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Dr. Brown: Then tell me, "Future Boy", who's President in the United States in 1985?

Marty: Ronald Reagan.

Dr. Emmett Brown: Ronald Reagan? The actor? Then who's Vice-President? Jerry Lewis?

When an idea is originally presented in a work of fiction, the creators probably thought it was the most insane, off the wall suggestion possible. But due to the influence of Values Dissonance and Technology Marches On over time, the ideas presented, whether they be from a mental patient, a Strawman Political, or just a cultural trend of the future that shows how low we've sunk, seem outright reasonable. In any case, the original author certainly didn't think so.

See also: Funny Aneurysm Moment, Hilarious in Hindsight, Science Marches On, Straw Man Has a Point and The Cloud Cuckoolander Was Right.

Examples:


Anime and Manga

  • Gasaraki managed to do this three times, first with the US invading a Middle Eastern country similar to Iraq on the basis of them having weapons of mass destruction (which turned out never to have existed), the use of unmanned flying drones becoming popular for use in the army, and the idea that the US could be nearly crippled by a global economic collapse. The only thing that hasn't happened yet is the Mini-Mecha for use in urban combat.

Comic Books

  • The Batman story, "The Laughing Fish", where Joker tries to patent a fish, sounded utterly ridiculous when first released and still did even in the 1990s, when it was adapted by the animated series. But today, Joker's demand for a patent doesn't seem that unreasonable at all, considering that many corporations routinely use genetic mapping to patent animal species as a matter of course.
    • Except that he wanted to patent all the fish, regardless of species, because he had put Joker-grins on them. If he had tried to patent a species he created through genetic engineering, he might have had a case - at least if he wasn't a wanted criminal. This way, it's just crazy.
      • It's actually less crazy because then it's just a product of a process instead of a new species. The fact that we might consider it more crazy is actually this trope in progress.
    • Ironically, while patent law has marched on, the Joker was trying to copyright the fish and get royalties from every food product derived from them, which you can't do even today. Fish are a natural product, as the poor clerk he tries to extort points out, and not a creative work. Totally different set of laws involved there.
  • Dick Tracy had a seemingly far-fetched wristwatch video cellphone called the 'Two-Way Wrist TV' that looked fantastical at the time, but now...

Film

  • Shock Treatment is a strange 1981 film and equal to The Rocky Horror Picture Show dealing with an everyday man being put through televised therapy and his girlfriend going fame-mad after appearing on it. While there's something of a game show feel to the whole thing, it is otherwise a freakishly close to home prediction of reality TV.
  • The ubiquitous cell phones in Clueless were meant to show how spoiled and wealthy the teenage characters were. Nowadays, people are more likely to be weirded out by the phones' size and outdated design rather than their presence.
  • Heathers got made in the first place only because the idea of outcast high schoolers killing each other was considered patently absurd. Post-Columbine, the movie turns into one giant Funny Aneurysm Moment, and nearly veers into Dude, Not Funny.
  • The film Network, which revolves around the exploitation of a mentally unstable newscaster by a TV network for ratings, reveled in over-the-top satire with events that would have been viewed as far-fetched back in the 1970s. Fast forward to the 21st century, where Reality TV shows ridicule and shame their contestants for sensational TV, and 24-Hour News Networks have commentators ranting about the state of the world and what's wrong with it, and Network comes off as far less outrageous. Even the darkly comedic ending, which has the network executives deciding to kill off the madman because the ratings for his TV show are dropping, and making his killers the stars of one of the network's reality shows in order to boost that show's Ratings, seems scarily plausible. Just look up what happened to R. Budd Dwyer.
    • In an early 2000s interview, Sidney Lumet steadfastly maintained that Network had never been intended as a satire, claiming that it was "sheer reportage", drawn from his and Paddy Chayefsky's shared experiences working in television. Apparently such shenanigans had been going on for decades, with the general public only now starting to get a good look at them. Lumet concluded the segment saying "the only thing that hasn't happened is we've never seen anyone killed for ratings."
  • A scene from the first Austin Powers movie plays on this deliberately: Dr. Evil holds the world for ransom for one million dollars -- then, seeing everyone's reaction, changes it to one hundred billion dollars. His threats are to blow a hole in the ozone layer, increasing the level of skin cancer; and making it look like members of the British Royal Family are involved in sex scandals.
  • Demolition Man presents the absolutely absurd idea that Arnold Schwarzenegger became President of the USA... and when the main character asks how it happened, they say that he became Governor of California first. It's still unconstitutional for an immigrant to be president, though. (The Economist magazine from proposed a change in that law, for that very reason, although they may have only been half serious.) In the movie there was a Constitutional Amendment made specifically to let him in.
  • The Truman Show, anyone? This movie came out in 1998. The first Big Brother premiered a year later, and Survivor came two years later. Clearly, some network executive watched that movie and thought, "What a great idea!"
    • Of course The Real World had been on for six years at that point. The Truman Show was a commentary on the rise of reality TV, not the source.
  • As late as the early Turn of the Millennium (see the Chris Rock film Head of State), works of fiction that featured black presidents in a contemporary setting were often ridiculed for being unrealistic or overly optimistic about attitudes towards race.
  • In the Coneheads film, overzealous INS agent Gorman Seedling suggests building an electrical fence along the border of Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants. His superiors gently rebuke him while putting on their best "Is this guy INSANE?" look. 10 years later...

