This Is Reality

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Marco: "You know, [Cassie] is just not getting the whole superhero thing. Would Wolverine look things up in the phone book?"

Rachel: "Yeah, well, Wolverine has a big advantage over us. He's not real."

A sort of Lampshade Hanging affirmation of the Fourth Wall, with a subtle joke and a bit of dramatic irony rolled in. Basically, one character tells another, "This Is Reality", "This is not a movie", etc. in order to get them to divorce themselves from an unrealistic notion—only, little do they know, it indeed isn't reality. This phrase is often used when defying a trope.

Not to be confused with madness. Or Sparta.

Pretty much a message to the viewers that "Hey, this show/movie is more grounded in reality than average." This message is not always true. Sometimes its done for reconstruction purposes, where the characters ridicule the trope but then the trope somehow comes into play anyway (a very common example involves Santa Claus turning out to be real and bringing joy to cynical modern adults.) Its somewhat common in sci-fi and comedy, genres that feature wildly varying levels of realism and can be used to help the audience get a feel for what the limits are.

Contrast Not a Game, which (usually) does not invoke the Fourth Wall. May be subverted by an Aside Glance.

When inverted, this is Leaning on the Fourth Wall.

Closely related to Wrong Genre Savvy, although the consequences of the latter tend to be much more dire. See also Where Do You Think You Are?, Arbitrary Skepticism, You Watch Too Much X, Real World Episode, Literary Agent Hypothesis, Daydream Believer, Trapped in TV Land. Contrast with Reality Is Unrealistic. Reality Ensues is the exact opposite of this trope.

Examples of This Is Reality include:

Anime and Manga

  • Killua thinks this in the 85th episode of the 2011 version of Hunter X Hunter
  • Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ had an opening theme titled "Anime Ja Nai", or "It's Not Anime", whose final lyric is "Honto no koto sa" ("It's the real thing!"). In this case, it was used to signify a lighter tone than the Darker and Edgier Zeta Gundam—at least for the first half of the series.
  • Danced around in the final episodes of Martian Successor Nadesico, in which several characters point out that reality isn't as black and white as anime.
  • On Yu-Gi-Oh!, upon seeing one of Pegasus' Toon monsters, Kaiba exclaims, "This isn't some lame-brained after school cartoon!"
  • In Digimon Frontier, Koji once chastices Takuya for recklessness: "It's not a game! If we lose, we cannot just start from scratch, we are dead!"
  • Naruto: Kakashi makes it clear to Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura that if they don't take being a ninja seriously, they're going to suffer the consequences. And yes, he is a Sink Or Swim Mentor, as opposed to Kurenai who is willing to take Hinata in despite her being perceived as weak. This is what also leads to Kidomaru's demise, Kidomaru treats fighting Neji like a game instead of taking the fight seriously. So, when he discovers a weak point, he decides to keep targeting it, instead of assuming that Neji would notice his weak spot and would prepare accordingly. Needless to say, this leads to Kidomaru being beaten to death by Neji's bare hands.
  • A military officer (who is Envy in a disguise) in Fullmetal Alchemist scolds Edward for his overly dramatic behavior by saying "Stop acting like you're in a manga!"
  • As they're preparing for a dance contest in Rave Master Lazenby tells Elie "If this were a manga the last man standing would be the winner"
  • Full Metal Panic!: Trapped Behind Enemy Lines and surrounded by a hostile army searching for them, Kaname is reminded of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and suggests that such movies should have a happy ending instead. Her voice startles some birds, bringing down an immediate hail of fire. "Oh I get it, this is reality, right!" But Kurz and Sousake like the idea of the "cool" Bolivian Army Ending and the three of them prepare to go out in a blaze of glory. Fortunately, help choses that moment to arrive.
  • In Macross II, Hibiki's mentor tells him off for only wanting the "good parts" of the battle reported on, stating that "they're not making some series to get ratings." Which is all well and good, since Macross II had disappointing sales.
  • Lucky Star does this all the time. It's a pretty consistent source for jokes involving Konata.
  • In one episode of Pokémon, Ash confidently declares that he's not a "cartoon character".
  • The introduction to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is exactly this; Kyon begrudgingly accepts the fact that he lives in the real world, where aliens, time-travelers, and espers don't actually exist. Of course, they do.
  • In episode 10 of A Certain Magical Index, Touma tells Mikoto, "This isn't a shoujo manga!"
  • In one issue of Bleach, Karin says about Ichigo, "He's a normal guy. He's not some anime character." True, this was in the manga, but he is an anime character.
  • In Durarara!!, a Blue Square member complains about Kadota and Chikage teaming up after a fight on the basis that "this isn't a fucking manga." He's right. It's a Light Novel.
    • Erika and Walker, as well. They're both complete Otakus and theorize on "if this was a manga" and "I'd like to go to the 2D world."
  • Kaze no Stigma episode "Pandemonium":

Vesalius: When will the climax of our little play take place? When will all three of you come together and meet up for the last time in your final scene together? The main characters miraculously discover the secret hideout of the sinister magic user. But then suddenly fall into a trap and get separated, and each of them encounters a formidable enemy. What do you think, quite an exhilarating story, isn't it? And obviously an unexpected plot twist is needed to crown the climax and bring our drama to its bloody conclusion.
Ren: This isn't some kind of play, this is real life!

  • In You're Under Arrest Full Throttle, in episode 10, Natsumi and Miyuki have to operate robots designed for dangerous rescues. Upon being introduced to them, Nakajima points out that one of them doesn't feature a face nor legs to which the creator answers that robots are designed that way only in anime and manga.
  • Happens in Attack on Titan episode 8 when someone begins to realize on a fully conscious level, how terrifyingly futile mankind's prospect for survival is. The tone and sense of imminent danger might have taken out the joke part of this trope. In the japanese dub, english subtitled version, the person is contrasting his, and mankind's, situation to a dream. Then in the japanese dub, english subtitled version, shortly thereafter, when things take an unexpected optimistic turn, he compares the situation to a dream.


