in Die Another Day when James Bond is seen glancing at a copy of ornithologist James Bond's book.
    • The Man With The Golden Arm was a acclaimed 1955 film about heroin addiction. Fleming tweaked the title for The Man with the Golden Gun.
    • Austin Powers, however, gets credit for quite a bit that it lifted from Casino Royale 1967 (unless Casino Royale 1967 lifted them from Our Man Flint, from which Austin Powers also borrowed heavily). For comparison, you can now legally watch the original on YouTube. Yes, that's why Austin has an obsession with Burt Bacharach.
    • While the Austin Powers series at large hasn't quite overcome James Bond, despite a surprisingly strong effort, Austin's nemesis, Dr. Evil, Mike Meyers doing an overblown Lorne Michaels impression, seems to have cleanly outstripped Blofeld (whom he is based on) for popularity.
    • In addition people are probably much more familiar with The Spy Who Shagged Me then The Spy Who Loved Me which it parodied in title (and nothing else).
  • Far more people nowadays have seen the Indiana Jones films than the '30s adventure films that inspired them. To the point where one of the main criticisms of the new film was that it didn't follow the '30s adventure pastiche, even though the production team was trying to do the same thing to the '50s sci-fi shows.
  • Try showing some German expressionist movies to someone who isn't already familiar with the genre, and see how long it takes for them to mention Tim Burton.
  • One wonders how many modern fans know that "Ann-Margrock" in the The Flintstones was named after the actress Ann-Margaret.
    • Honestly, this and other "special guest voice" Punny Names were a constant source of confusion for kids who grew up with endless Flintstones reruns.
      • The most baffling would have to be “Jimmy Darrock.” Honestly, who remembers who James Darren is anymore? (Besides those who know him as Vic Fontaine, that is...)
  • While not a parody, Robert DeNiro's famous "You Talkin' to Me??" line from Taxi Driver was a reference to the 1953 Western Shane, where the titular character is called out.

Shane: You speakin' to me?
Chris Calloway: I don't see nobody else standin' there.

  • The LOVE/HATE tattoos dangerous people have on their knuckles originated in The Night of the Hunter, has been used in Raising Arizona to name but one, and gets spoofed a lot. SMBC once had a biker accidentally getting the tattoo "LOVE/HATS" but didn't mind because he actually really loved hats.
    • For some, it's hard to see the LOVE/HATE tattoos and NOT think of Eddie.
    • The four fingered Sideshow Bob had "LUV" on one and "HĀT" on the other in one episode of The Simpsons.
    • Also, Radio Raheem in Do the Right Thing has LOVE/HATE four-finger rings.
  • Robot Chicken and other parody series have featured Kill Bill parodies centering around Uma Thurman's yellow jumpsuit, which was itself a homage to Game of Death. But many younger fans of Robot Chicken were likely unaware of that.
  • Pulp Fiction contains another iconic example in Jules' quoting of a (rather heavily modified) passage from Ezekiel. This is in fact a fairly overt reference to Sonny Chiba's character in The Bodyguard.
  • Most people would recognise scenes from films such as The Great Escape or The Dam Busters than would recognise the films themselves. For example the "bouncing bombs" or the "throwing a ball against the wall in a prison cell" are widely recognised by people who have never seen either of those.
    • The fact that the attack on the Death Star sequence in Star Wars: A New Hope is a shot for shot homage to The Dam Busters will confuse people a bit though.
    • Double that for the theme tunes. Most people will recognise the Great Escape theme or the Dam Busters match, but have no idea what film the music is from.
    • The Great Escape gets a bit more recognition in the UK, what with it having being a Christmas Tradition for many years.
  • How many people have seen or even heard of the Dalton Trumbo war film, Johnny Got His Gun, and how many people only know it as the backdrop to Metallica's music video for "One"? (Metallica bought the rights to the film for the video, but were decent enough to release it to video as well.)
    • A few know the novel, though.
      • How many of those people have seen the posters or heard the song the novel deconstructs?
  • Younger Star Trek fans may be surprised to learn that the "this is the gulag Rura Penthe" speech in Star Trek VI was lifted nearly word-for-word from The Bridge on the River Kwai.
    • Most people also fail to realize that the name "Rura Penthe" was actually taken from a prison camp mentioned in Disney's 1954 film Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea which sadly is not very well known nowadys even by those who claim to be hardcore Disney fans. It's a shame because it's probably one of Disney's greatest films.
    • Likewise, half of Khan's lines from Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan are quotes from Moby Dick. You'll be more likely to hear someone quote "I'll chase him round the moons of Nibia, and round the Antares Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up!" than "I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up!"
      • More people nowadays are likely to have seen Star Trek: First Contact than have read Moby Dick, which it also quotes. At least they went out of their way to specifically name the book.
    • Anyone introduced to Trek with the 2009 film, will miss the huge number of In Jokes and Call Backs to previous Trek productions.
  • The introduction fanfare from Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss is known to a general public as "the fanfares from" or even "the theme song of" the 2001: A Space Odyssey. What is more, it was labelled "Fanfare for 2001: A Space Odyssey" on a ballroom dance compilation CD, probably because it was labelled so on the album "Hollywood's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2." where it was lifted from for the ballroom CD.
  • From the IMDb entry for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?:

"In this film, Elizabeth Taylor does an exaggerated impression of Bette Davis saying a line from Beyond the Forest (1949): 'What a dump!' In an interview with Barbara Walters, Bette Davis said that in the film, she really did not deliver the line in such an exaggerated manner. She said it in a more subtle, low-key manner, but it has passed into legend that she said it the way Elizabeth Taylor's delivered it in this film. During the Barbara Walters interview, the clip of Bette Davis delivering the line from Beyond the Forest was shown to prove that Davis was correct. However, since people expected Bette Davis to deliver the line the way Elizabeth Taylor had, she always opened her in-person, one woman show by saying the line in a campy, exaggerated manner: 'WHAT ... A... DUMP!!!' It always brought down the house. 'I imitated the imitators,' Davis said."

    • Actually, when Elizabeth Taylor first walks into the house, and her character spontaneously says "What a dump," her delivery is just like Bette Davis's. It's only after she asks her husband where the line is from, and repeats it several times that she exaggerates it. She escalates both her nagging and her delivery, and in fact, isn't really attempting to accurately imitate Bette Davis in the first place.
      • Taylor and Richard Burton have a long and meaningless discussion where they try to remember the name of the movie. They remember every other detail, including plot minutiae, the stars, Bette Davis and Joseph Cotten, quotes from the movie, but not the title. They even remember that it was a Warner Bros. picture. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is also a Warner Bros. film.
  • Many of the movies and cultural references mentioned in The Rocky Horror Picture Show‍'‍s opening song "Science Fiction Double Feature" (as well as references throughout) are completely lost on the younger fans of the film.
  • Full Metal Jacket: Mention the name "Gomer Pyle" to someone. A younger person will probably think of " the fat Marine recruit who blows his brains out" instead of "the gas station worker from The Andy Griffith Show who got a spin off sitcom where he was in the Marines" (Which is where the name came from and why Gunny Hartman gives it to him).
  • How many people remember "I Can't Turn You Loose" or the Peter Gunn Theme as anything other than the wacky chase music and walking around music (respectively) from The Blues Brothers?
    • Moreover, people tend to recognize the latter from the classic arcade game Spy Hunter then from the show itself.
      • Sopranos fans recognize it as a song mixed with "Every Breath You Take".
  • The dialog between Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back that includes the line "I happen to like nice men" matches similar dialog from Gone With the Wind almost exactly:

"Scarlett, you do like me, don't you?"
That was more like what she was expecting.
"Well, sometimes," she answered cautiously. "When you aren't acting like a varmint."
He laughed again and held the palm of her hand against his hard cheek.
"I think you like me because I am a varmint. You've known so few dyed-in-the-wool varmints in your sheltered life that my very difference holds a quaint charm for you."
This was not the turn she had anticipated and she tried again without success to pull her hand free.
"That's not true! I like nice men--men you can depend on to always be gentlemanly."


