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

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

A character starts to be unable to tell the difference between fiction and reality. Often it's thinking a TV show is real, or thinking one is actually in the show. They will often be a LoonyFan who hallucinates things or a very small child who merely believes whatever they are told. Or a big ManChild. They might just lack the ability to [[TheDitz determine that fiction is merely fiction and naively apply it to real life without necessarily imagining things.]]

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

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

Needless to say, this is indeed TruthInTelevision for some people, often for various reasons. For the sake of [[RuleOfCautiousEditingJudgment not accidentally offending anyone though]], Administrivia/NoRealLifeExamplesPlease

'''Related tropes:'''

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

* DaydreamBeliever: Thinking the fiction is real but separate from our reality.
* LongingForFictionland: Knowing it's not real, but really wanting it to be.
* TheTetrisEffect: People can tell they aren't in a game; they just see things as a game.
* LostInCharacter: Actor gets so immersed in their character that they forget they're just acting.
* WrongGenreSavvy: When a character is so involved into thinking s/he's the real thing from a work that doesn't actually translate well into the real world that s/he's in.
* YouWatchTooMuchX: For the cases when another characters suspect this.
* AndYouThoughtItWasAGame: The character mistakes a specific real situation for a bit of playacting.
* AndYouThoughtItWasReal: The character mistakes a fictional object or situation as being real.
* ThroughTheEyesOfMadness: When it's established that the character cannot tell fiction from reality because out of real insanity.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* The ''LightNovel/HaruhiSuzumiya'' novels and anime have a downplayed case (sorta) in "The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya". The titular character, who [[LockedOutOfTheLoop unbeknownst to her]] is a RealityWarper, is creating and directing an ([[SoBadItsGood awful]]) amateur movie about the supernatural. And though she can consciously tell fiction from reality, she's affecting the world to resemble the movie, including making Asakura shoot incredibly destructive eye beams on the set, or making a cat playing a {{Familiar}} into an actual TalkingAnimal that can wax philosophical about how the sounds he's making may be taken by humans as appropriate responses. Also, at one point in the shooting she loses it and actually expects Asakura to shoot eye beams in reality. At the end everything is resolved by having Haruhi read the ThisIsAWorkOfFiction disclaimer a few times for good measure.
* In ''Manga/MissKobayashisDragonMaid'', Tohru and Kanna end up believing that humans on Earth can fire energy blasts and perform feats of superhuman strength after watching "[[YouWannaGetSued The Ma·rix]]" on TV. To be fair, they come from WorldOfBadass where such things are commonplace.
* ''Manga/MutekiKanbanMusume'' has [[FanDumb Akihiko Ohta]] who watchs the last episode of the {{Sentai}} ''[[ShowWithinAShow Star Rangers]]'' show, where a crying girl asks for help to the Red Ranger, and he manages to make her smile at the end of the episode. Next morning, when a crying Wakana asks for help to find Toshiyuki, Akihiko JumpedAtTheCall envisioning himself as the Red Ranger, her bicycle as a Ranger Motorcycle, and assigning [[ColourCodedForYourConvenience Ranger's code names to the rest of the core cast]], recruiting them into the search... and acting like a true LordErrorProne.
* On ''Anime/YuGiOhZEXAL'', Astral briefly had this problem, thinking the science-fiction program ''DD Esper Star Robin'' was real. (He can be excused, being an [[InnocentAliens Innocent Alien]] at the time.) Later, however, Fuya Okudaira (the star of the show) develops this problem after [[ClingyMacGuffin being corrupted by a Number]], [[LostInCharacter believing he actually is the character he portrays]].

