This is when someone, usually The Ditz
or the Cloudcuckoolander
, is ignorant, confused, or ill-informed enough to lump "things that are well known to be real" in with "things that are made up." This is often applied to ethnic groups, but can also include historical characters, countries and animals.
Essentially, Arbitrary Skepticism
applied to real
things, likely by someone who Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality
, an in-universe occurrence of Aluminum Christmas Trees
of Reality Is Unrealistic
A Sister Trope
to Global Ignorance
, Flat Earth Atheist
Compare Legend Fades to Myth
, when something that was once considered common knowledge is distorted by the passage of time to the point that it can no longer be believed with 100% certainty. Contrast Faeries Don't Believe in Humans Either
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Anime & Manga
- In Azumanga Daioh, Tomo believed reindeer didn't exist. note Naturally, the way Tomo's disbelief in reindeer came up is that the girls had just been discussing Santa. Kagura then asks if reindeer are real, and Tomo proceeds to laugh at her and say they don't exist.
- In Stan Freberg's Christmas Dragnet a man named Grudge doesn't believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Columbus, or Cincinnati, and "ain't made up [his] mind yet about Toledo." At the end he's shown the error of his ways in regards Santa, the Easter Bunny, Columbus, and Cincinnati, but he still ain't made up his mind about Toledo.
- In an early 90s story, while protecting the son of a Madripoor mafia boss, Wolverine distracts the kid with the tale of a feral child raised by wolverines in snowy Canada.note The boy doesn't know what snow is, and after an explanation, he refuses to believe it is a real thing.
- Knights of the Dinner Table: Weird Pete doesn't believe that Papua New Guinea is a real country.
- Get Fuzzy:
- Bucky tries to tell Satchel that Hawaii is a myth perpetrated by the Liberal Media. When Rob informed him otherwise, he reacted with genuine surprise, "It is?? Then why the %*(# DON'T WE LIVE THERE?"
- There's also the time after Satchel's game show, where Bucky states how he believes the Harry Potter books to be lies. When Rob questions whether he is "breaking the story that magic doesn't exist," Bucky responds with "What? No, magic exists, I saw a thing on TV. But trains?... Owls?... ENGLAND? Nice try, I'm not buyin' it." Cue two-hour argument between Rob and Bucky over the existence of England (Canada and Greece, too).
- Peanuts: Lucy Van Pelt once spent several strips mocking Charlie Brown for telling her that birds fly south for the winter: "In all my life, Charlie Brown, I have never met anyone with an imagination like yours!" When Chuck insisted, and also added that they fly north during the summer, Lucy sarcastically retorted that they must fly east during the spring and west during the fall. Then she pressed the issue further with "Chickens are birds, aren't they?! You never see a chicken flying south for the winter, do you?! CHICKENS ARE BIRDS, AREN'T THEY?!" Eventually Lucy learned (from a third party) that Charlie Brown was right about (some) birds flying south for the winter, and had to eat crow.
Films — Animation
- Megamind: "There is no Easter bunny, there is no tooth fairy, and there is no queen of England!" He's technically right: There hasn't been a monarch of England since the Acts of Union 1707 united England and Scotland to form Great Britain. Currently, the title is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
- Happy Feet 2: Will the Krill believes "black holes" (whales, actually) are myths to keep people in the swarm.
Films — Live-Action
- The Film Crew: Kevin Murphy believes in many different fantasy lands, but claims that Spain is a myth.
- The Muppets: "I think that's just an internet rumour. Like that there's a country called Turkey."
- Somewhat averted in Look Who's Talking Too. Baby Mikey is sitting awake at night scared. He lists various things he's worried about, and that they aren't real. This includes monsters, ghosts, witches, and dinosaurs. He knows that one of them used to be real, but can't remember which. Justified, since he is a baby.
- A Fairly Odd Christmas: Denzel Crocker didn't believe in North Pole or polar bears before going there and being chased by one. That coming from someone who already believed in Fairy Godparents and Santa Claus.
- In The King and I, the kids have troubling believing that snow is a real thing.
- In a Christmas Episode of The Middle, Brick explains that Eskimos know how to put a fire in an igloo, only for Axl to snap that back that Eskimos aren't real, but are made-up creatures like leprechauns.
