Frylock: Shake! Highlander was just a movie.Particle physicists have written much on the possibilities of multiple universes. Every single subatomic possibility spawns its own unique universe, each of which in turn spawns new universes from each of its own subatomic possibilities, creating the vast web of The Multiverse. And so, the reasoning goes, somewhere out there in that vast sea of universes, why couldn’t there lie universes wherein the events of our favorite TV shows, video games, and other media properties actually happened? Daydream Believers are fans who believe that the events, characters, and places depicted in their favorite work are, in some form or another, real. They range from accepting this as a mere possibility to convinced of it as a fact; many Handwave their beliefs by just calling it an Alternate Universe of Real Life. Authors can occasionally perpetuate this sort of thinking in fans, whether deliberately or accidentally. Recursive Canon tropes (like the Literary Agent Hypothesis) may suggest in the text that the work really happened. It doesn’t help that actual Historical Fiction is fairly common, ranging to works about pseudo-legendary figures like King Arthur to depictions of events or dialogue which could well have occurred in real life but just can’t be proven. Fans latch on to works like these to suggest that the most ridiculous or speculative things fall into that category as well. Trapped in TV Land, Refugee from TV Land, and Welcome to the Real World all play upon this trope. For non-believers, this kind of thing is a sort of Recursive Canon. Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality is the extreme version of this trope. Longing for Fictionland is for fans who know something isn’t real but really really wish it was. Epileptic Trees are often insane postulations as to how this trope could work. The trope is named after a song by The Monkees, although the song is not explicitly about this phenomenon (at least not in this universe).
Master Shake: No, Frylock, Highlander was a documentary, and the events happened in real time.
Master Shake: No, Frylock, Highlander was a documentary, and the events happened in real time.
Certain types of fiction tend to attract the “casual” (or socially accepted) Daydream Believer:
- Psychologist Carl Jung wrote at length on the collective subconscious and archetypes in storytelling; the idea is that the human brain is wired to believe in certain myths and stories. For instance, this is why so many cultures’ mythologies have a “great flood”; the theory is that it derives from human’s collective memory (whether of the last Ice Age, to being suspended in fluid in utero, to ascending to land from the primordial oceans). This phenomenon could also be used to explain people’s strong connections with fictional characters.
- Mythology, including parables, fairy tales, and works that assert that All Myths Are True, tend to attract a fandom who approaches them from a deep-seated Jungian perspective — a desire to believe that the works are true on some level. While most scholars assert that most such stories were never intended to be true, they resonated with audiences because they reinforced their core beliefs. Other works that assert that all myths have a “grain of truth” to them don’t help matters.
- The Literary Agent Hypothesis can sometimes backfire; by making an effort to make the story plausible in Real Life, a creator can cause the fandom to believe that it did happen in Real Life in some form. The Direct Line to the Author is an even worse phenomenon, because the narrator is claiming to have received the story directly from the characters; the same can happen with works that postulate a Masquerade or a similar device explaining how the fictional worlds can go unnoticed by the real world. And fans unfamiliar with a work’s background may simply have assumed something like this was the case, as with Sherlock Holmes.
- The Multiverse allows fans to claim that their favorite work is real in some parallel universe; if there are infinite such universes, it becomes quite plausible that it’s real in at least one of them. This sometimes extends to Transfictionality, the belief that the author is God of that universe; this bridges the gap between Literary Agent Hypothesis and All Myths Are True.
- Speculative Fiction, especially hard science fiction, allows fans to believe that such works are possible at some point in the future, partly because Science Marches On and partly because more often than not, Life Imitates Art, and such works can inspire real-life scientists and scholars to create the technology they contain. Unfortunately, such progress doesn’t always happen fast enough for the fans’ liking. A related phenomenon is Transhumanism, some of whose adherents are trying to hasten The Singularity to allow humanity to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
Some people take it much, much further, however. These are the “hardcore” Daydream Believers:
- Some believe that their favorite story happened in this world, but certain events (or perhaps The Man) have conspired to keep it a secret. They may further believe that the fictional works were created as a cover up, so that anybody who discovered it would be dismissed as watching too much TV.
