Reality Ensues

"Nature cannot be fooled."

Somebody thought they were protected by the power of narrative convention. Then reality ensued.

By definition, fiction is unrealistic. But most readers don't ask that stories be completely like reality; as long as things are kept internally consistent, the audience is willing to go along with just about anything an author can create... no matter how irresponsible, immoral, or unhinged their more likeable and sympathetic characters might be acting by the standards of Real Life. For that reason, a creator can sometimes ignore or Hand Wave consequences of the real world in their stories. This trope, though, is about what happens when a creator chooses not to ignore said consequences, and even factors them in as part of the plot.

This can sometimes be seen on the hard end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, though it isn't necessarily so since realism, despite what many claim, is not the same as cynicism. There are many realistic stories that run on optimism.

Generally, this trope is not used in order to make fiction completely and entirely mirror mundane everyday life...except when it is. This is also surprisingly often used as a Comedy Trope. Contrast Fantasy All Along, when reality ensues and immediately afterwards fantasy kicks in again (occasionally undoing the damage done by the "reality" moment).

Not to be confused with Hilarity Ensues, although when done right, the two can and will overlap.

Note that, when we say "reality", we mean reality as in Real Life. We have "X happens" and "Y happens as a consequence of X"; the Y must not involve the fantastic in-story aspects of the work's own universe. For realistic consequences of unrealistic superpowers, see Logical Weakness.

This is related to Deconstruction and Deconstructive Parody, but this is temporary, and is mainly used for comedy. The Chunky Salsa Rule runs on it. A Wrong Genre Savvy character has chances to be hit hard by an Ensuing Reality. Violates No Ontological Inertia when things do not automatically change because one thing comes to an end. See also Television Is Trying to Kill Us.

Warning: As this trope frequently occurs at the climax of a work, spoilers are likely to be unmarked. Caution advised.


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  • Sprite's "Obey Your Thirst" campaign in The '90s was a series of commercials based around subverting and mocking the tropes of advertising by invoking this trope.
    • One of the most famous was the "Grant Hill Drinks Sprite" series of ads, which parodied Cereal-Induced Superpowers. In one of them, a kid spots NBA player Grant Hill drinking Sprite, and thinks Sprite will make him a basketball player... which he quickly disproves by drinking Sprite and then attempting a slam dunk, failing, and falling on his ass.
      Announcer: If you want to make it to the NBA... practice. If you want a refreshing drink, obey your thirst. Sprite.
    • Another one has a group of kids talking about Hill's athletic prowess and offering various hypotheses for it (his Brazilian rubber sneakers, his lightweight shorts, his shaved head) before one mentions that he drinks Sprite... only to say that he's merely not thirsty anymore after drinking it.
    • Similarly, a bunch of young guys drive around in a convertible in slow motion, bouncing the car on its wheels to look cool. The car stops, one guy leaps out out of the car and goes to dramatically chug back his Sprite. When he turns the cap, the bottle explodes and covers him in soft-drink — because all that bouncing shook it up. He does not look cool while shrieking and dripping wet.
    • An even harsher one had a visibly preteen boy thinking that drinking Sprite would transform him into a professional wrestler. He then challenged WCW's Sting to a match — and was promptly battered from pillar to post as his parents just stood by and laughed.
    • Sprite's "Sun Fizz" ad, in which a stereotypical juice ad plays out with mother and children getting excited over Sun Fizz. A cartoon Sun Fizz mascot jumps out of the carton and rattles off his part of the spiel... prompting the entire family to run screaming in terror from the cartoon sun that should not be. Who gives chase.
    • A fake advertisement for a soft drink called Jooky ("the party in a can!") advertised it with images of people surfing, playing volleyball, and having fun on the beach, all to a faux-Caribbean jingle... before cutting back to show a pair of slackers watching the ad and popping open their cans of Jooky, all while a snowstorm rages outside. One of them accidentally breaks the tab off the can and is unable to open it. Alternately, "mine's broken" could be taken to mean "I'm still here freezing my rear end off in the frozen north".
  • A depressing NSPCC ad had a man beating a cartoon kid for a while before throwing the kid down the stairs as we pan to see a real unconscious kid on the floor and the caption "Real children don't bounce back".
  • A Dr. Pepper TV ad had two guys moving a pinball machine down the stairs. A snapping noise is heard, and one of the guys is shown in pain. A doctor with a can of Dr. Pepper comes near the guy, complete with a Dubstep song. The guy seems happy until he resumes being hurt and is then shown about to let go of the machine, which would make the machine crash into the wall.
  • Reitman's had an ad campaign in the late 00's that showed just how impractical the clothing worn on the runway by fashion models is for everyday situations. The fashion models ranged from oblivious to the mayhem they were causing to being the Butt Monkey of whatever scene was going on to being stuck up before being forced to endure humiliation for her impractical clothing choice. In all three cases, Hilarity Ensues.
  • A British NHS advert that ran in the late 00s featured a crowd of people watching in awe as a Batman-esque superhero scaled a building scaffold dramatically and acrobatically to retrieve a lost balloon. When the hero reached the top, he slipped off of the pole on which is was precariously balanced and fell the entire height of the building. The audience is then treated to an unpleasant shot of the actually ordinary man, twitching blankly on the concrete floor as the narrator speaks the words "Alcohol may make you feel like a superhero". It was an effective advert.

