[[quoteright:280:[[WebVideo/TheAngryJoeShow http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/joe_played_skyrim_2402.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:280:"Jesus Christ, Joe. You've been playing way too much ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'', haven't you?"]]

->'''Buzz:''' How ''dare you'' open a spaceman's helmet on an uncharted planet! My eyeballs could've been sucked from their sockets!\\
'''Woody:''' You ''actually'' think you are '''''the''''' Buzz Lightyear? All this time I thought it was an act! Hey, guys! Look! It's the ''real'' Buzz Lightyear!\\
'''Buzz:''' You're mocking me, aren't you?\\
'''Woody:''' Oh, no no no no-- BUZZ, LOOK! AN ALIEN!\\
'''Buzz:''' Where!?
-->-- ''WesternAnimation/ToyStory''

A character starts to be unable to tell the difference between fiction and reality. Often it's thinking a TV show is real, or thinking one is actually in the show. They will often be a LoonyFan.

This trope can either be PlayedForLaughs or PlayedForDrama. The dramatic versions can often come with a moral about not watching too many shows or [[DontTryThisAtHome not thinking stuff in shows is safe to do]].

When the "reality" of the work is acknowledged in-universe to this person, see ThisIsReality.

'''Related tropes:'''

A SuperTrope to:
* ButIPlayOneOnTV: Can't tell an actor from the role they played in real life.
* ActorRoleConfusion: The InUniverse version of that.

Compare:
* DaydreamBeliever: Thinking the fiction is real but separate from our reality.
* LongingForFictionland: Knowing it's not real, but really wanting it to be.
* TheTetrisEffect: People can tell they aren't in a game; they just see things as a game.
* LostInCharacter: Actor gets so immersed in their character that they forget they're just acting.
* WrongGenreSavvy: When a character is so involved into thinking s/he's the real thing from a work that doesn't actually translate well into the real world that s/he's in.
* YouWatchTooMuchX: For the cases when another characters suspect this.