- “Soulbonders” are people who feel that they have some sort of emotional, spiritual, or mental connection with fictional characters. On the saner end, these fans rationalize their “soulbond” as a mental imprint of the character; on the less sane end, some fans believe that they’re married to a character on the astral plane. Some soulbonders also consider themselves “Plurals”, believing that they have multiple personalities or entities sharing the same body; some of those other personalities may be fictional characters or beings.
- “Fictionkin” (or “Otakin”, or “Otakukin”) believe that they are a fictional character, in an alternate universe or another life or something like that. It’s related to the “Otherkin” phenomenon of people who believe themselves to be reincarnations of non-specific races or species, and “Therianthropy”, which is the same thing but with real animals. They may express their connection in different ways, ranging from “I feel a connection to this character” to “I may have been this character in a past life” to “I have this character’s soul” to “I can physically shapeshift, but I don’t because they would cut me up”.
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Real Life Examples:Note: When adding examples to this page, keep the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment firmly in mind. Include only examples of people who, in the reductionist way, believe in works written and published with the full intent of being seen as fiction. Try not to snark, either; we’re not here to call names on the playground, after all.
- Some people like to insist that dragons are real. They aren’t in the way most people think, although some animals (like the Komodo Dragon) are technically called “dragons”.
- Zombie fandom manifests itself in people who take the threat of a Zombie Apocalypse seriously. These people form online communities discussing things like the best weapons to use and best places to bug out. Fortunately, most of them are in on the joke or are survivalists (like Zombie Squad) using a hypothetical zombie attack as a worst-case scenario (the idea being that if you’re ready for zombies, you’re ready for anything). Even the U.S. Center for Disease Control has tongue-in-cheek documents on how to survive a zombie pandemic.
- A minority of the Furry Fandom falls into this category. Some believe that their fursona is themselves, and only those “in tune” with their animal nature can see their true self rather than their human self. Although the Furry subculture in and of itself is not related to therianthropy or “Otherkin”, it does attract many such people who believe they should be a certain animal or character and find dressing up as them to be the next best thing. Other furries honestly believe that Animorphism and hybrid creatures like werewolves are real phenomena and that scientists are trying to create them.
- Tulpa is the Buddhist concept of something that is brought into existence through sheer force of will. Most analysis of it suggests it’s related to Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious. Daydream Believers think it means if you wish really hard, you can make your favorite fictional character real. This page deconstructs some of the psychological reasons for that belief (in the context of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fans trying to will their favorite ponies into existence). Tulpa is also useful for Creepypasta in that some believe that they could will things into existence that they don’t want, like the Slender Man.
- The Japanese neologism chuunibyou (“thirteen-year-old syndrome”) is a blanket term referring to the delusional, paranoid, and embarrassing behaviour of middle school-age children; several of its subtypes are Daydream Believers. For instance, a DQN-kei (“idiot delinquent type”) insists that he’s been in gang fights that have clearly never happened and brags about the huge amount of drugs he’s obviously never done, and a jyakigan-kei (“Evil Eye type”) believes himself to have occult powers, often creating an anime hero-like persona for this.
Anime & Manga
- Some fans of such fighting anime as Dragon Ball and Naruto believe that ki attacks — as in, Beam Spam Kamehame Hadoken-type attacks — are a real martial art that humans can learn. While many real-life martial arts do involve processes which are explained in terms of “ki manipulation”, it’s mostly a metaphor for something more complicated and materialistic; it’s just a way to show that humans are stronger, faster, and more durable than most people realize. It doesn’t mean that they can shoot lasers out of their hands. These fans counter by claiming that they can only use these powers if nobody’s watching, and they’ll also happily argue with fans of other works about why the other show’s powers are totally unrealistic.
- The Japanese 2D Love Movement is a way for Otaku to marry fictional characters. This led to things like a Japanese otaku legally marrying one of the virtual girlfriends from Love Plus and a Korean otaku marrying his body pillow of Fate Testarossa-Harlaown.
Tohru Honda (the movement’s unofficial founder/guru): I’m not saying that everyone should throw away hopes of real romance right away. I am simply saying that guys like me who have gotten to a point of no return can be happy living in 2D.
- Axis Powers Hetalia might be the biggest stronghold of Daydream Believers in anime fandom, which contributes to the show’s stereotype of having some of the worst fans of all time.
- Some fans of the X-Men believe that superpowered mutants really exist, and that they’re just under wraps for the same reasons as in the book. One woman went as far as to believe that she’s married to Cyclops and has apparently told her children that he’s their real father.
