True Art Is Realistic

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Ah, fiction. Isn't it a beautiful thing, with all the creatures, forms of magic, various scenarios of fantastical warfare, and technological advancements. Sadly, according to some groups of people, this is not what the true quality is. It's mainly about how well it recreates the real world, it's real people dealing with real issues and what life throws at them. As for things like violence, this is downplayed intentionally to show how gruesome it really is.

To avert the unfortunate stereotypes associated with them, numerous fantastical works have tried to go down this path, though with very mixed results. This is mainly done in deconstructive works where Real Life consequences of fantastical elements such as laser guns and magic spells existing are put front and center so the more cynical audiences can actually find themselves enjoying the show as a result. The flip side is that the played straight fantasy stories tend to be viewed as Narm in comparison.

Also, things like Necessary Weasel and Acceptable Breaks From Reality won't cut it.

Related to the Sci Fi Ghetto. Mostly ends up merging with True Art Is Angsty, due to the mindset that angst gives everything more perspective and that only angst is real. Can be compared with Comedy Ghetto, in which True Art won't inspire joy and laughter. This is the hard end of the Mohs Scale of Sci Fi Hardness.

Examples of True Art Is Realistic include:

Anime and Manga


  • Dogme 95 follows a method that insists on these self-imposed rules:
    • The film-making has to be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in. If a prop that's important for the story and plot, the location has to be chosen where that particular prop can be found.
    • Sound must not be produced, aside from the images or vice versa. Music mustn't be used, unless it occurs in the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic.
    • Handheld cameras only. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film mustn't take take place where the camera is standing; filming must go where the action goes.
    • Film has to be in color. Special lighting is not acceptable (if a scene has too little light for exposure, it has to be cut or have a single lamp attached to the camera).
    • Optical work and filters are not allowed.
    • The film's action must not be superficial (murders, weapons, etc. should not occur).
    • Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden (though it's to say that the film takes place here and now).
    • Genre movies are discourage.
    • The formatting of the film has to be Academy 35 mm.
    • Lastly, the director must not be credited.
  • Social Realist films aim to be as realistic as possible, therefore they are seen as more artistic because of of this. They usually use handheld cameras and natural lighting.
  • Ken Loach has a lot of techniques up his sleeve to keep his films as realistic as possible, like keeping them improvised, not telling acts what they're going to be surprised by, getting inexperienced actors with lives similar to their characters.
  • Comedy Ghetto, where "True Art" cannot be created to inspire joy and laughter amongst the public.


Live-Action Television

  • In the crime genre, if one wants to be critically acclaimed, it helps to show over-worked, under-resourced cops cutting corners and fighting their own bureaucracy as much as the criminals, who are themselves not totally unsympathetic and clearly products of the ghettos they operate in (which you also show in great detail). Basically, it helps to make The Wire. By contrast, if you choose to adapt Agatha Christie or make a latter day homage, like Midsomer Murders, it'll mostly be treated as camp fun at best.

Myths and Legends

  • In Greek Mythology, Pygmalion gave this trope as the reason he had for not marrying Aphrodite, and he refused to marry until he had made the most realistic depiction of the most beautiful woman in the world. Her, to be exact. The end of the myth takes the trope even farther, as Aphrodite brings the statue made in her image to life for Pygmalion to marry because his masterpiece had become so real to him he wanted to be with her for the rest of his life, so his "art" truly became 'realistic' in the literal sense because Aphrodite was pleased with his request.

Tabletop Games

  • Every player of tabletop games has heard someone bashing another system for its lack of realism. For tabletop role playing games, most gaming groups go through a phase of trying to be more realistic before abandoning it in the name of fun. For war games, there is a strange species of gamer who uses their love of a more historically "accurate" game or a system which more closely matches their ideas about how battle is supposed to work to bash players who don't care. Board game snobbery, on the other hand, is usually based on whether the product is mainstream or not and whether it's American or European in origin.
    • Risk is singled out for this. For a war game, it is quite simplistic. Axis and Allies, by contrast, has rules almost as thick as a VCR manual and is considered a "light" game by many wargamers. You usually need a couple hundred pages of rules for many of the others.


  • Inverted by Bertolt Brecht, who – while subscribing to a True Art Sticks It to The Man mindset, as is often linked to this trope – explicitly argued against theatre (and, by extension, other forms of art) that was too realistic and naturalistic through his theory of the alienation effect; essentially, his argument was that by using theatrical and artistic techniques to create a distance between the performer/audience and the characters and action they were performing/viewing, this meant that both were better equipped to critique the actions of the characters, consider potential alternatives that could be taken and take on the (often political) messages that were being communicated, since they could take a step back from their identification with the characters and consider the wider picture that was being presented to them. Naturalism, however, worked by explicitly presenting the audience with a replication of their day-to-day lives and by giving the audience an image of reality – however, since the audience operated within those day-to-day lives, they were unlikely to challenge or question them.


Video Games

  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker's fan backlash was due to this trope. Same for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword due to its graphics.
  • This trope also contends with those who insist that photorealism is the only way/true direction to go for video game graphics. It also informs stylistic choices like Real Is Brown.
  • Those who don't like video games often use this criticism. Likewise, within gaming communities, this trope comes into play as some games have more "realistic" elements compared with others within their genres. Shooters are particularly prone to this. Pro- and anti-realism rants are just flame bait.
    • This was sent up by The Onion, which made a joke review about how everyone was praising Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (obviously before it was announced) for its great realism. The player spent hours a day slacking off, doing nothing, waiting for orders, listening to their buddies gab about whether they'd rather sleep with Shakira or Jessica Biel, and repairing HMMWV's for hours on end. Now that is a realistic depiction of the life of an Army private.
  • Suggested by several reviewrs to be the reason behind why Yoshi's Island is being treated with less regard than Donkey Kong Country when doing retrospectives on Super Nintendo games, as the latter pre-rendered aesthetic was treated more seriously than the former's crayon-like one.

Western Animation

  • One of the key factors during (and responsible for) the Animation Age Ghetto. Animated works were mostly stereotyped as "little kid fantasies". Of course, animated works that do have realism are relatively ignored by this particular crowd.

Web Comics

Other Media

  • Within Science Fiction fandom, this is the stance taken by many fans of hard sci-fi.
  • In the crime genre, if you want critical acclaim, it helps to show over-worked, under-resourced cops cutting corners and fighting their own bureaucracy as much as the criminals, who are themselves not totally unsympathetic and clearly products of the ghettoes they operate in (which you also show in great detail). In summary, it helps to make The Wire. By contrast, if you choose to adapt Agatha Christie or make a latter-day homage like Midsomer Murders, it'll probably be treated as camp fun at best.

Real Life

  • Realism is this trope itself. Naturalism is this trope Up to Eleven, though not always. Modern art averts this more or less; same with certain arts with their highly formalized cultural specific styles, for example Ancient Egyptian art (or what has been preserved of it).