Created By: TParadox on January 25, 2012 Last Edited By: TParadox on March 7, 2012

Artistic License Fakeout

A plot point invokes Willing Suspension of Disbelief, but turns out to really be too good to be true

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Something fantastic enough that even non-experts would say is impossible in the real world, but in the fictional world, it's plausible enough that the audience and characters buy it.

Until there comes a point where either the hero or the villain says "Did you really believe that existed?"

  • In the Doctor Who episode "Amy's Choice", The Doctor realizes that the reality of the freezing Tardis presented by the Dream Lord is also a dream partly because "who ever heard of a cold star?"

  • In the Sherlock Episode "The Reichenbach Fall", Jim Moriarty claims to have a few lines of code that can act as a key to any secure computer system in the world, but it's just a ruse because what idiot would believe you could hack any system with a universal snippet of code?

  • An entire season of Frisky Dingo revolved around Killface and Xander campaigning for the US Presidency. In the finale, it was revealed that of course neither of them could be president, as Killface was not born in the US and Xander was under 35.

  • In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Zombie!Reed Richards appears to have built a teleporter out of bamboo and coconuts, explaining at length about making a biological computer out of his wife's hair before the Four vanish, but it's soon revealed that Zombie!Sue just made them invisible so they could ambush the people after them, and Reed mocks them for believing that could work.

  • Star Trek Log Seven by Alan Dean Foster, a novelization of the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Counter-Clock Incident". In the original episode the Enterprise enters an Alternate Universe where time runs backwards, including living beings that are "born" as corpses, grow younger during their lives and "die" after they return to the womb. Later on, in the additional material Mr. Foster created, the Enterprise crew learns that their entire experience in the other universe was created by a group of highly advanced beings. Those beings can't believe that the Enterprise crew fell for the trick, because the premise was so unbelievable.

  • In Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow, Alan Moore's last Superman story, he had Mxyzptlk show up and say basically "did you really think a fifth dimensional being would look like a funny man in a derby hat" and reveals Mxyzptlk to be a Cosmic Horror.

If it's the hero that calls out the bluff, he's Spotting the Thread, but the specific focus of this trope is that there's an object or event that seems plausible for the world, but gets called out as actually being just as impossible as you'd think. Compare You Watch Too Much X and Scooby-Doo Hoax.
Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • January 25, 2012
    Jordan
    I believe the Marvel Zombies one is described under Bamboo Technology- IIRC, Zombie!Reed Richards claims that the group built a teleportation device out of scrap in their cell, and sure enough, the Zombie!Four disappear. The guards rush in and then Sue turns off her invisibility and the Four eat the guards. Basically, in most stories, you could assume that Reed could invent anything, no matter how unbelievable, but in this case, that claim was just as unbelievable as it would be in the real world.

    This trope is probably where the Mind Screw of Inception comes from. The dream world seems to function according to movie logic, and so any time something happens that would be typical in a movie but unlikely in the real world (i.e. Saito's unbelievable wealth; Cobb being chased around by mercenaries), you're lead to question what if anything in the movie actually happens.
  • January 28, 2012
    TParadox
    Hm. I'd prefer to keep it to explicit examples where the unrealistic details are called out and subverted, but with Inception it's hard to say what's intended and what isn't.
  • January 28, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    Seems like a form of This Is Reality. Could be a Sub Trope then, but the name and description are really awkward.
  • January 28, 2012
    TParadox
    Hm. Looking at This Is Reality, it seems to be strongly related to You Watch Too Much X. That article is a stock phrase, though.
  • January 28, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Just being listed on there doesn't make it not a trope (as it has substance beyond the phrase).

    But this seems related because of how the description notes it. It's going "This could exist because this is fiction... did you really think this was actually like fiction?".
  • January 30, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    This is often used to lampshade a Genre Savvy villain.

    In Watchmen, there's Ozymandias' famous line, "I'm not a Republic serial villain...I did it thirty five minutes ago."
  • January 30, 2012
    Arivne
    This shouldn't be limited to just MacGuffins.

    Literature
    • Star Trek Log Seven by Alan Dean Foster, a novelization of the Star Trek The Animated Series episode "The Counter-Clock Incident". In the original episode the Enterprise enters an Alternate Universe where time runs backwards, including living beings that are "born" as corpses, grow younger during their lives and "die" after they return to the womb. Later on, in the additional material Mr. Foster created, the Enterprise crew learns that their entire experience in the other universe was created by a group of highly advanced beings. Those beings can't believe that the Enterprise crew fell for the trick, because the premise was so unbelievable.
  • January 30, 2012
    neobullseye
    ^^^^ Speaking about stock phrases... This one needs a better title to make sure it's not instawiped by Fast Eddie.
  • January 30, 2012
    captainpat
    ^^^ That's not this trope. That's just Dangerously Genre Savvy
  • January 30, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    ^It is Dangerously Genre Savvy, but it also can fit with this one. He is pointing out that the "Republic serial villain" does not exist, despite the appearance to the characters and the reader that they may be able to stop him yet. In the real world, villains don't monologue their master plan; in a super hero world, they do it all the time (hence the suspension of disbelief part). Ozymandias calls them out on their delusion that they live in a comic-book-style world. As Arivne pointed out above, this shouldn't be limited just to MacGuffins, and in that example it isn't. Rather than saying "did you really believe that Mac Guffin exists?" he is saying "did you really believe that villain caricature exists?"