  • In the early chapters of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, when Alice is trying to "sort her head out", she recites two children's verses, which she names "How Doth the Little..." and "You Are Old, Father William." Contemporaries of Carroll would have recognised these as parodies of "Against Idleness and Mischief" by Isaac Watts and "The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them" by Robert Southey. These days, while many people know Carroll's parody of Southey's verse, fewer know that it is in fact a parody, and fewer still could name or recite the original. Some verses that Carroll parodied even scholars aren't sure of because they are now so obscure. In fact the only one that hasn't caused the Weird Al Effect is "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat" ("Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star").
    • Speaking of Southey, his poem "The Battle of Blenheim" originated the familiar album cover trope of the kid playing innocently with a skull.
    • And few modern readers of Through the Looking-Glass would know the tune the White Knight's "A-Sitting on a Gate" is supposed to be sung to, even though Alice points out that "the tune isn't his own invention."
    • There's a few with Alice in Wonderland. Much of the wording was meant to be surreal and strange, but has actually made its way into common parlance so that it seems perfectly normal to a modern reader. For instance, Alice says "Let's pretend," in the beginning. At the time, "pretend" meant "to lie or deceive", so "Let's pretend" sounded very strange. Now, thanks to Alice in Wonderland, the meaning of the word has changed quite a bit. Alice in Wonderland is rather like its own Weird Al Effect, one could say.
      • In a similar vein, several words (for instance, "chortle") were completely invented by Carrol and yet very few even know that they were once considered nonsense.
    • Check out the wonderful book "Annotated Alice" where famed (and recently late) mathemagician Martin Gardner takes the time to annotate virtually every cultural reference made. Suffice to say there are at least as many words in the annotations as there are in the original stories.
    • Not unlike how The Bard originated, or at least popularized, a lot of words and phrases that are still part of common parlance, a lot originated with the Alice stories as well. Because of their origin they could be considered a double instance of the trope—very few people will realize they came from Alice, and further, even if they do, they won't realize that the original references in Alice were parodies themselves!
    • Through the Looking-Glass has a nice example. The Walrus and the Carpenter, the poem sung by the twins, is a parody of The Dream of Eugene Aram, which is about an elementary school teacher who is convicted of murder.
    • The Mad Hatter was already a trope before Carroll came along. Hatters used mercury to cure felt, and would sometimes lose cognitive function from inhaling the fumes, so mad hatters was a trope somewhat analogous to the modern trope of insane postal workers. The book is the only surviving use of the trope, so modern readers assume it's an original character concept.
    • The beast in Carrol's poem "Jabberwocky" is more commonly known by that name since most works that reference it use that instead of the creature's actual name: Jabberwock.
  • An even older literary example is Cervantes' Don Quixote, which parodied a number of Chivalric Romances from the time period, especially one called Amadis of Gaul. None of these are read any more, except by scholars.
  • Voltaire's classic Candide is a harsh satire aimed at the optimistic teachings of Gottfried Leibniz... who would only have been remembered as a mathematician had Candide not proven so popular. And they have forgotten the more likely target of Voltaire's satire, the now still more obscure Christian Wolff, who combined views as optimistic as Leibniz's with a career nearly as random as Pangloss's.
  • Agatha Christie's collection of stories starring Tommy and Tuppence, Partners in Crime, uses a device in which each story is a Homage to a different crime-writer. While many of them are still famous today, a few are now hopelessly obscure. (Anyone familiar with the blind detective Thornley Colton? Anyone?)
  • Stella Gibbons's comic novel Cold Comfort Farm has outlived the rustic romances it parodied.
  • Gullivers Travels was a parody of the then-popular genre of journeys to distant lands. It's now a standalone classic. It contains innumerable digs at people and ideas of Swift's time, which go right past modern readers. This has led many people to think of Jonathan Swift as nothing more than a writer of a whimsical children's tale, when in reality he was a vicious and biting satirist who regularly savaged society in his writings. One of his other better-known works is "A Modest Proposal", where he satirically suggests that the best way to handle all the starving children in Ireland was to simply eat them, reasoning that since the British had already exploited Ireland in every other way, the only thing to do now is go humanitarian.
    • Certain sections of Several Voyages to Remote Nations of the World by Lemuel Gulliver are also parodying other works. His Laputa and Balnibari are much more directly mocking Francis Bacon's New Atlantis. And, strangely, the ideas of each of the 4 places he goes may have been taken from an old Japanese story, or collection of stories, that talked about tiny people, giants, and horses. Whether this is truth or an extraordinary coincidence unclear, but considering how Japan is the only place Gulliver goes to that Swift treats with any kind of reality (in addition to being the only real place Gulliver goes, and the only place where he doesn't learn the language) there may be something to it.
  • One interesting detail in The Great Divorce is that Heaven is so "solid" that souls coming directly from Earth or Hell are unable to move anything—even leaves or blades of grass. In the preface, CS Lewis credits a Sci-Fi short story for giving him the idea: the protagonist of the story time travels to the unchangeable past and finds "raindrops that would pierce him like bullets and sandwiches that no strength could bite". Lewis couldn't remember the name of the story or its author. It was probably "The Man Who Lived Backwards," by the never-famous Charles F. Hall.
    • The title and purpose of The Great Divorce serve as a Take That against the now obscure-in-comparison The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake—which was itself a Take That against the doubly obscure Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg.
  • Despite the modern vampire dating back to Lord Ruthven of John William Polidori's 1819 short story "The Vampyre", Dracula is still the archtypical vampire. Even then, it's the Dracula in adaptations people think of, rather than the original book charcter.
    • Only if they don't sparkle.
    • For instance, many people reading Dracula will be surprised to see the title character walking around in daylight.
  • Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey seems to be more widely studied and read than the gothic fiction of Ann Radcliffe which it parodies.
    • In fact, for a long time scholars weren't even sure that the works she parodied even existed.
  • A number of 18th century poets such as Colley Cibber are mainly known even to academics for being mocked and parodied by Alexander Pope in The Dunciad and other works.
  • 1066 and All That, a 1930 parody of the patriotic Whiggish school history books of the early 20th century has long outlasted the works it is parodying.
  • The Harry Potter series was partially inspired by the time-honored British boarding school genre. Harry Potter is now way, way more famous than Tom Brown's Schooldays.
    • While on the topic of Harry Potter: A lot of the creatures, spells, and other magical phenomena in the book have their roots in much, much older literature. Basilisks, for example, are at least Older Than Print. However, with the exception of elements used frequently in modern works (werewolves, for example), most Harry Potter fans aren't fully aware of how little of Harry's world originated with J.K. Rowling. (The exception is that if you're even vaguely aware of alchemy, then you'd know at least that Rowling did not invent the Philosopher's Stone.)
      • And Nicolas Flamel was a real person, who supposedly did invent the Philosopher's Stone.
    • But then Tom Brown's Schooldays also gave rise to that grand antihero Flashman.
  • Few people remember that the character of C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower was an homage to and Affectionate Parody of, at the time, well-known British naval officers; particularly Lord Horatio Nelson. Many of Hornblower's adventures, as well as his career progression, closely parallel Lord Nelson's. These days, all but Nelson are largely forgotten by those who aren't historians or military strategists; and Nelson himself is little-known outside of Great Britain.
  • Believe it or not, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, the Trope Maker for Dystopia, was written because the writer found so much Fridge Horror in one of H. G. Wells's later novels (written long after Wells had Jumped the Shark) that Huxley considered that novel to depict more of a dystopia than a utopia. Today, Brave New World is considered a classic, and practically no one knows or cares about Wells's book, Men Like Gods.
  • In a variation of this trope, you'd be surprised to learn how many words you use each day that didn't exist until The Bard wrote them down. Addiction, advertizing, amazement, assassination, bedroom, blanket, blushing, countless, fashionable, frugal... The list goes on and on.

