"Realism is what we expect to be the basis of any fiction... Art must replicate life in some form."
This trope describes the aesthetic school known as Realism.
The idea is extremely simple: Art should replicate real life as closely as possible. It should be a "Slice of Life" if you will, and consistent with our expectations of reality outside the text. Realism has had various movements in different media over the centuries, and not necessarily coincident: Theatrical realism became manifest much later than realism in painting. It also appears in other forms in certain genres, such as the seeding idea of hard Science Fiction - the material reality of the fictional world should correspond as closely as possible to that of ours. It informs such concerns as Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic.
Realism can also have different forms within a given medium. A painting could, for example, be photorealistic but depict Greco-Roman gods battling on a field. Similarly, a painting could be very abstract but depict something understood as realistic, such as two people having a conversation over coffee. The "Kitchen-Sink" dramas of the 1950s are an example of one form of realism in the Television medium.
A number of other aesthetic movements have sprung from - and in some cases, in opposition to - realism, such as cubism. The expectation of realism from fiction is actually relatively recent and culturally bound. In literary terms, realism is the distinguishing feature of the novel, specifically psychological realism, where the characters act, or are supposed to act, like real people instead of just acting in certain ways to serve the needs of the plot. (Compare how people act in novels with how people act in fairy tales.)
See also Reality Is Unrealistic, Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic, Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness, Real Is Brown, Art Imitates Life. Realism is not synonymous with cynicism, but the two are often confused in ways which cause tropes such as edginess, explicitness and goriness to be associated with a work becoming "more realistic".
Examples in this page will relate to the ways in which some creators have played with realism or mentioned it directly.
- Travolta's opening monologue for Swordfish mentions realism and invokes True Art Is Realistic, which is ironic considering how unrealistic the movie itself is.
- Mitchell and Webb sketches: about a director aiming for Realism. Includes such things as "the man who had a cough and it's just a cough and he's fine" and "sometimes fires go out".
- GURPS is meant to be relatively realistic by default. Optional rules and supplements either further the realism or scale it back.