  • The Firesign Theatre uses this trope extensively in almost their entire body of audio comedy work. The layers of trope-play become extremely confusing and interesting. See the quotes page for one example.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes audio drama "The Abergavenny Murder", Holmes announces that if a client doesn't come through the door soon, he'll go mad from boredom, then pauses hopefully.

Holmes: Oh, how disappointing. I was rather hoping the doorbell would ring. It would have been like a moment from one of your lurid adventures.
Watson: Unfortunately, this is reality.
Holmes: Is it? Sometimes I wonder.

  • doorbell rings*

Comic Books

  • In the Archie Comics story "See You in the Funny Papers" (no longer online?), Veronica says to Betty when the latter shows Medium Awareness, "We live in the real world, girl! Not comic books!"
  • In Watchmen, the Big Bad dismisses the idea that the plan he's describing can be stopped by stating that he isn't some "Republic serial villain." Of course not... he's the villain of a superhero comic.
  • More or less the point of Superman: Secret Identity is Clark comparing his life and powers to his comic book namesake.
  • Don Rosa's Once and Future Duck uses this when a time-travelling Donald Duck is about to get executed by King Arthur's men, and begs his nephews to use the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook and predict a Convenient Eclipse. Image.
  • In an issue of JLA, Batman, in his guise as Bruce Wayne, is trapped in an elevator with several of his subordinates by a madman with a bomb. The other characters vainly search for an escape hatch, to which Wayne drily points out that "Interior escape hatches on elevators are a thing of movies and television. Those on modern elevators can be accessed only from outside the car." Of course, he said this as he was preparing to kill the lights, so presumably he had some sort of plan.
  • An issue of Animaniacs has a subtle, almost-subverted example. Dr. Scratchansniff has to babysit Yakko, Wakko, and Dot on a day when he would rather read comic books. He decides he might as well combine the two activities and gives the kids a lecture about how comics are put together. He compares a comic to an unborn baby, pointing out that just as with a baby, it takes many steps for a funny idea to "gestate" into a funny comic book. (At one point, Yakko turns to the audience and asks: "Is anyone else getting tired of this metaphor?") The ironic thing is, Dr. Scratchansniff and the Warner siblings are themselves in a comic book, so the doctor's pregnancy metaphor is actually quite apt where they are concerned.
  • Phoebe of Phoebe and Her Unicorn once told another little girl that she'd changed her hair style because, "It's a different day. It's not like I'm a cartoon character."

Fan Works

  • Tsuruya dismisses using their prodigious anime collection as a basis for a confession, reasoning that real life is more complicated than that in Kyon: Big Damn Hero.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality has Dumbledore compare the war against Voldemort (which he thinks has restarted, thanks to a badly calculated action on Harry's part) to The Lord of the Rings, and then state that Tolkien has no idea how a wizarding war would really go, and that Gandalf should have taken Frodo and the Ring to Rivendell immediately, as soon as he suspected Frodo might have the Ring, as even if Gandalf was wrong, the magnitude of the danger he suspected Frodo and Middle-Earth were in outweighed the inconvenience to Frodo, and the potential massive embarrassment to Gandalf. He also states that that wasn't Gandalf's only mistake, just his worst.
  • There's a Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfic where someone, upon hearing a song from Megumi Hayashibara, notes that for some reason, she sounds like Rei.
  • Used several times in With Strings Attached:
    • Right at the beginning, when John and Paul have to pee, Paul mentions that it seems “a bit crass” to have to pee when they never do in Star Wars or whatever. To which John replies: “Maybe they don't water the crass in fiction, but they do in real life.”
    • Later, after Paul has become super-strong and realizes that he never dare have sex with anyone ever again, he wonders how Superman has sex, and immediately answers himself: Because his writers let him. (Actually, as the book is set in 1980, he also notes that Superman simply never had sex at all.)
  • A Tumblr user who participated in a roleplaying game based on Watchmen once posted a cap of the aforementioned quote by the Big Bad as adjusted for the game: "I'm not the villain of some over-hyped action film."
  • In Connecting the Dots, Beast Boy, while showing the internet to Kiba, explains to him the concept of fanfiction. Beast Boy is shocked when Kiba asks him if there's fanfiction about him, because obviously, fanfiction doesn't deal with reality.
  • This trope is the ultimate theme of, and pretty much the Arc Words for, the RWBY fic series Emergence.


  • The English remake of the movie Funny Games has this dialogue between two characters:

Paul: You can see it in the movie right?
Peter: Of course.
Paul: Well then she's as real as reality because you can see it too. Right?
Peter: Bullshit.
Paul: Why?


Greg: Can't he just... beam up?
Elliott: This is reality, Greg.

  • A good deal of The Last Action Hero plays on the differences between the real world and the Hollywood action movie version thereof. Unfortunately, even the supposedly "real" world has movie electricity.
  • Scream:

Sidney: But this is not a movie.
Billy: Yes it is, Sidney. It's all one big movie.

    • And in Scary Movie, the relevant scene even has the guy pointing to the cameras, resulting in annoyed groans from the cameramen.
  • Played with by the ZAZ movie Top Secret:

Hillary: I know. It all sounds like some bad movie.
(Awkward pause. Nick and Hillary look toward the camera, embarrassed.)

  • In My Favorite Year, washed-up actor Alan Swann (played, with magnificent appropriateness, by Peter O'Toole) proposes that he and his minder, Benji, use a fire hose to climb down the outside of a building and crash a party being thrown by the parents of the girl Benji likes. Benji protests to no avail, finally snapping.

Benji Stone: That was the movies! This is real life!
Alan Swann: What is the difference?


Agent Smecker: Television is the explanation for this. You see this in bad television. Little assault guys creeping through the vents, coming in through the ceiling? That James Bond shit never happens in real life! Professionals don't do that!