Live Action TV

  • The opening credits of Police Squad!! are almost a shot by shot parody of both the images and music of the little known '60s series M Squad.
  • When Doctor Who started in 1963, as a budget saving measure the Doctor's possibly-infinitely-large-inside space'n'time traveling ship was disguised as an ordinary, everyday object that all viewers would be familiar with—a police box, examples of which could be seen in every town in Britain. By the time the series was revived in 2005, there hadn't been a working police box anywhere in the UK for over 20 years, and a line of expository dialogue was required in the first new episode to explain the TARDIS's appearance. Indeed, the TARDIS is usually the first thing anyone thinks of upon seeing a picture of a police box.
    • Even Sarah Jane makes the mistake in one episode, where she travels back to 1950's England.
    • There's a police box right out the Earl's Court tube station in London, big and blue as anything.
      • This isn't an original police box though, it was built in 1997.
    • This has led to possibly the only prop-based instance of the Celebrity Paradox—in the real world, a Police Box would be anything but inconspicuous, because just about everybody in Britain would recognise it as the TARDIS. This is occasionally lampshaded, with mixed success/cringeworthiness, in UK media.
      • Note that the series itself frequently points this out.
      • On a similar note, there's a police box on Buchanan Street in Glasgow (though whether it's a surviving one or a replica I don't know) which is universally known as "the TARDIS".
    • Possibly the only legally binding case of the Weird Al Effect: The BBC trademarked the look of the TARDIS in 1996. The Metropolitan Police challenged it, and lost, with the judge saying that it was far more recognizable as a symbol of Doctor Who than as a symbol of the police. (The fact that the police had never attempted to trademark it themselves over the course of 40 years also counted against them.)
  • Serious and downbeat drama series Secret Army, about the Belgian resistance during WW 2, was closely parodied in knockabout comedy Allo Allo—which went on to be much more popular and longer-running than the original. To this day, most British people are unaware that Allo Allo began as a parody at all...
  • The Batusi from Batman is far better remembered than the Watusi it was originally punned off of. The Batusi is now better known as "that dance John Travolta does on Pulp Fiction." Or from The Simpsons: "How come Batman doesn't dance anymore?"
  • Speaking of Batman, most fans of the Dark Age Batman regard the 1960s series as the representative of that era's Batman, when actually it was a tongue-in-cheek parody of the comic book, which the comic later imitated because of the TV show's success.
  • The Prisoner is, possibly, a Sequel Series to spy series Danger Man, or at least a Spiritual Successor. The cartoon Danger Mouse parodies or gives a Shout-Out to Danger Man. Both are much better remembered.
    • The theme for the American release Secret Agent Man is a staple of oldies radio.
  • In one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the visual similarity between Spike and Billy Idol is Lampshaded. To a large number of fans, Spike is far more recoginisable than Billy Idol.
    • Buffy goes on to say that Idol took his look from Spike...
  • Get Smart parodied the various espionage TV series popular at the time such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy and The Avengers, but has been in reruns so long that most people assume it to be a James Bond parody.
    • To be fair, Get Smart did parody James Bond quite a bit: "Bronzefinger", "Dr. Yes", etc.
    • A more obvious example of the Weird Al effect is in the title sequence to Get Smart. Not a lot of people these days realise that the iconic "closing doors/phone box at end of corridor" is a quite deliberate parody on similar sequences in The Man from U.N.C.L.E..... many people know it better these days from Get Smart!
    • Maxwell Smart's famous voice was inspired by William Powell's performance in The Thin Man. And by extension, so is Inspector Gadget.
  • The TV show Blackadder is now better known than the Robert Louis Stevenson novel The Black Arrow, which the title is a Shout-Out to and which the first series parodied.
  • Once upon a time, there was a UK game show called If I Ruled The World. It inspired another game show called Parlamentet. If I Ruled The World stopped after two seasons -- Parlamentet, however, is still going strong. In Scandinavia, admittedly, but twenty-two seasons deserve a mention.
  • Many Game Shows become an example of a variation of this trope when a revived version of the show becomes more popular than the original version. Some examples:
    • The Price Is Right has been a fixture on daytime TV since 1972 and is likely the only version known to most people today—but the original version was also very popular in its time, airing in both daytime and primetime from 1956 to 1965.
      • Additionally, when producer Mark Goodson updated The Price Is Right for the revival, he intended to incorporate elements of the most popular game show on TV at the time--Let's Make a Deal. The Deal connection was largely forgotten... although with a new version of that show now airing (on the same network as Price and as a companion piece, no less), the connection may become clearer once again.
    • Match Game. The 1970s version is the most popular due to the funny and suggestive nature of the questions. However, the original version—despite being much more sedate and tame—also had a long run on NBC from 1962 to 1969.
    • Press Your Luck, one of the most popular game shows of the 1980s, was actually based on a short-lived game show called Second Chance that aired in 1977.
    • Before the still-running version with Alex Trebek started up in 1984, Jeopardy! was hosted by Art Fleming for 10 seasons (1964-1974), followed by a short-lived reboot in 1978. (Yes, children of the '80s, that's who that guy is in the Trope Namer's "I Lost On Jeopardy" video...)
    • Pat Sajak and Vanna White were not the original host/hostess tandem on Wheel of Fortune — that would be Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford. Still, Chuck ends up a subversion, since he would go on to become famous for many other popular game shows, such as Scrabble, Love Connection and Lingo.
  • Saturday Night Live's The Continental recurring sketch with Christopher Walken is actually based on a real TV show. The Continential was a short-lived CBS program that aired Saturday nights during the 1952-53 season, and starred Renzo Cesana as the title character. Its target audience was lonely, dateless women (though when it moved to ABC, it aired in the daytime for lonely, bored housewives). The combination of the subjective camera angles and the Continental's charm was designed to make these women believe they were being romanced through their TV sets. The SNL version is exactly like that, except Walken's Continental has been Flanderized to a Handsome Lech-cum-Stalker with a Crush-cum-Dirty Old Man-cum-Casanova Wannabe.
    • Truly, this is Poe's Law in effect.
    • Similarly, more people recognize Mike Myers' "Simon" sketches than "Simon in the Land of Drawings", the British series that it spoofed.
    • The Prose and Cons short, particularly Eddie Murphy's "kill my landlord" poem, is more familiar these days than the Norman Mailer/Jack Henry Abbott debacle that it was satirizing.
  • Horatio Hornblower had an obvious influence on Star Trek frequently acknowledged by people who worked on the series. Now Trek is arguably better known. The original series was also influenced by the TV Westerns of its day, but now more people have heard of Star Trek than Gunsmoke. Gene Roddenberry specially referenced the highly successful show Wagon Train in his original pitch and as a result the eight-season show is probably best known for being mentioned in Roddenberry's famous pitch "Wagon Train to the Stars".
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 popularized many old and obscure Sci-Fi movies simply because the old and obscure movies were the cheapest to get the rights to.
    • Mystery Science Theater 3000 itself is a parody of hosted monster movie shows that were popular back when the networks needed something to show on the weekends.
      • Inaccurate, as it actually started AS a monster movie show used to fill time on a dingy little UHF station. The only reason Joel Hodgson was allowed to pursue his vision for the show is that nobody cared if it flopped.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: A lot of sketches are parodies of British TV shows that were popular during the late 1960s and early 1970s. For example, "How To Do It?" is a spoof of the BBC children's program Blue Peter. "The Golden Age of Ballooning" spoofed costume drama's on the BBC.
  • Referenced in the game show Beat the Geeks. The host of the show once jokingly referred to Michael Jackson as "the guy who did all those Weird Al parodies".
    • Sadly, the Effect did not help music geek Andy Zax. He was unable to describe the cover of Weird Al's album "Off The Deep End", despite it being a parody of Nirvana's "Nevermind", the topic of the previous question.
  • Popular and light-hearted WW2-themed TV sitcom Hogan's Heroes was considered at the time to be a rip-off of the darkly humourous 1953 movie Stalag 17 (itself an adaptation of the Broadway play of the same name), starring William Holden. While the producers of Hogan's Heroes never acknowledged the parody, the two were similar enough to inspire a successful lawsuit by the creators of Stalag 17; even down the name of the bumbling German guard "Seargent Shulz". Today, Hogan's Heroes is an icon of American pop culture; while Stalag 17 is known only to serious classic film and theatre buffs.
  • Chappelle's Show made popular many things, but none of which are as readily quoted as David Chappelle's Rick James impersonation: "I'm Rick James, bitch!" If you were to ask anybody trying to imitate this catchphrase who were born after 1980, they wouldn't even know who the real Rick James is, except some funny sketch from a comedy television show.
  • Kids who grew up watching Sesame Street in the early-mid 1980s were likely introduced to Charlie Chaplin's "Little Tramp" character from the shorts starring Maria (Sonia Manzano) doing a Chaplin impression (with Emilio Delgado playing the Tramp's Butt Monkey) before (or even instead of) ever seeing the original Chaplin movies.
    • Either that, or they saw the original TV and print ads for the IBM PS 1 computer, which adopted Chaplin as an unofficial spokesperson (four years after his death!) in 1981.
  • Community An in-universe example. Britta does an impression of a bit Jon Stewart does frequently on The Daily Show, which is itself an impression of Johnny Carson, which comes off as a weird impersonation of Carson. When asked "Is that your Johnny Carson?" Britta is confused, and says no, it was her Jon Stewart.
    • Later in the episode another in-universe example plays off the first in-universe one: when Alan does his Carson impression Troy says he's "got Britta down."
  • In Spain, La Hora Chanante's sketch "Hijo de puta más" (More son of a bitch) is better known than the song that it's based on, Mr. T's "Treat Your Mother Right".
  • Barney and Friends: People are now more familiar with the opening theme and the closing theme "I Love You" than the songs they were based on: "Yankee Doodle" and "This Old Man", respectively.
  • The Muppet Show was originally a parody of the barely-remembered variety shows that were a staple of 70s TV.