  • MAD
    • In a spoof of Hansel and Gretel, the witch is cackling to herself as she builds a gingerbread house to ensnare and covers it with various candies and sweets to entice any little boys and girls who might pass her way. When Hansel and Gretel arrive sometime later...
    Gretel: Egad, Hansel. Look at the size of that ant-hill!!
    Hansel: Listen, Gretel... do you hear someone screaming?
    Jiggs: That's right! Have a good laugh while my wife beats me up! Laugh like you have all these years!
    Maggs: You WORM! My dog is dead and it's all your fault!
    Jiggs: Nobody getting beatings like me can survive... in this serious atmosphere!
    • Articles parodying cliche scenes in movies include a scene in which a mobster decides that it is, in fact, easier just to shoot Lance and his girlfriend. While the way the scene played out in movies lasts most of two pages, this is resolved in two panels.
    • Mad had a regular feature for a while called "Reel vs. Real" in which it regularly parodied whichever popular movies were in theaters or being released for home viewing at the time by taking their basic premise and showing how it would play out in real life. For instance, whereas in the [movie] "reel" world exposing some turtles in the sewers to radioactive ooze gave us the sentient anthropomorphic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the ooze is shown giving those turtles cancer and turning them into non-sentient mutant animal freaks with weird stuff growing out of their shells in the "real" world.
    • The ending to their satire of Double Jeopardy did this by way of subverting Wrongful Accusation Insurance.
    • In a contrast between a movie cowboy and a real life one, the movie cowboy is hailed as a hero for defeating his rival in a fistfight, while the real life one is knocked out in one blow, wins by ambushing his rival at a later date, and is lynched for murder.
    • Another comic has an inexperienced race driver enter a 24-hour race in an old piece of junk of a car. Everyone laughs at him, but the plucky underdog takes chances none of the other drivers dare, pushes his car to the limit, wins the crowd over with his death-defying driving... and finishes dead last, because his car is a piece of junk.
    • In a parody of the airlines' safety instructions, Mad shows panels of what people would actually do in those situations- panicking, making mistakes and not following the directions. In one example, two people frantically grab oxygen masks, strangling the man seated between them, and in another, a swarm of people rush to the emergency exit.

