"You can just picture all the eight-year-olds in the audience going 'This is cool! I want to live here!'"A work of fiction with a very immersive setting appears so idealistic and 'perfect' in comparison to boring, everyday life that it causes fans to feel the need to emotionally invest themselves in it. The same carries over to characters in a story, who feel they are leading uninteresting lives. They wish they could live in the stories they love and begin Longing for Fictionland. Frequently, these characters may feel detached from real life or seem to suffer from depression. After all, they wish to leave to somewhere they can never go or wish to meet people who don't even exist yet seem so vastly superior than those they do know. Or they may decide to actualize it, try to build something like it in the real world. Sometimes they begin to wish they could become a part of the world, or meet the character they love. When a fictional character gets his wish, see I Wish It Were Real. Because, you know, This Is Reality. May lead to an Anti-Escapism Aesop. Compare Mythopoeia, Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality. For Real Life examples of people really believing fictional characters are real, see Daydream Believer. See also Thinks Like a Romance Novel, for one form this can take.
— Stuart Wilson, The making of No Escape
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Anime and Manga
- The Literature Girl in Daily Lives of High School Boys wrote a Romance Novel, then had a crush with the novel's hero, and then sought to reenact a Meet Cute scenario from her novel in the series' Real Life... Deconstructed in that the series is a fairly realistic (and comical) Slice of Life, and Hidenori, the boy to whom she is projecting her hero on (simply because they frequent the same Artificial Riverbank), was Genre Savvy enough to get weirded out. Her example is a bit more downplayed than most example of this trope as she's not all that detached from the series' Real Life as long as Hidenori is not in her presence.
Hidenori: "She's probably hoping for an unrealistically romantic 'Boy Meets Girl' encounter! ...Can her mind shake off gravity or what?!"
- This is pretty much the definition of "chunibyou" given to the audience in Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, with the infected person being unsatisfied with reality and immersing themselves within a world of fantasy. In both the anime and the light novels, Rikka plays this the straightest out of the cast.
- Astro City: When the Mock Turtle was a child, he always was trapped in wardrobes. Everyone thought he was an idiot. But he was trying to find a portal to Narnia. If he could find a twister or a rabbit hole, he would have tried that too. As an adult, when fleeing from enemies that want to kill him, alone and broken, he happened to be in Kansas, and saw a twister. That gave him hope. So he got to Astro City, where the superhuman community defeated his enemies and welcomed him. So he went to the roof of a building, put on his green visor, and all Astro City looked like an Emerald City.
- Constantine invites some of his muggle friends get to visit Fiddler's Green for a day and one couple gets into trouble when they conspire with an unhappy resident to stay there permanently. They eventually get back to the real world safely but become severely depressed and addicted to drugs and alcohol because they were banned from Fiddler's Green so hard they can't even dream of it.
- Really, this is the entire point of the Self-Insert Fic.
- A slightly meta take by the sad My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan fiction, Equestria. Equestria is shown to be the perfect, idealized fantasy world that was to be the setting of a series of stories planned by a woman who was emotionally abused by her mother. She never got around to writing it and the emotional abuse that she suffered drove her into her dream world. There, she was no longer Tara but Twilight Sparkle. As a result of this she is institutionalized for a few years, causing her fantasy to grow even deeper.
- Human in Equestria fan fics are extremely popular for this reason. Although the sheer number of these fics and blatant Wish Fulfillment these stories tend to contain have spawned a great number of deconstruction fics and parodies as well.
- It's practically a requirement for BIONICLE fans to write at least one fic starring a human or group of humans getting magically transported to Mata Nui somehow. Usually by way of a space portal opening up or getting lost at sea.
- Several fics by popular fan-author Gali Gee poke fun at this trope by having all the characters being real and merely starring as themselves in the series. Her Author Avatar is taken back and forth from the Bionicle world several times by Teridax, who makes good and frequent use of LEGO's secret gateway in Denmark.
- The plot "Yukari brings an outsider to Gensokyo" present in many Touhou is also popular because of this.
- Bridge to Terabithia: The main two characters create a fictional world called Terabithia to deal with their school troubles. They are aware that it is a fantasy and wish it were real, although this doesn't stop them for having fun.
- In The Matrix, a character is so tired of real life that he willingly asks the Agents to be re-imprisoned in the Matrix as a rich celebrity. Despite the fact he is aware that the Matrix is unreal, he prefers it to real life. This, combined with his cynicism toward the possibility of winning the war with the Machines, is what drives him to betray the Resistance.