- Alan Moore has made some odd claims of this sort, such as that he’s conversed with Mercury. His oddest is his claim to have met John Constantine in a bar, although since he co-created Constantine in Swamp Thing, it’s unclear whether or not he’s really a Daydream Believer.
- A number of people have convinced themselves that The Grim Reaper is not a skeleton, but rather what The Sandman describes: a cute Perky Goth chick. At least it’s better than the alternative.
- A large Donald Duck fandom in the Netherlands called the “D.O.N.A.L.D.ists” believes (or at least pretends to believe) that Donald Duck comics are real and take place in an alternate dimension or distant Earth-like planet that happens to be exactly like Earth, but with anthropomorphic animals. The claim is that the comic authors were able to see scenes of everyday life on this duck planet and described it through the Donald Duck comics.
Films — Live Action
- The Matrix has apparently convinced a number of people that humanity is living in a simulation or a dream world of some sort and needs to wake up to come back to reality. Inception didn’t help matters here, although it does make for hilarious reactions when you secretly play “Je Ne Regrette Rien” around these people.
- Some conspiracy theorists believe that every movie ever made about space aliens is really the government trying to disclose the existence of extraterrestrials without freaking people out.
- Some people believe that Pandora, as shown in Avatar, is real; and they sadly also believe that the only way to get there is to commit suicide.
- Some readers of A Series of Unfortunate Events believe that the series is entirely true, because the Lemony Narrator said so. This is unlikely, as the books are full of fictional places, events without Plausible Deniability, and just outright weirdness. But it also contains a lot of Paranoia Fuel for impressionable young readers, such as the implication that your teachers are all members of an Ancient Conspiracy which may kidnap you. The Literary Agent Hypothesis is also played up a lot both within the series and in promotional events.
- Many people believe that Sherlock Holmes was a real person. Part of this may just stem from his status as a Historical-Domain Character and over a century passing since the escapades of the Great Detective; many of these people are unaware of the actual books or that they were intended to be fiction. It doesn’t help that the books have a Literary Agent Hypothesis, where Dr. Watson is ostensibly Holmes’ biographer; this leads to the fandom calling Daydream Believers “Watsonians” (whereas those who aren’t are “Doylists”, after the real author Arthur Conan Doyle). Enough people believed Holmes was real over the years that they wrote to his supposed address of 221B Baker Street; these letters are collected in a book called Letters to Sherlock Holmes, ranging from simple fan letters to actual requests for his services as a detective.
- The official forums for Maximum Ride are full of people who insist the books are true accounts by real people. Several of them claim to be Phlebotinum Rebels themselves, although they may just be roleplaying.
- The Harry Potter books run on a Masquerade that suggests that the Wizarding World is real and just hides itself from our world; naturally, this leads to impressionable young readers who expect a Hogwarts acceptance letter to appear in their chimneys. Then some people don’t grow out of it and create things like Snapes on an Astral Plane. And some Moral Guardians approach the series from the other direction, claiming it’s real and will turn children to the Occult or whatever.
- “Dæmians” think of themselves as having daemons, as depicted in the book series His Dark Materials. Saying they “believe” in daemons would be true but misleading – many of them haven’t even read the books, and most just think of their daemon as sort of grown-up version of an Imaginary Friend and a useful psychological tool for getting in touch with one’s subconscious. But some do view it closer to “soulbonding”.
- Terry Pratchett occasionally got letters from terminally ill Discworld fans hoping to meet the Discworld version of the Reaper when their time comes. Sir Terry spent some time staring at a wall after reading these, whether for fear of their sanity or just because some of them were children. Others literally believe in Azrael, Angel of Death and Death of Universes, not as he appears in Jewish and Islamic tradition, but rather how he appears in Reaper Man.
- The Cthulhu Mythos is subject to rather complicated Daydream Believing of all sorts. Many believe that H.P. Lovecraft’s creations were built on actual myths and legends; Lovecraft often found himself insisting that they were fictional. Others believe that Lovecraft’s deities were real, even if Lovecraft himself did not believe in them, or that they used Lovecraft as a vessel to make themselves known to the world. The weirdest have Defictionalized the Necronomicon, the definitive book of the black magic; they’ve been active enough to trick Moral Guardians into thinking it’s real as well (such as infamous anti-Dungeons & Dragons crusader Patricia Pulling, who advised police officers searching for teenage Satanists to check if they’d recently taken the Necronomicon out of the library). Ironically, Lovecraft created the Necronomicon because he was so unimpressed by the authentic medieval “black books” he had read.