- There's a Bones episode involving the search for a rumored pirate treasure. Zack expresses surprise that Hodgins believes in pirates, and Hodgins snarks back that they're not Santa.
- In The Office (US), Kevin thinks that mummies are fictitious monsters from the horror genre, and expresses surprise and fear when people tell him that they exist and there are some in a local museum.
- Will and Grace:
- How I Met Your Mother:
- On an episode, Robin believed that the North Pole and reindeer were made up. This is especially weird considering where she's from.note
- In a later episode, Robin's boyfriend Nick reveals that he thought gypsies "were just made up, like goblins, or trolls, or dolphins."
- In Zoey 101, Michael tries to convince Chase that reindeer aren't real.
- In Friends:
- Joey and Chandler are both interested in a visiting Dutch woman. Chandler gets an edge by "guessing" that Dutch people come from somewhere near the Netherlands (the place they really come from). Joey responds, "Nice try. See, the Netherlands are this make-believe place where Peter Pan and Tinkerbell come from" , apparently has confused the Netherlands with Neverland.
- When Chandler claims that he's moving to Yemen to get rid of Janice, Joey says "Yemen," that actually sounds like a real country!"
- When Ross becomes obsessed with naming all 50 states, Joey looks at his list and says: "First of all, Utah? Dude, you can't just make stuff up!" And that one comes after Joey lists 56 states, including New England ("They have a sports team!") and South Oregon.
- And the one when Joey and Chandler are fighting over the name of Phoebe's baby.
Joey: Oh! Oh-oh, you gotta pick Joey! I mean, name one famous person named Chandler.
Chandler: Raymond Chandler.
Joey: Someone you didn't make up!
- During an episode of My Name Is Earl, Randy tries to make a list of famous rich people he and his brother could borrow from, like The Beverly Hillbillies. Earl points out that they're fictional TV characters, "just like Richie Rich and Donald Trump".
- Myra from Episodes thinks this about gypsies.
- In Boy Meets World, when Mr. Feeny starts lecturing about the Hutus and the Tutsis, Cory and Shawn find the peoples' names so weird that they are convinced he can't be talking about real people and has run out of real subjects and is now making it up.
- On the Australian version of The Unbelievable Truth, Shane Jacobson was giving a lecture on Vikings when Sam Simmons claimed that he'd always thought Vikings were mythical.
- In Power Rangers Ninja Storm, the Monster of the Week Boxing Bop-a-roo had a bad case in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, which annoyed the rest of the villains. Lothor eventually started a Made-Up Word Jar, indicating that he didn't realize they were real words.
- In a The Daily Show segment satirically examining the "over-commercialization" of Hanukkah, John Oliver refers to the occasion as the "holiest of holy days" and is corrected by his (Jewish) guest. Oliver asks him to name one holier, and responds to Yom Kippur with, "Oh, now you're just making up words."
- In one episode of 30 Rock, Tracy believes that Diabetes is a white myth, "Like Larry Bird, or Colorado." In another episode, his entourage isn't there when he needs them because one of them had to go to the optometrist, and his response is, "Making up words won't save you!"
- In an episode of Scrubs, one of the interns is mentioned to be in an elaborate game involving a bar trivia machine. He's later seen arguing about his performance. "There's no way there was a president named Garfield!"
- In The IT Crowd, Mr Reynholm is interviewed. His favorite non-fictional character is Sherlock Holmes. When he's told that Sherlock is fictional, he tells the interviewer to check her facts. She decides to ask him who his favorite fictional character is, which turns out to be The Elephant Man.
- Invoked in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, when Rosencrantz claims not to believe in England, meaning he has no mental picture of what's going to happen once they get there, and Guildenstern sarcastically replies "Just a conspiracy of cartographers, you mean?" Later they have the same exchange in reverse.
- Red vs. Blue Episode 2:
Grif: No, like a puma. It's a big cat, like a lion.
Sarge: You're making that up.
Sarge: (pointing at the front of the Warthog) Look, see these two two hooks? They look like tusks, and what kind of animal has tusks?
Grif: A walrus.
Sarge: Didn't I just tell you to stop making up animals?!
- Strong Bad has this to see in a Teen Super Sleuth parody, playing the group septic.
There's no such thing as 'mysterious'.
