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Daydream Believer

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Frylock: Shake! Highlander was just a movie.
Master Shake: No, Frylock, Highlander was a documentary, and the events happened in real time.

Particle physicists have written much on the possibilities of multiple universes. Every single subatomic possibility spawns its own unique universe, each of which in turn spawns new universes from each of its own subatomic possibilities, creating the vast web of The Multiverse. And so, the reasoning goes, somewhere out there in that vast sea of universes, why couldn’t there lie universes wherein the events of our favorite TV shows, video games, and other media properties actually happened?

Daydream Believers are fans who believe that the events, characters, and places depicted in their favorite work are, in some form or another, real. They range from accepting this as a mere possibility to being convinced of it as a fact; many Handwave their beliefs by just calling it an Alternate Universe of Real Life.

Authors can occasionally perpetuate this sort of thinking in fans, whether deliberately or accidentally. Some authors like to claim that their characters have a mind of their own, or that stories just spring fully formed into their head from some unknown source. Recursive Canon tropes (like Direct Line to the Author) may suggest in the text that the work really happened. It doesn’t help that actual Historical Fiction is fairly common, ranging from works about pseudo-legendary figures like King Arthur to depictions of events or dialogue which could well have occurred in real life but just can’t be proven. Fans latch on to works like these to suggest that the most ridiculous or speculative things fall into that category as well.

Trapped in TV Land, Refugee from TV Land, and Welcome to the Real World all play upon this trope. For non-believers, this kind of thing is a sort of Recursive Canon. Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality is the extreme version of this trope. Longing for Fictionland is for fans who know something isn’t real but really really wish it was. Epileptic Trees are often insane postulations as to how this trope could work.

The trope is named after a song by The Monkees, although the song is not explicitly about this phenomenon.

Certain types of fiction tend to attract the “casual” (or socially accepted) Daydream Believer:

  • Psychologist Carl Jung wrote at length on the collective subconscious and archetypes in storytelling; the idea is that the human brain is wired to believe in certain myths and stories. For instance, this is why so many cultures’ mythologies have a “great flood”; the theory is that it derives from humans' collective memory (whether of the last Ice Age, to being suspended in fluid in utero, to ascending to land from the primordial oceans). This phenomenon could also be used to explain people’s strong connections with fictional characters.
  • Mythology, including parables, fairy tales, and works that assert that All Myths Are True, tend to attract a fandom who approaches them from a deep-seated Jungian perspective — a desire to believe that the works are true on some level. While most scholars assert that most such stories were never intended to be true, they resonated with audiences because they reinforced their core beliefs. Other works that assert that all myths have a “grain of truth” to them don’t help matters.
  • invoked The Literary Agent Hypothesis can sometimes backfire; by making an effort to make the story plausible in Real Life, a creator can cause the fandom to believe that it did happen in Real Life in some form. The Direct Line to the Author is an even worse phenomenon, because the narrator is claiming to have received the story directly from the characters; the same can happen with works that postulate a Masquerade or a similar device explaining how the fictional worlds can go unnoticed by the real world. And fans unfamiliar with a work’s background may simply have assumed something like this was the case, as with Sherlock Holmes.
  • invoked The Multiverse allows fans to claim that their favorite work is real in some parallel universe; if there are infinite such universes, it becomes quite plausible that it’s real in at least one of them. This sometimes extends to Transfictionality, the belief that the author is God of that universe; this bridges the gap between Literary Agent Hypothesis and All Myths Are True.
  • Speculative Fiction, especially hard science fiction, allows fans to believe that such works are possible at some point in the future, partly because Science Marches On and partly because more often than not, Life Imitates Art, and such works can inspire real-life scientists and scholars to create the technology they contain. Unfortunately, such progress doesn’t always happen fast enough for the fans’ liking. A related phenomenon is Transhumanism, some of whose adherents are trying to hasten The Singularity to allow humanity to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.

Some people take it much, much further, however. These are the “hardcore” Daydream Believers:

  • Some believe that their favorite story happened in this world, but certain events (or perhaps The Man) have conspired to keep it a secret. They may further believe that the fictional works were created as a cover up, so that anybody who discovered it would be dismissed as watching too much TV.
  • “Soulbonders” are people who feel that they have some sort of emotional, spiritual, or mental connection with fictional characters. On the saner end, these fans rationalize their “soulbond” as a mental imprint of the character; on the less sane end, some fans believe that they’re married to a character on the astral plane. Some soulbonders believe that they have multiple personalities in the sense of distinct persons Sharing a Body; some of those other personalities may be fictional characters or beings.
  • “Fictionkin” (or “Otakin”, or “Otakukin”) believe that they are a fictional character, in an alternate universe or another life or something like that. It’s related to the “Otherkin” phenomenon of people who believe themselves to be reincarnations of non-specific races or species, and “Therianthropy”, which is the same thing but with real animals. They may express their connection in different ways, ranging from “I feel a connection to this character” to “I may have been this character in a past life” to “I have this character’s soul” to “I can physically shapeshift, but I don’t because they would cut me up”.