  • A double-Weird Al Effect: What is usually referred to as "the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey" is actually a piece by the late-Romantic German composer Richard Strauss, entitled "Also Sprach Zarathustra". Considering how widely-used the song is outside of the movie that featured it, it is strange how few people know that. But fewer still know that the Strauss piece was itself an homage to the essay of the same title by Friedrich Nietzsche.
  • English-speakers are probably more familiar with the beginning of The Beatles "All You Need is Love" than the beginning of France's National Anthem.
  • For you American kids who sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee (America)" in 2nd grade, you probably don't know that its melody is taken off "God Save the King/Queen".
  • The Merry Go 'Round Broke Down is best known as "the theme song to Looney Tunes".
    • Or that one song that Roger Rabbit plays when he breaks plates against his head.
      • Who Framed Roger Rabbit? actually helps counteract the Weird Al Effect in this instance, as a few scenes later, Judge Doom says the name of the song in a very memorable scene.
    • Similarly, Merrily We Roll Along, from Billboard Frolics of 1935, is only known today as the Merrie Melodies tune and an incorrect alternative set of lyrics set to the tune of Mary had a Little Lamb.
    • Looney Tunes has done this to other music. Thanks to "What's Opera, Doc?" many people can't hear "Ride of the Valkyries" without singing "Kill da wabbit!" And the 19th-century song "Those Endearing Young Charms" is known today mainly for its use in a recurring Looney Tunes gag where a piano or xylophone explodes—or at least it was until "Come On Eileen" came along.
      • Similar to the Roger Rabbit example above, Animaniacs had Slappy Squirrel use he proper name for the song, teaching at least some viewers its real name.
  • Cheech & Chong's "Basketball Jones" is much better known than the song it was originally parodying: "Love Jones" by The Brighter Side of Darkness.
  • The song "Flappie", by Dutch comedian Youp van 't Hek, was originally (in 1981) intended as a parody of Christmas songs, both contemporary and the older carols, and mostly of the fake 'Christmas spirit' people felt they needed to put up. Now most people don't realize that and play this song simply for the humorous lyrics (it tells the story of how a boy finds out his father killed his rabbit (called 'Flappie') to serve at the Christmas dinner). It's even a staple of the Christmas songs played on radio and in malls.
  • The Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America, is a poem that was set to the tune of The Anacreontic Song (a.k.a. To Anacreon in Heaven). How many Americans have ever heard (or even heard of) the original drinking song, popularized by a society of amateur musicians to the point where it was often used as a sobriety test—its melody was so tortuous that if you could actually sing a stanza, you were sober enough for another round.
    • "The Anacreontic Song" was also supposed to be performed as a lively minuet. Such a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" today would be received as irreverent and un-American.
      • "The Star-Spangled Banner was performed as a lively minuet until John Philips Sousa rearranged it circa 1900 to make it sound more majestic, and added, amongst other things, the two holds and the counterpoint. Most current arrangements are based on the Sousa version. The original, more spritely version can be heard in the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War.
  • The Battle Hymn of the Republic ("Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord") took its melody (and some of its lyrics) from the civil war marching song John Brown's Body.
    • ...which took its melody from Say, Brothers, Will You Meet Us.
    • And which has subsequently found many new versions as summer camp songs such as "I wear my pink pajamas in the summer when it's hot..."
    • "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school..." AKA "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah/Teacher hit me with a ruler..."; every UGA fan has this stuck in their heads.
    • Plus the Engineers drinking song, "Lady Godiva". Many Engineering students only know this song with the words: "We are, we are, we are, we are, we are the engineers. We can, we can, we can, we can demolish forty beers!".
  • National Lampoon's Deteriorata is obviously a parody of Desiderata, but the style is a parody of a hit record recording of Desiderata made by Les Crane in 1971, including the narmy "You are a child of the universe" chorus.
  • Allan Sherman's breakout hit Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! is more well-known than its source, Amilcare Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours.
    • And nowadays the K9 Advantix commercial that uses a lyrically changed version of the song is probably more well-known to younger audiences.
    • What was just mentioned above gets lampshaded in an episode of Family Guy in which Peter, after visiting a 1950s-themed diner, becomes enamored with '50s and '60s novelty tunes. His absolute favorite is "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen, which he starts listening to ad infinitum and obsesses about to the point that the rest of the Griffin family becomes sick of the song. His old LP of Sherman's "Camp Granada" song also objects, stomping out the door in a huff while claiming (in a stereotypical upstate New York accent) that there are many "old Jews out there" who still want to listen to it.
      • "Surfin' Bird", incidentally, is combination of "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" and "The Bird's the Word" by The Rivingtons, and is now better known than either of them.
  • On top of Spa-ghehhhhhh-tiiiiiii, all covered with cheeeeeeeeeeeeese....
    • I lost my poor meatball, 'cause somebody sneezed.
    • For all non-yanks in the Audience On Top of Old Smokey is an American Folk Song. And for all those Americans in the audience too young to remember any but the least obscure folk songs, the third line is "lost my true lover", not "shot my poor teacher".
    • Another rendition of this for military children in Japan is "On top of Mt Fuji, all covered with sand, I shot my poor teacher, with a rubber band."
    • 'On Top of Spaghetti' is a real song. Copyrighted and everything.
  • The melody to the children's song "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" is taken from the verses of the song "There is a Tavern in the Town", a late 19th century drinking song.
    • Another tune that "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" is set to is "London Bridge."
    • Huh. In elementary school, around Halloween time we would sing several Halloween-themed song parodies, including one called "There is a Haunted House in Town." We all thought it was a really weird choice for a parody of "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes."
  • Gracie Fields' "Sing As We Go" from the 1930's is almost completely forgotten today, save for the melody—instantly recognizable as Monty Python's "Sit On My Face."
  • Does anybody remember the original lyrics to that damn Barney and Friends "I Love You" closing song, after all the parodies involving murder, bestiality, and pedophilia?
    • Double-Weird Al Effect: The "original" came from the much older (1906) "This Old Man":

This old man, he played one/He played knick-knack on my thumb/With a knick-knack paddywhack/Give a dog a bone/This old man came rolling home.

