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"You can just picture all the eight-year-olds in the audience going 'This is cool! I want to live here!'"
— Stuart Wilson, The making of No Escape
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.
Sometimes they begin to wish they could become a part
of the world, or meet the character
When a fictional character gets his wish, see I Wish It Were Real
. Because, you know, This Is Reality
, 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.
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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.
"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 chuunibyou given to the audience in Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!, 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.
- 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.
- 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 reimagines 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.
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
- 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 (they make sure to mention he was a role-playing game fan).
- 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.
- Who wouldn't love to live in a world where Firefly was not unjustly cancelled?
- 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).
- Psychotics and others who are losing (yet still have) a grip on reality spend time wishing that their perception of reality was real...
- 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.
- There was a time when the #1 Google search that began with "Is Edward Cullen..." was "Is Edward Cullen real?"
- 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.
- Raise your hand if you're still waiting for your letter of admission to Hogwarts. Raise your other hand if you already know which House you'd be Sorted into (or think you do).
- 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.
- 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.