Black Swan events disrupting or delaying (pop) cultural releases
October 17, 2022 8:51 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for examples of (pop) cultural events/releases that were delayed or cancelled because an unforeseeable event eerily echoed their content in some way. For instance, I just discovered that Kylie Minogue's 6th album 'Impossible Princess' was delayed by almost a year because Princess Diana died just before its planned release in 1997 (obviously because of the proposed title). What other cultural creations suffered similar setbacks because of absolutely unpredictable circumstances (so-called 'Black Swan' events)?

Three others that came to mind were:

- Nintendo's recent delay of 'Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp' for the Switch because of the war in Ukraine.

- The infamous summer 2001 trailer for Spiderman depicted a helicopter suspended between the World Trade Towers. This scene then, quite possibly because of the events of 9/11, never made it into the final movie.

- And a more obscure one... the recall and reissue of UK Indie band The Bluetones' single 'Cut Some Rug', because the artwork depicted a classroom emptying... an image that then eerily echoed the tragic school shooting at Dunblane school in 1996.

All four of these examples are because of a serious, tragic event taking place that strangely echoed their proposed content. These are the kind of things I am thinking about, though they need not necessary be considered 'tragic' to count.
posted by 0bvious to Society & Culture (34 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Proust had just published Swann's Way, the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past, when WWI broke out, delaying publication of subsequent volumes several years.

This is weird, and I could never actually prove cause and effect here, but syndicated reruns of La Femme Nikita, original recipe (glamorous anti-terrorism), stopped airing right after 9/11 and didn't resume for several weeks.
posted by praemunire at 8:54 AM on October 17, 2022

Best answer: The Buffy the Vampire episode "Earshot", that involved the implication of a mass shooting at a high school, was supposed to come out the week following the Columbine massacre. It got delayed to the start of the following season.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:00 AM on October 17, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: There's a Wikipedia list of media disruptions because of 9/11. I like the one about DJ Khaled dropping his use of the nickname "Arab Attack" in response.

The 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, spurred a re-shoot of a trailer for the movie Gangster Squad, in which cast members shot up a theater.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:01 AM on October 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Some interesting items in this Wiki List of entertainment affected by the September 11 attacks
posted by General Malaise at 9:02 AM on October 17, 2022

They shut down shooting of the sixth season of “The Crown,” seeing as how the Queen died and all.
posted by Melismata at 9:03 AM on October 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Following the September 11 attacks in New York City, the American CD release of The Strokes' debut Is This It? was delayed from September 25 to October 9 and had its track list amended, with the song "New York City Cops" being removed and replaced with the newly written track "When It Started."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:06 AM on October 17, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The Buffy the Vampire episode "Earshot", that involved the implication of a mass shooting at a high school, was supposed to come out the week following the Columbine massacre. It got delayed to the start of the following season.

The last episode in that same season ("Graduation Day (Part 2)"), was set to air just four weeks later and featured the destruction of the school by explosion. It was also delayed, albeit only by two months.
posted by Etrigan at 9:08 AM on October 17, 2022 [5 favorites]

The Jimmy Eat World album Bleed American was originally released on July 24, 2001, but following the September 11th attacks it was re-released as "Jimmy Eat World." Finally, it was re-released again much later in 2008 with the original title.
posted by mekily at 9:14 AM on October 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The New York Times dropped the word "fetus" from Wordle right after Roe was overturned. (Guardian link.) Trivial but I wonder how many entertainment decisions in the US were altered in the light of that ruling.
posted by BibiRose at 9:16 AM on October 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

Marilyn Manson cancelled the rest of his US Tour after the Columbine High School shootings.

Alec Baldwin's other film is being postponed indefinitely after the shooting incident on the film set of "Rust"

List of all the movies suspended or delayed due to COVID-19 (probably not comprehensive)

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus had to be postponed and re-shot due to Heath Ledger's untimely death.

V for Vendetta was meant to be released on November 4th 2005 (to coincide with Guy Fawkes) but the 7/7 bombings in the UK that year led to it being pushed out to March 2006

Dr. Strangelove had to be edited and postponed due to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The original cut included a pie fight and the President is hit in the face with a pie after which someone yells, "Gentlemen! Our gallant young president has been struck down in his prime!" Another line was "A fella could have a pretty good time in Dallas with all that stuff" and it was changed to "Vegas" instead of Dallas.
posted by castlebravo at 9:16 AM on October 17, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: As usual, TVTropes has your back: Distanced From Current Events
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:20 AM on October 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Coup delayed the release and changed the cover art for 'Party Music' following the Sept. 11 attacks.
posted by googly at 9:34 AM on October 17, 2022 [5 favorites]

A performance of John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine at the Last Night of the Proms had to be cancelled after Diana died... and then again after 9/11.
posted by altolinguistic at 9:37 AM on October 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Loads of great examples… but I am not interested in things being cancelled simply because something tragic happened.

As I suggest in my question, I am interested in proposed cultural things that strangely echoed an event that took place just before or coincident with their release. The cultural thing (a movie trailer for instance) then suddenly pointed to the Black Swan event, in a way which could never have been foreseen (i.e. the Twin Towers in the Spiderman trailer now creepily pointing to 9/11).
posted by 0bvious at 9:42 AM on October 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

The premiere of 24 was delayed by a week (2001-10-30 to 2001-11-06) to distance it from the September 11 attacks.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:56 AM on October 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Betty Gilpin movie The Hunt was delayed because of a series of mass shootings in 2019.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:59 AM on October 17, 2022

The movie Neighborhood Watch was changed to The Watch following Trayvon Martin's murder.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:14 AM on October 17, 2022

A person I know was going to release information alleging that a high profile person had sexually assaulted someone, but the Minneapolis PD murdered George Floyd that week. The person decided to wait. They did release the info later on. It had an effect, although I think the effect would have been stronger at the earlier point in time.