      • Holy crap.
  • The catchy tune "Mah NA Mah NA " is known to most people in English-speaking countries from the first episode of The Muppet Show. It's actually from the soundtrack of an exploitative and inaccurate Italian "documentary" on Sweden.
    • While it probably won't eclipse the Muppets, the ROFLMAO Song by Oxhorn is fairly well known. In fact, click on it and check under Crowning Music.
  • In the UK at least, novelty group The Wurzels' song about their brand new combine harvester is better-known than the original, "Brand New Key" by Melanie.
  • "I'm Looking Over My Dead Dog Rover", in its various and sundry forms (almost all of which claim to be first), started out as a parody of "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf-Clover [dead link]".
  • Many tunes for prim and proper church hymns were actually co-opted from drinking songs.
    • And in turn, many were co-opted as union songs, the best-known of which are "The Preacher and the Slave" ("The Sweet By and By") and "Which Side Are You On?" ("Lay the Lily Low").
    • Thank you, Martin Luther; all those months spent, ahem, researching folk songs in German taverns have left behind some great pieces of music.
      • Bar Form. It's a common misunderstanding on the part of people who don't know anything about music history—or church history, for that matter.
  • Could be the case for "Work That Sucker To Death" by Xavier, with "Boss Theme (Japanese)", a song being much better known in the Sonic community that samples the chorus.
  • The 1961 Harry Belafonte song "Monkey" is more well-known for being covered and parodied on an episode of Animaniacs.
  • The classic Shaker hymn Simple Gifts has been appropriated twice: Once for another hymn (Lord of the Dance), but most people would recognize it as the first movement of Aaron Copland's ballet/suite Appalachian Spring. The tune is attributed: that section is titled Variations on a Shaker Melody.
    • People who were in elementary school wind ensembles probably first knew it as an unnamed (or possibly numbered) warm-up "etude".
    • Weezer's "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived", subtitled "Variations on a Shaker Hymn"—you guessed it.
  • Rap gets subjected to this All. The. Time. Play the opening of Rick James's "Super Freak" for anyone born after 1980, and I can practically guarantee you that they'll start chanting, "Can't touch this!"
    • Same with "Under Pressure." It's managed to avoid this in a way though, as most people will wonder until the guitar part if it's "Under Pressure" or "Ice Ice Baby."
  • This is happening to "Johnny B. Goode" in Poland. While a lot of people know the song from Back to The Future, the parody made by a famous Polish cabaret "Ani Mru Mru" is becoming more known.
  • John Philip Sousa's "The Liberty Bell March" is now better known as the theme for Monty Python's Flying Circus. (And is responsible for lots of raspberry noises made by visitors to the Liberty Bell pavilion in Philadelphia, PA, which uses the march as part of its environmental music.)
  • For some time after the movie Excalibur came out, the "O Fortuna" movement from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana was widely known as "that music from Excalibur".
    • For those in the '80s who were unfamiliar with Excalibur, it was "the music from Conan the Barbarian".
    • Now it's "that music in all those movie trailers."
    • Or "that music from the Australian beer commercial".
    • It's also almost unknown to all but the most hardcore orchestral music buffs, that Carl Orff's Carmina Burana is actually an adaptation of a much older collection of Latin and German songs and poems by the same name (many of them quite bawdy for their time).
    • "Estuans interius ira vehementi". Odds are you're not thinking of one of the poems, or even the Orff rendition, as much as you're thinking of Final Fantasy VII. The same goes for the rest of the non-Sephiroth lyrics of that song. (In fact, "sors, immanis et inanis" comes from "O Fortuna" itself.)
  • Most people will recognise Entry of the Gladiators as the Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey circus music.
  • The William Tell Overture is far better known as the Lone Ranger's theme music.
  • A case of Tropes Are Not Good, Hervé Roy's "Lover's Theme" is known nowadays as the background music for 2 Girls 1 Cup. If you want to talk about intellectual vandalism...
  • "Burlington Bertie" is still a well-known Music Hall song, if only from its appearance in The Muppet Show. Except that song, about a vagrant claiming to be an Upper Class Twit, is actually called "Burlington Bertie From Bow", a parody of an earlier Music Hall song called "Burlington Bertie" that really was about an Upper Class Twit.
  • When hearing Bill Haley and the Comets music to "Rock Around the Clock," do you expect to hear: "Sunday, Monday, Happy Days"?
  • There was once a Russian musical piece called "Days of our life". They had to stop playing it because whenever they did, everyone was laughing at remembering the parody. Today, the music is recognizable, and most people at least remember the first lines of the parody ("A large crocodile lady was walking on the streets").
  • In Brazil, a certain child's song ("Criança feliz, feliz a cantar. Alegre a embalar seu sonho infantil."[6]) is overshadowed by its parody version "Criança feliz, quebrou o nariz, foi pro hospital, tomar Sonrisal...".[7] A line of the latter was even used in a popular Pato Fu song.
  • Even though he had a long solo career, wrote entire albums for Frank Sinatra and The 4 Seasons, and became a prolific ad jingle writer, Jake Holmes is mainly remembered now because Led Zeppelin (ahem) "borrowed" his song "Dazed and Confused".
  • Fans of The Dead Milkmen might think the joke of "Watching Scotty Die" is just the fact that it's a peaceful-sounding, country-esque ballad about a young boy dying from exposure to poisonous chemicals... In fact it's a parody of the significantly sappier "Watching Scotty Grow", a Bobby Goldsboro hit released more than 15 years earlier.
  • Few Russians know the 1906 song On the Hills of Manchuria. However, play the melody, and everyone will be able to remember a few (mostly obscene) out of a virtually endless number of stanzas starting with "It's quite in the forest".
  • The theme from Carmen has been used in so many places such as The Bad News Bears and in musical Hamlet episode of Gilligan's Island that most people have no idea where it's from originally.
  • During the 70's there was a commercial selling a classical music album base on this trope.
    • "I'm sure you recognize this lovely melody as 'Stranger in Paradise.' But did you know that the original theme is from the Polovetsian Dance No. 2 by Borodin?. So many of the tunes of our well-known popular songs were actually written by the great masters--like these familiar themes... "
  • "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" was written about soldiers during the American Civil War, but most today know it as the playground song "The Ants Go Marching One By One." The Civil War song was a version of the much more depressing Irish song "Johnny we hardly Knew Ye" about a soldier returning from war missing his eyes and limbs.
  • People may be forgiven if they mistake these two scores but just to make things clear: This music was derived from this score. Not the other way around. (the anime series from which it came from was shown in 1990 whereas the film came out in 1989. You do the math.)
  • Frank Zappa often uses high pitched or low pitched singing voices in his repertoire. Most younger Zappa fans assume his singers are just putting on funny voices, while when you listen to a lot of 1950s doowop songs you'll notice those comically sounding singing voices really aren't that far off.
  • The catchphrase "Will the real [person's name] please stand up?" is now more likely to be associated with Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady" than the 1960s/70s game show To Tell the Truth.
  • The tune we now hear as "Hail, hail the Gang's all here" comes from "With Catlike tread" in Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance", which was a pretty obvious homage of "The Anvil Chorus" or "Gypsy Chorus" from Verdi's "Il Trovatore"
  • While there's no question of precedence, Finnish people born after the 70s (and not actively into Christmas music) will be able to sing the gruesome parody version[8] of an old, sappy Christmas song (Joulupuu on rakennettu) at the drop of a hat, but struggle to remember the original lyrics.[9]

Professional Wrestling

  • WWE fans in the 1990s probably thought that the "monster" wrestlers (Mankind, Kane, and so forth) were highly original gimmicks. They might be disappointed to learn that Gorilla Monsoon had been wrestling under the same basic shtick more than a generation earlier.


  • Many of the radio parodies Bob & Ray did. Notably by spoofing the then-hit Soap Opera "Mary Noble, Backstage Wife" as "Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife". The former was a deadly-earnest story of an 'ordinary woman' married to a matinee idol; the latter... culminated, around 1970, in Mary and her family leaving showbiz altogether to open a toast-themed restaurant. The series having earlier openly mocked Senator Joseph McCarthy at the height of the Army hearings. It is still one of B&R's best-known skits.


  • Many AFL clubs' theme songs are better known to Australians (at least in AFL states) than the songs they are based on. Even where those based on songs that are still widely known (Adelaide - the US Marine Corps Hymn; Brisbane - "La Marsellaise"; Geelong - Song of the Toreador from Carmen; Hawthorn - "Yankee Doodle Dandy"; St Kilda - "When the Saints Go Marching In"), people are more likely to be familiar with the club song lyrics, while once-popular songs used by other clubs (Carlton - "Lily of Laguna"; Collingwood - "Goodbye Dolly Gray"; Essendon - "Keep Your Sunny Side Up"; Melbourne - "Grand Old Flag"; North Melbourne - "Wee Doch an Dorus"; Richmond - "Row, Row, Row"; Sydney - "Notre Dame March"; Western Bulldogs - "Sons of the Sea") are now known almost exclusively as the club songs. Here are some of the original versions.


  • Hardly anyone realises that the willow song in The Mikado was actually a parody of the song Desdemona sings in Othello.
    • Which itself was a well-known tune at the time, a fact that is lampshaded in the play when Desdemona accidentally starts singing the wrong verse and catches herself.
  • Hamlet was written as a parody of action plays popular around Shakespeare's time, in particular the most popular play in the Elizabethan era, a simple revenge plot about the Danish prince written by Thomas Kyd. While Hamlet has become one of Shakespeare's most popular plays and the main role a key challenge for actors, the Kyd play has been lost. When referred to by scholars, it's called "Ur-Hamlet."
    • Also, Amleth.
    • In Shakespeare's day it was very common for writers to rewrite well known stories, telling the same tales over and over with variation. Novelty wasn't exactly prized in art. As a result, many of Shakespeare's plays are based on other stories and/or plays.
  • The famous quote from Twelfth Night, "some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em" is a parody of Matthew 19:12: "For there are some eunuchs, which were so borne of their mothers belly: and there be some eunuchs, which be gelded by men: and there be some eunuchs, which have gelded themselves for the kingdom of Heaven.[10]" Between the Squick of this verse and Shakespeare's place in the literary canon, the first quote has become far more familiar than the second.
    • And many people associate it with Joseph Heller's Catch-22 rather than Shakespeare.

