"Nice try. See, The Netherlands is this make-believe place where Peter Pan and Tinkerbell come from."
— Joey, Friends, "The One with the Football"
"I think it's just an Internet rumour. Like how there's a country called "Turkey"."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. A Sub-Trope 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. Not to be confused with Canada Does Not Exist.
Walter, The Muppets
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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 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.
- 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.
- 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
Films — Animation
- Hal in 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 Two: 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 trouble believing that snow is a real thing, until their father the King confirms that it is real. Truth in Television, as the Thai language doesn't even have a word for 'frozen' and in the time frame of the setting uneducated Thais would be likely to believe it was made up. The snow subplot is based on an anecdote of Anna Leonowens that the royal children refused to believe snow was real until she asked the King to give a guest lecture on it.
- In A Series of Unfortunate Events, when Count Olaf meets Dewey Denouement in Book the Twelfth, he is surprised he isn't just a legendary figure like unicorns or Giuseppe Verdi.
- In more than one Daniel Pinkwater novel, as a throwaway joke, a character claims that Los Angeles does not exist.
- In the book The Enormous Egg (wherein a kid in rural New Hampshire finds one of his family's chickens laid a dinosaur egg), one of Nate's friends says that dinosaurs never existed - some guys found some big bones and made up stories about them.
- In the Piers Anthony story "Possible To Rue", a young boy's pleas for a pet pegasus leads his father to look the animal up in the encyclopedia and show that they're mythical. So are unicorns. To the father's astonishment, so are zebras, mules, and even horses, which he distinctly remembers placing bets on. It's implied that, by denying zebras are real to avoid having to buy one, the father has inadvertently begun erasing these creatures from the universe.
- In Pamela Dean's The Secret Country, five children have made up a fairytale world where magic is real. They argue as to whether it's proper to have a Secret Country villain who doesn't believe in magic. Patrick, a materialist, says that would be as foolish as someone in the real world not believing in the law of gravity. His smartass sister Ellen promptly declares that she doesn't believe in the law of gravity. When they are in the real Secret Country, they find this man really doesn't believe in magic, he thinks it's all tricks and illusions.
- Dave Barry Slept Here, in the chapter on World War I, claims that that Serbia "did not, technically, exist," even at the time that Austro-Hungary made the mistake of trying to invade it.
- In The Silver Chair, the Lady of the Green Kirtle claims not to believe in lions or any other aspect of the outside world. She's lying, but she nearly bewitches the overlanders into agreeing with her. (This is a typical C. S. Lewis allegory; in order to describe Narnia to the Lady, they have to do so in terms of things that she does accept the existence of, allowing her to dismiss it with "So you made up a bigger version of a cat, and called it a lion", in the same way as heaven can only be described in terms of the mortal world.)
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent is forced to deal with the reality of the Earth having been destroyed by the Vogon Constructor Fleet.
New York has gone. No reaction. He’d never seriously believed it existed anyway.
- John Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise has a running gag that Chicago is a myth, mostly as a joke on how very New York the author's sensibilities are. Revisited in the follow-up That Is All, when the mythical city rises at last from the swamp during the End Times of 2012.
- 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.
- In Episodes, a group of Hollywood TV executives discuss a potential premise for their network's vampire style show. Many ideas are mentioned, culminating in Myra recommending the paranormal creatures in their show should be Gypsies. She recommends it twice, before somebody tells her that Gypsies are real.
- In Parks and Recreation, April's job as secretary is to prevent people from meeting Ron. Unfortunately, she schedules all of his meetings for March 31st, under the mistaken belief that "March 31st" isn't a real date.
- Will and Grace:
- Semi-example, Karen about an ex-gay group:
Karen: Honey, this is a cult! Yeah! Like the Moonies or the homeless.
- She later repeats this line to Grace about Alcoholics Anonymous, again referencing the Moonies, but this time adding "the homosexuals or the elderly."
- Semi-example, Karen about an ex-gay group:
- 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 having 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".
- 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 of 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.
- Came up on an episode of the Australian version of Family Feud, when a contestant admitted she had once believed that flamingos were mythical until she saw them on one of David Attenborough's shows. Her excuse was that she had previously only seen them in cartoons such as Alice in Wonderland.
- An episode of Kick Sum Maths had an architect who did not believe in following conventional rules (including geometry) being interviewed. When asked if his building will contain any parallelograms, he replies "You just made that word up!"
- 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).
- In a later strip, Bucky again claims that Owls are a myth, like Abominable Snowmen or Southern Democrats.
- 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.
- One of Jeremy Hardy's surreal rants on The News Quiz:
Jeremy: America isn't a real place. Think of all the Americans you've heard of: John Wayne, Demi Moore; they're all actors!