- Not Always Right has a few examples:
- There is a Darwin Awards Honorable Mention for a British soldier in Canada, who lept over a fence clearly signposted with instructions to keep out because of the buffaloes, despite the begging from everyone else there not to do it, because he was convinced that American buffalo don't exist. He probably misinterpreted the common meme that American buffalo aren't buffalo (they are in the same genus as European bison), as meaning that the animals in question don't exist.note It ended extremely badly for him, although non-fatally.
- Invoked in one episode of House To Astonish where they look at the entry for the Netherlands in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and treat it like any other Official Handbook entry.
- In one discussion on IMDb, a poster was astonished to discover that MacGyver was an actual show; having assumed that it was something invented for The Simpsons.
- In Welcome to Night Vale, the majority of the townsfolk, at the urging of the secret police, do not believe in mountains. (This is often mentioned in the same breath as the similar disbelief by fiat in angels, which if anything is even more absurd, since a given resident will far more often encounter angels than mountains.)
Cecil: She was then heard to deny the sky, the existence of a living deity, and eggs. "Eggs aren't real," she said. "Nuh-uh. Show me an egg. That's not an egg! Who let you in here?"
- As collected by Snopes, one of the funnier stories achieving Memetic Mutation is the one about a guy who went into a Taco Bell with a $50 bill and a $2 bill and attempted to pay with the $2, but had the cops called on him because none of the employees thought $2 bills were real.
- In the Phineas and Ferb Character Blog Doofenshmirtz's Daily Dirt, Doof lists Abraham Lincoln among "fictional characters" that people cosplay as.
- JonTron, after playing Clock Tower, assures himself that the Scissorman is all make believe because there's no such thing as scissors.
- During his review of Zoo Race, points out that Pirates and Ancient Egyptians were from different times and that one of them might not have existed at all. Whether he was talking about the former or the latter is unknown.
- The SCP Foundation has SCP-1173, The Islamic Republic of Eastern Samothrace. Which is either an example of Eskimos Aren't Real that convinces you it's a example of Qurac, or an example of Qurac that convinces you that its an example of Eskimos Aren't Real.
- From this Cracked article, discussing the rather odd video game sequel to The Goonies:
aren't real. Neither are dragons
, and ghosts
, but the Fratellis apparently control all of those things anyway. They also recruit an Eskimo gang to throw axes at Mikey, because some poor developer got confused and thought Eskimos were mythical creatures."
- As the Trope Namer indicates, there are people out there who don't believe that the Eskimos (a.k.a. the Inuit people of North America) exist. Some people don't believe that American Indians in general still exist (despite there still being Indian reservations).note
- The Moon Flight Skepticism could well be the Trope Codifier.
- Santa Claus. Most people cannot see the name is an alteration of St. Nicholas, a Christian saint, who most definitely has been a historical character (Bishop Nikolaos of Myrna) and whose grave, containing his earthly remains, is in Bari, Italy. That said, the image of the jolly old man in red everyone knows is still fabrication.
- Surprisingly there's people out there that don't realize reindeer are real animals. Though obviously they don't really fly or have red noses, they can be and have been trained to pull sleds.
- Most artists have no idea what reindeer look like, so they draw Rudolph to look like Bambi. Actual reindeer have gray or muted brown fur, flat and wide muzzles, large hooves and an entirely white short tail. (For reference, Bambi is a white-tailed deer, a relatively small species that is essentially a pest animal that lives significantly south of the caribou/red deer latitudes).
- Strangely enough, people should know about the real species of deer because they go by another name in North America: caribou. Most people don't know that they're the same animal.
- Similarly, many people don't know that St Nicholas really existed and Lapland is a real place. Of course, the story of Santa has very little to do with the real thing as it was reworked by Dutch and American traditions — the real Santa was Lycian (part of modern day Turkey, but Greek-speaking at the time).
- Some people are unaware that a wolverine is a real animal, and not just an X-Men character.
- Many people are shocked to learn that narwhals are real and not some type of mythical creature on par with unicorns. Just check the comments on this clip or this hilarous blog post.
- There are also people who believe that Tigons and Ligers are fictitious, and that photographs of them are actually fake.
- Snipes are real. Well, there is a type of bird called a snipe. The thing you're sent hunting for might or might not be it, if it's anything at all (the trope/term comes from the difficulty of shooting or catching them, as does the word "sniper").
- Some people don't realize Tasmanian devils exist until they look it up (they look very little like the cartoon character, though they can be similarly aggressive).