Video Games

  • Even certain video games are old enough to fall into this trope. For example: Brian Clevinger's Eight Bit Theater has permanently altered how Black Mage from Final Fantasy is perceived. Also, Clevinger recast the White Mage as The Chick in everyone's minds, even though the original character was male (if rather androgynous). Clevinger didn't alter their personalities, he created ones where there were none in the first place. Originally, one must assume, the player was supposed to fill in the characters themselves, making Final Fantasy 1 a very lonely place.
  • Metal Gear's Solid Snake (and to a lesser extent, his predecessor Big Boss) has become a more popular character than Snake Plissken, the character he was originally a pastiche of.
  • Hardly anyone knows the name "Korobeiniki", but almost everyone will recognize it as Tetris Theme A.
  • Duke Nukem was not the first guy to make a One-Liner regarding the kicking of asses and the chewing of gum.
  • Dan Hibiki from Street Fighter Alpha (and following Street Fighter games) was a parody of two SNK Art of Fighting characters: Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia (most likely because they are rip-offs from Ryu and Ken). Street Fighter is much better-known in North America than the King of Fighters games and has moved much further into the mainstream due to several separate factors, so it's not uncommon for an American fan of the series to not know that Dan is a parody of anyone specific, or to assume that he's just a parody of Ryu and Ken.
    • A lot of the original Street Fighter designers jumped ship to SNK, and helped create Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. Suffice it to say, Capcom was not happy, and the two companies shared a deep rivalry throughout the 90s.
  • While it's very well known in Japan, not many Western fans of Touhou Project know that the title of the "Marisa stole the precious thing" meme is a parody of a line by Inspector Zenigata from The Castleof Cagliostro. Possibly because the original line has a slightly different wording if translated: "He (Lupin III) stole something outrageous - your heart."
    • Similarly, most Western fans don't know that OVERDRIVE'S famous EASY MODO?! is a parody of the H-doujin Datsu! Doutei.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • There was a popular AMV a few years ago called "Euphoria". It combined the song "Must Be Dreaming" with the anime RahXephon. Rather better-known these days is a parody from AMV Hell 3: "Osaka Must Be Dreaming". (Same visual effects, same song, but with clips of Osaka.)
  • Inverted on Atop the Fourth Wall whenever 90s Kid appears. Many people assume that's Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" playing in the background, but Lovhaug actually uses the Weird Al parody "Smells Like Nirvana."
  • Speaking of That Guy With The Glasses, how many people do you suppose get Doug's repeated references to the TV show One Step Beyond? Most people are far likelier to have heard of the Nostalgia Critic and therefore assume the catch phrase originated with him.
    • A great many movies featured on the various shows on That Guy With The Glasses are often obscure enough for the audience not to have seen them elsewhere. This is particularly true for The Cinema Snob and his impressive collection of truly obscure and terrible movies.
  • The Biting Pear of Salamanca, also known as the LOLWUT Pear.
  • There's a Collegehumor video in which someone tells a story of Amir ordering "Gangsta's Paradise" on karaoke only to sing "Amish Paradise." The owner of the bar later said that they actually had "Amish Paradise" in the machine.
  • The Kitsune^2 song, Avast Your Ass is a popular song for remixes. One such remix, Avast Fluttershy's Ass is more often searched for than the original, and has almost twice as many views. The fact that it's about Fluttershy is most likely a huge contributing factor to this.

Western Animation

  • Classic cartoons such as Looney Tunes are chock full of this. Caricatures of celebrities, fragments of dialog from then-contemporary movies, catchphrases from old-time radio shows, parodies of once-popular songs; all sailed right over your head if you were a kid watching on Saturday morning[11] decades later.
    • Bugs Bunny steals entire blocks of shtick from Red Skelton, Groucho Marx and old-time comedian Joe Besser.
    • Daffy Duck's speech patterns and impediment were based on producer Leon Schlesinger—who reportedly never noticed.
    • The character of Foghorn Leghorn was closely modeled on a radio character named Senator Claghorn. Catch phrases such as "That's a joke, son", now associated..."I say", associated exclusively with the loudmouthed rooster,[12] were appropriated wholesale from the Senator, who today is all but forgotten. Ironically, actor Kenny Delmar, who voiced Claghorn on Fred Allen's show, could do nothing about it because he hadn't copyrighted the character—copyright was not automatic at the time in the United States. But Warner Brothers did copyright Foghorn Leghorn, meaning Delmar had to get permission from WB to use his own character!
      • Even more ironically, Jon Stewart has referred to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) as "Senator Foghorn Leghorn".
    • From The Other Wiki:

Bugsy's nonchalant carrot-chewing stance, as explained many years later by Chuck Jones, and again by Friz Freleng and Bob Clampett, comes from the movie It Happened One Night, from a scene where the Clark Gable character is leaning against a fence eating carrots more quickly than he is swallowing (as Bugs would later often do), giving instructions with his mouth full to the Claudette Colbert character, during the hitch-hiking sequence. This scene was so famous at the time that most people immediately got the connection.

    • People are also more familiar with Daffy Duck in Duck Dodgers in The Twenty Fourth And A Half Century than with its parody target Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.[13]
      • Daffy is also responsible for permanently changing the pronunciation of an English word. The word "despicable" is actually supposed to be pronounced with the accent on the first syllable: "DES-picable". Mispronouncing it was part of Daffy's Malaproper schtick. However, since the cartoons reached so many kids who were too young to have the real pronunciation in their vocabularies yet, Daffy's "You're de-SPICK-able" was the pronunciation they all learned. And it holds true still today: That Steve Carrell movie isn't called DES-picable Me.
        • On the other hand, few people nowadays say "FORM-idable" or "LAM-entable" either, and that can hardly be blamed on Daffy.
    • Mel Blanc's impression of Peter Lorre in particular really took on a life of its own. The real Lorre's voice wasn't nearly as raspy as Blanc's imitation, but that imitation has inspired so many others that people raised on them might not even recognize Lorre in any of his films.
    • The Dover Boys is well known as the cartoon where Chuck Jones found his voice with stylized off-the-wall slapstick. Hardly anyone remembers the Rover Boys books it spoofed.
    • Pepé Le Pew is based on Charles Boyer's Pépé le Moko (from the film Algiers), with a little bit of Maurice Chevalier thrown in. Even if you've heard of these sources, they are less familiar than the amorous skunk is.
      • Not quite. He is actually a parody of a (then) well known French actor named Jean Gabin who stared in "Pépé le Moko" which was re-made in English as "Algiers"
    • If most younger viewers watch that really thin character type, with blue, blue eyes, and a velvet voice singing and making the females faint, might not know that's a parody of a young "Franky" Sinatra. Yeah, the Blue Eyes himself.
    • Lampshaded in a Gilmore Girls episode where Lorelai wonders out loud about whether anvils were so ubiquitous that they would've been so easily recognized by children watching the cartoons.
    • While Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is not exactly obscure, it probably says something that the trope And Call Him George is named after a cartoon parody of it. The trope's association with Dumb Muscle cartoon characters is so much a part of comedy now that most students reading Of Mice and Men in modern times are absolutely unable to take it seriously, despite it being quite a tragic story.
    • Background characters often got one-liners or mannerisms that were taken from the Fibber McGee and Molly radio show, including "That ain't the way I heered it!", "Oh, is that you, Myrt? How's every little thing?", "I bet-cha", and "Tain't funny, McGee!". One of the show's regular cast members, Arthur Q. Bryan, supplied the voice for Elmer Fudd, making him one of the three male voice actors, along with Mel Blanc and Stan Freberg, to regularly appear in the classic Looney Tunes shorts.
      • The title character from the Fibber spinoff show The Great Gildersleeve was also parodied several times—Bugs even did a Lampshade Hanging for one, saying that he sounded like "that guy on the radio, The Great Gildersneeze". Many shorts also borrowed the catchphrase of Gildersleeve supporting character Mr. Peavey: "Well, now, I wouldn't say that!"
    • The Road Runner was originally intended as a parody of all the chase scenes that were frequent in many cartoons from The Golden Age of Animation. Now it's almost the famous example of "chase cartoon".
      • To be fair, at least one of the cartoons that they parodied is still very well known.
    • Looney Tunes themselves started out as a parody/response to Disney's Silly Symphonies. Nowadays, Looney Tunes are considered perhaps the most famous cartoon shorts of time.
    • Few modern viewers would even know about The Scarlet Pimpernel were it not for the Daffy Duck short The Scarlet Pumpernickel.
  • The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, American Dad, South Park, Robot Chicken, DreamWorks,... all suffer from this. All these series parody many aspects of pop culture like TV series, film, politics,... that are misinterpreted or not recognized by everyone, especially people who are younger than the creators of these shows.
  • This is simultaneously Parodied and Lampshaded in Animaniacs when the Warners meet Rasputin. They toss him into a dentist's chair and announce that they need to give him some "Anastasia." A girl in a tiara and a poofy dress then hit Rasputin on the head with a hammer. Dot turns to the camera and deadpans, "Obscure joke. Talk to your parents." This episode predates the Don Bluth movie by several years, so the joke may have lost its obscurity on some kids after the movie came out.
  • The process is still going on—consider all of the increasingly dated early '90s references in Tiny Toon Adventures.
  • Likewise, Steamboat Willie, well-remembered as the first talking Mickey Mouse cartoon, is a loose parody of a contemporary Buster Keaton feature, Steamboat Bill, Jr.
    • Cartoons like Mickey's Gala Premiere, Mickey's Polo Team, and the Donald Duck cartoon The Autograph Hound were full to the brim with famous celebrities of the time.
    • The black and white Mickey cartoon The Klondike Kid is a mash-up of The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Gold Rush.
    • Guess who Mickey imitates in the black and white cartoon Mickey Plays Papa?
    • In the cartoon The Hockey Champ Donald is seen at the beginning parodying then-famous skater/actress Sonya Henie.
  • Helen "boop-a-doop" Kane is now recalled as having been like Betty Boop—which she was before Betty Boop was created.
  • All of the examples quoted in Simpsons episode The Day the Violence Died fit this trope:

"Okay, maybe my dad did steal Itchy, but so what? Animation is built on plagiarism! If it weren't for someone plagiarizing The Honeymooners, we wouldn't have The Flintstones. If someone hadn't ripped off Sergeant Bilko, there'd be no Top Cat. Huckleberry Hound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear? Hah! Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney."

