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 and 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 Harry Potter And The Nightmares Of Futures Past, Ron pokes fun at Luna Lovegood for having an "imaginary creature" as her Patronus. Luna's patronus was a duck-billed platypus. When Hermione tells Ron that the duck-billed platypus is a real animal, he flatly refuses to believe her.
Film - Animated
- Megamind: "There is no Easter bunny, there is no tooth fairy, and there is no queen of England!" He's actually 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 are myths to keep people in the swarm.
Film - 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.
Live Action TV
- In 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.
- 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.
- In Team Fortress 2, the Soldier may taunt the Demoman by saying "Scotland is not a real country! You are an Englishman in a dress!" Technically, he could be referring to how Scotland is governed as part of the United Kingdom instead of a sovereign state (although it is still technically considered a different country), but given it took Soldier several years to figure out he was in Poland instead of Germany this trope is more likely.
- 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?!
- Ultra Fast Pony takes place in a weird version of Equestria where some human ethnicities, like blacks and the Irish, undeniably exist. Nevertheless, the episode "Granny Smith Is Mean" gives us the line:
Filthy Rich: And that was when I figured out, Mexicans aren't even real. So you don't have to be afraid anymore, children.
- And "Pirate Shipping" has
Yeah, Scootaloo, the gays
and the Mexicans don't exist.
- 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.
- Homer does it in The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror IV":
Homer: Lisa, vampires are make-believe, just like elves, gremlins, and Eskimos.
"I'd like to visit that Long Island Place, if only it were real."
- Principal Skinner once got in trouble for refusing to give a Jewish student the day off because he thought Yom Kippur was a made-up holiday.
- In The Venture Bros., "Ghosts Of The Sargasso" Hank speculates that if pirates are real, Santa and the Tooth Fairy could be real. Brock points out that no one said pirates weren't real.
Hank: So you agree with me that this is impossible!
- A possible example is when Dr. Venture denies the Monarch's claim that if he dumped them in a river, fish called candiru would crawl up their pee-holes. It's not entirely clear if Venture is saying candiru themselves don't exist (they do), or just saying the idea of them crawling into a human's bodily orifice is a myth (which it is).
- From the Garfield and Friends episode "It Must Be True":
Garfield: There's no such place as Wyoming. Think about it. Have you ever met anyone from Wyoming?
- In Invader Zim, after Dib proves that "Chickenfoot" is a fraud.
I bet this means Bigfoot
is a fraud too!
- Likewise Bill, a paranormal investigator who believes that cereal mascots are real, nevertheless insists that dinosaurs are a fraud.
- In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Carl and Sheen are positive that ancient Egyptian curses are a myth, just like the Loch Ness Monster and North Dakota.
- In one episode of The Fairly OddParents, a giant squid is treated as a mythical creature... until one actually shows up.
- Possibly a reference to the fact that the giant squid used to be considered a cryptid, and scientific evidence only started emerging in the past century or so. A giant squid was not photographed alive until 2004.
- In the Live Action A Fairly Odd Christmas, Crocker doesn't believe in the North pole, or polar bears. Till he ends up in the North Pole and chased by a polar bear.
- Back when Timmy used to claim the stuff his Fairy Godparents gave him came from the Internet, there was one episode his parents assumed he stole the stuff from Wall 2 Wall Mart. When Timmy first used the Internet excuse, Timmy's Dad asked where Timmy got the internet.
- Timmy's Mom just discovered that Uzbekistan is a real country and not a made up comedy word.
- In American Dad!, when Stan tries searching for Oliver North's gold, Francine tells him it's just a myth, "Like unicorns or speed reading."
- While he doesn't actually believe this, Mr. Krabs of SpongeBob SquarePants at one point cracks in front of the police while trying to keep them out of his freezer, leading to this quote.
There's no ice! There's never been any ice! Ice is just a myth!
- Metalocalypse - the guys don't like that Toki has befriended Dr. Rockso the Rock and Roll Clown and has him over - Nathan angrily exclaims "There's no such things as clowns!!!"
- When Murderface seeks for meaning through religion, Skwissgar declares that "Religion isn't real." Nathan then points to a Bible, which makes Skwissgar decide to reconsider a lot of things.
- In Detentionaire, Cam doesn't believe in hypnotism, claiming it is "movie and comic book stuff."
- On Adventure Time Flambo, a catlike creature made out of fire, insists that ninjas "ain't real for nothing no-how."
- My Little Pony G3 Rainbow Dash did not believe in pegasi.
- The Looney Tunes Show: in "Double Date" Lola, while crushing on Daffy for...complicated reasons, insists that Tina is a made-up name like Crabthar. Later, she poses as a waiter and introduces herself as Crabthar.
- In Big Top Scooby-Doo!, Shaggy does not believe in Sweden, stating that is a made-up place like Fairyland. Or Australia.
- On Phineas and Ferb, Buford insists that cowboys are fake, and asks the other characters if they've ever seen one. They all get looks of amazement on their face as they realize that they haven't—even though, in point of fact, they had been cowboys in one episode. It was All Just a Dream instead of a Series Continuity Error, though.
- On King of the Hill, Dale once used a pirate radio station to ask viewers if they had ever seen any proof that Hawaii was real.
- South Park episode "The Tooth Fairy's Tats 2000": The American Dental Association laugh when Dr Foley tries to convince them of exactly what’s happening to the teeth, favouring their own chicken-squirrel hybrid theory. They further ridicule Foley when he says that he says that he has seen it before in Montreal, derisively asking “And where, pray, is this Montreal?”.
- Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: Howard Weinerman doesn't believe isosceles triangles are real.
- 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).
- The Moon Flight Skepticism could well be the Trope Codifier.
- Santa Claus. Most people cannot see the name is an alternation 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.
- 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 and an entirely white short tail.
- 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.
- Some people don't realize Tasmanian devils exist until they look it up.
- The Tokyo neighborhood Nerima does exist. However, because Ranma doesn't, some people think the neighborhood itself doesn't exist either.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,) 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'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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.