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Real Life Examples:

Note: To be polite, when adding examples to this page, include only examples of people who, in the reductionist way, believe in works written and published with the full intent of being seen as fiction. Try not to snark, either; we’re not here to call names on the playground, after all.

  • Some people like to insist that dragons are real. They aren’t in the way most people think, although some animals (like the Komodo Dragon) are technically called “dragons”.
  • Zombie fandom manifests itself in people who take the threat of a Zombie Apocalypse seriously. These people form online communities discussing things like the best weapons to use and best places to bug out. Fortunately, most of them are in on the joke or are survivalists (like Zombie Squad) using a hypothetical zombie attack as a worst-case scenario (the idea being that if you’re ready for zombies, you’re ready for anything). Even the U.S. Center for Disease Control has tongue-in-cheek documents on how to survive a zombie pandemic.
  • A minority of the Furry Fandom called by some its members as Furry Lifestyler falls into this category. Some believe that their fursona is themselves, and only those “in tune” with their animal nature can see their true self rather than their human self. Although the Furry subculture in and of itself is not related to 'therianthropy' or “Otherkin”, it does attract many such people who believe they should be a certain animal or character and find dressing up as them to be the next best thing. Other furries honestly believe that Animorphism and hybrid creatures like werewolves are real phenomena and that scientists are trying to create them.
  • The tulpa is the Buddhist concept of something that is brought into existence through sheer force of will. Most analysis of it suggests it’s related to Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious. Daydream Believers think it means if you wish really hard, you can make your favorite fictional character real. This page deconstructs some of the psychological reasons for that belief (in the context of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fans trying to will their favorite ponies into existence). The tulpa is also useful for creepypasta, which frequently uses it as the basis for the idea that people could create thought forms that they don’t want, like the Slender Man. Unfortunately, it was this idea that was behind the real-life crime that Slender Man became notorious for, in which two adolescent girls in Wisconsin tried to kill their friend because they thought that they had made Slender Man real.
  • The Japanese neologism chuunibyou ("eighth-grade syndrome") is a blanket term referring to the delusional, paranoid, and embarrassing behaviour of middle school-age children; several of its subtypes are Daydream Believers. For instance, a DQN-kei ("idiot delinquent type") insists that he’s been in gang fights that have clearly never happened and brags about the huge amount of drugs he’s obviously never done, and a jyakigan-kei believes himself to have occult powers, often creating an anime hero-like persona for this.
  • There are a number of people who believe in "reality shifting" — AKA, being able to temporarily shift into an alternate universe of your choosing, even ones based off of popular media. While it's been around for a while, it exploded in popularity on TikTok in late 2020, mainly thanks to users who've been "shifting" into Hogwarts in order to date Draco Malfoy (though other variants exist). Scientifically, it's been explained as a sort of transliminal experience. Others argue it may simply be maladaptive (or at least immersive) daydreaming, as the two seem to have many traits in common.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Some fans of such fighting anime as Dragon Ball and Naruto believe that ki attacks — as in, Beam Spam Kamehame Hadoken-type attacks — are a real martial art that humans can learn. While many real-life martial arts do involve processes which are explained in terms of “ki manipulation”, it’s mostly a metaphor for something more complicated and materialistic; it’s just a way to show that humans are stronger, faster, and more durable than most people realize. It doesn’t mean that they can shoot lasers out of their hands. These fans counter by claiming that they can only use these powers if nobody’s watching, and they’ll also happily argue with fans of other works about why the other show’s powers are totally unrealistic.
  • The Japanese 2D Love Movement is a way for Otaku to marry fictional characters. This led to things like a Japanese otaku legally marrying one of the virtual girlfriends from Love Plus and a Korean otaku marrying his body pillow of Fate Testarossa-Harlaown.
    Tohru Hondanote  (the movement’s unofficial founder/guru): I’m not saying that everyone should throw away hopes of real romance right away. I am simply saying that guys like me who have gotten to a point of no return can be happy living in 2D.
  • You might have heard or seen a few people say/insist that Digimon are real. If you're a fan of said franchise, then you might even be one of the believers.

