And of course real life has plenty of discredited fads and fashions that don't neatly fall into many of the other categories.

Real Life


  • For most of the Cold War, the idea that revolutionary communism (specifically of the Stalinist variety) was a) a valid alternative to the Western capitalist system, and b) inevitable to become very widespread. After The Great Politics Mess-Up, it's very much a niche opinion. While democratic Marxist parties have enjoyed considerable success in several countries (e.g. Brazil, South Africa, Nepal, Uruguay, Cyprus), the radical revolutionary brand is limited to a few far-left fringe parties, mostly in ex-communist countries and on college campuses.
    • Ditto for communism's old arch-enemy, fascism. During the interwar period, a considerable number of intellectuals felt that liberal democracy was a fundamentally flawed system that was doomed to collapse, and that fascism was the only thing that could save the Western world from the decadence and materialism produced by that system. After World War II, though, it's tough to find anybody, other than the most die-hard neo-Nazi fringe, who will openly admit sympathy for fascism, and the mere existence of Godwin's Law shows how hated fascism is in all corners of the political world (and even in many debates wholly separate from politics).
  • The fear of a nuclear holocaust seems much more laughable now than it did during the Cold War, at least in the Western world. (It's a different story if you live in India or Pakistan...)
  • In the early 20th century, eugenics was viewed as a serious field of research, and nearly every Western nation (and even some non-Western countries) had a eugenics program designed for the "betterment of the national race" through keeping out undesirable immigrants and sterilizing criminals and the mentally disabled. Eugenics was already falling out of vogue by the time World War II started, but the revelations of the horrors committed by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan could only have hastened its widespread repudiation. Today, there remain very few proponents of eugenics, many of them are associated with fringe politics, and even suggesting that you support it is enough to bring up major accusations of Unfortunate Implications.
    • How far has it fallen? In 2004, a eugenics proponent in Tennessee's 8th Congressional district won the Republican nomination for the House of Representatives. He got less than a quarter of the vote, in an district that's normally a lock for Republicans. His support for eugenics singlehandedly destroyed his campaign.
  • Similarly, the various racial and cultural theories put forward by anthropologists and biologists around the same time, which were often used to justify, among other things, eugenics programs and European colonialism. The work of Franz Boas, Margaret Mead, and other leading anthropologists in the early 20th century caused many scientists to call into question their assumption of the "natural superiority" of European people and culture, and served to kick off the above-mentioned decline in the popularity of eugenics.
  • Various "people-moving" automobiles over time. In order: station wagons became Deader Than Disco in the late '70s/early '80s thanks to the energy crises of The Seventies, their perception as gas-guzzling land yachts, and the rise of minivans that could carry more cargo and get better fuel economy. Minivans, in turn, went out of style in the late '90s/early '00s thanks to the growing perception that they were uncool and boring to drive, and a sign that their owners were bland suburbanites. Their replacement, sport-utility vehicles, suffered a huge backlash just a few years ago, for the same reasons that the old station wagons did, to be replaced by "crossover" utility vehicles and smaller, more efficient wagons. And minivans.
  • Various automobile aesthetic styles have died as well, such as the big, cartoony fins of The Fifties and the "box-on-wheels" look of The Eighties.
  • Automobiles with V6 and V8 engines are, despite the economic crisis, back in fashion, as technologies improve. Despite the CO2/g culture in the UK, it's still not stopped it. This is despite the fact you nowadays see 4-cylinder turbos as large engines, or 6-cylinder ones. But buyers still want the "old-style" engines for simplicity's sake...
  • Chuck E. Cheese's and similar children's restaurants/play areas are zig-zagging. In its heyday in the '80s, Chuck E. Cheese's was the most popular party spot for kids. Along with similar copycat businesses, fast food joints such as McDonald's and Burger King developed their own giant playgrounds in the '90s. Over time, however, such places came to be viewed as hunting grounds for pedophiles and/or targets of Urban Legends related to disgusting unmentionables lurking in ball pits. While Chuck E. Cheese's is still doing well, most of its competitors (including Show Biz Pizza and Discovery Zone, which it bought out, and regional players such as Jeepers!) are long gone, and most fast-food places have removed their playplaces. On the other hand, Dave & Busters came up with a successful spin on the concept by targeting adults (on-site bar, bowling, billiards, arcade, etc.).
  • Many fast-food concepts:
    • Drive-thru pretty much killed off drive-in. A&W has caught somewhat of a second wind, but they're most often combined with Long John Silver's or in some other location that's more conventional (food court, gas station, "regular" fast-food drive-thru). Lesser drive-in chains like Dog n Suds and B & K were nearly crushed in the 70s as McDonald's and the like became more popular, not to mention more practical in colder climates. Averted with Sonic, which has escaped the decline of the drive-in restaurant.
      • In Canada, A&W generally was more successful, mainly due to the Canadian A&W franchise being spun off in the 1950s, though it still follows the standard fast-food concept of more "conventional" locations. Some A&W drive-thru restaurants continue to sell bottles of root beer & cream soda and have reintroduced its "Chubby Chicken" fried chicken line in 2001 after an absence through the 1990s, though mostly at some locations in Western Canada and Atlantic Canada.
    • And speaking of Long John Silver's, increasing fish prices pretty much did in the concept of a fast-food seafood restaurant. Long John Silver's dropped a ton of locations in the 1980s and 1990s but has made a bit of a comeback (mostly by co-branding with A&W). Former nationwide players H. Salt Esquire and Arthur Treacher's have mostly retracted to their respective home bases of California or Ohio, although you might still find a stray Arthur Treacher's tacked onto your local Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs.
    • Fast-foods specializing in roast beef. Heap Big Beef came and went in the 1960s, Roy Rogers retracted to New England in the '70s and '80s, and Rax retracted to Ohio. Arby's has been slowly slipping for years, and has pretty much pushed roast beef to the background in favor of subs, salads and chicken sandwiches.
      • Arby's never pushed roast beef to the background. To be fair, they are presently promoting themselves as an all-around sandwich shop, but roast beef remains the staple of their menu.
    • Diner/gift shop/gas station combination chains like Stuckey's, Horne's and Nickerson Farms. While the Stuckey's name still exists, your modern day Stuckey's is bound to be just a few aisles of candy inside an otherwise normal truckstop, and even then you'd be hard-pressed to find any trace of the once-national chain outside the southeastern US. But hey, they still have pecan logs, and you can even order them online!
    • Similarly, truckstop diners are almost entirely a thing of the past. If a truckstop has a restaurant in it now, it's very likely to be a conventional fast-food chain or a diner-type chain such as Denny's.
    • Restaurants that emphasized extra-low prices and fast drive-thru service. Such restaurants had extremely small buildings that lacked dining rooms, and often had two drive-thru bays. Started in 1984 by Hot 'n Now, the concept also spawned Rally's in 1985 and Checkers in 1986. Hot 'n Now pretty much crashed and burned in the mid-1990s when Pepsi got out of the restaurant business. Burger King and McDonald's both tried drive-thru-only concepts in urban markets that never really took off. Losing money in the volatile burger market, Checkers and Rally's merged in 1999, and now (much like Hardee's and Carl's Jr.) the chains differ only in name and maintain the look of Checkers. To help maintain their foothold, Checkers/Rally's shed a lot of less-profitable locations, and any new openings in the past decade have been more conventional fast-food restaurants.
    • Quick-serve restaurants specializing in rotisserie chicken and "homestyle" sides such as mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, etc. The concept started in 1985 with Boston Market, and continued in 1991 with Kenny Rogers Roasters. The latter pretty much imploded after a 1998 bankruptcy filing, although (as with Arthur Treacher's) Nathan's Famous sometimes sells Kenny Rogers Roasters-branded items and the chain is still popular in Asia. Boston Market declared bankruptcy around the same time, languished in the 2000s under the ownership of McDonald's, and got sold off again in 2007.
    • Fast food itself has been (albeit slowly) in decline the last decade or so with the advent of fast casual options like Chipotle and Panera Bread, which offer nearly the speed of fast food and fresher, healthier ingredients and choices at reasonable prices.
  • Howard Johnson's, and how. The chain pioneered several concepts both in restaurants (begun in 1925) and motels (1954). Increased competition, rising gas prices and a great deal of Executive Meddling have pretty much washed away what the once-mighty chain did:
    • The general concept of a singular motel franchise. Before then, most motels were mom-and-pop outlets that could be pretty dire, so the concept of a franchise allowed travelers a sense of uniformity. Nowadays, most motels change brands as often as people change their underwear, so the concept of a franchise motel has gotten severely blurred. That Motel 6 you're staying in now might be worlds apart from the one you stayed at in another town, just because one used to be a Knights Inn and the other used to be an Econo Lodge.
    • Unique architecture. Ho Jo motor lodges and restaurants had unique, A-frame lobbies with bright, orange porcelain tiles. Similarly, Holiday Inn had its huge neon signs, and Knights Inn had medieval architecture to stand out. Compare to the glass and stucco boxes of today, and often oppressive sign ordinances (not to mention the rampant re-branding — as bland as the architecture may be, some details of chains past are harder to mask than others).
