Real skepticism entails requiring evidence of good quality before believing something is true. Arbitrary Skepticism is the tendency of characters who deal with the strange and bizarre on a daily basis to dismiss anything "strange" off-hand rather than consider that, in light of everything else they've seen and experienced, a "fantastic" explanation really isn't that far-fetched.
Sometimes it makes sense — after all, just because aliens exist, it doesn't follow that something unrelated does as well - but the viewer is often left wondering how a character who has seen ghosts and vampires can feel so comfortable in immediately dismissing the possibility of, say, zombies. It's not Arbitrary Skepticism if the character came to their conclusion through research and thought, and has a plausible explanation of why zombies can't exist.
Sometimes this is used to define the extent of the fantasy of the world: for example, letting the viewer know that in thisFantasy Kitchen Sink, there are no vampires or ghosts, even if there are unicorns. Sometimes characters will discuss this, comparing someone's cynicism about talking bats to their fighting dragons last week.
The Agent Scully is fond of this. When two people have different ideas about what is and isn't possible/real, determining if something is Beyond the Impossible is difficult, but the Scully will always chose the more mundane/less fantastic possibility.
A large number of film reviewers and critics tend to be afflicted with this trope, as well; in the sense that, if there is something within a given film or television episode that the critic considers to be random, illogical, or poorly thought out, it may simply be because the critic themselves did not understand what the producers were going for, rather than a case of the work being genuinely flawed, as the critic will contend. Many reviews tend to consist of observations about a work's elements which the individual critic themselves did not like, which other members of the audience will find extremely valuable; and again, this can often be due to cynicism or Agent Scully type thinking on the critic's part, rather than real problems with the work in question.
Compare This Is Reality and Eskimos Aren't Real. A staple in Crossover Cosmologies and Fantasy Kitchen Sink humor. Effectively the aversion of All Myths Are True. See also Flat Earth Atheist, If Jesus Then Aliens, Skepticism Failure, Skeptic No Longer, How Unscientific! and No Such Thing as Space Jesus.
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An M&M's commercial that makes the holiday rounds. The giant anthropomorphic candies have already been shown interacting fairly well with humans (short of the times said humans want to eat them), so why should Santa Claus have been such a skeptic? (Besides symmetrical Rule of Funny.)
A recent UK advert for Muller yoghurt has two women talking about a new Greek-style yoghurt that's fat-free. One of the women then states that 'fat-free' is a myth, and it’s then revealed that two women are centaurs.
Anime & Manga
Bleach: Ghosts? Fine, most of the cast can see them. Heartless monsters that eat ghosts? Again, fine, pick up the BFS and let's go kill something. Talking cats? That takes some getting used to. The only cast member who isn't wigged out by Yoruichi on first meeting is Orihime, and that's because she has an overactive imagination. When Ichigo finds out Yoruichi is a person, she even says "Cats don't talk. Use your head a little, Ichigo", implying that she also thinks it's supposed to be impossible and that she's merely an exception due to not being an actual cat.
In Dragon Ball, Karin gives Goku a bell around his neck so that that he can ring it when he reaches the abode of God. Yajirobe scoffs at this, saying God isn't real, despite having fought along with Goku several demons and cowering at the prospect of challenging Demon King Piccolo. Ironically, God and Piccolo turn out to be two halves of the same coin.
A Certain Magical Index: Touma sees esper powers on a regular basis (including being blasted by lightning the previous day) but initially dismisses the idea of magic as nonsense. To him, esper powers at least have a scientific basis.
In the two-part Kino No Tabi episode "Coliseum", Hermes tries to tell Kino that a one-off character's dog can talk. Kino's response is "Stop being such a liar." Kino's a traveler. Just on screen, she's seen practically every crazy thing under the sun. Ignoring all that, she's talking to a talking motorcycle. To make this a little bit weirder, everyone in Kino's world seems to think like this. No one is ever surprised when Hermes talks, but a talking dog? No way. And in an odd example of Schizo Tech, there are plenty of countries with highly advanced technology, including hovercrafts, but apparently no body's ever built a working airplane.
Likewise, the protagonists dismiss the initial observations of Silver Chariot and The Hanged Man with the statements "No user can have more than one Stand" and "It's impossible for a Stand to exist inside of mirrors" respectively, which they announce as though they are ultimate authorities on Stand abilities, despite the fact that Stands keep having new and strange abilities. Ironically, while their dismissals prove true, both "rules" are broken later on - Man in the Mirror explicitly exist within a mirror dimension, Bad Company takes the form of a miniature army (with soldiers, tanks and helicopters), Echoes have multiple forms with distinct separate abilities, and Killer Queen have two sub-Stands (Sheer Heart Attack and Bites The Dust) that can operate independently.
Hell Girl: A client accepts one of Hellgirl's contracts — you pull the red string, and the object of your scorn goes straight to Hell. When Hellgirl explains the price for this service (the one pulling the string also goes to Hell when they die), the client scornfully dismisses the idea that Hell really exists. And Hellgirl magically transported him to her crimson field before they started negotiating.
Negi cannot convince the other Mages that Chao is from the future, despite the fact that he has a working time machine. They reject the idea on the basis that no-one's ever been able to do it, ignoring the fact that somebody could have figured it out, in the future. You know, where Chao claims she's from. It's like going to 1900 and saying that airplanes are impossible because no one's ever built one. While having a working airplane.
Humorously, Meta Girl Chisame goes out of her way to deny the existence of magic — even after she obtains magic powers herself. She doesn't accept it until she finally frees herself from the madness, only to realize that her life is now too boring. She then goes along with it, albeit grudgingly.
Fate: Also, according to this picture he rides through the sky on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. I don't recall hearing of such an aviation method for small aerial vehicles. Nanoha: Um... Fate: This can't be magic, can it? How can this be?
L is willing to believe that Kira uses some sort of psychic power to kill over distance, but completely flips when he first hears about the Shinigamis' existence.
Averted in the manga when Sidoh picks up the Death Notebook. Mello, who is unable to see Sidoh at the time, wonders why it's flying, and a member of his gang notes that if it can kill people, it wouldn't be a surprise if it were alive.
Zoro, in a world where people can slice entire fleets in half with one swing of their sword at a distance, his best friend is made of rubber, he regularly fights, among other things, sea monsters and people with superpowers, and his own moveset is based on Buddhism to the extent of turning himself into an Asura, refused to believe that Enel was actually God when first hearing about him. Turns out Enel wasn't a god (it was a title), but for the most part he was powerful enough to be a Physical God, Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors aside.
This is hardly an example since Enel assumed what was merely a title of "God" and was Touched by Vorlons, the power it gave him and his ego had convinced him he was divine.
Luffy, whose crew consists of a talking reindeer, a perverted cyborg and a talking skeleton, is amazed that Trafalgar Law has a talking bear in his crew. Whether that's disbelief or just thinking a talking bear is really freaking cool is unclear.
The entire town of Mock Town. When you're on the Grand Line, which screws up physics and natural law so much that it is bluntly stated that anything is possible on this sea, the notion of an "island in the sky" should not be dismissed, especially when it's true.
To be quite honest, Skypeia's existence was small potatoes compared to everything that happened in the series after that point. As if to drive the point further, this was in the first half of the Grand Line. If anything, that further enforces the sheer stupidity of the occupants of Mock Town.
Ikuto has been on the island long enough to know that the standard rules don't apply to the island, and indeed has gotten to the point that he can talk to the animals of the island, his usual first reaction to a new oddity of the island is to reject any simple fantastic explanation from anyone else (even from the oddity itself) and instead comes up with his own explanation that's usually even more ridiculous (for example, he thinks that all the ghosts on the island are polar bears). Revealed in chapter 126 to be due to a spell his own family placed on him to prevent him from discovering his sister's supernatural abilities. As of the same chapter, said spell is no longer in effect so his skepticism is gone.
Ikuto finds himself on the other end of this trope in a later chapter when Ikuto sees an alien and is unable to convince anyone else that it's an alien — they just think it's another talking animal or spirit.
Shinra has it on good authority that werewolves and vampires do exist and is dating a dullahan; nevertheless, he finds the idea of alien abductions, psychic powers or doomsday prophesies to be laughably absurd. He justifies this by claiming that the existence of one previously unknown seemingly supernatural being has no implications regarding unrelated phenomena. Shinra actually does acknowledge the possibility of such paranormal phenomena (he says as much at the end of this), it's just that it's not exactly productive to respond to your girlfriend's fears that we'll all die in 2012 with, "Yep, we're probably doomed."
The real arbitrary skeptic is probably Izaya, who refuses to believe in any afterlife he can't prove the existence of himself, even though he's on first-name basis with a psychopomp.
Black Butler: Ciel Phantomhive has a demon for a butler, has seen a crazy transgender grim reaper with a chainsaw, met the actual grim reaper, met an angel, has a demon dog living at his house...but believes the old story of the white stag is simply a fairy tale.
In the Alice in Jails arc of Baccano!, Firo is extremely skeptical when Isaac insists that he met a fairy. This skepticism would be more reasonable if Firo wasn't immortal and not-dating a homunculus. For bonus points, fairies actually do exist in the Baccano universe (read: Celty).
Allen and Lavi from D.Gray-Man are exorcists who fight akuma on a regular basis and have generally seen a lot of weird stuff, but they refuse to believe in ghosts or vampires.
Used humorously by Lisianthus in SHUFFLE! when, worried over being able to pass a test in order to avoid summer school shouts "There is no God or Buddha!" when her father IS God!
In Ah! My Goddess, Sayoko Mishima starts picking up that Belldandy has supernatural powers, but when Belldandy tells Sayoko that she's a goddess, she doesn't believe her and instead assumes that she's a witch. Why exactly she thinks that a witch is more believable than goddess is anybody's guess.
In Digimon Tamers episode five, when discussing strange markings on the school soccer pitch, a random fifth grader states: "Oh come on, there's no such thing as crop circles! What it really was was a ghost. And that dinosaur the principal saw? That was a ghost dinosaur."
In the Orichalcos arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Rebecca and her grandfather explain what they know about the enemy, which involves Atlantis. Honda/Tristan laughs and calls them crazy. Joey/Jounouchi calls him out on it, reminding everyone about all the crazy adventures they've had so far.
Bungaku Shoujo: The eponymous Book Girl is a supernatural being who feeds on stories. She doesn't believe in ghosts.
Yuriko of Kotoura-san runs the "ESP Society" as part of her quest to prove the existence of psychics. Yuriko's mother was clairvoyant, and one of the club members is naturally telepathic. But she dismisses ghosts as ridiculous delusions, and explains the said telepath's ghost sightings as accidental telepathy (sort of like Doing in the Wizard with a different wizard). She's right, but Manabe doesn't hesitate to lampshade how inconsistent this is.
Mr. Terrific (Michael Holt) actually makes this very argument when justifying his atheism; he points out that the Justice League has encountered a great many nigh-omnipotent beings who haven't claimed to be gods, so he sees no particular reason to believe those who do. This became especially hilarious when he would encounter his dead wife and child (their deaths having led to his atheism) in the afterlife and later actually meet God. As Ragman points out, there are explicitly souls (Ragman's powers coming from them). Mr. Terrific promptly Handwaves this with a comment about energy. To a man who "is literally wearing a suit made of corrupted souls". In later years several characters have started pointing out that his denial of god is getting petty and ridiculous.
A particularly arbitrary example is Batman's second post-Crisis encounter with Bat-Mite. In the first encounter, he understandably assumes his momentary glimpse of the being is his imagination. In his second, a Superman team-up, he concludes Bat-Mite is a creation of Mr Mxyzptlk. In other words, it's perfectly acceptable for eccentric, reality-warping, extradimensional imps to exist, just as long as they're Clark's problem and not his.
Possibly reasonable- Bruce's Rogues Gallery are more-or-less bog-standard humans. Bruce can't easily counter reality-warping powers (and the combination of reality warping powers with, for example, Joker's insanity) so he leaves such things in the hands of people more capable of handling such things.
In one three-comic story arc, Robin is contacted by what appears to be a version of Alfred from the near future, complete with futuristic phlebotinum... and Robin is unable to convince Batman that it actually happened, because, quoth the Bat, "Time travel is scientifically impossible." Even though Batman himself works with time travelers in the Justice League and has traveled through time dozens of times himself.... It's made worse by the fact that the "encounter" turns out to have been some sort of "test" that Batman himself had set up to see how clever and/or credulous his new Boy Wonder actually was. Yes, Batman is a prick.
Or, the test was of how Robin would react to having to deal with a threat alone due to being unable to convince someone to help.
Moving right along, in one Batman graphic novel, Batman meets up with aliens — the abducting, Anal Probing kind. This rattles him badly, as he always considered such beings to be pure myth. For those unaware, one of Batman's closest friends, Superman, is an alien.
Batman probably doesn't consider aliens to be pure myth, but anal-probing aliens.
In Ultimate Spider-Man, Ben Urich wants to run a story on recent vampire activity in New York and Jameson refuses to publish it. As Urich lampshades, mutants, Spider-Men, frozen people and supersuits are all plausible but Jameson chooses to draw the line at believing in vampires for some reason. (This is made even more amusing by the fact that in the main Marvel continuity, Jameson's son is a werewolf.) This may actually be making fun of a moment in the Peter Parker comic series where main universe Spider-Man suddenly draws the line at believing in vampires... despite having fought a massive number of bizarre entities before. And living in the same universe as Blade. And actually having fought vampires before, like Morbius (who isn't technically a supernatural vampire), and Count Dracula (who, well, is). This is merely so Spider-Man can be proven "right" when the vampire in question proves to be a science-based rather than supernatural vampire, like Morbius. Despite the fact that Morbius, despite not being a supernatural monster, is still a vampire for almost any useful definition of the term.
Also in the mainstream universe, Spidey once thought the idea of alchemy being real was absurd when he fought the old Fantastic Four villain Diablo (who was living proof that it was) at first thinking he was some sort of illusionist like Mysterio. (Of course, seeing as most scientists tend to universally regard alchemy as a "fake science", it was hard to blame Peter, someone who had studied biochemistry and other physical sciences most of his life.)
Aside from the superheroes and major characters displaying it, ordinary people in both DC and Marvel main universes are often shown being shocked and/or disbelieving at the idea of aliens. Despite the fact that both versions of Earth have been invaded multiple times, and in DC continuity the most famous superhero on the planet is well-known as being a literal alien.
In most continuities, Reed Richards doesn't believe in magic. Not even when he's standing beside it. Once in a blue moon, he'll admit that he recognizes that it exists (kinda hard not to when one of your best friends is Doctor Strange) but just doesn't understand it, being unable to understand why it doesn't operate scientifically.
Owzat: I don't believe in that kind of miracle, o divine master. Flying carpets are one thing, but rain-making is sheer science fiction!
In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, despite the fact that Allan and Mina live in a world in which every work of fiction exists, they'll occasionally decide that the idea of, say, a mindreader or a magician is just too far-fetched. This is justified, though; the 1890s setting is when the fantastic really came to the fore in fiction, and the British government has tried its damnedest to keep fantastic elements a secret from the public anyway. Mina doesn't know that a man named Gullivar Jones flew to Mars on a flying carpet, for instance — and had all this time thought her encounter with Dracula to be an anomaly, not akin to something she would soon deal with every day.
In an Uncle Scrooge comic book, Scrooge and company are on a quest to track down the fabled Philosopher's Stone — but when Huey, Dewey and Louie suggest visiting the Labyrinth in Crete, Scrooge and Donald Duck laugh it off as a myth.
