Forgotten Trope

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    These are the tropes that are one step beyond Dead Horse Tropes; not only are they not used straight, they're not used at all. You won't find this in any current series; they have disappeared from the writer's toolbox.

    Note that these aren't actually forgotten, Future Imperfect-style, otherwise would we even be talking about them here? Academics will know all about them, and a few minutes with a web search engine will turn up plenty, if you know what to look for. They may, on very, very rare occasions, show up in a modern series, but generally only those that are emulating a series that did have these.

    The best place to find Forgotten Tropes is in "classic" works; there you will see them, frozen like insects in amber. For example, in Alice in Wonderland, Carroll's poem about the "little crocodile" parodies Isaac Watts's saccharine original about the "little busy bee"—an example of a whole class of Victorian poems that children were taught in order to instill virtue. (See "Weird Al" Effect.)

    Often, these tropes were a sign of the times, and as the times moved on so did the tropes, morphing to fit the current standard. For example, the "Invasion Genre" of the 19th century, pitting a helpless Britain against an uber-powerful France or Germany, began to lose popularity in the aftermath of World War II, the beginning of the Cold War, the supremacy of nuclear weapons and the rise of the new "it" genre, Sci Fi; so French and German wunderweapons and wundertactics were replaced by Soviet wunderweapons and wundertactics, or even green-skinned men from Mars and their flying saucers. Many tropes evolved this way, and while their ancestors went extinct, the fossils remain.

    Forgotten tropes are almost always some of The Oldest Ones in the Book, except that they've fallen out of the book entirely. When a trope is forgotten but its parody isn't, it's the "Weird Al" Effect.

    Under the right circumstances, a Forgotten Trope can return to the collective meme pool and become a Resurrected Trope.

    Note: Please don't list this as a trope on a work page. This is a trope about tropes only, and the presence of a Forgotten Trope in a work is not in and of itself a trope. (Although it may help qualify the work as a period piece.)

    Examples of Forgotten Trope include:

    Comic Books

    • Up until the 1960s, it was common for children's comic books to have two (or more) male protagonists who shared a house and had no interest in women. Such duos include Tintin and Captain Haddock, Blake and Mortimer, Spirou and Fantasio, Batman and Robin, and several others. A four-way example would be Biggles and his three chums, Algy, Ginger and Bertie. However, it gradually became more and more common (at least among adults) to interpret this kind of relationship as gay, which led to a Gay Panic that made comic writers and publishers abandon this trope. For example, in Batman Dick Grayson's Aunt Harriet moved in with Bruce Wayne and Dick (this was explicitly done by the publisher to reduce Ho Yay interpretations of the comic), while Bruce also started dating women.
    • The Invasion Literature sub-genre was not as completely forgotten as the Literature section suggests. The ground-breaking British sci-fi comic 2000 AD ran a controversial long story in 1977-79 called Invasion! This was originally meant to be a sci-fi dystopia about a successful Russian invasion of Britain following defeat in WW 3, and showcasing the British Resistance to foreign occupation. However, the publishers got cold feet and insisted the invaders be renamed as something else, lest the Russians take offence. A panel in the first episode that originally showed Margaret Thatcher being hanged as an enemy of the state was also heavily modified to show a fictional woman PM. The Russian invader became the only slightly disguised "Volgans", who are seen off after a few years by a combination of resistance and liberating Americans. The strip was reworked in the 1990's to accommodate changing political realities, and the publishers IPC saw to it, this time around, that the traditional Enemy Within of left-wing politicians and trade unions and Usual Suspects provoked the collapse that led to defeat. The hanged prime minister of the new version is a left-ish (but certainly not extreme left-wing) female contemporary of Margaret Thatcher's, Shirley Williams.


    • A trope from Hollywood musicals of the forties and fifties was the ballet sequence—a segment in which the movie broke away from the main action to tell a mini-story through stylized interpretive dance. It may have evolved into the Non Sequitur Scene.
      • As a glance at many of the specific examples below will show, this is largely thanks to Gene Kelly.
      • First played with in the "Dream Ballet" from Oklahoma!.
      • Then further popularized by the surreal title ballet from the Powell-Pressburger classic The Red Shoes.
      • It hit its stride with the An American in Paris ballet from the movie.
      • "Gotta Dance!" sequence from Singin' in the Rain.
      • The detective story sequence from The Band Wagon.
      • The "Born in a Trunk" sequence from A Star Is Born.
      • The Big Ballet trend in musicals was started by George Balanchine and "Slaughter From Tenth Avenue" from On Your Toes (and revisited in the "biographical" Words and Music), which in turn might have been inspired by the Busby Berkeley Number "Lullaby of Broadway" from Gold Diggers of 1935.
      • The Coen Brothers (inveterate collectors of old tropes) revived the ballet segment for dream sequences in The Hudsucker Proxy and The Big Lebowski. All this time you just thought they were on drugs.
      • "Gimmick" ballet sequences, such as the many films slathered with underwater versions of lavish, Busby Berkeley dance routines, many featuring swimmer Esther Williams. In fact, these movies were really all about the underwater scenes (as one producer said of Williams, "dry, she's a nobody; wet, she's a star"). Rarely seen today even in parody (The Simpsons is an exception), and utterly impossible to take seriously played straight.
      • Bollywood remains a huge exception, where the tradition thrives to the point of being an Enforced Trope, and pretty much every Indian film must have at least one big perfectly choreographed song-and-dance number.
      • Parodied in Cannibal! The Musical, in a Dream Ballet in which Alferd expresses his love and devotion to Leanne, his horse.
    • Viewers of the 1991 Cape Fear Remake can be somewhat mystified by the premise. Why did antagonist Max Cady (Robert De Niro) feel slighted by protagonist Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte)? The Remake takes place in the present day. At the time of the original movie's release, the prior sexual history of a rape victim was a valid defense that would have lessened Cady's sentence, or may have kept him out of jail. Nowadays, the victim's prior sexual history is inadmissible in rape cases in the United States.
      • The original novel The Executioners and the 1962 film are more comprehensible to contemporary audiences. In that version, Max (Robert Mitchum) seeks revenge on Sam (Gregory Peck) for testifying against him at a rape trial, which means the same now as it did then. Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Wesley Strick changed the backstory to provide moral ambiguity.
    • The airplane hijacker who demands to be taken to Cuba (inspired by one or two real hijackings) had a brief heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, but was already fading into Dead Horse territory by the 1980s, and has since been completely supplanted by hijackers with far more sinister motives.
      • Monty Python's Flying Circus played with this. One passenger on a direct flight to Cuba tries to hijack the plane and go to Luton. He ends up thrown out of the plane just in time to catch a bus "Straight to Luton," which was then hijacked by a man who demanded to be taken to Cuba. The bus changes its sign to "Straight to Cuba" and turns around.
      • Seinfeld references the Cuban hijacker trope.
        • Except for the fact they're Dominicans.
      • An Italian pop band founded in 1994 is named "dirotta su Cuba" ("hijack towards Cuba")
      • In PDQ Bach's The Abduction of Figaro, Captain Kadd, after his "I Am" Song, says he's "taking this ship to Cuba." The other characters have to remind him that he's not on a ship ("What do you mean, I'm not on a ship?").
      • The "hijacked to Cuba" meme depended on the Cuban regime being willing to take in hijacked craft. Their initial post-Revolution stance was favourable to the hijackers, but quickly soured. Attempt to hijack anything to Cuba now and expect to be arrested upon arrival... killing the trope.
    • Many old movies and plays about the fashionable upper classes — for instance, The Women — will have characters travel to Reno, Nevada (almost never Las Vegas, because that town, though closer to Hollywood, developed relatively late) so they can obtain painless divorces. Reno businessmen went out of their way to attract those seeking Nevada divorces with specialist lawyers and affordable extended-stay hotels. This trope disappeared due to the liberalization of divorce laws in other U.S. states.
      • At the time of this trope, divorce wasn't considered a polite topic of conversation, so this could be used as a complete euphemism. Here's a middle-class example from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (having nothing to do with the main plot):

    Becky: I've been in Reno.
    Miles: Reno?
    Becky: Reno. Dad tells me you were there, too.
    Miles: Five months ago.
    Becky: Oh, I'm sorry.

