Small Reference Pools

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    Invoking and averting Women Prefer Strong Men at the same time.

    "Steve learned the hard way that all his jokes for TV had to be about events that had been made much of by TV itself, and very recently. If a joke was about something that hadn't been on TV for a month or more, the watchers wouldn't have a clue, even though the laugh track was laughing, as to what they themselves were supposed to laugh about."

    Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake

    On the subject of contemporary music, film, television, and (to a lesser extent) sports, television characters can comfortably mention all kinds of people, expecting that at least most of the audience will know who they're talking about. On most other matters, however, their world becomes very small; TV producers fear any comment that might ever go over anyone's head, and thus only the most obvious and world-renowned people and things are allowed a mention.

    It's worth noting that a major work of pop culture can completely turn one subject around and make it a free-for-all. For instance, before Jurassic Park, the only dinosaurs you ever heard about were the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and Brontosaurus. Afterwards everyone could suddenly discuss velociraptors and dilophosaurs as though they'd known about them since childhood. The works of Leonardo da Vinci got a similar treatment thanks to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

    What is obscure varies depending on time and place. Shows from the 1970s assume that the viewer knows about Ayatollah Khomeini but one can't assume the same anymore, while references to certain American personalities in Family Guy or Robot Chicken will fly over the heads of viewers from elsewhere.

    There is one notable case where all these qualms about obscurity get thrown out the window: the Celebrity Star. For obvious reasons, it's much easier to get a guest who's "famous" than one who's actually, you know, well known. If a band makes an appearance, most of the characters will suddenly become fans, no matter how obscure or washed up the band really is (which can also lead to such hilarious situations as the City Mouse suddenly liking country music or the wholesome, mostly white, Dom Com family all loving a rapper who is not normally known for being family friendly). Likewise, B- and C-list actors are all suddenly big stars when they walk onto a TV show and everyone will know them by their real names.

    Musical examples of these are often used as Standard Snippets.

    Nothing but Hits and Small Taxonomy Pools are sub tropes. See also "Weird Al" Effect, Public Medium Ignorance, Cultural Cross-Reference, Pop Cultural Osmosis, Eiffel Tower Effect, Everybody Knows That. Aliens in Cardiff often relies on this because it's built on being contrarian by deliberately using settings not commonly seen in media. A specific version is the self-explanatory universal Geek Reference Pool. Contrast Genius Bonus and Viewers Are Geniuses.

    Examples of Small Reference Pools include:

    Typical Pool Members


    • If television features American Indians, all American Indian tribes can be summed up as Cherokee (typically a white man with Cherokee ancestry), Lakota (not Dakota), Cheyenne, or Apache. And sometimes Navajo. Similarly, South American Indians are either Inca or from the Amazon jungle, typically Yanomamo or Kayapo.
      • Also, American Indian history stops in 1890. Any mention of 20th century American Indian history is a throwaway comment about Leonard Peltier or the Siege of Wounded Knee. One exception is made for World War II Code Talkers, but only the Navajo ones will be mentioned — nobody has ever heard of the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I.
        • In late-2010s Canada, Native history begins and ends with the Residential Schools.
      • Regardless of their ostensible tribe, they will nearly always be played by Sioux or sometimes Cherokee actors—for some reason, virtually never by Mexicans, many of whom are full-blooded Indian, physically. Whatever the ethnicity of the actors, expect Not Even Bothering with the Accent. Because plainly, Apaches from New Mexico have the same accent as Mi'kmaq from Maine and New Brunswick.
    • Rural Africans are all Masai or Zulu. Or from Papua New Guinea.
    • All Arctic peoples are Eskimos. All Eskimos are Inuit, even the Yup'ik, and Eskimo women, though inuit is specifically a masculine plural. There are no Russian Eskimos.
      • In Canada, however, "Inuit" is the official term for the native peoples of the far North, while "Eskimo" is generally considered derogatory to the point that a pro sports team had to stop using it as their name in the early 2020s.
    • And all indigenous people have been completely cut off from the world, with no modern influences on their fashion or culture whatsoever.
    • All people in the Caribbean are black. There are no Indian or Chinese people.
    • All Arabs are Muslim - and, to a lesser extent, vice versa. There are many Christian Arabs, at least in the United States, Israel, and Palestine. Similarly, there are a great variety of Muslim peoples (Albanians being European, Iranians sharing much of their linguistic and racial heritage with both Europeans and Asian Indians, Turks ultimately from East Asia, and Indonesians mostly of Malayo-Polynesian stock), but a Muslim character in popular fiction will always be rendered an Arab or a quasi-Arab unless his/her being of a different nationality is pertinent to the plot. In fact, most Muslims are Indonesians, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi. Less than 20% of the world's Muslims live in Middle Eastern or North African countries, but the average person would never realise that from pop culture alone.


    • Rembrandt
    • Van Gogh
      • Starry Night
        • It is a truth universally acknowledged that every shrink, ever, has a Van Gogh reproduction in their office. Most commonly, people expect Sunflowers or The Scream, forgetting that the latter is not Van Gogh.
      • And his name will be pronounced incorrectly nine times out of ten.
    • Picasso only ever made cubism. Specifically cubism that resembles Les demoiselles d'avignon. Not only that, but he's also the only cubist ever.
    • Andy Warhol
    • Jackson Pollock (not before 1990)
      • Usually played for fun; one character will express high-flown opinions about Art, then another will say that the first is talking a load of Jackson Pollocks.
    • Norman Rockwell
    • Leonardo da Vinci
      • Mona Lisa
        • And, when the Mona Lisa is portrayed, it tends to be large and on canvas, rather than small and painted on wood.
      • "The Last Supper" (to a lesser extent)
    • Michaelangelo
      • Sistine Chapel
      • David (sculpture)
    • Raphael
    • Donatello (in his case, and arguably Raphael's, probably only because they named a ninja turtle after them)
    • Dalí and Monet are occasionally used to make a character look particularly sophisticated.
      • Bonus points if the writers confuse Monet and Manet.
      • An Athena-brand poster print of one of the more well-known Impressionist works (Monet's Poppies Blooming and Renoir's Bal du Moulin de la Galette being particularly cliched examples) has been the default wall decoration of the mousey middle-class British female first-year university student since the Sixties.
    • H. R. Giger, for a scary piece. (not before 1990)
    • Salvador Dali
      • Known only for melted clocks (and I don't mean "The Persistence of Memory").
    • Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.
    • Grant Wood's American Gothic.
    • Edvard Munch's The Scream.
    • James Whistler's Whistler's Mother.
    • M. C. Escher is also known (especially his Relativity) but is always without exception a "painter"; there is no such thing as a printmaker.
    • Georgia O'Keefe's flowers, though the rest of her massive body of work is likely to be ignored.
    • The Venus de Milo (Greek Classical Sculpture)
    • Discus thrower (Greek Hellenistic Sculpture)
    • The Pieta (sculpture)
    • The Thinker (sculpture)
    • Art Nouveau = Alphonse Mucha.
    • "Ceci n’est pas un pipe" never gets its actual name, The Treachery of Images, and it apparently sprang into existence spontaneously without the involvement of René Magritte.

    Board Games

    • Monopoly
    • Scrabble
    • Clue
      • In fact, most people don't know its original name "Cluedo." Unless they're not-American.
    • Risk
    • Chess
      • A chessboard will be wrongly oriented about 90% of the time, despite it being a straight 50-50 shot.
      • And let's not go into the positioning of the king and queen.[1]
      • And anyone describing chess moves will inevitably use the now obsolete descriptive notation, e.g. "pawn to king's bishop four", rather than algebraic notation, which renders the same move as simply "f4".
    • Playing cards are only used for magic tricks, testing psychics, and three and a half games:
      • Poker
        • And it's often implied that four aces (and an optional king) is the best possible hand, when a straight/royal flush is better in reality.
        • And the only Poker games are No Limit Texas Hold 'Em, and (if set in The Wild West) Five-Card Draw.
        • Five-Card Stud will occasionally be mentioned, because it allows a character to make a joke about another character's masculinity.
        • And also Strip Poker, and then only the stripping.
      • Blackjack
      • Go Fish (AKA The Most Common Card Game).
      • The bidding part of Contract Bridge.
      • Pinochle and/or Gin Rummy in older works.
    • Tarot cards are only used for divination.
      • Tarot Motifs decks consist of a Death card, a Fool card, and a random assortment of occult or just generally creepy symbols. All reading layouts are horizontal or semi-circular spreads, read left to right.
        • Unless you're James Bond, in which case the only card is The Lovers.
        • And for bonus points, a Death card given the wrong interpretation! The Death card does not signify doom and destruction, the card which could be seen to do that is probably the Tower. The Tower is beginning to be referenced more (Harry Potter, Max Payne, Sepulchre) but not as an omen of ruin, just as a place where stuff happens.