    • In a sense, this is an inversion. Usually, the character is contrasting Real Life and fiction, declaring that they are not in a work of fiction (and causing the audience to chuckle). Smecker, on the other hand, has just unwittingly likened Real Life to fiction (since a trope that only happens in "bad television" has just popped up). His intended point was that the killers were unprofessional—though if he followed his own logic, he might have realized that they are, in fact, in a work of fiction.
  • Played straight in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, where Padme tells Anakin that "we live in the real world; come back to it."
    • Which is pretty much smashed to bits by her following line: "You're studying to become a Jedi Knight, I'm a senator."
  • Played straight, but intended for subtle humor according to the filmmakers, in Star Trek III, where the following exchange takes place.

Obnoxious Cadet: What, have you lost all your sense of reality?
Uhura: This isn't reality. [points a phaser at him] This is fantasy.

  • In what may be case of the fiction protesting too much, the film The Bourne Ultimatum seeks to remind us again and again that "you couldn't make this stuff up", "this isn't some story", and so on.
  • In The Incredibles, Helen/Elastigirl warns her kids that the Evil Minions are not like the villains in the Saturday Morning Cartoons they watch, and will kill them if given the chance.
    • This whole scene makes a lot more sense if you've seen the deleted scene where Helen's old friend the pilot is still on the plane when it gets hit. Of course, it still makes plenty of sense even without that scene, as the kids were on the plane when missiles were fired, despite Helen's warning of "children on board!"
    • When Syndrome shows the captured family the TV footage of the landed Omnidroid, he says, "You gotta admit this is cool, just like the movies!"
  • In Spaceballs, Lone Starr yells "Welcome to Real Life!" to the Princess, when she complains that she has to carry her own luggage. Minutes later, the movie's villains use a copy of the movie itself to track them down.
  • Near the end of Dial M for Murder, Genre Savvy thriller author Mark is desperate to save Margot from being executed and comes to her husband Tony with an idea he's worked out of how Tony could claim he had been trying to kill Margot and spend a few years in jail in exchange for saving her life. Unknowingly, he proceeds to outline almost the exact same plan that Tony actually used. Tony says that nobody would believe a story like that.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Benny the Cab warns an armed Roger, as he goes off to rescue Eddie and Jessica, "Careful with that gun! This ain't a cartoon, ya know."
    • Justified, as Roger is an actor, and Benny tells him this ain't a cartoon starring him: the perils are real.
  • In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the two lead characters are being walked, at gunpoint, into a nearby building. One of them starts talking to his friend and fellow hostage about the difference between movies and reality. Specifically, how in the movies anyone you turn a gun on is a hostage, whereas in real life, the professionals like to keep a distance of at least five feet, lest the "hostage" take the gun and "make them eat it". He then proceeds to do exactly that.
  • A favorite line of the main character in In the Mouth of Madness is that "This is reality." He is, of course, wrong on more levels than you can count as he is not only a character in a movie where a book is controlling reality but a character in a movie who is part of a mind warping movie which is revealed to be the movie that you are watching. With a small chance that he's just hallucinating and it's still not real.
  • In Silver Streak, Gene Wilder is surprised at how quickly his gun runs out of bullets. Richard Pryor comments "What do you think this is, a western?" Of course, since the movie itself is not a western, this could also be a genuine fourth wall breaking comment.
    • It's probably also a Shout-Out to Gene Wilder's gunfighter character from Blazing Saddles... especially when you consider that Pryor co-wrote the movie.
  • Inverted in the movie eXistenZ, which has several 'nested' realities thanks to people playing a virtual reality game that uses all of one's senses. Hence, the characters might be playing the game, then in the game start playing the game, then in that game start playing the game to further something in the 'earlier' level of the game. When finally all the strangeness 'resolves' in The Reveal, the shock causes one minor character to comment, "Wait, we're still in the game, right?" So maybe this is not reality.
  • The first Superman movie began with Jor-El declaring "This is no fantasy — no careless product of wild imagination." He was referring to the conspiracy between General Zod and his cohorts, but the line also plays as a wink at the audience.
  • The Last Unicorn: Robin Hood is a myth! We are the reality!
  • In Whatever Works, the main character has No Fourth Wall, which his pals doubt.
  • Claimed by a character in Cube 2: Hypercube.

This isn't a game, Kate. There is no happy ending.

  • In Super, one of Sarah's friends accuses her of acting as if she lives in tv because she plans to marry Frank (who later dresses as a superhero from influence of tv and comic books).
  • Near the end of Hugo, Papa Georges sadly states that he knows his automaton was destroyed, because "happy endings only happen in the movies". Cue Hugo running off to get it, because of course, this is a movie, and there is a happy ending.


  • In Blood Rites Henry states that the book's Big Bad is to cliche to be a Hollywood movie villain. Well, The Dresden Files is a book series, not a movie, so maybe he's right.
  • Animorphs often contrasts the characters' experiences with video games, movies, and comic books.
  • From the same author, Everworld often does the same, just Darker and Edgier.
  • Some of the less Genre Savvy characters in the Discworld novels use this line in one form or another.
    • It's also played with in other areas, such as in Good Omens where, when a character is looking for her lost book, she employs several tropes that, as the narrator notes, would work in any story worth its salt, but alas, not here.
    • In Feet of Clay:

Carrot: Maybe we can reason with it--
Angua: Attention! This is the real world calling!