      • Also referenced in The Shawshank Redemption (the beginning of which takes place in the 1940s). Andy's disloyal wife wants a divorce in Reno. Andy's response: "I'll see you in hell before I'll see you in Reno" is part of what convinces the jury that he killed her.
      • In the Buster Keaton film Seven Chances, Buster has to marry someone — anyone — before turning 27 or lose his inheritance. He runs a newspaper ad for a wife and is ready at the altar with tickets to both Niagara Falls and Reno.
    • In the '80s and '90s, part of the Valley Girl stereotype was having a phone line in her room and jokes about the immense bills run up. Thanks to cell phones with some help from Facebook and IMs, this has bitten the dust. Remnants still exist, such as in Juno (though this was mostly just to make a hamburger phone joke) and in Totally Radical advertising aimed at teens. (You can still joke about the phone bills, though.)
    • Another frequent gag of the 80s and 90s was an Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking or What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous? type joke with the revelation that a villainous character had once returned a rented video without rewinding it. DVDs quickly killed this joke.
    • Gimmicked "Interactive" Filmgoing Experiences. 3D has come back a few times, including very recently; what did not was everything else, up to and including systems of pulleys and winches that slung "ghosts" around the cinema to "heighten the experience", Smell-O-Vision (plus copycat AromaRama and John Waters' variant Odorama), special visors that let you see or not see monsters on the screen, and an elaborate system that gave viewers in the audience joy-buzzer-style "electric" shocks so that they would think they were under attack from the movie's monster.
      • The idea of olfactory accompaniment for movies was even older; the "scent organ" in Brave New World was merely a futuristic extrapolation of what was already being done occasionally in musical revues.
      • There has been one such idea that's been getting rolling lately: D-BOX theaters, where the seats shake in sync with the action on-screen.
      • Note that this sort of technique has become very common in theme park attractions, even if your average movie theater doesn't bother with such stunts.
    • In the 1920s, `goat glands' were a quack remedy for erectile dysfunction and general lack of energy (don't ask how it was done ... Squick). The use of goat glands - with miraculous Popeye-after-Spinach type results - not only became a trope in films themselves (for example, Buster Keaton's Cops), but a film industry term for silent films that had sound hurriedly added to them to bring them up to date.
    • Airports as places where you can expect to be repeatedly accosted by evangelists, Hare Krishnas, political activists, and the like. Before the 1990s, this was common in American airports, which were generally considered "public forums" for free speech purposes. A 1992 Supreme Court ruling changed this, allowing airport authorities to make reasonable regulations to avoid congestion and disruption to air travelers, and 9/11 got rid of them for good. While the scene is still funny, some of the vicarious thrill of Robert Stack's Foe-Tossing Charge in Airplane! is lost on a modern audience. A 1980s traveler really did have to pass through similar gauntlets of airport attention-seekers, and probably wanted to handle them in Rex Kramer's no-nonsense fashion.
      • There's even an episode of The Simpsons that gets in on this. Homer makes fun of all the people imploring him to love his neighbor until the two at the end of the line persuaded to join a cult.
    • Similarly, jokes about the presence of travel insurance vending machines in airports (and the related presumed danger of air travel) are baffling to modern audiences, since insurance vending machines haven't existed for years (at least in North America - they are still fairly common in, e.g., Japan.)
    • In the early days of motion pictures, leading up to and during the time of the Hays Code, one of the loopholes in the taboos against showing nude women on the screen was if the images were used for programs of "an educational nature." So ur-Russ Meyers would splash lurid stories of white slavery, prostitution, lascivious womanizing and violence on the screen and couch them as "warnings for parents -- tell your children to beware!" and such. One of the most famous notorious was a film called Is Your Daughter Safe? which was released in 1927 but was actually a compilation reel of previously shot material, some of it already fifteen years old even then — the Mondo Cane of its day.
      • "Nudist" documentaries of the time were also little more than softcore porn, where the clubs often feature a disproportionate number of young, voluptuous women rather than a wide variety of ages and body types for both genders like a true club would contain.
    • Teenage males trying to obtain pornography through methods like fake IDs, getting adults and older siblings to buy magazines for them or watching scrambled pay-per-view porn was a much joked about situation in the 80s and 90s, but thanks to The Internet removing any difficulty for anyone getting porn it's not so common anymore. Jokes about teens trying to clear browser caches, cookies, histories and hiding browsing (and download folders) from their parents could be considered a bit of a successor trope (though even that is slowly dying out as teenagers owning their own computers is becoming more common, as well as "in-private browsing" which does the clearing for you).
    • In the early days of cell phones, they were often depicted as little more than a yuppie toy. For example, in Clueless the protagonist (a teenager from an affluent Beverly Hills family) is eating dinner with her father and step-brother, when a phone starts to ring. This leads to all three characters looking for their cell phones to see if it's the one that's ringing. In 1995 this scene was meant to be humorous, as it was considered ridiculously yuppieish for each family member to have their own cell phone. If a teenager watches the movie today, the gag is probably lost on her, as nowadays it's common for teens (and even younger children) to have their own cell phones, and the sort of phone confusion depicted in Clueless happens quite often.
      • Though even this is becoming less common with custom ring tones becoming steadily easier to acquire and install. The most recent iPhone (as of February 2012) has 27 ringtone options standard, and it's the work of ten minutes or less to create and install a new one.
        • Interestingly enough, depending on where you live, custom ring tones for far less advanced phones were so prevalent in the previous decade that a large number of people got fed up and started sticking with either the default tone or the one that sounds the most like an old-fashioned phone, leading to the aforementioned confusion.
    • Corporate raiders such as Gordon Gecko were a quite common topic in film in their heyday in 80s and early 90s also appearing in works such as Other People's Money and Pretty Woman, but as the practice fell out of style their appearances in fiction did as well.