  • This trope is bread and water for song parodies.
  • Swedish songwriter Lars Winnerbäck tells us what really happened to some of Astrid Lindgren's characters in his "Balladen om Konsekvenser" (The Ballad of Consequences). Pippi Longstocking is in jail for assaulting a police officer, illegally possessing a wild animal and receiving stolen property. Rasmus is a homeless alcoholic, Ronja is screaming her head off in a mental hospital, and Kato from Mio My Mio runs a mindless commercial TV channel.
  • The song "Scalp" by Atmosphere features the narrator describing his night. He goes to the bar and meets his friend Sonny, who offers to pay him for retrieving a package from a tattoo parlor. One expects the protagonist to follow through with his task, possibly finding something surprising in the package along the way, but instead he is killed in a car crash immediately after leaving the bar. Which is what happens when you drink $50 worth of alcohol and then drive at night.
  • What "Weird Al" Yankovic does with this trope in Trapped in the Drive Thru needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
  • Will Smith had a hit song in the 80s with "I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson." ("One punch, that's all it took (oooh), He hit me in my ribs and my insides shook.")
    • "Rocky" by the The Lonely Island uses a suspiciously similar premise, but cranks it up in the most ridiculous way possible.
  • "It's Just A Movie, Stupid" by Psychostick.
  • "Action Movie Hero Boy" by Lemon Demon is a double subversion: the music video doesn't show the idiot kid playing with explosives blowing to bits because that would be a Family-Unfriendly Death and only leaves him with cartoony Amusing Injuries. However the idiot kid hasn't learned his lesson by the end and blows everyone up in a Gory Discretion Shot.
  • In "Women Lose Weight" by Morcheeba, guest rapper Slick Rick tells us he's going to kill his wife because she gained weight after he married her (as well as what a shame it is in general that women do this), then actually goes through with it by running her off the road. Reality ensues in the last verse when he's charged with her murder and realises that while it is important for a woman to remain desirable to her husband, her failure to do so does NOT justify murder.
  • Skrillex's Bangarang music video (Alternate link for German users, since Youtube blocks these video in Germany >:() features three cunning little boys robbing an ice-cream truck of its stock, complete with fat, cartoonish ice-cream man. The plan goes wrong and they end up seriously injuring the guy to escape. (He was going to use a stick to beat one, but there was no way they could see that.) When they grow up and become professional thieves, the one who accidentally cut off the ice-cream man's hand gives some of his loot to the guy by way of compensation.
  • Occurs in "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean. While John is a very strong man, strong enough to hold up a timber to save his fellow miners, he can't hold it up long enough for them to come back and save him.
  • Aaron Carter's "Aaron's Party" is about... well take a guess. At the end, his parents come home and he gets grounded.
  • The music video for the song Baby I'm Sorry by the K-Pop boyband MYNAME applies this rather brutally. At first, things look fairly standard, with a bunch of teenage boys beating up a group of thugs with full on The Power of Friendship implications, token coward member aside. Then, two of them get involved in organized crime, and when a group member is killed on an assassination job, an attempt at a Roaring Rampage of Revenge goes horribly wrong. As it turns out, friendship, righteous anger and a coward finally finding the strength to fight aren't much good against guns and tougher, more experienced opponents. In the end, all our protagonists die horribly and painfully, one even crying for his mother as he goes.
  • Many traditional murder ballads end with justice being served. Most notably in Tom Dooley (where the song's subject is hanged for his crimes) and Knoxville Girl (where the protagonist serves a life sentence for murder).
  • The Pokémon Christmas song "Under the Mistletoe" humorously, but realistically, shows how Ash, who is a ten-year-old boy, would probably respond to an overt romantic advance from Misty — by running away screaming.
  • Fefe Dobson's "Stuttering" music video is about her preparing to confront her cheating boyfriend in a seedy motel after the other woman has stepped out. She even puts on the other woman's jacket while she waits for him to come out of the shower. Turns out it's not her boyfriend, and Fefe immediately leaves, embarassed. The video goes to some weird places from there, but it's an interesting twist on the usual cliche.
  • The swedish SCA-performed song "Hjältekvädet" ("The hero song") is about the noble "King Kaspian" riding into battle with his men, only to get killed by a stray arrow, because those things happen on the battlefield. Then the song writer realizes he's being paid for this and quickly retcons in a goose flying past and taking the arrow instead. Then King Kaspian gets crushed by a panicking horse (retconned; it fell in love with a passing elk), stabbed from behind by a common soldier (retconned; he was carrying a sack of potatoes for no explainable reason and it blocked the attack), and cut down by the enemy commander (retconned; he just wins). In the end, the writer complains about having to sacrifice his artistic integrity for money, and says that real kings bleed just as well as ordinary people.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In The Bible, Moses sees an overseer whipping a Jew and is overcome with rage, killing him. Rather than immediately viewing him as an ally and savior, this makes the other Jews view him as a dangerous murderer — the next day, when he confronts one of the Jews about fighting with some other Jew, he asks if Moses is going to kill him, too.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • There is a more-positive-than-usual example in a Far Side comic strip. Some Vikings are returning to their ship after what is obviously a pillaging raid, as we can see a burning settlement in the distance and a captive woman being carried over one Viking's shoulder. The crew's dog is very happy to see them and is wagging its tail enthusiastically. Cartoonist Gary Larson admitted that many people didn't understand the strip, and asked him what the punchline was. He later explained that the point was that as long as you're nice to it, your dog won't hate you and will happily greet you when you come home, no matter "how big a jerk you are."

