Sliding Scale of Realistic Versus Fantastic
Just as the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism determines the 'mood' of a series, this scale determines how much a particular series is unlike reality in relation to the natural laws, general conditions, and probabilities of Real Life. Stories also vary greatly in their realism concerning human behavior, but that trope has yet to be created.
There are cases where the writers believe in something which most of the audience consider unrealistic; these should be judged according to the audience' standards, for no one knows exactly what a writer believes. There are cases of Did Not Do the Research. If it's obviously deliberate laziness, the work deserves a place at the fantastic end, even if it's unintended.
There are also stories in which the precise cause of things is never delineated: both a naturalistic (positivist) and a supernatural explanation is possible.
Not to be confused with Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness - a time-travel story with rigorous rules can be fairly Hard but decidedly Fantastic, for example. Sliding Scale of Like Reality Unless Noted charts the degree to which a work of fiction set in what is ostensibly a "modern", Earthly environment departs from Real Life.
A story's way of dealing with Back from the Dead can be a good indicator:
- Mundane: Death is final. No one comes back from the dead.
- Unrealistic: If anyone comes back, it's from Not Quite Dead or from improbably surviving events that should have killed them (but, of course, they Never Found the Body).
- Unusual: People can outright come Back from the Dead, but it's a rare occurrence.
- Fantastic: It's difficult and has certain requirements.
- Surreal: The afterlife has a revolving door.
Some series can rank one or two steps up or down this basic scale.
There is nothing that cannot be explained by contemporary science and nothing ever happens that could not conceivably occur in Real Life as we know it. About the most 'fantastic' thing that happens here is a Contrived Coincidence or two designed to bring as much bad luck (or good luck) to the characters as possible.
- Most Irish Soap Operas and Sitcoms.
- Nonfiction works by definition. (though some could be considered as Unrealistic or even Unusual)
- Kitchen Sink Dramas typically fall into this category.
- War Movies, when depicting real-life wars from the perspective of those who either fought in it or the civilian population affected by it.
The trappings of realism are there. The technology and the settings depicted do have their counterparts in, or are based on, Real Life as we know it, but the presentation is over-the-top. On very, very, rare occasions there may happen what would reasonably seem to be supernatural events, but we are never given a full explanation of what actually did transpire. Depending on the genre, expect either lots of crazy stunts and polished dialogue, and the notion of realism will almost certainly take a back seat to the Rule of Cool, Rule of Funny, or the Rule of Sexy. American Soap Operas also fit, because reality makes a lot of exceptions for the Rule of Drama.
- Most mainstream Hollywood movies/television series, and the overwhelming majority of action movies and comedies.
- Ace Attorney
- Apocalypse Now
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Desperate Housewives is a cross between Unrealistic (most of the actual plots) and Unusual (narrated by a deceased character).
- Forrest Gump
- The Millennium Trilogy
- Prince of Tennis
- Prison Break
- Professional Wrestling
- Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, where the plots are generally realistic, just contrived.
- The West Wing, although it has mundane plots and settings, and thus is borderline realistic, the main characters are portrayed as over-the-top know-it-alls and the processes in which the federal government works is extremely simplified for dramatic purposes.
- Yamakasi, a French film about Le Parkour, borders between unrealistic and mundane.
The world is mostly semi-realistic, but it does contain more than just a few minor fantastic hiccups. It may be Twenty Minutes Into the Future or contain some Applied Phlebotinum which doesn't quite fit into conventional science. Supernatural events may occasionally happen, though they may fall under Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. Some 'hard' science fiction shows that are based on extrapolations of existing technology may fit on the upper end of this.
- Horror, Magic Realism, "Hard" Science Fiction.
- Armored Trooper VOTOMS
- Doctor Who is probably between Unusual and Fantastic on the definition, because while some stuff is semi-realistic in a few episodes, the effects of half the alien technology and generally setting may as well be magic as explained by Techno Babble.
- Grave of the Fireflies, narrated by a dead character. Take out the narrator, and the film would have been in the Mundane territory instead.
- Indiana Jones, semi-realistic with the addition of some supernatural elements.
- Metal Gear
- Neon Genesis Evangelion. Twenty Minutes Into the Future plus forty meter tall Eldritch Abomination clones disguised as Humongous Mecha fit this category rather snugly. End of Evangelion and Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0 however take it to the next level at minimum.