    • Curb appeal. Floor-level rooms were directly accessible from the parking lot, and even two- and three-story Ho Jo lodges had easy access. Nowadays, rising real estate value often leads to compact multi-level box motels, which require schlepping down the hallway and up the stairs several times to reach your room.
    • An on-site Howard Johnson's restaurant. When fast food took a huge bite out of the family restaurant sector in the 1970s, Ho Jo tried several things to catch up, but their many prototypes and concepts all failed. The restaurants got sold to Marriott, who sold off all the company-owned restaurants to leave only the franchised ones, which pretty much withered and died. Nowadays, if your motel's near a family-style restaurant at all, it's probably something like a Cracker Barrel, Denny's or Applebee's — and there's no telling how good or bad the service will be.
  • Various cell phone styles. Any phone that isn't a smartphone definitely applies. If you really want people to laugh at you, whip out your flip phone. Among smartphones, however, the BlackBerry line is definitely heading into this due to the popularity of the iPhone and various Android-based phones. Also, the iPhones and Android-based phones themselves, due to newer ones coming out. The original brick-sized phones from The Eighties are good for Anyone Remember Pogs jokes.
  • The personal digital assistant (PDA). From the stylish Sony CLIÉ to the Apple Newton (the iPhone's granddaddy), they were the cool toys to have in the 90s, until smart phones and tablets swallowed them whole. Palm went from being the pioneer of PDA's to a footnote in tech history. RIM survived because they moved into smartphones, though this trope appears to have caught up with them there, as noted above; RIM's spectacular mismanagement certainly isn't helping.
  • Fashion in general is heavily subject to this trope. The easiest way to mark yourself as a loser is to wear last year's or even last season's style.
    • And if you really want to look like a dork, wear styles from the previous decade. During the 1980s, wearing 70s-styles fashions like bellbottoms and earth tones was a surefire way to make people think of you as a hopelessly out-of-touch loser. Then, during the 1990s, wearing 80s fashions like acid-washed jeans and neon colors was a good way to get laughed out of a room. And so on, and so on...
  • Many things in retail:
    • Local department stores. Particularly in the 1990s and 2000s with the long string of mergers that turned Macy's into the giant it is now — for one, they consumed May Company in 2006, which itself was a conglomeration of several chains. Literally dozens of local department store names are now under the Macy's banner, but with little change to the merchandise mix, they're pretty much Macy's In Name Only in most markets. A smaller number have been assimilated into lesser players such as Dillard's and Belk, while others such as Mervyns and Gottschalks just went under entirely. It was also the case with Eaton's in Canada, which was sold to Sears, Simpsons (not THAT Simpsons), and the regional chain Woodward's (found in Western Canada only), both of which which were sold to the Hudson's Bay Company, the owners of Zellers and The Bay.
    • Five-and-dimes. Kresge began moving away from the concept in 1962 with a little thing called Kmart, in the same year that also brought us Walmart, Target and a host of similar discount department stores (see below). Kmart was so initially successful that the parent company abandoned Kresge in 1987. The concept died due to many dime stores being ancient buildings located in downtowns that were rapidly decaying due to suburban development — development which often included the larger discount stores. It could be argued that the trend has been reinvented in the late 1990s-early 2000s with the rise of Family Dollar and Dollar General (and Dollarama in Canada), which often thrive in markets not suitable for a full Walmart store (e.g., very small towns, downtowns, urban areas).
    • And, completing the cycle, the traditional discount department store is pretty much dead too. The first wave in the 1980s killed off four discount chains started by Kresge's rivals: Murphy's Mart (G.C. Murphy), Woolco (Woolworth), Grant City (W.T. Grant) and Britt's (J.J. Newberry), along with regional players like Tempo, E.J. Korvette, J.M. Fields and Sky City. It was also at this time that Kmart had a brief rise to the top through acquiring many Grant City, Britt's and Tempo locations. While Kmart later dropped the ball and Walmart made its big push in the late 1990s, larger players such as Ames[1], Bradlees, Jamesway, Venture and Caldor fell by the wayside too, often giving their own buildings to fuel Walmart's kudzu-like expansion. Nowadays, nearly every Walmart is a "supercenter" with a grocery section (although that name is no longer used), Target has gone upscale, and Kmart is limping its way to oblivion. Pretty much the only "real" discount store of this sort now is Shopko, found mainly in the Midwest and mountain states, while the only "supercenter" competition is similarly regional (Meijer in the Great Lakes area and Kentucky, Fred Meyer in the Pacific Northwest and mountain states).