    • In the late 19th century, the Rags to Riches trope usually involved a poor yet clever and virtuous boy who rises to affluence due to hard work, and clean living (and phenomenal luck, but they won't tell you that). This trope was arguably the basis of Social Darwinism, but it died sometime during the forties Deal and no one can say why for certain. Presumably it had something to do with the immensity of the wall street crash (for if people got rich by hard work and clean living, did that mean all those that lost wealth were lazy and uncouth, along with unlucky?), the influence of the World War II experience (with Hitler's Germany being a horrific case of many of the tenets of Social Darwinism put into action), the New Deal (which made people question the idea of individuals purely responsible for their success) and the nascent civil rights movement (springing from demographics of people who had been denied success for the color of their skin, not from the content of their character.)
      • Horatio Alger, Jr.'s work is the classic example. Alger's work shows a real Forgotten Trope, where the boy goes from dirt poor all the way up to... working class, with no thought about becoming really rich or upper class. That would have been utterly unrealistic back then. Today it reads like tales of a man's long and difficult struggle to reach the middle.
      • The British equivalent is Dinah Craik's John Halifax, Gentleman and Samuel Smiles' Self-Help.
      • It refuses to die as long as Ayn Rand has disciples.
      • Today, Rags to Riches stories are mostly associated with stories about rising in the criminal underworld; a big part of the appeal of Gangsta Rap is exactly this.
    • Charles Dickens' work ranges from unintentional trope overdose (Oliver Twist) to low-end Subversion (Great Expectations) to high-end Subversion (Hard Times). The last-named features a supporting character (Josiah Bounderby) who claims that his mother abandoned him soon after his birth, and that he was completely independent by the age of three. It is later revealed that his parents adored him, and scrimped and sacrificed so that he might receive a good education and a promising apprenticeship. He then rose rapidly through the ranks of society, and deserted his doting parents in their old age.
      • Parodied like crazy by radio comedy Bleak Expectations.
      • Also well remembered for being brutally deconstructed in The Great Gatsby.
      • Also deconstructed and parodied in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion
      • In recent fiction, the young readers' novel Montmorency could be considered a parody, as it features a dirt-poor youth who ascends to the aristocracy through hard work ... by robbing Londoners and faking his way into high society.
    • Invasion Literature was a popular British sub-genre of Science Fiction (not named as such at that point) in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. This genre focused on the invasion of Britain Twenty Minutes Into the Future (or earlier) by a foreign power. This foreign power was most often either France or Germany, depending on which seemed Britain's most likely enemy at the time. Its mainstream incarnation vanished during World War I, presumably because they had actual wars with Germany. And in part because H. G. Wells introduced a more plot-flexible variation of the theme that displaced it.
      • The Battle of Dorking (1871) by George Tomkyns Chesney, the Trope Codifier, though not the Ur Example. This was written in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war, which had shocked Europe with the speed with which Europe's second-largest army was defeated by a numerically smaller but technically more sophisticated foe. This theme ran through the genre.
      • Both The Riddle of the Sands (1903) by Erskine Childers and The War of the Worlds (1898) by H. G. Wells ended up having an effect on fiction long after the extinction of the original trope serving as the progenitors of modern espionage thrillers and the Alien Invasion, respectively. The Invasion Fiction lives, but the invader has changed.
      • A late example is Nevil Shute's What Happened to the Corbetts (1938). By that time, of course, most people had a pretty good idea that something bad was going to happen, even if they didn't know quite how bad it would be.
      • There were a few American examples of the genre, usually involving the Yellow Peril; the revival of that associated trope during World War II included a novel by Whitman Chambers titled Invasion!.
      • There are still quite a few books and movies in which a war suddenly breaks out between two major nations and one of them totally overruns the other because of its secret weapon. Arguably, invasion literature was the origin of the modern Technothriller genre, along with the Spy Thriller and Alien Invasion tropes. The thing that's been forgotten is the specific threat of invasion into Britain by either the French or the Germans. The notion of either of those things happening became absurd after World War I and World War II, respectively.
      • Mainly because of Germany's subsequent (relative) military impotence and that both France and Germany are allies with Britain through NATO and, to a lesser extent, associations with the European Union. However, this hasn't stopped people (namely Tom Clancy) from continuing to speculate about a resurgent Imperial Japan, even though they're a less capable current military force than either France or Germany and are not in a hurry to get carpet bombed again.
      • Several past and present Japanese service chiefs would enjoy being able to actively participate in peacekeeping efforts to show that the Japanese armed forces are more than paper tigers. Especially considering the North Korean situation.
      • The "threat to Britain from France or Germany" idea did make it into at least one post-Cold War techno-thriller, Larry Bond's Cauldron. The scenario involves the dissolution of NATO and a war pitting an aggressive France, allied with Germany and much of continental Western Europe, against the US, UK, and most of the former Warsaw Pact, excluding Russia. (However, the notion of England actually being invaded is never brought up.)
      • A modern example of Invasion Literature most Australians will know of is Tomorrow When the War Began, wherein Australia is invaded by an unnamed country.
      • The use of real countries as the villains in a fictional work these days is falling out of favour, as books are often turned into film or video for export. Ian Fleming uses Russian army counter-intelligence SMERSH in the books, but the pictures turn this into mercenary non-state actor SPECTRE; likewise, Sony's infamous "The Interview" targets North Korea as vilifying communist China would mean not being able to profit by exporting the movie to that country.
      • The genre was being parodied as early as 1909, when P. G. Wodehouse wrote his early novel The Swoop, in which England is invaded by the armies of nine different countries at once, only to be driven out by the Boy Scouts. (Oddly enough, in Saki's When William Came, written four years later, the "Boy-Scouts-as-saviours" idea is repeated, entirely seriously.) The Scouts don't actually fight off the Germanic hordes, thankfully. Instead, they inspire the population to resistance by boycotting the Kaiser's parade.
    • The Captivity Narrative, in which a good, Puritan girl is captured by Indians and has to resist their culture, was pretty popular in America in the 17th-19th centuries. These were often folktales that were made up long before the printing press and other forms of culture were readily available in remote settlements. These, often times, exploited The Savage Indian archetype for the sake of Rule of Cool or Rule of Drama, regardless (or because) of its Unfortunate Implications.
      • A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, by Mary Rowlandson, is pretty much the chief example of this trope. It's a true story, too, and a very interesting one at that. It's a must read for anyone interested in King Philip's War or early Anglo-Indian relations. If you've never heard of King Philip's War, consider it required reading too.
      • And one which plays it straight, only to subvert it, is Catharine Maria Sedgwick's Hope Leslie: the young sister of the titular character is kidnapped along with Hope herself and her sweetheart Everell. At first it seems as if Hope and Everell will be executed by the evil Indians, until in a moment swiped right out of the Pocahontas story, the Indian princess Magawisca saves both their lives, resulting in their eventual release. Later, Hope's sister Faith is allowed to reunite with her family—but while she has proven unable to resist Indian culture, so that Hope and her family feel they have lost Faith forever (no one ever said the story wasn't Anvilicious), the fact Faith returns to be with the people she's come to see as her family and is much happier for it is played out with surprising sympathy and generosity.
      • Believe it or not, The Last of the Mohicans of The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper is actually a subversion of this. ("No, Magua's not going to rape her, or torture her, or kill her, or even tie her up. He just took her because he doesn't like you.")
      • A modern subversion: in The Searchers (1956), the plot motor is whether John Wayne's bitter protagonist will rescue or shoot his Indian-kidnapped niece once he finally finds her, for the fear that she has been assimilated and tainted by evil savages.
      • Modern writers have come up with pastiches of the trope.
        • Lucia St. Clair Robson's romance Ride the Wind is a popular example.
        • Deborah Larsen's The White rewrites one of the most famous captivity narratives, that of Mary Jemison.
      • A book called The Ransom of Mercy Carter is about a group of Puritans (adults and children) kidnapped by Indians and waiting for ransom from their families. Subverted, because in the end nearly all of the children decide to stay with their Indian families.
      • This genre is parodied in a skit entitled "My Captivity by Savages" by the band Rasputina on the album Frustration Plantation.
      • Actually the genre did not start with female protagonists, nor concerned only Puritans. An important forerunner is "Memoir On the Country and Ancient Indian Tribes Of Florida" (1575) by Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda. They were the actual memoirs of a Spanish man who spent the years 1549 to 1566 in captivity by the Calusa tribe of Florida. A best seller of the 18th century was "The Remarkable Adventures of Jackson Johonett, of Massachusetts" (1793). It was promoted as the actual memoirs of a young American soldier who survived captivity by Native Americans in Ohio. Contemporaries loved this action-packed narrative. Literary historians are convinced it was actually a novel, with numerous geographic and historical references being inaccurate. For example, the narrator claims arriving at the completed Fort Jefferson, Ohio on September 18, 1791. Remarkable if you consider the Fort started being built in October, 1791. A more genuine historical account was "The adventures of John Jewitt: only survivor of the crew of the ship, Boston, during a captivity of nearly three years among the Indians of Nootka Sound in Vancouver Island" (1815). The long-winded title is self-explanatory.
      • I Am Regina by Sally Keehn, published in 1991, is about this. The main character Regina is taken by the Allegheny Indians and lives with them for so long that she forgets the English language, except for a few Bible verses. This is definitely a subversion of the original trope, mainly because it portrays the Indians sympathetically, and they become Regina's family.
      • Another example of the Captivity Narrative is found in Don Quixote: Ruy Pérez de Viedma relates all his biography in "The story of the Captive Captain". He was a handsome Spanish captain who wanted to escape the Moors and was helped by a Zoraida, a beautiful Moorish princess who wanted to convert to Christianity. He organized a successful escape to Spain, was well received by his powerful and rich relatives and married Zoraida. The Life Embellished characteristics like the Moorish princess and the overly happy ending were a Necessary Weasel because the public of that time expected them. In real life, Cervantes was a captive who failed all his escape attempts and whose family paid for his rescue; he was always an Impoverished Patrician.
    • A variety of late-19th and early-20th century stories called "Edisonades" were usually about a young man building a robot, going west, defeating savages and carving out a name for himself. Steampunk was created partially from a desire to fight the attitudes presented in the Edisonades (despite the genre being dead for several generations).
    • A number of 19th century Russian novels reference the then-current fad interest in Nihilism, and while the idea of a Nietzsche Wannabe is still familiar today, that doesn't give a complete idea as to what the philosophy meant to the original audience.
      • Not to mention the then-current debate mentioned in Crime and Punishment over whether women have souls.
    • The clever young widow as The Ingenue's rival for the protagonist's affections. This character type was popular in the early 20th century, back when young ladies were supposed to be watched over by parents and chaperones before marriage: the widow had the advantages of independence, (moderate) experience and wealth, though the last of these assets often depended on gold-digging among prospective second husbands. The more dangerous Femme Fatale might be this type's eventual descendant.
      • Anthony Trollope liked this one, having Madame Max Goesler in Phineas Finn and Mrs. Hurtle in The Way We Live Now.
    • Co-ed colleges have caused the College Widow to be replaced by sorority sisters.
    • The Man Who Was Thursday and The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. display a contemporary fear of militant Anarchists, who in the closing years of the nineteenth century and the opening years of the twentieth killed President McKinley, King Umberto I of Italy and, perhaps most shockingly, the beloved Empress Sissi of Austria-Hungary and carried off a string of successful bombings. Over time, more immediate bogeymen displaced the Bomb-Throwing Anarchists in the imagination, though their cultural DNA survives in the Terrorists Without a Cause trope.
      • The fallout from this is why many contemporary people don't have the slightest understanding of what anarchism is. Generally it's either thought of as "chaos" or merely "an opposition to government," with no recognition of the underlying philosophies, ranging from communitarian anti-capitalism to a purer form of free-market capitalism. When an anarchist is depicted in the media, it's often as just a troublemaker with no underlying political justification (as with Terrorists Without a Cause, above).
    • Travelers' Tales were a genre of nonfiction (usually) adventure stories of far-off lands. With the advent of Television and Film they seemed rather redundant.
    • Misogyny was once a fairly common element in male protagonists, perhaps most clearly visible in Sherlock Holmes. While not exactly considered a virtue, a dislike or distrust of women was not automatically treated unsympathetically or comically, unlike the modern He-Man Woman Hater.
      • Although it did get shut down hard during A Scandal in Bohemia, in which his antagonist a) notices Holmes' stratagem, b) follows him home while dressed as a guy, c) talks to him and still doesn't get caught, and d) escapes from Holmes' influence the next day. His opponent? Irene Adler, a woman, earning Holmes' respect and the appelation "the woman" (Watson observes that "there was only one woman to [Holmes]").
    • Brain Fever. Commonly used in the past to put an otherwise healthy character into a helpless state, often after an emotional shock. The character is usually delirious and only semi-conscious, but that may not stop him from blurting out unpleasant truths. Fever delirium still shows up from time to time to do the same job, but it is now much more specific than a generic "brain fever".
    • There's a common Edwardian comedy trope where some aristocrat will have a particularly good cook and their friends will do everything they can to "steal" that servant. This happens in some Saki stories as well as in P. G. Wodehouse with the chef Anatole. This gets a modern use in the Miles Vorkosigan novel Memory where his parents and other relatives are tempted to steal away his new cook, Ma Kosti, but that's probably because the series is often social comedy Recycled in Space.

