As we've mentioned a few times before, the real world occasionally gives rise to murderers so terrifyingly crazy that if we saw them in a horror film, we would instantly write them off as utterly ridiculous B-movie cheese.
When exposed to an exaggeration or fabrication about certain real-life occurrences or facts, some people will perceive the fictional account as being more true than any factual account.
This might lead to people acting on preconceptions about unfamiliar matters even in a life-or-death situation, or cause viewers to cry foul when things on a show work out in a way that actually is realistic, but contrary to "what everybody knows", like complaining of the "fake Scottish accent" of a real Scottish actor or about a character's death from a bullet "merely" to the shoulder.
For cases in which the unrealistic thing is reality, see Aluminum Christmas Trees below.
Very widespread in fiction.
A Super Trope to:
All Deserts Have Cacti: Cacti are present in fictional deserts anywhere in the world, even though in reality they're endemic to the Americas barring one species (which is not the stereotypical saguaro).note Although American species have become transplanted elsewhere in modern times.
Beneficial Disease: Once you've had Tropeosis, you can't get it again, and if you currently have it, you can't get Tropeitis.
Bitter Almonds: In fiction, everyone can detect (and correctly interpret) the almond smell that is associated with cyanide.
Blown Across the Room: Getting hit with a (non-explosive) bullet will send you crashing through the nearest window, even though a bullet (or a laser blast) doesn't have the mass or momentum to propel you there (the force acting on the bullet is exactly equal to the force acting on the gun, meaning the bullet won't knock you down any more than the recoil will knock the shooter down).
The CSI Effect: The fictionalized depiction of crime scene investigation has given the general public unrealistic expectations of Real Life crime scene investigation.
Dreaming of a White Christmas: Winter holidays are always snowy, and said snow is always fluffy and white, never miserable or wet or slushy. It is also largely cosmetic instead of a potentially life-threatening hazard (unless the story demands it).
Evolutionary Levels: The idea that evolutionary history has tiers of "advancement" when it's really just millions of years of trial-and-error. In Real Life, this led to an incredibly prejudiced classification of the human races along the evolutionary spectrum (white Europeans, naturally, claimed the apex for themselves).
Guns Are Worthless: Depending on the setting. In real life it depends on the situation. A pistol won't do much against an armored car or a .22 caliber target gun would be next to useless for hunting grizzly bears.
Only a Flesh Wound: Being shot in the shoulder, arm, or leg will merely slow down a fictional character. A real person, on the other hand, has large blood vessels in those places, not to mention bones that can be broken and require major surgery (and possibly amputation) on the injured limb.
Percussive Maintenance: A device will always start working again if hit with the right force in the right place.
Remember those "Ask Dr. Z" commercials for what was then Daimler-Chrysler, with the actor with an odd-looking fake mustache and goofy German accent purporting to be the company's CEO and taking customers' questions? That was the actual CEO of Daimler, and the accent and mustache are both real.
Beer commercials, 'cause tropers love their drink:
You know how these always have a "beauty shot" with a glass of beer with a thick, frothy head? Beer doesn't really froth that much, but the average viewer thinks it should, so the advertisers add detergent to the beer to achieve the effect.
Similarly, beer commercials are also fond of showing the head overflowing and spilling over the glass. Bartenders are told by their bar managers not to do that, as it wastes beer, and needlessly messes up the bar and the napkins. When the head overflows, you've poured too much.
In the UK, there are laws insuring that a pint of beer is really a full pint. Unless you've got an oversized glass with a line indicating where a pint is, if your head doesn't overflow (or get poured off), you've probably been shorted some beer.
Sometimes, those mugs of beer actually areFrothy Mugs of Water. When filming, they often do this because there are issues with drinking real beer on the set. (Especially if it involves minors.)
Besides, to get that beautiful head that consumers have come to expect, many a brewer have resorted to additives (for example E405, propylene glycol alginate).
The "milk" they use is actually white paint with a little bit of turpentine mixed in. Apparently, it looks thicker and more real than actual milk. Real milk under studio lighting looks transparent and bluish, and less attractive than the PVA glue or white paint that usually stands in for it.
Milk also curdles quickly under hot film lights.
The milk-swirling-into-coffee images were similarly mocked up, usually with white paint and treacle (or Marmite in the UK). There was at least one photographers studio in the UK in the 1980s dedicated to this kind of phototrickery.
Also common with most food that can melt (ice cream, cheeses etc.); they don't do well under high-temperature lighting.
Advertising ice cream is usually a scoop of mashed potatoes with added food coloring.
It's also unlikely you'll get a lot of steam off freshly served food, unless it's very hot, moist food in a quite cold room. The steam you see on TV? Probably a soggy microwaved tampon.
Invoked in Wonder Woman: Eyes of the Gorgon - A battle between Medusa and Wonder Woman is being broadcast on national TV, and one of the viewers comments that "The CGI looks totally fake!".
One common critique about the X-Men is often that they don't 'fit' with the rest of the Marvel Universe, since their entire premise is based on Fantastic Racism; it makes no sense for people to be OK with the Fantastic Four but not like the X-Men, simply because the X-Men gain their powers from being mutants. However, in real life, it's fairly common for people to be bigoted against one minority group but not have any issue with another, or even being good friends or idealizing people of one group while despising another, even if there's no real difference between the groups or what they can do. On top of that, its been shown that some people do hate non-mutant superhumans too, with Johnny Storm actually once getting attacked outside a nightclub by some bigots. To put it bluntly, of course the double standard is unreasonable, bigotry is is essentially unreasonable hatred against a group of people.
Happened to Tonks in The Awakening of a Magus. She was quite plain looking while a child, but when the She Is All Grown Up trope started kicking in, everyone assumed she was using her recently manifested Metamorphomagus abilities. She resorted to using an appearance extrapolated from her earlier looks, which is implied to be the reason for her clumsiness, due to different balance and all.
This is somewhat a film example as well as music, but "Weird Al" Yankovic holds a note out so ridiculously long in the Theme Song to Spy Hard that it's commonly thought that this was a sound editing trick.
The advent of the synthesizer allowed amateur songwriters to fake any number of musical instruments and other sounds to near-perfection. Because of that, people who enjoy the synthesized stuff would be mighty surprised when they're told that their favorite song was, in fact, played by a real band with real instruments.
Queen in particular were notorious for this; contrary to popular belief, the "no synths" disclaimer on their early albums wasn't because they had anything against synths even then, but because they were annoyed at May's guitar proficiency and their overdub tricks being mistaken for synth effects.
When Dave Grohl hired Brian May to play several guitar tracks on the Foo Fighters song "Tired of You", he made a point of mentioning in interviews that the song is all guitar and vocals in case anyone mistook parts of it for strings or synths.
Rage Against the Machine have a similar disclaimer on their albums that all sounds are made by guitar, drums, bass, and vocals. That didn't stop some reviewers from assuming Tom Morello's guitar solos on "Bulls On Parade" and "Guerilla Radio" were a turntable and harmonica respectively.
Same thing with singers; lip-syncing scandals (like with Britney Spears) have become so prevalent in the public memory in recent years that it comes as a shock to listeners when they're told a performer they swear is lip-syncing actually isn't.
Some drummers are so accurate (with or without the aid of metronomes and click tracks) that a lot of people find it hard to believe it's actually them rather than a drum machine or a loop of samples. Because of software used to quantize being so common nowadays, those who achieve a similar precision without that are often dismissed as 'fake.'
A lot of people in general tend to think demo versions of songs are sloppy low-quality takes which sound as if they'd been recorded through a telephone line. Fair enough, some of them are (e.g., demos recorded via portable recorders in the 70's), but many, many, many demos are recorded under similar circumstances as final cuts: at professional studios with multi-track technology and built-in limiters, etc. People often dismiss a demo as 'fake' if it sounds 'too good.'
Similar with first takes: people think that a first take is always full of mistakes and low quality, and indeed, sometimes that's the case, but sometimes not. There's no set difference between Take 1 and Take 200 ... either one of those (or anything in between) could have been used for the final comp.
In an article about the use of pitch-correcting software in the music industry, one producer noted that singers who don't use the software get criticized by fans for sounding "pitchy". Ironically the article was mainly about rappers who use the software to intentionally distort their voices.
The implication that electronic-sounding pop music (and only electronic-sounding pop music) is singled out for employing the same studio trickery, autotune, drag-and-drop editing and effects processing that almost all modern recording studios have access to in all styles of music doesn't help matters. This is also true with live performances and "mimed" TV appearances.
Some of the Rick Rolled people complained "about that guy's fake baritone". That's Rick Astley's natural voice.
The same thing happened to Roger Ebert once: when reviewing the 1998 remake of Psycho he complained of the evident electronically tweaked voice of the cop to make it sound unusually deep for effect. After someone wrote to him in the "Questions for the Movie Answer Man" column correcting him he had to add a footnote to later versions of the review saying, "I was wrong: that's James Remar's real voice."
From an AV Club piece about "Weird Al" Yankovic: "It's anyone’s guess how Sheryl Crow's 'All I Wanna Do' slots in with the 120 Minutes standards compiled by 1995's 'Alternative Polka'." Crow was actually all over alternative rock radio in 1994-95, alongside Green Day and the others. "All I Wanna Do" got to #4 on Billboard's "Modern Rock Tracks" chart and "Leaving Las Vegas" and "Strong Enough" were also Top 10 hits.
Listeners often complain that Gorillaz vocalist 2D sounds too different between singing and speaking to have realistically performed those songs. (In all fairness, he is played by two separate voice actors.) In reality, people can have dramatic differences between their speaking and singing voices: accents disappear, pronunciation becomes clearer, tones vary widely etc. It's not uncommon for someone with a thick accent or odd mode of speech to sound fine in recordings; learning to shift between voices is one of the first things aspiring vocalists are taught.
A hot-ticket act for many years around Canada is The Musical Box, a fantastically accurate tribute band that plays spot-on performances of vintage (usually Peter Gabriel-era) Genesis music with spot-on theatrics; in fact, the only tribute band Genesis and Gabriel personally endorse and allow to perform with those theatrics. This is the closest you are going to come to a recreation of the band in its progressive rock heyday. This is until you technically take into account that Genesis performed to much smaller, feistier crowds, with less spit-and-polish than TMB use, lower-tech and less reliable sound equipment, lighting, musical instruments, theatrics and staging, and smaller road crews (if any). They were also flying by the seat of their pants as a young, naive, hungry unknown band playing unknown and weird experimental original music with unheard-of, weird, outrageous, experimental theatrics in The Seventies, with all the nerves, spontaneity and hunger to prove themselves you would expect out of such a band starting out.
Thanks to the Loudness War, people sometimes describe modern CDs mastered at levels that were par for the course until the late 90s as sounding unprofessional.
This is more about facelessness as opposed to sound techniques, but it definitely fits. Back in 1989, Rolling Stone did an article about REM as promotion for the release of Green. The article included R.E.M. performing at a club in their hometown in Athens, GA, where a patron is quoted as saying, "Who is this fucking R.E.M. cover band?"
Producer Gus Dudgeon was often asked by Elton John fans if Dudgeon sped up the tape when recording Elton's vocals on the title track to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, as it has a very nasal, high-pitched quality to it. Dudgeon assumed them that that was how Elton chose to sing it (he was known to experiment with his vocals at the time).
Former Yes lead singer Jon Anderson's distinctive singing voice is often mistaken by music journalists as falsetto singing. It is in fact a naturally high-pitched tenor head voice; his natural speaking voice is equally high.
Horse hooves were always simulated with coconut halves in golden age radio shows, but by then, the automobile had already almost completely replaced the horse as everyday transportation, and so the common man came to think that horse hooves actually sound like coconut halves banging together. This misconception has persisted to the point that now that it would be a simple matter to digitally insert actual horse hoof sounds into film or radio or television, audiences won't believe it sounds like horse hoof sounds because they will only accept the coconut sounds.
Red Smith practically wrote the Trope Codifier when he wrote about the improbable "Shot Heard 'Round the World" (Bobby Thomson's game-winning home run to win the 1951 pennant for the Giants, after being down 13 1/2 games to the Dodgers in August).
Red Smith: Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.
Major League Baseball over the last sixty years: 1960 Pirates, Red Sox (pick a year: 1967, 1975, 1978, 1986, 2004, 2011), 2007 Rockies, 2010 Giants and Rangers, etc. Tell anybody who doesn't know much about baseball those stories and the likely reaction is: "No, really..."
The 1991 World Series in its entirety. Seven contests, all won by the home team, four - including the climactic Game 7 - won in extra innings; Game 7 won in a 1-0 shutout by the 40-year-old starting pitcher. And both the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves having finished last in their division the previous year.
The 2001 World Series deserves a mention as well. The upstart Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the venerable New York Yankees in seven games with the home team winning each game and two of the three games in New York being won in a walk off, as was Game 7 in Arizona. All done in the shadow of 9/11.
The St. Louis Cardinals' path to the 2011 World Series definitely fits this trope. They were 10 1/2 games back from the wild card spot and most people assumed they wouldn't make the playoffs. Then they starting winning. And winning. And winning some more. And the Atlanta Braves crashed and burned. The Cards faced off against the Phillies, whom sports writers called "the best team in baseball". Then Cards ace pitcher Chris Carpenter shut out his Friendly Rival Roy Halladay. Then they toppled the Brewers, who had the Draco Malfoy-esque Nyjer Morgan on their team. And then they faced off against the Texas Rangers and were Down To The Last Striketwice in Game 6 (and were down 3-2 for the entire series) when a hometown kid name David Freese tied the game with a triple and eventually won it with a walk-off home run. The next night, they took Game 7 and the Series. If this had been a movie, critics would have torn it apart because it would have been a Cliché Storm of most of the underdog sports tropes on this site. But in Real Life, it was one of the most jaw-droppingly Troperrific playoffs in baseball history.
Brian Wilson, a closing pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, was said by one commentator to have "the fakest-looking real beard I've ever seen".
Cricket - the 1981 series between England and Australia. England's captain and all-rounder Ian Botham had suffered a spectacular loss of form both batting and bowling, and turned out to be a poor captain too. England lost the first match, barely hung on for a draw in the second, but Botham was dismissed for 0 in both of England's innings, and resigned as captain immediately after the match, about ten seconds before the national selectors said they had been going to sack him anyway. The previous captain, Mike Brearley, was brought out of retirement to act as temporary captain for the remainder of the series. Then in the third match, at Headingley in Leeds, everything went wrong for England: first Australia scored 401, England were all out for 174 (although Botham, at least, recovered a bit of form with bat and ball, scoring 50 and taking six wickets), then when England batted again they were reduced to 105/5 when Botham came in, and shortly afterwards 135/7: 92 runs behind, only three wickets left, and likely to lose by an innings. At this point the odds against an England victory were given as 500-1 (and a couple of Australian players even put a bet on it, apparently as a joke). What followed was one of the most amazing turnarounds in cricket history: Botham smashed his way to 149 not out, aided by Dilley (56) and Old (29), England's second innings reached a score of 356, and instead of winning by an innings, Australia had to chase a target of 130 to win or 129 to tie. It looked well within their capabilities when they reached 56/1, but after that they collapsed to 111 all out (eight of the nine wickets falling to Bob Willis), and England won the match by 18 runs. It was a change of fortunes so improbable that if it had been written as fiction it would have been dismissed as ludicrous. (Botham's fairytale recovery of form continued in the fourth and fifth matches of the series: in the fourth, Australia were again chasing a tiny target in the last innings, nearly got there, but collapsed to defeat, this time from Botham's own bowling as he took 5/11: and in the fifth match he smashed another century. England won the series 3-1 thanks to Botham's one-man efforts.)
There's a guy...we'll call him Andy. He graduated with a degree in economics from a prestigious college, where he starred on the basketball team. After a few brief gigs as an NBA assistant he takes an executive job with a startup software company. While there, he dates a Maxim magazine cover model and they bond over a shared love of sports (their first date is a basketball game followed by dinner at Taco Bell) and get married. But he misses coaching and gets a job as an assistant at a large university. After a few years he takes a head coaching job at an obscure university that had only had a basketball team for 10 seasons, and had only been in existence for 14 years. After a losing record in his first year, his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits team use their exciting brand of basketball to win an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Andy’s #15-seeded team shocks the nation with a decisive victory against a traditional power in round 1, then pulls off another upset to become the lowest seeded team ever to reach the Sweet 16. There they play against the most prominent team from their home state, who had shunned the upstart school in the past. Andy’s team jumps to a big first half lead but runs out of gas and loses. Still, the team becomes the darling of the basketball world, and Andy accepts a job offer from one of the most glamorous schools in all of college sports…Good luck pitching that story to Hollywood without getting laughed out of the room. Except, that’s the true story of Andy Enfield, Amanda Marcum and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles’ 2013 NCAA tournament run.
Players and reviewers often complained about how unrealistic it was that wielding a weapon with a burst fire setting doesn't give you the effects of the game's Burst Fire feat. As the game's designers have pointed out, the point of the burst fire setting on guns is to ensure you only fire the three to five rounds in an automatic burst that have any realistic chance of actually hitting the target. If you don't know how to effectively fire an accurate burst with an automatic weapon, this setting won't make it any easier.
This game got this in a lot of respects. Many players and reviewers compained about how a submachine gun could easily kill a character in the early levels of the game (where the median hitpoints could be around 7 or 8 at first level and a submachine gun could deal 2d6 (2-12)). The logic on why this was bad? Because SMGs shoot 'little pistol bullets' and everyone knows from movies those only wound you, not kill you.
The Dragon Magazine article "Illusions of Grandeur" proposed a Spectral Farce spell weaponizing this. It makes things in the affected area to be perceived as less believable, whether they are real or not. Of course, in this case Illusion/Phantasm magic aura actually helps the effect if detected. The whole point is that a harmless spell becomes ridiculously lethal once the victims disregard as "fake and tacky" something like a swooping dragon — or even a badly disguised trap.
House rules are the bread & butter of Tabletop RPGs, but they also show how pervasive this trope is. Those who read an AD&D newsgroup or a forum for several years probably reflexively laugh from hearing or seeing the word "realistic". Or at least grin, remembering some "realistic" accomplishments that good rules absolutely have to make possible. Let's say, shooting a squirrel in the eye with a longbow (yes) is not nearly the worst. Conversely, the foreword by Rich Baker to a Players' Options book (that derived some of its parts from internet house rules) set it straight on the very first page:
The Combat & Tactics book is a compromise that adds some detail to combat — not to make it more realistic, but to make combat more believable.
Natalie Portman was punished by some for doing her homework when she starred as Anne Frank on Broadway. Some sources outside the diary suggest Frank was something of a brat, but when Portman incorporated this into her performances, some patrons and critics couldn't accept it.
The Bonnie and Clyde musical was, if historians are anything to go by, the most accurate fictional depiction of the infamous duo to date. The entire first act was devoted to backstory, and details like Clyde's traumatic experience in prison and the unpleasant nature of their life on the run were left in where the 1960s movie omitted them. Critics panned the show for being boring and nothing like the movie; it only ran about a month.
A line ended up removed from the musical 1776 because of this trope: John Adams claimed that if they allowed slavery in America, trouble would happen a hundred years hence. That was actually claimed by the real John Adams but the writer knew people would just attribute it to historical hindsight by him and removed it.
Otherwise, the musical was pretty accurate. Of course, Roger Ebert claimed that it was an unrealistic portrayal and an insult to the founding fathers.
Invoked in Girl Genius by Master Payne's Circus of Adventure, whose crew explicitly avoids everything that looks too realistic: most notably, for a talking cat, they use a man in a cat costume rather than Krosp. Much like with Dawson Casting, there is also the issue that real cats, talking or not, are proverbially difficult to direct.
Dustin: Well, to be fair, there can't be that many Jamaican voice actors in the business... they probably just hire black actors who can sound Jamaican.
Mark: Hey, you know where Blizzard could have found a LOT of guys who can do a perfect Jamaican Patois accent, and could use the work?
Mind Mistress weaponized this at one point, by using the ludicrous way the United States both subsidizes crops to keep too many from being grown, and subsidizes them to grow more at the same time to convince an attacker that he was trapped in a poorly-made imitation of reality.
Schlock: The TV-me is putting me-me out of a job. [...] Maybe we can kill another TV network. Is there still money in that?
Footnotes are often employed to point out examples of this happening, sometimes with in-universe justifications. For instance, stellar remnants aren't nearly this colorful in reality, but by the time spacefaring technology had advanced to the point where people could tell the difference themselves, they had gotten so used to the idea that they put smart filtering into their viewports and visors to restore the color they'd come to expect.
When the cast of Multiplex film an amateur zombie movie, Becky vomits after taking part in a gory effects shot. Kurt decides to Throw It In, and naturally someone decries how fake it looks.
The page image comes from xkcd, where this trope is exaggerated. She's holding a genuine 19th century saber, in her hands, in front of him. He's still convinced that it must be photo-manipulated since those sabers are so rare... despite the fact that there are no photos, and he's looking at the saber in front of him.
When Nuclear Apocaluck was launched — a site with simulations of damage caused by nuclear attack — the overwhelming response was "I know that a nuke would do more damage than that." Nukes are powerful enough in their own right, but they've been so over-dramatized that people don't recognize the insane horror of their power when they do see it. What some people don't realize is that the way the system is set up is kind of off; unless a city is at fatal ratings for 12 months a year, they don't get glowing brightly, and "glowing" (with no shockwave or heat blast) can range anywhere from being 40-90 rads or deadly for seven months of the year and very bad for you another five.
Almost any photography blog (or any blog where someone puts up scenic photos in general) will immediately attract a flood of commenters complaining that the image is 'obviously Photoshopped'. Of course, a talented photographer is perfectly capable of capturing an impressive shot without resorting to Photoshop software to touch it up, but try telling them that. In many cases, comments of these nature indicate that the commenter is either a troll just trying to stir up trouble or just unfamiliar with professional grade SLR cameras. Point-and-shoot cameras have about as much in common with these SLRs as, say, a butter knife has with a chainsaw. Many effects you can get with an expensive manually controlled camera really are impossible with a point-and-shoot. Moreover, many commenters are unaware that effects have long been added to traditional film photos in the development process.
This "review" of the History Channel's "World War II Show" provides a hilarious example. The author denounces the show for being a Cliché Storm full of lazy writing, and calls out The Bomb for being an Ass Pull with no Foreshadowing, which then became Forgotten Phlebotinum as the writers never used it again despite the numerous subsequent wars.
(A young girl of 18 or 19, clearly a first-time voter, skips the line and rushes up to my table.) Me: "I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait. There’s a line." Voter: "I’m sorry, but it’s important! I need to get my ballot paper back. I voted for the wrong person!" Me: "Alright, give me the spoiled one." Voter: "I can’t. I put it in the box." Me: "Then I’m afraid we can’t get it back. The boxes can’t be opened until the end of voting at ten o’clock." Voter: "But I didn’t know! I don’t want the Conservatives to get in so I voted for [Conservative candidate]. I should have voted for someone else!" Me: "Um, why did you vote for the Conservative?" (The girl turns scarlet and looks utterly miserable.) Voter: "I thought it was like TV where you vote them off!
They've also suffered from this at times: for instance, entry #10 in this Photoplasty contest expresses "bafflement" that James Bond would be using his real name. As we note here, spies really do usually work under their real names, even when under cover; "cover" refers not to lying about your name, but rather lying about your job—rather like James Bond lying that he worked for Universal Exports rather than MI6.
Because of the increased focus on realism in later versions, occasionally Survival of the Fittest runs into this. One of the most notable examples is that many handlers have pointed out that if they made a completely played straight self-insert, it would be denied because "it wasn't realistic enough".
As modern vehicles have been fitted with increasing levels of electronic driving aids the sorts of tyre squealing, rubber burning, back end sliding maneuvers typically seen in chase scenes are no longer possible without intentionally disabling such features first. When such features are on vehicles will maintain almost full traction no matter what sort of craziness the driver attempts to do. The result is not only vehicle behavior that looks completely alien, but also one that is quite dull to watch.
Ross Scott of Freemans Mind was told that his Gordon voice didn't seem particularly realistic for the character by a few people, to the point that he had to actually show a picture that showed that he does in fact look like Gordon Freeman.
On The Agony Booth Solkir notes in the Gladiatrix review that the villain was going to be described as horribly written...if the review hadn't aired shortly after the Isla Vista killings and their fallout, meaning that it's recently been demonstrated that actually there are quite a few people who have the villain's attitude (why don't women like me what's wrong with them how dare they I'll kill them!) almost exactly, making him Birds of Prey's most believable villain.
Parodied where a Hollywoodesque special effects team paints a horse's skin in a cow pattern, because "real cows don't look like cows on-screen." When asked how they would make something look like a horse on-screen, they suggest stringing a bunch of cats together.
In another episode of The Simpsons, the guest star was John Waters. John Waters' real mustache is basically a very straight thin line across his upper lip. However, in the cartoon, he had a wavy moustache. In the audio commentary, the reason John Waters' straight thin moustache was replaced by a wavy line was because John Waters' real moustache would just look like a straight line over his lip and disappear. John Waters said he actually liked it, but considered that it would be difficult to shave his moustache to look like that.
One of The Spill.com's biggest complaints about the Animated Adaptation Movie TMNT is that Splinter's voice doesn't sound Asian, when in fact it was voiced by the famed Japanese actor Mako Iwamatsu. (They were probably thrown by the fact a Japanese accent doesn't sound much like the played-up Cantonese accent used for all Asian people in most Western media.)
