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Diabetes: Are we in ancient times?

Woman: Can't you tell by what you're wearing?
God by Woody Allen

When writers attempt to set a story in a vaguely historical time period, but Do Not Do The Research, an Anachronism Stew can arise--cities, people, inventions, and terms get thrown around in places they're entirely inappropriate. While an ordinary person won't notice them, someone interested in history will have their suspension of disbelief shattered to pieces.

However, sometimes, telling a story (or being funny) is more important than being historically accurate. So while a story may theoretically be set in, say, ancient Peru, you'll find truck stops, people slipping on over-waxed floors, Lawyer Friendly Boy Scouts, and who knows what else. A bit like Present Day Past, only applied to the whole of history-- liberally and without remorse for all those poor history majors. While an Anachronism Stew can be pretty subtle if you don't pay attention in history class-- "Hey! They didn't call it the Caribbean during the 1600s!"-- a Purely Aesthetic Era is blatant and intentional. It may be Hand Waved with an Alternate History, but most folks don't even try to explain it.

It's funny and cool. Don't question it and just relax.

Contrast Decade Dissonance, where it's ostensibly done on purpose by the inhabitants.


Examples of Purely Aesthetic Era include:


Anime

 "That Shinsengumi member was born in this prefecture, not the one you said."

"Thank you for pointing that out. I'll get to fixing it as soon as I figure out why there's aliens in the Meiji era."

    • Before you knew it, the story take place not in Meiji but in 2012.
  • Black Butler and the Count Cain manga both take place in Visual Kei Victorian England.
  • The Naruto universe's society is based on feudal Japan and its most industrial village is essentially Steampunk, yet Konoha has things like fluorescent signs, live-streaming video chat (though stylized to look somewhat primitive), and all the conveniences of modern day when it's convenient. When the hell does this series take place?
    • It's modern age, just their part of the world is quite retro.
    • Word of God is that they have access all aspects of modern technology outside of weapons and transportation.


Comic Books

  • Asterix. The series is less Anachronism Stew than an Anachronism *Steak*. The comics largely use Roman-era cultures with modern day cultural stereotypes, characters have names like Fulliautomatix (a blacksmith) and Timandahaf (a viking chieftain) and there are 1st-century equivalents of modern day things, including sports chariots and text-messenger pigeons. Oddly enough combined with Shown Their Work, as the artists are usually making up a modern connection half the time and accurately depicting something modern that actually existed at the time for the other half.


Film - Animated

  • The Emperors New Groove goes crazy with this one. It's allegedly set in a fictional, Inca-like Peruvian empire, but it makes no attempt to stay true to this. At one point, the producers themselves even admitted, "What the heck--we've broken every other historical rule; let's throw in a truck stop."
  • Disney movies do this a lot. Disney's Hercules had Hercules action figures and soft drinks for sale, promoting the eponymous hero--no telling where the plastic came from in ancient Greece. Not to mention a credit card...
  • Mulan had the anachronisms more as one-off jokes, but they were still there: One character laments in a song, "Boy, was I a fool in school for cutting gym!" The Absurdity is not that education would include gymnastics, but that a simple peasant turned soldier would've gone to school.
  • The Shrek movies are set in a Medieval European Fantasy setting, yet there is photography (the Duloc information booth), television broadcasts (seen through magic mirror, but still...), and modern day-style high schools complete with cheerleaders and pep rallies. Donkey sings '90s era pop tunes, and Shrek himself occasionally says anachronistic phrases like "Hold the phone," and "Oh, no you didn't!" It's all part of the whole Deconstructive Parody thing the series is known for.
  • Aladdin is ostensibly set in some sort of ancient Arabian kingdom, Genie still somehow conjures up modern technology or makes references to later eras. The Recycled: the Series spin-off manages to bring in more anachronisms not conjured up by Genie. Ancient Greek Clockwork Bug Robots, anyone?
    • The Word of God is that Genie knows the references because he time-traveled to the future.
      • But never any further into the future than the 1990s, apparently.