- The Da Vinci Code got a lot of people believing that there really is a secret line of Jesus’ descendants that still exists and that Jesus really is buried under the Louvre in Paris. It didn’t help that author Dan Brown himself claims that everything in the book is true, even though it isn’t, although it’s unknown whether he honestly believes that or just says so for publicity’s sake.
- Mercedes Lackey has said that she has canceled convention appearances because of fans who believed her Diana Tregarde books were real. On her website she goes into considerable detail about them and why she’s both frightened of and somewhat sorry for them — and reveals that she herself, at one time, bought into a similar pattern of thinking, at least until she shook herself out of it.
- Some The Wheel of Time fans believe that channeling is real, and that the author could teach them how to do it.
- Some people claim that The Lord of the Rings is a fictionalized account of events which occurred in 3105-04 BC. They claim to be able to pinpoint the dates to the exact day. Others suggest that the Ainur, elves, and dwarves were really Ancient Astronauts.
- Spider Robinson once told an authentically heartrending story about a suicidal young man who called him on the telephone and tearfully demanded the “real location” of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, apparently as a means of staving off actually going through with his suicide.
- The Secret is all about how Daydream Believing will actually, truly, genuinely make all your wildest dreams come true.
- Maurice Sendak recalled that a young girl once sent him a letter asking for directions to Where the Wild Things Are, as she and her sister wanted to take a vacation there.
- After the Russian novel Plutonia (chronicling an expedition to a Hollow World with dinosaurs) was published in 1915, many readers wrote in, saying they were available for future expeditions. Newer editions came with a disclaimer that it was completely fictional and that the hollow earth theory has been disproven.
- A lot of Warrior Cats fans believe in StarClan, the warrior afterlife, even though the author said she made it up.
Live Action TV
- This is a common phenomenon with soap operas, especially where they’re aired in poorer areas where people don’t have quite the same experience with television, or where they’re aired outside their country of origin (particularly in the Balkans) and viewers can’t tell what’s realistic and what’s not:
- The producers of Brazilian soap opera Escrava Isaura got a lot of letters from people begging for Isaura to “free herself from her evil master” (and even sending them money to help them do it). This in spite of the fact that the soap was set in the early 19th century. It did happen to be the very first soap opera to reach many Eastern European countries, whose populations simply didn’t know what to make of it.
- The producers of the Venezuelan telenovela Kassandra got a ton of letters, many of them from the Balkans (one from the Serbian town of Kucevo alone got 200 signatures), begging them to let the lead character be set free from her wrongful imprisonment. It helped that the character was Romani and resonated well in those areas.
- The producers of Ramayana, a popular Indian soap opera in the late 1980s, were flooded with mail expressing concern over Sita’s trial by fire, enough that they made a series of special announcements where actress Deepika Chikhalia and creator Ramanand Sagar assured the public that they didn’t actually set Chikhalia on fire and explained how the effect was created. This show was such a big deal that while these episodes were aired, the entire country ground to a literal halt — public transportation was stopped, and religious services — Hindu and otherwise — were suspended.
- The British soap Coronation Street once had a storyline where the character Deirdre Rachid was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and jailed for a crime she didn’t commit. The less sane fans — and the tabloids — started campaigning openly for her freedom, culminating in then-Prime Minister Tony Blair promising to launch an investigation (which cheesed off saner Britons who were still waiting for him to investigate some real miscarriages of justice in Britain).
- One woman is utterly convinced that she’s married to Sylar, the Serial Killer from Heroes, on the astral plane, and that her 12-year-old sister channels him for her.
- Doctor Who lends itself well to this line of thinking, as the Doctor’s ability to regenerate into a new body and his frequent lapses in memory make it slightly more plausible for a real-life person to believe he is the Doctor (or some other timelord). Peter Davison once described a letter he received from such a person.