    • Paris is the only city in France.
      • In fact, Parisians think so, too.
    • Berlin and Munich are the only cities in Germany, and Munich exists only during Oktoberfest.
      • And Berlin exists only in spy thrillers. What remains is one big Yodel Land with Oktoberfest.
      • Also, to many people, Berlin is just the former site of a wall.
      • Hamburg and Frankfurt are sometimes mentioned. Almost always as stations of either illegal goods or illegal financial transfers.
    • Vienna is the only city in Austria.
    • London is the only city in England (which is the same thing as the UK)
      • There are no cities in Scotland at all, only a few rustic Highland villages like Brigadoon and, presumably, someplace where they manufacture violent Glaswegians. And Loch Ness (with added monster).
      • Similarly, there are no cities or even large towns in Wales (if it exists at all), just a single in-bred farming village near a coal mine with a long unpronounceable name.
        • Unless you're watching something in the modern Doctor Who franchise, in which case there are no cities other than Cardiff in Wales.
      • Dublin is the only city in Ireland, aside from ten thousand tiny rural villages populated by leprechauns who say "they're always after me lucky charms" every 10–15 minutes.
      • If you're not from Western Europe, you can skip Dublin.
      • There is no such thing as Northern Ireland (except if you're referencing The Troubles).
    • The (former) Eastern Bloc consists of two parts, a generic Ruritania and the city of Prague. No, there isn't anything else between Germany and Russia.
    • Speaking of which, Russia has Moscow, full of some combination of crime (in the Moscow Metro!), vodka, and secret police, and Siberia, formerly home to The Gulag.
    • Italy seems to have a few cities: Rome, Naples, Milan, and Florence (which somehow seems to have Pisa's tower nearby), the Tuscan countryside and maybe a sinister Sicilian village. That is it.
      • And Venice, which no one has any qualms at all about it being Italian.
      • To some people, it's just Rome (home of the Colosseum and the Pope), Pisa (which has nothing but a leaning tower), and Venice (which is known for its gondolas)
    • Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec, and Montreal are the only cities in Canada. And Quebec is only on the list because it's a walled city.
      • And some people wonder why there's more than just Toronto on that list.
    • Mexico consists solely of Mexico City, Tijuana, Acapulco, Guadalajara, (arguably) Chihuahua, and Cancún.
      • And Ciudad Juárez, if you want a Wretched Hive.
      • Though in Europe, you're lucky to hear about anything beyond Mexico City at all.
    • Sydney is the only city in Australia.
      • Or Brisbane, if you're from the BBC.
    • Rio de Janeiro is the only city in Brazil.
      • Even on the remote off-chance characters do real Portuguese accents (pronouncing "Rio" as "Hio"), they won't do Rio's accent, even if they're from there ("Qkhio").
    • Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima are the only cities in Japan.
      • And if the writer is from Japan, the latter two don't exist. But the Kansai area does.
      • Even Tokyo itself falls victim to this. Sure, lots of people know of it, but good luck finding someone who knows much more than Harajuku ("the fashionable area"), Kabukichō ("the Yakuza area"), Park Hyatt Tokyo ("the Lost in Translation hotel"), Shibuya Scramble Crossing ("the one with the dog, right?"), Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Tsukiji Market ("the fish auction place"), or Yasukuni Shrine ("the war criminal shrine the Chinese keep bitching about").
    • China is fortunate enough to have three cities, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong (the latter being a territory and not a city), and a great wall.
      • Unless it's ancient China, which is just Xian.
    • The United States has an amazing eight distinct cities which regularly show up in movies and on TV!:
      • New York City - almost the default choice when you need a large American city. See Big Applesauce. Doubles as Metropolis in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.
      • Los Angeles - the second-largest city in America. Contains Hollywood (which only has a sign and movie studios), palm trees, maybe South Central, and little else. Given that the U.S. film industry is headquartered in the area, setting your film or show here is often simply a case of Write What You Know. Prone to earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, and rioting; other than that, a veritable paradise.
      • Chicago - in gangster movies (Chicago, The Untouchables) or in '80s movies about the challenges of being a white, suburban, upper-middle-class twentysomething who's still in high school). The setting of Dueling Shows '90s medical dramas ER and Chicago Hope. Doubles as Gotham City in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Saga. Prone to very cold and unpleasant weather during the winter.
      • San Francisco - famous landmarks include the Golden Gate bridge, the Transamerica pyramid, and, depending on the genre, either a gay club or Star Fleet Headquarters. Wineries and hippie communes are nearby. Dirty Harry, Journeyman, and Sliders all make their homes here. Prone to earthquakes. Traditional greeting is "Oh, hi <name>."
      • Las Vegas - home to casinos, Elvis impersonators, and Showgirls.
      • Washington DC - exists but consists solely of The White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln and Washington Memorials (the Jefferson Memorial usually doesn't exist in fictional settings for some reason), and The Pentagon, which is actually across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia. The only time "The District" is used as a setting is if your story somehow involves the U.S. Government.
        • In other words, the fact that it is the capital of the USA is the only reason it exists.
          • Which is sort of Truth in Television actually: the city didn't exist until it was decided that the US capital should be on the border between the North and the South (New York City was serving as the temporary capital at that point), and the site of the city was picked, and then developed.
        • On rare occasions, spies will allude to the CIA headquarters in Langley, but are unlikely to mention that it is an actual town in Virginia.
      • Boston - which is the capital city of Hollywood New England. Home to America's best and brightest students at Hahvad University and MIT (both of which are actually in neighboring Cambridge). The default setting for a David E. Kelly show. Also home to Irish-American criminals, Red Sox baseball fandom, and what qualifies as old money and aristocracy in America. In historical settings, expect either the prominent figures of The American Revolution to be around if the setting is the 1700's, or expect the Kennedy family to show up if the setting is in the 20th century.
      • Miami - the tropical, coastal city in southeastern Florida where the rich and the beautiful play. Lots of boats and beaches, and thus plenty of opportunities for Fan Service. Expect characters of Cuban heritage; everyone else will be either Jewish or gay, or both. See Miami Vice and CSI: Miami. Very flat landscape. Prone to hurricanes.
        • If it looks like Miami, but there are tropical mountains in the background, and many of the characters appear to be of Asian rather than Latin American descent, then you are probably in Hawaii, most likely the city of Honolulu.
      • There are numerous generic urban hellholes with boarded-up buildings covered in graffiti, a corrupt police force, drug dealers on the street corners, violent gangs indiscriminately firing machine guns, and lots of Scary Black People. The Bronx, Queens, the South Side of Chicago, and South Los Angeles are popular choices. Sometimes, however, for the sake of variety, the filmmakers might choose a less-visited city for this backdrop. The Wire used Baltimore. Detroit, Atlanta, Memphis, New Orleans, and Philadelphia are also possibilities. In Britain, this is either south London, or Manchester.
      • There's one small, generic, Midwestern town where everyone is white, middle-class, conservative, religious, honest, and full of common sense, if a little naive.
      • There's one small, generic, Southern town where everyone is gossipy, racist, insular and more conservative and religious than the folks in the Midwestern town.
      • There's one small, generic, Western town where everyone is a taciturn, weatherbeaten cowboy.
      • There's one small, generic, ski resort town in the Rocky Mountains full of rich socialites, hot tubs, and upscale shopping.
      • Texas contains the city of Dallas, and that's about it; everyone else in the state either lives on a vast oil-bearing ranch, or works in a tiny grubby nameless convenience store in the middle of nowhere. Houston is in Texas, too, but it's just a stretch of desert surrounding the Space Center.
      • Much like with Munich, Germany, and Oktoberfest, there are a number of American cities that are one-trick ponies:
        • Indianapolis holds a big car race once a year.
        • Louisville, Kentucky, holds a big horse race once a year.
        • Nashville = Country Music
        • Memphis = Elvis
        • Seattle = The Space Needle, grunge, computers, smart people, and a lot of coffee. And it rains a lot.
        • New Orleans = Mardi Gras, Jazz, and Katrina.
        • Detroit exists solely to make cars in which you will get shot at by a Scary Black Man.
    • All you need to know about Israel is that ‘Jerusalem’s for praying and Tel-Aviv’s for playing’. If Israel is ever anything but a country full of religious Jews, expect Tel-Aviv to be somewhat like a modern, liberal European capital (mentioning southern Tel-Aviv, which has poorer and more backward places like HaTikva neighbourhood or the even worse Shack Neighbourhood is never present, and places where dirt-poor work immigrants and refugees live), and Jerusalem will be all about Jesus and a strong religious presence (only somewhat of a case of Truth in Television, as Jerusalem is becoming worryingly more and more Haredic, though it is still a very diverse city). In more egregious cases, people might think Tel-Aviv is the capital of Israel (perhaps Justified Trope because no foreign embassies are in Jerusalem, due to the political wars waged around it with the Palestinians). The Bahá'i temple in Haifa and mentioning of a kibbutz might come up every now and then. No other town is ever mentioned (again somewhat justified, as few of them have anything in them to interest tourists; the situation in Israeli media is clearly different).
    • The Middle East supposedly consists of Israel, an oil-backed city with palm trees and rich princes (probably in Saudi Arabia), and Baghdad, Iraq, full of dusty slums and terrorists. Nearby states like Afghanistan (which has no cities) and Egypt (which has Cairo and ruins) may miraculously appear on the peninsula.
    • The Caribbean after the end of Golden Age of Piracy will only be resorts and locals who are always stoned Rastafarians. The women will be Ambiguously Brown hotties. If you're lucky, it will be a crime-infested slum full of illegal drugs and gangs. The only country portrayed will be Jamaica, or maybe the Bahamas.

    Classical Music

    • Mozart
      • Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
    • Beethoven
      • Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Ode to Joy.
        • And when we say "Fifth Symphony", we mean only the first four notes of the first movement of the Fifth Symphony. (The first 8 notes, if they let it go on for an "interminably" long time.)
      • Für Elise
        • Though Moonlight Sonata might pop up here and there. Even then, it's only the first movement.
    • Bach.
      • Bach's Suite No. 1 in G Major (only cello piece, and only the prelude)
      • Toccata and Fugue in D minor (always played on a pipe organ) for vampires and other "creepy" things.
    • Also Sprach Zarathustra also known as that music from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ric Flair's Entrance Music—which is only about two minutes long, for all most people know of the piece.
    • "Ride of the Valkyries"
    • Edward Elgar only wrote "Pomp and Circumstance," a song that's only known for two things: First of all: graduation ceremonies. Second of all: The Macho Man! OOOOH YEAHHH!!!
    • Antonio Vivaldi
      • The "Spring" concerto from The Four Seasons — and only the initial Concerto Grosso section of its first movement.
    • Carmen (opera)
    • Rigoletto (opera)
      • But only the song "La donna è Mobile".
    • Pagliacci (opera)
      • Specifically the aria "Vesti la giubba".
    • Don Giovanni (opera)
    • "Por una Cabeza" (tango)
    • "La Cumparsita" (tango)
    • The only tenor aria is "Nessun Dorma" from Turandot
    • The only mezzo-soprano aria is the "Habanera" from Carmen
    • The only baritone aria is Largo Al Factotum from The Barber of Seville
    • There are no altos, baritones, or basses in these operas; all singers are dignified tenors or temperamental sopranos, regardless of their actual vocal ranges.
    • Swan Lake (ballet)
    • The Nutcracker (ballet)
    • Giselle (ballet)
    • The only piano piece ever written is Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2; what happened to No. 1 is as much a mystery as the first four versions of Chanel perfume.
    • Debussy intended "Clair de Lune" as an ode to sparkly vampires, right?
      • Nah, he obviously intended it as contemplative music for casino thieves. (See the end of 2001's Ocean's Eleven and the middle of Ocean's Thirteen.)
    • "O Fortuna" is the only part of Carmina Burana, and it exists only for Ominous Latin Chanting.
      • And at that it's usually only the end that's used, which is impressive as the piece is less than 3 minutes long.
    • The Peer Gynt Suite consists solely of "Morning" and "In the Hall of the Mountain King".
    • Maurice Ravel only ever wrote the Bolero.
    • "William Tell Overture"
    • Aaron Copland only did Fanfare for the Common Man and Rodeo (and then only the Hoe-Down part; y'know, "Beef: It's What's for Dinner". Dun dun dun.)
    • In general, the "classical music canon" that average viewers can be expected to know only covers a little over 200 years of music, from the late Baroque period (starting around 1700) to the early 20th century. Good luck finding a non-aficionado who is familiar with medieval/Renaissance/early baroque music, or anything written in the last 60 years that isn't a film score or Philip Glass.
    • The 1812 Overture is played on cannons. Just cannons.

    Comic Books


    • Coco Chanel
    • Fashion models: Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell. (Nobody knows how Kim Kardashian became famous.)
    • If you ever see a man wearing a hat and he isn't a cowboy or into sports, chances are it will be a fedora (which is, admittedly, Truth in Television); trilbies, homburgs, and porkpies are unknown. Bowlers, or derby hats, are sometimes mistaken for top hats.
    • If someone has a fur coat/stole and the specific type of fur is mentioned, it will always be mink. If a fur scarf is shown it will be a whole fox with the head and tail.



    • Central America is one country.
    • Canada is a small country consisting only of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and rural Quebec (and possibly the Yukon, although that's as likely as not to be part of Alaska instead).
      • And it will always be winter and everyone will speak like Newfies.
    • The only islands in the Caribbean are Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Bahamas, and Jamaica.
      • The Bahamas are also one place (despite the hint in the name). The Cayman Islands get a mention as the only place besides Switzerland to have an offshore bank account, though no one seems to know where they are.
      • The Bahamas are not Caribbean, though they're close. They're islands in the Atlantic, north of Cuba, east of Florida. Just look at them in Google Earth.
        • "Google Earth"? Did you misspell "Google Maps" there?
    • South America consists solely of Brazil, where they speak Spanish, and Generic Banana Republic Dictatorship led by a Nazi sympathizer.
    • Asia consists of Russia, India, China, Japan, and Korea, unless the work is about The Vietnam War. (If it is, Vietnam itself does not exist except as a backdrop for American characters.)
      • There's no such thing as Central Asia. Nobody knows where Afghanistan is.
      • The Korean War is precisely the same thing as the Vietnam War. Koreans will be portrayed as living in straw huts, and they certainly don't have three major cities -— Seoul exists, but it looks like the poor parts of Shanghai. Pyongyang is only whichever Kim dictator's weird little palace/bunker. Busan is purely apocryphal.
    • The Middle East consists of Israel plus any country that the US is currently at war with.
    • Scotland is the same country as Ireland unless the author is from the UK. Northern Ireland and Wales don't exist even if the author is from the UK.
    • Amsterdam, Holland, and the Netherlands are the same thing, even if the writer is Dutch.
    • There are no distinct countries in eastern Europe (or central Europe, because it's part of eastern Europe).
    • Africa is Egypt, South Africa, and a Generic Tinpot Dictatorship headed by a corrupt, violent Oxford University graduate.
    • There is no Oceania, except on the rare occasion that Australia exists. New Zealand doesn't exist at all. (However, if it does, it's known only for producing Rachel Hunter.)
    • The Pacific Islands consist of Fiji, Hawai'i, occasionally Samoa, and more often some undefined beach with lots of grass skirts. You can just forget about Papua New Guinea.
    • All Deserts Have Cacti since all Westerns were filmed at Kirk's Rock.
    • Iceland is a frozen rock with lots of Eskimos and one Björk somewhere near the north pole. And now, also that darn flight-impeding volcano that no one can spell, much less pronounce.

    Historical Periods

    • The prehistoric (13.7 billion to One Million BC)
    • The Stone Age (One Million BC to 4,000 BC)
    • The Classical/Bronze Age, (4,000 BC-500 AD)
    • The Middle Ages (500-1500 AD)
    • The Renaissance (1500-1800 AD)
    • The Victorian era (1800-1900 AD)
    • The Wild Wild West (also 1800-1900 AD)
    • Everyone living between the fall of Rome (late 400s A.D.) and The Sixties will have a stereotypically repressed Victorian view of the world.
      • Though with young women in the fifties, it will always just be a facade.
    • America has its own chronology:
    • China
    • Ancient Rome began with Caesar and ended with Nero. Their only enemies were the Gauls, Germanic tribes, and rival factions during civil wars.
    • The entire history of Japan consists of early Tokugawa shogunate and Meiji restoration. If World War II is depicted in a Japanese work, it will only be to show the suffering of good ordinary people, probably in the countryside, and will be strangely divorced from all actual context.
      • The Sengoku is popular as well. Before that, not so much.
    • In American shows and movies, during World War II, all of the Allies are Americans and the Axis consists of either mindless umlaut-sputtering Nazis or sadistic Japanese killers (definitely no Italians, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians, or Yugoslavs).
      • Also, the War started when Germany invaded Poland, then nothing much happened until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The Allies fought some naval battles with the Japanese and then after D-day everything just seems to have resolved itself though there were some bumps in the road like the Battle of the Bulge and the atom bomb on Hiroshima (Nagasaki is often forgotten). Oh yeah, and there were the camps and some rumble around Stalingrad.
      • Speaking of the camps: The Holocaust only took place in the camps, and the only death camp was Auschwitz. Which is always mentioned without its second name, Birkenau.
    • The only Mongol is Genghis Khan (whose title is likely to be misspelled as Ghengis Kahn or similar), and the only Hun is Attila. Mongols and Huns are the same thing.
    • When was the last time you saw Russia pre-Revolution? Peter the Great? Catherine the Great? Who were they? Didn't they rule the Soviet Union sometime between Lenin and Stalin?
    • In works not made by/for Jews, ancient Israel consists entirely of the Roman period (i.e. the very end), and the debut of Christianity was really important (apparently in spite of the fact that few noticed it for a few centuries).
    • Similar to the American example above, British Schools would have you believe history is just the following:
    • In Canadian history, the following happened:


    Live-Action TV



    • Robert Frost
      • 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'
      • 'The Road Not Taken'.
        • Well-traveled Hollywood columnist Bob Fenster once quipped that when asked to name their favorite poet, most people just say "Robert Frost" because it's a catchy name.
    • William Wordsworth wrote something about flowers.
    • Ravens occasionally say "Nevermore".
    • Robert Burns just might have said something about plans going wrong.
    • In Commonwealth nations, John McCrae ("a household name, albeit a frequently misspelt one") exists between November 10-12, non-inclusive. In the USA, he only exists every Memorial Day. Either way, all he ever wrote was a poem.


    • American Presidents
    • Adolf Hitler
    • Josef Stalin
    • Benito Mussolini
    • America's enemy of the moment (or America itself, Depending on the Writer).
    • The only Ancient Greek states are Athens and Sparta, which only existed during the Persian wars, and the Empire of Alexander the Great. Also, Sparta didn't exist until 300 came out. Hellenism does not exist at all.
    • Cleopatra and King Tut are the only Egyptian pharaohs. Ironically, although she was one of the last pharaohs of Egypt, Cleopatra was ethnically Greek.
      • There's also Queen Nefertiti, whom most people wouldn't recognize by name, but would recognize a certain statue of her. Incidentally, Nefertiti just happens to be King Tut's stepmother. And his mother-in-law.
      • Ramses the Great is becoming more well known recently.
    • Caesar, Nero, and the emperor that was most recently portrayed in a BBC mini-series are the only Roman emperors (and maybe Caligula).
    • "England" has only had four sovereigns: Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, and Elizabeth II. Americans know King George III, for obvious reasons.
    • "England" has also had only five Prime Ministers: Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain (only to emphasize how good Churchill was), Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, and whoever is currently in office.
      • Memorably averted on an episode of The Simpsons: "Pitt the Elder!" "Lord Palmerston!"
    • France has had only one president, Charles de Gaulle, mostly remembered for his activities during World War II and long presidential term during the 1950s and 1960s. (Unless you're Canadian, in which case he's only remembered for "single-handedly" starting Quebec separatism.) And his height makes it impossible to overlook him.
      • Once again averted by The Simpsons, who talked about Nicolas Sarkozy in one episode.
    • Marie Antoinette (who liked cakes more than bread and was the only person who died in the guillotine... besides her husband)
    • Grand Duchess Anastasia (who will be called a "princess")
    • Princess Diana
    • Princess Grace Kelly (in works from before her death in 1982)
    • Saddam Hussein
    • Ayatollah Khomeini, if the work was made in the '80s.
    • Also applies to Strawman Political. The only conservative character we ever seem to see is either the "Bible-thumper" or the Corrupt Corporate Executive. Similarly, any left-wing character created after the 1960s will most likely be either a New Age Retro Hippie or a Dirty Commie.
    • The Vietnam War and the Korean War are the only wars that happened in their respective countries. Never mind the fact that they had other conflicts with certain nations with major consequences in the long run.

    Popular Music

    • Classical composers will usually be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig Van Beethoven, or Johann Sebastian Bach. If other composers are mentioned they are usually from the Romantic period (Chopin, Liszt, Wagner,...), but never from the 20th century. Igor Stravinsky is usually the only 20th century composer.
    • Jazz musicians consist of Louis Armstrong (with his given name mispronounced as "Louie"), Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis. Jazz singers will be either Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald.
    • Blues musicians will be Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, or B.B. King.
    • Crooners? Frank Sinatra. Maybe Dean Martin or Bing Crosby if you're old enough to remember them. Tom Jones might be thrown in there too.
    • During the first half of the 20th century, Enrico Caruso would regularly be namedropped as the most famous male opera singer. Near the end of the second half, Luciano Pavarotti was the most popular choice. If you are lucky the other two tenors, Placido Domingo and José Carreras, might be mentioned as well. Female opera singers are even more obscure. Maria Callas is the one everyone knows and thanks to Freddie Mercury Montserrat Caballé might ring a bell as well.
    • Name a chansonnier and he will either be Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, or Georges Brassens.
    • There is only one reggae artist, Bob Marley. And everything with a reggae beat will have been written by him.
      • A corollary to that: reggae is usually portrayed as being the only genre of music in the Caribbean. Apparently, Chutney Music, soca, and calypso don't exist in fictional settings.
    • Punch "Weird Al Yankovic" into a LimeWire search, and you're bound to find scores of parody songs with his name on them that he didn't write. Apparently, people have never heard of Bob Rivers, Stan Freberg, or Luke Ski.
    • It's particularly unfortunate when this happens with songs about subjects the artist it's attributed to would never touch. Both of the above (fairly family-friendly) artists have had their names attached to stuff they'd never have written in a million years.
    • If you were a fan participant of modern a cappella (a musical style which is too cheap to buy instruments) at the dawn of the millennium, you were crippled by the ignorance of the user who did the first major file-sharing for the genre: he thought the only two bands were Brown University's Brown Derbies and Rockapella. Even songs by all-female groups were attributed to them, which is amusing seeing as how both groups are all-male.
    • Among Canadian listeners, the Arrogant Worms get this a lot too (though still not as much as Weird Al). Again, often with stuff much racier or more offensive than the Worms themselves would ever do.
    • On the same note, it seems that any goth or dark-themed music associated with goths is made by one of four artists, according to P2P networks: The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Bauhaus, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Anything female is attributed to Siouxsie; anything else to one of the other three (mostly Sisters). 'Cry Little Sister' from The Lost Boys has been attributed to the Sisters of Mercy. Movie about vampires = Must have been made by the Sisters of Mercy?
    • There have only ever been two German bands making popular music: Kraftwerk and Rammstein. Scorpions are fairly well-known, even in the USA, but not necessarily associated with Germany.
      • Highly disputable. Older listeners who might never have heard of Rammstein would be highly aware that Scorpions (not "The Scorpions") are German. Their very nickname "Ambassadors of Rock" references this. Besides, there's also that band that did "99 Luftballons", who happens to be a woman named Nena.
        • However, Rammstein could be a one or two hit wonder to many people.
    • A weird example is that a Dutch parody of Barbie Girl is often attributed to Rammstein, despite A) being sung in Dutch, not German, B) not being similar to their musical style (poppy music instead of metal), C) featuring a female vocalist, and D) Rammstein not being known for parodies.
    • Any country music parody tends to get attributed to Jeff Foxworthy, regardless of quality, theme, or voice. Simply because the one-off "Redneck 12 Days of Christmas" was a hit, people apparently assume Foxworthy to be a singer. Hasn't anybody ever heard of Cledus T. Judd?
    • All musical scores are by Danny Elfman, John Williams, or Hans Zimmer. Granted, these guys have written a flipping TON of them, and often tutored all the others.
      • You'd be forgiven if you think of Remote Control. There's a very high chance that composer is part of that gang being managed by Hans Zimmer.
      • There's also an outside chance of it being James Newton Howard, or more recently, Michael Giacchino.
      • Jerry Goldsmith is also a popular choice for misnaming.
        • Here's one egregious example: Listen to this one and compare that to this one. And to think they accused Jerry Goldsmith of ripping off from an obscure (at that time anyway) anime series!!!
      • If anyone waxes poetic about a film composer being a "genius," they're talking about Bernard Herrmann.
      • Also, all Danny Elfman soundtracks are for Tim Burton movies.
      • Corollary: All anime soundtracks are by Yoko Kanno.
      • Corollary #2: All instrumental TV themes are by John Tesh.
    • There's apparently only one band that did live performances of video game songs: The Minibosses. That is, if you believe filenames...
    • Irish musician Enya, who does neo-Celtic new age music, will sometimes get credit for anything that vaguely resembles her work. For example, works by Loreena McKennitt, her sister Moya Breannan, or her former band, Clannad. Karl Jenkins Adeimus is attributed to her too.
    • Any Irish-sounding Drunken Song is credited to the Pogues. Of particular note on file-sharing services is Token Celtic Drinking Song, which will never, ever, be found credited to the band Jimmy George.
    • Ireland has only ever produced just two rock bands: U2 and Thin Lizzy (though U2 are much more likely to get a mention than Lizzy.) My Bloody Valentine, Horslips, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, Boomtown Rats and Ash apparently don't exist. (Though The Corrs and The Cranberries sometimes show up on the occassional rom-com soundtrack, maybe.)
    • To judge by oldies-station playlists (at least in the UK), the only song Soft Cell ever recorded was their cover of "Tainted Love". No playlist compiler has, it would seem, ever heard of "Bedsitter", "The Torch" or "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" amongst others. (Ironically, recent covers of Tainted Love are usually covers of the Soft Cell cover, rather than of the original.)
    • All Nerd Core is by mc chris, even the stuff where the artist introduces himself.
      • The worst part is mc chris doesn't even consider himself nerdcore.
    • Apparently, some people believe The Dark Side of the Moon was Pink Floyd's only album.
    • The only songs Queen have ever recorded are:
      • "Bohemian Rhapsody"
      • "We Will Rock You We Are the Champions", which of course is one song
      • "Don't Stop Me Now"
      • "Another One Bites The Dust"
      • "Under Pressure"
    • The only Grindcore band in existence is Napalm Death.
      • A popular joke on metal boards used to be "You're a newbie to grindcore if the first band you can name is Anal Cunt."
    • The sketch "uses of the word fuck" will usually be attributed to Monty Python or George Carlin.
    • The only progressive rock bands are King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, and Pink Floyd.
      • Excuse me, but Genesis didn't exist prior to Invisible Touch.
      • King "Who He"?
    • Good luck on anyone knowing any song by Chris de Burgh except Lady in Red. Honourable mention goes to Mystery Science Theatre 3000 for referencing Don't Pay the Ferryman.
    • The Bee Gees are overshadowed by their disco era; relatively few people are aware of their Beatlesesque pop era from the '60s and early '70s, nor are very many people aware they began as teens playing an obscure-in-America musical genre called skiffle.
      • What?! But TV says they only made one song!
    • Likewise, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks are founding members of Fleetwood Mac.
    • Most people associate New Wave music with a limited selection of music from the latter era of New Wave and the synthpop era. Not a lot of people know New Wave existed in 1975 - 76 or that it originated as a subgenre of punk rock. Or that a lot of punk rockers morphed into more conventional New Wave acts (cf. Classix Nouveaux, Lords of the New Church). New Wave itself had several substyles, and most of the best-remembered groups- The Knack, The Go-Gos, Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles; suspiciously almost all Los Angeles bands- were highly-commercial Power Pop acts who had little or no connection to the earlier ones who gave the movement its name. Some people believe the 4 groups only had like 2-3 songs each. Most of these people only know 1 song by The Knack.
    • There was only ever one Ultravox—the one with Midge Ure as lead singer. Poor John Foxx. Likewise, there was only ever one Human League and that was after 2/3 of the original League left to form Heaven 17 (who some people may only recognize as the guys behind "Let Me Go") and Phil Oakey had to find a way of keeping the Human League going.
    • An unfortunate truth is that for the vast majority of people, the only music that matters is the music that was recorded from about five years after they were born until today. Everything else is to be considered "boring old farts' music" and not worth exploring.
      • You must mean 'the vast majority of young people'. For older people it will be the opposite. Anything recorded after they turned 25 isn't worth listening to. That is why oldies stations are so prolific.
        • Some genres are more prone to this than the others. Fans of electronica and jazz are generally more age-tolerant.
    • It's a common tendency for people to say they "listen to everything," which generally means anything that gets decent radio coverage in their area, and any other form of music apparently doesn't exist.
    • Everything ever played by a military band is by John Philip Sousa.
      • Inverted in Central Europe, where most military music is commonly associated with 'Germany' (and Nazis).
    • Latin American music, as seen in American TV and movies:
    • Surf music with vocals has only ever been recorded by The Beach Boys. Including "Surf City" and "Little Old Lady from Pasadena".
      • To be fair, Brian Wilson actually co-wrote "Surf City," and The Beach Boys also performed "Little Old Lady." The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean worked hand-in-hand on many occasions.
      • When the early Nineties incarnation of The Beach Boys appeared on Home Improvement, Tim referenced this trope by mentioning a number of car songs he incorrectly thought were performed by the Boys, only to have them respond with the proper artists. Strangely, one of the songs mentioned is the Rip Chords' "Hey Little Cobra" - and Bruce Johnston fails to mention that he in fact was a member of that group.
    • According to pop or oldie radio stations, Nazareth have only ever made rock ballads. Ditto Aerosmith, The Scorpions, and Metallica.
    • If you look at many of the more commonplace 1980s various artists compilations, you'll find a rotating lineup of twenty or thirty songs, usually writen aound 1981-1986, that all of the compilations will have. Jessie's Girl, Down Under, The Safety Dance, Come On Eileen, Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Hungry Like The Wolf, Somebody's Watching Me, Rock Me, Amadeus, etc. Most of those songs are white Hair Metal, Arena Rock or New Wave pop, usually with an iconic video, and maybe 30% of those songs are one hit wonders or novelty songs. Few dance songs, rap, country or R&B will be included. Made worse by the fact that many major 1980's artists like Michael Jackson, Prince, or George Michael refuse(d) to license their songs to such best-of's.
    • The only Disney pop artists discussed outside of tween/teen media are Miley Cyrus (and whatever minor scandal she's caught up in that month) and The Jonas Brothers. And the girl who came back from having an eating disorder and self-harming. Miranda Cosgrove is likely still thought of as a Disney star, in spite of the fact she works for Nickelodeon.
    • Often parodies of rappers (or the image that Moral Guardians have at least) will be a Gangsta Rap-type rapper from the hood who raps about bitches, hos, and money. They will ignore less stereotypical (and usually less mainstream) rappers such as Talib Kweli, Common, Kid Cudi, or Kanye West.
    • According to millions of Baby Boomers (and Generation X'ers and Generation Y'ers), the only song KISS ever recorded was "Rock 'N' Roll All Nite." Which means you can forget about "Deuce," "Detroit Rock City" (although that one has resurged in popularity due to the 1999 movie of the same name), "Christine Sixteen," "I Was Made For Loving You," "I Love It Loud," "Lick It Up," "Heaven's On Fire," "Tears Are Falling," etc.
    • The only ACϟDC song is "You Shook Me All Night Long" (or maybe "Highway to Hell", if a work is dealing with the themes of Hell, violence, or rebellion, or maybe "Back in Black" thanks to Iron Man, or maybe "Thunderstruck" thanks to Battleship). What's frustrating about this is that AC/DC rival the Rolling Stones for the title of most wildly popular rock band in the world, and are continuing to release new material in their classic style. Yet almost no one can name any member of the band except for Angus Young (probably because Catholic School Boys Rule).
    • Amusingly lampshaded in an episode of The Simpsons where Homer attends a Bachman-Turner Overdrive concert, demands to hear "Takin' Care of Business", and when they start playing it, yells for them to "Get to the 'workin' overtime' part!"
      • Also lampshaded in that TCOB was the theme song for Randy Bachman's radio show on CBC.
    • The only popular Electronic Music artists are Daft Punk, Deadmau5, and, occasionally, Skrillex and Kraftwerk.
    • The "World Music" sections of many music departments in mainstream America tend to be dominated by either African, Caribbean, or Celtic music. If European music is included, it's most likely polka.
    • Jethro Tull seems to be affected by this very trope. As the public perception of the band, largely based on what radio stations and the media display, often emphasizes their harder-rocking material ("Aqualung", "Bungle In The Jungle", "Locomotive Breath", "Teacher"), and they won a Grammy for "Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album" for Crest Of A Knave in 1989, a more hard rock/heavy metal/classic rock crowd makes up much of the audience, who tends to have little patience for (or hoots and whistles loudly over, to bandleader Ian Anderson's annoyance) the group's more eclectic, softer, more delicate repertoire. Ian has often joked recently that a segment of Tull's audience sometimes sees Tull as "Deep Purple with a flute". This has led Anderson to release his more experimental works, including a sequel to Thick As A Brick, as a solo album with different musicians. His writing for Tull tends deliberately to be more hard-rocking and band-oriented, with more emphasis on Martin Barre's electric guitar playing.
    • Speaking of Deep Purple, they only ever recorded "Smoke on the Water".
    • Thomas Dolby only ever recorded "She Blinded Me with Science!", and any other music he ever did sounds just like it.
    • The Barenaked Ladies only ever recorded "One Week".
    • If it's primarily horns, it's Big Band. Latin doesn't exist.
    • The Beatles carried off The British Invasion singlehandedly.
    • Journey has done something other than "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)"?
    • Kansas has done something other than "Dust in the Wind" and "Carry On My Wayward Son"?