  • In Christine, there's a scene where one of the main characters, the scrawny, eternally-victimized Arnie, decks his longtime tormentor. The narrator comments that if it had been a movie or a book, the punch would have knocked him out; unfortunately, this was not the case.
    • Most of Stephen King's works are rife with this. In Misery Paul Sheldon contemplates how to kill the crazy woman holding him captive, only to shoot down every idea he comes up with with "well, maybe in a book that would work, but here, no."
  • Older Than Steam: Don Quixote was one of the first works to consciously do this.
  • The protagonist of Mil Millington's A Certain Chemistry, a writer, describes his (supermarket manager) girlfriend's unusual eating habits by saying "If she likes ice-cream, and likes eggs, she might have ice-cream and eggs for dinner. If I was writing her character, I might say that her job means she sees the food as just an output when it goes into the bags at the checkout. But no, she was like that before she worked there." [misquoted from memory][please verify]
  • Roald Dahl's short story The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar mentions how the protagonist would have met a Karmic Death if it were a story, but it wasn't a story, so things turned out otherwise. It was all part of the Literary Agent Hypothesis.
  • Tom Clancy frequently points out in his fiction works how things in his stories differ from the movies. The books themselves are only slightly closer to reality, however.
  • Many, many modern detective novels (such as Michael Connelly or James Patterson to name a few) feature entries where the protagonist thinks how they could easily resolve the case...if it was taking place in a detective novel. It is sometimes used effectively, other times ham-handedly.
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, the character Roran has to come to terms with several issues after the destruction of his family, one of which being that, "Justice, the oldest stand-by in songs and legends, had little hold in reality."
  • In Gone (novel), after learning that he had launched one of his henchmen into a wall, Caine asks if he's all right.

Diana: This isn't the movies, Caine. He looked like roadkill.

  • In the Andrew Vachss Burke book Mask Market, Wolfe tells Burke that "this is real life, not a TV show".
    • In Terminal, one guy Burke speaks to tells him that neo-Nazi prisoners on their way to death row can blame snitches, not undercover cops, as "those movies where they put undercovers in prison, never happen. Couldn't happen."
  • In The Last Unicorn, Molly Grue is tired of the made-up stories of Captain Cully's exploits and asks for one about Robin Hood. Captain Cully angrily replied that Robin Hood is a myth.
  • One of the Riders of Rohan in The Two Towers laughed at Gimli for suggesting that hobbits were real. Only in the book, though.
  • Early in The Deed of Paksenarrion, Saben, having just escaped captivity at the hands of a villain, with two of his friends, is excited to imagine bringing word back to the Duke, rescuing the rest of the company, and being "heroes in this tale". Canna replies, "this is no fireside tale, no adventure for a hero out of songs: this is real. We aren't likely to make it as far as the Duke, though we'll try".
  • A scene in Red Seas Under Red Skies has the two protagonists, Locke and Jean, discussing the relative merits of romantic fiction and non-fiction. The two characters make their living through elaborate grifts and confidence games, pretending to be people they aren't. Thus the phrase "we've made it our meal ticket" is an amusing double entendre: the characters mean their profession as thieves, but the readers could take it as a reference to the author's book sales.

Locke: But romances aren't real, and surely never were. Doesn't that take away some of the savor?
Jean: What an interesting choice of words. 'Not real, and never were.' Could there be any more appropriate literature for men of our profession? Why are you so averse to fiction, when we've made it our meal ticket?
Locke: I live in the real world, and my methods are of the real world. They are, just as you say, a profession. A practicality, not some romantic whim.

  • Subverted in the first book of The Wheel of Time, Mat says "It isn't much like the stories," to which Perrin disagrees -- "I don't know... Trollocs, a Warder, an Aes Sedai. What more could you ask?"
  • In Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise by Mikhail Akhmanov and Christopher Nicholas Gilmore, the titular protagonist muses on an old novel he read once that cited the Three Laws of Robotics. He then points out that this is complete bull in Real Life, as his robots will do whatever he tells them to, including kill.
  • The very first of Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers mysteries involves a Private Detective telling the Widowers about a case he had years before: something was stolen, but the victim had no idea what had been taken. At last, there was only one thing the detective could do. His listeners are at a loss to guess what that thing is; he explains that this is because they're used to stories in which a detective always solves the mystery. He, on the other hand, was forced to admit he couldn't solve it. But Henry, the Black Widowers' waiter, can — because Henry was the "culprit" all those years ago.

Live-Action TV

  • The Scrubs episode "My Life in Four Cameras" has J.D. fantasizing about what life would be like if he were in a Sitcom—completely oblivious to the fact that he already is. (To be fair, though, he's thinking of the more conventional sitcom style than the style Scrubs uses.)
    • Also used by Dr. Cox, when he claims that medical mysteries that happen in TV medical dramas are unrealistic. Cue the entire episode being full of said medical mysteries, and the good doctor even walking with a cane a la House.
      • Complete with him saying there are no cameras out there and gesturing at... the camera.
      • And Keith looks everywhere but the camera.
  • Lex Luthor once said on Smallville, "Real life is not a comic book." In another case, James Marsters' character openly states that there are no such thing as vampires. In yet another case, one that takes place after Clark's first experience with magic and sorcery, his dad states, "Clark, I know this is Smallville and weird things happen, but witches? Spells? Magic?" Cause ya'know, aliens and mutants are so much easier to swallow.
    • To be fair, at that point in the series virtually all of the weird events in the series were Kryptonian in origin; most paranormal events were the result of kryptonite mutating people or, for more significant events, caused by Kryptonian technology. The appearance of witches and magic in that storyline was one of the first cases of Smallville using something (mostly) unrelated to Krypton for its Monster of the Week. This has become a more common practice in recent seasons, and the characters barely bat an eye when someone shows up with unexplained superpowers.
    • In one episode, Chole asks Clark if he can fly. Clark goes, "I'm an alien, not a cartoon!"
  • Reversed in the last aired Firefly episode, "Objects in Space":

Wash: Psychic though? That sounds like something out of science fiction.
Zoe: We live in a spaceship, dear.
Wash: So?


Ivanova: This isn't some deep-space franchise, this station is about something!