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In the ''ComicStrip/ForBetterOrForWorse'' fanfic ''FanFic/TheNewRetcons'', this sums up Elly Patterson's insanity in a nutshell; more to the point, she can't tell the past from the present and thinks she's in the 1980s in 2008.
* In ''Fanfic/TheParselmouthOfGryffindor'', this seems to be the main cause of the ''Quibbler''[='=]s inaccuracies. Chapter 20 shows that Mr Lovegood apparently took ''Film/TheWizardOfOz'' at face value, deeming it a groundbreaking documentary on the wrongdoings of the American Dark Wizard Oz.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* ''Disney/{{Bolt}}'' has the titular character believe the tv show he stars in is real [[spoiler:until he accidentally escaped the film set and got lost]].
* Buzz Lightyear from ''WesternAnimation/ToyStory'' sort of suffered from this, [[spoiler:until he saw the commercial at Sid's house advertising for Buzz Lightyears]]. Zerg and the Toy-Barn Buzz Lightyear suffer from this in the second movie. It carries over into promotional media as Buzz still thinks that he is the real deal.[[AllThereInTheManual Supplemental material]] reveals that for some reason this is the case with all space toys, unlike everyone else.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/TheScienceOfSleep'' has the main character Stephane unable to distinguish his dreams from reality. The film is presented in a way that it's difficult for the audience to tell what is real and what in imagined.
* ''Film/MazesAndMonsters'' has this with Tom Hanks losing his mind and thinking he's in a ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons''-type game.
* In ''Film/GalaxyQuest'', the Thermians have no concept of fiction, and were only recently introduced to the concepts of lying and deception courtesy of the BigBad, a GalacticConqueror who exploited their ignorance of these concepts to nearly wipe out their entire race. They think that the ''Galaxy Quest'' episodes they found in Earth's transmissions are "historical documents" of an actual space crew traveling the galaxy, and mourn for "those poor people" trapped on ''Series/GilligansIsland''. Once the BigBad watches the "historical documents" for himself, he knows ''exactly'' what they really are and takes sadistic glee in forcing the actors to come clean.
-->'''Sarris:''' This is a moment I will treasure. Explain to him who you all really are. ''[grabs Nesmith and drags him over to Mathesar]'' Tell him! Explain!\\
'''Nesmith:''' Mathesar, the-uh... there's no such person as Captain Taggart. My name is Jason Nesmith. I am, uh... an actor. We're all actors.\\
'''Sarris:''' He doesn't understand. Explain as you would a ''child''.\\
'''Nesmith:''' We, uh... we pretended. ''[beat]'' We lied.\\
'''Mathesar:''' ''[sad noise]''\\
'''Sarris:''' Yes! You understand ''that'', don't you, Mathesar?
* In the movie ''Film/NurseBetty'', after a woman sees her husband murdered she has a brain snap and believes she's a character from her favorite [[SoapWithinAShow soap opera]], moving to California to work at the fictional hospital she now believes she works in.
* Ghost from ''[[Film/GingerSnaps Ginger Snaps Unleashed]]'' seems to have difficulty differentiating between reality and her comic books. She seems to think she's living in some kind of horror comic [[spoiler: where she's the villain.]]
* European colonists in ''Film/ThePiano'' stage a play of ''Bluebeard''; tribesmen in the audience, evidently not acquainted with the concept of plays, think the Bluebeard character really is murdering his wife, so they rush the stage and attack the hapless actor.
* Sergius Alexander in ''Film/TheLastCommand'' is a former Tsarist Russian general who barely escaped UsefulNotes/RedOctober and is now eking out a meager existence as a Hollywood film extra. He's cast in a movie about the Russian Revolution, appropriately enough. After getting dressed up in his general's uniform again, put in a trench warfare set, and told to harangue his mutinous soldiers, Sergius snaps. Thinking he's back in 1917 and fighting the revolutionaries, he grabs the Imperial Russian flag and tells his men to charge forward to "victory". Then he collapses and dies.