    Mary: Give me back my maid!
    Dick: I'm sorry, Mary, but Cathy is not some product to be bought or sold on the open market. She is a living, breathing human being with feelings, thoughts, and emotions -- you don't own her. [beat] I do!

    • Obesity as a sign of great wealth is not entirely dead (with tropes such as the Fat Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit) but it is certainly a dying trope, replaced by obesity as a sign of working class subsistence on junk food and beer, the price of fresh food, lack of time for home cooking, etc.
      • In Nigeria in the 1970s, obesity was still a sign of great wealth. Polynesia also had positive connotations to fatness.
    • Another dead or dying trope associated with the rich is that of the "squeamish" rich person (you know, the one with ridiculously puritanical social mores or who is laughably behind the times) who reacts to everything in a scandalized or naive way. Such characters were usually women, but rich men were not immune either. It's largely disappeared now and the rich are now more likely to be inversions: obsessed with the latest gadget or gossip in a way no "normal" person could afford, either in money or time.
    • Before modern psychiatry and medicine, hysteria was once a common diagnosis for a woman with any sort of illness. There are thousands of documented cases of women in real life diagnosed with hysteria (and often institutionalized or otherwise marginalized) who were later found to have had heart attacks, ovarian cancer, schizophrenia, depression, endocrine imbalances, or one of any number of physical or psychological diseases. The trope became discredited after women finally got fed up with being told that their problems were all either "in their heads" or made up for attention, and faded from fiction at about the same time.
      • There's a modern myth that doctors in the 19th century all used vibrators to give female patients orgasms. The ancient Greeks believed that orgasms cured "hysteria", but most 19th-century medical schools taught that a woman could not have an orgasm, and that her sexual pleasure derived from submitting to her husband. One historian estimates that five or ten doctors in the English-speaking world used vibrators on patients. Most were bought by lay people, but ads for vibrators were directed at the medical community because advertising them to the general public was illegal.
      • Hysteria, and more broadly the consistent mis-diagnosis and mis-treatment of women during the 19th and early 20th centuries, is the theme of the classic early feminist short horror story The Yellow Wallpaper.
    • Theory Before Phenomenon. Apparently modern audiences are better able to take strange occurrences in stride and don't need to sit through a preparatory Info Dump-filled discussion.
    • As mentioned under Clark Kenting, facial muscle control was used by pulp magazines to handwave Master of Disguise abilities, because it was thought that if a male character wore make-up for a disguise, that would make him a "sissy". Perhaps because of common awareness of the use of make-up in films/the lack of believability of the facial muscle explanation, this trope hasn't been used for a while.