Goofy, who is usually the most naive and gullible individual in the Disney pantheon, turns into a very persistent skeptic every time he gets a visit an old-style witch named Hazel. No matter how many fantastic tricks Hazel does for him, he absolutely refuses to believe that she is a real witch who can do real magic.
Disney Mouse And Duck Comics, in general—there are so many stories about the protagonists facing various supernatural creatures, aliens, magic etc. that only Negative Continuity explains how can they ever be surprised or skeptical about anything at all.
In one DC Universe Holiday Bash story, "No, Bart, There Really Isn't a Santa Claus", Max Mercury doesn't believe in Santa, and is rather surprised that Impulse does. But Impulse correctly points out that a guy who can travel around the world in a single night, knows what everyone wants for Christmas, and can enter and leave your house without you noticing makes perfect sense in the DCU. Max is finally reduced to arguing that if someone did have all those amazing powers, they wouldn't be selfless enough to devote their lives to others, from their secret base in the Arctic...
The Green Lantern known as Saarek has the power to communicate with the dead. Despite using it to great effect, the other Lanterns doubt his talent.
A Pre Crisis Superman story actually featured a group of people who refused to believe that Superman was really an alien. It turned out that these people were in fact aliens themselves, but, being stranded on Earth seemingly forever, opted to erase their own memories so they could live normal lives among humans. Their skepticism was a side effect of the brainwashing. In the end Superman helps them return to space. Not only didn't they believe that Superman was an alien, they claimed that there was no such thing as space travel and all reports of missions that had been flown were hoaxes.
In an early X-Men issue, Iceman encounters the Super-Adaptoid — a robot villain — alone in the woods and goes to tell the rest of the team. Despite the fact that the team has fought monsters, aliens, and, yes, robots many times, they refuse to believe his story for no apparent reason. Not only that, their resolute belief that if there really were sinister robots about it certainly would have been someone other than Iceman who spotted them is so convincing, Iceman himself starts to wonder whether he's remembering the incident correctly.
In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe comic "Tesseract", the Tenth Doctor refuses to believe that his new companion Emily has encountered beings called the Tef'Aree that live in the Time Vortex, because they're the subject of Gallifreyan fairytales. His rationalization that she heard the word somewhere is particularly flimsy — WHERE would she have heard it?
Atomic Robo absolutely refuses to believe in Time Travel — even as he's talking to three past versions of himself.
Atomic Robo: No such thing as time travel. We're only experiencing this nonlinear episode due to interacting with physics outside our universe.
After the 2011 DC Universe Reboot, Dan DiDio was quoted as saying that one of the reasons it was decided that Barbara Gordon should able to regain her mobility (after spending two decades since being shot by The Joker in a wheelchair as the information-brokering Oracle) was that it required "too much suspension of disbelief" for her to remain wheelchair bound in a universe where all sorts of magical cures were available. Critics immediately brought up the suspension of disbelief required in all aspects of super hero comics (e.g. Clark Kent's glasses are able to fool people, the concept of Joker Immunity, the mechanics of the muiltiverse etc.), that saying that this is where readers would draw the line of incredulity seems suspect at best. Especially egregious since the in-universe explanation had been (for years) that Barbara refused to accept special medical treatment from any of her super powered allies out of respect for all those other injured and crippled people who had to live with their disability without hope of a magical cure.
Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom (the Jim Shooter reboot): Having willed himself back into existence as a godlike being following his death in an experiment that was sabotaged, Dr Phil Solar discovers that one of the anomalies caused by his rebirth has given a bad sci-fi writer named Pickerel the ability to spontaneously create life. After turning himself into electrical impulses and telephoning himself into his Secret Keeper's house:
Solar: Pickerel's characters are coming to life. Leviathan and another one called Glow. Dr Clarkson: "Coming to life". Phil, I've had to accept some extraordinary things since this all began... Solar: Doctor Clarkson, I came into your kitchen through the phone. Are you really going to doubt what I'm saying? Clarkson: Well... in for a penny, in for a pound, I guess.
The Wasp: You do remember we've got Thor on our team, right?
Giant-Man is particularly ironic. He is an atheist despite knowing the existence of Eternity, the living personification of the universe. Thor and other gods he dismisses as extradimensional beings, but to be a straight atheist and dismiss Eternity is a stretch.
When Spider-Man first joined The Avengers as a reserve, he helped the team fight a break out at Project Pegasus. At one point, Captain America mentioned the Lava Men. Spidey laughed it off, stating matter-of-factly he did not believe in Lava Men. This is despite the fact that, not only was he a superhuman joining a team of gods, mutants, super soldiers, and androids, not only was he fighting equally inhuman villains at the time, but one of his own rogues resemble Lava Men a great deal: The Molten Man.
Gorilla-Man: You mean... this is literally a tunnel to China? That's insane. And this is coming from a talking gorilla.
Subverted in an old Spider-Man story where Peter goes undercover to rescue a traumatized Betty Leeds from a cult. He thought he'd be able to spot the cult leader as a fake due to his experience, but started to believe he might have powers once he saw him "cure" someone's cancer. Fortunately, he was smart enough to consult Doctor Strange who explained the slight of hand parlor trick. Strange pointed out that it was actually easier to convince someone like Spider-Man since he'd seen far too much to disbelieve anything.
In Swamp Thing, some time after Alec's (the title character's) presumed death, Adam Strange drops in on Alec's lover Abby with a message that he's still alive and will return to her soon. Abby's delight turns to angry disbelief when Strange explains that he met the Swamp Thing on the planet Rann, which he visits periodically via zeta beam. In tears, she tells him to "call up Scotty on your communicator and tell him to zeta beam you the hell out of here, you goddamned lunatic!" This, despite the fact that she's been witness for many years to all sorts of paranormal occurrences and creatures (like her lover).
Iznogoud: Played for laughs with Dilat, who outright says that while flying carpets and magicians are perfectly acceptable facts to him, a woman able to freeze people with her face is ridiculous.
Averted and lampshaded in Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami: Dark asks Blud if ghosts exist, and Blud says it is impossible. Dark asks if this would mean Blud, as a Shinigami, is impossible, too, and Blud says that shinigami are possible in the Death Note universe. It soon turns out that Blud's wrong about ghosts, though, as L comes back as one with the help of God's Ghost Note.
Used then averted in Shinji And Warhammer 40 K. Despite working for an organization that uses colossal biological warmachines made of reverse-engineered alien body parts to fight against the equally collosal aliens that border on Eldritch Abomination from which they are derived, numerous characters are initially immediately dismissive of things such as Psychic Powers or the existence of Machine Spirits. Then follows about a year of physics regularly being torn a new one to cause destruction on a scale the world hasn't seen since Second Impact, then all but the most mind-boggling things become almost mundane.
Streets Of Rage Saga: Skate scoffs at the idea of ninja-themed magical powers during the Cross Over adventure with Joe Musashi in the fourth book, The New Syndicate...despite the fact that Skate has fought robots and clones and has teamed up with a cyborg to fight The Syndicate.
Averted by Dr. Mills, who notes that his initial gut reaction is to dismiss such a story, but then reminds himself he's talking to a purple unicorn on the topic of magic, and so she might just be telling the truth.
In chapter 26 Dr. Shen says that the engineers, who had seen so much previously thought impossible, flipped out when the topic of invisibility devices was broached.
Lampshaded in Life In Reverse when the token Muggle is the only one to believe Harry's "crazy story" about being from the future:
Despite fighting all manner of demons, devils, and monsters on a regular basis, Dante finds it hard to believe that Kasumi and her family are real ninjas.
Likewise, even after the Mugen Tenshin village is attacked by demons, Ayane is quick to dismiss the legend of Sparda as being just that.
Cyborg in the Danny Phantom/Teen Titans story A Phantom Of A Titan insists ghosts don't exist, despite being half-robot and having one teammate that's an alien and another that uses magic. Danny, the one telling him about ghosts, is also half-ghost but he hasn't told the team that yet.
In Diaries of a Madman, no one except Nav believes Twilight when she claims the library is being haunted by something, despite this being a world filled with magic and far stranger things.
Ritsuko in Shinji's Nightmare refuses to believe in magic, despite working on giant biological robots that are piloted by children who fight aliens/angels and one of said pilots has been turned into an alicorn.
In the Darkwing Duck fanfiction, Negaverse Chronicles, the members of the Friendly Four are informed that Negaduck is spending time with a witch. Bushroot (the guy who is part plant), Megavolt (the one who can shoot electricity from his fingertips), and Liquidator (the person made completely out of water) don't believe in magic. Only Quackerjack takes the threat of Morgana seriously from the start.
Chapter 26: "You're an artificial human that can regenerate from fatal wounds in seconds denying the possibility that a young Asari can breakdown alcohol quickly."
Chapter 38: Adam is confused by the sight of a sapient anthropomorphic rabbit-cat. Hannibal reminds him that they "live in a galaxy dominated by blue women that can mate with their brains" and just killed a flying shark.
Shortly afterwards in that same chapter, Hannibal expresses doubt about the idea of "a Krogan scientist worthy of the term", upon which Adam tosses the other's earlier words right back at him.
In chapter 39, Aya and Garrus can't believe the talk of psychic powers.
Aya on the other hand still can't take talk of possession or ghosts seriously.
In chapter 43, Spooky doesn't believe Adam's exposition on the past of the Prometheans and Reapers. Lunchbox calls him out on it.
Lunchbox frowned at him. "Oh, come on! You believe in countless conspiracy theories!" He pointed his finger in accusation. "You believe in ancient societies faking the first moon landing but ancient space ninjas fighting ghosts from hyperspace is too much?!"
In A New World, A New Way, Twilight Sparkle has a hard time accepting that Aegislash is a spirit of a dead warrior possessing a sword with a shield. For added skepticism, this is after she met Arceus, the god of Pokèmon (and is willing to accept the fact that Arceus is a god).
In Blue Belle, Willow has no problem accepting that a girl she recently met is the daughter of a lesbian couple from twenty years in the future but faints upon learning that her parents have been lying about who her father is.
Films — Live-Action
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in which Indy encounters magical artifacts, comes before Raiders of the Lost Ark, in which Indy at one point dismisses all superstition involving the Ark of the Covenant. After all he has gone through, you'd think Indiana Jones would at least be a bit more open-minded in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Despite previously encountering healing rocks, Nazi-killing golden boxes, and life-saving cups, he still sneers at the prospect of magical telepathic skulls.
The Temple of Doom/Raiders scepticism at least has something (disregarding the expanded universe) to back it up: if you had personally seen evidence that there was something to Hindu mythology, why would you think that Abrahamitic lore is also correct?
Also, it's almost certain that these are just a handful of adventures and the vast majority of his work involves folklore that doesn't turn out to be real.
In The Last Mimzy, the brother has already found a strange cube that deposited several mysterious items, including a strange crystal that makes noise that only he and his sister can see (adults think it looks like a flat rock), a crystalline conch shell that enhances his hearing and teaches him how to command spiders through sound, and a set of stone "spinners" that his sister can spin to create a strange portal that causes her hand to split harmlessly into a million particles. Yet he still refuses to believe that her stuffed rabbit, which also came through the cube, speaks to her, despite it being the one that taught her how to spin the spinners. It takes the mimzy predicting their father's arrival to convince him.
Eight Legged Freaks. The conspiracy-believing radio host is unwilling to believe the others' tales of giant killer spiders. This may have been as much him suspecting they were making fun of him, as him actually finding the idea itself unbelievable.
Sabrina Down Under: a merman, sitting in a bathtub next to a talking cat, refuses to believe in witches. One spell later:
Sabrina: You know, for a guy with a tail, you're extremely narrow-minded.
In The Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man, who is accompanying a talking lion and an animated scarecrow to kill a witch on the orders of a wizard, does not believe in "spooks" (ghosts).
In the first movie, Holloway and Quentin both commit this during their discussion of each other's pet theories on the origins of the Cube. She believes that the military-industrial complex created the place, which he dismisses because he believes government organizations are just composed of people like him, whose goals in life are to "buy big boats", not conspire. Quentin believes that the structure is a rich psychopath's entertainment, comparing it to The Man with the Golden Gun, to which Holloway reacts as if he just said that the moon is made of cheese. Granted that Quentin’s theory is more outlandish than hers (and his citing of a stereotypical Bond villain doesn't really help his argument), but she didn't need to start acting like a Jerkass by ridiculing him for it. (Not that it makes his murder of her partly in retribution for this any more justified.)
In the sequel Cube 2: Hypercube, Max calls the rest of the group crazy for even considering that space and time could be distorted in the cube (despite repeatedly witnessing things that are physically impossible, such as the rooms instantaneously moving around) and argues that there has to be a logical explanation, such as an optical illusion. At the same time he berates the others for not believing in his conspiracy theories, and is convinced that the cube is operated by a mysterious superhacker called Alex Trusk.
Independence Day: Even though the White House had just been destroyed by an alien death ray, the president laughs off Julius' belief in Roswell and Area 51, saying it's all a myth. As the President he probably assumed this is the kind of thing someone would have told him, only to find out he was left out to create Plausible Deniability.
Also people disbelieved Russel's story of being abducted by aliens despite the fact that aliens were invading at the time. It's justified by the fact that they think it's just delusions from military trauma and is never proven as either true or false.
In the film version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Caspian and Edmund scoff at Drinian and the other sailors for being afraid of sea serpents, in spite of living in the original Fantasy Kitchen Sink and being personally acquainted with a wide variety of mythological creatures, as well as well-versed in the lore of many others - including dragons. When Eustace mistakes a seagull for a sentient being and tries to talk to it, a minotaur laughs at him.
In The Haunting of Molly Hartley, Molly's dad simply refuses to believe that a Sataniccult is coming for his daughter, even though he made a Deal with the Devil to save her. And how did he not notice that Molly's guidance counselor at school was the exact same person who acted as the Devil's agent in the deal?
In Plan 9 from Outer Space, people encounter flying saucers and a zombie that melts into a skeleton, yet have trouble believing that someone could have risen from the dead to break out of his own grave.
In The Dark Knight Rises, the GCPD are awfully dismissive of Gordon's account of his encounter with Bane and his men in the sewers that he narrowly escaped from. And they still seem dismissive of Gordon's story about a masked man and an army living in the sewers even after Bane and his men attack the Stock Exchange, an attack in which Bane is clearly seen leading them, mask and all. Considering that, in the previous two films in the series, Gotham fell under terrorist attack by an army of ninjas and a man dressed as a clown, it's not particularly outlandish. On the other hand, those events occurred in the span of two years, at which time a vigilante who dressed as a bat was also active. Since the last 8 years have been peaceful and Batman has retired, it's possible that the GCPD came to consider those attacks to be isolated incidents.
Slightly justified in that the fairy tale he is referring to is of a freed genie. Its not that he doesn't believe in magic, its that he doesn't believe a human being would ever free a genie out of the kindness of their own heart.
Gibbs from Pirates of the Caribbean is highly superstitious. However, he is skeptical of the existence of Davy Jones' Kraken (which is, in fact, real).
In Alien, Ripley wants to get rid of the Facehugger carcass, because they already know that the alien creature bleeds acid and have no clue what will happen after it's dead. Ash counters this by snarking at Ripley that it probably isn't a zombie.