    In short, I think this can and often overlaps with Dangerously Genre Savvy.
  • January 30, 2012
    KingZeal
    • In Full Metal Alchemist, the Philosopher's Stone is purportedly able to break the Law Of Equivalent Exchange (which could also be considered to subvert the law of conservation). However, later in the series, it's revealed that it doesn't do this at all--the Stone can bend reality only because of the huge number of human souls that must go into creating it. Also, human souls are considered priceless things of limitless potential, so using them for mundane things like alchemy is actually a waste.
  • January 30, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    What if it's just a con about something being supernatural, like in a lot of mysteries (and not just Scooby Doo ones)?
  • January 30, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    That would be a Scooby Doo Hoax, I believe - which, if I understand this draft correctly, would be a sub-trope of this.
  • January 30, 2012
    arromdee
    In Alan Moore's last Superman story, he had Mxyzptlk show up and say basically "did you really think a fifth dimensional being would look like a funny man in a derby hat" and reveals Mxyzptlk to be a Cosmic Horror. Of course, comic book readers are supposed to accept such depictions of fifth dimensional beings constantly.
  • January 30, 2012
    arromdee
    Full Metal Alchemist has an even better one: the whole equivalent exchange premise doesn't make sense for several reasons, but viewers are supposed to accept it anyway... until the very end where we start to get asked such things as "doesn't a child receive things from a parent without exchanging anything for them?" and the characters have to admit that they no longer accept it as a rule.
  • January 30, 2012
    KingZeal
    In the second volume of The Ultimates, the American-centric Ultimates team faces off against the Liberators, backed by the United Nations, including Finland (not a UN member in Real Life). At the end of the saga, Loki is revealed to be The Chessmaster behind everything, subtly using his Reality Warper powers to influence events, and rubs his cleverness in the heroes' faces by stating they should have been tipped off by a UN that included Finland.

    EDIT: I just looked this up, and its seems Finland IS a member and has been since 1955. I might be getting the actual country Loki bragged about wrong.
  • January 30, 2012
    TParadox
    I didn't really mean to limit it to macguffins, but that was the only thing I could think of.
  • January 30, 2012
    TParadox
    Edited title and updated description.
  • January 31, 2012
    ZombieAladdin
    Contrast Reality Is Unrealistic, where the audience doesn't believe something in a work of fiction, but it turns out to be totally accurate. (Your example is when the audience doesn't believe something in a work of fiction and IS inaccurate, right?)

    By the way, regarding that Doctor Who example: Cold stars can exist. None have been discovered, but they're theoretically plausible. But this is just splitting hairs.
  • January 31, 2012
    TParadox
    Cold stars as in "stars that are not warm", or "stars that radiate coldness"? The latter is in the episode.

    Your assessment of the trope is correct (except that it's too plausible in-world to question), but I wouldn't go so far as to say it can directly contrast with Reality Is Unrealistic.

    It's something that would be way out there for Real Life, but we have no reason to believe couldn't work in-universe, and the other characters are going with it, so we do too.
  • January 31, 2012
    KingZeal
    The "Marvel Zombies" example was actually from Ultimate Fantastic Four, the series which Marvel Zombies spun off from.
  • January 31, 2012
    TParadox
    Corrected. Took out the bit about them being zombies (didn't make sense anyway), will put back if they were.
  • January 31, 2012
    Jordan
    I've been thinking of several mysteries which will have an element that trashier (for lack of a better word) work in the genre might play straight, but this work will bring up as ridiculous:

    • Several Father Brown stories something like this as part of an overall message about religion being rational and the title character representing that. For instance, in "The Oracle of the Dog", it's set up so that investigators are really focused on when a dog barked and why, and it seems like the dog will be used as a"witness", but then Father Brown brings up how it doesn't work like that in reality, and there's a pretty limited number of things that can be deduced from a dog's behavior.

    • I'm trying to think of a specific good example, but in several Lord Peter Wimsey novels, there will be a comment on how some element is true of detective stories but not real life. For example, a character in Have his Carcasse isn't a secret Romanov (as he would be in other fiction); he's a delusional person who thinks he's a secret Romanov, and his enemies decided to play on this to lure him into a trap.

    Oh, I just thought of something else- the superhero examples of The Not Secret are like this. The audience suspends disbelief, figuring that characters in-series have Plot Induced Stupidity preventing them from seeing through disguises. Then, it's revealed that nope- they are just as perceptive as the audience- they're just pretending not to be.
  • February 1, 2012
    TParadox
    The bulleted examples are more This Is Reality or You Watch Too Much X.

    I think the main difference is that there's no comparison to the genre the story is actually in?
  • February 6, 2012
    Chabal2
    About the Fantastic Four zombies: Zombie Reed explains at length to the guards how he made a biological computer using a strand of his wife's hair as a keyboard, then Sue makes it look like they escape. When the guards burst in, they specifically mention how stupid they are for thinking a hair could be used as a keyboard (before being messily devoured).
  • February 21, 2012
    TParadox
    Tried to get the Fantastic Four example more accurate.
  • February 21, 2012
    StevenT
    In Frisky Dingo, Killface and Xander Crews spent a whole season in a presidential race before it was finally pointed out that they were ineligible for presidency due to Killface not being born in the US and Xander being under 35.
  • February 22, 2012
    TParadox
    I don't know my way around YKTTW very well. How do I indicate in the draft that anybody may edit? I see "up for grabs" around, but that sounds more like "somebody else sponsor this, I just dumped an idea".
  • February 22, 2012
    MorganWick
    ^ What you're describing is supposed to be the default, but it says a lot about how little it caught on that not even Up For Grabs sends that message.
  • March 7, 2012
    TParadox
    I don't know much about YKTTW policy, but this seems to have good potential as a trope, though discussion has stalled. What's it lacking to make it launchable? Do we still need more definition on what distinguishes it from other tropes? It's clearly tropable, from the looks of the discussion.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=cyeivvz8fe1eh1ocrywalmp6