    Professional Wrestling


    Science Fiction

    • If it's not just stars, the background is either the Crab Nebula, or the Horsehead Nebula.
    • The only stars anyone visits are Rigel, Alpha Centauri, Antares, "Orion", and the "Belt of Orion." (The latter two of which aren't even individual stars.)
      • And "Alpha Centauri" is always one star. Alpha Centauri B does not exist.
      • Betelgeuse is popular too, but only because it sounds funny.
    • And when it comes to stargazing, the only stars are Polaris, the Big Dipper (which Polaris will be thought to be in) and Sirius... and that last one only occasionally.
    • The only galaxies are the Milky Way and Andromeda.
      • Somewhat justified, as those are two of the only known galaxies lucky enough to have names that are not cryptic (Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte), or numbered (Andromedas I through X), with the exception of the Triangulum galaxy. Admittedly, that last one really should be used more often because its name is awesome.
    • The only comet is Halley's (which always gets mispronounced "Haley's" thanks to a pioneering 1950s musical group).
    • The only asteroids that exist are the ones on a collision course with Earth.
    • The only crewed space missions ever were "John Glenn's flight" (Friendship 7), Apollo 11, Apollo 13, and the Challenger disaster. And maybe the International Space Station, but only as a venue for Commander Hadfield to sing "Space Oddity".
    • Light-years, and to a lesser extent, parsecs, are the only units of astronomical measurement (Astronomical Units, or AUs, are reserved solely for "hard" Sci Fi). Any alien race capable of star travel encountering humans will instinctively know how long a light year is, even if there's no way they could know how long a year is on Earth.
      • Add to that "hours" and "days".
      • Even a depressingly large number of human beings mistake light-years for being a measurement of time instead of distance.
      • Or how long a parsec is, for that matter, as it's based on the "parallax-second", which a civilization would only have if it divided circles and spheres into 360 degrees, degrees into 60 minutes, minutes into 60 seconds, and lived on a planet with the same orbital radius as Earth.
    • During time travel encounters, all events of historical importance after 1800 happened in America (Or possibly Germany, but only if there are Nazis involved.) Before 1800 all events of historical importance, or at least those not in America, happened in England, Rome, or occasionally Greece.


    • The only teams that exist in any North American sports league are based in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Miami, and Philadelphia. Teams in places like Milwaukee, Kansas City, Nashville, or any of the Canadian NHL teams don't exist.
      • Doubly ironic, considering the "National" part of the NHL name refers to Canada.
    • Any English football (soccer) game will be played between Team X and Manchester United, where Team X is either Liverpool or maybe Arsenal. (Probably doesn't apply in England).
    • New Yorkers going to a hockey game will only ever see the New York Rangers, even if attending an Islanders' game on Long Island or a Devils' game in New Jersey would be more convenient or accessible.
    • Outside the U.S.A. Babe Ruth will the only baseball player some people might have heard of.
    • In the entire world Pélé and Diego Maradona are the most well known soccer players. In more recent times David Beckham will be the name even non-sport fans have heard about.
    • If a boxer has to be named it will be Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson.
    • If a cyclist has to be named it will be Eddy Merckx or in the U.S.A. Lance Armstrong.
    • Tennis players will usually be the champions like Bjorn Borg or Venus & Serena Williams. In the 1970s and 1980s John McEnroe will be referenced a lot as well, due to his bad behavior on the court. In the early 2000s Anna Kournikova was well known, but mostly for her looks.
    • In the early 20th century Johnny Weissmuller will be the most famous swimmer. In the late 20th century that title is reserved to Mark Spitz.
    • If chess is played, expect a reference to either Bobby Fischer or Gary Kasparov.
    • Motor car racing will be an excuse to namedrop Juan Manuel Fangio (in the 1950s) or Michael Schumacher (in the 1990s).