Shows up to varying degrees in the Ghostbusters series. In the first one, people are skeptical of the idea of ghosts even after the protagonists start doing regular business. Then there's a full-scale ghost attack on the city, followed by the conjuring of a 100-foot marshmallow man. Somehow, this manages to convince everyone that the Ghostbusters are frauds, despite the entire city having witnessed these events. A second near-apocalypse in the second film finally casts away any doubt, likely because the Ghostbusters animated the Statue of Liberty to save the day and the HMS Titanic sailed into port during the ruckus.
Notably averted by the mayor in the second one. When the Ghostbusters come to him proclaiming that the subway system is filled with anger-fueled ghost slime, his dismissal of them is not because he does not believe them, but because they aren't offering any realistic solutions (even within the context of their usual antics). Likewise, he only waits as long as he does to finally call on their services because he really would rather not have to.
In Red Lights, Matheson displays this from the beginning, and Buckley becomes the same when she dies.
Mostly subverted: while Hermione's refusal to believe in Crumple-Horned Snorkacks might appear to be this at first but there's documented evidence for vampires and thestrals, but none for the Snorkack. It's rather like saying if apes exist, Bigfoot must exist, too.
Her disbelief in Divination is a bit more complicated: most of the "Divination" in the books is like real-life fortune-telling (bogusness included). None of the methods that Trelawney teaches actually work, so Hermione is right to reject them. The catch is that real magic predictions do occasionally happen in the Potter universe — Harry witnesses one in the 3rd book — but Hermione never sees one, so she doesn't think they exist. After using a magic time machine for a year, you'd think magic prediction would seem plausible to her... though Trelawney is both a flake and a terrible teacher. And Divination is really a pointless class to teach anyway, as it's not a learnable skill. Either you've got the innate ability to predict the future or your don't. Trelawney does have that skill, but can't invoke it at will and goes into an involuntary trance whenever making a real prophecy. Which ironically means she never actually hears or has knowledge of her accurate predictions, just the nonsense ones.
Hermione, and sometimes Ron, are pretty quick to shoot down Harry's theories about Voldemort's latest schemes. They are pretty far-fetched by wizard standards, but this whole thing started with Harry surviving an unblockable curse that causes instant death as an infant. Harry's wild claims also invariably turn out to be correct or at least partially so, at least once per book. Despite this, they remain skeptical even by the sixth book, when you'd think they'd have learned to start giving him the benefit of the doubt long before now?
Her disbelief in the Deathly Hallows is a straight-up example, though. It takes Ron pointing out that they've been using one of them since they were in First Year to make her even consider the possibility they might exist. This is despite her discovering any number of other "impossible" magical artifacts were real (such as the Philosopher's Stone).
Harry mostly averts this. Since he was neither brought up in an all-magic environment like Ron, nor refuses to believe anything not written in a book like Hermione, he's at least willing to listen to Luna's bizarre theories, since he's witnessed far stranger things in the course of his life.
Things like gods, wizards, trolls and dragons are perfectly acceptable, but things like Death and talking dogs are so impossible that people just ignore them. Arguably explained in Hogfather, where it's stated there's an upper limit on things people can believe in.
Talking trees. Notice that Rincewind here uses a perfectly fine logical analysis, but it fails because the premises aren't true:
"I can't be talking to a tree. If I was talking to a tree I'd be mad, and I'm not mad, so trees can't talk."
Witches and wizards on the Discworld can see death (and hear talking dogs). They also interact with gods and demons on a regular basis, but don't believe in them, as this only encourages them.
Carrot and a few other characters can hear Gaspode, as could anybody he makes an effort in talking to. Plus, at several points in the series, there are statements to the effect of "there's no point believing in what already exists" — such as the space turtle on which the world rests. It's like believing in the postman.
On the other other hand, certain Ephebians, parodying ancient Greek philosophers, claim to be atheists. This is particularly difficult to do when the gods like to throw stones through the windows and lightning bolts at them in the street. Similarly in Soul Music, Susan is raised to be a "sensible" girl, trained in reason and logic and not believe "such nonsense", which is ultimately futile once you realize who her grandfather is.
A rather dark variant occurs towards the end of Thud!!. After he's possessed, Vimes kicks the demon out of his mind by sheer force of Lawful Good and loses consciousness. When he awakes, he promptly starts rationalizing what he did as sleep deprivation and his mind playing tricks on him.
A Priest: But the gods plainly do exist. Dorfl: It Is Not Evident. (a bolt of lightning hits Dorfl on the helmet; however, being a golem, he is unharmed) Dorfl: I Don't Call That Much Of An Argument.
Granny Weatherwax has been known to criticize people for not being Arbitrarily Skeptical. She gets mad at Weaver for assuming she used magic to detect his presence while not noticing the fact that her cottage overlooks the path, and she tells off a bunch of opera people for assuming she used magic to block a sword, claiming she might well have had a bit of metal in her palm. The fact that she did use magic for these things is irrelevant in Granny's book.
Jasper Fforde's Jack Spratt novels feature a reasonable amount of this. This world features aliens, talking bears, giant superhuman gingerbread men and the like. Yet when Jack tells his staff, whose job it is to investigate things like the murder of Humpty Dumpty and Rumpelstiltskin's illegal straw-into-gold operation, that his car heals itself, they think he's gone mad. As does his boss when he reports on exploding cucumbers. And so on.
Used for humor in Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series. During a war, the main character, a wizard in training, recruits a bunch of different helpers from different dimensions to prevent it. One of them is a blue Gremlin. The main character's mentor, a demon, insists that there's no such thing as gremlins, and the little monster in question always remains just out of sight. Until the very end...
In a world of seven-thousand year old sorcerers, Physical Gods, demons, and magical artifacts capable of rending the world apart, it's Played for Laughs that people like the Tolnedrans and Melcenes steadfastly refuse to believe in the supernatural as a matter of principle even when confronted with it directly. This leads to statements like "I'm pleased to have met you, though I still don't believe in you, naturally. My skepticism, however, is theological, not personal." At one point Polgara mentions that the Tolnedrans have come up with a complicated theory involving successive identical people to explain away her long life.
On the other side, we have Belgarath, a seven thousand year old sorcerer who routinely deals with magic and the gods. After spending that much time dealing with the weirdest stuff in the world, it's probably tempting to assume that you've seen everything.
For example, in The Hound of the Baskervilles he does not outright eliminate the possibility that said hound is supernatural — he merely states that all other options have to be investigated first and if it proves to be so, he is powerless to do anything about it.
Though he outright scoffs at the very idea of a vampire in The Sussex Vampire.* Mostly because he immediately finds bucketloads of clues pointing to a more lively culprit.
Unsurprising, given that Holmes was written by an author who believed in fairies (he supported the girls who concocted the Cottingley Fairy Hoax later). Though the whole Holmes canon except for The Valley of Fear, His Last Bow, and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes were written before he became a Spiritualist.
The War Against the Chtorr. The first novel "A Matter For Men" begins with a news report on three volunteers searching for a missing girl being dismissed for claiming they saw the giant Chtorran worms. Most people don't believe in their existence until the worms start moving into towns and eating people. Even then the Fourth World Alliance insists on downplaying the invasion (because they're more concerned about the US re-arming, a danger they are all too familiar with) until a captive Chtorran escapes and starts chomping its way through their delegates.
Tuon refuses outright to believe in certain vaguely fantastical things the reader has seen to be true through the other characters and scoffs at what she sees as absurd beliefs, the next second reading signs and portents from a flight of birds as total fact. This is more a case of the Seanchan in general being unspeakably arrogant even within the standard of the setting, exceeded only by the Aes Sedai (and by contrast the Seanchan are at least usually competent).
That arrogance goes both ways, as Randlanders who believe in stuff like probability twisting ta'veren don't consider even for a split second the possibility that the Wheel's weaving could manifest itself in seemingly random omens, although they turn out to be true suspiciously often. Like a battle-hardened Seanchan banner general seeing an omen she considers "the worst she had ever seen" only to have her troops torn to pieces a few hours later by hundreds of Trollocs they considered to be absurd fairy tales up to that point.
In Soon I Will Be Invincible, a Deconstruction/Reconstruction of superhero tropes set in a Fantasy Kitchen Sink, the cyborg Fatale believes that her teammate Mr. Mystic is a real sorcerer, but is convinced that teammate Elphin (who claims to be the last of The Fair Folk) must actually be some sort of alien or mutant. Villain Protagonist Dr. Impossible, meanwhile, flatly disbelieves in all things magical, despite the fact that he battles magicians and fairies, he's worked with magically-empowered villains in the past, and part of his plan depends on exploiting a magic artifact.
A number of events suggest that Fatale has it backward. Elphin is definitely a real fairy and when Dr. Impossible faces Mr. Mystic it appears that his magic might be little more than complex illusions.
In The Vampire Files, Charles Escott is uncomfortable with the idea that ghosts could exist. This despite the fact that his partner is a genuine Undead vampire.
In Curse of the Wolfgirl when 'Vex claims she can talk to cats she is disbelieved by Daniel, Moonglow, and Kalix. For the record Kalix is a werewolf, 'Vex is a fire demon, and whilst only human, Daniel and Moonglow have witnessed and been a part of more magical events than mundane ones.
Nicely justified in the A Song of Ice and Fire series: When people are warned of dragons or giants, they say that such things don't exist... anymore. They all died out years ago. This is actually false in the case of the giants, and while the dragons did die out, they're back.
The Magic Tree House: In a relatively early book, Annie is afraid to go into a "ghost town" in the Old West. Jack says "There's no such thing as ghosts." to reassure her, to which Annie replies "Yes, there are, we saw one in Ancient Egypt.", which did indeed happen in an earlier adventure. Jack's reply? "Yeah, but that was Ancient Egypt." What makes it even funnier is that they had way more interaction with the Ancient Egyptian ghost in the previous book (talking to her and finding objects to help her reach the afterlife) than they do with the cowboy ghost when he finally shows up.
Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson novels. Werewolves have recently gone public; the fae have been officially out for a decade or so, but the protagonist has to spend some time explaining to people that vampires are also real, her ability to see ghosts is frequently disbelieved, and by the sixth book, someone who has relatives who shapeshift doesn't believe that Mercy can do so too. There is much Lampshade Hanging.
In Death series: Eve Dallas, being just a pragmatic soul, could be considered this. She has a hard time believing in the existence of vampires in Eternity in Death, ghosts in Haunted in Death, sensitives in Visions in Death, and supernatural things like in Ceremony in Death and Ritual in Death. Some supernatural things did occur in some of the books, but Dallas automatically goes with "I don't believe in this!"
Kvothe can do magic with his brain, fights demons, visits fairy realms, and other supernatural stuff; and yet he remains extremely skeptical of the world's religions.
It happens the other way around, too. Most people (especially outside of the University) believe in some kind of fairytale creatures, depending on their origin, but Kvothe risks ridicule from everyone for even considering the possibility that the Chandrian exist, although he has seen them first hand.
A lampshaded inversion comes in the second book - Kvothe is surprised when Wil readily accepts the existence of Felurian without coercion, even though he spends a large amount of time early in the book shooting down other things such as the Amyr.
In The Goblin Reservation, Oop mentions a rumor about contact having been made with the Devil. When Carol is surprised the others are considering it might be real, Maxwell states that a few centuries ago, people were just as skeptical about the titular goblins, as well as other creatures now known to be real.
In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Med Star I: Battle Surgeons arrogant mercenary Phow Ji refuses to believe in the Force, even when it's demonstrated in front of his eyes. This appears to stem largely from his insufferable arrogance-he beat a Jedi in unarmed combat (because the Jedi didn't use the Force, to be fair) and is therefore convinced they're powers are simply tricks.
Xander:(sarcastically) Hey, maybe he awakened the mummy. Willow: Right, and it rose from its tomb. Buffy: And attacked him. (they start to laugh, then remember where they're living) Buffy: One day I'm going to live in a town where evil curses are just generally ruled out, without even saying.
Also parodied/referenced in another episode, where Jackson expects this to happen when telling General Hammond about a prophetic dream he had. Instead, Hammond believes him right off the bat, explaining, "The things I've heard sitting in this chair...". The guy is actually really good at subverting this particular trope. When the team comes back from another world and Jonas Quinn tells him that there's a flying bug monster in the room that only he can see, Hammond locks the base down immediately. One imagines the orientation manual for any future base commanders would include something along the lines of, "Don't dismiss anything your teams say out of hand, no matter how weird it sounds." He plays this straight once (or many many times if you count each loop) in "Window of Opportunity", where it becomes a minor plot point.
General Landry invokes a version of this trope quite early on in his career, when Daniel suggests that there might be a hidden cavern of treasure built by the Ancients underneath Glastonbury Tor in Britain.
Landry: Well two years ago, I wouldn't have believed we would find a Ancient outpost under a mile of ice in Antarctica!
A straight up example has the team hearing that according to legend, the Sangraal is protected by a dragon. They immediately dismiss the possibility of dragons existing, saying that it is infinitely more likely to be a hologram or machine of some sort. Considering all the weird aliens and creatures they've met, it's surprising that they are so willing to dismiss the possibility that an alien planet might have a flying, fire breathing reptilian creature (a biologically implausible creature, certainly, but so are the Goa'uld). It turns out they are right, and the dragon is a simulation created by advanced technology, but still.
Heroes often shows people extremely skeptical about Hiro's powers, even if they have powers themselves.
The most obvious example is Nathan Petrelli, who flies under his own power to escape a kidnapping — and then treats Hiro like a complete nutcase just minutes later.
Matt (a psychic) is equally skeptical in the dystopian future of "Five Years Gone":
Mohinder: Hiro Nakamura can stop time. Teleport by folding space. Theoretically, he can fold time as well. Matt: So you're saying he's a time traveler. Mohinder: Is that any stranger than being able to read someone's mind? (pause) Matt: Yeah. It is.
Early in the series this is partially justified by Hiro's uneven English. Even to those who should know better, somebody who has trouble expressing themselves properly is likely to be more easily judged crazy. It doesn't help that he acts highly irrational and perceives his life and the world around him as if he were in a comic book. He doesn't even try to act at all subtle.
Supernatural. Despite making a career out of hunting supernatural menaces and retaining enough experience and Genre Savvy to fill an aircraft carrier, Sam and Dean Winchester almost inevitably have an argument over whether or not the Monster of the Week could be the real thing or not. Most of this is justified, because presumably the brothers get a lot of dud cases where it's nothing supernatural at all. We never see those cases because an episode consisting of Sam and Dean rolling into town, poking around for a while, concluding "Oh, some guy just got spooked by a barking dog," and rolling out again would be really boring. It's therefore always a legitimate question whether there's actually anything weird going on. Another arbitrary element of this is that the role of the hard-line skeptic switches every time between Sam and Dean.
One memorable scene has Dean explaining to Sam why he doesn't believe in angels (their mother said that angels were watching over them, but she was murdered by a demon), despite hunting demons straight out of Hell on a regular basis. When Sam points out that there's more folklore on angels than any other creature they've fought, Dean says that there's a lot of folklore on unicorns as well. Sam's response? "Wait, there's no such thing as unicorns?" In this same scene, Dean says that there's no God. This is an odd belief given that in this series the name of God and holy water are harmful to demons, and Christian exorcism rituals are effective. (According to the series creator, he just sees the rituals as another example of the hoodoo they regularly run across.) By the end of the episode, Dean is less certain that no higher power is at work. Worse, his atheism has been shaken by the events of the episode despite the fact that the "angel" in that episode turned out NOT to be an angel.