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Actually, pro wrestling programs tend to subvert this trope, with Underdogs Always Win a favorite storyline for babyfaces. Jobbers do lose all the time, and underdog heels usually, but of course those occurrences are supposed to happen.
  • Plenty of rather egregious injuries occur to pro wrestlers, both acute and long-term. It's a reminder of the reality when you are working 300-plus days a year being dropped on your back and head and the amount of conditioning needed to sustain that kind of schedule. Unfortunately, the next reality that ensues tends to be drug addiction, early death, and severe domestic issues.
  • Any time a member of the audience jumps the barricade and tries to enter the ring, unless it is a plant in the audience that was scripted to do so, they will be apprehended by security and blacklisted from attending future events.
  • In Ring of Honor, Jimmy Jacobs spent a long time trying to get his manager, Lacey, to reciprocate his love. His efforts finally paid off, but when Lacey told him she loved him, in his own words, "I felt nothing". Realising that in reality, love doesn't instantly fix you or make you a better person, Jimmy hit his Despair Event Horizon, and started the Age of the Fall shortly afterwards.
  • WWE went about deconstructing all their "supernatural" gimmicks in 2014. The Undertaker's aura of being a mythical god of death took a huge hit when he lost to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX, especially since Lesnar and Paul Heyman have made Worked Shoot references to Undertaker's mortality amidst their constant boasting about it for Cheap Heat.
  • Undertaker's brother Kane, who, while billed as the Devil's Favorite Demon, seems to go back and forth between being a demon of hate and a corporate stooge at the whims of The Authority, both of whom can still be beaten into irrelevancy by any top-level face act. He's lost all presence of actually being a monster threat even compared to his debut as Kane in 1997, and thus comes across more like a lumbering big man with a mask-reliant Split Personality than anything else.
  • The Ascension from WWE NXT, initially a Ministry of Darkness expy tag team, began their transition into a Legion of Doom expy instead by openly denying any supernatural ties of their own in a article interview shortly after winning the NXT tag team titles. They also abandoned the Ominous Latin Chanting theme for a heavy rock piece by CFO$, and the lighting for their entrance doesn't imitate Undertaker's quite as much as it used to. It hasn't made them any less fearsome or dominant, however, and they've actually turned up the occult symbolism in their attire since then. The result is they're clearly acknowledged as human, but one would be forgiven for thinking they draw motivation from some kind of twisted Illuminati ritual—especially after seeing their Titantron entrance video on the main roster.

  • Many routine professional wrestling moves such as the power bomb, suplex and even DDT have proven to have very nasty effects when used in Shoot Fighting and Mixed Martial Arts, though they show up rarely rather than routine and almost always as counters than as offensive moves. Conversely, popular moves such as the stunner and the various bridging submission holds, while doable, tend to get shrugged off. The most popular pro wrestling move in combat sports is the plain old ankle lock. Ankle locks are the dangerous move that gets on and off bans, rather than the infamous pile driver (which tends to fall under "only as a counter")
  • This often happens when a champion from a past era makes a comeback in boxing or MMA and returns to the ring to challenge the new champion or highly ranked contender. These bouts are almost inevitably promoted as a battle between the ages, with the champ from the past talking about how much better the fighters from their era was, and how they'll be too smart or too tough for the young guy. Fans, maybe despite themselves, start to believe in the hype and want to see a storybook performance from their old favorite, so they cheer the old guy on. Then the fighters get in the ring and it seldom ends well for the old champion. Sometimes it's downright tragic.

  • Into the Woods is all over this trope. Not only does it show the realistic consequences of fairy tales (particularly in regards to Fourth Date Marriage and Parental Abandonment), it also shows just how dangerous some fairy tale characters can be in a more realistic setting. When a giant comes down from the beanstalk, the audience goes "hey, cool!" at first, until she starts actually stepping on people. It's not played for laughs. However this only applies for Act II. Act I is frequently used for school productions, as it's a fairly straightforward mash-up of recognisable fairy-tales that ends with a musical number celebrating how all the heroes have had their dreams come true and now they're going to live Happily Ever After... and then Act II opens, and everyone is faced with the fallout of their decisions.
  • This trope is often taken as the reason for Hamlet's ambiguous reluctance to kill Claudius — in reality (and contrary to the Elizabethan revenge dramas that were popular at the time), most people simply wouldn't be able to live up to the command to put a knife in another person's back.
  • Urinetown takes place in a town where a drought has caused a terrible water shortage. A corporation controls the public toilets and forces people to pay to use them to control water consumption with harsh laws ensuring the townspeople comply. The poor people of the town eventually rise up and overthrow the corporation, changing the law to allow people to use the toilet for free… only for the remaining water supply to quickly be used up and causing most of the population to die from thirst.

