Skip To Content

    Stalking Your Crush, Hating Your Wife, And 12 Other Tired TV Tropes That Have Aged Like Milk Since The ’90s

    A lot has certainly (and thankfully) changed since the '90s.

    Though the '90s and 2000s might not feel like they were too long ago, things have certainly changed a lot since then. A lot of things that aired on TV back then definitely wouldn't fly today. At least, not without some severe internet backlash.

    Redditor u/Fracassi_Fanboy asked, "What's a common element from '90s or '00s sitcoms that has aged poorly?" Here are 14 tired, sometimes offensive tropes that used to be common and have aged like milk since then:

    1. "Every married couple hating each other and treating each other like crap. Yikes."

    u/SolidOrangutan

    Screenshot from "Everybody Loves Raymond"

    "The husbands were basically all like, 'Wife bad, beer good.'"

    u/hemmendorff

    "For example, Raymond and Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond. He never stood up to his mother for his wife and even voted against his wife in the PTA so he wouldn't have to help with the kids. He was whiney and useless; he was basically a fourth child to Debra instead of a husband."

    justchillman

    2. "The trope of the playboy character who makes elaborate schemes just to get with women."

    u/Timely-Ad-1588

    Barney in "How I Met Your Mother"

    "I saw a blog post one time that described how several of Barney Stinson’s (How I Met Your Mother) schemes to get laid qualified as sex crimes."

    u/brettmbr

    3. "The now-gorgeous main character's 'ugly' years being just the actor in a fat suit and fake braces. Bonus points for glasses."

    u/theothers1988

    Monica in "Friends"

    4. "The 'if you're persistent enough, the girl will fall for you. You just need to keep showing up at her house and job unannounced' trope."

    u/TNCNguy

    "The poor guy showed up at our wedding hoping to win you back."

    "A generation was taught that 'no' means 'yes, but only if you stalk me.'"

    u/ThingThatsJustBegun

    "Honestly, as a teen, I did not know better and tried this. It did NOT go well."

    u/thirdlost

    5. "When 'broke' characters or middle-class ones had really nice homes, apartments, or were clearly living really comfortably, despite not having money."

    u/tatakatakashi

    Screenshots from "Friends"

    "I watched Friends recently, and I thought this, too. How can Joey have a large and nice apartment if he's just a struggling actor? I know Chandler helps him pay, but seriously, it doesn't make sense even for the '90s."

    u/iwipiksi

    6. "The incompetent dad. The dad was always portrayed as an idiot that couldn’t do anything without his wife telling him how."

    u/lilbittypp

    Screenshot from "The King of Queens"

    "I think it's because most family sitcoms in the 1980s through the 2000s were set up as a star vehicle for the comedian playing the dad. 'Goofy idiot' was an easy sell for laughs. Ray Romano and Tim Allen and Jim Belushi and Kevin James (just as a small example) already had established comic personas as brash buffoons, and their sitcoms were designed to showcase them. The wife characters were there to be foils for the husband's hijinks — just beautiful plot devices for the most part."

    u/Adelaidey

    7. "Those 'Special Episodes' which also functioned as PSAs for drinking, drugs, rage, SA, and mental health issues. While that's important to talk about, they always made it too easy. At the end of the episode, everyone goes home happy like it was no big deal."

    u/JanuarySoCold

    "I need them to stay awake and study."

    "[Referencing the caffeine pill episode of Saved by the Bell] I just looked this up because it seemed so absurd as a premise for a very special episode. I dropped No-Doze almost every morning in high school which...yeah, wasn't, like, the healthiest thing in the world, but it's by no means some debilitating addiction.

    So, I watched the scene dumbfounded, did some more research on the episode, and then realized that the caffeine pills were originally supposed to be amphetamines, but the network censored that idea away."

    u/white87wolf

    "There was a government office that would literally give shows free money to produce these 'very special' episodes."

    u/sharrrper

    8. "Gay jokes. Constant gay jokes and transphobic jokes. Every sitcom, sketch comedy show, and late-night talk show featured them prominently. If your show had a male character who was even slightly feminine, a homophobic joke would be made at their expense."

    u/hazymindstate

    "Don't you have a little too much penis to be wearing a dress like that?"

    "And men being 'grossed out' or it 'being gay' that they touched or exchanged an emotion."

    u/WeBornToHula

    "Being gay was a punchline, and it was so normalized. At the time, I barely noticed, but now, during rewatches, it makes me cringe. It stands out so bad."

    u/ferociouswhimper

    9. "The trope of the uptight, joyless mother and the way too loose, 'fun' dad."

    u/GW2RNGR and u/0ll1ek00ls

    Screenshot from "Home Improvement"

    10. "Kids having really nice bedrooms! They were always HUGE and so greatly decorated. I used to draw floor plans for my dream room at age 6 because of them. They set my expectations way too high."

    u/cowdog987

    Drake and Josh's bedroom
    Arnold's bedroom

    "Drake and Josh’s bedroom always fascinated me. It’s like a whole ass studio apartment."

    u/CarterS20884

    "For me, it was Arnold’s room from Hey Arnold! He had a full glass ceiling that you could access the roof from. It's still my dream room." 

    u/ilostmycarkeys3

    11. "How every single Asian character was a stereotype of what a non-Asian American thinks anyone of Asian background is like. It doesn't matter if the actor themself has an American accent in real life or if they grew up in the US. In front of the cameras, the characters put on a thick accent and are reduced to stereotypes."

    u/inksmudgedhands

    Closeup of Annyong

    "Like in Arrested Development, when the character Annyong barely ever spoke. It was annoying! I remember Lucille talking about having to 'strip him down to nothing' to figure out he’s a boy, which is particularly gross."

    rachelc43

    12. "Clip shows — aka those episodes that are made up mostly of clips and scenes we've already seen from previous episodes. I'm doing a binge of Family Ties currently, and they have about one clip show per season. It's the same premise every time: A visitor arrives, and the family reminisces about previous episodes. I hated these back then, and I completely skip them in the rewatch now."

    u/Spire2000

    Season 6, Episode 14 "The Banker"

    "Clip shows are just a remnant of another era. People didn't regularly tape or rewatch shows that weren't in reruns, so they were a chance to revisit a pivotal scene or funny moment. Sometimes, they were used to remind viewers of older plot points before they were brought up again. Sometimes, episode production was delayed, and they needed to put together an episode quickly/cheaply, or a show was nearing the end of its run, and they wanted additional episodes for syndication."

    u/mmss

    13. "Having laugh tracks in the background of shows. They are always cringe to me. Like, hey, if it's a funny joke, I will laugh. I don't need you to put a bunch of laughing people so I think it's funny."

    u/chrissurra

    "'That '70s Show' was filmed in front of a live studio audience and kept the laugh tracks in the episodes."

    14. "One thing I notice because my little brother watches lots of older shows I used to watch (Drake and Josh-type stuff) is that the show oftentimes intended for the audience to find bullying funny."

    Screenshot from "iCarly"

    "The '80s-'00s were more openly cruel when it came to certain things. So, that bled into shows and movies. Like, some poor fat kid asks the main character on a date, and she is mortified, or something like that. They encourage you as the viewer to make fun of someone for being fat, gay, weird, ugly, etc."

    u/Luther-and-Locke

    Are there any poorly-aged tropes we missed? If so, drop them in the comments below!

    Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

    Watch Once Upon A Time In Londongrad from BuzzFeed Studios, a new true crime docuseries based on the explosive BuzzFeed News investigation, now streaming on Peacock.