      • Likewise, in Canada, many department stores shared the same fate. Woolco lasted longer in Canada (staying until 1994, when it was acquired by Walmart) than in the U.S., where it ceased to exist in 1982. The Woolco stores that Walmart did not acquire were mostly either downtown stores or unionized stores. Kmart had stores across Canada until 1998, when they were sold to Zellers, which also took over some stores of the aforementioned Woodward's, as well as similar regional chains Miracle Mart and Towers (Bonimart in Quebec) in the eastern provinces. Zellers itself was sold to Target, which will aim to switch many Zellers stores to the Target name in 2013-2014 (the remaining Zellers stores will then be closed, and at the time this point was added, a liquidation sale at some Zellers stores has been going on). Other discount chains with smaller stores, such as Bi Way and Consumers Distributing, have also ceased to exist.
    • The concept of ordering from a catalog — including both the big catalogs sent out by Sears and J.C. Penney, and the "catalog showroom" stores like Service Merchandise and Best Products — got a one-two punch from the rise of specialty "big-box" stores and the advent of online shopping.
      • Zig-zagged in the UK. Argos is a huge chain famous for 'only' putting their products on display in catalogs (later on, online). The unique practice has somehow managed to make them lots and lots of money. But queueing to buy in Argos is seen as a grim and dull process, the only other big chain that employed this method (Index) was bought out by Argos in the early 2000s, now no other catalog chain is well-known, and with online shopping growing increasingly popular Argos might go the way of Woolworths.
      • There are still a few specialty food companies, like Harry and David's and Swiss Colony, that still do good business from catalog orders, possibly due to their nostalgia factor as a traditional holiday gift in many families.
    • For that matter, shopping malls in general. Development slowed to a crawl in the 1990s; the last traditional indoor mall in the U.S. was built in Arkansas in 2006[2]. "Dead malls", nearly unheard of before the 2000s, have become increasingly common. The concept fell hard due to many factors: rampant overbuilding that saturated many retail markets; a declining economy that killed off boatloads of retailers and cause many more to scale back their locations; rising land costs; and again, the rise of online shopping. (To a lesser extent, the Macy's bloodbath also wounded dozens of malls which already had both a Macy's and another chain that they bought out, leaving huge tracts of vacant retail space.) Many developers have tried to jazz up the concept by creating "lifestyle center" malls which are basically built as streetscapes and targeted to upscale clientele, but even these have been hit-and-miss. Literally every year, several more malls are closed or torn down for "big box" stores, lifestyle centers or, less often, non-retail uses such as offices or condominiums. Those that aren't have tried to stem the loss of retailers by adding nonconventional tenants such as college campuses or libraries, or redeveloping entire swaths of vacant retail space as the aforementioned "big box" or lifestyle center concepts, while keeping the rest of the mall intact. Some malls have weathered the storm and maintained close to full occupancy, but just as many (if not more) are wounded — even Mall of America lost one of its four department stores in 2012. And what isn't redeveloped is often times just abandoned, leaving an enormous eyesore that can sit vacant and deteriorating for years.
    • The rise of large-scale large-selection franchise chain book stores such as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million (as well as Chapters/Indigo in Canada and WH Smith in the UK) seemed to mark the end for not only small-business locally owned book stores, but also smaller, mall-based bookstores like B. Dalton and Waldenbooks (which, for the last several years of their lives, were respectively owned by Barnes & Noble and the now-defunct Borders). However, with the competition eliminated, the price of books generally rose and service declined. With the rise of book sales on the internet (with price, selection, and convenience far greater than any physical store could have), said chain stores failed to capitalize on advantages (physical browsing, instant service, community, fairly good coffee), with the outlook looking grim. Interestingly, this has also led to a rise in locally-owned used book stores.
      • Also contributing is the rise of the e-book reader, which takes up less space, has adjustable font-size and built-in back-lighting. E-books tend to also be cheaper than physical copies.
    • Factory outlet malls. The fad came in the 1980s and 1990s, with many small ones located off freeways — most of them were in markets not suitable for one[3] and died swiftly. Others were poorly-located enclosed centers that often lacked a big "anchor" store[4]. Mills Corporation (now part of Simon, the US' largest mall management company) built several larger, enclosed ones in the 1990s that were driven by large numbers of discount[5] and/or "big box" anchors[6] mixed with both outlet and regular stores, along with entertainment options such as movie theaters and bowling alleys, and trendy restaurants such as Rainforest Café. This fad died off with the decline of the shopping mall in general, but many of the Mills malls (and even a few one-offs copying the Mills style) have suffered greatly.
  • Subverted with the Drive-In Theater. Although many of them died off in the 70s and 80s (rising land costs, urban sprawl, high maintenance costs, better quality at increasingly-large multiplexes), the concept caught a second wind in the 2000s, with several new ones opening.
  • Speaking of movie theaters, large single-screen movie theaters have almost entirely been replaced by multiplexes that feature smaller auditoriums with stadium-style seating. These days single-screen movie theaters often show independent art-house films or special screenings of classic films from decades past.
  • Hackers; Fiction once depicted hackers as colorful anti-establishment rebels who only hacked into government or corporate servers as a way of "sticking it to the man". Today, hackers of that type are mostly profit driven and identity theft is a major concern for the average person. Although a new computer virus seems to show up occasionally, the threat of hackers has been eclipsed by spammers, 419 scams, phishers, and privacy concerns with regard to companies such as Facebook and Microsoft.


  • Appropriately, Adolf Hitler is not only no longer popular in Germany, but today's Germans regard him as the worst thing that ever happened to their nation (not that non-Germans wouldn't agree with that).
  • The Intel Pentium brand name. It was synonymous with "uber-fast processor" for nearly twelve years, only for its reputation to be ruined and the brand to instead become dictionary definitions of "under-performing" and "overheating" thanks to the "Prescott" model Pentium 4 and the entire Pentium D line. After that, Intel ended up branding its high-performance chips under the Core 2 (and later Core i7) brand and relegated Pentium to being the brand for their cheaper processors.
  • In TV Tropes, there were once popular features such as Fetish Fuel, Troper Tales, and It Just Bugs Me, as well as tropes such as I Am Not Making This Up, So Yeah, and Nakama. However, as misuse and the like came about, these features and tropes, as well as some others, were deleted, renamed, or sent to an offshoot wiki. Today, not only these features and tropes are no longer used, tropers are encouraged to regard the creation of these features as the worst things that ever happened to the wiki.
  • Now that it's well known that not only didn't Christopher Columbus "discover" America,[7] he perpetrated an ethnic cleansing of the Arawak tribe, it's rare to find Columbus Day celebrations, especially on the West Coast. Even though it's a Federal holiday, most schools and businesses ignore it.
    • Exception: Certain East Coast communities celebrate Columbus Day as a day of Italian American heritage/pride. This started in the late 19th to early 20th century: Italians, feeling put-upon by WASP racism, appropriated Columbus Day to say "You say 'Italian' like it's a bad thing. What's wrong with you? An Italian discovered your country!"
      • Also, it's an excuse to have a parade. Although parades have been going this way in recent years as well. When was the last time everybody was abuzz about a Thanksgiving Day Parade float or balloon or original performance ...?
  • The Threat Matrix report was once hailed as the future of anti-terrorism operations in the United States intelligence community due to its purpose of compiling all the most active threats to the US into one central document that could be easily distributed to all the relevant agencies and give the President an up-to-the-minute assessment of global terrorist activities. At one time, it was even taken seriously enough for ABC to commission a [8] drama based on the activities of a fictional government unit set up specifically to deal with the Threat Matrix.

    Unfortunately, the authors of the document had a propensity for Critical Research Failures, with an incident involving two Ukranians discussing urinal cakes that was misconstrued as an arrangement to sell yellow-cake uranium being the best known example. It was quickly ignored or even outright lambasted by government agencies, and any reputation for usefulness it might've had in the public eye was destroyed by a non-fiction book published in 2011 detailing how the document had initially screwed up intelligence gathering among the relevant agencies prior to being discontinued.


  1. (which itself had over-expanded by buying out Murphy's Mart, Zayre and Hills)
  2. although an enclosed wing was added to a Michigan mall in 2007, and a mall opened in Calgary in 2009
  3. (often at otherwise-undeveloped exits, particularly in smaller towns)
  4. (primarily in the Southern states — metropolitan Houston, Texas had nearly a dozen that barely made it into the 1990s. One between Allen and McKinney was abandoned in 1988)
  5. (such as TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Burlington Coat Factory)
  6. (such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Sports Authority, Old Navy)
  7. Not that he isn't historically important, as his "discovery" was the catalyst for the European colonization of the Americas--the Norse didn't do that, nor for that matter did the indigenous Americans. The term "Columbian Exchange" really is fitting, as he did start that.
  8. short lived
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