    Visual Novels 
  • Despite passionate pleas, Masayuki in A Profile is ultimately completely unable to make Miou's parents reconcile. As he says to Miou, it's not like a kid like him can do much to convince adults of anything serious like that. On the other hand, it's not completely without results in that it made her father approve of him, whereas until then he was judging Masayuki as the street punk he used to be.
  • Umineko: When They Cry can be argued to be this. While the conflict between mystery and fantasy is an important aspect of the series, the real conflict is between mystery/fantasy and reality. This can be easily be seen in Ep 2 with the locked chapel where the real trick is the simplest one, namely that Rosa lied (in accordance to Yasu's script) and it was never locked at all. It can also be seen in Ep 7 when the adults find the gold and instead of showing a series of mystery/fantasy scenes we are instead shown what would happen in this type of family in such a situation: a lot of shootings and deaths.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • There are a few moments where legally valid real life objections, and courtroom rules that'll hold up in an American court, are used. Since the court system in game is so insane, it's a bit jarring when they do this. (The games are based on the Japanese system where it's a more accurate representation.) For example, the Judge at one point tells a witness that her testimony is hearsay and therefore isn't admissible. Although this is immediately shattered, when the prosecutor objects to the Judge himself, stating at the testimony should be accepted. Phoenix himself, however, goes on to use hearsay to his advantage later on.
    Judge: Mr. Wright, please keep the questions for the witness.
    Phoenix: "Something you heard from someone else isn't admissible as testimony". Your words, Your Honor.
    Judge: ... Touche, Mr. Wright.
    • Characters who commit crimes not related to the murder are investigated (altering crime scenes, forging evidence, wiretapping, interfering with investigations, attacking police officers, etc) and shown in the detention center later, showing that they do serve time for what they did. On the other hand, it seems darned near impossible to actually get anyone in trouble for perjury.
    • After multiple attorneys and prosecutors are caught presenting forged evidence, and at least a few are convicted of murder (with one of them requiring a complete overhaul of the entire legal system just to convict him), the public has understandably lost faith in the justice system by Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies .
  • Katawa Shoujo
    • It takes a lot the standard character archetypes in eroge/harem games and shows how living as an archetype is not all fun and games, by exploring what made them that way. Fragile Flower Hanako seems like she needs protection and a shoulder to cry on, but in reality she resents her friends for treating her like she can't handle herself., Cloudcuckoolander Rin is distressed by how she can't express her feelings to others, Proper Lady Lilly shoulders all the responsibilities of herself and others because she's done so since she was a child, Plucky Girl Emi throws herself into her racing with aplomb to try and connect with her dead father, and hyper-intense Class Representative Shizune is just trying to please her father. It also shows that treating the girls like character archetypes ends badly for all involved, but treating them as actual people can help them somewhat.
    • One ending of Lily's route. She's on her way to the airport and Hisao wants to race for his love, taking a cab and running through the large airport, looking for her. When he sees her just ahead, Hisao wants to call out for her, but his running has overstrained his heart and his arhythmia causes him to pretty much have a heart attack then and there, fainting. He survives, is being treated in a hospital and Lily is by his side, having noticed him and decided to not go to Scotland.
  • School Days shows that playing The Casanova and trying to balance the affection of multiple girls is stressful for the girls in question and dangerous for you. It can even end in one of them stabbing you.
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, if you pursue Shuu's route, Hiyoko becomes quite the Love Martyr for him, getting hit with sign after sign that Shuu is really really dangerous but refusing to acknowledge them. And if you make it all the way to the end of his route, you are rewarded with Shuu dismembering you and fleeing the school with your severed head.
  • Archer of Fate/stay night spent most of his adult life fighting in one war or another in order to save as many lives as possible, a motivation he never revealed. As it turns out nobody trusts a stranger who apparently seeks wars without any stated motivation or reward. Eventually he's framed for war crimes and, due to his involvement in so many wars, has nobody to defend him.
  • Harvest December has a few instances:
    • It's a recurring theme for the main cast as they live in a town with very harsh winters and heavy snowfall. They remind themselves quite often of the dangers of potentially freezing to death if they stay outdoors too long.
    • Early on, Yuki Towada, who would like to remind the hero that My Biological Clock Is Ticking takes on a job babysitting a neighbor's infant daughter. After one week of sleepless nights and other inconveniences, she slows down a bit.
    • The hero, Masaki Konno, has two women fighting over him and the stress is beginning to wear him down. Sounds like a comedic example, right? Wrong. After his Unwanted Harem doubles in size, including the return of an ex-girlfriend who wants to resume the relationship, all of the stress gives him a nasty case of gastritis.
    • During the finale, after Masaki has had his right arm nearly ripped off by a wolf, the pain sinks in after the adrenaline of the fight wears off and it nearly causes him to pass out.