  • Kevin Shinick, the host of the game show Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego??, was billed as "the Squadron Leader". His mother appears in one episode, and the two get into an argument about his job, but she's satisfied by the end, saying, "At least he's not a game show host."
  • Factual television example: Narrator Robert Lee points out in an episode of MythBusters: "If this were a movie, you'd know something terrible was about to happen. But this is Mythbusters. Factual television. Real life. ...Like I said, real life, real results. In this case, an awful lot of nothing." (This contributor wonders, how long before we hear it in a Reality TV show?)
  • On The Sopranos, Tony attempts to make Carmela less leery of his gambling habit by arguing, "Hey, I was shot. I almost died, but here I am. That's tremendous odds. I'm lucky!"
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Tangent", when Daniel assumed that Star Trek tropes would carry into the "real world", this exchange occurred:

Daniel: We were hoping you could kinda... um, like... beam them out.
Jacob: Beam them out? What am I, Scotty?

    • SG-1 also has its very own Show Within a Show, Wormhole X-Treme, created by an alien (who doesn't know he is one) from not-entirely-suppressed memories and used by the USAF/SGC as part of their ongoing coverup of the Stargate program; rumors of the "real" thing can be dismissed as inspired by the television fantasy. Wormhole X-Treme is also an excuse for the SG-1 writers to merrily hang lampshades on everything.
  • The Stargate Atlantis episode "Poisoning the Well" has this exchange:

McKay: He just doesn't like going through the Stargate.
Sheppard: He's worse than Dr. McCoy.
Teyla: Who?
Sheppard: The TV character that Dr. Beckett plays in real life.

  • Running Gag in the Charmed episode "Chick Flick", which revolves around movie characters coming to life. "This is the world of illusion, and you girls are reality."
  • Done once in Greg the Bunny, when Sarah Silverman's character explains to Seth Green's why she's not interested in him. She compares him to the quirky guys who always get the unattainable beauties in romantic comedies, then reminds him that "this is the real world"—at which point a six-foot tall muppet stumbles past the camera.
  • Space Cases in the Evil Twin episode:

Miss Davenport: Doppelganger? Sounds like science fiction.
Harlan: But this is reality.

  • Subverted somewhat on the show Big Wolf on Campus where almost every plot is immediately recognized by Merton as being 'like that movie'. The characters almost always end up using a modified version of the movie solution with nary a care for the fact that they're using movie logic.
    • Dean, the titular character's older brother, sometimes cannot tell his life from plots on the television shows he watches. Tommy regularly has to remind him that he never did half the things he's convinced he has.
  • Farscape's main character, Genre Savvy John Crichton, often pointed out how the science fiction that he was living was much more difficult compared to TV. (These comments were used by the writers to point out that Farscape was subverting tropes.)
  • The '60s Batman used it once, after the Dynamic Duo escape the latest cliffhanger Death Trap, and Robin starts musing rather close to the fourth wall:

Robin: I don't know how we do it, Batman.
Batman: What do you mean?
Robin: The way we get into these scrapes and get out of them. It's almost as though someone was dreaming up these situations, guiding our destiny.
Batman: Things like that only happen in the movies Robin. This is real life.

  • On Lost, when Hurley believes the island, plane crash, lottery, etc. are all part of his hallucination, Libby tells him that their experiences are real, and she's real. "And don't tell me you made me up. It's insulting."
  • Happens at least twice on Supernatural:

Jamie (GOTW): So you two are like Mulder and Scully and The X-Files are real?
Dean: No, The X-Files is a TV show. This is real.

    • Said by the Trickster/Gabriel in 5.08 "Changing Channels":

Guys, I wish this were a TV show. Easy answers, endings wrapped up in a bow. But this is real. And it's gonna end bloody for all of us. That's just how it's gotta be.

  • Doctor Who: In "Rise of the Cybermen", trapped in a parallel universe:

Mickey: I've seen it in comics. People go hopping from one alternative world to another -- it's easy.
Doctor: Not in the real world.

    • Ten episodes later, they were beaming back and forth between alternate worlds a dozen times an episode using Staples "Easy" buttons.
      • In fairness, that's because the walls between realities were breaking down. The Doctor kept pointing out that it shouldn't be possible, and that doing so was only making things worse.
  • Detective Beckett tries pulling this twice in the pilot episode of Castle, pointing out that, unlike in Rick Castle's mystery novels, it can take police up to a week to get fingerprint results back, and, when they find a suspect who seems too obviously guilty, he's usually just actually guilty. Subverted both times, since Castle proves the most obvious suspect really was innocent, and uses his clout with the mayor's office to get the results of a fingerprint match done in under an hour.
    • She's a bit more successful in a later episode, when he eagerly hopes to see the department's 'official facial recognition software'. He has in his mind a Magical Computer which automatically flips through countless faces in seconds before coming across the correct one (possibly with some sort of 'bleep' noise). Then she dumps a large pile of files in front of him through which he, along with the other detectives, is expected to look through.
  • The Comic Strip Presents "Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown" had a spoof character from The Sweeney shooting at a Nineties detective and missing, whereupon the Nineties detective points out that reality has now taken over the Cop Show genre.
    • Promptly subverted when a sixties policeman points out that the Rule of Funny is still in effect.
  • Invoked during a Green Wing discussion, when Wolverine is mentioned.
  • In the fourth season premiere of Chuck, Chuck tells Morgan something to the effect of "This is real life, not the opening of a spy show!"
    • And in season 2 when Ellie asks Chuck what he wants to do with his life:

Ellie: If you say pilot of the Millennium Falcon, I will hit you.
Chuck: Why would I say that, that's absurd! I'm going to be a ninja assassin.
Ellie: No. Try again.
Chuck: Um, Olympic...
Ellie: Uh uh.
Chuck: Secret Agent.
Ellie: This is what happens when you sit in front of the television too long.