    Live-Action TV

    • In the 1990s adaptation of the Jeeves and Wooster stories, the whole "breach of promise" thing is omitted, and now the reason Bertie can't get out of these engagements is it just wouldn't do to jilt a woman so. And yet they keep the Hitler parody and the blackface.
    • The wholesome, perfectly spoken, morally impeccable dad as per the Father Knows Best design. Perhaps the first trope of the 1950s syrupy Domestic Comedies to die, it's now more or less replaced with the Bumbling Dad.
    • This will sound strange to European tropers, but in the '60s and '70s a common trope on American TV (and especially stand-up comedy) was the purported extreme ugliness of Russian women. For decades the standard-issue US pop culture Russian woman was either a muscled, mannish athlete or a troll-like creature with a mustache wearing a "babushka" (a "grandma kerchief" tied below the chin). Watch some old (uncensored) Tonight Show monologues—at least once a week Carson would make a joke about how mind-numbingly ugly Slavic women were. And, since he was the most respected comedian in America, everyone copied him.

    In Russia we have a saying: "Women are like buses." That's it.

      • And this wonderful Wendy's commercial.
      • This is probably all due to the main way the West got exposure to Russian women in that era—from sports, particularly the Olympics. Russian women are either svelte gymnasts and tennis players or brick shithouse shot putters and many were drugged by their handlers with male hormones.
      • The distinction was often not so much national as political. Czarist women seem always to have been portrayed as mysterious and exotic temptresses, whereas Soviet women are far more often portrayed as mannish and unalluring, if not downright Rosa Klebbs. The likely reason for this is Soviet policy discouraging differentiation of occupations by sex. To paraphrase and old Soviet joke, "where once were ladies and gentlemen, there are comrades and comrades." The Soviet woman was seen as a kind of comrade-in-arms for the working man, impervious to such allures of the "rotting bourgeoisie" as makeup of fancy clothes. Coupled with the lack of a fashion industry (resulting in purely functional - and fugly - clothes designs) and the lack of an upper class to reinforce the Sensual Slavs stereotype, this caused the looks of an average Soviet woman to become that of a "Soviet man (female edition)." Add to this the Iron Curtain denying foreigners the time needed to discover that she was Beautiful All Along and an unhealthy dose of dehumanizing Red Scare and there you go.
      • One joke involved a man going to sleep next to his lovely wife of the first type and being horrified to discover, the next morning, that she has passed her "expiration date" and transformed overnight into the second.
      • This trope was used as recently as 2004 in Dodgeball with the ugly woman with a unibrow from "Romanovia".
    • While made in the 1970s, M*A*S*H was of course set during the Korean War. The "Go to Reno, Nevada for a quick divorce" trope (see Film, above) turned up on occasion.
      • This is referenced in Mad Men: Betty Draper and Henry Francis go to Reno together to get her a divorce.
    • Fictional TV stations, if portrayed as weak and struggling North American independents, were invariably placed on undesirable channels at the highest end of the UHF TV dial. A weak signal was displayed with "snow" as an interference pattern over the image, which represented white noise in the analogue broadcast era. "Weird Al" Yankovic does this with "U-62" in UHF (1989) and David Cronenberg does this with "CIVIC-TV 83" in Videodrome (1983).
      • The UHF TV tropes were largely broken by multiple factors including improved TV receivers, a steady loss of high-UHF spectrum from terrestrial OTA TV to mobile telephone companies, a loss of OTA viewers in general to cable, satellite and Internet – but the furthest-reaching disruption has been DTV, which relies on digital compression and forward error correction schemes which perform very poorly under the impulse noise conditions of low-VHF channels and reasonably well on UHF. The channel that no broadcaster wants today isn't UHF 83 (which no longer exists) but digital VHF 2.
      • The digital transition means that many science fiction works that have the video message from some twenty-fifth-century alien civilisation fade into a mess of analogue static (or "snow") and vanish now look badly dated in the early twenty-first century. A digital station's fading signal actually looks perfect for a while (due to forward error correction), then the whole thing abruptly goes off a "digital cliff", pixellating and freezing dead in its tracks. No middle ground. Until the MPEG standard was introduced in the 1990s, no one anticipated what the compressed video would look like when DTV abruptly starts breaking up (it disintegrates into distinctive 8x8 pixel "macroblocks" and freezes)... so the old pattern of a signal degrading gracefully into static now looks about as dated as a stuck record, a stuck record, a stuck record... um, sorry about that.
      • The channel most suited to be a joke "TV station" in comedy today might not be OTA TV at all, but the "community access channel" which the cable companies are required to provide as a condition of licence. That channel is routinely filled with video of town council meetings and other low-budget, eminently forgettable but local fare.


    • Tom Lehrer's song "The Old Dope Peddler" parodies a folk song trope that isn't used much anymore. When he originally wrote it, there were plenty of songs about eccentric but beloved village characters such as the old lamp-lighter or the old umbrella salesman. Those songs are forgotten except by those very familiar with old songs.
      • Maddy Prior's "All Our Trades" stands out as a late example of this trope done straight.
      • Many of Tom Lehrer's songs parody styles and tropes which were old even when he was writing them (although a few had seen revivals at the time); and have now been all but forgotten by any but aficionados of old music.
    • "Yankee Doodle" has 18th century slang from at least three languages. It mocks the vain, slovenly, and cowardly behavior of Colonial troops in the French and Indian War. Today, everyone knows it, but not the context of its references (or most of its post-chorus lyrics).
      • Well at least the title is rather clear, since Doodle is still understood to mean "fool, simpleton" and has several derivative terms. Such as "doodles" (mindless sketches) and possibly "dude" (dandy, city slicker).
      • It also references the Macaroni Club, a contemporary London establishment catering to effeminate fops obsessed with fashion; the reference does double-duty by both impugning the Yankee's idea of what is fashionable and comparing them with the 18th Century's equivalent of the Stereotype Gay.
    • There are a lot of former Standard Snippets which have been completely forgotten.
    • The smoking song, about smoking either banishing worldly worries or inspiring sentimental visions.
    • The "love nest" song, describing the type and/or location of the cozy little home a couple would plan to settle down in.
    • Telephone numbers in historic works tend to be in odd formats, such as "PEnnsylvania 6-5000" or "TIdewater four ten oh nine", valid in a pre-1960s era but now largely forgotten.

    Sound Effects

    • Movie bullets used to make a long pinging sound whenever they hit a rock or metal surface; this sounds ridiculous to most modern ears, although it was used in the Marathon computer games as late as 1996 (source). The similar Bullet Sparks trope remains alive.
      • However, due to its heavy use in old Western films (enough that the sounds are often associated with the genre), pieces paying homage to the classic era of Westerns will use this effect as a shout-out, similar to using the Wilhelm Scream. Red Dead Redemption is a good example of this at work.
    • Whenever someone would eat corn on the cob, it would always be across the cob, with typewriter sounds playing. A "ding!" would sound when they got to the end of the row. Since kids today probably have never even seen a typewriter in real life, no one uses the trope anymore, if ever.