    Comic Books 
  • A large Donald Duck fandom in the Netherlands called the “D.O.N.A.L.D.ists” believes (or at least pretends to believe) that Donald Duck comics are real and take place in an alternate dimension or distant Earth-like planet that happens to be exactly like Earth, but with anthropomorphic animals. The claim is that the comic authors were able to see scenes of everyday life on this duck planet and described it through the Donald Duck comics.
  • Alan Moore has made some odd claims of this sort, such as that he’s conversed with Mercury. His oddest is his claim to have met John Constantine in a bar, although since he co-created Constantine in Swamp Thing, it’s unclear whether or not he’s really a Daydream Believer.
  • A number of people have convinced themselves that The Grim Reaper is not a skeleton, but rather what The Sandman (1989) describes: a cute Perky Goth chick. At least it’s better than the alternative.
  • Some fans of the X-Men believe that superpowered mutants really exist, and that they’re just under wraps for the same reasons as in the book. One woman went as far as to believe that she’s married to Cyclops and has apparently told her children that he’s their real father.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Some conspiracy theorists believe that every movie ever made about space aliens is really the government trying to disclose the existence of extraterrestrials without freaking people out.
  • Some people believe that Pandora, as shown in Avatar, is real; and they sadly also believe that the only way to get there is to commit suicide.
  • Derek Savage, creator/director/writer/producer/star/etc. of Cool Cat Saves the Kids seems to believe that the titular character of Cool Cat is a real person, and has gone to extreme lengths to silence criticisms of his film, acting as if they were personal attacks.
  • The Matrix has apparently convinced a number of people that humanity is living in a simulation or a dream world of some sort and needs to wake up to come back to reality. Inception didn’t help matters here, although it does make for hilarious reactions when you secretly play "Je Ne Regrette Rien" around these people.
  • There is a concerning number of people who consider They Live! to be a documentary to one degree or another.
  • When the 1980 movie Fame came out and sprinkled its stardust on impressionable young wannabes, they would enroll at the New York High School for Performing Arts asking where Coco (Irene Cara's character) was.