- This trope is the major plot-driver in Don Juan DeMarco. A young man (played by Johnny Depp) who's seriously dissatisfied with his life takes on a new persona, based on Lord Byron's version of legendary seducer Don Juan. So thoroughly does he immerse himself in this wonderful new reality, he's nearly committed to a mental hospital.
- The movie Pleasantville has the protagonist David, who longs to be in the black-and-white 1950s TV sitcom world represented in the TV show "Pleasantville". Thanks to a strange remote, he gets his wish, setting off the main plot.
- Quentin Coldwater in The Magicians dreams of traveling to the land of Fillory, from the Fillory and Further series by Christopher Plover (essentially a transparent pastiche of The Chronicles of Narnia and C.S. Lewis). Eventually, he succeeds.
- Milo in Norman Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth inverts this, although he states he might go back to visit, when he finds the time.
- In The Chronicles of Narnia the Pevensies appear to do this. Actually the land they're longing for is very real, and they ruled there for fifteen years.
- Heavily implied to be the case in Pale Fire, with Charles Kinbote trying to edit his late friend's last poem but unable to avoid inserting long, idyllic references to his own, probably fictional, home country in the commentaries.
- The friend in question, John Shade, has said in Kinbote's hearing that a person who re-imagines their own history into a nostalgic Fictionland is not insane, merely fleeing a "drab and unhappy past".
- Norwegian author Ingeborg Refling Hagen once wrote a novel about a girl living a really crapsack life. But being gifted with a rich fantasy and a mother who had told her quite a lot of fairy tales before she died, she handled her daily suffering with this, crossing over into daydream believer territory. When she gradually lost all hope, she entered her own fiction completely, preferring to be a cloud cuckoolander for the rest of her life. And to everybody else, she was passed off as completely out of her marbles, but initially happy.
- Anais Nin has another story about a fantasizer in the midst of crapsack. A blind man lives with his daughter in a dilapidated shed in a sordid back lot. She describes it as a cute little house, beautiful flowers in the garden, etc. Then the blind man regains his sight. She worries how he will take his actual surroundings, but he says the clear images of her stories are in his mind and he can now work with her to actualize the fantasy into reality.
- The Carroll children in Pamela Dean's The Secret Country had a long, elaborate fantasy game about said country for years. They had thought it was a fantasy of their own creation. It wasn't. Once they're involved with the actual place and its people, not only the real world but their old fantasy looks dull and wrong by comparison.
- Ready Player One, in which almost everyone on Earth plugs into the virtual utopia, the OASIS, in an attempt to escape the rather sobering reality.
- Terry Pratchett did such a good job of humanizing the Grim Reaper he would receive letters from terminally-ill patients hoping to meet his version of Death when their time came.
Live Action TV
- Arguably true in the Twilight Zone episode "A Stop at Willoughby", harried ad executive Gart Williams starts having dreams of a very slow-paced, Tom Sawyer-style late 1800s Midwestern American era town. He starts longing to be in the Willoughby town. By the end, he gets his wish at Willoughby Funeral Home
- Downplayed in Samurai Gourmet. Kasumi isn't trying to escape his real life, nor is he quite obsessed with Sengoku samurai stories. Nevertheless, when he encounters a social challenge, he can't help fantasizing about how a samurai would have handled it. Sometimes this provides useful insight, and sometimes it amounts to little more than escapism.
- Jean in Weapons Shop De Omasse, despite being in a stock JRPG setting, acts like a Sentai hero. He takes his weapons and uses them to beat up children in the park he calls his 'secret base', in encounters that they usually win by kicking him. He could be a Genre Refugee, but several of his throwaway lines make it clear he collects 'statuettes' and reads a lot of manga.
- Mio in Little Busters! was always more fascinated by fantasy and stories than the real world, so she didn't have any friends as a child for the simple reason that she didn't bother trying to make any. It wasn't until the end of middle school that she even began to socialize normally, apparently. Until then, she had an imaginary friend or little sister.
- "School eccentric" Anghel in Hatoful Boyfriend has a bizarre fantasy world in which he is the Crimson Angel of Judecca and the protagonist is an angelic warrior called Edel Blau who defeated him by encasing him in ice. It's implied by the fact that he's a member of the manga club and the fact that whenever you see inside his fantasy world it's just a JRPG that he's one of these people who unfortunately has the ability to induce hallucinations in others when physically agitated. Though it's also hinted that there may be more to it.