- Star Trek, being a by-word for “obsessive fanboys”, naturally attracted Daydream Believers of all kinds. One group of fans in the early 1970s set up an experimental community where they could live by Vulcan ideals. Leonard Nimoy, in his autobiography I Am Spock, describes an encounter with such a fan who visited the set:
One of the guests, a dreamy-eyed young woman, came up to me during a break from filming and introduced herself, then revealed some information that took me completely aback. “I represent a group of people in New Mexico who are in contact with an alien intelligence,” she told me, very earnestly. “You may not be aware of the importance of the work you're doing. You have been chosen, in a metaphysical sense, to house the alien entity called Spock.”
- The Millionaire was a late 1950s CBS drama about a philanthropist who sends out million-dollar checks to random people, just to see how it would change their lives. People would actually write CBS and ask for a check for a million dollars from this fictional character.
- Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds is one of the most famous historical examples, as the show didn’t do a good enough job explaining that it was fictional and narrated a Martian invasion as if it were real, prompting much of the public (including some public officials) to believe it was real.
- There are people who believe Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion is talking about a real place when he talks about Wobegon.
- Professional Wrestling is a strange animal, in that the performances are all given as if everything was a real-life sporting event, and thus the stereotypical nerdy wrestling fan doesn’t believe it’s fake. While this isn’t true in the slightest, that doesn’t mean there aren’t fans like this, who believe the performers really do hate each other, and no amount of tell-all programs and parodies will convince the otherwise. Weirdly, the opposite is true as well; sometimes spontaneous unplanned things really do happen in wrestling, but some fans will be convinced that these were staged too.
- When Donald Trump “bought” WWE Raw, the company did a poor job signaling that he didn’t really buy the company (mostly because they were trying for a Worked Shoot). Every mention of the acquisition suggested it was real, including every official news source. That was enough for the investors, who took it as real and sold their stock.
- The Phantom of the Opera is commonly thought to have been Based on a True Story; it’s even adapted from a novel whose opening line is “The Phantom really existed” and many of whose characters were No Celebrities Were Harmed versions of real contemporary people. A few events were also based on real ones (like the falling chandelier). But the Phantom himself is very likely completely fictional, even if fans believe otherwise; some tone it down and suggest he’s based on a disfigured stagehand.
- Final Fantasy VII attracts these sorts of fans. One infamous story describes a cult-like society formed by two scarily obsessed fans called “Hojo” and “Jenova”, and Summoner Yuna and Sephirothslave both believe themselves to be the One True Love of Sephiroth, Final Fantasy VII's resident white haired Bishōnen (although Sephirothslave claims she’s really in love with an archangel on the astral plane who inspired the character).
- A girl calling herself “Link’s Queen” became utterly convinced that she had fallen in love with Link from The Legend of Zelda and that her lucid dreams of living in Hyrule were a real second life she lived in another dimension. She wrote about her dreams in the fanfic My Inner Life. The truth of all this is suspect, which is good because it’s otherwise full of some rather strange sexual practices.
- An enormous portion of Touhou fandom consists of some form of Daydream Believers. The craziest insist that Gensoukyou is a real place which is hidden from the rest of the world as ZUN describes.
- The Sonic the Hedgehog fandom contains a number of this people, which adds to the fanbase’s poor reputation. This article, for instance, describes one who can best be described as a “double necrophiliac robosexual”.
- Sonichu creator Christian Weston Chandler seems to think his characters are real, that he has “conversed” with them several times, and that he could pull off everything he does in the comic in real life. It’s speculated that some scenes in the comic are how he actually perceives events in his real life.
- The “Real Digimon Believers”, whose Web sites all appear to have been taken offline or made inaccessible to non-members, wanted to bring about a “Digiclipse” — the opening of a portal to the Digiworld, apparently with their toy Digivices and the power of faith.
- “Pokeclipse” was a Stealth Parody of the Digimon Believers intended to Troll them, claiming that Pokémon were real and scientists were trying to believe them. Naturally, there were people who really believed that; the plan was to trick these fans into raiding Digiclipse for them.
- The Fandom_Wank mockery community has a page listing their historic mockeries of soul-bonders and otakin. Their weirdest might be the guy who, by his own account, married someone’s Sonic the Hedgehog Fan Character on the astral plane. And he can also do Ki Attacks, apparently.