    • The entirety of The Importance of Being Earnest is devoted to playing with the tropes of the time, most of which fall into this category. For instance, a typical device was for misdirected papers to lead to a revelation to resolve the plot; here it comes in the eleventh-to-last line, and the papers were literally switched with a baby.
    • Opera often follows conventions that are completely forgotten except to people that, you know, actually study opera. Many exist for no reason other than to let the performers show off their singing chops.
      • Several older operas were abandoned before many of the most famous operas were even written. The deeply, deeply annoying exit convention, which required the performer to exit the scene after finishing an aria, caused all sorts of logistical problems, and after the Baroque period was seldom used. Another that survived slightly longer was the Aristotelian convention of the unities (see below) that required a play or opera to be set over the course of a single day. (Mozart's Don Giovanni is an especially late example, as English-language playwrights had discarded the idea of the unities a century earlier.)
      • One convention found in many grand operas of the mid-19th century was the massive formal set-piece chorus in the middle of the middle act (i.e. the second act, or the third if more acts were to come), e.g. "Gloria all'Egitto, ad Iside" from Aïda. The mandatory ballet in French grand opera would almost certainly be placed here.
      • Massenet, presumably after one too many times being forced to shoehorn a ballet in, not only lampshades it in Manon by having the ballet girls of the Paris Opera brought to a party, but justifies it, as he manages to tie it into several different plots—it's an expensive attempt by Manon's rich Stalker with a Crush to win her from the man she's playing courtesan to, but just beforehand, Manon learns des Grieux, her true love who she threw over in favour of riches, is about to become an abbot, and this leads to her ignoring the performance, as the first sign of her redemption. Unfortunately, said Stalker with a Crush begins conspiring against her after that.
    • Courts no longer recognize lawsuits for breach of promise of marriage, though Gilbert and Sullivan fans will recognize one as the premise of Trial by Jury.
      • The 1952 Setting Update of Of Thee I Sing removed the references to Diana accusing Wintergreen of breach of promise.
      • In the third Dream Sequence in Lady in the Dark, Liza Elliott is put on trial for refusing to marry Kendall Nesbitt as she promised. The phrase "breach of promise" is not used, however, partly because, as Liza suggests, women were traditionally immune to such claims.
    • The only thing that distinguishes Restoration Comedy from many college sex comedies is that it flatters Charles II and his court. That's pretty much the only reference Van Wilder didn't attempt... but leaving that one out while using the rest of the tropes is enough to make "flattery of royalty" a Forgotten Trope.
    • A major trope in old operettas was having a big romantic song in slow waltz time with enormous vocal range and mushy lyrics, rendered with lots of rubato. This was once as popular as the Award Bait Song is now; it was already obsolete by the mid-20th century when Anna Russell parodied it as "Ah, Lover!"
    • The extravaganza, the American equivalent of English Pantomime, was a family-friendly type of musical using many of the typical pantomime characters and settings (though the "dame" played by a man in drag seems not to have fully caught on). In the first decade of the twentieth century, stage adaptations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (which had L. Frank Baum's involvement) and Little Nemo followed the extravaganza format; the genre survived until the Great Depression. The only survivor of the genre is Babes in Toyland.
    • "All new jokes!" — In Ancient Greece, while having just invented theater, it didn't take long to get to where the average audience member recognized Comedy Tropes as Tropes. How comedic writers dealt with this became a trope in and of itself. As the Fourth Wall wasn't strong, a character would address the audience, say that Tropes Are Not Good, and say how this play was special because of all the Undead Horse Tropes it wasn't using, which was always a lie. The lie was either indirect (listing various tropes it wasn't using, but using other equally hackneyed old tropes) or absolutely bald-faced. Of course, since writing plays was much more competitive, this must have seemed like sports players boasting. But it also implies a truly odd appreciation for tropes and how they get used. Wow! Just think of it: Post Modernism is actually Older Than Feudalism!
    • Aristotle's traditional breakdown of theater styles has been split into a million different genres.
    • Aristotle was also responsible for the laws of unities, which held that a play should be set in one location, concern one action, and take place in one 24-hour period. These laws were taken seriously for much longer than playwrights honoured them; Samuel Johnson was forced to defend Shakespeare 150 years after the Bard's death over his disregard of the unities.
    • The nine Greek Muses represented art forms that are almost all discarded now (though the Muses live on, they've been reincarnated as patrons of different arts).
    • A lot of these were subverted in Othello, much to the distaste of certain critics like Thomas Rymer. As two examples, soldiers were Always Lawful Good (except Iago), and dropped handkerchiefs led to comical misunderstandings (or, in this case, multiple murders.)
    • The "10-20-30" melodrama, a long-extinct genre of theatrical productions which used many tropes now more typically associated with early silent films like The Perils of Pauline. The "10-20-30" name was derived from the cheap ticket prices charged for these productions - 10 cents, 20 cents, 30 cents. Interestingly, the name itself became obsolete during the very heyday of these melodramas ("15-25-75" would have been more accurate.)
    • Jokes about cigarette lighters refusing to light were obnoxiously common in the days of vaudeville. Nowadays, the only time you see it is when you're watching a rerun of "Knight-mare Hare", and that particular case is an example of the "Weird Al" Effect.
    • The grand operas of the ancien régime period had pompous prologues in which the ruler sponsoring the production was compared to the hero of the story.

    Video Games

    • The concepts of food and hunger were seen in early RPGs and Roguelikes, where players would have to take into account eating to survive. As this detail is irrelevant to the rest of the game, it was reduced to an afterthought in later RPGs such as Ultima IV, and ruled out entirely soon after. Now, food is used to replenish health, rather than hunger. Hunger clocks still remain widely used in the Roguelike genre, though.
      • This seems to be making a comeback in some indie games and game mods as a way to increase immersion... *cough* Minecraft *cough*.
        • Fallout: New Vegas also includes a "Hardcore" game mode where the player had to take hunger, rest, and thirst into account.
      • Related to this was the mechanic in a number of early Shoot'Em Ups (Scramble, River Raid, Zaxxon, Parsec) that had the player's ship constantly draining fuel.
        • Timers and constantly draining health are considered to be extremely annoying to gamers. Especially to casual gamers, who are making up more and more of the video game market. It used to be that only hardcore gamers could beat video games. With the proliferation of home consoles and dwindling use of arcades, the idea of a game that requires an insane amount of skill to beat is going to make that game a financial failure. It makes some gamers feel as if they've been cheated out of their money when a game is too hard.
      • As a matter of facts, one of the strongest selling points of Metal Gear Snake Eater (a 2005 game) was it's focus on raw survival, which obviously included a "hunger meter" as a core part of it's system. With this in mind, the "Hunger Meter" actually added a lot to game, since it also made you hunt your food and make sure it wasn't poisonous.
    • Having a limited number of lives in games is well on its way there, though new installments of older series (Super Mario Galaxy) or intentionally retro throwbacks (Mega Man 9) still use them. They were originally introduced as a way to limit play sessions when the vast majority of video games were played in arcades: you ran out of lives, the game was really over, unless you were willing to put another quarter in. Home games started out as being either ports of arcade games or heavily inspired by them, and therefore lives became a standard video game trope. They stuck around for a surprisingly long time, considering that games that weren't meant to be completed in one session and featured saving (and therefore not having to start the entire game over again when you died) became the standard as early as the early 90s. Now, games in which you have to keep track of how many lives you have seem conspicuously behind their time (in the above-mentioned Super Mario Galaxy, lives exist but are almost completely irrelevant, as the penalty for losing them all is nothing more than having to start the mission from the beginning, losing any checkpoints you reached previously).
      • Some modern games, like Okami keep track of how many times you've died as a basis for New Game+ rewards. Other games, such as Timesplitters 2 and 3, simply keep track of them as a form of bragging rights.
    • Also the very idea of needing health kits at all. Many games now use a regenerating system or healing abilities, health kits plus regeneration or healing abilities, or just flat out don't have traditional "health". Very seldom nowadays are health kits necessary, or even included in the traditional format.
    • Full Motion Video games had their very brief moment of popularity in the early 90s, when CD-ROM drives were new and game developers were struggling to find the best way to use all that new space it afforded them, yet not having the technology to make an actual game big enough to fill hundreds of megabytes. The result was, in most instances, barely interactive sequences of low-resolution, badly-acted movies. Thankfully, it only took a few years for developers to think of using video in games in ways that didn't get in the way of gameplay (mostly as CG cutscenes), and the CD format became justified.