    • The Robinson-Wiggum connection was lampshaded again in the 2008 "Treehouse of Horror" episode. A bunch of celebrities came back from the dead to get back for gratuitous use of their images after death. Robinson came after Wiggum—and they had a conversation mirroring each other exactly.
      • Similarly, in "Simpsons Bible Stories", Moses' story has Wiggum playing an Egyptian foreman clearly inspired on Robinson's role as Dathan in The Ten Commandments, down to the line "Where's your Messiah NOW?"
    • Itchy and Scratchy were originally intended as a over-the-top parody of the violence in many traditional cartoons, especially Tom and Jerry. While the violence in these old cartoons, like Looney Tunes, Woody Woodpecker, Tom and Jerry,... could be rather painful there was never any blood or gruesome body mutilations involved. Yet, since the 2000s many of these older cartoons aren't shown on television anymore which destroys the reference for many younger viewers.
    • Professor Frink is a parody of comedian Jerry Lewis' nerdy characters, again something that is lost on younger generations.
    • Bumblebee Man is a parody of El Chapulin Colorado, a Mexican comedian who dressed himself as a grasshopper.
    • Major Joe Quimby's voice mimicks John F. Kennedy.
    • In the DVD commentary track for the fourth season of The Simpsons, the writers doing the commentary specifically point out that the scene at the end of "Selma's Choice" where Selma is shown cradling her new pet iguana to the tune of "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman" is a reference to Murphy Brown singing to her newborn son, because they were afraid viewers wouldn't "get it".
    • The Simpsons also frequently parodies "classic" horror concepts in its Halloween episodes. Most younger viewers, especially outside the United States, who never saw The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits don't realize many plots were borrowed from these TV series. Even more obscure is one segment that parodies a segment from the less known Amazing Stories fantasy/science-fiction anthology titled "Hell Toupee". Unlike its cousins, Amazing Stories didn't usually go into horror, and the original tale was fairly light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek... making it even less likely it'd be recognized more than the parody.
    • The main theme from the 1991 version of Cape Fear was rather famous in its day, as it's a wonderfully atmospheric piece that evokes just the right sense of impending terror. Today, it's almost universally known as Sideshow Bob's theme music, thanks to an episode which parodied the film and played the theme from the movie whenever Bob was around.
      • That theme is even older, since it's based on part of Bernard Herrmann's score for the 1962 version of Cape Fear (played once at the very end).
      • Eventually the creators took notice of this and made it Bob's official Leitmotif. In later seasons, a few bars of it always play whenever he shows up.
      • Similarly, in a few years all the references to Frasier that tend to go hand-in-hand with Bob episodes will be meaningless.
      • Another musical relation in The Simpsons shows Homer singing modified lyrics to Frank Sinatra's "It Was A Very Good Year" (when he was remembering the time he bought his first six-pack at a liquor store with an obviously fake ID -- It's best not to think about how he got away with it). Anyone thinking of the song nowadays is likely to think of Homer's rendition.
  • Richard Nixon is nowadays better remembered by children as the head in a jar in Futurama than an actual US president from the 1960s-1970s.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy has Dracula, a dead-on impersonation of Fred Sanford from Sanford and Son, complete with a penchant for calling people "Dummy".
    • He's also drawn to look like an older version of Blacula, complete with early 70's sideburns and mustache.
    • Its parody of the H.P. Lovecraft mythos, "The Crank Call of Cthulhu", must go over the heads of most young viewers as well.
  • The Cuddle Buddies from Kim Possible are on the surface send-ups of Beanie Babies. But if you dig further, you'll note their unmistakable resemblance to The Wuzzles, a slightly obscure 1980's kids' show also produced by Disney. The Wuzzles was also Merchandise-Driven; when that show was current, store shelves did have boxes with stuffed Wuzzles on/in them. Disney remembers that aspect...
  • Grandpa from Hey Arnold! has a photo stashed away of Hedy Lamarr. Naturally, kids had to go ask their parents.
  • The "Log" song from The Ren and Stimpy Show is a parody of classic Slinky commercials.
  • The classic schtick of two characters trying to out-polite each other "After you. No I insist after you." has been done innumerable times in Goofy Gophers and Heckle and Jeckle cartoons. Both of these are parodies of a much older comic strip routine involving two guys named Alphonse and Gaston. The only way a non-historian would have heard those names would be at a baseball game. (An "Alphonse and Gaston" is when two guys chase a fly ball and simultaneously pull up so it drops between them.) And then you need an announcer who loves the classics.
    • On "It's That Man Again", a wartime BBC radio show, it was "After you Claude." "After YOU, Cecil."
  • The sideplot of A Goofy Movie revolves around a fictional pop singer called Powerline. Some argue that he's a twofer parody of Michael Jackson and Prince. Goofy also remarks that this Powerline fellow can't nearly be as big as Xavier Cugat, "The Mambo King."
    • The sequel, An Extremely Goofy Movie has several references to '70s pop culture.
  • It's just easier to say that Robot Chicken is another Weird Al Effect machine a la Alice in Wonderland, particularly when it comes to '80s cartoons and toys.
    • "Oh my god! Somebody remembered this movie and made a comedy sketch about it!"
    • Most younger fans may not be aware that the chickens bawking in the end is the Gonk from Dawn of the Dead and instead refer to it as the Theme Tune.
  • Most American Dad viewers don't seem to be aware that Roger's distinctive voice and mannerisms (done by Seth MacFarlane) are intended to parody Paul Lynde.
    • Lynde is a frequent victim of this trope, as his voice is imitated quite often in cartoons. The result is that some animation fans think of his voice as a stock cartoon voice used for Ambiguously Gay or just plain Camp Gay male characters and aren't aware that all those voices stem from one man. He did some voice work himself, such as the Hanna-Barbera 'toons The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and Charlotte's Web. HB were so well known for using celebrity imitators in their cartoons, that even people who have heard of Mr. Lynde probably assumed it was an imitation.
    • What they really aren't aware of is that Lynde stole his manner of speaking and mannerisms from Alice Ghostley, a popular Broadway star of the '50s who later became a Hollywood character actress (Lynde openly credited her, so this isn't mere gossip either).
      • Interestingly, both Lynde and Ghostley each had a recurring role on the TV series Bewitched.
    • For that matter, Seth McFarlane's penchant for referencing 1980s TV and movies, along with 1950s lounge music, has made his shows into a Weird Al Effect machine for people too young to remember those decades (AKA the vast majority of his audience). Family Guy is a much bigger offender than American Dad, though.
    • The opening titles of Family Guy are a parody of the opening titles of All in The Family, something that is completely lost on younger viewers.
    • Family Guy's penchant for obscureness runs the gamut -- especially when it comes to parodies. For example, a number of people might recognize a song they play straight -- such as "Shapoopi" from The Music Man -- but how many people actually know that the "Fellas at the Freakin' FCC" song from the episode "PTV" (where Peter starts his own TV channel when the FCC begins cracking down on Informed Obscenity following a "trouser malfunction" during an awards show broadcast) is sung to the tune of a song from an obscure Broadway musical called Take Me Along?
    • Go to YouTube and search for any scene or clip from a pop culture phenomenon that Family Guy has parodied or mentioned. Most of the comments will consist of, "I thought Family Guy created this!"
      • With the possible exception of Star Wars. For now.
  • In Rockadoodle, Pinky is to Colonel Tom Parker what Chantecleer is to Elvis Presley. Young kids who grew up in the 90's probably knew who Elvis was, but the Colonel, not so much.
    • The name/character of Chanticleer himself is from one of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, who took it from the now virtually-unknown body of folk tales about him and Reynard the fox.
  • The "Don't you believe it!" line in a couple of Tom and Jerry cartoons is clearly a reference to a well-known catchphrase at the time, but now no one seems to remember.
    • Possibly referencing one of the openings to the NBC Radio show "The Passing Parade"
    • Another episode had a small robotic mouse walking back and forth repeating "Come out and see me some time". This was a reference to an actress saying that exact line in order to promote the recent movie she was in during a news broadcast.
  • Double example: the theme from "Recess" was a parody of the theme from Hogan's Heroes, which in turn was a parody of the march from The Great Escape.
  • Snagglepuss is, so far, an aversion. While his voice is based on Bert Lahr's cowardly lion, the original is still well enough known as to avoid the Weird Al effect.
  • Bugs Bunny is likely responsible for the term "Nimrod" as an insult. He says it to Elmer Fudd sarcastically, as Nimrod was a great hunter in the Bible. (Apparently, moviegoers in the 1940s had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Old Testament.) It is likely that anyone using the term today will be using it to say that the target of the word is foolish or stupid.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has featured a couple of Stephen Sondheim songs with new lyrics. The target audience is almost certain never to have heard the original versions of these songs before (and for that matter, neither might many of the Periphery Demographic fans), meaning that, as far as they know, these songs are the originals.
    • "Art of the Dress" is based on "Putting it Together."
    • "At the Gala" is based on another Sondheim musical number, "Ever After" from Into the Woods—which, if you know the context, fits perfectly with the "subverted Cinderella" theme.
    • Though less obvious than the previous two examples, it's been stated that "Find a Pet" was inspired by "Fabulous Places" from the 1967 Doctor Dolittle film
    • The "Flim Flam Song" is a subversion. Many of the Periphery Demographic noted that it was a send up to The Simpson's "Monorail Song"- when in fact it was a reference to what the Monorail Song itself was parodying, "TheMusicMan".
    • The sad piano leitmotif that accompanies Fluttershy's "What Have I Done?" scene in 'Putting Your Hoof Down' is a just-barely-legal remake of "The Lonely Man" theme from the 1970s Hulk TV show—which makes it incredibly appropriate, given that the entire theme of that episode is the destructive power of misplaced anger.
  • Thanks to its very quick one scene usage as an in-joke in The Lion King, people are insistent that "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" was written by Elton John and Tim Rice for the movie, even when you explain to them it wasn't. It's not helped that the song is used briefly in the Broadway musical and on the Rhythm of the Pridelands CD.
  • Megas XLR exists almost entirely on this trope. Giant robot anime, movies, cartoons, tv shows, literature, pop culture, obscure throw-away characters from other series, actors, conspiracy theories, theoretical physics, urban legends, real life... Everything is a source for what is likely the most awesome cartoon ever made.