- In the Cabin Pressure episode "Timbuktu", Mr. Birling pays MJN Air to take him to the eponymous city so that he can prove to his wife that it exists. While Timbuktu does, in fact, exist, a civil war in Mali prevents the characters from going there, leading to the implementation of a Zany Scheme.
- 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." By the end police detectives have shown him the error of his ways in regards to Santa, the Easter Bunny, Columbus, and Cincinnati; but he still ain't made up his mind about Toledo.
- In an episode of Quote, Unquote, Anthony Horowitz, asked to identify which musical about a famous fictional character the song "The Impossible Dream" came from, suggested Evita. It's possible he just misunderstood the question, rather than believing Eva Peron was fictional.
- 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!" While 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), it took Soldier several years to figure out he was in Poland instead of Germany, making this trope much more likely.
- In To the Moon, Johnny mentions lies that adults made up in his childhood memories:
Johnny: Santa, the Easter Bunny, kangaroos...
- The Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell launch trailer claimed that William Shakespeare was a fictional character from all those movies about poems and love.
- 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 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 say in a Teen Super Sleuth parody, playing the group skeptic.
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, he 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 it's an example of Eskimos Aren't Real.
- From this Cracked article, discussing the rather odd video game sequel to The Goonies:
"Mermaids aren't real. Neither are dragons, golems, 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."
"We thought they must have been charred by an explosion until we realized their skin was naturally black. None of us had seen a black person before. Some people thought they were myths."
- Another article written by a former Viet Cong fighter describes his group's shock at finding a squad of dead African-American soldiers.
- The Simpsons:
- Homer does it in "Treehouse of Horror IV":
Homer: Lisa, vampires are make-believe, just like elves, gremlins, and Eskimos.
- In another episode, Bart refers to Michael Jackson on a list of fictional things adults make up to scare children. Interestingly, in an earlier episode Bart was a big Michael Jackson fan.
- In an episode of The Simpsons where they find the skeleton of what looks like an angel, Lisa postulates via Imagine Spot that it may be a Neanderthal who had been attacked by two big fish biting each of his arms simultaneously.
Wiggum: Everybody's heard of an angel, who ever heard of a "neanderthal?"
- In the same episode:
Lisa: If you believe in angels, why not unicorns, or elves, or leprechauns?Kent Brockman: Oh that's ridiculous Lisa; everyone knows leprechauns are extinct!
- Combined with Girlfriend in Canada in another episode. At an ice-skating event, Moe insists that all figure skaters are gay. Professional ice-skater Elvis Stojko points out that this is a common misconception as he has a girlfriend in Vancouver, to which Moe retorts, "Made up girlfriend, made up city."
- When Homer reads a bird watchers' guide, he's surprised to learn that roadrunners are real.
- In "The Great Money Caper" Marge gets drunk on a Long Island Ice Tea and remarks:
Marge: 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.
- Homer does it in "Treehouse of Horror IV":
- The Venture Bros.:
- In "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).
- In "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.
- 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?
- Invader Zim
Reporter 1: I bet this means Bigfoot is a fraud too!
- After Dib proves that "Chickenfoot" is a fraud.
Reporter 2: And UFOs.
Reporter 1: And hobos.
Dib: No wait! Those are real! Except the hobos. Wait, no. They're real. I... I guess. But- what's wrong with you people!?!
- 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: Boy Genius, Carl and Sheen are positive that ancient Egyptian curses are a myth, just like the Loch Ness Monster and North Dakota. And permanent records.
- The Fairly OddParents:
- In one episode, 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.
- 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.
Mr. Krabs: There's no ice! There's never been any ice! Ice is just a myth!
- 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 he doesn't believe in the existence of religion. He doesn't mean God, but religion itself.
Skwisgaar: Pfft, this is dildos. Doesn't he knows there's no such things as religion?
Nathan: You mean you don't believe in God. There is such thing as religion.
Skwisgaar: Well then, proves it! Show me a... miracles that religion exists!
Nathan: Well, um... y'know, there's a Bible right there. [points]
Skwisgaar: Welllll... maybe I re-evaluates my life, then...
- 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. By extension, he does not believe in kangaroos.
- 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.
- When a football game in Regular Show is interrupted by a lightning storm, Muscle Man and Hi-Five Ghost insist that people getting struck by lightning is an old wives' tale. No points for guessing what happened to them.
- The Day My Butt Went Psycho: In "They Came From Uranus!", Deuce is pretending to be a Zombie Butt from Uranus when he gets the name of the planet wrong. When Zack calls him out on this, Deuce says it's not his fault he can't remember the name of a stupid made-up planet.
- In one episode of The Amazing World of Gumball, Nicole tells her kids that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Bigfoot, and Switzerland aren't real.