One of the oft-cited "absurdities" of George Miller's Happy Feet is that the main character somehow ends up far out his region, washed ashore and stranded. This has happened more than a few times, the most recent and talked about being the African Penguin who ended up a world away, and the King Penguin who'd somehow spirited himself beyond the Falklands. Penguins have even wound up in Alaska - admittedly, most likely by boat (escaped ship's pets), but still...
Lampshaded on Metalocalypse in the episode "Dethstars." The band's helicopter breaks open an oil rig, spewing oil on hundreds of people, one of whom is smoking a cigar that ignites the oil, causing the rig and everyone on it to go up in flames. As the band flies away, Murderface looks down at the burning wreckage and says "That is so fake."
In Balto, the Incurable Cough of Death is shown to indicate the kids are sick and most people assume coughing is a symptom of a terrible disease, so much that coughing is shown on made-up diseases or diseases that don't actually cause the sufferer to cough. In reality? Diphtheria actually does cause a cough because of the toxins and fluid filling the lungs. The Death Toll was also thought to have been greatly reduced for the sake of making it kid-friendly. In reality, a lot of the kids did survive. Also, there were people saying that there was no way a woman could have been a kid depicted in the film because it was so long ago. Actually, this was in 1925 - When the movie was done in the 90s, a woman could have easily still been alive, as she would have been in her 80s-90s.
One complaint about the character design of Artemis was how she's half Asian but has blond hair. Greg Weisman responded that she's actually based on one of the producer's daughters, whose parents are both half Asian and has natural blond hair, because both could have inherited the blond gene from their non-Asian parents. However, Artemis' mother is Vietnamese and Weisman mentions elsewhere that Artemis is fluent in French, due to Vietnam being a former French colony. If Artemis has at least one French maternal ancestor, it is plausible.
When we finally see her father, Artemis has the exact same color hair as he does.
More recently, the fandom has gone after her for having dark eyebrows, taking this as "proof" that she dyes her hair. They are, however, ignoring two critical pieces of information: Word Of God says that her hair is natural, and blond people often have eyebrows that are much darker than their natural hair color.
Lampshaded on Futurama, where Zapp Brannigan tells Kiff to make an image larger and goes "Why is it still blurry?" When Kiff explains that just because it's larger, that doesn't make the resolution clearer, Zapp responds "Well, it does on CSI: Miami!"
Some viewers complained that the world, modeled on The Roaring Twenties, looked too advanced for "only seventy years" to have passed between the franchise's first and second series. Yet when you consider the level of tech that was already in the previous series — tanks, ironclads, and giant drills, to name a few — if anything the show's technological evolution is slower than in the real world. Seventy years before the real world 1920s, the first ironclads hadn't even come off the drawing board, and tanks were decades away.
When General Iroh II was revealed, fans complained because his voice sounded the same as teenage Zuko of the original series, when in fact General Iroh is somewhere in his thirties. Dante Basco is in his late thirties and that is his natural voice.
In the South Park episode "Cartoon Wars: Part 2" Cartman and Kyle, the two friends yet designated archenemies of the series, are each trying to persuade the Fox Corporation executives to air/pull off an episode of Family Guy featuring Mohammad. The tension builds up gradually leading to a "final battle" scene with dramatic music score and all. Instead of seeing a fight of epic proportion, we are shown a rather lame brawl between two kids, EXACTLY as the fight involving fourth graders would look like in real life.
Similarly, in "Satan's Super Sweet Sixteen", an in-universe example occurs when Steve Irwin shows up to the party, stingray barb still in his chest. People think he's a guy in a tasteless costume at first, but he is asked to leave once it's revealed that he is Steve Irwin (because he has no costume)
A case of skin color confusion: in The Proud Family, La Cieniga is obviously Hispanic, and takes after her mother (who has dark skin). Felix also obviously looks pretty Hispanic as well (but is lighter), but his father Papi is white and could pass for being white European. There was actually a bit of debate where people assumed that Felix's mother was Hispanic and that he's only half Hispanic. In reality, there is such a thing as being "white Hispanic" and Papi most likely is.
Fire and Ice is an example in a surprising way: the rotoscoped movements of the characters are often criticized as being "unrealistic" because they have none of the exaggeration found in almost all animation.