- The online comedy personality “2 the Ranting Gryphon” used to rant about Daydream Believers in the Furry Fandom, but he now seems to believe his own outrageous claims of controlling a “furry Illuminati”. He went as far as to arrange a Secret Test of Character on one of his fan forums to weed out fans who could keep a secret and were thus worthy of joining his secret group. The test turned out to be keeping quiet about the details of a “social disobedience” experiment you could only learn about by emailing Gryphon; since the participants didn’t realize they were being tested on their silence rather than their ability to complete the task, none of them passed. That said, some of his listeners do honestly believe themselves to be soldiers in his “real-life Furry Army of Doom” (despite failing his character test).
- At least one commenter on IMDB believes that Beauty and the Beast is real, as are all the characters therein — but only the first movie. This means that anything that contradicts the canon of the first movie even slightly is evil and a direct offense to these otherwise “real” people; as such, the Direct-to-Video sequel is now the worst thing in existence, and as for the Lilo & Stitch trailer where Stitch invades the ballroom scene and knocks down the chandelier:
“This is obviously not what happened in the film. Apparently, it’s meant to be a joke, but it’s a genuinely mean joke. It’s not funny at all. They danced in that ballroom without interruption. That is an indisputable fact known to be true by everyone who has seen the movie. The scene has already HAPPENED. Therefore the ad is meaningless.”
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom is known to be Longing for Fictionland, but some take it a little too far. One obsessed fan, “Mr. Sparkle”, considers himself married to Twilight Sparkle (and became an internet laughingstock when they found his angry letter◊ to a DeviantArt artist who drew Rule 34 of her). Other fans (mostly on 4chan) believe that Equestria is a real place they could visit through astral projection or lucid dreams; their efforts briefly put Tulpa back into the general consciousness.
- Swamp Thing: In “Growth Patterns”, one of Constantine’s psychic contacts, the mentally disturbed Benjamin Cox, claims that the cosmic threat that John’s team expects will manifest itself in a year is really Cthulhu.
Cox: Everyone thuh-thinks Lovecraft muh-made Cthulhu up... buh-but I know.
- In Booster Gold, the eponymous time-traveling hero once tried to persuade his boss Rip Hunter to let him make a stop in The '50s — so he could meet Fonzie. When Rip informed him that the Fonz is a fictional character, Booster replied, “Now that’s just mean.” Knowing Booster, it’s hard to say whether or not he was joking.
- In Peanuts, Linus’ unwavering belief in the Great Pumpkin is the source of much consternation, philosophizing, and mocking.
- In FoxTrot, Jason falls into this behavior on occasion. At least once, he commented that Star Wars really happened and the production reports were just “monkeys on keyboards”, and he also had to be told that comics didn’t reflect reality when his Spider-Man web-shooter didn’t work.
- In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Harmony told her sister, whom their father sexually abused, that she was actually adopted and that her real father is a Hollywood actor who was in town shooting a movie. Harmony is distressed to realize years later that her sister believed her and never stopped believing that throughout her life; this would eventually lead to her suicide.
- Galaxy Quest revolves around a group of alien Daydream Believers who saw the Galaxy Quest show but believe it to be a historical document. So deep is their faith in the daydream that they base their entire civilization on the show and build exact and functional representations of all its technology. They rope in the show’s actors to save them from the bad guys, not realizing that they aren’t really space captains. But the lead actor has his own tricks up his sleeve, and at one point he calls on his own Daydream Believer back on Earth, whose acceptance that the show is fictional turns out to have been rather shaky:
“Oh my God, I knew it. I knew it! I Knew It!”
- In the climax of Ghostbusters, the heroes are trapped by Gozer and challenged to choose the form that the Destructor will take when he arrives; whatever they think of will become real and terrorize the city. They try to clear their minds to keep Gozer from reading them. But Ray can’t do it, so he tries to think of the most innocent being he could: the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. The result is a giant marshmallow mascot materializing in New York City.
Ray: I couldn’t help it! It just popped in there!
- Martian Child has a dark spin on this; the eponymous kid is a Daydream Believer as a coping mechanism for his social awkwardness. It chronicles his adoptive father’s struggles with the son’s delusion that he’s really from Mars and his “real parents” will come pick him up any day now.