The episode "A Very Supernatural Christmas" featured a series of Christmas-related disappearances (including somebody getting dragged up the chimney). The brothers start to wonder if the monster is some sort of "Anti Claus". They end up doing some research on the concept, investigate Santa's village and try to apprehend the guy playing Father Christmas (who matches the profile of the Anti Claus, but turns out to just be a drunk). After that failure, they consult Bobby who tells them there is no such thing and that Sam and Dean are idiots.
Then comes another episode where all sort of weird things are happening in a single university campus. The only one that throws Bobby is an alien abduction. However, he doesn't act like it's impossible, he just says that even if aliens do exist, he's never come across any evidence of them.
"Clap Your Hands if You Believe" revolves around supposed alien abductions. Dean eventually begins to talk about how they have to "change their entire worldview" after one such abduction. It's actually a leprechaun, posing as an alien expert, and working with the rest of The Fair Folk, who fakes the "abductions" as part of a Deal with the Devil he has with various people.
Despite there being hundreds of years of lore and mythology relating to dragons that pre-dates their inclusion in fantasy fiction and video games, both Sam and Dean believe that they can not exist because they only exist in fiction and video games.
On the other hand, most of the monsters (all but one species) they've come across have lore on them of some kind, but the dragons had no trustworthy documented cases amongst hunters within centuries. Wherever they'd been hiding, the dragons hadn't made any sort of a ruckus in hundreds of years. The skepticism is justified, but still inaccurate.
Since season one, the most consistent mantra has been that "everything's real but Sasquatch". It's actually exactly that. By season 4, angels and God are confirmed. Aliens have been confirmed by angels and above stating there's other planets and life forms they could be dealing with. Still no sight of Sasquatch.
When Castiel's vessel, Jimmy Novak, first started receiving messages notifying him of his destiny, his wife was understandably confused and worried. Hearing voices isn't good, after all. But then Jimmy sticks his hand in a pot of boiling water and is perfectly fine, and she still thinks he's crazy.
In the show Strange, the title character explains at length the presence of demons on earth, but flatly denies the possibility of ghosts.
In Special Unit 2, everything from gargoyles to werewolves are actually real, except for vampires. "Never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life".
The Tenth Doctor, a man who travels through time and space in a dimensionally transcendental police box, and who has come back from the dead or near-death by rewriting his biological structure nine times, regularly pronounces things impossible.
Though he usually does this while looking at them or already having done it, and in at least one case declares that such "impossibilities" are one of his favorite things in existence. He seems to be using "impossible" as shorthand for "it violates all preconceived notions, and yet here it is happening anyway".
Hell, the tenth Doctor is very mild compared to the William Hartnell Doctor in the very first seasons, who was regularly denouncing most anything his companions told him as ridiculous fantastickery.
Ian Chesterton did this to a degree as well, although he stopped short of flat earth atheism most of the time.
In "The Time Meddler", new companion Steven (who has been rescued by a group of Dalek-tailed time travellers from spherical, apparently sentient robots with flamethrowers, and then stowed away in a huge spaceship which looks from the outside like a tiny Police Box) point-blankly refuses to believe that the TARDIS can travel through time, even though everyone around them dresses and acts like it's 1066, and constantly announces to the Doctor that time travel is obviously impossible and that the joke is over, which the Doctor finds extremely annoying. He later sees a monk wearing a wristwatch which he takes as confirmation of his hypothesis, but which tips off Vicki that something is badly wrong. Turns out that the monk is also a time traveller...
Ben, who has seen his friend possessed into building war robots by an intelligent computer, been taken in a bigger-on-the-inside time machine back to 17th Century Cornwall and battled cyborgs from Earth's identical twin planet absolutely refuses to accept that the Doctor is still the Doctor after his first regeneration, suggesting even though he saw him transform in front of his very eyes that someone else sneaked into the TARDIS, murdered the Doctor and took his place. Of course, this isn't helped by the fact that the Doctor isn't quite sure that he's the Doctor yet either. Possibly Justified as it was the first ever regeneration on the show and Ben's scepticism functions both as a channel for audience feelings about the change as well as his own feelings of betrayal by the First Doctor's death. The novelisation of "Power of the Daleks" also has the Doctor Lampshade it:
‘Like common sense. The Doctor falls down in agony and then you get up – dolled up in new togs and everything. Do me a favour!’
The little man gnawed at his lower lip. ‘I don’t understand your brand of common sense, Ben,’ he said. ‘Does it grasp the principles of time travel?’ He raised an eyebrow inquisitively.
‘Well,’ Ben blustered, ‘I don’t know all of the ins and outs, of course, but – ’
‘But you do know it’s possible?’
‘Well, yes,’ Ben had to concede.
Turning to Polly, the stranger said: ‘And you, Polly. You can, of course, explain how the TARDIS has the shape of a small police box outside and yet is far, far bigger once you step through the doors?’
‘No,’ Polly admitted. ‘No, I can’t explain it.’
‘Yet both of you accept the two things.’ The man spread his hands and looked at them expectantly.
Ben was confused and angry. ‘Well, we know that they happen!’ was the best he could manage.
‘Exactly,’ the maybe-Doctor replied. ‘Then accept what has happened to me – even if you don’t understand it.’
In The Daemons the Third Doctor goes to great pains to explain that something that looks and functions exactly like magic is not, in fact, magic. His argument seems to amount to "Because I don't want to call it magic". Also something about Clarke's Third Law.
After some consideration the Eleventh Doctor decides that a star that burns cold, and cools down nearby objects, is a ridiculous concept. But for the Doctor Who universe, that's fairly plausible. To give him his due, in that scenario they're faced with two dangers with one of them supposedly being imaginary and actually, they both are. While he declares it ridiculous, he doesn't assume it isn't real.
The Doctor, especially the Eleventh, likes playing with this trope, saying something is impossible as he is doing it.
Doctor: There is no power, it is impossible to open. River: How impossible? Doctor: Two minutes (begins working to open the door)
The Doctor is a bit of a different case, though, given that, between his schooling and travels, he has enough knowledge to deduce the planet of origin of aliens based off a handful of disjointed observations, and can provide the Techno Babble for any given event that occurs. While his knowledge of the universe is not absolute, it's fair to say that he knows enough to say that witches and vampires are fair game, while cold stars aren't.
The Doctor lampshades his own Arbitrary Skepticism in "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit", saying that he would have no problem believing that "the devil" came from outside of the universe, but he can't accept that he's from before the universe.
The Tenth Doctor's skepticism is particularly arbitrary when you consider that the Seventh Doctor's explanation for Fenric in "The Curse of Fenric" is...he's a force of evil from before the universe. Then again, just because the Seventh Doctor believed that, doesn't mean the Tenth Doctor has to.
"The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" offers a subversion of sorts: Nancy, a teenager in Blitz-era London being pursued by gas mask-wearing zombies led by her son, who was killed a month ago scoffs at the idea that Rose is a time-traveller from the future. It's not the time travel bit that she doesn't buy though, it's the idea that there's any kind of future to travel from.
Again in "The Girl In the Fireplace" when Mickey asks what a horse is doing on a spaceship (The TARDIS).
Doctor: "What’s Pre-Revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get a little perspective!"
The first time Martha meets the Doctor, she hears that he has two heart beats, instantly accepts that the hospital has been transported to the moon and that the Judoon are aliens, but refuses to believe the Doctor is an alien until a Judoon scanner confirms it.
In "The War Games," the alien War Lords have been kidnapping human soldiers from various periods, using time machines. But when the Doctor and his companions (who are among some human soldiers) say they're time travelers, the War Lord who's questioning them is skeptical, questioning their sanity. (Another War Lord, though, thinks to himself, "Time travelers—I wonder." A subversion?)
A Lampshade of sorts is hung on this with the introduction of Donna Noble. She appears to have this, but she actually managed to miss all of the very public incidents involving aliens over the previous few years.
Particularly ridiculous is the episode "Meat", in which Gwen's fiancé refuses to believe that her job is "catching aliens", despite having seen one himself not two hours earlier. Although to be fair, he probably thought that was just a regular giant mutant land whale. His response is an incredulous "Aliens? In Cardiff?". London has been invaded, publicly, by various aliens constantly over the last few years. But Cardiff? No f'in way.
Also in Torchwood, while Gwen freaked out at first and was in mild denial, she accepted aliens pretty quickly. Fairies, on the other hand, she scoffed continually at, until some did show up and started killing people.
And again in the second episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day: the entire world may be immortal at the moment, but Rex still doesn't believe Jack that he used to be.
Sarah Jane does not believe in ghosts or magic. Hey, remember when alien star gods from the previous universe used astrology to take over the world?
"The Eternity Trap" has Sarah Jane scoffing at the idea of ghosts, while simultaneously encouraging a ghost hunter to have a more open mind. Because searching for ghosts is inherently more close-minded than searching for aliens. Although she was actually implied to have been wrong about the ghosts.
In Monk, the genius detective Adrian Monk often holds what appear to be implausible beliefs. A seemingly open-and-shut suicide or accident case may be interpreted as a homicide by Monk, or he may accuse a person who has an airtight alibi. The captain, Randy and his assistant are consistently skeptical, despite that he turns out to be right about 99.9999999%, give or take a bit.
He actually is partially wrong in one case, "Mr. Monk and the Naked Man," where he accused a nudist of being a murderer because he had a trauma of nude persons because when he was born, he was nude and the doctor slapped him in front of his mother who didn't stop it.
In "Mr. Monk Takes a Vacation," due to another error, he also accuses someone of murdering his wife, at which point the man turns to said wife and says "he's going to tell me how I murdered you." Since it was quite early in the episode, he had time to pull off his normal Holmes gig.
In "Mr. Monk Goes to Group Therapy," he is accused by Harold Krenshaw, a member of his support group, of being responsible for the murders of their support group friends and seriously entertains the possibility throughout half the episode.
In "Mr. Monk and the Critic," the one time Natalie tries to convince Monk that a Straw Critic is a killer, Monk and the others don't believe her because they point out that he had a very airtight alibi for this.
Natalie has averted this a number of times.
In "Mr. Monk and the Other Detective," she supports Monk's belief that Marty Eels is "cheating" at the case.
In "Mr. Monk Goes to a Fashion Show," she isn't skeptical of Monk's belief that the framed delivery boy is an innocent person.
In "Mr. Monk and the Astronaut", she is at first skeptical of Steve Wagner's guilt in the death of his girlfriend until Wagner gives a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Monk.
In "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert," when Monk and Natalie are approached by Kendra Frank, the murder victim's girlfriend, Natalie displays some initial skepticism towards Kendra's suspicions that something is wrong. She still helps Monk pursue the investigation after checking out the body.
In "Mr. Monk and the Bad Girlfriend," she appears to be the only person besides Monk to believe that Stottlemeyer's girlfriend is a killer. Monk and Natalie were sent by Stottlemeyer to investigate that murder.
In "Mr. Monk and the Genius," averted for everyone because of the Whodunnit to Me structure of the plot.
Stottlemeyer sometimes averts this, though; in "Mr. Monk and Sharona", he says to Monk "if you're right, and you probably are, because you always are".
The novels play with it: in Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse, Stottlemeyer and Disher quickly latch on to Monk's theory when he says that Lucas Breen, a Corrupt Corporate Executive, is their suspect, but they have to also deal with the fact that the chief doesn't like them harassing Breen, a member of the police commission. In Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher are skeptical of Monk's claim that a police informant who just got a $250,000 reward is a cop killer. In Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants, Stottlemeyer doesn't believe Monk's allegations that Ian Ludlow, their tag along mystery author helping investigate, is their killer. In Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop, when Stottlemyer is framed for murder, Monk almost believes that Stottlemeyer actually is guilty, but Natalie gets him in line to help find the incriminating evidence.
In the early seasons in particular, Arnold Rimmer sneers at the idea of believing in God, yet remains fanatically devoted to the idea of meeting an Sufficiently Advanced Alien species — particularly those consisting of gorgeous multi-breasted women who will be able to construct for him a new body out of nothing — to the extent that he blames every slightly unusual occurrence, such as using up a toilet roll in a day, on aliens despite there being just as much evidence for the existence of either in the Red Dwarf universe (i.e. none, the strange creatures seen on the show are all GELFs — Genetically Engineered Life Forms).
Kryten laughs at the idea that there's such a thing as heaven for people, but is (up until partway through Series V, at least) a believer in the existence of Silicon Heaven, a belief which he only questions when faced with apparent destruction and supports with the simple question, "where would all the calculators go?" In a deleted scene from "The Inquisitor", Rimmer calls him out on that. In fact, Kryten's arbitrary skepticism is because he, like apparently almost all machines with artifical intelligence, was programmed to believe in Silicon Heaven so he wouldn't turn against his creators.
Wash says that River being psychic sounds like "something out of science fiction". His wife points out that they live on a spaceship, to which he glibly replies, "So?"
In the commentary for "Objects in Space", Joss Whedon points out that he meant for River's supposed merging with Serenity to seem plausible until it was revealed that she was merely hiding, since they wanted the audience to think that maybe Firefly wasn't as "hard" SF as it looked — that there might be magic at work there too, which would have opened up a new playing field. Alas...
Happens on multiple occasions in Highlander. At various times, MacLeod has scoffed at the concept of Methos ("the world's oldest Immortal? He's a legend"), the idea of a Dark Quickening (absorbing the essence of an endless number of evil Immortals would eventually make you evil as well), and the Methuselah Stone (an artifact that makes normal folks immortal). He's eventually proven wrong each and every time he makes such a pronouncement, usually in a fairly dramatic way. These reactions would be a little more believable if MacLeod himself wasn't over four hundred years old and incapable of being killed by anything other than decapitation. He also tends not to listen to those who offer him alternate viewpoints on such matters, despite them being (a) the aforementioned world's oldest living man, with over five thousand years of research and exploration under his belt, and (b) a friendly member of an organization that has been studying such phenomena since before the invention of the written word. This is subverted in an episode where it looks like people are being killed by a vampire, an idea that MacLeod scoffs at. Turns out he's right, it was just a regular Immortal pretending to be a vampire. On the other hand, living four hundred years and not encountering any real sign of the supernatural besides immortality (prior to the events of the series) might make a man very skeptical.
Lampshaded in Pushing Daisies. Ned states firmly that he doesn't believe in ghosts, witches or the like, saying "this may sound strange coming from a guy who can shoot sparks from his finger, but that's what I believe." This is reasonably justified, as Ned has never before encountered anything paranormal other than his own power. Plus, it's possible that having the ability to resurrect people is why Ned doesn't believe in ghosts, as no-one he brings back ever remembers doing anything beyond dying. As native inhabitants of a blindingly colorful and relentlessly quirky existence, all the characters in Pushing Daisies surely have suspension of disbelief on a different scale than the audience.
Scully. Her ability to deny phenomena outside her "present scientific knowledge has all the answers, and if something's outside that set, it doesn't exist" worldview becomes increasingly illogical the longer she's dealing with aliens, vampires, etc. In one great scene, Mulder calls her out on it, notes that his theories are right a healthy majority of the time and demands a little credit. It was even funnier when she was presented with things that are physically impossible. She just doesn't believe in aliens, but admits they could exist in theory. It was later revealed that Scully's sudden credulity was only because she was trying to fill the void left by Mulder and that there was little real conviction behind it. Also, they reverse positions on religion; Scully has a deep Catholic faith, apparently with no problems regarding her skepticism otherwise, while Mulder appears to be perhaps a Hollywood Atheist, saying angrily that he refuses to believe in a God that would let his sister die, despite plenty of cases where supernatural Christian (and specifically ''Catholic'') phenomena is shown to be true.