- Orion's Arm borders unusual and fantastic. Everything in it is possible though, albeit just, within known physics.
- Pippi Longstocking, only the title character (save her father to a lesser extent) does possess any fantastic abilities while the rest of the characters and the world in which they inhabit seem to be rather mundane.
- Pushing Daisies may fit here since aside from the protagonist's power to bring people Back from the Dead, the world is generally realistic.
- Power Rangers RPM, unlike the original Go Onger below, falls between fantastic and unusual while bordering more on the unusual side.
- Red Dead Redemption, aside from the DLC Undead Nightmare, which moves straight into fantastic, is realistic enough storyline-wise (Unless you think there's no possible way so much crap can happen in one guy's life.) Dead-Eye may be explained away as John Marston just being a damn good shot, but what can't be explained are such things that are optional encounters, like carrying a rabbit's paw to increase the amount of loot gotten off of killed enemies, a possible blessed object reducing the chance of enemies shooting at you, and of course The Strange Man, who only responds to questions with answers that provide more questions.
- The Suite Life On Deck: Was Mundane to start with, but then you get plotlines like sentient robots who created themselves trying to take over the ship, having to travel into the future to prevent the ship from an alien invasion, and having to fend off an ancient curse put on you by a dead queen's crown.
The rules of the real world no longer apply. Divine intervention, magic or superscience are the prevailing paradigms by which the world functions. These paradigms do have a certain internal consistency, though. Creatures exist that shouldn't exist in Real Life, and the setting might not take place on Earth at all.
- Most Speculative Fiction, including Heroic Fantasy and "soft" Science Fiction.[context?]
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel are on the far end of Fantastic, approaching Surreal territory.
- Cardcaptor Sakura
- Crash Bandicoot
- Death Note
- Digimon borders between fantastic and surreal.
- Discworld is bizarre enough to be surreal, but its internal rules and logic keep it in the Fantastic realm.
- Most of the Disney Animated Canon. Beauty and the Beast is a (if not the) prime example of internal consistency in a fantastic story where the background and the basic rules concerning the magic spell which transformed the prince to a beast (and his servants to house objects), and how it can be undone are disclosed in the opening narration.
- Donkey Kong Country is borderline fantastic and surreal. There is no explanation why the apes and crocodiles can walk and talk or why they wear clothes.
- Franken Fran
- Gargoyles is possibly between fantastic and surreal.
- The Harry Potter series.
- Haruhi Suzumiya: Haruhi's powers are borderline surreal, but it's at least based on Haruhi's mood so it's not completely rule-less; Nagato, Asahina's and Koizumi's are Fantastic; and Kyon is Mundane.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob
- Jackie Chan Adventures.
- Johnny Test.
- The Legend of Zelda has game rules and a pretty typical fantasy background.
- The Lord of the Rings and other works by JRR Tolkien, which are set in a vaguely defined mythical past include (relatively uncommon) magic and fantastic creatures.
- Marvel and The DCU. In fact, most superhero comics (and other superhero fiction, such as TV and films) where the hero and villain are explicitly powered.
- Mega Man Zero
- Mortal Kombat
- Phineas and Ferb has a lot of elements of surrealism, but ultimately falls around here.
- Pokémon, which blends realistic elements with magic (and technology that might as well be).
- Sesame Street.
- The Sonic the Hedgehog series lies squarely here. Arguably not |Sonic the Hedgehog 2006.
- Stargate SG-1, and its spin-offs Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe. Although some episodes in the early seasons of SG-1 could be classified as Unusual.
- Star Trek in its various incarnations, although it varies by series (and episode).
- Star Wars
- Super Mario Bros. and Wario Land have internal rules, else they wouldn't be playable, but these rules make no logical sense and the background is pretty surreal so they're borderline.
- Thomas the Tank Engine is somewhere between unrealistic and surreal. Somewhere.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
The world has (almost) no rules or internal logic whatsoever. Anything can (and frequently does) happen, often with little or no explanation. Expect things to run on nonsensoleum. Anything set on afterlife falls to this category.
- Angel Beats!: It's set on Purgatory where many things are left vague, even after the finale.
- Dragon Ball
- FLCL on the more extreme end of surreal.
- Ghost in the Shell [context?]
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica
- Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, originally Fantastic, eventually steps into this category.
- Widget Series (e.g. Excel Saga, Pani Poni Dash!, Puni Puni Poemy and Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo)