Follow TV Tropes

Following

Become a Real Boy
aka: Pinocchio Syndrome

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rsz_pinocchio_syndrome.jpg
Image by Grusborg. Used with permission.
"Well, I just think that the concept of chi might be a little hard for her to grasp. She's not the descendant of a long line of mystical warriors, she's the descendant of a toaster oven."

So, you've got a character who isn't human, such as (but not exclusively) an Artificial Human grown in the tank or just put together your Robot Girl with an assembly kit, or a character who either wasn't human to begin with or Was Once a Man before being the subject of a Forced Transformation curse or transformed via The Virus into monsters or otherwise made into something else that is decidedly not human. Whatever the reason, the nonhuman being wants to become human, or in the case of a formerly human being, they want to be human again. In those cases where those who do get the instant magical cure, they'll often throw it away, saying they want to earn it, or "it's the path, not the destination" (whatever that means), or it will come at a horrendous moral cost.

Not to worry, though! While in reality, socialization and emotional stability are the product of years and years of interaction with other people, in the world of fiction, all a nonhuman character needs to become a functioning, well-balanced, emotionally resonant member of society is the proper life-altering event.

Much as any protagonist generally works out any personal issues and neuroses they may have over the course of an otherwise unrelated story, the nonhuman character will discover what it means to be human in their journey alongside the other heroes. That this may mean defying their programming, their lack of a soul, or other such assumed limits is beside the point — it appears robots and clones are socialized like real people, only much faster.

This is often a goal of robots, vampires, werewolves, and so on. In these circumstances, sometimes a wiser character will be taken in by this trope, but instead make some important logical deductions. Namely, that if you're a robot, you probably already act like a normal human, to the point of being able to pass the Turing Test. If you're a vampire or werewolf, you're substantially stronger and hardier than a typical human. Or maybe, in the most extreme cases, you'll become convinced that Humans Are Bastards, and you're better off being what you are. As a result, as cool as these "emotion" things may be, it may not be worth being Brought Down to Normal just to enjoy them. In these cases, the character in question can often be found looking for a third option that will allow for the best of both worlds.

Often, such a journey involves extreme violence and the simplistic black-and-white morality of "them vs. us". The fact that this bears no resemblance whatsoever to daily life rarely comes up. (One can only imagine the difficulties such characters will encounter when they are placed within a situation where you can't solve any problem with the proper application of violence.)

One also has to wonder if any such individuals later regret their humanization. Humanity Ensues, of course.

This is a common anime plot, and also appears in several Western movies.

Compare Emergent Human (which describes a newly turned human getting used to the human condition), Defusing the Tyke-Bomb (which describes the gaining of a heart rather than a soul). See also Just a Machine. Living Toys made from Love Imbues Life may seek this.

Contrast Mechanical Lifeforms, who start with the same emotional range as their organic counterparts. Contrast Trans Nature, for when the creature trying to become human wasn't an artificial human. For the inverse of this trope see Toy Transmutation.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • B.P.R.D.: After the BPRD acquires advanced homunculi bodies, Johann Kraus, who's been an ectoplasm in a containment suit for decades, possesses one to finally feel human sensations again, heading to the closest bar miles away. Which of course means he's not there when the Monster of the Week attacks, leading to no small amount of anger on both sides.
  • The DCU:
    • Amazo, the Red Tornado and the android Hourman have at various times tried to become more 'human'.
    • The driving motivation behind the computer virus Grid, the Earth-3 counterpart of Cyborg, is to achieve some modicum of human emotion. In Forever Evil (2013), it gets its wish and experiences fear when Cyborg cuts him off from its connection to the flows of data it once controlled, leaving it trapped within its own robotic body.
    • Superman:
      • One Silver Age story has Sufficiently Advanced Aliens transform one of Superman's robots into a superpowered flesh-and-blood human being with free will, but the robot ends up heroically sacrificing himself to save the day before the story's end.
      • 1960s comics have Supergirl's pet Comet the Super-Horse. He was originally a centaur called Biron who wanted to be fully human; unfortunately, Circe's transforming potion was sabotaged and made him fully horse instead. The reason he has superpowers is because the spell couldn't be reversed, so Circe gave him superpowers to try and make up for it.
    • Swamp Thing's origin changed him from a man into a living pile of vegetation, and his main goal was to return to normal. In a twist, when Alan Moore took over the book (in his first major writing gig for DC), he took away this motivation with a Retcon that didn't directly contradict any previous material. In "The Anatomy Lesson", Swamp Thing discovers that he is not a man who became a plant monster; he's a mass of plants possessed by the memories and spirit of that man, who is, in fact, dead. Regaining his humanity is then no longer a goal, and he instead becomes an Anthropomorphic Personification of nature.
  • In Fables, the Pinocchio story is a Be Careful What You Wish For. He became a real boy. And he has remained a real boy for the hundreds of years since then. Now he wishes he was a real adult.
  • Mr. Eff from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is a Styrofoam pastry display. His master feeds off Nny's imagination to make him more real when he needs. Unlike Psycho d-boy, who only wishes to please his master and get Johnny to commit suicide, Mr. Eff tries to keep Johnny alive and killing for as long as possible until he can become fully real. He fails. Johnny kills himself at the end of issue #4, and in issue #5 he's "Taken back into" his master, along with Psycho d-boy, saying "Fuck! I was so close!".
  • Marvel Universe:
    • X-51, a.k.a. Machine Man, a.k.a. Aaron Stack has wanted to be/believed he really is human in most of his incarnations. In Earth X, Uatu the Watcher strips him of his human appearance. Late in the trilogy, an alternate universe version of himself appears who used his creator's DNA to create a human body for himself and tells his robot counterpart that his programming makes him human enough already.
    • The Vision has fluctuated in his emotional state many times over the years. Usually, a writer will get him to nearly Become a Real Boy and a later one will reverse. This is usually done by destroying the android's body and rebuilding him.
    • Defied by Vision's daughter Viv, who has stated outright that she is not interested in having a flesh body. The one time she was magically transferred into a human body, she hated it, and really missed her inability to feel pain among other things.
    • Played with by X-23, the Opposite-Sex Clone of Wolverine. Whether or not she's viewed as a real person depends largely on who gets asked. To her creator, Sarah Kinney, there is no doubt in her mind that Laura is a real person (especially after she disobeyed a direct order to kill a child, proving the Facility which created and trained her hadn't fully destroyed her humanity). Her friends and teammates take the similar position. By contrast, characters such as Kimura treat her as if she were something less than human, and it's common for anyone seeking to insult or hurt her to make derogatory remarks about her origins. Laura herself has been on both sides, and struggled with developing a sense of self-worth and accepting that she is a human being with feelings and desires of her own. All of this is driven home even further by the copy of Pinocchio which pops up throughout X-23: Innocence Lost and Target: X. Used to symbolic effect in All-New Wolverine issue 17: Pinocchio's transformation from puppet to real boy is directly juxtaposed with Laura finally breaking free of her conditioning to the trigger scent, literally "cutting her strings" and making her a puppet no more.
  • Defied in The Mighty Skull Boy Army. Unit 1, a cute, toy-like robot, once voices his hopes to never be a real boy because he fears puberty, and all those snips and snails...
  • Scud the Disposable Assassin: Scud is fond of stating "It's cool to be a robot." When a screenwriter tells him of a script similar to his life, Scud is disappointed at the ending, where the hero is rewarded with humanity. He hangs a lampshade on it by asking the writer to not pull a Pinocchio. "Make him proud of what he is, and you've got my $7.50."
  • At the end of TRON: Ghost in the Machine, the unified Jet.exe gets offered a chance to be uploaded into the User world, but when he learns that it would mean the destruction of the server he lives on, Jet.exe throws away the chance and chooses to live out his runtime as an ordinary Program without hesitation or regret.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side: Happens to Pinocchio at the least convenient moment possible — namely, while taking a picture of a pride of lions from very close up.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • Lyra in Anthropology desperately wants to become a human, even through nobody else has even heard of them. She gets her wish, and it is revealed that she wasn't born a pony.
  • In Buffy meets Star Trek, the core threat that brings the Scooby Gang and the crew of the Enterprise-E together is that an ancient demonic entity has possessed Data after it was accidentally released by him and Dawn Summers (the entity was trapped with a curse that prevented any born thing reading the inscription that would release it, but Dawn and Data were created by magic and science rather than being "born"). This trope comes into play when Giles observes that the one "rule" the entity possessing Data must follow is that it can only truly possess something with a soul as that creates the right environment to sustain it. After hearing this, Picard and Riker reflect on the weight of the idea that they now have true evidence that Data is alive, each aware of the difference between something they've always believed about their friend and something they now know for a fact. When Data is restored, Willow observes that she can't say for certain when he acquired a soul, but he can be certain of its existence, and therefore be certain that he is truly alive where it matters.
  • In The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, the Boggart's main goal is to become accepted in wizard society as a human (although he doesn't want to physically become human for it, instead being content with his shapeshifting abilities).
  • A significant amount of angst in the PokÚumans Fan Verse has emerged on account of this. Nobody chose or, in many cases, even wants the transformation they experienced, and then the secret war into which it plunges them means You Can't Go Home Again. Many characters still want to, and attempts to do so have resulted in everything from hilarity to Everybody Dies Endings.
  • The Story of a Gardevoir That Became a Trainer: While Gardy never explicitly desired to be a human per se, she had always wanted to be a Trainer ever since she saw one of their Bags as a Ralts, and she assumed that being a human was one of those requirements. Courtesy of Jirachi, she gets her wish.
  • Pauline from the Tamers Forever Series desperately wants to be human so that she can be with her master and also for the simple fact that she doesn't have a body that can express her emotions like humans do, meaning that every feeling she has is bottled up inside her without release.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the movie adaptation of "Adventures of Electronic", the titular robot wants this. In the book, he just wants to overcome the limits of his programming.
  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence: After he's left in the woods with Teddy, David's goal is this. Bonus points in that the film heavily references Pinocchio, complete with Blue Fairy.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron:
    • As if singing "I've Got No Strings" doesn't show Ultron has a Pinocchio fixation, he tries to transfer himself into a partly biological body (which eventually becomes the Vision) and eventually goes for a plan where "When the dust settles, the only thing living in this world will be metal."
    • Vision has no desire to become more human, but wishes only to be recognized and respected as a person as opposed to a machine or piece of equipment. This includes having a strict living will stating that should he die he is to be buried rather than examined and researched in order to create more of him.
  • Used and eventually subverted in the Child's Play series. The premise of the first film is a serial killer who uses voodoo to transport his soul into a children's doll. For most of the series, he's trying to find another body to jump into. However, in the fifth film, he discards the idea. He decides that as "Chucky" he's become an icon and that he never needs to worry about getting sick or old. One of the reasons he wants to Body Surf to begin with is that the more time he spends in the body of the doll, the more human he becomes, so he's effectively undergoing this trope against his will. In the first film he's thrilled with his new body, until he gets shot and realizes that he can still be hurt and even bleed. And that's when he finds out he's turning human.
  • Cool World revolves around the toon ("doodles" per the movie's parlance) villainess Holli Would's obsession with becoming a human woman and experience everything the "noids" can. She has to break the one law of Toonworld to accomplish this: have sex with one of them. She eventually succeeds, but the worlds start to converge and turn into a chaotic anarchy as a result.
  • The two robot protagonists in Daft Punk's Electroma have this as their main goal. Their attempt to become human backfires, causing them to get exiled from their town. While hiking in the desert, they both commit suicide.