      • The last one is, of course, the correct answer.
  • An indirect version occurs in Star Trek: The Next Generation: After trapping a sentient holographic Professor Moriarty (long story) in a small device meant to simulate him living out his life in the universe, the following dialog takes place at the end of the episode:

Picard: Who knows... Perhaps all this is just an elaborate simulation, running in a box, sitting on someone's desk.
Everyone leaves the room but Barclay.
Barclay: .... Computer, end program.
Nothing happens. Barclay looks around and leaves the room. Cue shot of Enterprise traveling through space and end credits.

    • Sadly, this is completely in character for Barclay. (Especially given his Holo-addiction problems.)
  • In the fifth season Angel episode "Lineage," when Wesley and Fred get attacked by ninja cyborgs, Wesley goes Guns Akimbo and starts shooting at them with two guns at once. Fred remarks: "Wesley, I'd like a gun too." Then she gets a serious puncture wound from the ninjas.
  • In the first episode of ALF, the son (Brian) wants ALF to live with them, just like E.T.; his mother (Kate) explains, "E.T. was a movie. This is real. This is on our coffee table!"
  • Community had Jeff mocking Abed for not knowing the difference between reality and TV. Abed responds with a combination of this trope and What the Hell, Hero?.

Abed: I can tell life from TV, Jeff. TV makes sense, and has structure, logic, rules. And likeable leading men. In real life, we have this. We have you.

  • In Father Ted, Dougal starts to swear. Ted admonishes him and claims that people don't talk "like that in the real world!"
  • From the Hustle episode "The Delivery", in which Cool Hand Cooper is being chased by The Mafia:

Eddie: Hang on, are you saying... the mafia, like on the tellie?
Mickey: No, Eddie, not like on the tellie.
Cooper: Yeah, not as cuddly in real life.


Shawn: ...and Fred never spent more than 75 seconds at either location.
Cory: Shawn, that was a cartoon, time was compressed, we're real, we're in real time.
Shawn: Trust me, it's the same thing.
Cory: No it's not. You see a television show can cover many days in only one half-hour program.
Shawn: Trust me, it's the same thing.
Cory: (shrugging) Okay!

  • In The Vampire Diaries, Caroline asks Damon why he doesn't sparkle, to which he replies, "Because I live in the real world where vampires burn in the sun."

Professional Wrestling

  • During the WWE feud between Triple H and John Cena, Triple H told Cena that he had a lot of heart, and if this were a Rocky movie, heart would be enough... but this is reality, and Cena, being a terrible wrestler, would lose, and lose badly. Of course, Cena ended up winning the match at WrestleMania 22, so what does that say?


  • Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado includes the line, "I'm really very sorry for you all, but it's an unjust world, and virtue is triumphant only in theatrical performances." Needless to say, virtue does indeed triumph eventually.
  • In Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, new managers Andre and Firmin watch their star soprano throw a fit and comment, "You'd never get away with all this in a play/But if it's loudly sung and in a foreign tongue/It's just the sort of story audiences adore/In fact, a perfect opera!"
  • In Urinetown, one of Officer Lockstock's many meta lines is: "Well, now, Little Sally, dreams only come true in happy musicals -- and a few Hollywood movies -- and this certainly isn't either one of those. No, dreams are meant to be crushed. It's nature's way." However, he and most of the characters are Genre Savvy enough to know that they're characters in a show.
  • Mary, Mary, when Mary is trapped in a locked closet:

Tiffany: In the movies, they just break the door down.
Dirk: In the movies the door is pieced together by the prop men so all you have to do is blow on it!


Video Games

  • Jak 3 features an amusing moment during a scene with a monk in Spargus City, where Jak is being glib in response to her dire warnings. The monk snaps, "This isn't a game!", causing Jak and Daxter to exchange significant glances with the player for a few seconds before returning to the conversation.
  • In the second mission of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Lambert warns Sam of a recently installed alarm system. Sam then says "Let me guess: three alarms and the mission is over?" to which Lambert replies "Of course not! This isn't a video game, Fisher!". Besides being a meta-joke, this also had the purpose of letting the player know that the old "three alarms and game over" rule had been removed.
  • During the first codec conversation between Snake and Otacon during Act 2 of Metal Gear Solid 4, Otacon wonders anxiously whether Vamp is immortal. Snake dismisses this notion immediately, stating "Not a chance. This is the real world, not some fantasy game." As it turns out Vamp's healing factor is technologically enhanced, allowing him to regenerate wounds from bladed weapons in seconds and recover from a bullet wound to the head in a few seconds more. This explanation distracts everyone, most players included, from the fact that his regeneration itself is never explained; we saw it work less efficiently, without the enhancement, in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
    • Snake seems to be forcing himself into a state of genre blindless; in Metal Gear Solid, he fought more than one supernatural enemy. In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, he brushes off Fortune's ability to have bullets curve away from her with the line "There's no such thing as a witch." It turns out he's right in this case and her ability is completely technological, but he has no way of knowing that going in. In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, he dismisses anything that seems supernatural as some sort of magic trick, not just Vamp. He's actually right in some cases; Screaming Mantis can't possess a fly. What she can do is use the nanomachines in people to manipulate their bodies. On the other hand, Screaming Mantis is also just a shell possessed by Psycho Mantis, Snake's psychic enemy from the first game.
    • This is especially jarring, since the first three Metal Gear Solid games go out of their way to exaggerate the fact that they are fantasy video games. Characters actually talk about game mechanics as character development, among other things—like the whole thrust of the plot of Metal Gear Solid 2. The previous games also had psychics, shamans, human-plant hybrids, human hornets nests, electrokinetics, and a ghost.
  • Near the end of Resident Evil 4, Lord Saddler tells Leon via radio he'll never defeat Los Illuminatos because life isn't, "one of your Hollywood movies."
    • Well, he was right, it wasn't a Hollywood movie. Leon kicks his ass anyways though.
  • In Beneath a Steel Sky, your robot sidekick Joey gets hold of a new weapon (a welding torch) and rants about going out and zap some humans. The main character brings up Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, to which the annoyed robot replies "That's fiction, Foster!" He then proceeds to roll around chanting "EX-TER-MIN-ATE! EX-TER-MIN-ATE!"
  • Inverted in Max Payne. When the Big Bad gives him a drug overdose, Max hallucinates that he finds a letter that tells him that he is in a graphic novel. This then repeats, with him hallucinating that the letter tells him that he is in a computer game. Both are true. And both times, Max muses: "Funny as Hell, it was the most horrible thing I could think of."
    • He also starts noticing things he didn't before. In the first case, he begins to see speech bubbles. In the second case, he sees the inventory menu, the health bar, and the bullet-time mode.
  • In the second case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Detective Gumshoe, when asked if he's ever heard of a murder victim writing their killer's name in blood, responds that he's seen it all the time in movies. Phoenix responds with a variation of this trope's title.
    • Ironic that he'd say that. When Ace Attorney Investigations rolls around it's his own name written in blood. And still obviously fake.
    • Phoenix is right. The Killer's name in blood thing? It is used MANY times, and ALWAYS fake!
      • There is one time the "message in blood" is real (in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney), but that time it's not used to point out the killer, but to a crucial fact about the victim. As one might expect to happen in a real case, the killer attempted to smear it out.
  • Soul Nomad and The World Eaters:

Gig: Hahaha! How you jerks doin'?! I guess it's only in fairy tales where justice actually prevails, huh?

  • In Animal Crossing: Wild World, one of the things Resetti says when you reset the game is something along the lines of "You can't reset to solve all your problems. That kind of thing only happens in video games," except with more all-caps.
    • This is not really an example; as he acknowledges he's in a video game from the start. His point is that "you can't reset real life when you screw up, why should you be able to do so in a video game?"
  • In Super Robot Wars Original Generation, this is brought up a few times with Ascended Fanboy Ryusei, who learned most of his piloting skills from video games. But it's taken to a whole other level with his rival Tenzan, who never learns to stop treating war like a game. His last words, after losing his grip on reality thanks to a Deadly Upgrade, are that he can eventually win by hitting "continue" and doing some level grinding. This is played for drama, and Ryusei laments that he had to die like that.
  • In System Shock 2, Polito tells the player to hurry with phrases like "Do you think this is some kind of game?" and later, "this isn't a game".
  • In Saints Row 2, pedestrians will occasionally shout "This isn't one of your stupid video games! This is real life!" as they jump out of the way of your speeding car.
  • In StarCraft II, when the xel'naga artifact is assembled, Tychus is worried that it might upset the entire space-time continuum, which prompts Raynor to assure him that "this ain't science fiction". Of course, since that same artifact can kill all zerg in a certain radius every once in a while Kerrigan, really, Tychus' fear of its potential isn't too much more ridiculous.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII (which also makes uses of Not a Game), the possessed Ultimecia kills the dictator Vinzer Deling and then comments "This is reality. No one can help you. Sit back and enjoy the show."
  • Near the beginning of Shin Megami Tensei Persona 3 Mitsuru gives the warning, "This isn't a game, Akihiko." As though that would stop him anyways...
  • The Warriors: "This ain't no movie, Warriors!"
  • In Space Hulk - Vengeance of the Blood Angels, your squad regularly report on what they can see or hear (or smell). One of the lines is admonishing another marine, telling them that "this is not a game".

Web Comics


Fulcrum: This isn't science fiction, Tina.
Tina: So wait. How is that any different from science fiction?
Fulcrum: It's science fantasy.


"The Harbormaster". I have read that story. It is fiction.
Perhaps, but am I not speaking to a fish man?
Technically, I am crustacean.


Web Original


Zachary: Hans, do you think this was a good idea, try to disguise ourselves as staff?
Hans: It seems like a good idea but I was thinking about going in through the areas not covered by the security cameras and cutting the power long enough for us to get in and disguise ourselves like base personnel.
Zachary: Also works but remember that the fusion reactor is in the basement and protected quite well by autoturrets and cameras. Also, few areas are not covered by cameras.
Aisha: Uh, yeah this isn't like the Oceans 11 movies


Mee: Plus another great thing about this invisible smoke is if this were a cartoon, the fat lazy hack animating it wouldn't have to draw any smoke. But unfortunately this isn't a cartoon, Space Tree... this is real life. I just hope that one day... you'll be able to accept that.


Western Animation

  • The first episode of Rugrats has Tommy's mother, Didi, concerned that she won't live up to the mothers on TV; her friend Betty reassures her by telling her, "TV's TV. We're real." (Ironically, she really wouldn't live up to the mothers on TV... a good deal of the series has Tommy wandering off places.)
  • Skippy says it in an episode of Animaniacs. His aunt Slappy then turns to the viewers and directly addresses them with, "Don't tell him, he might crack."
  • The Fairly OddParents had an episode in which Timmy, bored of "the real world", wished that his life would be like a blockbuster action movie. As things got more and more dangerous to the point where the villain accused him of responsibility for the world being on the verge of destruction, Timmy cried out, "Noooooo!! This is so awesome."
  • Once, in Futurama, Leela interrupts Fry's eager pop-culture musing with a caustic "Fry, this isn't TV, this is real life -- can't you tell the difference?" This, of course, was spoken when they were about to engage an alien war fleet in battle in the year 3000 (and naturally, Fry prefers pop culture to reality anyway).
    • Obsoletely Fabulous gives us

 Bender: If that stuff wasn't real, how can I be sure anything is real? Is it not possible, nay, probable, that my whole life is just a product of my or someone else's imagination?
Technician: No. Get out. NEXT!

  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series had various characters stating how "...this isn't some Saturday morning cartoon show."
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer tries to get rid of a trampoline by tossing it off a cliff that looks like scenery from Coyote and Roadrunner Cartoons. The trampoline catches on a mesa and rockets upward, falls on Homer, and hammers him into the cliff. He then comments on how if this was a cartoon, the cliff would break now. It eventually does but not until after a long wait well into the night.
    • "Three Men and a Comic Book":

Lisa: Too bad we didn't come dressed as popular cartoon characters.