Film - Live-Action

  • A Knight's Tale... set in the 14th century, but with 1970s rock music.
    • The director is quick to point out that it's set in the 1370s.
    • Said director also claims that the music is a kind of audible Translation Convention. Authentic 13th century music would just sound old to modern audiences, so updating the music to modern-day stuff allows the audience to understand what the music means to the characters. Or something.
    • This may qualify as Fridge Brilliance when you realize that the film's namesake is also an example of this trope (see Literature, below).
  • The infamous League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie: While tanks, automatic rifles and a Cool Car might be justified as Alternate History with minor Steampunk and/or Diesel Punk elements (the film is ostensibly set in 1899, and all of the above would be invented by the 1920s), when you have the aforementioned car having the performance of a Ferrari despite it supposedly being the first automobile ever made and a Nautilus the size and shape of the bottom half of an aircraft carrier equipped with cruise missiles and radar tracking, it's a clear sign that this trope is in effect.
  • Any Mel Brooks film that isn't set in the present.
  • Giddily played with in Tom Stoppard's Shakespeare in Love. Though the film is otherwise quite compliant about historical accuracy, there are little digs put in, such as a mug reading "Souvenir of Stratford-Upon-Avon" and an Apothecary to whom Will relates all his... inspiration troubles.
    • Another example of Stoppard playing with this one: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, with Rosencrantz constantly inventing aspects of modern life, such as the hamburger, the theory of gravity, or those swinging beads that businessmen put on their desks.


Literature

  • "The Knight's Tale" from Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. It's allegedly set in ancient Greece, but the culture displayed is clearly that of medieval western Europe. (E.g., Theseus appears in the role of a feudal lord.)
  • On Discworld we've seen Moving Pictures, rock and roll, action figures of Captain Carrot, and a clacks system that is suspiciously similar to the Internet.
    • Leading to the bizarre occurrence of the Internet being invented before newspapers. And before a working postal system. Things are strange on the Disc.
      • In Ankh-Morpork's defense, it'd had a working postal system a generation ago; Going Postal was about how it was brought back into service after decades of neglect.
      • There was also a postal system of sorts operating anyway. There are numerous references to getting the days postal delivery distributed to its' intended recipients at Unseen University and the Opera House, and one of Shawn Ogg's numerous jobs in Lancre is dealing with the mail (a lot of which comes from or goes too Ankh-Morpork). The traffic between seems to be carried on the old Mail Coaches, which never stopped running (since passenger traffic was still a viable operation). Sam Vimes also reflects that the money being sent to the dwarf towns in the Hub Mountains by Dwarfs in the city mostly comes back to pay for the goods ordered from the best Dwarf craftsman, who mostly live in Ankh-Morpork now.
    • Leonard of Quirm is this trope all by himself, alternately inventing da Vinci-style period pieces and such anomalies as post-it notes, espresso, automatic rifles, dragon-powered spacecraft, and Scrabble. He has also considered the possibilities of compressed spheres of uranium.


Live Action TV


Music

  • If any principle governs the time-travellers of Thin White Rope's song "Around", it's the Rule of Cool:

 Dave I saw your tiny face around a leper's tit

Jesus walked right by you and you didn't give a shit

Andy killed an animal; he killed it with his hands

And gave it all to me because I was a woman then



I remember Clay was suffering from some disease

That he picked up in London in the 1470s

Got to laugh at Lloyd; he will deny it to his death

That he's the one who never could extract that pound of flesh


Theatre

  • The Skin of Our Teeth, at least the first act, is set in Suburbia sometime around One Million BC (complete with talking baby dinosaur). The audience is told not to take this seriously.
  • Woody Allen's play God is nominally set in ancient Greece, but the characters on stage are aware that outside the Fourth Wall is modern day New York. It doesn't get more serious in the Show Within a Show, which also has No Fourth Wall.
  • Played with in George Herman's two-act play A Company Of Wayward Saints. Ostensibly set during the commedia dell'arte era (16th-17th century Italy), the characters will occasionally mention something vaguely anachronistic just to keep audiences on their toes - and at one point, a character refers to whatever town they're in at the moment (Green Bay, Wisconsin, for example) just to get a laugh and some Cheap Heat. The gimmick is lampshaded in the scene in which two of the actors have to improvise a depiction of human adolescence for a (fictional) duke. Scapino, the Loveable Rogue of the troupe, puts on a straw hat and begins to act like Tom Sawyer, complete with a 19th-century Missouri dialect - at a time when most people should be barely aware that America exists at all! Scapino's fellow troupe members are puzzled by this; even their leader, Harlequin, can only guess that Scapino just made up the accent on the spot!


Video Games

  • The Monkey Island series. Coke-style grog machines, Stan the used car ship salesman, a pirate barbershop quartet, Starbuccaneers...
    • "Must be this shoddy, 17th century electrical wiring..."
    • It's played with, as the second game suggests that this may be due to the entire game being the fantasy of a child lost in a theme park. Many of the supposed anachronisms were possibly subtle hints towards this. As the original creator and team left before the mystery could be answered, however, this became an Aborted Arc and the remaining games have played the trope straight.
  • This is arguably the point of the Shadow Hearts series. While its very subdued in its prequel Koudelka, it gets worse and worse as the games come out, and by the time we reach From the New World, we have have South American Ninja, Aliens, A giant talking Cat who is a gangster, and the main character dressed like a teenager from the 90s... in what is supposed to be the 1920s.
  • Yo-Jin-Bo seems to be made of this. Ronin who like to watch Back to The Future and make Star Wars references? Yup.
  • The setting of the Iron Grip series is best described as this. Fully justified, since it's a textbook example of a Punk Punk Constructed World.


Web Comics

  • Bruno the Bandit is chock full of this. Roughly medieval setting, with phones (cellular and otherwise), computers, TV, modern-style advertising agencies (or parodies thereof, anyway)...
  • Order of the Stick likes this. The values and knowledge pool of the characters tend to match up with modern day including having the local Wizarding School set up like a high school, all of this despite the comic being set in the "standard medieval fantasy setting" time-period.
    • At one point Elan is trying to board an Airship (in the rather Steampunk cross-over town of Cliffport) but can't gain passage because he's a D&D style character and only Final Fantasy characters are allowed on board. So, while some higher level technologies EXIST in that world, there seem to be some strict segregation laws in place to try and maintain consistency based on the individual's own appropriate time period.
  • Problem Sleuth is set during The Roaring Twenties, but you'd never know that if it didn't mention bootlegging and Prohibition. They don't even bother with the aesthetics.


Web Original

  • Noka lives in a universe best described as a car crash consisting of several settings, with medieval fantasy and modern day in the middle of it all. While magic does exist, most people that do possess the ability to use it spend more time powering dead remote controls rather than shooting bolts of lightning.


Western Animation

  • The Flintstones may not have done it first, but they definitely did it most visibly. It had cavemen celebrating Christmas. They have to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christrock, of course.
  • Dave the Barbarian is theoretically set in Europe in the Middle Ages. That doesn't stop the heroes from dropping by the local mall Great Indoor Marketplace, though, or making musicals about donuts.
    • It was Lampshaded once when Dave asked Candy where the (clothes) dryer is, and she responded that dryers haven't been invented yet. Then she says to just use her hair-dryer.
    • There was also the time when Dave invented a megaphone out of a squirrel, rope, and... a megaphone.
  • Another Flintstones-inspired cartoon was the short-lived Roman Holidays. The Roman Empire meets The Sixties.
  • Archer appears to be set in the present day, yet they have the 60s-70s spy thing going on and the KGB (disbanded in 1991) still exists. Even Word of God says that the show's era is "ill-defined".
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