Doggett. Doggett simply proclaimed things impossible and refused to discuss it further.
Jack is the usual skeptic, though Sayid also makes dry comments ("We've been walking for two days, following a compass bearing provided by the carvings on a stick!").
In the Season Four finale, Jack denies that the island was moved, despite the fact that it spontaneously disappeared while he and everyone else were watching. In all fairness he may have assumed they moved rather than the Island. In season 5 and his experiences trying to acclimate to the off island world he loses his skepticism entirely, his Locke-like faith in the Island is the only thing keeping him going during the season as he rejected his past beliefs following his lengthy breakdown.
In the episode "Trakeena's Revenge" of Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, the first person a little girl runs to after seeing her mother abducted by a monster tells her, "Don't be silly; there's no such thing as monsters." Where has this lady been living for the past seven years? Especially in this season, where the Power Rangers are operating without a Masquerade and are well-known public celebrities who fight monsters. Especially in this episode, which crosses Lightspeed over with last year's Lost Galaxy team, confirming its place in continuity where Rangers have continually fought off monster attacks. Once. A. Week. For. Seven. Years. Or how about the... what, four or five times so far the planet had been invaded by aliens. Not just aliens, but alien monsters... with magic. It's easier to just write that chick off as an escaped mental patient who thinks those monster-alien-magic people are giant bunnies only she can see.
Linkara even went so far as to label her the dumbest person in Power Rangers when reviewing the season for his History of Power Rangers series.
Or earlier in Power Rangers in Space, where Bulk & Skull find work as assistants to the eccentric crank Professor Phenomenus, who is generally held as crazy because he believes in the existence of ALIENS! And he lives in the same town that's been under siege by Evil Space Aliens for the better part of six years. He IS crazy, so maybe that's just the half-baked excuse he uses for being kicked out of the scientific community. It's worth noting he didn't last particularly long even among the science staff of a gigantic mobile space colony sent to colonize an alien world.
In the first episode of Power Rangers Ninja Storm, it seems like only one person in the world actually believes the previous Ranger teams are more than an urban legend. It's even implied that the series is in another universe where all previous series are fictional. Later episodes reveal that this is not the case; When Shane's older brother discovers Shane's secret, he actually does realize that being the Red Ranger means that he's the leader. Word of God says that they had never intended to imply the whole alternate universe thing; fans just took Tori's line about comic books in the first episode and ran with it.
In Power Rangers Mystic Force, everybody but Chip dismiss the idea of vampires as "silly". That, ignoring the fact that they are all wizards, they see magic in a daily basis (and have magic-based powers), know a comic relief half-goblin-half-troll; and their enemies are, well, monsters. One of their recurring enemies is a vampire, though admittedly this fact was not directly established before this episode, and they've met multiple times by this point. Udonna quickly points the absurdity of their dismissal, though.
Power Rangers Operation Overdrive has one of the Rangers denying that dragons exist when told they were using a dragon scale in a piece of special armor. Ignoring all the dragon themed monsters that appeared in earlier seasons, the team had just gotten the tar beat out of them in that very episode by a dragon. Possibly justified, however, as there's a difference between "dragon-themed" and an actual dragon, and the dragon that Overdrive got their scale from was the one in Mystic Force, which was explicitly stated to be the Last of Its Kind.
In the very first episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers the gang are instantly teleported to the Command Center, greeted by an actual robot (Which Billy physically touches) and a giant floating head, who makes the Morphers appear on their belts. Zack assumes it to be a prank, so his friends must have pulled some incredibly elaborate jokes on him in his day.
In Power Rangers Megaforce, the teens are shocked to learn that aliens exist and are invading earth. This is rather confusing when you consider that Earth suffered a full-scale, worldwide alien invasion back in Power Rangers in Space, and that, by Operation Overdrive, the existence of aliens was an accepted enough fact of life for colleges to offer majors in "Galactic Myth and Legend". They also don't know who or what Power Rangers are, either, even though Rangers have been fighting off those invasions for decades now. And in case you're wondering, yes, it's in the same continuity - there are direct references to prior Rangers. In something of a Lampshade Hanging, Gosei even compliments Gia on her skepticism before assuring her that it's real.
To their credit, though, the kids catch on quick. A few episodes down the line, Troy admits to the others that he's been having weird, possibly prophetic dreams. The others have no problem believing it at this point, and Noah even says there's some acceptance of it in the scientific community.
Continuing the Power Rangers trend, an example from Power Rangers Time Force: Trip is sent to pick up a pizza, and is attacked by an evil knight on the way home. The other Rangers don't believe him and laugh. To be fair, all the monsters on this show came from a prison, and they may very well have known that none of those was a knight. The knight is in fact completely unrelated to Ransik and has his own origin, but you'd think they would at least consider the idea that a mystical knight could exist.
Kids Incorporated: In the season 5 episode "Constellation Connie", Connie tries to build a time machine, and accidentally summons an alien instead. The kids don't believe her, and tease her over it. Admittedly, this was the only episode of the season with a fantastic plot, but still, at this point in the series, two of the older kids have already traveled in time, and one of them has already met an alien.
Because season 5 aired during the WGA strike of 1988, the show's producers were forced to use non-union writers who probably hadn't seen the first four seasons up to that point. This probably also explains why Ryan stopped being a Perky Goth and became more conformist and why Stacy suddenly became the Alpha Bitch after previous seasons established her as being Spoiled Sweet.
Xena: Warrior Princess: In "Old Ares Had A Farm", Xena and Gabriel speculate about the presence of ghosts, Ares mocks them and humans in general for inventing weird supernatural creatures just to explain any unknown phenomena, ya know, like, gods. It's even more ridiculous when you consider that Ares himself was face-to-face with ghosts in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode, "The Vanishing Dead."
One episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation saw Doctor Crusher insisting that there were "no such things as ghosts!" This, in spite of the fact that the Star Trek universe contains many, many instances of humanoids having their consciousnesses de-coporealized and surviving in the absence of their bodies. Most of these have hand-waveyTechnobabble explanations, but still...
Occasionally subverted: When Barclay (a hypochondriac loon) tells Captain Picard that there's something living in the transporter beam, and that he'll stake his career on it, Picard gives him a long look... then tells LaForge to start stripping down the transporter until they find something.
In another episode, the crew encounters an alien woman claiming to be the Devil of several cultures, including the Klingon devil and the one of the planet they are in, which according to legend made a deal with her 1000 years ago to give her control of the planet in exchange for 1000 years of peace and she has now come to collect. The crew theorizes she might be a member of the Q continuum or even Q himself but they quickly come to the conclusion that the Q wouldn't be interested in economic forecasts (like she requested) and that the tricks she showed thus far could be easily done with contemporary technology, thus she must be a con artist.
Similarly, on Voyager, if things start to get weird, Janeway will first try to rule out clones, time travel, mirror-universe entities, holographic replicas, and all the strange stuff they've previously encountered, as a matter of course. "Weird is part of the job."
Refreshingly, it's often completely averted. When a crew member claims to have had an odd or unexplained experience on any of the series, the senior staff usually assumes that it was a real event and work from there to explain it. It gets to the point that by Voyager scanning for alien intruders, weird radiation, and psychic interference is more or less part of a standard medical exam.
An episode of Beastmaster has Dar's sidekick explain that the hostile panther they're chasing is the Familiar of a guy who has come Back from the Dead. Dar dismisses this as nonsense. His sidekick retorts, "You can talk to animals!" but Dar refuses to believe until later.
For the first few seasons of Smallville, Clark Kent ironically believed the ability to fly was impossible. Also, at the end of an episode where Clark battles a Wicked Witch and her cohorts, when Clark has to explain why the house is trashed, his parents scoff at the idea of magic, even though they've already faced people with superpowers that seem to defy the laws of physics.
For the first few seasons, the characters' skepticism regarding powers in general is odd, seeing as Smallville is the weirdness magnet of the world, and they've seen first hand that some people have powers.
Mother: You're not making an antenna to talk to Martians again, are you? Max: We're wizards. Why does everyone think it's crazy that there's Martians?
Non-supernatural example: On Bones, Zack once expressed a disbelief in pirates of the historical sort, and was taunted for it. This, from a character who has assisted in both criminal investigations and archeological research, hence ought to know that criminality is neither rare, nor restricted to the present day.
Stefan manages to say with a straight face, while wearing a magic ring given to him by a witch that protects him from dying, "That's impossible" to the idea that Alaric has a magical ring that protects him from dying. Alright, so his protects him from burning up in sunlight while Alaric's resurrected him when he was stabbed in the chest, but still.
Stefan may learn his lesson from this, since in the next season it's his brother Damon who finds the possible existence of werewolves ridiculous. To be fair, he explicitly points out that he would have expected to run into some before in his century-and-a-half wandering the earth.
In Kung Fu The Legend Continues, Peter would scoff whenever Kwai Chang judges that there is a supernatural element to the case, even after they face real magicians, bad guys who could turn into and/or control animals like snakes and spiders, etc.
Tommy Dawkins occasionally expressed disbelief that certain supernatural beings, such as vampires, actually existed. The fact that Tommy should have been more open-minded given that he was a werewolf was something his companion often pointed out.
Tommy: There's no such thing as vampires. Merton: Oh yeah, that means a lot coming from a werewolf!
Even more irritatingly, in the second season MERTON stated he didn't believe in ghosts, even though he had already fought ghosts before.
In Merlin, Merlin will enter the throne room, and explain whatever weird thing is going on, at which point everyone will scoff and laugh at him. All of them. This goes on for 3 seasons, even though he is always, always, always right. This is in a universe where sorcerers, dragons, and unicorns are known to exist.
On Seinfeld, Kramer and George have the following exchange: "But what if the Pigman has a two-seater?" "C'mon on George, let's be realistic here." Kramer even gives Jerry a look as if to say "what is up with him?" It should also be pointed out that Kramer was the first person to even mention the idea of a Pigman.
In Psych lead character Shawn Spencer makes a living with his friend Gus by acting as a consultant to the police as a psychic detective thanks to his hyper vigilance enabling him to do a creditable job of faking psychic abilities. Plenty of people express disbelief that he is in fact psychic, but they work with him nonetheless. In a season 5 episode the pair get involved in a case which their client believes involves UFOs, and the pair are admitted lovers of UFOs. As a result, Shawn's father (now in charge of hiring consultants for the local police) informs the pair that he cannot hire two people everyone thinks are nuts (and a quick hand poll shows this to be the case) because they believe in UFOs. What? People were fine hiring a guy who [pretends to] thinks he is psychic, but aliens? Nah, can't listen to them, even with the dozens of cases they've helped solve.
Jack Carter, of Eureka, doesn't care how weird the town gets, nor that he just discovered a giant, stereotypical crop circle, there's one thing he knows, and "that's that there are no aliens". He is right (at least that time).
He also gets the other end of the Arbitrary Skepticism stick all the goddamn time. Something weird happens, he's the only one who knows about it so far, and everyone dismisses him as crazy despite the fact that every time that's happened in the past and he's been right and all the much much weirder things that have happened. Lampshaded slightly in one episode where Carter asks Henry if the anomaly of the week is scientifically possible, and when told that it isn't follows up by asking if its "Eureka-possible", to which Henry answers yes.
The 3rd film in The Librarian series features a nice example, in which the protagonist acts like vampires are too ridiculous/impossible to believe in, despite having personally played with Pandora's Box, Excalibur, the Philosopher's Stone and a variety of other artifacts that can conquer the world/raise the dead/etc.
A Halloween episode of ''Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" centres around using and subverting this. A lot of weird things (even for this show) have been happening, and near the climax, the younger son says bluntly to his father, "Mom is vomiting pins. [Sis] is spouting Latin." He names various other such phenomena. "The logical, rational, scientific conclusion is: We've been cursed." He and his father then use logic and reason to deduce who cursed them and what to do about it.
True Blood: Arlene assumes Terry is off his medication because he claims he's been marked for death by a fire demon. Lampshaded by Holly, who reminds her that they live in a world of vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters and were haunted by a ghost not long ago. Lafayette, who can actually channel the dead, doesn't even believe it until the dead woman who summoned the demon starts talking to him.
From the Warehouse 13 episode "Endless Wonder", where an artifact is making people taller.
Artie: We have the axe. We have the slingshot. And the beans? Please, that's just a fairy tale!
Pete: Okay, good to know where we draw the line.
Myka has this habit. It's most explicitly pointed out in "Time Will Tell" when Myka has the nerve to proclaim that there's no such thing as cavorite note an Anti Gravity metal from an H. G. Wells story while she and Pete are stuck to the ceiling due to a gadget made by H.G. Wells.
Myka: Cavorite was an anti-gravity metal that H.G. Wells wrote about, but cavorite doesn't exist... I mean, there's no such thing. Pete: Myka, in this job there's no such thing as "no such thing." We just met the female H.G. Wells, for crying out loud.
She also does it in "Beyond Our Control":
Artie: Somehow, light and matter coalesced, and a 3D-projected Sherman tank became solid enough to shell the crowd. Myka: How is that even possible? Pete: You're still asking that question? Myka: I'm still hoping for an answer.
Pete does this in "3...2...1", laughing at the idea that H.G. Wells could have made a rocket in the 1800s. She immediately points out that he's used a time-machine she made in the 1800s. He hates her at the time, so he disregards everything she says.
Peter and Olivia on Fringe both seem to be pretty dismissive of the idea that God could exist or that any religion has any truth to it, despite the fact that in addition to all the bizarre creatures they've seen and the existence of a parallel universe, they've also witnessed that life after death is clearly possible.
Walter himself, notably, seems to be more open minded, once arguing against a priest that possessions are some kind of real phenomenon, while the priest said they were just superstition. He also believes in God to some degree, which was a major element of "White Tulip".
Also, in one episode, Walter refused to believe that a phenomenon could be caused by ghosts (granted, he turned out to be right, but still). Lampshaded by Peter.
In the Haven episode "301", Wesley Toomey dramatically declares that the Troubles are nonsense and that everything is being caused by aliens. To their credit, the heroes admit that with all the crazy stuff they've seen, aliens might exist, but they know the Troubles exist and can see that Wesley is a total loony. Alien phenomena does show up, but only because Wesley has a Reality Warper Trouble. Wesley refuses to admit this even though the alien phenomena changes to fit his words and imagination.
Refreshingly, the main characters typically avert this. They know that Audrey isn't affected by the Troubles, and so when she claims that a Trouble has altered/is affecting the entire town ("Groundhog Day" Loop, people being Ret Goned, altered by time travel, etc.) they quickly believe her. This is especially helpful on the "Groundhog Day" Loop one, where they learn a little more with each loop, and then she quickly catches them up on the next one.
Despite the characters in Alphas living in a world where people with super-powers of almost every kind are reasonably common... everyone, even the people with complete knowledge of The Masquerade, seems to have trouble believing that Stanton Parish is about 200 years old, and are always making snarky comments about the unlikeliness of it.
Scott from Teen Wolf has difficulty at first believing that the Big Bad who's behind the sacrifices in season 3 is a druid, even through, as Stiles points out, Scott himself is a werewolf.