It makes me wonder how many times news stories get bumped by unexpected occurrences (or by politicians engineering fake crises to distract us) and then we never hear about those stories at all because by the time things settle down, the news gatekeepers decide the story has “gone stale”.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:19 AM on October 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Primal Scream had started playing their new song, “Bomb the Pentagon” a few weeks before 9/11. They stopped playing it after that, but eventually reworked it under another title and it came out on their next album.
posted by snofoam at 10:22 AM on October 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

A counter-example: There was a longstanding rumor that Frank Sinatra bought the rights to The Manchurian Candidate shortly after JFK's assassination so he could remove it from distribution. That was not the case, however.
posted by Etrigan at 10:34 AM on October 17, 2022

Best answer: The influential Bristol trip-hop act Massive Attack had their name shortened to Massive on the eve of their debut single's release. The band name, album, and single were already on decks when Operation Desert Storm broke out and the BBC instituted a "soft ban" on artists or works which had the perception of referencing war.
posted by mykescipark at 10:36 AM on October 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately I can't remember the author or title of the book, but at some time well into the pandemic I picked up a near-future scifi book that had just been published whose plot — a global pandemic disrupting the characters lives — very eerily echoed the COVID pandemic. I think even down to it being a coronavirus that arose in Asia. This was NOT Station Eleven, this book was a much closer parallel to COVID and the novel's ending fell within the first year-ish of the fictional pandemic.

There was a long foreword to the book that explained that originally the book was due to come out in early 2020, but they delayed by some time because it was too uncanny. The author wrote a long reflection on what she got right and wrong based on how things actually played out.

The plot followed a number of people whose lives intersected and were affected by the pandemic. I think there was a superspreader event early on with a famous person at a NYC restaurant, and the novel concluded with (spoilers) one of the characters getting on a sailboat with her young son and a man she recently met and sailing down to the Caribbean. I don't think it had very wide popularity but if anyone can remember the title and author (a woman, and I believe it was her first or second book?) I'd appreciate it!
posted by 100kb at 11:22 AM on October 17, 2022

Best answer: Phoebe Bridgers's "ICU" was renamed "I See You" when it was released as a single on May 19, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic ("*gestures at entire world*" is how the name change was described in a press release).
posted by Seeking Direction at 12:02 PM on October 17, 2022

The publishers of the Pandemic board game series put future releases on hold for a time during 2020.
posted by esker at 12:47 PM on October 17, 2022

Metal Gear Solid 2 originally featured a cutscene in which the enormous Arsenal Gear plowed into lower Manhattan, flattening several buildings. This was removed from the final game because it was too close to 9/11.

Lilo & Stitch originally had a climactic scene where Stitch hijacks a commercial airliner and flies it through a city skyline. This was altered in the final release, same reason.

9/11 is the source of many examples and (I just discovered) there's a big Wikipedia page with tons of them.
posted by grobstein at 1:02 PM on October 17, 2022

Station Eleven, which is about a global pandemic and it’s aftermath, shut down production for a year due to Covid. In January 2020, they had finished filming episode 1, which takes place at the beginning of the in-show outbreak. Then Covid hit. When the cast came back in 2021, they filmed all the episodes that take place during and after the fictional in-show pandemic.
posted by chrisulonic at 1:42 PM on October 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

I came in to mention The Coup, but I see googly already got it. But it bears repeating: check out that album cover created in June 2001 for a September 2001 release!
posted by Mid at 1:59 PM on October 17, 2022

PlayStation game MotorStorm: Apocalypse was delayed due to an earthquake and tsunami five days before scheduled launch that was too similar to stuff that happened in the game.
posted by aubilenon at 3:25 PM on October 17, 2022

Most of the first episode of Invasion (Fall season 2005) was about aliens coming to earth in the middle of a hurricane. The show itself wasn't cancelled or moved but all the promos were removed and re-worked to not mention the hurricane at all because Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005. Right before airing a warning went up as well telling people that the episode would feature a hurricane.
posted by magnetsphere at 4:35 PM on October 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

The film "O" which was a modern adaptation of Othello set in an American high school was shelved also after Columbine and was released only a couple of years later.
posted by virve at 6:09 PM on October 17, 2022

More a 'disruption' than delay, but -

NZ rockband Shihad signed up with an American label in 2001, and started recording in September of that year...

Given all that, they ended up changing their name to Pacifier for their next album release.

Changing their name *back* was partly inspired by having accidentally ended up playing at rock festivals that abruptly turned into support the troop style events when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.,2106,3264255a4500,00.html
posted by Elysum at 6:28 PM on October 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Came in to mention Shihad. If it's not obvious, they were worried that the name sounded like 'jihad' (which in fact was the source of the name; they'd misheard 'Butlerian Jihad' when watching Dune).
posted by Pink Frost at 8:02 PM on October 17, 2022

The revival of the Sondheim musical Assassins: "Roundabout Theater Company's Broadway production was originally scheduled for 2001 but was postponed to April 22, 2004, because the content was sensitive in light of the events of September 11, 2001." That revival received "highly favorable notices and won five Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical."
posted by kristi at 10:20 PM on October 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

There was a series of humorous beer adverts celebrating ‘real American heroes’ (the joke being that the featured subjects were not what one would consider to be heroes). After September 11, the ads were yanked (including outside the US) because it seemed crass to call the subjects ‘real American heroes’ in light of the sudden shift in attitudes caused by the actual heroism of New York firefighters and the like. The ads were revived later but replaced ‘real American heroes’ with ‘real men of genius’.
posted by kyten at 5:05 AM on October 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

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