    Video Games


    • World War I media are almost always set on the Western Front (2.6m dead), and almost nothing about the Eastern Front (1.3m dead; Russia & Romania vs. Germany/Ottoman/Austria-Hungary/Bulgaria), the Italian Campaign (1m dead; Italy/UK/US/France vs. Germany/A-H), never mind the Balkans, Africa, or the Middle East.
      • Except in Australia, where World War I media inevitably focus on the Gallipolli campaign of 1915, despite the fact that more Australians fought (and died, for that matter) in France than in Turkey.
      • Most often it features the British Empire and the US vs. Germany. The French don't appear nearly as often. The other countries are rarely mentioned at all.
      • Except for Lawrence of Arabia, but it's rarely mentioned that this was part of World War I
    • Military fiction (and documentaries, for that matter) set on the battlefields of World War II usually revolve around a select few well-known battles: if it is about US forces it is usually about Normandy and The Bulge, British get North Africa and Market Garden, and the Soviets Stalingrad and the capture of Berlin. Other battles and theaters feature much more rarely.
      • The only battle which didn't happen in Europe was El Alamein.
      • It's very rare to see a depiction of any battle in the European Theater before 1942 or 1943 (probably because people don't like to hear about the Allies losing). The Eastern Front is horribly underrepresented in Western works, despite the fact that the vast majority of the fighting and 90% of the casualties occurred there. There are war movies which somehow manage to avoid even mentioning the Soviets! The invasion of Poland is often mentioned, but never depicted (except in Family Guy). The invasions of Denmark, Norway, and the Low Countries never happened. There was no fighting in the Balkans either, and the only resistance movement was French (and occasionally Polish, but certainly never Yugoslav or Greek, except in Alistair MacLean books).
        • Even in Family Guy, the invasion is depicted in seconds with no resistance. No Polish soldiers are ever seen. So it hardly counts, and not just because it perpetuates an incredibly offensive cliche.
      • No Canada and Juno Beach, even though it was one of the most successful victories in Normandy. It's all Utah and Omaha, since all the Americans died. I've yet to see—or even hear of—a movie about Dieppe, where the Canadians were simply cannon fodder.
        • You mean like this one? Not that it has likely been shown outside of Canadian TV.
      • It's rare to find stuff about the Pacific Theater that was made within the last 20 years or so. Both the Medal of Honor and Call of Duty series took 5 games before either of them had a campaign set in the Pacific. Most likely because if all 10 games are put together, every major event in the European theater from 1941 onward was already done.
        • When it does get portrayed, the entirety of the Pacific Theater was apparently Pearl Harbor, sometimes Midway, something about a flag on Iwo Jima, and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
      • While there are a few (Soviet) films about The Battle of Kursk, it goes largely unnoticed despite being the largest battle anywhere, at any time: 3.4 million Soviet and German troops, 10,000 tanks, 54,000 artillery pieces... mind-boggling in both scope and obscurity (to the general public).
        • The Battle of Prokhorovka (another one of the biggest battle of the armored forces ever fought).
      • The Axis consists of Germany and Japan plus maybe a few Italians in North Africa. Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Finland (not technically part of the Axis, but it did have an alliance with Germany against the Soviets), Thailand, Iraq, and the numerous puppet regimes are almost always ignored.
    • The American Civil War lasted three days, in 1863, and the entire war started and finished near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Also, all Confederate soldiers wore gray uniforms.
      • The only naval battle during the war was between the Monitor and the Merrimac (which never had its name changed to CSS Virginia when it came into Confederate hands).
    • Whenever a fur coat is mentioned by type, the majority of them are mink. Others, like rabbit, fox, ermine, and lynx, are mentioned, but not quite as often, and usually just to highlight whether the fur is less or more expensive than mink.
    • Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker magazine, would write "Who he?" on the copy whenever one of his writers used a name without explaining who the person was. He said that there were only two names you can assume everybody knows: Sherlock Holmes and Harry Houdini.
    • People refer to any Wire Fu-heavy fight sequence in a film as being in the style of The Matrix or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. They weren't the only ones, or the first ones, or even the best ones, fight-wise.
    • Anyone who has never taken a martial arts class always assumes that if it's done by Asian people, it's karate. Occasionally, they may call what they're seeing tae kwon do or kung fu, the two other widely taught martial arts (even though there are many, many kinds of kung fu). Also, many people don't even realize that Tai Chi is a martial art and not just a hippy exercise routine (hippies included!). The popularity of Mixed Martial Arts has exposed more people to jiu jitsu and muay thai, but not much beyond that. And all martial arts are Chinese or Japanese. Except capoeira and Krav Maga.
    • Lampshaded in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Vamps are preying on college freshmen, killing them and stealing everything from their dorms. They have a running contest to see which artist has the most posters: Monet or Klimt. Monet is winning, if only because the only Klimt people have posters of is The Kiss.
    • In this article, a teacher of English at a 'college of last resort' mentions that the only movie he can count on every one of his students being familiar with is The Wizard of Oz.
    • It's worth noting that while most films about a country are set in that country's capital:
      • Most of the ones about Australia show Sydney rather than Canberra.
      • Toronto is the capital of Ontario; Ottawa is the capital of Canada. This is not a distinction you're likely to ever see.
        • Joked about in Corner Gas—Hank thinks Toronto is the capital of Canada.
      • Virtually all fiction set in the Republic of Ireland takes place either in Dublin or a tiny rural village. The other cities (Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Kilkenny) hardly get a mention, nor do the large towns.
        • If a town does turn up, it will always inexplicably be Ennis.
        • Or Killarney.
      • Far more movies take place in New York City than in Washington DC. Admittedly, New York City is home to Wall Street and the Federal Reserve and is way bigger, so it's sort of the de facto capital of America. And it has 13 times as many people.
      • Might want to change this to "largest city in the country", perhaps—in most Old World countries this matches up fine, but I'm going to stick my nose out and ask who's heard of Brasília, the capital of Brazil, and who's heard of Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo... as well as the aforementioned pairs like Ottawa/Toronto or Canberra/Sydney. On the other hand, one would not be hard-pressed to name movies that are set in Washington DC (like Minority Report), unlike the other such federal capitals.
        • Brasilia is a rather obscure capital. A good comparison might be to a state such as New York, which has Albany as its capital despite the presence of New York City; or Florida, which has at least a half-dozen metropolitan areas with populations in the vicinity of 1 million, but has its capital in mid-sized Tallahassee.
        • Or California: 90% of stuff set in California takes place in Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego; 9% in small coastal towns, and 1% elsewhere. Unless the film is specifically about state politics, it's unlikely that Sacramento, the state capital, will even be mentioned. Only films set during the 19th century gold rush avert this.
      • Films set in Scotland seem to be either set in Edinburgh, the capital, or Glasgow, the largest city, if they're not set in the middle of nowhere up north...
      • The only cities in native Virginia are: Alexandria (which is only Arlington National Cemetery), Langley (which only consists of CIA HQ) and maybe Richmond (as the capital). The only Tidewater Area/coastal city is Norfolk (which is just the navy base). If the show is about ship building the only city is Portsmouth. The only military installation is the aforementioned Norfolk Naval Shipyard, no mention is ever made of the master jet base at Oceana in Virginia Beach. And the only thing related to Chesapeake is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. If you have a Revolutionary War documentary you might hear something about Williamsburg.
      • Though Peter North has been making quite a splash lately.
    • Any district or neighborhood of Los Angeles other than "Downtown" or "Hollywood" that is mentioned will be thought to be a different city. Even the two major ones won't be depicted correctly: Downtown will be shown as some kind of combination between Bunker Hill and Skid Row to create a version that doesn't really represent anywhere, and Hollywood will be some generic city where the Hollywood Sign is visible, with a number of movies depicting Hollywood by having an Establishing Shot of the Sign followed by scenes shot in a completely different city. Even places that should be popular, such as South Park (not THAT one), home of the Los Angeles Convention Center and Staples Center, are obscure outside of L.A. itself.
      • The East and South sides are sometimes shown, but appear rather small, even though they make up 2/3 of the inner city.
    • Parodies of/jokes about Cirque Du Soleil almost invariably suggest that all or most of the performers are French-Canadian and/or French, possibly because the French are seen as Acceptable Targets. In truth, the number of different nationalities in a given troupe can be in the double-digits, and the company would never have scaled the heights of success it did without the huge pool of troupes and talents to draw upon. (Ironically, when it came to touring, France turned out to be one of the hardest audiences for Cirque to crack because what was new to American audiences was old hat to them.)
    • All Marxism is a crude pastiche of Leninism, Stalinism, and/or Maoism. Luxemburgism, Left Communism, Marxist Humanism, Council Communism, Eurocommunism, Trotskyism, Situationism, and all the other various forms, many quite vehemently against the tendencies that began with Lenin, don't exist.
      • Not only that but even if you tell people (especially in the US) about them, they refuse to believe they are any different from Leninists, Stalinists, etc.
      • Lenin himself is often mixed up with Stalin. In truth, Lenin's policy differed strikingly from Stalin's and Lenin fiercely opposed Stalin's line in his final years, telling his supporters to get rid of Stalin as the man was starting to scare him. (Insert Ominous Latin Chanting) After Lenin's death, then again, Stalin loved to imply that he and Lenin had been great friends.
        • Although much of what is now called "Stalinist" actually started with Lenin. Stalin's main additions were the Cult of Personality, adoption of supposedly "rightist" attributes (patriotism, pre-revolutionary military dress) and considerable paranoia. Things like the secret police, political repression, and prison camps all came from Leninism.
        • Albeit in a wartime context: during the later part of Lenin's rule, things eased up under the NEP.
      • Someone can actually be the CEO of a business and still be a Marxist (albeit quite a cynical one). All it means to be a Marxist is that someone accepts Marx's theory of capital as laid out in Das Kapital. Amongst Marxists the best way to get there (or even if there even ought to be any active attempts to get there) is open to debate.
      • Also, don't expect anyone to realise that the USSR was never, in fact, communist. While it adhered to a communist ideology as an ideal, it never achieved communism.
    • The most important facet of Fascism is racial and national persecution as well as the notion of the race purity. Fascism was also founded by Adolf Hitler and the only fascist country was the Third Reich.
      • Maybe Italy if you're lucky, but only as somewhere for Mussolini to come from. Nothing ever happened in Fascist Italy!
        • Notably averted with Life is Beautiful, a movie about an Italian Jew that starts off comedic and ends heart-wrenching.
      • It's ironic that "fascist" is synonymous with "racist" since Mussolini's movement didn't have an explicitly racist ideology. Mussolini didn't even believe in Hitler's ethnic cleansing since the Italian dictator felt that non-European peoples should be conquered and "converted" to European culture (which made his ideas little different from 19th century imperialists); it was Hitler who introduced the ideas of racist ideology, ethnic cleansing/extermination, and enslavement.
        • Similarily, Franco's fascist government (particularly the diplamatic service) didn't share the Nazi's racial ideologies, though Franco himself didn't mind them too much either. Franco was ok with serving them, such as by cataloging the Jews in Spain on Hitlers orders, but on the other hand, he was fine with his government's resources being used to to protect or evacuate Jews in Nazi-occupied countries (much to the chagrin of the Nazis) as well. In the end, tens of thousands of Jews escaped Nazi Europe through Spain.
        • In that vein, all 'Aryan Race/Aryan Union' ideaolgy was Hitler's doing. In actuality, it was all Himmler's doing (Hitler actually laughed at him for that), and was worse than Hitler. In fact, the July 20 Bomb Plot held Himmler's assassination just as vital as Hitler's.
    • The only operating system is Windows, or Mac OS X. Go a bit further and you'll find GNU, though people will call it "Linux" and "open source". Even within that community, other historical and important operating systems (Genera, TENEX, ITS, WAITS) or operating systems for larger computers (AIX, z/OS) are forgotten in favor of UNIX.
    • The biggest problem with studying the origins of life and the universe is the ludicrously small reference pool of 1 (we only know of one life-bearing planet, and one universe that sprang into being).
    • Almost all media based on the poetry of Dante Alighieri is based on Inferno, the first part of the Divina Commedia (aka The Divine Comedy). Few people are aware there are three parts, the others being Purgatorio and Paradiso.
    • As far as right-pondians are concerned, the USA has the sum total of four significant colleges or universities or whatever you're calling them: MIT (which is a spawning ground for nerds); Harvard (the smart kids); Yale (the rich kids); and Brown (the Butt Monkey). Left-pondians are no better; the only British Unis are Oxford, Cambridge and the London School Of Economics.
      • We right-pondians also know of Princeton, but only because of its association with Einstein.
      • For the Asian continent, there is Stanford, Berkeley, and UCLA.
    • Much "Ancient Rome" fiction suffers from the "static society" problem which forgets that the Roman Empire of antiquity was a living, developing society and culture which changed over the centuries in terms of fashions, politics, attitudes etc. Most fictional depictions of the empire are based on the best-known period - the Julius Caesar/early Empire period - and simply depict the fashions and politics of that era no matter when it's set. Ridley Scott's Gladiator is one of the best-known examples of this. The fashions depicted are from over a century previous whilst the senators scheming to restore republican government are also anachronistic - about as realistic as portraying scheming 20th century British parliamentarians trying to restore the House of Stuart.
    • Let's just say that most ancient societies suffer from this. In addition to the aforementioned Rome (which is often conflated with Ancient Greece) Ancient Egypt is the pyramids and pharaohs' tombs, nothing else. You'll be lucky if other ancient societies of the Mediterranean are mentioned at all.
    • If there's a mention of any character from Arthurian legend, it's almost always going to be Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere or Galahad.
      • And where did the Arthurian legend come from? It's always England—never Wales or France, where much of the story is derived from.
        • Also all events mentioned in Celtic legends took place in Ireland.
        • What do you mean, there were Celts in places other than Ireland? Ridiculous!
        • All Celts come from the British Isles, except in the bits of history where Romans fought the Gauls. (Forgetting that Celtic culture at its height may have extended as far as Ukraine.)
      • Arthur is usually portrayed as English even though he was a Briton which, at the time, meant what we now call Welsh. At the time of the Arthurian legends, the English were a bunch of hired mercenaries brought-over from Germany who were starting to cause trouble.
    • Pirates come in three flavors: Blackbeard, Black Bart, and Captain Jack Sparrow. They don't do anything remotely related to piracy for the most part.
    • Any homage, parody, or reference to Shakespeare will be either the bit with Yorick's skull, or the "to be or not to be" line. Or both at the same time. If they don't do "Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?" instead.
      • And 'wherefore' will be taken to mean 'where'.
      • "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" gets mentioned, but almost never as part of a Shakespeare play.
      • In recent[when?] years the Band of Brothers speech from Henry V has been getting a lot of publicity.
    • Only a few people have ever set foot in an American boxing arena: Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and Evander Holyfield. If a boxer isn't American, they'll be drawn from a pool of about two from a given country.
    • Most people have heard of Carbon-14 dating (and 9 times out of 10, it doesn't even work like it does on television). It's the default dating method in the public consciousness. What most people are not familiar with is Uranium-Lead Dating, which is much more accurate and has a much wider range of dates (1 million to 4.5 billion), Rubidium-Strontium, another form of dating closely related to U-Pb Dating, or the others: Uranium-Thorium, Potassium-Argon, and Samarium-neodymium, all of which are older, more reliable, and have a wider date range than than radiocarbon.
      • Well, Carbon-14 is still the dating technique of choice when dealing with something less than 30,000 or so years old. It only has a half-life of 5200 years, so it's ideal for archaeology, since most things in the human record fall within a few half-lifes of Carbon-14, while something like Uranium-Lead dating won't measure anything that recent at all. So Carbon-14 is perfectly acceptable- when talking about human history. Anything further back than 30,000 years, THEN you get Did Not Do the Research. Any earlier human history - like early members of the genus Homo or late members of the genus Australopithecus - which are highly associated with stone tool assemblages, means you need to bust out the Potassium-Argon or Argon-Argon dating.
        • Though C-14 is subject to a number of limitations—for one, even touching something can contaminate it, and if it's found in the same context as ash, forget getting an accurate reading. It also gives a fairly wide date margin—four centuries, in fact—which makes it good for a general idea, but absolutely useless for anything more precise. After all, you can learn that the bit of bone you found came from anywhere between 100 CE and 500 CE, which spans completely different cultures or time periods within a culture, so it's not very useful unless you want to make sure it didn't come from somewhere before or after those four hundred years. Being about 500 years or younger is too recent for C-14 dating. Dendrochronology is preferable for anything recent, as well as context; if the piece of bone in question was found in the same context as a style of ceramic made within a 100 year time frame, you're already better off than with C-14 dating. All in all, almost everything you see on TV will be either a case of Did Not Do the Research or forgetting a more precise form of dating.
    • Apparently, to those not all that familiar with it, all Anime and Manga are either geared towards children like Pokémon or Hentai involving Naughty Tentacles, such as La Blue Girl. Which tends to be why fans of anime and manga are Acceptable Hobby Targets.
      • Or more broadly, all anime[4] is for adults (and thus not appropriate for children), a stigma that exists among both anime fans and mainstream society. It's just the opposite, in fact.[5]
      • And often, those same people use the words "anime" and "manga" interchangeably, or not even realise that the word "manga" exists.
        • They're used interchangeably in Japan. Japanese people often use the word "manga" in much the same way English speaking people would use the word "cartoon", which refers to both comics, animation, or any other kind of drawing.
      • Don't you know? All anime is sci-fi with 50 foot tall neural-interfacing robots.
      • Many people who aren't big anime fans have only heard of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, 'Dragon Ball (Z), Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, and Sailor Moon.
        • And most of these people believe that Dragon Ball Z refers to the entire Dragon Ball franchise, when it's really just the second of four series, after the original Dragon Ball but before Dragon Ball GT and Dragon Ball Super.
      • To a number of anime fans, all Japanese "anime" is Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Ranma ½, or any other show, movie or OVA that has graphic violence, swearing (though that's more of an issue with dubbed anime; it's a long story), nudity, and/or other "adult content" that one (usually) wouldn't see in a western "cartoon".
      • Depending on who you ask, anime and manga didn't begin until the 1980s or 1990s. Both have been around since the 1950s at least. Maybe even longer - there are Japanese animated works that predate WWII.
      • The only anime that Studio Pierrot has ever made are the aforementioned Naruto and Bleach, maybe even Yu Yu Hakusho depending on who you ask. In Japan, they're actually more remembered for a series of Magical Girl shows they made in the 1980s (with one revival series in 1998). Ever heard of The Mysterious Cities of Gold? Yep, that was them. Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs?
      • Lupin III is the only anime TMS (Tokyo Movie Shinsha) has ever made.
      • Amongst Japanese viewers, Eiken (not the anime OVA, but the studio) tends to be known more for Sazae-san these days (it IS Japan's longest-running anime TV series). Back when they were called TCJ, they made once show that is still very well remembered in Japan to day: Tetsujin 28-go (AKA: Gigantor).
      • Fans who know about Toei tend to really only think of Voltron (AKA: Golion and Dairugger XV; two unrelated shows), Fist of the North Star, the aforementioned Dragon Ball (especially Z), One Piece, and Pretty Cure (although that's more specific to Japan). Some might remember Mazinger Z (dubbed as Tranzor Z for English speaking countries), or even Cutey Honey (and then, fans may likely only know the later OVA from the 1990s).
      • If it isn't Speed Racer, then Robotech (or rather Macross, Mospeada, and Southern Cross) was the only show Tatsunoko made (and then, the latter may or may mot have been work-for-hire). Some may remember Superbook (which tends to be talked about more than its companion series The Flying House), but may not know that that was a Tatsunoko production.
    • Even good ol' All The Tropes can fall foul of this sometimes, where examples may be weighted towards a certain medium even if the trope itself is common in other media.
      • Similarly, The Other Wiki also has an issue with being too ethnocentrically "Western" which it terms "systemic bias".
    • The Civilization series has a habit of including less successful but more famous historical characters as leaders of civilizations, when more successful but lesser-known alternatives exist, particularly if the more famous ruler has a certain archetypal image or mythology attached to them. Examples include Ragnar Lodbrok as the Viking leader in Civilization III and IV, Joan d'Arc[please verify] as the French leader in Civilization III and Boudicca as a Celtic leader in Civilization IV. Arguably, this is pandering to the small reference pool of most players, given that some fairly obscure monarchs such as Mansu Musa (Mali) and Suryavarman II (Khmer) are included as the leaders of Civilizations that are themselves more obscure.
      • Also Civilization has altered the leaders over the years. Russia had Stalin in I then Catherine in III now both in IV. France has had de Gaulle, Joan, Napoleon, and Louis XIV. Hiawatha and Sitting Bull. So it seems it's more for variety than anything else.
      • There is a major aversion in Civilization V, however, as the Chinese leader is not Qin Shi Huang Di or Mao, but Wu Zetian.
    • The only way to crack into a computer is by guessing the password. Buffer overflows and SQL injections don't exist.
    • The only nuclear meltdowns ever were Chernobyl, Fukushima and maybe Three Mile Island. Despite this, they are still used to argue against nuclear power.
    • To the average person, the only hurricanes to have ever happened were Katrina and whatever hurricanes directly affected them. For example, to somebody who lives near New York City, there was Katrina and Irene, possibly Floyd, and that's it.
    • The only earthquake in history was the one in Haiti - and there was only one earthquake in Haiti.
      • Or, if you know that tsunamis come from earthquakes, you can add the Indian Ocean and Japan earthquakes.
      • Wasn't there one in San Francisco too? A long time ago?
    • The only volcanoes to have erupted are Mt. St. Helens and possibly Vesuvius.
    • As far as firearms are involved: All pistols are either Glocks or "Colt .45s" , all revolvers are Smith & Wesson Magnums, all shotguns are just "shotguns", all submachine guns are Uzis or MP5s, all rifles are AK-47s or M16s, and all explosives are bazookas or "RPGs" or (thanks to the Russo-Ukrainian War) Javelins. The exception is if someone is trying to act like they know more about guns than they actually do, in which case they'll refer to guns that are not nearly as common as they'd like you to think, like the Desert Eagle, SPAS-12, or VSS Vintorez.
    • When body building is discussed, expect a reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger at one point. And maybe a reference to Charles Atlas, if you're lucky.
    • "Star-spangled" as a sign of patriotism. In Real Life, more than two-thirds of countries' flags don't have so much as a single star.
    • As guilty as many in the West can often be of stereotyping others, the very idea of a unitary "West" or "Western culture" is itself a gross oversimplification. Good luck finding an average person outside "the West", or for that matter even within it, who is aware at more than a surface level of the differences between the many nations and cultures that are lumped together under this term, some of which were at war with or discriminating against[6] each other even as recently as 100 years ago, as opposed to regurgitating some Eagleland or Anglo-American stereotype.