Averted in the episode "Motel California": when Lydia starts hearing voices, Allison automatically believes her because of everything else they have seen.
Nick on Forever Knight has expressed skepticism about the existence of ghosts, despite being a vampire himself. He justifies this by pointing out that he's never seen one, despite having survived for centuries and witnessed many, many deaths.
(As it happens, the target doesn't have psychic powers. She just has X-Ray Vision.)
In "The Bridge", Coulson once again reaffirms his stance that there is simply no way psychic abilities could possibly be real, even though the plot of the episode involves a Super Serum and a shadowy cadre of villains who clearly have the means to augment the human body.
A recurring theme on the show is the main characters insisting there are no psychic powers (and being right). The supposed case of telekinesis is actually a portal hoping Stalker with a Crush. The Clairvoyant does know some incredibly precise and classified information, with makes Coulson realize that he's a high ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
Despite having lived for two years in a post-apocalyptic storm world in which people have all kinds of superpowers, tattoos, comic books and graffiti can all have a controlling influence on the real world, teleportation, power over dairy products, freezing time, body-swapping, zombies, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and bogeymen exist, brains can be stored digitally, and Rudy can convince his parents that he is pursuing a successful university career as opposed to being on community service, in the final episode of Misfits, disbelief is still expressed at the possibility of Jess going back in time to avert catastrophe-even though time travel itself has featured prominently in the show in previous episodes.
On Once Upon a Time, Emma – the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, although she was raised in the "real" world and didn't learn who her parents were until she was an adult – still has trouble accepting that any character she grew up thinking was fictional may be real. For the second half of the third season, Regina correctly suggests the Wicked Witch of the West is the new villain, and Emma's reaction is, "Seriously? She's real too?" (Hook calls her on it.)
Brakenreid: Crabtree, wait a minute. You're telling me that you believe in zombies, werewolves, vampires, Martians, Venusians, curses, voodoo ghosts and, apparently, sea monsters, but a creature in Lake Ontario that both I and Detective Murdoch have witnessed is beyond the scope of your otherwise vivid imagination? You're telling me that?
Crabtree: Sir, I can't attest to what you witnessed. I'm afraid I remain a sceptic.
A campfire song (to the tune of "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes") seems to be about this effect:
There are no bananas in the sky, in the sky. There are no bananas in the sky, in the sky. There's a sun and a moon and a coconut cream pie, But there are no bananas in the sky.
Creatures of Beauty, a Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama, features the Doctor and Nyssa encountering the Veln. They know about aliens, but refuse to believe that there is more than one kind of alien: Even after blood-testing Nyssa they discover she's not Veln and assume she's Koteem. After finding no match with Koteem blood samples, one remarks that it must mean that she's a Koteem with a "different sort of blood".
At Animenext we have this game, Are You a Werewolf, which we developed into a deep, complex game by adding more character types, among which is the Skeptic. The person who draws that card must refuse to believe in werewolves until someone adjacent to them is killed by one, no matter how many nights someone is mauled mysteriously in the middle of the night.
The Palladium game Beyond the Supernatural included the Nega-Psychic class, who can spend all night fighting ghosts and evil wizards and still refuse to acknowledge their existence, or at the very least, rationalize away their experiences. Ironically, Nega-Psychics are psychics whose extreme skepticism weakens supernatural powers around them (including their teammates', unfortunately).
Similar to the above, the World of Darkness setting has the Sleepwalker merit that a character can take. This merit allows a non-supernatural character to see and comprehend magic as performed by mages. Normal people (AKA sleepers) react with Disbelief when they see magic, causing the spell to both fail and have catastrophic consequences for the mage who cast it. Similarly, werewolves have Lunacy, which means that mortals who see them do not understand what is going on and rationalize the experience in their own minds, and changelings have the Mask, which shields mortals from seeing their Fae aspects unless the changeling wills it.
A weird example exists in Warhammer, the severity of it depends on what source you're reading. The Empire refuses to believe in the existence of the Skaven, giant mutant rat people living just below the surface of the world. While this would normally be understandable, it must be pointed out that mutant Beastmen, Elves, Dragons and Magic are all just facts of life in this setting and the Dwarves exist in a constant state of war with the Skaven. Various sources have explained this as The Empire keeping it hushed up (to keep people from panicking), the Skaven themselves keeping their existence quiet or even some innate magic of the Skaven making they exist. Older sources said that people dismissed them as being a Beastmen variant, despite looking and acting nothing like Beastmen and being far more technologically advanced.
Pathfinder has an example of this with the Sasquatch. Its description highlights that even in a Fantasy Kitchen Sink setting, scholars still doubt the existence of Sasquatches, citing a lack of remains or lairs. Justified in that Sasquatches are remarkably stealthy in their forest habitats, feel no need to build or modify potential lairs, carefully and solemnly bury their dead, and have a language that sounds like natural forest noises.
In William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Caesar accepts superstition regarding the Lupercal festival as fact, and then refuses to believe a soothsayer telling him that March 15th will be a bad day.
Macbeth Witches can predict the future and cast spells, dead men can come back as ghosts, apparitions can rise from cauldrons... but trees can't move. That would be silly.
Deus Ex: JC calls out Tracer on mentioning the Illuminati when the former was on his belly trying to escape the [VersaLife] labs with his life, thinking Tracer was making a poorly-timed joke. Tracer wasn't, and it's strange that JC would doubt him, after having escaped a hidden base beneath his old workplace, and discovering the existence of a shadow government.
The Might and Magic series, known amongst other things for its humour, lampshades this trope by having Roland Ironfist say the following on his first letter to his wife, in Might and Magic VI:
No, Catherine, Lord Kilburn was probably slain by something much more mundane than devils; perhaps a pair of dragons.
This was clearly meant to be a joke, since Enroth, the planet on which the realm Roland rules is on, sports angels. The "devils" turn to be demon-like aliens. At least, an out-universe joke — from Roland's perspective, it's a lot less arbitrary than it might seem (the game that introduced Roland had dragon attacks as as mundane a cause of death as boating accidents, food poisoning and falling out of windows. Devils, meanwhile, have been completely absent from recorded history).
In Metal Gear Solid 2 Snake is extremely skeptical of Vamp's abilities, fervently reaching for every possibly logical explanation for the wall climbing (later proven to be tech-based), his regen ability (again, tech-based), and then Vamp's ability to paralyze people by pinning their shadow (actually a form of hypnosis). What's funny is that Snake has seen a man that could command ravens, a very powerful psychic that can brainwash people, and is himself a clone.
This gets carried onto his Super Smash Bros. Brawl incarnation, with the way he grouses about magic.
Also inn Metal Gear Solid 2, Ocelot says near the end of the game that there's no such thing as the supernatural. Never mind that he's previously been on the same team as a raven controlling guy and psychic, his father could communicate with ghosts, create rainstorms at will, and is now a ghost himself who continues to do these things, and he himself spends half the game being possessed by a ghost.
This also applies to Snake's comments regarding Fortune. Even though he's faced far stranger people than her, he maintains there's "no such thing as a witch".
In Metal Gear Ac!d, Snake is skeptical of the ostensibly psychic Alice Hazel. He turns out to be right... sort of. She was really just familiar with the layout of the base, which was why she was able to provide help there, but also involved is the reincarnation of ghost children... or something. It's complicated.
The Metal Gear examples above are parodied in Merry Gear Solid with Otacon asking Snake about the abovementioned supernatural(-seeming) events, and how he's fine with those, but not the concept of Santa Claus. They then hypothesize that Santa uses nanomachines too.
Travians includes a pig that can talk, two hats possessed by the souls of dead robbers, a physical land of the dead (apparently controlled by the military), and magic spells cast by a good witch and several druids... including a spell that turns a man into a frog for quite some time and some spells to protect houses and people, plus a love spell. Despite all this being pretty common knowledge among the NPC's, one NPC scoffs at his brother believing in a dowsing rod (which works, btw).
Subverted in Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick, when Ash travels back in time to the 1700's, meets his colonial-era ancestor, and explains how he's the man's descendant from the future and came back to fight a time-traveling army of demons. His ancestor immediately agrees to help and when Ash skeptically remarks that he seems to be accepting the situation a little too easily, his ancestor responds that after a night of fighting demons from another dimension, he's ready to believe anything.
In the Case Files included with the Collector's Edition of Batman: Arkham Asylum, it's noted that Dr. Penelope Young refuses to believe that the Ratcatcher can actually command rats, and believes he just has a bizarre form of Messiah complex; quite apart from the fact that working at Arkham requires her to treat extraordinary patients like Clayface and Poison Ivy, she's also going out of her way to ignore all the evidence of the Ratcatcher's ability provided by Batman and most of the other doctors at Arkham. For good measure, she continues to maintain her scepticism despite the fact that the Ratcatcher's cell is infested with rats!
On a lesser note, Doctor Whistler initially didn't believe Killer Croc's insinuations that he engaged in cannibalism, assuming he was just trying to scare her. Keep in mind that Croc is about ten-feet tall, an extraordinarily violent criminal (with Whistler being well aware that police only tend to find partial remains of his victims), is kept in Arkham's sewers for lack of a better place to house him, and has scales and razor sharp teeth.
Eavesdropping on random mooks in Batman: Arkham City can reveal some real gems. Working for a crazed supervillain with a clown motif? No problem. Biggest enemy is a man in a bat costume who drops out of the sky and disappears into the darkness? All in a day's work. Dealing with a monster who resurrects every time he dies, a woman who controls plants with her mind, drugs that can double your height and bring mass from nowhere? Pshaw, no big deal. Claim you saw ninjas? What, are you crazy or something? (The fact that they happen to be in America and not Japan is the main reason for them mocking the one witness.)
Persona 3 has a Scooby-Doo subplot about the high school being haunted. The members of SEES treat the rumor with varying levels of skepticism and fear. That would make sense, if it weren't for the fact that SEES fights dozens of "shadows" in the high school several times a week. This may be more of an If Jesus Then Aliens case, as the shadows had thus far followed a strict set of rules regarding their appearances and ability to affect reality, being confined to the Dark Hour and all. A supernatural event taking place outside of that time would be at best a hoax, at worst an actual incursion beyond their previously established limitations.
Turns out the ghost story is not a ghost's doing but a girl who was trapped in Tartarus due to a cruel prank played on her and the ghostly sounds were the echoes of her inner voice while her body didn't exist in our world. It's.. complicated.
One of the conversations between Leliana and Morrigan in Dragon Age: Origins points out the flaw in many accusations of arbitrary skepticism. Asked why she doesn't believe in the Maker despite using magic on a daily basis Morrigan points out that she can see and feel magic and watch it cause tangible effects on the world around her, yet she has nothing more than vague legends to support the existence of the Maker. On the other hand, Morrigan's lack of belief in an afterlife seems odd considering that your party encounters ghosts on a number of occasions.
In My Sims Agents, we have Agent Rosalyn and Agent Vic, government agents who are investigating the disappearance of a young bottled water CEO. Vic is sure it's the fault of a yeti, while Rosalyn is just as sure that it's not. It turns out that there is a yeti, but the boy was unaware of this, and pretending to be a yeti and smashing things so the lodge would have to shut down and he could move in. But Rosalyn isn't who we're talking about here. At your next jet destination, there's a zombie butler. Both the yeti and the zombie gained their current form thanks to the Nightmare Crown. Additionally, you've been able to communicate on a pretty high level with a dog and a wolf... but you're skeptical about a girl befriending a giant squid?
In Uncharted 2, Nate and Elena's disbelief that the Cintamani Stone has supernatural powers would be a lot more believable if they hadn't fought Nazi zombies in the first game. Then again, the scene where Gabriel Roman is killed makes it look like the zombies are caused by The Virus. Supported by Navarro mentioned how much this thing is worth "to the right buyer". They get better about it once they actually reach Shambhala, but Chloe still isn't quite convinced. Elena calls her out on it.
Elena: We're standing in Shambhala and you're questioning what's possible?
In the 3rd TimeSplitters game, Cortez brushes off the idea of zombies, even though he's a time-traveler from a world that is currently under siege from ravenous, lightning-shooting creatures and he fought zombies in the previous game.
Tommy of Prey doesn't believe in what his grandfather is trying to tell him about his mystical heritage. This is understandable at the game start, but is a little strange that his beliefs are nearly unchanged after dying multiple times, visiting two different afterlifes, routinely separating his spirit from his body and running around a giant bio-mechanical spaceship. In fact, when Tommy first expresses his disbelief over the spirit world, while in the spirit world, to the glowing blue ghost of his dead grandfather, said grandfather just stares at him in a way that lampshades the absurdity more than words ever could.
In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Travis can't believe Sylvia when she says he's just fought an undead child powered by the devil. This is coming from a guy whose master's ghost ran his own gym for a while after dying, guided him through a forest, and handed him a farewell note. This boss was at the first of three Akashic points in the game. The mere fact that he even got there by some strange sort of teleportation should tell him something's off. It's lampshaded after Travis beats the first Akashic boss, where Sylvia tells Travis the undead devil kid's story, and Travis simply shrugs and replies with "All assassins are fucked up somehow. Hell, nothing surprises me anymore."
Ques: So, you really are a god? Tezkhra: Of course. You did not believe me? Ques: 'Twas a preposterous claim.
In Fallout 1, several characters are skeptical of the existence of Deathclaws, believing them to be just ghost stories. This is a world where giant, bloodthirsty mutant beasts of all kinds roam the wastelands. Yet, a beast that's just a little bigger and scarier is apparently nonsense. In later games though, the skepticism seems to have disappeared as Deathclaws have become more widely known about.
Lynne from Ghost Trick says she doesn't believe in a sixth sense. Sissel points out that she is currently a ghost.
Subverted hilariously with Missile, who doesn't find Sissel's ability to travel back to 4 minutes before his death strange at all. His logic being something along the lines of "If human can walk on two legs, it's not so out there that they can walk backwards in time." Given Missile is a Pomeranian, one can't fault him for his logic.
Professor Hojo occasionally falls into this. He has two one-of-a-kind species in his lab at one point, he's trying to clone an ancient race of magic-using humans who no longer exist (Aerith is half-Cetra), he accepts that the Planet's giant self-defense Eldritch Abominations exist with little more than a shrug, his company uses souls to make batteries...yet he's openly hostile to any mention of magic (particularly absurd given that you can go to shops in most any town and buy orbs that allow you to cast spells) and he refuses to believe Chaos is a real thing until Vincent transforms right in front of him. Apparently, he thought Vincent's ressurrection after Chaos supposedly fused with him was a total coincidence.
Professor Gast is acknowledged as a better scientist mostly because he has morals, but he also seems to keep a more open mind, having been the first person both to think of the Jenova Project and to acknowledge that he was wrong about Jenova being an Ancient.
In Diablo III, Leah's skepticism of her Uncle Deckard's "crazy stories" (expressed while in the middle of a siege against the risen dead) is spoofed in this Penny Arcadestrip.
Over the course of the The Secret World, the player character has encountered magical creatures and phenomena of every single kind, from zombies to vampires, from mummies to werewolves, from a Wizarding School to the very depths of the Hollow Earth. Despite all of that- and despite being a powerful magician himself/herself- the player character appears to draw the line at Dragan having a conversation with a teddy bear.