  • Bill Cosby did a retelling of a sketch from an old radio drama called "Lights Out" about a chicken heart that ate up New York City. Since he was a kid, he thought the chicken heart was coming to eat him, and he promptly smeared Jell-O all over his floor and set his sofa on fire to discourage the "monster." Cosby's routine is now much better known than the original sketch. Ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump...
  • The word OK actually stands for "oll korrect", parodying a then common fad for abbreviations in Boston, such as NG, "no go," GT, "gone to Texas," and SP, "small potatoes". It wasn't even the first parody of this trend, being preceded by expressions like KG, "know go." Almost all of these abbreviations quickly died out, with the exception of OK (possibly due to a Colbert Bump from Martin Van Buren adopting it as a campaign slogan/shorthand for Old Kinderhook, his hometown.)
    • Strangely, "NG" is still used in Japan, though not to the extent of "OK".
  • "Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side". Despite being used as the mascot of joke-telling, it's really a parody of other jokes. Where most jokes end with some kind of pun, "To get to the other side" is a straight answer that only works if the listener was expected something absurd. People are now conditioned to accept the answer as funny without even thinking about it.
    • If you really want to get a laugh in modern times from the joke, replace the standard punchline with "because it didn't see the truck coming". This works because people have been conditioned to expect the more mundane "to get to the other side" punchline.
      • Or you can hit them with a pun: Why did the chicken cross the playground? To get to the other slide.
  • Plenty of modern media references "Do Not Adjust Your Set" to mean "this weirdness is real". The phrase was first used in this sense in The Outer Limits, but it originated years earlier as a warning to viewers that the station was experiencing technical difficulties. "Do Not Adjust Your Set" meant "the problem's on our end, not yours, so don't go fiddling with the antenna".
    • For that matter, the expression "technical difficulties" is now highly likely to be used as a euphemism for a person (or even an entire society) going insane, or even for something disastrous or off-color (as, most hilariously, in Problem Child 2), rather than something as mundane as a problem with a broadcaster's equipment.
  • Several impressionists have lamented that many of their favorite impressions are lost on the younger crowd. Kevin Pollack did a hilarious routine of the fictitious Albert Brooks Show, wherein he impersonates Albert Brooks quite well, that he had to take out of his act because most people recognize Albert Brooks only as the voice of Marlin the clownfish in Finding Nemo.
  • Weird Al, who loved Dr. Demento and got his start on the show, probably laments the fact that the still-running Dr. Demento show has been almost forgotten except by connection to him. (To wit, he's gone internet-only.) There are a smattering of pages centered around Weird Al on This Very Wiki... but not a one about the good Doctor.
  • The current likeness of The Grim Reaper is likely to become an example (if it isn't already) because it carries a scythe, which presumably not that many people know the real use for.
    • Mostly the same people that don't know where milk and meat come from.
  • Any cartoon, video game, film, etc. made prior to The Nineties that wasn't Disney-popular that was parodied in and after The Nineties will get this effect in Eastern Europe due to that region locked away from Western pop-culture for 50 years (where only the very best of the West passed the border).
  • The name "Barcalounger" (the brand of reclining chair) is a play on a the name of a type of sailing ship, the Barca-longa. No one but naval historians and readers of the Master and Commander series (which are not such distinct populations) would know that now.
  • Cracked.com goes meta with this in "6 Things Our Kids Just Won't Get", which includes the save icon (floppy disk), time-related tv activities such as Saturday morning cartoons (thanks to cable becoming commonplace and DVRs and video on demand services which allow people not to watch things when they come on), and common older sitcom plots, such as plots when someone gets lost (nowadays people would just call them on a cell phone).
  • Applejack was originally a potent form of distilled apple brandy. However, for the last few decades it has been more commonly known as an over-sweetened breakfast cereal that once counterintuitively used the fact that it doesn't taste like apples as a marketing gimmick.
    • Consequently, nobody made much of a fuss when a My Little Pony character was named for it—and even that character pre-dates its use in the current Friendship is Magic show by a couple of decades, being the only original G1 Pony character name Hasbro still has the rights to use.
      • The link with the alcohol is not lost on the writers, mind. In one episode she gets shrunk for a plot-related reason and nicknamed Apple-teeny.
  • The counting rhyme "eeny meeny miny moe / catch a tiger by the toe / if he hollers let him go / eeny meeny miny moe" that we all said as children is in fact only the latest in a long line of variations on an actually rather ominous rhyme. The original is a poem about what to do if you think you've seen the devil, but the lyrics have been so altered that no one would know this without looking it up.
    • Variations of the rhyme using the "n-word" also existed, though they fell into less common use after the Civil Rights movement. However, they can still trap the unwary, as when a group of black passengers unsuccessfully sued Southwest Airlines over a stewardess using the rhyme in a cabin announcement without any knowledge of its racial connotations.
    • The regional variant "catch a monkey by the toe" wasn't much better.
  • The McIntosh apple dates back to 1811. No, not an Apple Macintosh, a McIntosh apple. Apple named the computer after a type of apple. They could have named it Golden Delicious, or Granny Smith.
  • Chucky, from Childs Play was based on a real toy called "My Buddy", which was only slightly less creepy.
  • The "Bazooka" nickname for the US's M1 rocket launcher (which stuck very well, likely influenced by the military not giving it a real name beyond "M1" and its class) which came from its resemblance to a Xenophone created by comedian Bob Burns. Nowadays the nickname can apply to any shoulder fired missile weapon while Bob Burns is otherwise forgotten entirely.
  1. Given that MacArthur Park handily won Dave Barry's epic Bad Song survey, this is probably a fortunate thing for the people who don't know of the original
  2. A real weapon and techniques that existed at least in fiction before
  3. an extremely common "ninja name" in Japanese fiction and folklore, akin to "Kurtz" for villians
  4. a homage to the folktale Jiraiya Gōketsu Monogatari, their names being the literal words for their animal
  5. The painting is by Théodore Géricault, whose last name is pronounced close to "Jericho" in French.
  6. Happy child, happy and singing. Joyful in going through its juvenile dream.
  7. Happy child, broke his nose, went to the hospital, to drink Sonrisal... (BTW, Sonrisal is an effervescent antacid)
  8. The Christmas tree has been stolen/ the police are at the door/Santa is hanged on the boughs of the Christmas tree. // The candles on the tree/burn Santa/Santa screams in agony:/"Bring flowers to my grave"
  9. The Christmas tree has been set up/ Christmas is at the door/Sweets have been hung/off the boughs of the tree.// The candles of the tree/give off a lovely glow/ Children play sweetly/in a ring around the tree.
  10. According to the Geneva Bible, a modernized version of the translation Shakespeare would be most likely to have read. (Several amusing annotations frantically waving and screaming "metaphor! metaphor!" omitted.)
  11. Or weekday morning or afternoon
  12. "'loudmouthed', that is"
  13. Although many will remember the later 1979 TV series