    Western Animation

    Examples of Small Reference Pools include:

    Played Straight


    • A rare humorous moment in Se7en, when Brad Pitt's character has never heard of the Marquis de Sade, and mispronounces his name "Shah-day", like the Nigerian singer Sade.
    • Lampshaded in Dogma with an appearance by the Metatron, the angel who speaks for God to humans who would be destroyed by the power of God's voice. The heroine attempts to make up for not knowing who he is by mentioning the Ten Plagues, to which the Metatron remarks "You people! If it's not in a Charlton Heston movie, it's not worth knowing, is it?"

    Western Animation

    Other Media

    • In early 2022, a meme image of what appears to be a tumblr post was circulating, in which a distant relative of Marie Curie recounts how they were trying to tell another person about their relationship to the famous scientist -- only for that person to stop and "correct" their pronunciation... to "Mariah Carey".
    • For about a year in the very early 2020s, All The Tropes had a user who fancied himself a (very minor) celebrity, and had written a creator page for himself. He gave every appearance of being completely ignorant of any work made in any medium before about 2010, and routinely credited his sub-3000-subscriber YouTube channel with "rescuing" films like Alien from being forgotten with the attention they received after he "rediscovered" them. He also seemed to believe that smartphones were the pinnacle of computer development, and that anything that couldn't run on a smartphone was automatically obsolete.


    Before adding an example here, please consider whether it would be better to list it as a played-straight example of Genius Bonus.

    Anime and Manga

    • Averted in Haruhi Suzumiya, mostly in the novels. We have a story which uses Euler's Planar Graph Formula as a plot device. Jean-Jacques Rosseau is mentioned in another short story extremely casually, and half the historical references are of Japanese history (which means that half aren't, which is notable considering the primary audience for the stories is Japanese). Best of all, Yuki's books always refer to the current plot, like when she reads Hyperion in Melancholy. Koizumi, especially in Melancholy, peppers his words with philosophy, like the Anthropic Principle and the Omphalos Hypothesis. Even the title sequence for the first season isn't spared. Read up about it in the Genius Bonus and the Viewers Are Geniuses page.
    • Princess Tutu, an anime based around a Magical Girl Ballerina, smashed this trope. Classical music serves as almost all of the background music in the show, and while a number of famous works are included (for example, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker and Swan Lake), both more obscure composers (Smetana, Mussorgsky, Satie) and less-popular works from famous composers (Beethoven's Egmont Overture). And it features a lot of ballets, from Giselle to the aforementioned Cinderella to Coppelia.
    • Nodame Cantabile naturally also uses works not by Beethoven & Mozart. The animators love "Veni, creator spiritus" from Mahler's 8th, for example, a fact that escapes the Other Wiki's notice. And Purcell's Abedlazar...
    • The Gag Dub of Crayon Shin-chan includes references to many obscure things, all the way to making a reference to Mother. An interview by one of the writers said they deliberately tried to avoid this.
    • Hunter X Hunter features cameos and references to well known Japanese celebrities, but also much more obscure ones (one of the sadistic antagonists reading Trevor Brown probably takes the cake).

    Comic Books

    • Alan Moore and Kevin O' Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is definitely a subversion. Sure, three of the original five league members are well known, but the two most important include the fairly obscure (and frequently misspelled) Allan Quatermain and a lesser known character from the novel Dracula. Beyond the League, the references get incredibly obscure.
      • The Black Dossier is nigh literature code without some sort of cypher key to understand what he's talking about.
      • By the time of Century, the first issue its really light on this. But the second issue, being set on 1969, with a lot of series and film characters on the background and as characters... it's reference porn all the way.

    Fan Works

    • The Japanese surname "Yagami" is usually spelled with the kanji for "eight" and "god"—so, 八神, "eight gods"; it turns out to derive from a place name. However, many Western anime fans first encounter it through Light Yagami, who spells it with the kanji for "night god". This has resulted in at least two similarly-named characters being written up with incorrect name meanings of "night god" in multiple fan works and on TV Tropes. Whoops.


    • Quentin Tarantino's movies are full of shout outs and homage shots to movies most people do not even know exist.
      • Such as Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell, where he got the idea for the red background during the flight scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1.
    • In The Great Muppet Caper, Animal is described as being upset that he missed the Rembrandt exhibit at the National Gallery. Animal corrects him; "Renoir."
    • The indie film Little Miss Sunshine features a Proust scholar as a main character. He talks about Proust during an important character moment.
    • Charlie Kaufman likes to include high-brow literary references in his films. In Being John Malkovich, John Cusack performs a puppet adaptation of Alexander Pope's Eloisa to Abelard. Pope's story also provided the title and theme for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
    • Parodied in the 1965 film version of The Loved One, in which Dennis Barlow romances Aimee Thanatogenous by quoting classic poetry to her and claiming it to be his own work.


    • In one of the more Egregious mistakes in Angels & Demons (which is said to have an errata list longer than the actual book, but that's for another article), Dan Brown has a so-called "British" journalist (in a fantasy about achieving success in the near future) liken himself to Dan Rather—despite Rather being unknown in Britain. A real British journalist, indulging in such a fantasy, would liken himself to Jeremy Paxman or Sir Trevor McDonald—who, unsurprisingly, are just as unknown in the USA.
    • In a lot of Middle Ages, Renaissance, and English Renaissance literature, it is pretty clear that many writers thought (or thought that their audience would think) that every non-Christian religion worshiped the Greek or Roman pantheon. The Song of Roland portrays Muslims as Apollo worshippers,[7] while Shakespeare had characters reference the Greek gods in stories that supposedly took place before those gods' introduction to the specific settings (although that was a method of Getting Crap Past the Radar, since swearing upon the Christian God was illegal even if onstage).
      • Though in A Midsummer Night's Dream, despite being set in Greece, the Roman pantheon is used. Though since most of the mythology came from translated Latin work which was either passed down in monasteries or preserved by Muslims (and in that case translated as many as three times), the usage is understandable.
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has the real-life alchemist Nicolas Flamel as an important character, and many people didn't realize he was based on a real person. Rowling even got the colour of the stone (red) correct. She also included mythological beings such as hippogriffs (griffin/mare hybrids) and basilisks that some readers thought were original. Those who didn't probably knew those creatures from Dungeons & Dragons.
      • That applies only to the original, for the American edition has the title changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
      • Likewise, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire JKR introduced veela, which many thought she invented; in fact she drew them from East European (particularly Polish and Serbian) folklore.
      • In fact, most of the creatures JKR included in her novels were drawn from mythology; she only invented a few of them.
    • Terry Pratchett manages to invert the trope quite regularly in the Discworld series, by drawing inspirations from obscure Roundworld phenomena and essentially migrating some into the Discworld wholesale (vampire watermelons in Carpe Jugulum, The Glooper in Making Money, etc.). It helps that there's a book out (The Folklore of the Discworld) that points out some of the allusions, with many others it might take several readthroughs to notice.
      • Long before the book was published, explanations of the in-jokes in the books were present in L-space. Many have been amazed by the number of annotations there - and the fact that the jokes frequently work at least partly for those that don't recognise the more obscure British references.
    • Ursula Vernon's Digger is also good with this, usually involving tidbits that look like fiction unless you look it up. In addition to a use of the previously mentioned vampiric gourds, large swaths of the hyena tribe's mythology revolves around their tremendously high infant mortality rate—something they share with real life hyenas.
    • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao manages to avert this at every possible turn without treading into Genius Bonus territory. The annotations are there to help with the things most people wouldn't get but occasionally references are made to concepts that requires fairly in depth knowledge of geekdom which the narrator assumes the reader will understand.
    • Piers Anthony likes to include obscure references in the Xanth books. One such, in Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn was a reference to Langston Hughes' poem Fog.
    • Averted in Hyperion, which features a truly massive pool of references to poets most readers have probably never even heard of, because the author is an English teacher. At one point, this trope is outright spoofed:

    Colonel Kassad: I wasn't in favor of doing it at all, but if it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly.
    Martin Silenus, the Poet: Hey! The Man knows his pre-Hegira playwrights.
    Father Hoyt: Shakespeare?
    Martin Silenus: No, Lerner and fucking Lowe. Neil buggering Simon. Hamel fucking Posten.