In King's Quest V: Absence Makes The Heart Go Yonder!, King Graham gets kidnapped by a giant bird, is promptly rescued by a smaller bird, and reunited with Cedric the Owl. When Cedric asks him what happened, Graham's response is You Wouldn't Believe Me If I Told You. This is despite the fact that ignoring the rest of the weird stuff that's happened to him, just five minutes earlier Graham killed a yeti with a custard pie to help an ice queen and her talking wolves. Why would he think a talking bird wouldn't believe a talking bird helped him?
In BioShock Infinite, near the end of the game Elizabeth transports herself, Booker, and Songbird to Rapture via a tear. Booker's reaction? (Keep in mind that he's been merrily galavanting around a city in the sky).
Booker: A city... at the bottom of the ocean? Pfft. Ridiculous.
This can actually be used as a buff in Dungeons of Dredmor, through the "There Must be a Rational Explanation" skill. Gives you some pretty nifty magic resistance in exchange for not being able to cast spells, but why would you cast spells if they don't exist?
Edgeworth: And here I just finished saying that I don't believe in spiritual power...
Spoofed on Homestar Runner, in the Strong Bad Email myths & legends, where the cut-out of a Bear Holding a Shark is treated as a Bigfoot-like monster:
Strong Sad: I'm sure it's just a weather balloon or a foreign exchange student. These strange beasts just aren't real! Strong Bad: ...said the elephant-footed ghost man.
Red vs. Blue: "There is no such thing as ghosts!" To be fair, most of the other weird stuff that goes on can be handwaved as alien or sufficiently advanced technology. It's a sci-fi setting, disbelief in something as clearly supernatural as ghosts is reasonable. And ultimately true, although it's debatable what exactly the difference is between a ghost and a transparent electromagnetic person.
Agatha gets called on exhibiting this trope: Krosp objects that she works with mad scientists and should be able to handle a talking cat.
Krosp tries to invoke it on the former Heterodyne Senchal Carson von Mekkhan in Mechanicsburg later on only to be told off that a talking bipedal cat isn't the strangest thing in town.
Played with a bit in Scary Go Round. After scaring off a ghost with a holograph, The Boy expresses surprise that it would fall for such a trick. Ryan's response: "Ghosts got to be superstitious! Tell them there's a flying top-hat full of yoghurt out to get them... you'll get the benefit of the doubt."
Antimony: We have seen stranger. Remember that cursed teapot? Kat: Yeahhhhh... But that was... I don't even know what that was about...
Psycho Mantis in the Metal Gear Solid fan webcomicThe Last Days of Foxhound is vehemently opposed to the idea of ghosts existing despite increasing evidence that they do when Big Boss possesses Liquid and being confronted by The Sorrow later on. This despite the fact that he is a psychic. The Sorrow lampshades this. The comic seems to provide a reasonable explanation for Mantis' skepticism, namely that he might really want there to not be ghosts, since if there are, that means he's going to have to face a lot of pissed off victims of his when he dies.
Sluggy Freelance usually avoids this, at least with its main characters anyway. The bartender Crystal, however, falls pretty squarely into this trope. If she hears the other characters talking about aliens or vampires, she just assumes they're very drunk (which, granted, they usually are around her). She does this despite the fact that she's been to their Halloween parties (where a demon appears each year to devour Torg's soul), and regularly serves alfalfa margaritas to a talking rabbit.
MegaTokyo: Piro (and Erika, and sometimes others) openly discredits the concept of zombies, and seems to be completely unaware of the existence of Kaiju, Magical Girls and, possibly, ninjas. This is coming from a guy who takes advice from an angel and devil and, oh yes, has a Robot Girl living with him. There's also his gunslinger friends, the odd gadgets Largo creates, and Hawk, but these may be negligible compared to everything else that happens. Course, there was a certain amount of vagueness on how much of Largovision was actually real, or at least, in the same universe that Pirovision was seeing. Piro seems to mistake zombies for fanboys, or Largo mistakes fanboys for zombies, or both, or something. Piro's not noticing giant beasts, Magical Girls, etc. is probably due to a Perception Filter combined with (or created by) his general obliviousness.
In The Polar Express the protagonist is doubtful Santa Claus exists, even though he’s riding a magic train. Even when he reaches the North Pole which is full of elves and an entire Christmas town he has a hard time believing Santa is in charge.
In Chaos Pet, we have two characters discussing whether dogs can think like humans think. Then, we cut to Sufficiently Advanced Aliens discussing if humans can think or not.
Starscream's Brigade has encountered the distilled power of Primus in the Matrix, battled against the priest and servants of a chaos god, and communicated with hyperevolved extradimensional beings. Starscream himself is immortal, has seen the afterlife and simply becomes a ghost when his body is destroyed. And yet their master strategist Thrust is repeatedly mocked for his trust in astrology and tarot cards.
You'd think Raphael wouldn't be so fast to discount a few oddities in his world, but in Mutant Ninja Turtles Gaiden, he's completely (violently) unwilling to believe that a human could've been turned into a mutant turtle. It's even lampshaded later on.
The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: The eponymous doctor is from a family comprised of ninja who never remove their masks for any reason; he lives next to a haunted forest; his hometown has a zombie contingency plan (and yes, it gets used); his mentor was a clone of Benjamin Franklin; and it only gets weirder from there. So what strikes him as unbelievably absurd? 1. A family legend about Irish proto-ninja defending their village by throwing frozen shamrocks, and 2. an ancient South American doomsday device that will go off if no one plays tennis with it. For the record, he doesn't disbelieve them so much as think they're completely ridiculous. Which they are. Later on in those storylines, he has to use frozen shamrocks to fend off pirates just like the legend goes and the tennis temple merely unveils the Big Book Of Everything left behind by the tribe that build it.
Lampshaded: this from a talking dog and a patchwork zombie, whose office also employs a Steam Punk robot, a swarm of bees, and a helicopter with the brain of a video game nerd. And Tip.
Sweetheart: Werewolves are storybook monsters, Unity! Unity: You're telling a zombie? Whaddya think they are? Sweetheart: I don't know! I thought we were after genetically-engineered talking Canadian super-dogs! Unity: Yeah, cause that's so much more real. Sweetheart: Okay, so this job can get weird.
Played for laughs again later, when a New Orleans doctor they meet is accepting and completely used to zombies- but is utterly freaked out when the dog starts talking.
Remy: Sorry. There's weird, there's New Orleans weird, and apparently there's a third tier I wasn't aware of.
And then it turns out that he believes in the voudon "death-like state" zombies — he hadn't realised Unity was an actual deadgirl.
Remy in turn lampshades Sweetheart's reluctance to believe in possession.
Remy: No, I'd never say anything so absurd to a talking dog.
TG: dude monsters aren't real TG: that's stupid kids stuff for stupid babies EB: maybe. yeah you're right. TG: what are you an idiot TG: of course there are monsters in your house TG: you're in some weird evil monster dimension come on TG: skepticism is the crutch of cinematic troglodytes
Also played with in this conversation where Karkat scoffs at Kanaya for asking whether magic is real, but then admits that all the stuff Sburb has done for them so far has been magic anyway:
Dandy and Company: Bernard's teacher is told that they are living with talking or full-on anthropomorphic animals but doesn't believe it. Then the series experiences Earth Drift, talking and anthropomorphic animals turn out to be fairly common and not particularly secretive about it, with some even being celebrities and... he still won't believe.
Subverted in Guilded Age, when Sry'nj promptly accepts Gravedust's talk about visiting the astral plane because he has been using magic involving souls the whole time, and he just used astral travel to bring them all back from the dead.
"I don't believe in angels. Now if you want to talk about aliens, those are totally real. But angels? Nah."
Beyond the Canopy: When Glenn tells his friends about getting attacked by ambulatory skeletons and accidentally acquiring a stick with magic powers, they naturally think he has an overactive imagination. What pushes it into Arbitrary Skepticism is that, even after his friends eventually accept that the stick has magic powers, they continue to insist that walking skeletons can't be real.
Thief from 8-Bit Theater refuses to believe that dragons exist, and actually starts this belief after actually seeing one, and before that he didn't deny they existed when he was told about a dragon. Late in the comic it appears he believed this because he felt it made him less likely to encounter them.
Discussed in the notes for one of the Ravenholm strips in Concerned:
"... and others wondered how exactly he could be a zombie and not be a mindless undead creature like the rest of the zombies. It just didn't make sense to some people (oddly, no one has yet questioned how he is able to not only write letters to Dr. Breen, but also have them promptly delivered)."
Sammy: "It's funny to hear you excited about Khamega when your best friends are an Angel and a Demon!"
Asia Ellis from morphE begins her first lesson in magic flat out rejecting the concepts and when told how to picture an aura states "how can I visualize something which does not exist?". She has already used magic herself once in the story before this point and has had telepathic conversations and been teleported from one location to another. This is only counting the magic applied to her person. She does have reasons for holding firmly to her beliefs in reality, however. Something in her past required her to have to relearn everything she once knew and she does not believe herself capable of going through that again.
One of the protagonists in the sci-fi novel John Dies at the End has a healthy amount of skepticism before his mundane life is derailed by a torrent of supernatural horrors, but even after he's accepted the existence of demonic beings that can erase people from history, and hunting ghosts has become a routine freelance job for him, he's still quick to dismiss things that are merely unlikely, such as a claim his friend John makes about birds' feet getting frozen to power lines during particularly cold weather.
Without breaking my gaze with the TV, I said, "To John, something being funny is more important than being true."
The narrator actually notices birds whose feet have apparently frozen to power lines, and describes it in just enough detail for the audience to realize what happened even if the narrator's oblivious to it.
Phase in the Whateley Universe has been trying to convince her friends (mainly Fey and Chaka) that the New Olympians are really avatars of the original Greek Gods, and not just teenagers who have a cool theme team. Fey, Chaka, and the rest refuse to believe. Fey herself is the incarnation (or something) of a Faerie Queen who is far, far older than the Greek Gods! And they all know Carmilla, who is the child of the demon Gothmog, who some of them have met. And Fey has faced Mythos-related magics.
During Suburban KnightsThe Nostalgia Critic wants to go after a magic gauntlet, but doesn't actually believe that magic exists, much to the chagrin of Linkara (who uses a magic gun). This is despite the fact that the Critic himself has regularly had unrealistic things happen to him like being revived by Optimus Prime, being attacked by a demonic teddy bear, being visited by a guardian angel, and dealing with people with Street Fighter-like powers.
From the DVD bonus "Search for the Necronomicon" comes this gem:
Nostalgia Critic: Now, Chester, what did we talk about? There's no such thing as ghosts.
Chester A. Bum: Oh, yes! This coming from the guy who said there's no such thing as magical gauntlets, ancient sorcery, or books that can bring people back to life, and yet here we are!
In H-M Brown's The First Run, the Reporter doesn't believe that there are farmlands in New Jersey despite the fact that farmlands still exist in the future.
Parodied in LoadingReadyRun with their video "War of Christmas". The basic plot is that Christmas-related objects (tree ornaments, ribbons, inflatable Santas, etc.) are attacking people. Somebody asks if this could be the work of Santa Claus, leading another person to reply along the lines of "Santa Claus? Grow up! This is serious...like the Easter Bunny!" Worth noting that it's never actually stated if it is Santa or not.
Kirby from Perfect Kirby is shocked when he's told that he has to rescue an alien about the existence of aliens, and his boss points out that Kirby is an alien.
It's actually subverted in that he knew aliens existed, he just didn't know any that worked for them. Neil then explains that lots of aliens work for them, including in the cafeteria.
In Vaguely Recalling JoJo, Kakyoin still doesn't believe that there's a world inside the mirror. Illusio still shows up in a Early-Bird Cameo to offer Kakyoin and Polnareff a handshake if they reach the ruins at Pompeii.
Invoked in Welcome to Night Vale after Khosheck, the cat found hovering in the men's bathroom, gave birth to a litter of kittens.
Cecil: How does a he-cat give birth? Well, how does a he-cat hover in an immobile spot in a radio station bathroom?
In Worm, despite a setting full of people with physics-defying superpowers, most people still think the sorts that perceive their powers as magical to be bonkers. This comes to bite them in the arse; while "magic" is technically wrong, the one person who knew the true story was one of said kooks, albeit calling them "faeries" rather than "aliens", which are the real source of powers.
In the Pinky and the BrainChristmas Episode, Brain presents an interesting case. He flat-out tells Pinky that writing a letter to Santa Claus is "silly" and "stupid" and says that he keeps his Christmas spirit "right next to my Bigfoot photos." This despite the fact that he knows for a fact that Santa exists, because his whole plan to Take Over the World depends on infiltrating the North Pole and tricking Santa into building and distributing his Mind-Control Device toys. He may actually be referring to the notion rather than the logic. He may simply find writing Santa a letter incredibly pointless due to the impracticality rather than futility. To be fair, it's not likely that Pinky and the Brain are on Santa's "Good" list.
Sokka seems to have trouble with this one from time to time. The second season episode "The Swamp" is one good example, in which he refuses to believe that the swamp called forth spirits. When Katara points out that Aang has contacted spirits regularly (and he was once kidnapped by one and stuck in the spirit world), he dismisses it with "That's Avatar stuff; it doesn't count."
He later subverts it, though, by thinking up his own insane ideas for what can get in their way (particularly a "giant, exploding Fire Nation spoon" or a city being mysteriously submerged in an ocean of killer shrimp) and admitting "Weird stuff happens to us", just before a drooling and insane-looking man with an ear of corn in his mouth comes by.
The Legend of Korra reveals that Sokka eventually gets rid of his Arbitrary Skepticism entirely. As an adult, when presented with evidence of a man bloodbending at times other than the full moon, he cites all of the "impossible" things that the Gaang saw and did in the first series and decides that just because something hasn't happened before doesn't mean that it can't happen.
The Scooby-Doo cartoons invoke this trope by having the gang generally dismiss the belief that the monster of the week is real, despite having seen and acknowledged several real ones.
In A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Daphne still claims that she doesn't believe in ghosts despite the fact that a ghost hired her and her friends to clear his name and prevent him from being destroyed. She was still glad to see that he was safe though.
In one episode of Godzilla: The Series, Nick refuses to believe in the Loch Ness Monster. Elsie points out that "We've seen things in the last few months I never would have believed in before." The eponymous character leaps to mind. Monique mocks this is another episode, reminding the disbeliever they work with a giant lizard that breaths atomic fire.
Brock inquires if his boss's policy of "don't harm women and children" applies to female vampires. No, because they're undead, therefore technically not women, the boss replies. "Also? Fictitious." This is a world where ghosts, magic, and resurrections are downright common, and as a matter of fact, a later character is a Blacula hunter.
Dr. Venture is especially prone to this: he says the Chupacabra (and Catholicism) are "utter crap" and then later exclaims "No way!" when he's attacked by a Chupacabra. (To be fair, all he actually says about Catholicism is that when you apply the Scientific Method to it, "an interesting thing occurs." He's interrupted before he explains what he means by that.)
One episode shows Brock (and Doctor Venture) explicitly disbelieving in magic, despite the fact that their next-door-neighbor is a sorcerer who has used magic to save their lives several times. They believe it to be an unknown version of science. At the same time, Doc is currently existing in three different locations, one of them gooey.
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Strangely it appears in this work (of all places), in the Christmas episode, "A Lost Claus". It's been long established that the series takes place in a universe where everything children can imagine comes to life. Therefore, you'd think there'd be no question at all that Santa Claus is real in this world. Imaginary Friends who happen to look and act exactly like Santa have a tendency to show up in droves around Christmas time. So the question is, is there one single "real" Santa?
