Lawman592 on Apr 21st 2018 at 3:53:12 PM
Last Edited By:
Lawman592 on Jun 24th 2018 at 9:42:59 PM
Page Type: trope
Fantasy stories set in magical lands, Fairy Tale kingdoms, worlds of High Fantasy, Heroic Fantasy, or Sugar Bowls and science fiction stories set in a Crystal Spires and Togas Utopia or somewhere on the squishier end of the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness seemingly take place in universes far removed from the concerns of reality. Yet despite how fantastic these worlds seem upon first impression, it can turn out that their denizens still spend much of their time dealing with the same ordinary matters (e.g., money, employment, taxes, bureaucracy, politics, legal disputes, potholes in the street, etc.) that people do in Real Life. This is how the Extraordinary World, Ordinary Problems trope works. It can be invoked by anything from a quick joke, a parody of fantasy and science fiction tropes, or a complete deconstruction of either genre. One way to get the point across is to feature an outsider who's initially in awe of the new setting but soon learns things really aren't much different from the mundane world he or she came from.
Can overlap with Weird Trade Union, Magical Society, and Signed Up for the Dental when labor issues and disputes crop up in the fantasy or science fiction setting. Often comes up in a Fractured Fairy Tale. Frequently part of an Urban Fantasy work (and can be among the Urban Fantasy Tropes).
A variation on Reality Ensues and also Fantasy All Along if the aspect of Real Life is only briefly brought up as a joke. Compare with Low Fantasy, Mundane Fantastic, Magic Realism, Mundanger, and Adult Fear. See Fantastic Angst, where a character suffers from a real-world personal problem with an extraordinary source.
- One Piece: the main premise is about Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates traveling the world for the ultimate treasure, the titular One Piece, in a highly wacky yet beautiful world. On the many islands they visit, however, they may find issues of oppression (frequently from the place's ruler), rival pirates terrorizing the place, or (like in Enies Lobby or Marineford) the Straw Hats simply trying to rescue one of their friends.
- Top 10 takes place in a city filled to the brim with people with superpowers, but most of the crimes that Precinct Ten has to deal with are mundane crimes like prostitution, domestic abuse, and public intoxication.
- This is played every way to Sunday in The Incredibles. The Parr family is basically your average family, but with superpowers, and all the typical concerns are still there... at least in part due to the superhero relocation program, which prevents them from doing any actual supering (not that this stops them from using their powers in, say, typical dinner-table squabbling).
- The Star Wars universe is one of the softer Science Fiction settings. However, in The Phantom Menace, the invasion of Naboo is sparked by some rather dry and prosaic disputes over interplanetary tariffs and trade. There is also a surprising amount of attention focused on how the corrupt and ineffectual bureaucracy of the Republic helped to enable the crisis.
- In Franz Kafka's short story, Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, who would prefer to rule his realm by chauffeuring the waters with his trident, has to instead spend all his time filling out forms and writing administrative reports.
- The Wizarding World in which the Harry Potter series takes place has many problems that resemble the non-magical world: political corruption, excessive administrative red tape, manipulated media, and most importantly, Fantastic Racism in the form of pure-blood wizards hating those with muggle ancestry, as a commentary on real-life racism and discrimination.
- In The Stormlight Archive:
- Alethkar's War of Reckoning against the Parshendi began in retribution for the assassination of their king, but continues because Parshendi lands are a fantastic source of gemstones to fuel the Functional Magic of Soulcasting, which produces a vital source of food for the Alethi armies. That the competition over harvesting gems is a good source of political capital in the Alethi Deadly Decadent Court doesn't help matters either.
- The Wheel of Time is set at the End of an Age, where The Anti-God is breaking free of his prison and The Chosen One is destined either to win a Pyrrhic Victory over him or fail and doom the world. Incipient Final Battle, armies of monsters, regime changes, and high-powered Wizard Duels notwithstanding, the most pressing threat to most of the world is... climate change: the Dark One's influence messes with the seasons, which causes escalating food shortages and famines throughout the series.
- Welcome to Night Vale takes place in a sleepy little desert city where few of the population could be considered "human", but they still deal with problems like tuition, rent, local elections, contract negotiations...
- The Dragon Age franchise has elves, dwarves, dragons, Blood Magic, and The Horde of man-eating zombies, yet most of the world's major problems stem from imperialism, racism, class divides, religious extremism, and a general lack of proper communication between its denizens.
- Drawn to Life: The game takes place in a fantasy world with anthropomorphic fox creatures, berries that make you grow to the size of a house, and a villain that wants to cover the entire world in dark shadows, among many other oddities. However, this doesn't stop the villagers from worrying about rather mundane things, such as preparing for a festival, bickering over the sale price of mayonnaise, and complaining about the lack of toys at the beach.
- This is common in the Fallout universe. While the main quests always resolve around problems specific to the retro-futuristic wastelands of America, many of the sidequests are helping people with their mundane problems, like picking up some paint for a handyman, helping an alcoholic become clean, help an insecure boy become more confident. Given that it is still a game, the problems get a fantastic twist, but are ultimately still very mundane.
- RWBY: In a world where everyone has special powers, hybrid weapons are commonplace, and giant monsters roam the wilderness, they still must deal with typical burglaries, credit cards being declined, and the stress of high school.
- In Unsounded, the Functional Magic of pymary requires rare First Materials — primordial versions of mundane materials, left over from The Time of Myths — to create permanent enchanted items. Many First Materials have been exhausted and others are becoming rarer, so Magitek engineers struggle to use them as efficiently as possible and the Corrupt Corporate Executive Jab Beadman is willing to go to great lengths (including regicide and warmongering) to secure untapped deposits.
- Turkey City Lexicon has the term "Squid on the Mantlepiece" for this trope when it's done badly—that is, when there's a significant mismatch between the mundane drama and the fantastic setting's overblown stakes.
It's hard to properly dramatize, say, the domestic effects of Dad's bank overdraft when a giant writhing kraken is levelling the city. This mismatch between the conventional dramatic proprieties and SF's extreme, grotesque, or visionary thematics is known as the "squid on the mantelpiece."
- This contrast is why the trope is often employed for comedic purposes.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel series and spinoffs are all set in a fantasy world which mainly borrows from Eastern cultures where certain people can "bend" elements. However the conflicts in most of the story arcs are often mundane issues which just so happen to take place in such a setting. For example, the Fire nation's imperialism in the first series is shown more akin to something like a European nation at the height of colonialism or the Roman empire, rather than hoards of Always Chaotic Evil mooks marching out of mordor.
- This is the setting of one of Dexter's Laboratory sections: The Justice Friends, in which the superheroes Mayor Glory, Val Hallen and Krunk live in a leased apartment and how their superpowers and personalities clash with normal life and problems, all themed as a Sitcom.
- A lot of the humour concerning the Urpneys relates to this in The Dreamstone, since in spite of working for an Evil Overlord of a fantasy world, Frizz and Nug tend to treat their work as a standard dead end job, being Press-Ganged into most of the manual labour or scapegoated by Middle Management Mooks, Urpgor and Sgt Blob (mostly to avoid the pressure of their own boss, Zordrak), and being treated as heartless scum for an occupation they don't even want to have. Some of the hero grunts, such as the completely apathetic Mr Blossom and even the Noops, Rufus and Amberley, start to show glimpses of this later on, since it is implied their frustrations with the Urpneys lie more in their constant bumbling schemes causing more collateral damage which they are made to fix.
- Futurama: The main character, Philip J. Fry, is initially dazzled by the New New York of 3000 A.D. after being frozen for 1,000 years. However, he becomes more blase' about the setting as he finds he still has to do the same things he did back in 1999 like earn money, get a job, find a place to live, and pay taxes.
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