    • P. G. Wodehouse, despite writing light-hearted, comedic novels, averts this. Apart from the many quotes from Shakespeare and the Bible, there are also references to, for example Tennyson, Omar Khayyám, Longfellow, Walter Scott, Laurence Hope, William Butler Yeats or Thomas Moore - in just one novel (Summer Moonshine). Jeeves's favorite philosopher is Spinoza, and he quotes, among others, Marcus Aurelius.
    • Reginald Hill, especially in the Dalziel and Pascoe novels references a whole range of English literature.
    • Israeli writer and Nobel Prize in Literature laureate S. Y. Agnon is particularly notable for using a lot of references to Biblical stories and Jewish religious writing which anyone who isn't well-versed in Judaism won't recognise. These references are used either as metaphors (missing those could cause one to miss a key point in the story altogether, or as somewhat obscure references, to the point he practically invented a new language based on archaic Hebrew and the occasional neologism.
    • Israeli poet Natan Alterman was also a very hard averter of this: The Alterman Notes, vol. 3 mentions he had a vast and diverse library, in six languages and on many subjects, which he used as reference material for his work. He, however, makes these references much more subtly.

    Live-Action TV

    • Played for laughs in the Friends episode "The One with the Apothecary Table". Rachel tries to pass her Pottery Barn furniture off as antiques, because Phoebe "hates all mass-produced stuff".
      • Discussing the aforementioned table:

    Phoebe: What period is it from?
    Rachel: Uh, it's from yore. Like the days of yore, you know?

      • After buying several more pieces of furniture, Rachel then claims that several items are from "colonial times".

    Ross: Hmm, a lot of this stuff is from the Colonial times. What are some other time periods, Rachel?
    Rachel: Well, there's yore. And, you know, yesteryear.

    • For a while in the 80's, the only poet TV characters had ever heard of was Byron. And the only poem he ever wrote was "She walks in beauty like the night..." Which apparently only consisted of that line. Then on an episode of Kate and Allie, a character quotes this line and wrongly attributes it to Keats. The best part? The character in question was a professor of literature.
      • Reverend Jim from Taxi recites the entire first stanza of 'She Walks in Beauty', but when asked who wrote it says that he doesn't know. Some punk spray-painted it on the side of his van.
      • The Cosby Show: "Cliff, please let the woman sit down, she's been walking a long time".
      • Artemus Gordon read 'She Walks in Beauty' on The Wild Wild West (in the '60s.) The show featured a variety of literary allusions, though they are sometimes anachronistic, like when Dr. Loveless (in the early 1870s) quotes "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" by Oscar Wilde, not written until about the turn of the century.
    • Averted in the Gossip Girl TV series out of all places. Serena Van Der Woodsen in the books would never have referenced Anna Karenina, making the TV show an example of Adaptation Expansion.
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer makes numerous obscure literary and historical references. Among them:
      • "Stay back or I'll pull a William Burroughs on your leader here."—Buffy, in "New Moon Rising," threatening to kill the Initiative colonel in "New Moon Rising" by referring to the beat poet who shot and killed his lover in a drunken game of William Tell in 1951.
      • Um, foreshadow much?
      • "Scream Montresor all you like, pet."—Spike to Buffy, referring to the Edgar Allen Poe story The Cask of Amontillado.
      • And, finally, a historical reference that actually takes two episodes spaced three seasons apart to complete. Anya has a throwaway line in "Superstar" describing the vengeance wishes she'd enact on wronged women's ex-boyfriends: "I'd wish he was a dog or ugly or in love with President McKinley or something." Three years later, chastising Anya for going soft, Halfrek says: "You were the single-most hard-core vengeance demon on the roster, and everybody knew it. Do I have to mention Mrs. Czolgosz?" President William McKinley was assassinated by a man named Leon Czolgosz.
        • Leon Czolgosz never married. Which is probably an even smaller reference pool, so . . . yeah.
      • Just before a big battle Buffy gives a rather lackluster pep talk followed by Spike claiming it was "not exactly the St Crispin's Day Speech" which was only understood by Giles, the only other British person there and the only one, except maybe Willow, likely to have read Henry V.

    Giles We few, we merry few.
    Spike We band of buggered.

    • Monty Python's Flying Circus and other Oxbridge-derived comedy. Hands up who had heard of Albrecht Dürer before they watched the German Python episodes?
    • Not only is Inspector Morse more than knowledgeable of classical music and opera, so are the writers on the show, leading to the use of works far outside the limits of this trope in the mysteries, and obscure jokes that only viewers with an interest in music will ever get.
    • Blackadder was full of obscure historical jokes, particularly in the third series.
    • The Old Doctor Who featured appearances by Robespierre, Catherine de' Medici, Pancho Villa, John Aubrey, George Stephenson, and a World War II episode without Nazis. The First Doctor story with Catherine de Medici featured The 1572 St. Bartholomew's Eve massacre of Protestants in Paris.
      • And the new one has at least had Madame de Pompadour.
      • The episode "Midnight" in the new series 4 has a passenger start chanting a stanza from the poem 'Goblin Market' by Christina Rossetti.
        • They did this in-universe as well. In "The Unicorn and the Wasp," when they visit Agatha Christie, Donna mentions The Murder on the Orient Express and Miss Marple. Christie hadn't created either of those yet. The reason the episode was created was because of the distinct cover of Death in the Clouds featuring a giant wasp.
      • Rose was once referred to as a "tim'rous beasty" in an episode set in Scotland.
      • "The Impossible Astronaut"/"Day of the Moon", featuring Richard Nixon, only hints at Watergate toward the end, being set near the beginning of Tricky Dick's term.
    • While Mystery Science Theater 3000 has plenty of the more common ones, they fit in plenty of less common references, often to the area that they live in.
      • As an extreme example, Mike and the bots pile on so many Chicagoland references in the final act of Beginning of the End that if you aren't familiar with the region you'll probably be bored to tears.
      • The Hamlet episode had lots of increasingly obscure Shakespeare references, including a few cracks about seating arrangements at the Globe theater.
      • Servo can't see a frog without making the (Ancient Greek!) frog noise from Aristophanes' The Frogs, and then there was the time (in The Deadly Bees) that Mike said, "This must be the 'bee-loud glade' that Yeats spoke of."
    • Hari Seldon was referenced in The Daily Show by Bruce Bueno De Mesquita (2009-09-28)
    • Red Dwarf includes Rimmer talking about the cream of Earth's classical music: "Why don't you listen to something really classical, like Mozart, Mendelssohn or Motörhead."
    • It's not like many viewers know that much about Urban Legends anyway but Supernatural has devoted itself to doing every single Legend that it can cram in, no matter how known or unknown it is.
    • Completely turned on its head by Lost. Numerous works, especially novels, are explicitly mentioned and many, many more are alluded to. Often being seen on the show increases interest in a particular book.
    • Stargate Atlantis takes place in the Pegasus galaxy. And yes, it actually exists. In fact there are two galaxies by that name, one 2.7 million light-years away, the other 3 Mly.
    • Fawlty Towers: "That's not a racket! That's Brahms! Brahms' Third Racket!"
    • Star Trek is pretty bad for this, but will occasionally surprise. The conclusion of one Voyager episode prominently featured Dante's Vita Nuova.
    • Lampshading: In an episode of Psych, a character refers to Shawn as Iago, to which he responds, "What does the parrot from Aladdin have to do with this?"
      • Psych is an exception to this in general; some of the references will fly over the heads of people not born in the 80's or 90's, since Shawn and Gus are well-versed in more obscure media.
    • Although Beakmans World would a lot of times reference the more famous Famous Dead Guys, quite a few were more obscure. For example, in their segment of the microscope, they skipped using Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (the Father of Microbiology) and went for the more obscure Zacharias Jansen, who though credited with creating the compound microscope is far less well-known than Leeuwenhoek (and the FDG Jansen makes sure the kids know it in no uncertain terms).
    • One Seinfeld episode was based on Harold Pinter's play Betrayal.
    • Angel flirts with this, albeit occasionally. Perhaps the best example is a quote from Wesley:

    Wesley: You'd be locked up faster than Lady Hamilton's virtue! [looks at Cordelia]
    My apologies

      • She, naturally, fails to get the reference at all.
    • Probably the entire point of "game show" QI.
    • The Crane brothers in Frasier easily defy this trope, often discussing fine wine and making semi-obscure references to Opera and literature.
    • Criminal Minds begins and ends most episodes with a quote, and there is a huge variety in the sources for these quotes. Plus, one episode had the team only able to solve a case because of knowledge of Geoffrey Chaucer's poem Parlement of Foules and the John Fowles novel The Collector. Then there's all the obscure knowledge Reid spouts on a regular basis...
      • Also, the serial killers who are referenced as precedent are usually real-life examples, indicating that someone did their homework.
      • Unfortunately played straight with the psychology they feature on the show, which is one massive example of Did Not Do the Research or only doing half the research.
    • In How I Met Your Mother, Ted is a big fan of Pablo Neruda.
    • This trope is the point of the British Game Show Pointless. The show's researchers give 100 people a short length of time to name as many things in a certain group as they can (eg. types of shark, John Grisham novels, Clint Eastwood films), and on the show itself, the contestants have to try to score as few points as possible by giving the answers they think none of the research group has said, with answers no-one said landing you an ideal 0 points. Therefore, the larger the reference pools of the contestants, the better they'll do.
    • Although She Spies tended to go after mostly pop culture, sometimes a slightly more high-brow reference would pop up. In this case, with a bit of Lampshade Hanging:

    Cassie: It looks like something Kandinsky threw up on. What? Dennis Miller's gone, somebody's got to make pretentious semi-obscure references.

    • On Home Improvement, the well-traveled and learned Wilson constantly referenced the ideas of various philosophers and thinkers, both famous and obscure, and took interest in the odd traditions of obscure cultures. A lot of the humor was derived from Tim, who exemplefied Men Are Uncultured, reacting to and being confused by Wilson's knowledge.
    • Promos for an episode of Community made it seem like it was going to be a parody of the more popular Pulp Fiction when in reality it was an homage to a more obscure art house film, My Dinner with Andre.
    • Gilmore Girls was rife with obscure music and literary references.
    • Possible example: The 1966 Batman episode "The Bookworm Turns (While Gotham City Burns)" features a villain called The Bookworm (Roddy McDowall), whose crimes are based on book plots. Most of the books referenced are fairly well-known, but at one point Bookworm, having threatened to "blow up" a valuable book, surprises Batman and Robin not by exploding it, but by making a much larger copy of it. This is obviously a pun on the "blowing up" of photographs, and just might be a hidden reference to the Julio Cortazar short story "Blow Up" (on which, yes, the Michelangelo Antonioni film about enlarging a photograph was based). On the other hand, since that story and the movie based on it were not yet widely known when the episode aired, this might be more of a coincidence than a Genius Bonus.
      • Another Batman example: The very first Joker episode, "The Joker Is Wild," had the Joker disguising himself as Pagliaccio, the white-faced, sobbing clown of the Leoncavallo opera of the same name. Batman even lampshaded this fact, mentioning to Robin that most people would picture the typical circus archetype when they thought of clowns, and Joker was counting on Batman's knowledge of opera when he sent him a Pagliaccio doll as a clue.
    • Conan O'Brien brings us the The Museum of Old Pop Culture References to help combat this issue.