American Dragon Jake Long: In one episode, Jake scoffs at the idea of ghosts haunting his summer camp, despite being a human/dragon shapeshifter who deals with supernatural creatures all the time. He reassures the campers that, sure, unicorns and leprechauns exist, but ghosts? No way.
The cynic Kevin 11 of Ben 10: Alien Force has this going for him in regards to magic and crop circles, despite being a mutant that battled countless alien species. He is right with Gwen power's coming from her alien inheritance but the creators have confirmed that the magic exists and can be used by normal humans.
Lampshaded in the episode "Cartman's Incredible Gift" where Kyle voices his skepticism of psychic abilities throughout and tries to convince the police to take a more realistic, scientific approach to the murder investigation. At the very end of the episode it is revealed that Kyle may have psychic powers himself. The series as a whole has many episodes with skeptical themes, despite the fact that supernatural characters and phenomena are commonplace.
Justified by the fact that those who have claimed the powers are all shown to be obvious fakes, with no proof of their claimed abilities.
In another episode, he convinces Hollywood and most of the adults in the show his hand is possessed by Jennifer Lopez (or at least someone pretending to be Jennifer Lopez). Kyle strongly believes that Cartman is full of crap. In the end, Kyle's skepticism wavers after Cartman reminds him that they have seen a lot of crazy shit... and then Cartman laughs at him because he really did make the whole thing up.
Also, how can anyone in the South Park universe possibly be an atheist, considering the fact that Jesus, God, and Satan — just for starters — have all visited the town countless times?
There was also the episode "Dead Celebrities" in which Stan and Kyle are skeptical of ghosts existing, despite the fact that they have encountered wizards, gnomes, zombies, dragons, aliens, and demons before. In fact, they've dealt with ghosts before (though given the way Kenny's resurrection-based immortality works, they might have forgotten).
Family Guy has included Godly miracles, a visit from Jesus, a visit from Death, and countless events of the just plain ludicrous variety, yet Brian remains a staunch atheist.
Meg: *Holds up an ornament representing Jesus' birth in a manger* This one's my favorite ornament. I can only imagine what it must have been like for them on that very first Christmas.
Brian: Yeah, it was probably very moving... And fictional.
Stewie: Jesus lived with us for like a week, what else do you need?
In a Crowning Moment of Funny on VeggieTales, Laura Carrot and Junior Asparagus are at first suspicious of the talking Rumor Weed, like any schoolkids would be; the Rumor Weed points out, though, that "I'm a talking weed, you're a talking carrot..."
Diana in Martin Mystery refuses to believe that any event The Center investigates is result of paranormal activity, claiming that there would be some logical explanation. Yet she works for an organization that employs aliens and cavemen, and it is a Monster of the Week show, so the fact that she brought this up so often really messes with the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. She has some reason to be skeptical of Martin — although a supernatural explanation always proves to be true, it's rarely the first one he provides. Or the second. Or the third. He always gets it right eventually, but only after numerous downright absurd guesses that have no bearing on what's actually happening. The fact that she doesn't conclude that it's definitely supernatural, but Martin is wrong about how until evidence suggests otherwise is a bit problematic, though.
Played with in an episode where Terry is telling Bruce about a so-called "ghost" his classmates believe to be haunting his high school. Terry expects Bruce to reject the notion out of hand because there's no such thing as ghosts. Bruce then turns to Terry and explains he's met ghosts, wizards, witch-boys, zombies, immortals and demons... but he doesn't believe it in this case, because it sounds "too high school". Turns out, he was right. It wasn't a ghost, it was Stalker with a Crush, Willie Watt, who had psychic powers.
Played straight in "Earth mover". Terry ends up tackling an earth golem which seems to be stalking a friend of his, which Bruce is skeptical about since the analysis of said dirt doesn't show anything abnormal about it. To his credit, Bruce is quick to temper his own skepticism, pointing out that said earth golem, if it is indeed real, is likely to show up again.
Frostbite: Your central readings indicate extreme cold, as if your body is self-generating it. I sensed it within you the last time we met. Danny: How is that possible? Frostbite: You become invisible, pass through solid objects, and emit beams of energy from your hands, and you ask "How is this possible?"
There's also Danny's mother, an expert in the field of ghosts, finding Santa Claus to be a scientific impossibility. This actually makes sense because she has a tendency to approach the concept of ghosts from a scientific perspective, and while she accept ghosts exist, she probably does not believe in "magic".
The Simpsons, episode "Lisa the Skeptic", where Lisa is arguing against the authenticity of an angel skeleton and states that one who believes in angels might as well believe in such things as unicorns and leprechauns, to which Kent Brockman replies "Everybody knows leprechauns are extinct!" She even tries to prove scientifically that the angel is a fraud but the tests come back as inconclusive. This episode comes off as downright bizarre given that it was in an era where Lisa still regularly displayed Christian beliefs. Added to that, angels are generally depicted as immortal, supernatural beings, and yet none of the believers in the town slightly doubt that one could die and leave behind a skeleton. She's right in the end. When she asks the scientist why his test didn't prove it was a fake, he admits he never did the test.
Gargoyles: The eponymous characters are half a dozen creatures with superhuman strength and wings that turn to stone during the day and that only exist in modern New York after being put to sleep for a thousand years, yet their human friend tends to respond with disbelief every time they encounter new weirdness. She does get better as time goes on, though.
While pinning down an in-universe chronology in Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers is perhaps an exercise in futility, but as far as this trope goes, it really doesn't matter: in the first two volumes, they've seen bona fide aliens, magic lamps, ghosts, mummies who can walk and talk, fortune tellers, leprechauns, banshees, and a weather-predicting tail, and been under the influence of mind-control juice. Yet every time (including some others in which they turn out to be right, and it's all a trick), it seems like someone (or almost everyone) doesn't believe the thing in question exists, and is only willing to check it out when forced to. As a general rule, if only Chip is skeptical, then the ghost/psychic/whatever is for real. If Gadget is skeptical, then it is bound to be a trick. If Dale is skeptical, he'll be proven wrong one second later. And if Monterey Jack is skeptical, well, actually he's never skeptical, so never mind.
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters has the monsters (who have supernatural powers besides looking scary) being very skeptical of ghosts, which don't exist (or do they?)
In another episode, Batman suggests that Carter Hall might be psychologically unstable, as he believes that Egyptian architecture was built with the aid of aliens. Shayera responds that Batman's right, and Carter must be insane because everyone knows aliens don't exist — especially ones such as herself.
This comes up a lot in Justice League. In "Balance", Wonder Woman uses her Lasso of Truth to interrogate a demon. Hawkgirl, not having seen this power demonstrated before, asks her how she got him to talk so easily.
Wonder Woman: Magic lasso. Who knew? Hawkgirl: If you don't want to tell me, then fine.
They're interrogating a DEMON. In HADES. Where they've gone to restore the eponymous Hades himself to the throne since he's been ousted by an evil sorcerer. And Hawkgirl JUST SAW Wonder Woman's mother give her an unspecified power upgrade.
Minor instance in "Savage Time", set back during World War II. Vandal Savage, who took over Nazi Germany, receives reports of the Justice League aiding the allies, and initially dismisses the reports as propaganda. This coming from a man that received plans to Take Over the World from his future self via a time machine, and later turns out to have originally been a caveman that gained immortality from meteorite. Perhaps not so surprisingly he isn't skeptical for very long.
The Rankin-Bassholiday cartoonTwas the Night Before Christmas brings this mind-twister to light: the closest thing to an antagonist in the movie, an atheist mouse, lives in a world in which Santa is very real... not a belief in him, but Santa himself. There is no question on this; it's a matter of demonstrable fact... he can be seen, touched, talked to, he has a secretary who answers the phone when you call the North Pole. Santa is as real and as important in their society as say Brad Pitt is in ours. The mouse kid says he's a myth. His reason? It's scientifically impossible to do what he does. Put into context, imagine being someone who lives in Metropolis and meeting someone who refuses to believe in Superman because he does things that defy physics... or someone who refuses to believe in Mutants in the Marvel 'verse because what they do is "impossible". It's like that. To be fair though, the thrust of the film is he's a nerd and generally insufferable douche who thinks he's got more brains than he really does, which is to say, none at all.
Dib, who is constantly trying to convince people of the existence of Bigfoot, ghosts, and tiny green aliens bent on world domination, is entirely dismissive of the claims made by "The Delouser", who believes lice originate from a subterranean Lice Queen, going so far as to tell her she's crazy. At least he apologized when it turned out she was right.
A sort of weird case is in "Career Day," when Dib disbelieves everything Bill says. Okay, he's impatient and wants to get back to the definitively real alien, but he seems disappointed Bill took him to a crop circle and outright denied that the cow was being controlled by aliens.
Dilbert frequently has the eponymous engineeer play Arbitrary Skeptic, only to let Dogbert then point out the "correct" belief and have it confirmed seconds later — and for the rest of the episode.
In the bat-related episode of The Magic School Bus Ralphie is firmly convinced that Ms. Frizzle is a vampire while Keisha continually says that vampires don't exist. However, they're used to continually going around in a magic transforming semi-sentient school bus driven by a mostly sentient iguana that can turn them into bats at the press of a button. Granted, Keisha is right (at least about Ms. Frizzle) but they've swallowed a lot of impossible things while trying to prove whether vampires exist. She would have been better off pointing out that vampires can't go out in the daylight and they see Ms. Frizzle during the day five days a week.
Children's cartoon Ned's Newt had an example of this in the Halloween episode, when Ned is home alone and Frankenstein's monster suddenly shows up at his doorstep (in reality his uncle who's coming by to check on him. He's on his way to a Halloween party, and can't get off his costume on his own).
Ned: It looks like Frankenstein! But he doesn't really exist, does he? Newton: Hey, you're talking to a six-foot newt that can do this: (Newton unhinges his upper jaw, causing a weasel in a harlequin costume to pop out of his lower jaw and juggle) Newton: Face it: The reality level here is a mite thin!
Lampshaded in Darkwing Duck "There are no vampire potatoes. Scientists who turn themselves into plants, yes. But vampire potatoes, that's ridiculous."
Amusingly lampshaded in the "Summer Belongs to You" episode of Phineas and Ferb, when Buford insists that it's impossible to travel around the world in order to have 24+ hours of continuous daylight.
Buford: There's nothing I have ever seen that would make me believe you could pull this off. Except for that time machine thing, oh and the roller coaster. But other than that, nothing! Oh, and the time you played that song and the platypus came back. Aw, man, nature just bends to your will, doesn't it?
It's all but directly stated that he doesn't even really disbelieve, and is just pretending to to be a Jerkass and goad them into going through with it.
In "Bridle Gossip", Twilight dismisses the possibility of curses or hexes as mere superstition, as not real magic. At first, she does this before anyone sees any evidence of them, so that's not this trope, though the others rather act as if. When she and her friends become afflicted with strange magical effects that seem to be a curse, she eventually changes her mind. Turns out she was initially right this time, as they're caused by something else, and there are indeed no curses appearing anywhere.
In "Feeling Pinkie Keen", it takes the whole episode for Twilight to accept that Pinkie Pie's strange bodily premonitions about the future are real even though they're beyond known types of magic and her understanding. The evidence grows more and more obvious, but she dismisses it most of the way because she can't accept something she can't quantify.
In "It's About Time," Twilight says to her future self "You are not scientifically possible," effecively dismissing not only explanations for the phenomenon but the phenomenon itself. Once she actually hears the time travel explanation, she's fine with that. She just didn't think there could be two of her. On the other hand, it could just be her thinking it's a changeling or other illusion.
In "Too Many Pinkie Pies" Rainbow Dash dismissed Pinkie's explanation about how she duplicated herself with an eye-roll, despite being a pegasus, a friend with one of the greatest magicians of their time, and having just saved a magical crystal kingdom. Admittedly, this is probably because she just thought Pinkie was being Pinkie.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Frylock once told a scared Meatwad, "there's no such thing as monsters!" despite encountering them on a daily basis and being living food items themselves.
"Right, like there's two talking milkshakes!", Master Shake, the talking milkshake.
Whenever they encounter a new supernatural threat and Uncle gives exposition, Jackie's usual reaction is "Are you making this up?" or "You're making this up!" At one point he instead asks "Were are you getting all these rules from?"
Captain Black has this viewpoint towards Magic for season 1... until he sees the Dragon Demon Shendu fly away.
Occurs again later in the series when Uncle scoffs at the idea of psychic head that's leader of the Shadowkhan being Oni (Japanese Demons). He points out that all of those that controlled the Shadowkhan have faced have been of Chinese origin, therefore it can't be Oni they're Japanese. This is quickly proven wrong.
In the Looney Tunes movie Bugs Bunny's 1001 Rabbit Tales, Abba Cadabba has no problem with talking cats, but is incredulous to the idea of singing frogs.
Young Justice: Kid Flash, despite living and working with superheroes that include Robin, Aqualad, Superboy, and Miss Martian; does not believe in magic, despite the fact where this trait comes up is in an episode where he is in the tower of a magician that has been alive for centuries and is constantly being put through magic escapades. More precisely, he does believe in the magician's power; however, he assumes there is a scientificexplanation behind it. This is likely because one of the Flash's enemies uses advanced technology and claims it to be magic (and, in a CMOF, on of the enemies spying on him is using the EXACT SAME tech setup he was just talking about!).
He grows out of it by the end of the episode. After all, if you put a magic helmet on yourself and wind up inside the helmet talking to a guy who's recently died and a Lord of Order who's currently possessing your body, wouldn't it be kind of stupid to continue to disbelieve magic? He also has no problem with Zatanna or her father Zatara's magic in later episodes.
One of the heroes of King Arthur & the Knights of Justice reacts with laughter when a villager comes to Camelot asking for their help to get rid of a fire-breathing dragon menacing his village. Even though a wizard brought him back in time, a magic table gave him the knowledge to be a knight, and he's already seen a dragon jump out of the king's shield and come to life. In the end he's right about the dragon; it's not real. It's an illusion created by a sorceress.
Jimmy Neutron has traveled to space, where he can breathe perfectly fine, fought aliens, traveled through time, and done many other things you can expect from a child genius. However, he doesn't believe in Santa Claus.
Gravity Falls: In "Bottomless Pit!" Grunkle Stan still states that the stories the twins and Soos tell to pass the time are far-fetched, even though he is falling through a bottomless pit even as he speaks, and even lived through one of the stories.
Played straight yet averted in Ducktales episodes Raiders of the Lost Harp. Scrooge dismisses the idea that the minotaur is magic. Yet later....
Dewey: You don't believe in magic, do you Uncle Scrooge?
Scrooge: Oh, I never said that. I've seen too many amazing things that only magic could explain.
Justified since not everything he comes across is magical.
In Futurama, Fry points out how weird it is that despite having a crustacean alien as a coworker, no one believes that he saw a mermaid.
Avengers Assemble: Hawkeye was reluctant to believe vampires are real and even more reluctant about Count Dracula (actually King Dracula) being real despite being part of a team that has a god among them. Thor himself brings it up that the others used to consider him a myth before meeting him.
In Sofia the First: The Floating Palace, nobody believes Sofia when she tells them that she met a mermaid. This can perhaps reasonably be excused for the ship's admiral, who has sailed the seventeen seas and never seen a mermaid in all his years of travel. Less understandable is the total unwilling disbelief of Sofia's entire family in a world where trolls, fairies and sorcery are all well-known to exist.