    Western Animation

    • Cartoons often subvert this trope quite well, and are able to maintain visual signifiers despite widespread ignorance of their original historical context. For instance, a number of cartoon cliches associated with medicine, such as the glass thermometer with visible mercury, the screw-top ice bag for fevered heads, and the cloth toothache bandage have not been mainstream household items in ages, yet are still frequently used and understood in modern-day cartoons.
    • Referenced on Phineas and Ferb. After combining Who Writes This Crap? with Monkeys on a Typewriter, Doofenshmirtz points out that most of the show's target audience will never have even seen a typewriter before, and that Monogram probably had to go to an antique store to buy it.

    Other Media

    • For decades, the depiction of Superman and heroes inspired by him changing costume in phone booths was common in homage and parody despite rarely being used straight. It remained common in superhero parody in the early 1980s but by then phone booths were being replaced with boothless pay phones — the 1978 Christopher Reeve movie acknowledged this with a knowing wink. Now, with phone booths and even pay phones vanishing or gone from most public areas thanks to the omnipresence of cell phones, this supposed cliche isn't even parodied anymore.
      • On a related matter, any trope involving a Phone Booth is pretty much dead and is only likely to appear in works set between 1930 and 1975, when phone booths were commonplace.
    • Food Pills (a complete meal — usually offered in a variety of perfectly convincing flavors — in a tiny capsule) were all the rage for the well-stocked future of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but today's future food is more food-like. If there is concentrated food — such as the "protein pastes" that may be Food Pills' spiritual descendants — it tends to taste nasty. The change is no doubt due to the growth of the health-and-exercise industry and the subsequent general awareness that the human body needs considerably more than just a few milligrams of vitamins per day. The one area ultra-condensed food shows up is terrible-tasting emergency rations.
    • The use of blood typing to exclude suspects in a mystery story now only appears in rare period pieces, as evidence in resurrected old cases, and as preliminary evidence in the very few stories that have DNA tests take realistic amounts of time to process.
      • Inversely, as widespread DNA testing gets older it's increasingly unlikely that someone would not only be exonerated post-conviction by DNA testing and the relevant parties (at least the falsely convicted and the real criminal) still be alive, let alone have any trail left.
    • The use of smelling salts to revive a woman who's fainted — more precisely, the virtual omnipresence of smelling salts in every home. Judging by any number of classic movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood, you were more likely to find smelling salts in a random medicine cabinet than you were to find aspirin. As Fainting itself became a Dead Horse Trope if not a Forgotten Trope itself, its quick and easy countermeasure vanished from the trope pool as well.
    • With identity theft becoming common and public knowledge of government invasion of privacy, the presence of shredded documents in personal trash indicating someone is a spy or otherwise up to no good has vanished and people have forgotten it ever was suspicious.
    • As noted on the page for Pounds Are Animal Prisons, the Diabolical Dogcatcher is a now-forgotten character type whose heyday lasted over a century, from the early 1800s to the middle of the 20th century.