    • They Might Be Giants have tried to rectify the situation singing the praises of Belgian painter James Ensor and the sorely underrated President James K. Polk, among others.
    • However, "Those Endearing Young Charms" will never be played correctly, due to a stick of dynamite being wired to the right key, or the original player will have a sixth sense about the dynamite being placed right underneath the key.
    • The 1975 Alice Cooper song "Department of Youth" does a bit of name-dropping, with Donny Osmond and Dwight Eisenhower both mentioned (Eisenhower undoubtedly familiar to most grade-school kids, and the Osmonds fairly commonly known), but also Protestant preacher (and former baseball player) Billy Sunday and short-story writer Damon Runyon, neither of whom most kids are likely to know.

    New Media

    • Twitter users riff on this often, with one particular refrain for this trope stemming from this viral tweet by user afraidofwasps.

    Guy who has only seen The Boss Baby, watching his second movie: Getting a lot of 'Boss Baby' vibes from this...


    Newspaper Comics

    • Dykes to Watch Out For is festooned with literary, cultural, and historical allusions of all kinds (not solely LGBT culture, either).
    • Linus Van Pelt of Peanuts was fond of quoting Bible passages, often from fairly obscure books of both the Old and New Testaments. (And there is his immortal quoting of the Gospel of Luke in A Charlie Brown Christmas, but that had always been well-known to Christians.) And cartoonist Charles Schulz, a big sports fan, frequently mentioned famous athletes of the day, most of whom are all but forgotten today (French-Canadian hockey player Maurice Richard, for instance).
    • Calvin and Hobbes usually tried to steer clear of cultural references, but Calvin once compared the experience of walking through the snowy woods to Doctor Zhivago (an Academy Award-winning movie, to be sure, but one that most people have not seen since the 1960s). Another strip had Calvin waxing sarcastic about middle-aged pop stars endorsing soft drinks; this was fairly common in the early '90s (Ray Charles, Elton John), but many current viewers may not remember those commercials.


    • BBC Radio show Round Britain Quiz is almost an inversion of this trope. It's a highbrow panel game for some very well-read intellectuals, except when it comes to anything that's recent, science-/engineering-based, or American. Then it switches to Huge Reference Pools—some people who know everything about classical literature or classical music (to take some recent examples) are clueless on questions about Elton John or Pink Floyd, or don't know which city is 'Motown'.

    Recorded and Stand Up Comedy

    • Dennis Miller is famous for constantly bringing up obscure references, so much so that a website was created to decipher his comments on Monday Night Football for the average football fan.
    • Patton Oswalt likes to lampshade the obscure references in his stand-up, by effecting an even nerdier voice than usual, and mentioning something even more obscure.
    • David Mitchell argues against using small reference pools in this video, pointing out that many people, especially teenagers, are more likely to just Google the reference than to feel excluded for not getting it.

    Tabletop Games

    • The card game Magic: The Gathering does this as well. They tend to use obscure but real mythical creatures, and the original sets, before the storyline became coherent and unique to the sets, would borrow liberally from odd sources.


    • Shakespeare both embodies and defies this trope - he put in a lot of references to very famous (in his time) figures, but also dug up some obscure things. Like Animaniacs, he designed his plays to appeal both to the intellectuals and 'the groundlings'.

    Web Comics

    • Thanks partly to the influence of Gary Larson's The Far Side, many Dada Comics avert this trope, sometimes bordering on Viewers Are Geniuses. One instance in which this trope caught up was a panel in which one cowboy offered another a latte. In the days before Starbucks, many audience members were convinced that "latte" meant gay sex.
    • The names of The Order of the Stick books often reference works of literature, at least one of which is well outside the norm: War and XPs (Tolstoy's War and Peace), Start of Darkness (Conrad's Heart of Darkness) and On the Origins of PCs (Darwin's On the Origin of Species)
      • Strips have also referenced the novel Dune, the musical Meet Me in St. Louis, and hinged several key character moments on a game of Go.
    • Irregular Webcomic lives on averting this trope. Obscure mathematical jokes abound. Luckily for the majority of his readers, the extensive annotations underneath each comic explain the mathematical or scientific principle in question, often a whole lot better than your math teacher or textbook will. Extensive and accurate historical and literary jokes are also common. Unlike other such comics (I'm looking at you, XKCD), Irregular Webcomic doesn't sacrifice humor for "get out of my head" moments
    • In Nip and Tuck, she assumes she hit on this -- and finds they just don't think it's a good analogy.
    • Played with in this NSFW (because of dialog, not images) Grrl Power strip. Mr. Amorphous can only think of one place where non-supervillains would wear masks, but then goes on to say "Who doesn't know who the Lone Ranger is?"

    Web Original

    Western Animation

    • Family Guy, lowbrow show that it is, occasionally allows Brian and/or Stewie to show their considerable knowledge of the arts - Brian was once enraptured by an old woman's rendition of "Habanera" and Lois deplored Peter's jazzed-up version of The King and I. It's perhaps the only show where you can hear the characters talking about Matisse, then hear a fart joke.
      • Lampshaded when Peter makes a remark about Benjamin Disraeli, and we cut to a cartoon version of Disraeli writing for several seconds before turning to the audience and saying "You don't even know who I am!"
      • Further lampshaded when Peter says that Kathy Ireland has betrayed him "worse than Lady Macbeth betrayed Duncan" - cut to a bear fighting Lady Macbeth on a spaceship - Peter says "yeah, I don't know Shakespeare very well."
      • Or how about single-handedly making "Shipoopi" from The Music Man into a viral YouTube sensation... thanks to an excessive touchdown celebration?
      • Tales of a Third Grade Nothing

    Frank Sinatra Jr.: Hey, you girls thirsty? Could I interest you in a couple of Rob Roys?
    Woman: What's a Rob Roy?
    Frank Sinatra Jr.: Only the drink of Mr. Peter Lawford.
    Woman: Who's Peter Lawford?
    Frank Sinatra Jr.: What, am I hitting on Lou Costello here?
    Woman: Who's Lou Costello?

      • Bottom line, for all the references to huge pop culture phenomena like Star Wars that the show makes, it makes almost as many references to stuff that only a small portion of the audience would be familiar with, be it a forgotten old jazz musician or an obscure kids cartoon from the seventies.
    • In Anastasia, the characters attend a ballet; the performance is Prokofiev's Cinderella. This was a good choice on the part of the writers—even if only a few audience members were familiar with Prokofiev's ballets, it was immediately obvious from the costumes and props what the story was. Also notable is that the act's closing scene parallels Anya and Dimitri's relationship at that point; such an effect is not as easy to pull off when this trope is played straight.
    • The 80s children's stop-motion series Moschops had a variety of saurians, from Allosaurus to Icthyosaur. None of them ate each other, though Uncle Rex was a bit fierce.
      • And the main character was a Moschops? That is not a reptile anyone will have ever heard of without purposely doing the research.
    • In The Simpsons, Lisa has previously mentioned the likes of Gore Vidal and Pablo Neruda.

    Lisa: Bart, Pablo Neruda said, "Laughter is the language of the soul."
    Bart: (irritably) I think I'm familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda.

      • One episode has Mr. Burns joking that the power plant's profit margins are "thinner than Louise Brooks' negligee". When Homer fails to respond, Burns is compelled to explain the reference. This is done, though, to show how much Burns is out of touch with recent pop culture.
    • Futurama gets a lot of humor from Fry's 20th century background, so a lot of the jokes aren't exactly obscure. But many of them are much more subtle and academic. Examples include Klein Beer (guess what the bottle looked like) being sold in a store advertising free bags of ice-9 and the holophonor, a recurring plot device based on the Visi-Sonor from the Foundation series (extra points for being possibly the only Foundation reference in mainstream pop culture ever). Also made jokes about orders of infinity (a cinema called aleph-0-plex, likely meant to one up "The Googlplex" cinema in The Simpsons) and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle's "observer effect" (scientists change the result of a horse race by observing it).
      • More Genius Bonus: Bender advertises his computerized dating service as discreet and discrete. In one episode a closet contains two boxes, P and NP, and a robot planet named Chapek 9.
      • In the commentary on one of the movie DVDs, they talk about one of their favorite gags was to throw in as many obscure mathematical references as they could.
    • Most if not all episodes of Animaniacs. One of the few shows designed to appeal to small children, big children, astronomy professors, professional historians, and so on. The checkable facts were well researched, much better than network or cable news shows for example, except where obvious humour was intended - and sometimes even then.
    • Darkwing Duck managed to work in references to The Dark Knight Returns. It also has a villain named Taurus Bullba, a gag on Taras Bulba, a fictional Ukrainian folk hero and film starring Yul Brynner.[8]
      • How about that the engines on the air pirates' ship in Tale Spin are modeled on the one from Master of the World starring Vincent Price? Or that the Sea-Duck uses a version of the WWII-era overdrive system known as "war emergency power", in the multi-part pilot (Baloo burns it out, so they can have a cool scene without keeping around a potential story-breaker)?
      • Many of the episodes of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers are named after Golden Age of Hollywood films that children wouldn't be aware of, and often contain some Parental Bonuses that may go over the head of a few adults. One particular episode was full of obscure references, including a possible cameo by a young Franz Kafka (or an Expy) and a reference to Ronald Reagan's autobiography.
    • Robot Chicken has so many pop-cultural references that it is bound to have at least a few obscure ones. It lampshaded a reference to Sleepaway Camp that is followed by a person being shocked that someone actually remembered it to make a reference. It also recently featured an extended parody of Parappa the Rapper.
    • The Tick (animation) features a character named "Die Fledermaus," a Batman pastiche dressed like a bat. The name doesn't make a lot of sense until you realize that it is German for "the Bat" and the name of a popular German operetta. Consequently, unless you speak German you need a working knowledge of light opera. And honestly, who can name a light opera not made by Gilbert and Sullivan? Not many, that's who.
      • The Batman 1960's TV series actually used a reference to Batman being called "Die Fledermaus-mensch" and helpfully explained what it meant, so no, you don't need to speak German or know opera to understand it.
    • ReBoot is naturally filled with references to computer technologies, many of them antique when the episodes were made.

    Enzo (complaining about going to ancient language class instead of hanging out with Bob): "COBOL? FORTRAN? They're dinosaurs!

    • Although Daria, being an MTV show, kept a fair handle on pop culture jokes in general, the eponymous protagonist had a great habit of referencing obscure, deep, and intelligent literature in relation to her present circumstances, most of which went right over audiences' heads.
    • In an episode of Phineas and Ferb, Baljeet imagines himself as "Hanumanman", a superhero modelled after the Hindu monkey god Hanuman, who plays a major role in the Indian epic poem Ramayana. Hanuman is well known in India, but how many western viewers had ever heard of him before?
      • The ones who have taken a college course about Hinduism.
      • Maybe the few that have played Grand Chase, as Jin has a move called Hanuman.
    • The Ren and Stimpy Show features plenty of classical musical cues, some of which are not very well-known, like Chopin's "Ballad in F-Minor Op. 52", or Josef Suk's "Asrael" symphony, or Claude Debussy's "Canope", or Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Francesca da Rimini".
    • Definitely The Venture Brothers. One major character is the Phantom Limb, who is named after a medical condition, dresses like The Phantom, and is a descendant of Fantomas. Who was a member of a Guild with Eugen Sandow, Oscar Wilde, Aleister Crowley, and Nikola Tesla. And who went on to recruit Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, preventing them from getting on the doomed flight that killed them in real life. And the guild is now run by David Bowie and Brian Eno, and used to also include Iggy Pop and Klaus Nomi. And all that barely scratches the surface.
      • In one episode Henchman #21 wants to say "Sic semper tyrannis," which is what Abraham Lincoln's assassin was alleged to have said. He actually says "Semper fidelis tyrannosaurus," but Killinger does tell him what the right quote was.
    • Minor example, played mostly due to Rule of Funny. An episode of Duck Dodgers features a short appearance of a group of people refferred to as the Presidents of the United States, consisting of the four LEAST known US presidents. Dodgers' reaction is understandable.
    1. The queen is always positioned on her colour square; white queen on white(d1), black queen on black(d8). As with the orientation issue above (The board is angled so the corner square to each player's right is white) now that you have been informed on how it goes you will never, ever stop noticing it. For the rest of your life. You're welcome.
    2. Presumably, he stopped thinking.
    3. To be fair, Carmen Miranda did wear some very nice fruit hats.
    4. As opposed to "cartoons", which anime technically is
    5. Because of cultural and societal differences, what Japan considers "family-friendly" is similar, but not entirely the same as the western definition.
    6. See anti-Irish and anti-Italian sentiment from "fellow whites"
    7. or possibly Apollyon worshippers -- the actual word in the poem is Apollin
    8. And the Nikolay Gogol's novel, for crying out loud!