- Don Quixote is about a retired hidalgo who becomes obsessed with fictional chivalry books and is convinced that they’re real. His friends think he’s gone mad and try to talk sense into him. Undeterred, he cobbles together a suit of armour, restyles himself “Don Quixote”, and rides off to tilt at windmills. It later emerges that other characters, such as illiterate peasant-turned-sidekick Sancho Panza, also have trouble telling fiction from reality (which is how Don Quixote can recruit them so easily). Then real life wrote the plot: after the first half of the novel was published in 1604 (making this Older Than Steam), someone wrote a continuation that was essentially a fanfiction that seriously derailed the main characters; in the real second part, Miguel Cervantes has Don Quixote read this fictional second part, which is so obviously fake and creates such a paradox that he gets Bored With Insanity.
- The Emberverse includes a faction calling themselves the “Dúnedain Rangers”, who consider themselves the spiritual (and in some cases literal) descendants of the group of the same name from The Lord of the Rings. They consider Tolkien’s writings holy texts and practice a religion which is a mishmash of Tolkien’s cosmology and the neo-Wiccan beliefs of a neighboring community.
- The short story The Gospel of Nate takes place in a universe where Daydream Believers turn out to have been write all along, and some characters are even reincarnations of fictional characters.
- The back inside cover of the first Leven Thumps book says that the author originally wanted his book published as non-fiction, but the publisher wouldn’t let him. He then said he was fine with it being labeled fiction because getting the story out was more important and the Daydream Believers would do the work for him. The author blurbs are also written in the style of a Lemony Narrator.
- Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Changeling is about a girl who was raised by a great-aunt who believed in reincarnation and many folk tales as legends, presenting them as complete reality. She grew up to be an Useful Notes/Otherkin (or at least wanting to be one).
- In The Great Gatsby, one of Gatsby’s most endearing characteristics is that he really believes all the stories in the magazines about millionaires — so much so that he chooses them as the basis of his Multiple-Choice Past as a Gentleman Adventurer. This makes him look like a Cliché Storm of various dime novels. Nick is skeptical at first, but Gatsby turns out to be The Charmer, and after he produces a medal from the Montenegro Republic and a photo of him with the actual Earl of Dorcaster, Nick feels obliged to believe:
Then it was all true. I saw the skins of tigers flaming in his palace on the Grand Canal; I saw him opening a chest of rubies to ease, with their crimson-lighted depths, the gnawings of his broken heart.
- Zig-Zagged in Artemis Fowl. Annoying Younger Sibling Billy Kong is told by his older brother that he needs to stay at home while the brother goes out to fight evil supernatural creatures (in reality, getting into fights with gangs and getting out of babysitter duty). When the brother eventually gets killed in a shootout, Billy at first blames the demons, but once he grows up, he realizes they don’t exist and his brother lied to him. Unfortunately, once he meets real fairies, he goes right back to thinking they did indeed kill his brother. His mental balance doesn't last much longer.
Live Action TV
- In Corner Gas, Davis believes that the events of Battlestar Galactica actually happened, and he regularly meets with others who agree.
- One episode of Friends has Joey fend off a stalker who believes he’s really Dr. Drake Remoray, the character he plays on Days of Our Lives, and that the show is real and filmed in real time. Joey quickly gives up and starts dating her, but she sees “him” with another woman on TV and accuses him of cheating on her. Then she notices that he’s in the room with her and on TV at the same time, and she starts losing it. The gang decides to convince her that Joey is actually Drake’s Evil Twin and the real Drake lives across the country.
- On Barney Miller, a woman came to the 12th precinct claiming to have witnessed a murder, only for it to turn out that she had been watching a soap opera.
- One episode of NCIS had an obsessive fan of McGee’s books realize that the characters were all based off McGee’s real-life co-workers. Unfortunately, he starts killing people who pose a threat to McGee’s Author Avatar, and eventually he goes after Abby, who’s in-book counterpart “Amy” hooks up with “MacGregor”. McGee eventually talks him out of it by promising to have MacGregor and Amy get married, to which Abby claims that it makes no sense and ignores all previous characterization.
- The X-Files episode “Arcadia” features a tulpa, as described under the Real Life “General” examples — it turned out to be responsible for the murders in that episode.
- Joy Aston from Psychoville is a tragic example. She carries a plastic doll she calls Freddy Fruitcake around and treats him as if he was a real baby, forcing her husband and others around her to do the same.