* Literature/DonQuixote of La Mancha, the protagonist of the eponymous classical Spanish novel by Miguel Cervantez, from whose name the word "quixotic" was derived, didn't know the difference between reality and chivalric romance.
* The ''Literature/{{Hoka}}'' stories are practically built around this trope. The teddy-bear-like Hokas constantly act out scenes from human literature because they have a fuzzy grasp of what's real and what's fictional. And they really don't care anyway.
* The clones in ''Literature/GalaxyOfFear'' have a version of this defect. Stranded on Dantooine, some have made a "spaceship" out of leaves and sticks and such. It's not BambooTechnology, it's basically something like a kid would build, except on a larger scale. The clones all sincerely believe it's a real spaceship and as soon as they have all the parts and finish it will start working. The protagonists are highly dismayed to realize this, but are too unnerved to try very hard to talk them out of it.
* In one of the ''Series/DoctorWho'' Literature/EighthDoctorAdventures books, there's a footnote that mentions that due to traumatic events that also caused him to lose his memory, the Doctor went a bit ''extra''-batty for a while and started getting [[UnderwearOfPower weird ideas about underwear]] from Franchise/{{Superman}}, and ''[[BlackComedy suicidal depression]]'' from tragic soap operas.
* In ''Red Diamond, Private Eye'' and its sequels by Mark Schorr, cab driver Simon Jaffe suffers a complete breakdown after his wife sells his precious collection of pulp magazines and he starts believing that he is a pulp detective called Red Diamond. As part of his delusion, he believes that many other fictional detectives are real and friends of his.
* Just a single aspect of [[BigBad Annie Wilkes]]'s whole insane mindset in ''Literature/{{Misery}}''. Many fans can relate the to the nightmare of having their favourite fictional character being KilledOffForReal, but when Annie reads a a draft of Paul's final Misery story and learns of the character's [[DeathByChildbirth ultimate fate]], Annie basically freaks her shit and attacks him, almost reacting as if he just murdered a real person.
* Creator/UmbertoEco:
** ''Literature/TheNameOfTheRose'' (for a given definition of "fiction", since Eco was an atheist): the killer is driven by religious fervor to carry out murders resembling the circumstances of the Book of Revelation, while around him the monastery bickers about highly esoteric Christian minutae, such as whether Jesus Christ owned his own clothes or not, to feed their politicized agendas by pointing to the Bible for evidence. The hero is a Franciscan friar who tries -- and often fails -- to teach people it's okay to be skeptical about the things we read in books.
** ''Literature/FoucaultsPendulum'': The main characters, Milanese book editors who cook up a scheme to publish crowd-sourced occult manuscripts, start to believe their own bullshit as coincidences pile up and the seductive allure of their made-up plan makes too much sense.
** ''The Island of the Day Before'': Roberto, a 17th century man marooned on a deserted ship, starts writing a book about how his secret twin (whom he made up) has been toying with him his entire life, but the loneliness and isolation to drive him to believe that his secret twin is real and is responsible for his current situation.
* Literature/NimsIsland: At several points, it's clear that Nim doesn't understand the difference between fiction and reality, even stating her belief that the boy from the tourist group isn't actually ''real''. While you could argue that it's simply an over-active imagination, it doesn't really paint a good picture for her mental health overall.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/NightCourt'':
** An elderly lady couldn't tell TV wasn't real anymore, and brought a grenade to the court to try to free a guy in jail who was a character in a SoapOpera.
** Another episode had a friend of Buddy's, whose problem wasn't so much that he couldn't tell fiction from reality, but that the concept of fiction, lies, opinions or anything other than true, objective reality was alien to him, and he was rendered essentially catatonic due to his inability to tell what was actually real, since both sides of every argument seemed equaly valid to him.
* One episode of ''Series/BarneyMiller'' features a lady asking the detectives for a welfare check on some neighbors, but the "neighbors" turn out to be SoapOpera characters in her TV. Although not written by Reinhold Weege, this episode may have been the inspiration for the above ''Series/NightCourt'' episode.
* Joey of ''Series/{{Friends}}'' had to deal with a fan (played by Brooke Shields) who thought he was actually Dr. Drake Ramoray, the character he played on ''Days of Our Lives''.
* In ''Series/{{Blackadder}}'', Prince George believes that the actor in ''Theatre/JuliusCaesar' is about to be killed and says "Look out, Mr. Caesar!" He later mistakes an actual assassination attempt for AllPartOfTheShow in an unrelated incident. Unlike many others, its not out of being obsessed with fiction, but rather because of being too dim-witted to comprehend the concept of pretending to be someone else.
* In ''Series/TheITCrowd'', Douglas Reynholm believes that Sherlock Holmes was a real person.
* ''Series/FatherTed'': Father Dougal apparently needs to keep a chart explaining what's real and what isn't.
* In the first season of ''Series/TwoGuysAGirlAndAPizzaPlace'', there was a RunningGag of a restaurant patron with a CrazyMemory, who would tell stories about his past, all of which were plots of movies.
* The ''Series/CriminalMinds'' episode "True Night" had a serial killer, played by Frankie Muniz, who worked as a comic book artist. He went crazy after gangbangers killed his girlfriend and hunted them down one by one under the delusion that he was a vigilante from one of his comics. Possibly an inversion though, as it's suggested that he may have created the comic book character based on the delusion. He also seems to be completely unaware of the murders except while under the delusion, and they catch him because he recreated the scenes in his comic without realizing it.
* ''Series/{{NCIS}}'' has an episode where a serial killer started targeting people that [=McGee=] had featured as characters in his book because he was convinced that the book was real and that the individuals in question were plotting to kill Agent [=McGee=]'s fictional counterpart.
** A Season 14 episode had a guy who killed three people by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. He was honestly convinced that he managed to find out how to keep people cryogenetically frozen in SuspendedAnimation and that he could unthaw his "test subjects" with no ill effects.
--> '''Killer''': Cancer patients. I could put them into a state of hibernation. And when science has cured cancer, my test subjects can live healthy, productive, lives.\\
'''Gibbs''': They're not test subjects! A couple of homeless guys, and you froze them while they were still alive!\\
'''Killer''': I had to. If you wait until they're dead, you can never bring them back.
* Abed in ''Series/{{Community}}'' is often accused of this trope, with several characters questioning whether or not he can recognize what is or is not real. However, throughout most of the series he ''can'' distinguish TV from reality, but uses TV as a filter to ''understand'' reality. It gets weird in the final season when it seems that he does completely succumb and lose his grip on reality, culminating in "Basic RV Repair and Palmistry". Though it is not referred to as such, Abed has a psychotic break and believes that he literally can change the past by having a "flashback" to earlier events. This puts himself and others in actual danger, and they need to resolve the situation by playing into his delusion, claiming that the present '''is''' a flashback from the future.
* ''Series/{{Misfits}}'' has a character whose "superpower" is that he believes himself to be in a ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' pastiche. Sequences from his vision show that he imagines everyone around him to be characters in the game, believing Simon to be his current mission's endboss and Kelly to be his traitorous ex-girlfriend. Later appearances have him aware of what's happened and actively trying to keep his mind planted in reality.
* In ''Series/OnceUponATime'', Emma first thinks this about Henry with his book, before she finds out the events it tells really are true.
* An episode of ''Series/CSICyber'' has the team tracking down some hackers who are pulling off crimes inspired by the first-person shooter video games they play. One tries to escape by leaping across a roof and falls hard, breaking his legs. The team realize the guy was so used to pulling the move in the game that he honestly thought it would work in real life as well and that the rest of the gang had come to see shooting people are just "gaining points".