- Australian fauna in general is a major offender, because of how weird it may appear and how little-known it is outside of Australia itself. Historically, most people didn't believe platypuses existed because the idea was too-farfetched. The bandicoot is a real animal too (and looks nothing like the video game character). In fact, Australian fauna was so weird for westerners that the Bunyip is an inversion.
- The Tokyo neighborhood Nerima does exist. However, because Ranma doesn't, some people think the neighborhood itself doesn't exist either. For that matter, the Bāyánkālā Mountain Range in China also exists.
- Azabu-juban (home of Sailor Moon) also exists.
- Similarly some people don't believe Scranton exists because of the American version of The Office (US). Or its UK counterpart Slough, for that matter.
- The Italian town of Narni is also known as Narnia, the same name as CS Lewis' enchanted country; he was possibly inspired by the real town for the name. Another explanation, though, is that C. S. Lewis used bits of Tolkien's early Elvish, in which "narn" means "tale": Thus, the latinization "Narnia" would mean "land of tales".
- There is a humorous notion about in Germany that the town of Bielefeld does not actually exist, but is simply a conspiracy. There's also the Bielefeld-conspiracy-conspiracy, a conspiracy that the Bielefeld-conspiracy doesn't exist. Looks like we have entered an endless recursion of time.
- Brazilians also joke about the non-existance of the state of Acre, a small and distant part of The Amazon annexed after a war with Bolivia (or according to Bolivian president Evo Morales, traded in exchange for a horse).
- You'd be surprised how many people believe that Romani people — that is, "gypsies" — are either entirely fanciful and fictional, like swarthy, fortune-telling leprechauns, or no longer exist. (This is particularly the case in America; in many places in Europe active antiziganism, or prejudice against Romani people, is still going strong and they're seen as quite real, just subhuman social pests.)
- Twitter reaction to the media coverage of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster revealed that a disturbing number of people apparently believed that James Cameron made up the whole story from scratch.
- In fact, there are two Italian cartoon mockbusters of James Cameron's Titanic, both of which are presented as being new takes on a fanciful story, instead of telling about a real tragedy.
- In the same vein, the Costa Concordia disaster which took place in early 2012 was described by several news outlets such as Entertainment Tonight as being like a "Real-Life Titanic".
- Some people apparently believe that dinosaurs were made up by Steven Spielberg, and/or claim that they "grew up" and stopped believing in them, conflating them with dragons. Some Young-Earth creationists don't believe in dinosaurs either, for religious reasons (though most creationists are fine with dinosaurs being real things that existed, they just have doubts as to when and how they lived and died).
- Whataburger, because of its appearance in King of the Hill, is thought to be a fictional fast food chain by many who have never been to Texas, but it's not only real, it's even expanded across the American southeast.
- Similar to the Tasmanian devil example above, some people are unaware that roadrunners are real birds, and not just a fictional character created by Looney Tunes. This belief is especially strange when held by people in the southwestern US, since many of them would just have to take a nature walk outside to find out they exist. Granted, real roadrunners have little in common with their cartoon counterpart.
- The giant squid was generally thought to be a fictional animal until one was found in 1880 foundered at Newfoundland shore. Then they found a species of squid that was even bigger and had to call it the "colossal squid".
- The former president of Mongolia, Nambaryn Enkhbayar, recounted how he was detained by an immigration official when visiting England as a young man. The immigration official apparently thought that Mongolia was a fictional country, until finding it in an atlas.
- This also often applies to many historical figures who have attained an almost mythological status in popular culture, such as captain Blackbeard (real name Edward Teach), Attila the Hun, Jack the Ripper, and (Grigori Yefimovich) Rasputin.
- Jan Rogozinski's "Pirates" lists "Blackbeard" as a fictional character separate from Edward Teach on the grounds that he's been mythologised beyond recognition... but also lists Grace O'Malley as straight-up fictional. (She's been mythologised too, but she did exist.)
- It may be because of this trope that historians still can't agree on whether Robin Hood was a real person or not.
- Quite a few people just cannot accept that 15th century London really did have a Lord Mayor called Richard Whittington (although he probably didn't have a cat of any note).