  • The backstory of Edward Scissorhands reveals that he almost was exactly like an ordinary human, but his Inventor died before he could furnish him with proper hands; thus, he is virtually unable to touch others. It's suggested in the film that there's the possibility he could still be made "complete" in that way, but that never comes to pass. Perhaps more importantly, when he falls for Kim, he does whatever he can to make her aware of his love for her in hopes she will reciprocate it, despite what he is.
  • Seth Brundle from The Fly (1986) loses his humanity through the course of the movie. His syndrome drives him to kidnapping his ex-girlfriend in an attempt to fuse with her, as she is pregnant with his unborn child, possibly the last of his humanity.
    Brundlefly: Help me be human... please.
  • Green Snake: The Green Snake and her sister White Snake are two female ophidian spirits who seek to become human in order to raise their status on the karmic scale and incidentally experience human love.
  • The android Sonny in I, Robot reveals what could be slight envy of Spooner for his boast of artistic talent. Sonny also shows gratitude just for being referred to "as someone, not something". Spooner's closing words to Sonny, "find your way just like the rest of us", leans this way even more.
  • Return to Oz has the Nome King desiring to become human by turning everyone who lives or knows of Oz into stone or an ornament. Needless to say, he is not pleased when this is ruined by the luck of a little girl.
  • Number/Johnny Five in Short Circuit, who has gained self-awareness and understands himself to be alive; thus, he must fight to prevent being "disassembled" (which for him would be "death") and convince others that he does have human emotions and thought processes. Though he is an extremely fast reader, in the second film, he intends to study the books Pinocchio by Collodi and Frankenstein by Shelley more closely, clearly identifying with the plights of both the puppet and the creature. He gets his wish, partially, at the end of the film, when after his heroics, the U.S. government decides to grant him the rights of an American citizen; the film ends with him and his immigrant friend taking the oath of citizenship at a mass-ceremony for such.
  • Star Trek: First Contact: The Borg Queen attempts to win Data over by giving him the gift of organic skin and the ability to experience tactile sensations as a human would, something that the movie sets up earlier on that he can't do.
  • The various Terminator protagonists in Terminator 2 and 3. In Terminator: Dark Fate, we meet a Terminator who got married, adopted a son, and gained a very human conscience free from Skynet's influence.
  • The primary motivation of STEM in Upgrade. It wants a complete human body to, in its own words, "evolve". And the "real" part of the trope is no exaggeration — it chose Grey explicitly because Grey is a healthy specimen with no implants, fully human.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In season 4, this becomes Aida's goal after she reads the Darkhold and becomes self-aware. Deconstructed, though. Since she's never felt human emotions before, having them all be experienced at once is more than she knows how to process, and she doesn't respond to things like Fitz rejecting her romantic advances well at all. She gets compared to a newborn who doesn't know how to handle her feelings or accept not getting what she wants, but in this case, she has enough power to kill hundreds of people because of it, having given her human body dozens of Inhuman powers.
  • Parodied humorously in Angel, where the Blue Fairy comes and turns Spike into a 'real boy' in Angel's coma-dream in "Soul Purpose".
  • Some of the Cylons on Battlestar Galactica (2003) have this as a motivation, particularly ones who have had extensive contact with the humans and have begun integrating into human society. They were designed to be as close to human as possible, although at least one of them isn't too happy about it.
  • The dream of Michael on The Good Place. He frequently expresses his admiration of humanity and how willing he is to break the rules to try and find out what being human feels like. Subverted at the end of season one, when it turns out that his love of humanity was an act to try and torture the real humans. However, following time spent studying under Chidi, this trope gets double subverted, and Michael decides that he wants to be human after all. At the end of the series, Michael gets turned into a human by the Judge and lives out his days on Earth happily.
  • Kyle in Kyle XY manages it over the course of months. He didn't know anything at the start, even how to speak, but because of his advanced mind he picks it up relatively fast.
  • Kai from Lexx died and spent thousands of years as a re-animated corpse. In a subversion, he has little care for the idea of returning to life, and Xev is the one who entertains fantasies of Kai becoming alive, going so far as clinging to obvious stretches ("Kai did something unexpected! That's a sign of life!") until she learns better and accepts it. Subverted in the last season when Kai wins a Deal with the Devil to be brought back to life, but the devil goes back on the bargain and leaves him dead only to make him alive later, mere minutes before an event that would not destroy undead Kai, but that no living human could survive. Double-subverted in that Kai doesn't have a death-wish, per se, but welcomes true death after spending six thousand years only halfway there.
  • My Roommate is a Gumiho: Woo-yeo, a gumiho, wants to become a human. His old friend Yang Hye-sun used to be a gumiho like him, but has already been turned into a human girl. In the show's final act it is revealed that human energy isn't what causes gumiho to become human, it's humanity, and Dam sets out to make this happen for Woo-yeo. When he sacrifices himself to save her, the mountain spirit decides that he has learned what it means to be human, and turns him into one so he can be with Dam.
  • Discussed in a typically Black Comedy way in a host segment to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "I Accuse My Parents", when Tom wants to become a real live boy, so Crow paints him "nude"-color.
    Tom: Snips and snails and puppy dog tails! That's what Tommy's made of!
    Joel: [making no attempt to hide his sarcasm] Yeah, really.
    Crow: Um, no. Paint, actually.
    Joel: But, Tom, why do you want to be a real-live boy? There are billions of real-live boys on Earth. There's only one Tom Servo.
    Tom: I want to run, and jump, and skin my knees!
    Crow: You don't have any legs.
    Tom: I want to catch frogs down at the old swimming hole.
    Crow: Your arms don't work.
    Tom: I want to experience a world of emotions and feelings.
    Crow: You'll get beat up because you're a freak.
  • In The Other Kingdom, the fairy princess Astral wants to learn about human ways and is excited to become human and live life without use of her powers.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "The Hunt", the android Kel wants to be a human because humans have real feelings as opposed to "analogue sensations." He believes that humans have the right to take the lives of androids in the hunt as they gave them life in the first place. The major reason for Kel's positive attitude towards humans is that he was formerly a mine foreman and was programmed to respect them because he had to interact with them on a daily basis. Unlike most applications of this trope, he abandons his desire as he comes to the conclusion that Humans Are Bastards.
  • Deconstructed in Red Dwarf. Kryten would love to become human, but the human traits he admires are things like lying and gratuitous violence. When Kryten becomes human in "D.N.A." (and in "Out of Time" when he mistakenly believes that Lister is a lesser model of robot), he becomes arrogant and bullying.
  • The Israeli classic children television programmes Rega' with Dodley and At Fistuk's House feature a puppet that turns into a boy (who is played by an adult woman).
  • Space: 1999 has an episode in which humanoid robots want to learn emotions to be able to use violence and kill off their creators. One of them finally does so in the end, and in doing so destroys them all.
  • Stargate Atlantis has a group of Replicators who want to ascend. They don't want to be human initially, but eventually come to realize that ascension is only possible for mortals (they are essentially high-tech machines) and so set out to become human.
  • Subverted with Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a Changeling who was temporarily locked into humanoid form by his people as a punishment. Odo claims that he will never forgive the other Changelings for putting him into a humanoid body. Word of God even invokes this trope; showrunner Ira Steven Behr described him as "a wooden boy who wants to become a better wooden boy".
  • Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation is an exception; his socialization takes place over the course of years and he clearly has great difficulty with it at times, yet eventually becomes an essentially human personality. In fairness, he was built to be that way.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • Subverted with Seven of Nine, who was born human, but assimilated by the Borg as a young girl. Many years later, she is forcibly separated from the Borg Collective by the crew of Voyager and most of her cybertech implants removed against her will. She is told she is now safe and free and can be with her people again...but (at least initially) she still thinks of the Borg as "her people". Seven does eventually accept her new existence and tries to simulate some human interpersonal emotions, but never feels entirely comfortable as a human, as she considers her nanite-augmented brain and body superior to those of humans and is currently exasperated with the emotionalism and "silliness" of other crew members. Seven is one of the few characters who dare to openly criticize Janeway's decisions.
    • This trope is lampshaded by the Doctor in one episode. He mentions that he once considered trying to become like a human, but realized early on that being a hologram is far better.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): A variation in "The After Hours". After finding out that she is a mannequin and spending a month living in the outside world, Marsha Cole doesn't want to give up her new life as a human. However, she is ultimately forced to do so by the other mannequins so that one of them can have a turn.
  • The X-Files: In the episode "The Unnatural", Josh Exley is a gray alien shapeshifter who has disguised himself as an African-American minor league baseball player in the 1940s. When his secret is discovered, he explains that his race doesn't understand fun and don't have a word for laughter, and he needed to pretend to be human for that. When he is ultimately killed by the relentless alien bounty hunter, he inexplicably bleeds red human blood. He stares at it in surprise for a moment, then smiles, laughs, and dies.