    • "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington":

Homer: Cartoons are just stupid drawings that give you a cheap laugh. * gets up, revealing his asscrack*

    • "Lisa the Beauty Queen":

Homer: Lisa, [your caricature] isn't real. It's just how you might look if you were a cartoon character.

    • "Bart vs. Australia":
  • Bart and Homer try to climb into two kangaroos' pouches, covering their feet in mucus*

Bart: Ew! It's not like in cartoons.

    • "Lisa the Vegetarian":

Bart: Cartoons don't have messages. They're just a bunch of hilarious stuff like people getting hurt. * Homer opens the door, smashing it into Bart's face

  • In the Darkwing Duck episode 'Film Flam', Darkwing takes Gosalyn to see an animated feature at the local cineplex. Dismayed by the violent themes, he hastens to explain the difference between cartoons and reality.
    • Another Darkwing Duck episode has Darkwing meet a Captain Ersatz of James Bond named Derek Blunt, who turns out to be very different from the way he is portrayed in the movies. In particular, he is unimpressed by and dismissive of Darkwing's various gadgets, calling them "gimmicks" and declaring "A real agent works with what's at hand." Darkwing, a fan of the movies, is disappointed by the reality of the situation, but, as is typical of these stories, they end up as friends anyway by the end of the episode.
      • "Derek Blunt" sounds like he was more directly inspired by Derek Flint of Our Man Flint, who was a parody of James Bond.
  • Also used in Cinderella by The Grand Duke, ribbing the King for setting up a ball in hopes that the Prince would find a bride. The scene plays out exactly according to The Duke's description, to the point where he finishes with "...a fine plot for fairy tales, but in real life, it is foredoomed to failure!"
  • Ace Lightning—Mark actually says this trope, word for word, to the titular character. Along with such lines as:

"Ace, we've been through this, they're gnomes -- they're not going to attack you!"

  • In the Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy episode "Urban Ed", Eddy and Ed are on the top of a cardboard "skyscraper" pretending to be pigeons and dropping spoonfuls of yogurt onto the people below. Ed drops an anvil off the building, and Eddy tells him "You're gonna hurt someone! This ain't a cartoon!", at the same time seemingly oblivious to the fact that Ed has just produced an anvil from nowhere.
    • Later episode got straight into Breaking the Fourth Wall, which the characters referencing people working on the show and the fact that their lives are a TV show.
  • One episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man had Spidey try to make Rhino trip on bowling balls, stating that it always works in cartoons. When Rhino's steps merely break the balls, he concludes that television can't be trusted.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men: Thieves' Gambit

Wolverine: So now what? Air ducts?
Gambit: Heh, only in the world of cinema. In real life, they never hold.

  • In the Batman the Animated Series episode "Night of the Ninja", the titular Ninja makes it very clear to Dick Grayson that "This isn't the movies, boy!"
  • In Veggie Tales: Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah's Umbrella, Larry the Cucumber mocks the villain for getting his idea for world domination from a cartoon. After a pause and a shudder to the fourth wall, he added that some cartoons were educational.
  • An episode of The Weekenders has Tino muse that he and his friends are real people, not the stereotypes seen on television... {dramatic angle} "Or are we?"
  • In Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, when the Sun Riders (Who at this point are Evil) have taken over the Super Robot and forced the Hyperforce to flee. Chiro suggests that they instead use the Sunriders old fighting Mecha and they head to where they've been told it's stored... only to find out that it is only 20 feet Tall (Compared to the Super Robots Skyscraper) and is in disrepair, at which point the following Exchange Takes place:

Chiro: * Slams his fists into the ground* That's IT! I Give up!
Sprx: If this was just some TV show, Kid, We could give up. But THIS is ther REAL WORLD!

  • An episode of Dexter's Laboratory detailed the replacement of Dee Dee with a Blonde Brainless Beauty. After Dexter expresses frustration at her failures to recapture Dee Dee's naivete and mischieviousness, she exclaims, "What kind of crazy show is this, anyway?" Noticing Dexter's confusion at this outburst, the blonde asks him if she truly has entered "Dexter's Lab, the TV show" only for Dexter to respond, "This isn't a TV show! I'm a real little boy, and this is my lab!"
    • In addition, this is brought up in the opera episode: Near the end, Dexter actually sings out, "This isn't fantasy. This is reality."
  • Played with in an episode of Dan Vs. Dan is convinced that a wolfman scratched his car, due to incriminating sneaker-and-pawprints. When his friend points out that wolfmen don't run on all fours in the movies, Dan tells him this isn't a movie, it's real life. However, he later chides his friend for forgetting about the full moon needed for a transformation by saying, "Don't you watch movies?"
  • Ren was once spazzing out at Stimpy about his love of Muddy Mudskipper. To whit: "Cartoons aren't real! They're, uuuuh, puppets! Not flesh and blood like WE!" Which also gets dumped on his head later when Stimpy meets Muddy and gets to be on the show.
  • Finn claims that imagination land is boring and calls himself "a kick-butt reality master" (in a post-apocalyptic world gone magically RIGHT), because he prefers adventures over easy stuff... until he burns his foot from Jake's imaginary lava.

Jake: I WAS JUST USING MY IMAGINATION! Then everything got intense.


Doofenshmirtz: This isn't a sitcom, Perry the Platypus, this is real life! (glances at fourth wall) And, I'm... (glances at fourth wall again) And I'm the father!


2003 Donatello: Why is he narrating? Is he crazy?

  • In the Garfield: Pet Force special, Garfield berates Nermal for getting so into his comic book. When Nermal wonders aloud if it could be really real, Garfield scoffs:

Garfield: That isn't real life like the newspaper comics!


Real Life