- Not only people, but the occasional place as well. Timbuktu has been used as shorthand for "far away" and/or "middle of nowhere" for so long some people assume it's merely made up instead of a real town in Africa (Mali to be precise). Kathmandu (Nepal, the capital, no less, and the heart of a metropolis of nearly 3 million people), Kalamazoo (Michigan), and Uryupinsk, Volgograd Oblast fare a little better.
- If Plutarch is to be believed, many Romans believed Britain wasn't real until Julius Caesar invaded it.
- Many ancient Europeans believed that Asia and Africa were fictional places.
- Some people believe that Greenland and Iceland are fairytale places, like Mordor.
- Pirates still exist.
- Likewise, cowboys (and -girls) still exist. Depending where you are, they may well be "Indians", a lot of Native Americans took to ranching as a means of subsistence. Not having got their expectations for their own existence from Hollywood, they're unlikely to consider it ironic.
- The samurai effectively lost their status in 1876, but many samurai held onto parts of the tradition well into the 20th century. There is a lot of subversion associated with the samurai, however. A lot of alleged samurai traditions came to be enforced only after the victory of the Tokugawa clan effectively ended feudal warfare of the Sengoku Era. Samurai traditions were emphasized again in early 20th century, as part of political propaganda in an era of ultranationalism and militarism, decades after the samurai class was abolished.
- There's some evidence that Japanese intelligence during the Imperialist period (from the Meiji Restoration till the end of World War II) was partly set up by former members of the O-Niwa Banshu, the Tokugawa shogun's bodyguard-spies. At least some O-Niwa Banshu methods were inherited from the ninja of Koga and Iga. That's well under 200 years ago that there were people you might call "ninja" in Real Life.
- A man in Alaska is reported to have stated in public that Aragon never existed. (Hint: It's a country that is now part of Spain.)
- Many people think that hedgehogs are fictional creatures too, due to the fact that they only live in certain parts of the world and are common in those places but rare elsewhere (and they are often more often found as roadkill). The American media were not sure Sonic the Hedgehog would take off in the US due to the obscurity of the animal — Sega had to clarify with them that hedgehogs are indeed common in Japan. To this day, many people automatically think 'Sonic' when they think of a hedgehog.
- Some Americans have been surprised to find out that storks actually exist. They only know storks as the bird who delivers the babies, and since babies obviously aren't delivered by birds, they think the bird itself is fictional too. Storks don't naturally live in most of North America, with only the wood stork being a rare breeder in a couple of the southern states, and since the typical "baby delivery stork" is the white stork which doesn't live in America at all, they'll never see a real stork to disprove their assumptions (unless, they go to a zoo with white storks, of course).
- Some peopled don't believe in zedonks, the zebra-donkey hybrid. But, believe it or not, zedonks are real.
- A running joke that started in the early '90s in Chile and just won't die is that Combarbalá (a small town in northern Chile) doesn't actually exist and it's on the map because of a conspiracy/propaganda campaign by the State's tourism department; people from the place hate this. Made doubly hilarious because the town is known mainly for its artisanal figures made out of combarbalita (an ornamental rock that is available in abundance in close-by mountains and pretty much nowhere else). Combarbalita is even the country's "national stone", having replaced lapis lazuli in 1993... which only adds fodder to the "conspiracy" angle.
- This kind of joke is popular in other places: The Other Wiki has a page about the German equivalent, Bielefeld, along with examples from other parts of the world.
- The Mafia Members of the organization historically claim it doesn't exist rather than they are not members. It still exists today even though it doesn't have the power it used to.
- Star Wars' Tatooine is a real place, although it's not another planet; it's a city in Tunisia.
- Some Shakespearean scholars — usually the ones afraid of research — believe that Twelfth Night's setting of Illyria is a mythical land of Shakespeare's own invention. It's actually the Greco-Roman name for the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea — what is now Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia — and a perfectly reasonable place for an Italian ship to run aground, as happens at the beginning of the play.
- Played with by Dave Barry in his 1987 year-in-review column: "Libya is defeated by some place called Chad in some kind of war. This really happened." There have been multiple comedic expressions of disbelief that there is a country called "Chad".
- Madagascar is a real country and was not made up by Dreamworks.
- Vampire bats are real. Since vampires are already heavily associated with bat motifs, many people think that the idea was easily made up and something too obvious to be true, when in fact real vampire bats likely influenced the association of vampires with bats.
- Electric eels are real (though they're not really eels). Some people treat them as legendary creatures.