Literature

Live-Action TV

  • Similar to the Dick Tracy example above, the first scene of Get Smart (the 1965 series) involves the absolutely crazy idea of a phone going off in a movie theater.
  • How about a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch about furries?
    • Which was a parody of documentaries at the time about homosexuality using a 'ridiculous' invented alternative subculture. Not the Nine O'Clock News later did the same thing but with fat (or stout) people as an oppressed group, and much the same defictionalisation has since happened with the obesity debate.
  • Back in the day, The Two Ronnies did a sketch about the absolutely ludicrous idea of people paying money for bottled water, and paying large amounts for 'expensive' bottles of water. Who Would Be Stupid Enough...??

Music

  • When Frank Zappa released We're Only in It for the Money a lot of people thought he had Jumped the Shark due to the number of songs describing police killing hippies. Less than three years later, National Guardsmen shot and killed four students at Kent State University.
  • Tom Lehrer wrote a song called "George Murphy" in 1965, a satiric mockery of an ex-showtunes star turned (Republican) senator and his statements about importing cheap Mexican labour to displace American farmers. Fifteen years later Ronald Reagan was president and illegal immigration "taking jobs from Americans" had become a hot topic in American politics.

Newspaper Comics

  • An even more extreme example is a 1920 British newspaper cartoon which considers the impact of mobile phones (which had just been announced as a possibility in the future) and has them going off during weddings, in theatres, etc... Older Than They Think, indeed!

Web Original

  • In a 1998 installment of the web humor column The Book of Ratings, the "Mystical Creatures" rating contains a sarcastic quip about vampires going the way of the unicorn: "If it hasn't happened already, in a few months look for airbrushed posters of sad vampires in Wal-Marts everywhere, and in a decade look for female college students saying to each other "Were you into vampires when you were nine? Me too! We were such dorks!" Yeah, um, about that...
    • In an even earlier Rating for "Constellations," he complains about the names of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor: "The Big Bear and the Little Bear sounds like a heartwarming Disney feature." About that too...
    • There's another one (the man has a lot of these) where he notes that he's bugged by beer commercials that show off fields of wheat. One of the most integral parts of beer is hops, but he says that beer commercials would never show off hops trees vines/buds, because the fact that beer is made from flowers would be too unmanly. Of course, now Samuel Adams beer makes a very big deal out of the fact that they use lots of hops in their beer (and, yes, even show off the vines in bloom).

Western Animation

Real Life

  • In the 1980s, there was a public service announcement-style movie shown in Australian schools about understanding the coercive influence of advertising. In order to illustrate the point, it included an attractive phony advertisement for the craziest product imaginable: bottled water.
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