* ''Music/FlightOfTheConchords'': The Prime Minister of New Zealand has trouble distinguishing fiction from reality. When he sees two people dressed as Music/EltonJohn at a party, he believes that it's a glitch in Film/TheMatrix.
* In "[[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wsxBMkllVY Foxy's Tale]]", a fan song for ''VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddys'', Foxy the Pirate Fox, an animatronic for entertaining kids designed after a pirate, suffers from a delusional belief that he really used to be a pirate in the past. This belief slowly drove him mad, causing him to attack someone (possibly referring to the Bite of 87).

[[folder:Puppet Shows]]
* ''Series/TheMrPotatoHeadShow'': In the superhero episode, Mr. Potato Head, acting as the [[ShowWithinAShow in-universe fictional superhero]] "Spudman", tried to use his character's powers to fight a world-destroying demon. Bizarrely, he was able to fire EyeBeams, even backstage, though he lost a BeamOWar with the demon.

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

[[folder:Video Games]]
* [[spoiler:Omega]] in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIV'' is said to collect all available knowledge, but is unaware of the distinction between fact and fiction. This is irrelevant to it, [[spoiler:since it has the power to shape life into being by manipulating aether. As long as it is logical, it's real to Omega]].

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* Red from ''{{VisualNovel/Nameless}} - The One Thing You Must Recall -'' is [[LivingToys a doll]] [[ArtificialHuman that has been turned human]] designed to be an action hero. As such, he treats life like he's the main hero in a Sentai show and the rest of his friends are fellow Sentai.
* Takuji from ''VisualNovel/SubarashikiHibi'' suffers from 'delusions'. It's usually [[DramaticIrony obvious to the player]] when one is occurring, but he seriously ''believes'' a lot of what is told to him during these.
** Many of the delusions are H-scenes during his chapter, because of the [[{{Otaku}} kind of person he is...]]

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* ''WebAnimation/FreedomToons'': In "Gun Control with Piers and Cenk", Dr. Mac calls on Piers Morgan and Cenk Uygur to help him name several firearms that they want banned. They list a bunch of fictional guns from games such as ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'' and ''VideoGame/CallOfDutyWorldAtWar''.

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

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

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'':
** When Peter crashes his car into the Quahog cable ground station, shutting down all TV, he goes a little crazy and straps a cardboard TV shaped box to himself to look at the world through. He then starts to think that everything he's seeing is a TV show.
** Stewie decides to run away from home to England in order to live on ''Jolly Farm Revue'', not realizing until he gets there that it's just a TV show. Justified, since evil genius or not he's still just a baby.
** Mayor Adam West sends Quahog's police force to save fictional Joan Wilder's sister from ''Film/RomancingTheStone''.
* ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible'' episode "The Fearless Ferret" has both the actors who played the hero and a villain believing the show they used to act in was for real.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Arthur}}'': When Mary Moo Cow visits Elwood City, D.W. fantasizes that they will become best friends and she will live with Mary Moo Cow during the summer.
* In one episode, ''WesternAnimation/JohnnyBravo'' gets set up with some VR equipment advertised to be so good the user won't be able to tell the game from reality. Cue Johnny going on a rampage through town as he plays the game. Eventually the VR game batteries run out... only for Pops to charge them up with jumper cables as the madness is getting pretty amusing.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/DuckTales2017'' episode "Terror of the Terra-firmians'", after Launchpad [=McQuack=] watches a horror movie about mole monsters, he spends the entire episode thinking that the film's plot is true and fearing that one of his friends is a mole monster in disguise.