- An SCP Foundation researcher working on an SCP that produced an extensive fantasy world in the sleeping user committed suicide on waking up. Having spent 200 years inside, he just couldn't return to real life. In a subversion of the usual Foundation-contained Eldritch Abomination, the entity of the fantasy-making book had a massive My God, What Have I Done? moment, and went into such a debilitating Heroic B.S.O.D. that it refused to even communicate for weeks. When it finally "wrote" something on the pages, all it could say was "I'm so sorry. I never intended for this to happen. I just wanted to make people happy..." on every single page, while the book was soaked with tears.
- In middle of his Break the Cutie, Donnie from Demo Reel has an Tear Jerker rant over how real life is not a movie and even though you can try your best to not make movie mistakes, you can still fail. This leads to missing his dead mother and almost committing suicide to be with her again.
- One episode of The Simpsons, in a parody of Heavenly Creatures, had Lisa making friends with a girl named Julie. Together they create an imaginative fantasy world where they ruled together. As they get deeper into the fantasy, and after her mother sees that she may be troubled, Marge decides that Julie is a bad influence on Lisa and says they can't see each other any more. Lisa and Julie run off together so they could continue being in "Equalia", but after getting into trouble with some bullies Lisa decides that she wants to live in the real world. Julie is sad, telling Lisa that the real world is for people who can't imagine anything better. Cue Lisa giving the "cuckoo" hand symbol as Julie leaves.
- In Robot Chicken, this is part of the Nerd's gimmick. His sketches commonly begin with him putting down a book and saying "I wish I was in (the setting the book he was reading took place in). That would be so cool. So cool..." before falling asleep and dreaming about getting his wish.
- In the early 1970s, there was a group of Star Trek: The Original Series fans in Kentucky who planned to buy some land and create a small community where they would live according to Vulcan ideals.
- Devoted fans of The Lord of the Rings reported doing this. The original Tolkien Society incorporated the food, the languages and the cosmology into their daily existence. People had the appendices memorized. They took their class notes and doodled in Quenya, and founded communes with names like Lothlorien (one of which still exists, devoted to eclectic paganism).
- Not an uncommon development with highly intelligent and imaginative children. Some of them grow up to be writers (e.g. the Brontes, whose unpublished works included an extremely elaborate fantasy world).
- The effects of certain hallucinogenic drugs are often strongly affected by the expectations and desires of the person taking the trip. For instance, on certain plateaus (i.e. levels of inebriation) of DXM, it is not at all uncommon for the hallucination to be moulded to the past experience and thoughts of the day and the mindset of the tripper (i.e. the world around you slowly begins to morph into the kind of landscape they had in the film you were just watching). With practice you can get yourself to control your trips this way. Lucid dreaming is said to work on vaguely comparable principles.
- The #1 Google search that begins with "Is Edward Cullen..." is quite often "Is Edward Cullen real?" or some variation thereof.
- That also happened with A.S. Byatt's Possession. Type in "Randolph Henry Ash" and see what you get.
- There have been a few reports of people experiencing depression after seeing the beautiful world of Avatar and then having to return to the real world.
- Jennifer Lawrence, in one interview, talks about an incident where she and Josh Hutcherson were hanging out in his hotel room and had a freak out over how unfair it is that they'll never get to visit Pandora.
- An abnormal psychology textbook from 2006 or so contained a section on really hard-core Elvis fans. It advised readers not to regard these fans as schizophrenic or otherwise mentally ill, because, devoted though they are, they will quite readily admit that Elvis really has left the building.
- In his account of life as a disappointed musician turned rock journalist, I Hate Rock 'N' Roll, Tony Tyler writes about hardcore fans of Barry Manilow. One middle-aged British housewife, despite being married with three children, was obsessed to the point where she believed Barry was going to pick her out at a concert, take her home, and offer to marry her. She believed this so absolutely that she refused to have sex with her husband, seeking instead to hasten the Day by "keeping herself pure for Barry". Apparently her husband left her. She didn't notice.
- This is called erotomania. Unlike what it says at The Other Wiki, erotomanic episodes can happen to anyone, male or female, and is not limited to the mentally ill. Despite the name, it often has little to do with sex; in fact it can include the idea that you and the famous person will help to promote and exemplify a more spiritual love.
- Gareth Edwards has admitted to having a "secret fantasy" of living in a world where Kaiju are real. This is probably the reason why his two breakout films, Monsters and Godzilla (2014), are devoted to making such giant monsters seem real.
- Quite a few people would like to go to Equestria from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and some would be more than willing to stay there permanently and give up their humanity in the process. The Brony in Equestria fan-fiction genre is both popular and reviled for this reason and others. Some (such as this guy here) go far enough that they hope that Equestria is the afterlife, or at least that the afterlife involves ponies.