- Inverted in a scene from the Israeli sitcom Shemesh: resident Dumb Blonde Ogen tells the eponymous main character Shemesh that she watched an engaging movie the night before, The 91st Minute (a programme about soccer that aired at the time), and was wondering who played some of the characters. When Shemesh tells her the names of the soccer players, she insists he is mixing up the characters and the actors.
- On 30 Rock, Jack’s fiancée’s mother follows a soap opera, believes it to be real, and believes Jack is the villain, as both Jack and the villain are played by Alec Baldwin.
- Roxane, the heroine of Cyrano de Bergerac, is a member of the precieuses movement — as such, she is truly convinced that the romantic and eloquent heroes she has read about in the novels exist in Real Life. She models her ideal man after that archetype, and is convinced that Christian (whom she has only just glimpsed) is one of those men. She particularly cites d’Urfe’s novels, which typically featured uneducated shepherds eloquently elaborating about love and life. Cyrano at one point suggests that these heroes aren’t real, to which Roxane suggests if not, she’d kill herself.
- Anghel Higure from Hatoful Boyfriend is presented as one of these in the sillier storyline. He acts like he’s in a JRPG-like fantasy world based on his own independent manga Fan Nicknamed “Anghel World”, a better-made and more consistent version of which ended up becoming a Spin-Off. It's hinted that it’s a self-imposed game of pretend and that he does have some awareness of his normal life, though in the more serious storyline it’s also shown that he is a living hallucinogen and can spread his visions to other people.
- In this Home On The Strange, Tom purports to believe that Doctor Who is real and compares his beliefs to Christian beliefs about Jesus. The script makes it clear that he's just trolling the missionary.
- The narrator of XKCD seems to have a tenuous grip on reality, ranging from his fear of being attacked by velociraptors à la Jurassic Park to his delusion of meeting his dream girl in the real world.
- In Anime News Nina, Kevin meets a girl named Megan at an anime convention who believes that she is Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi.
- In Homestuck, Horrus has become one of these to compensate for the otherwise incredibly boring and empty personality that came as a side effect of his Void powers. He believes himself to contain a universe filled with an infinite number of souls, as well as to be a horse trapped in a troll body, in addition to various other crackpot beliefs. He even uses the term “multiple system” to describe what this is like.
- Lucy, Patrick and Emily from The War Comms are a parody of this trope. Shannon plays it straighter and saner than them.
- The Real Ghost Busters discussed this trope to explain how the ghosts of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Dr. Moriarty appeared in New York City. Apparently, enough Daydream Believers will cause the characters to come into being through “belief made manifest”.
- Referenced in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode “Dumber Dolls”, where Master Shake claims that “Highlander was a documentary, and the events happened in real time.”
- In Home Movies episode “Renaissance”, Melissa explains her preference for the Medieval Fest over the Sci-fi Fest based on medieval history being real. Jason argues that sci-fi stuff is real too. Coach McGuirk later insists that the medieval people and the sci-fi people have been battling each other for thousands of years.
- The entire premise of Bolt is that Bolt has been deliberately raised by the studio to believe he really is a superpowered dog, but he’s really just the protagonist of a TV show about him. They even shoot each episode in one shot.
- In Adventure Time, the Ice King knows that his fanfic characters, Fionna and Cake, are real somewhere. He just hasn’t found them yet.
- On Kim Possible, Timothy North and the actor who played the villain Whitestripe in “The Fearless Ferret: believe their show was real and act accordingly.
- The Simpsons:
Lisa: He's still looking for that chocolate factory. It consumes him.
- When Becky is staying with the family after a broken engagement with Otto, Marge gets a warning from Patty and Selma that Becky will try to usurp her like in the “documentary”, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Marge tries, in vain, to tell them that it wasn’t real (which makes you wonder why Marge believed anything else they had to say about the subject).
- In “The Ziff Who Came to Dinner”, Lisa tells Artie Ziff of how Homer once read a book and became convinced it was real.
- In the Bob's Burgers episode “The Equestranauts”, fans of the fictional equivalent of My Little Pony are mostly middle-aged men who are generally into it for a love of the show and the sense of community — except Bronconius, who believes that rare collectable spin-off items will grant him eternal youth.
- One episode of Totally Spies! had the girls trying to solve the abduction of the star of their favourite soap opera. The culprit turned out to be an old lady who thought the show was real.