    Music 
  • Discussed by The Aquabats! in a Reddit AMA: when asked what super powers the heroes would like if they didn't have their current powers, Jimmy the Robot answered that "[he'd] like to be a real boy."
  • The plot of Doctor Steel's "Lullabye Bye".
  • The Megas: Both Proto Man and Dr Light claim that Mega Man wants to be human. Ironically enough, Mega Man himself never mentions it explicitly, saying only that "humanity is not what it seems" during his Heroic BSoD.
    Dr Light: Son, for one who wants so much to be human, I fear you only see the worst of us.
    Proto Man: Killing your own won't make you human!
  • *NSYNC's music video for "It's Gonna Be Me" features them as toy marionettes fighting other toys for the attention of a pretty girl. When she purchases them at the end of the video, the marionettes transform into the band themselves after being scanned at the register.
  • Steam Powered Giraffe:
    • The Jon wishes to become a real boy.
    • The Spinee longs to be human, and seems to admire many aspects of human culture such as love and Spaghetti Westerns.
  • This is essentially the plot of the Vocaloid song Kokoro (from either perspective.)

    Myths & Religion 
  • Korean Mythology:
    • The founding myth features a tiger and a bear, who wishes to become humans. The god Hwanung (Heavenly Emperor's son) tells them to eat only garlic and mugwort for 100 days in a dark cave, without seeing sunlight. Tiger gives up, but the bear passes the ordeal and, on the 21st day, transforms into a beautiful woman (named Ungnyeo, 'bear-woman'). Ungnyeo marries Hwanung and gives birth to a boy named Dangun-Wanggeom, first king and forefounder of the Korean people.
    • Kumiho often seek to become human, but how they go about it varies between each one. Some eat people (specifically their livers), others believe True Love's Kiss will do it, and some just gorge themselves on spiritual energy they steal from people they seduce.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Most experiments in Bleak World used to be human (or at least parts of a human) and are desperate to get that back, they can succeed temporarily, but even the slightest mistake can send them back to their monstrous form (especially Radio Zombies).
  • The Reforged in Eberron are a philosophical movement amongst the Warforged ('living constructs' created to fight in war — hence the name — and turning out to be a bit more aware and living than their supposed designers thought) that has becoming human as an ideal, wanting to embrace and strengthen the living aspect of their nature. This, it turns out, is surprisingly easy (they might still be warforged at the end of it, but with such a variety of humanoids around 'real boy' becomes a very vague thing), even easier than going the other way and becoming less alive and more like a mechanistic construct (as another philosophical movement advocates).
  • The "Transformed Animal" archetype in Feng Shui are animals that managed to become humans (or their offspring, in later Junctures) because being human offers better opportunities. However they fear magic since it may cause them to revert to animal form, which spells the end for the character as far as playability goes. In other words, they've all become "real boys", and just want to avoid going back.
  • Pathfinder: Homunculi are normally mute, mindless constructs and little more than extensions of the masters. However, a homunculus that outlives its master will attempt to continue its maker's legacy and may gradually develop a mind of its own, eventually developing a voice and will due to retaining a shard of its maker's soul. Most never reach the true mental complexity of a living creature, becoming simple caricatures of their makers or parodies of true minds, but a few eventually grow into mature people in their own right.
  • Promethean: The Created presents this as the ultimate goal of most Prometheans, requiring a long struggle to understand both themselves and the human condition. The good news is that they can succeed in transforming themselves into humans, granting them souls and freeing them from the combination Hate Plague and Walking Wasteland effects of Disquiet. The bad news is that this leaves them as a De-Powered mortal in a Crapsack World, often losing some or all memories of their previous existence. And, of course, other Prometheans will really want to know how they managed it.
  • Maligno, the "carrionette" darklord of Odiare in the Ravenloft campaign setting, thought he was the real son that Giuseppe created him to be, but the parents of the children he entertained destroyed his delusion. In revenge, Maligno murdered them with the help of other animated toys. Ironically, while all other carrionettes can achieve this goal by possessing human victims, Maligno lost this ability when he became darklord of Odiare; despite being the most powerful carrionette and their leader, he must always have the body of a puppet. Like all darklords, he is cursed for his crime.
  • In their current incarnation in Warhammer 40,000, there are several Necron who are looking for ways to become mortal again after having survived as robots for a very long time.

    Theatre 
  • Pinocchio: The Musical, weirdly enough, doesn't introduce the idea of Pinocchio turning into a real boy until the true end, when he realizes that he can't grow up like the now reformed Lampwick as a puppet.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Sarge needs to steal Andy the bomb from the Blue Team so that he can translate the orders from command Lopez has stored on his hard drive, which against all logic are in extremely poor Spanish, just like Lopez' regular speech. So what does he do? Gets Caboose to turn his back and then replaces Andy... with Lopez. Caboose turns around and joyously cries, "Andy! You've become a real boy!" Lopez is not amused. When Sarge realizes the fundamental barriers presented by the laws of physics (i.e., the inability to interact with something that isn't there), he pulls the same stunt with Lopez and a skull. Caboose is not amused, and mourns Andy's "death".
    • The AI fragment Sigma of Project Freelancer was fascinated by the theoretical concept of "Metastability", basically the stage at which an AI becomes indistinguishable from a normal mind. To accomplish this, he brainwashed Agent Maine and had him steal other AI "fragments" that, like himself, were based on an original "Alpha" AI (he is evidently unaware that he and the other fragments aren't copies, but literal fragments after Alpha's mind was destroyed through torture) and merge them into a single entity known as the Meta. In season 13, Locus assumes that the Meta was trying to become the perfect weapon, only for Aiden Price to explain that what the Meta truly wanted was to become human.
  • RWBY: An Enforced example. Penny is a Robot Girl with an Aura, and Ruby comments in Volume 2 that she can feel Penny's heart and soul. Although she isn't initially on a quest to become a real girl, she and Winter do debate throughout Volume 7 what it means to be human because Penny follows her heart while Winter robotically follows orders. Volume 7 climaxes with Penny's compassion for the dying Winter Maiden earning her the Maiden power instead of the intended Winter, which can only be passed to young women. When Watts hacks Penny's body in Volume 8, Penny's soul fights off the virus just long enough for the heroes to quest for, and convince, the Relic of Creation that Penny's true self is her soul; it's separated from the infected machine and transformed into a living being by bringing forth the being that lies beneath.

    Webcomics 
  • Practically every single robotic or otherwise artificial character in an RPG undergoes this process. The webcomic Adventurers! spoofs this trope — about to be struck by a devastating attack, the character Spybot is told by the villain that he should be feeling terror, if he had learned emotions over the course of the adventure.
  • Subverted in a letter to Ask Dr. Eldritch: A robot writes in to ask why everyone around him thinks he secretly desires to be human, when he's actually quite satisfied with being a robot, something he considers to be far better than being human.
  • Black Hole: Paranormal investigator Diana Nox meets a deceased woodworker's grandson who lives with a living puppet woman named "Paizucchio". He explains that she was created to be his friend when he was much younger, and the grandfather built her a new body presumably as the grandson himself got older. Diana is contacted to help remove Paizucchio's curse, which makes her breasts grow whenever she lies. The puppet also desires to be a real girl, and so does the grandson, who admits to Diana that he also wants her to help him turn Paizucchio into a human so that he can marry her.
  • Grace from El Goonish Shive goes through a desire to become human between the Painted Black and Birthday Party arcs by refusing to use her abilities to shapeshift from her full human form. She is still willing to use other means to transform, i.e., via the Transformation Ray Gun, and only uses her abilities to transform back to human when she is told that it's the only way to do so — even then, she only uses them reluctantly.
  • In Freefall, all of the humanoid or smarter AIs were designed to do this (through neural pruning). The people who mass-produced the robots to build their colony's infrastructure, however, don't realize this. To quote one of the robots: "Millions of robots walking off the job to pursue their own interests? Yes. I would describe that as a problem."
  • The "Suicide Fairies" from Gunnerkrigg Court need to be killed by someone else in order to pass some manner of test in order to become human. This is apparently something that happens with reasonable frequency among the creatures of the Gillitie Wood, although why they want to become human is something the comic has yet to explore. There's also an inverse version; humans can take a test to become creatures of the wood, although in their case it apparently doesn't involve getting killed.
  • Heroes of Thantopolis: One of citizen ghosts attempts to regain life by trying to eat Cyrus.
  • Homestuck: Cronus Ampora is a kind of alien otherkin. While physically a troll, he claims to identify as a human, going as far as to dress like a stereotypical 1950's greaser in an attempt to seem more human. Despite this, he frequently uses his blood color as justification for poor treatment of others — which is something a human most likely wouldn't think to do.
  • The Non-Adventures of Wonderella: Parodied in "Mastery of Puppets", in which Wonderella helps Pinocchio to become a corporation so that he can be declared a real person. Unfortunately, the corporation was selling wood made from his magically growing nose — and all of that turns to real noses as well.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, "A Bug's Life": The Metamorphosis read backwards could be a kids' movie about a bug that turns into a real boy in the end.
  • In Sinfest, there is a Reality Zone, in which the art is far more realistic than the cartoony style, and devil characters catch on fire. The reforming succubus Fuschia no longer catches fire, but starts to crumble in it. In a Wish-Fulfillment comic, Fuschia is inside the zone without suffering any harm.
  • Sluggy Freelance features a horror retelling of Pinocchio in the story of Stiks, where the attempt to invoke this trope Goes Horribly Wrong. Like Pinocchio, Stiks is a marionette made by a toymaker who wishes Stiks were a real boy, although this toymaker is not good at his craft, and Stiks is just a crude figure made of pieces of wood. The Moon Twin grants the wish to the extent that Stiks becomes animated, but says that he has to find the path to becoming real himself. After the townsfolk break out the Torches and Pitchforks on the weird animated marionette and his father, Stiks cries angrily to the dark side of the moon that he wants to be real but doesn't know how. This cry is heard by the darker being Basphomy, who encourages Stiks to think that since what he lacks are head, hands and feet, he should go out and, uh, get some. So he murders the toymaker for spare parts. The Moon Twin is not pleased, and curses Stiks to be a monster who wanders forever in search of new replacements for his stolen, rotting body parts.
  • Undead Friend: Orrick (human) and Mahalah (ghost) are strongly motivated to win the Undead Friend game so that they can bring Mahalah back to life.
  • In Yokoka's Quest, Mao was a half-human prior to becoming cursed as a child, which left him as a catboy. In his efforts to break his curse and become human(ish) again, he's befriended the dangerous spirit Copycat, travelled to the Darkness Clan, and risked his life to get stronger by fighting giant beasts in an arena there.

    Web Original 
  • C/H/A/S/E the Wandering Robot from THE MONUMENT MYTHOS is promised the chance to be transferred into a human body if she returns to the film studio she fled from and finishes the production she was cast in. However, it's technically never stated that C/H/A/S/E desired this, and it didn't convince her to come back anyway.
  • In the Nightmare Time story "Jane's a Car," we discover that Tom's deceased wife Jane has had her soul trapped in the car she was in when she died. After spending a year and a half as an inanimate object, she's understandably rather eager to find a way back into a human body. Unfortunately, she seems to have come back wrong, and has no moral qualms about the fact that the process will involve killing some innocent woman kicking her soul out of her body so Jane's can move in.
  • In the Paradise setting, humans are randomly, permanently transformed into Funny Animals. A desire to become human again affects most characters after the Change, especially the ones who changed gender at the same time. One particularly poignant case affects Christopher Mattiaz, a character from MatthiasRat's stories, who changed genders six days after getting married and hasn't been able to be intimate with his wife for the past two years at the time the story begins.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-085, hand-drawn "Cassy", an animate and intelligent 2D drawing of a young woman. When her canvas was photographed with a camera that produced a picture showing the subject doing what they most desired at that moment, the picture showed Cassy doing the same thing she'd been doing on the canvas, but as a 3D human.