[[noreallife]]
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!!Administrivia/InUniverseExamplesOnly:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Being a deconstruction of the FightingSeries PlayedForLaughs, ''Manga/MutekiKanbanMusume'' has [[FanDumb Akihiko Ohta]] who watchs the last episode of the {{Sentai}} ''[[ShowWithinAShow Star Rangers]]'' show, where a crying girl asks for help to the Red Ranger, and he manages to make her smile at the end of the episode. Next morning, when a crying Wakana asks for help to find Toshiyuki, Akihiko JumpedAtTheCall envisioning himself as the Red Ranger, her bicycle as a Ranger Motorcycle, and assigning [[ColourCodedForYourConvenience Ranger's code names to the rest of the core cast]], recruiting them into the search... and acting like a true LordErrorProne.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In the ''ComicStrip/ForBetterOrForWorse'' fanfic ''FanFic/TheNewRetcons'', this sums up Elly Patterson's insanity in a nutshell; more to the point, she can't tell the past from the present and thinks she's in the 1980s in 2008.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* Buzz Lightyear from ''WesternAnimation/ToyStory'' sort of suffered from this, [[spoiler:until he saw the commercial at Sid's house advertising for Buzz Lightyears]]. Zerg and the Toy-Barn Buzz Lightyear suffer from this in the second movie. It carries over into promotional media as Buzz still thinks that he is the real deal.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/TheScienceOfSleep'' has the main character Stephane unable to distinguish his dreams from reality. The film is presented in a way that it's difficult for the audience to tell what is real and what in imagined.
* ''Film/MazesAndMonsters'' has this with Tom Hanks losing his mind and thinking he's in a ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons''-type game.
* In ''Film/GalaxyQuest'', the Thermians have no concept of deceit or fiction, believing everything they see and hear as fact. They think that the Galaxy Quest episodes they found in Earth's transmissions are "historical documents" of an actual space crew traveling the galaxy. When the crew tries to explain this to them and mentions ''Series/GilligansIsland'', the aliens simply murmur sadly "those poor people". Their enemies, on the other hand, have no such problem and had exploited it to wipe out almost the entire Thermian race by the time of the movie (and their leader thinks the confusion with the show is funny as hell).
* In the movie ''Film/NurseBetty'', after a woman sees her husband murdered she has a brain snap and believes she's a character from her favorite [[SoapWithinAShow soap opera]], moving to California to work at the fictional hospital she now believes she works in.
* Ghost from ''[[Film/GingerSnaps Ginger Snaps Unleashed]]'' seems to have difficulty differentiating between reality and her comic books. She seems to think she's living in some kind of horror comic [[spoiler: where she's the villain.]]
* European colonists in ''Film/ThePiano'' stage a play of ''Bluebeard''; tribesmen in the audience, evidently not acquainted with the concept of plays, think the Bluebeard character really is murdering his wife, so they rush the stage and attack the hapless actor.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Literature/DonQuixote of La Mancha, the protagonist of the eponymous classical Spanish novel by Miguel Cervantez, from whose name the word "quixotic" was derived, didn't know the difference between reality and chivalric romance.
* The ''Literature/{{Hoka}}'' stories are practically built around this trope. The teddy-bear-like Hokas constantly act out scenes from human literature because they have a fuzzy grasp of what's real and what's fictional. And they really don't care anyway.
* The clones in ''Literature/GalaxyOfFear'' have a version of this defect. Stranded on Dantooine, some have made a "spaceship" out of leaves and sticks and such. It's not BambooTechnology, it's basically something like a kid would build, except on a larger scale. The clones all sincerely believe it's a real spaceship and as soon as they have all the parts and finish it will start working. The protagonists are highly dismayed to realize this, but are too unnerved to try very hard to talk them out of it.
* In one of the ''Series/DoctorWho'' Literature/EighthDoctorAdventures books, there's a footnote that mentions that due to traumatic events that also caused him to lose his memory, the Doctor went a bit ''extra''-batty for a while and started getting [[UnderwearOfPower weird ideas about underwear]] from Franchise/{{Superman}}, and ''[[BlackComedy suicidal depression]]'' from tragic soap operas.
* In ''Red Diamond, Private Eye'' and its sequels by Mark Schorr, cab driver Simon Jaffe suffers a complete breakdown after his wife sells his previous collection of pulp magazines and he starts believing that he is a pulp detective called Red Diamond. As part of his delusion, he believes that many other fictional detectives are real and friends of his.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/NightCourt'':
** An elderly lady couldn't tell TV wasn't real anymore, and brought a grenade to the court to try to free a guy in jail who was a character in a SoapOpera.
** Another episode had a friend of Buddy's, whose problem wasn't so much that he couldn't tell fiction from reality, but that the concept of fiction, lies, opinions or anything other than true, objective reality was alien to him, and he was rendered essentially catatonic due to his inability to tell what was actually real, since both sides of every argument seemed equaly valid to him.
* Joey of ''Series/{{Friends}}'' had to deal with a fan who thought he was actually Dr. Drake Ramoray, the character he played on ''Days of Our Lives''.
* In ''Series/{{Blackadder}}'', Prince George believes that the actor in ''Theatre/JuliusCaesar' is about to be killed and says "Look out, Mr. Caesar!"
* In ''Series/TheITCrowd'', Douglas Reynholm believes that Sherlock Holmes was a real person.
* ''Series/FatherTed'': Father Dougal apparently needs to keep a chart explaining what's real and what isn't.
* In the first season of ''Series/TwoGuysAGirlAndAPizzaPlace'', there was a RunningGag of a restaurant patron with a CrazyMemory, who would tell stories about his past, all of which were plots of movies.
* The ''Series/CriminalMinds'' episode "True Night" had a serial killer, played by Frankie Muniz, who worked as a comic book artist. He went crazy after gangbangers killed his girlfriend and hunted them down one by one under the delusion that he was a vigilante from one of his comics. Possibly an inversion though, as it's suggested that he may have created the comic book character based on the delusion.
* ''Series/{{NCIS}}'' has an episode where a serial killer started targeting people that [=McGee=] had featured as characters in his book because he was convinced that the book was real and that the individuals in question were plotting to kill Agent [=McGee=]'s fictional counterpart.
* Abed in ''Series/{{Community}}'' is often accused of this trope. However, mostly he can distinguish TV from reality, but uses TV as a filter to understand reality.
* ''Series/{{Misfits}}'' has a character whose "superpower" is that he believes himself to be in a ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' pastiche. Sequences from his vision show that he imagines everyone around him to be characters in the game, believing Simon to be his current mission's endboss and Kelly to be his traitorous ex-girlfriend. Later appearances have him aware of what's happened and actively trying to keep his mind planted in reality.
* In ''Series/OnceUponATime'', Emma first thinks this about Henry with his book, before she finds out the events it tells really are true.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Music]]
* ''Music/FlightOfTheConchords'': The Prime Minister of New Zealand has trouble distinguishing fiction from reality. When he sees two people dressed as Music/EltonJohn at a party, he believes that it's a glitch in Film/TheMatrix.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In ''TabletopGame/{{GURPS}}'', there is a disadvantage called "delusion".
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Igor from ''Webcomic/DorkTower'' has reached a point where his memory can no longer distinguish between events that happened in real life and those that happened in games.
* Mark from ''Webcomic/{{Weregeek}}'' has such a powerful imagination that unless told something isn't real he will treat it like it is. This becomes apparent when [[spoiler: It's found out the whole hunter/ geek conflict was just a Larp, and all the shadowy monsters were just people in cheap masks that from Mark's and the readers P.O.V looked totally real.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''WebVideo/TheAngryJoeShow'' (pictured), Joe plays ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'' long enough that he thinks he's a MagicKnight, and goes to slay [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Corporate Commander]] with his armor and sword, but just had a foil helmet and a broom. Commander just called security.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'':
** When Peter crashes his car into the Quahog cable ground station, shutting down all TV, he goes a little crazy and straps a cardboard TV shaped box to himself to look at the world through. He then starts to think that everything he's seeing is a TV show.
** Stewie decides to run away from home to England in order to live on ''Jolly Farm Revue'', not realizing until he gets there that it's just a TV show. Justified, since evil genius or not he's still just a baby.
** Mayor Adam West sends Quahog's police force to save fictional Joan Wilder's sister from ''Film/RomancingTheStone''.
* ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible'' episode "The Fearless Ferret" has both the actors who played the hero and a villain believing the show they used to act in was for real.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Arthur}}'': When Mary Moo Cow visits Elwood City, D.W. fantasizes that they will become best friends and she will live with Mary Moo Cow during the summer.
* In one episode, WesternAnimation/JohnnyBravo got set up with some VR equipment advertised to be so good the user wouldn't be able to tell the game from reality. Cue Johnny going on a rampage through town as he plays the game. Eventually the VR game batteries run out... only for Pops to charge them up with jumper cables as the madness was getting pretty amusing.
[[/folder]]

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