    Real Life

    • The Rags to Riches trope has been pretty much rescued from the Forgotten Tropes heap thanks to the advent of the lottery (the good kind, not the Lottery of Doom). There are countless Real Life examples such as Oprah Winfrey and "Dot Com" success stories that offer a Real Life Deconstruction and object lesson of sorts. Often though, there is a sour grapes Aesop at the end of modern versions of these tales. The newly wealthy person realizes that money has corrupted them and they give it all up to return to a simple life.
    • The Gay Nineties — at least, the sentimental depiction thereof. (The Fifties have pretty much replaced the 1890s as the fountain of historic sentimentalism.) Portraying The Gay Nineties as "wacky" or "nerdy" is still very much with us, however; just watch Family Guy for examples.
    • "Columbia" was a poetic 19th-century name for the United States of America (it is the "C" in "Washington D.C."). Columbia herself was represented as a young woman (or goddess) and was a popular national personification into the early 20th century. Since then she has been displaced by another American personification — "Uncle Sam". (The patriotic song "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" had a similar period of popularity.) About the only place you will see poor old Columbia these days is at the opening of a "Columbia Pictures" flick: she is the woman holding the torch.
      • "Columbia" was also used as a synonym for the continent(s) of America, hence the names of the South American nation of Colombia and the Canadian Province of British Columbia (and the latter is even on the opposite coast from the one where Christopher Columbus operated). And Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean is still performed.
      • Many older American memorials and monuments still depict Columbia, the most notable and newest of which is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, dedicated in 1949 in Hawaii.
        • The statue atop the US Capitol dome, while not officially of Columbia, shares many of her characteristics.
      • CBS used to stand for the Columbia Broadcasting System. Even they've abandoned this trope.
      • In Alex Ross's graphic novel Uncle Sam, there's a sequence where Sam meets up with Columbia to discuss the good old days.
      • There was a subtle distinction made at one time: Columbia represented the United States, while Uncle Sam represented the People of the United States, thus. (Similarly, Britannia represented the United Kingdom, while John Bull represented the People of the United Kingdom, thus [dead link].) Uncle Sam has now shifted into Columbia's place, while his former function is carried on by such Anthropomorphic Personifications as "John Q. Public" or (more recently) "Joe Sixpack."
      • Uncle Sam himself replaced the almost entirely forgotten Brother Jonathan as national personification of the USA. (Jonathan was the brother of Britain's national personification John Bull, the satirical joke was that they did not get on although they looked almost identical).
        • Brother Jonathan is referred to in the Flashman novel Flashman and the Mountain of Light.
      • National personification was popular in many countries in the nineteenth century (Britannia, etc). It's equally forgotten outside the United States.
      • Marianne as the personification of France seems to be very much healthy, though.
      • Sweden's Moder Svea isn't used much outside editorial cartoons but is certainly not forgotten.
      • Germania is not often seen anymore, as she tends to be associated with the militarism of Imperial Germany, but der deutsche Michel in his night-cap is still fairly common in German political cartoons.
      • Similarly, all of the traditional personifications of Ireland (Róisín Dubh, Kathleen Ni Houlihan, the Shan Van Voght, the Maid of Erin) are forgotten, mainly because they're seen as incredibly dated.
      • Fjallkonan is quite alive.
      • Thus, the idea of personifying nations as seen in Axis Powers Hetalia and Scandinavia and the World is Older Than They Think. Also, 'Columbia' has popped up again in BioShock (series) Infinite, interestingly.
      • Columbia, Marianne, John Bull, Brittania, and Uncle Sam are all gods in the World War II setting in Scion.
    • Everything's Greener With Chlorophyll: a minor trope in The Fifties, afterwards forgotten. The brief fad for chlorophyll as an additive centered on its supposed deodorizing and "healing" properties, not to mention giving products like toothpaste a natural green color. TIME Magazine reported a chlorophyll boom in April 1952 which had become a bust by October of the next year. Chlorophyll derivatives are still used as "natural coloring" in certain instances, with exact regulations varying by country, but their inclusion is never overt.
    • In the United States, the era of Prohibition (1920-1933) had a fair number of Comedy Tropes associated with it which have since been forgotten. (Mercifully forgotten, some might say.)
    • Polack jokes. Everyone knows the jokes about them being stupid, but nobody remembers the stereotype at all.
      • Polack Jokes themselves are less prevalent these days; a few people, prominent among them being a certain Lech Walesa and a certain Karol Cardinal Wojtyla (better known as a certain John Paul II) from Poland may have had something to do with that.
      • Thanks to Poles disliking those jokes and doing something about it, the stereotype at the Turn of the Millennium is that Poles are smarter than everyone else. Only time will tell whether the new stereotype will last or the two tropes have become cyclic with each other.
    • Big Boy Pants, aka Little Boys Wear Short Pants But Big Boys Wear Long Pants. This is an odd one that one would not know unless one was alive during the Depression or is close to someone who was. It apparently worked the same with skirts and girls. People who were schoolchildren in the thirties or forties might be persuaded to tell stories about this. Clothing was more expensive then, and long pants had no way to survive outdoor play in streets, which hadn't yet been killed off by automobiles, TV, and mass hysteria about child molesters. It acquired secondary meaning as some kind of fashion signifier, and for these kids it was a big day, somewhere around fifth grade or so, that they graduated to "big boy pants". (This is why Auntie Mame makes such a big deal of Mame giving Patrick long pants when he's still a child.)
      • The variant about young girls wearing short skirts makes a significant appearance in Fingersmith.
      • This trope is far from being forgotten in manga and is used mostly for school uniforms like in Shinkuu Yuusetsu.
    • Telegram style STOP now obsolete STOP trope died 12 july 1999 STOP
      • Its children l33t sp34k and txtmsg have inherited its legacy.
      • The shipboard Morse frequencies are no longer monitored. The code is still occasionally heard on amateur radio, although former requirements that radio "hams" learn the code as a condition of licence have been abolished.
      • According to The Other Wiki, you can still send telegrams in some areas, it's just more of a novelty now.
      • - .... . / -. . . -.. / - --- / ..- -. -.. . .-. ... - .- -. -.. / -- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. . / .... .- ... / .- .-.. ... --- / --. --- -. . / --- ..- - / - .... . / .-- .. -. -.. --- .-- --..-- / .- -. -.. / - . .-.. . --. .-. .- .--. .... / --- .--. . .-. .- - --- .-. ... / .- .-. . / .- / - .... .. -. --. / --- ..-. / - .... . / -.. .. ... - .- -. - / .--. .- ... - .-.-.-[1]
    • Many of the telephony tropes, like overhearing gossip on Party Line Telephones, are obsolete as Technology Marches On. Like the ten-cent Pay Phone and "PEnnsylvania 6-5000" style Telephone Exchange Names, they've become a mere historical footnote.
    • The perpetual motion machine, an idea once pursued by such engineering geniuses as Leonardo da Vinci and Blaise Pascal, has now been consigned to the realm of physicists' thought experiments for violating thermodynamics. Such alleged "revolutionary breakthroughs" of this sort as get reported in the popular media have invariably turned out to be either deliberate fraud, or an obsessed would-be inventor's delusion.
      • Inventors don't use the words "perpetual motion" any more, because of well-known mockery, but they still try to come up with gadgets that are the same in all but name: one of the commonest current terms for it is "zero-point energy".
    • The term "motherfucker" kind of fits into this trope in terms of who uses it. It was noted by a lot of older folklore/analysis of humor books that it was an African-American-only term (there's a joke to the effect that this would be the title of an African-American adaptation of Oedipus Rex). While it might still have some association with black Americans (or at least Samuel L. Jackson), it doesn't have the strong cultural association it did in the past, especially after the 1980s when father related incest was exposed to the popular consciousness as a form of child abuse. One episode of set-in-the-1920s Boardwalk Empire shows its work when black gangster Chalky uses the word and white protagonist Nucky has no idea what it means.
    • One gag used in cartoons was when someone ingested the multi-use substance alum, their lips would tighten to a pucker, their head would shrink, or their voice would increase in pitch (the latter two occurring in the Looney Tunes short "Long-Haired Hare"). (The whole puckered mouth/shrunken head thing is because alum is an astringent and a preservative used in pickling, among many other uses.)
    • Because of advances in refrigeration, milkmen are pretty much obsolete in America and have declined from 89% of the market (in 1980) to 2.8% (in 2015) in the UK. While a few grocery delivery services (such as Instacart) still exist, Cheating with the Milkman has pretty much gone the way of the Party Line Telephone into oblivion. It's only likely to pop up in a work set in the 1950s, or some other era where everything from ice to coal was routinely delivered to the house in the daytime. The trope breaker? If seemingly every household has two cars these days, it's cheaper just to drive to the supermarket to restock the fridge. To some degree the milkman jokes have a replacement trope in Pizza Boy Special Delivery, which reflects a more recent norm for food delivery.
      • The main reason milkmen were the subjects of these jokes were their regular presence within a house, if only briefly. They would visit their customers daily or nearly so, giving them the opportunity to get familiar with the female residents. The subject of such jokes can just as well be any other male regularly visiting a certain residence.
      • Commonly, the gardener has been used as a replacement.
      • Also the pool boy (among those well-off enough to have one).
      • In Sweden and France, it's usually the mailman.
      • In Spain one used to say "es hijo del butanero" (he is the son of the butane man) when a child did have very little resemblance to his father, implying the mother had been unfaithful with the bottled gas deliveryman.
      • In any case, women aren't sitting at home all day anymore. They're in the outside workforce. Much of the adultery therefore ends up between colleagues, making the bit about a child unexpectedly "looking like the mailman" a bit of a dead horse trope.
    • The image of a Starving Artist living in a garret apartment dates from a time when the top floor of a building was the most inconvenient to access and thus rented out for the lowest price. Thanks to elevators, landlords can now rent out lofts for a hefty markup relative to the rest of the building, and Starving Artists had best starve somewhere lower down.
      • If you smear some Big Applesauce on this trope, it comes back to life with some Truth in Television on its side. Buildings of five floors or less in NYC do not have to have elevators. Guess who lives in fifth floor walk-ups in certain neighborhoods.
    • Cracked discusses many things from the '80s to the early 2000s that are becoming like this in its article 6 Things our Kids Just Plain Won't Get. While a lot of it is more like the "Weird Al" Effect, some of it isn't, such as plots about someone hogging the phone line when you're waiting for a job to call (most people would just use their cell phone now, if they even have a land line in the first place) and pen pals (the internet means you could probably meet someone from another country on a daily basis).
    • The stereotype of the stingy Scotsman seems to have died a quiet death sometime after 1980. As of the 1940s it was still a prominent enough trope for Louis Untermeyer to include an entire section of stingy Scots jokes in his massive humor anthology A Treasury of Laughter; not long after that, Scrooge McDuck was designed around the miserly Scotsman type. However, starting in the late 1960s it appears that the competing "Scottish engineer" stereotype (which dates back to at least the early 19th century) overwhelmed and buried it—in no small part due to the portrayal of Montgomery Scott from Star Trek: The Original Series by James Doohan.[2] One of the last appearances of the trope seems to have been in Mike Jittlov's 1988 feature-length version of The Wizard of Speed and Time, in which a dubious movie/TV studio employs a Scottish accountant in part to squeeze every penny out of their talent. Of late, Uncle Scrooge's miserliness and Scottishness have simply become two separate traits rather than an inevitable combination.
    • The Lover and Beloved (aka "Erastes Eromenos") trope, due to potentially squicky All Gays Are Pedophiles or Parental Incest vibes.
    1. The need to understand Morse Code has also gone out the window, and telegraph operators are a thing of the distant past.
    2. Doohan himself invoked the stereotype by choosing Scotland as the birthplace for his character, whose nationality was not specified by the producers. They knew Doohan to be adept at accents, and allowed him to choose one for the character.