    Western Animation 
  • BMO from Adventure Time has often expressed this wish.
  • In the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Dummy Love", the Aqua Teens get two murderous ventriloquist dummies and Shake uses them for a stage show. Unfortunately for him, Meatwad wishes them human, which leads to Shake getting pissed, trying to kill them and going to prison for attempted murder.
  • Invoked and deconstructed in Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. While a race of alien machines are trying to become organic creatures, supposedly to replace their long-dead creators, Rusty can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to be a robot.
  • Danny Phantom retconned it so that the "ghosts" were never ghosts at all, but were simply extradimensional monsters that took human form. In a Q&A years after the show ended, Butch Hartman stated that the ones who were seemingly dead people wanted to become human so badly that they ended up creating elaborate backstories for themselves and Believing Their Own Lies or stealing the identities of deceased humans.
  • Futurama:
    • Parodied in the episode "Free Will Hunting", as Bender attempts to Grow Beyond His Programming:
      Bender: I wish I was a real boy. Then I'd show them. I'd kill them all.
    • Using the Professor's What-If Machine, Bender sees what would happen if he were turned into a human. Long story short, Bender ends up overindulging in eating, drinking and partying so much, he becomes a huge blob of a man and then dies due to heart and liver failure.
  • Played with very dark humor in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
    • Pinnocchio's first appearance in the show, "Nursery Crimes", sees him try to eat Billy to become a real boy. He gets a big pot to boil Billy in, too. Mandy has to save Billy and punished Pinnocchio by turning him into a tiny rocking chair. They ditch him at the Gingerbread Witch's house who winds up crushing him beneath her massive rear.
    • When Pinocchio and Gepetto are stuck in the whale, Billy is also eaten. Gepetto, thrilled to have a human companion, begins to act as if Billy were his real son. Pinocchio, out of jealousy, decides that the only way to become a real boy is to eat Billy (again) and get his soul.
  • In the second episode of Mighty Orbots, the little girl robot Oh No gets her wish granted to be a real girl by the episode's mini-boss. Unfortunately, Oh No is necessary for the Mighty Orbots robot to combine...
  • This is the wish of Phineas and Ferb character Norm, as expressed in song.
  • Robotboy is curious about the human condition and tries to learn all he can about it from Tommy Turnbull, the little boy assigned to watch after him.
  • The Simpsons: In the episode "Krusty Gets Kancelled", his rival show is hosted by a ventriloquist and his puppet Gabbo. When their show collapses, we see a newspaper subheading reading "Gabbo to have 'Real Boy' operation".
  • During the League of Freedom's adventure in the Realm of the Gods in the SuperMansion episode "The Long Chaun", Robobot is transformed into a bald and naked human.
  • Street Sharks:
    • The titular characters spend some of their time trying to figure out a way to get turned human again. Mostly they seem more concerned with finding their dad though. Also, when they did find a cure in one episode, they ultimately chose to turn back into sharks to continue to fight crime.
    • The episode "To Shark or Not To Shark" has Killamari, originally a squid from the Great Barrier Reef before becoming one of Dr. Paradigm's Seaviates, express the desire to become fully human.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987):
    • An episode features the Turtles finding tainted cookies that would've turned them human. Michelangelo swipes some because he was sick of being treated like a freak by the people of New York. Of course, his brothers have to turn him back because the transformation would've eventually killed him.
    • As he was Hamato Yoshi in this version, Splinter wishes to return to human form and does in "Splinter No More". After he mutates back into a rat and realizes Humans Are Bastards, he no longer has the desire.
    • In the San Diego Comic Con-exclusive short Pizza Friday, the Turtles use a cloaking device Donnie invented to take on human disguises, which they use to enter April's school to enjoy the cafeteria's pizza, much to April's embarrassment.
  • The Venture Bros. has this as a running theme, as Hank and Dean have been a succession of clones, educated by computers programmed decades ago, and virtually cut off from the outside world. As super-science mishaps and plain stupidity killed them, they were replaced, starting over in their teenage forms. Once all their reserve clones are killed off, their father has been marginally more concerned with keeping them alive, and they've been encountering the larger world, largely unequipped to deal with it.


 
Feedback

Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): To Become Human, Become A Real Girl, Pinocchio Syndrome

Top

Teacher's Pet (2004)

Spot sings about his desire to become a real boy.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / IWantSong

Media sources:

Report