  • Spider Robinson once told an authentically heartrending story about a suicidal young man who called him on the telephone and tearfully demanded the “real location” of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, apparently as a means of staving off actually going through with his suicide.
  • Vril energy from the novel The Coming Race is a famous 19th century example of this trope. Edward Bulwer Lytton described Vril as a Background Magic Field that's used by the eponymous advanced civilisation that lives Beneath the Earth. Occultists from its publication onward came to believe in its existence and its use by a superhuman master race for real, claiming it was used by everything from Atlantean aircraft to UFOs.
  • The Cthulhu Mythos is subject to rather complicated Daydream Believing of all sorts. Many believe that H. P. Lovecraft’s creations were built on actual myths and legends; Lovecraft often found himself insisting that they were fictional. Others believe that Lovecraft’s deities were real, even if Lovecraft himself did not believe in them, or that they used Lovecraft as a vessel to make themselves known to the world. Some have Defictionalized the Necronomicon, the definitive book of the black magicnote ; they’ve been active enough to trick Moral Guardians into thinking it’s real as well (such as infamous anti-Dungeons & Dragons crusader Patricia Pulling, who advised police officers searching for teenage Satanists to check if they’d recently taken the Necronomicon out of the library). The weirdest have founded entire religious sects around worshipping the beings he created.
  • The Da Vinci Code got a lot of people believing that there really is a secret line of Jesus’ descendants that still exists and that Jesus really is buried under the Louvre in Paris. It didn’t help that author Dan Brown himself claims that everything in the book is true, even though it isn’t, although it’s unknown whether he honestly believes that or just says so for publicity’s sake.
  • Mercedes Lackey has said that she has canceled convention appearances because of fans who believed her Diana Tregarde books were real. On her website she goes into considerable detail about them and why she’s both frightened of and somewhat sorry for them — and reveals that she herself, at one time, bought into a similar pattern of thinking, at least until she shook herself out of it.
  • Terry Pratchett occasionally got letters from terminally ill Discworld fans hoping to meet the Discworld version of DEATH when their time comes. Sir Terry spent some time staring at a wall after reading these. Others literally believe in Azrael, Angel of Death and Death of Universes, not as he appears in Jewish and Islamic tradition, but rather how he appears in Reaper Man. Pratchett ended up writing a very short story about meeting his version of Death himself, and had it posted to his Twitter feed after he died.
  • The Harry Potter books run on a Masquerade that suggests that the Wizarding World is real and just hides itself from our world; naturally, this leads to impressionable young readers who expect a Hogwarts acceptance letter to appear in their chimneys. Then some people don’t grow out of it and create things like Snapes on an Astral Plane. And some Moral Guardians approach the series from the other direction, claiming it’s real and will turn children to the Occult or whatever.
  • Dæmians” think of themselves as having daemons, as depicted in the book series His Dark Materials. Saying they “believe” in daemons would be true but misleading – many of them haven’t even read the books, and most just think of their daemon as sort of grown-up version of an Imaginary Friend and a useful psychological tool for getting in touch with one’s subconscious. But some do view it closer to “soulbonding”.
  • Some readers of Labyrinths of Echo believe that Max is a real person (and not a pen name), and that books describe real events in another world. This comes from both final book in the first series where Max reveals that people in Our world, who read his books, restored Echo to the point when it doesn't need believers to exist anymore. And from the very first edition of the first book where in the introduction the editors explicitly stated that they received all the notes and drafts from Max himself. Fueled only further by the fact that said introduction was removed in every other edition.
  • Some people claim that The Lord of the Rings is a fictionalized account of events which occurred in 3105-04 BC. They claim to be able to pinpoint the dates to the exact day. Others suggest that the Ainur, elves, and dwarves were really Ancient Astronauts.
  • The official forums for Maximum Ride are full of people who insist the books are true accounts by real people. Several of them claim to be Phlebotinum Rebels themselves, although they may just be roleplaying.
  • After the Russian novel Plutonia (chronicling an expedition to a Hollow World with dinosaurs) was published in 1915, many readers wrote in, saying they were available for future expeditions. Newer editions came with a disclaimer that it was completely fictional and that the hollow earth theory has been disproven.
  • The Secret is all about how Daydream Believing will actually, truly, genuinely make all your wildest dreams come true.
  • Some readers of A Series of Unfortunate Events believe that the series is entirely true, because the Lemony Narrator said so. This is unlikely, as the books are full of fictional places, events without Plausible Deniability, and just outright weirdness. But it also contains a lot of Paranoia Fuel for impressionable young readers, such as the implication that your teachers are all members of an Ancient Conspiracy which may kidnap you. The Direct Line to the Author is also played up a lot both within the series and in promotional events.
  • Many people believe that Sherlock Holmes was a real person. Part of this may just stem from his status as a Historical Domain Character and over a century passing since the escapades of the Great Detective; many of these people are unaware of the actual books or that they were intended to be fiction. It doesn’t help that the books have a Direct Line to the Author, where Dr. Watson is ostensibly Holmes’ biographer; this leads to the fandom calling Daydream Believers “Watsonians” (whereas those who aren’t are “Doylists”, after the real author Arthur Conan Doyle). Enough people believed Holmes was real over the years that they wrote to his supposed address of 221B Baker Street; these letters are collected in a book called Letters to Sherlock Holmes, ranging from simple fan letters to actual requests for his services as a detective.
    • This isn't a new phenomenon either: shortly after The Sign of the Four was published in America, Conan Doyle got a letter from a Philidelphia tobacconist wanting to know about Holmes's monograph on tobacco ash. Doyle was amused, telling his American publisher "It is a triumph ever to get a rise out of you shrewd people on the other side".
  • A lot of Warrior Cats fans believe in StarClan, the warrior afterlife, even though the author said she made it up.
  • Some The Wheel of Time fans believe that channeling is real, and that the author could teach them how to do it.
  • Maurice Sendak recalled that a young girl once sent him a letter asking for directions to Where the Wild Things Are, as she and her sister wanted to take a vacation there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The producers of Brazilian soap opera Escrava Isaura got a lot of letters from people begging for Isaura to “free herself from her evil master” (and even sending them money to help them do it). This in spite of the fact that the soap was set in the early 19th century. It did happen to be the very first soap opera to reach many Eastern European countries, whose populations simply didn’t know what to make of it.
  • The producers of the Venezuelan telenovela Kassandra got a ton of letters, many of them from the Balkans (one from the Serbian town of Kucevo alone got 200 signatures), begging them to let the lead character be set free from her wrongful imprisonment. It helped that the character was Romani and resonated well in those areas.
  • The producers of the 1987 Raman and Sagar adaption of Ramayana as televised on Doordarshan were flooded with mail expressing concern over Sita’s trial by fire, enough that they made a series of special announcements where actress Deepika Chikhalia and creator Ramanand Sagar assured the public that they didn’t actually set Chikhalia on fire and explained how the effect was created. This show was such a big deal that on Sundays at 9:30, from January 25, 1987, to July 31, 1988, the entire country ground to a literal halt — public transportation was stopped, in small villages everyone gathered around what was often the only TV set in town, and religious services — Hindu and otherwise — were suspended.
  • The British soap Coronation Street once had a storyline where the character Deirdre Rachid was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and jailed for a crime she didn’t commit. The less sane fans — and the tabloids — started campaigning openly for her freedom, culminating in then-Prime Minister Tony Blair promising to launch an investigation (which cheesed off saner Britons who were still waiting for him to investigate some real miscarriages of justice in Britain).
  • Doctor Who lends itself well to this line of thinking, as the Doctor’s ability to regenerate into a new body and his frequent lapses in memory make it slightly more plausible for a real-life person to believe he is the Doctor (or some other Time Lord). Peter Davison once described a letter he received from such a person.
  • R. L. Stine, who once wrote for Eureeka's Castle, describes in his autobiography that the crew received a letter from one little girl asking if her family could visit the set when they vacationed in New York. Once she walked in, however, she broke down crying because she hadn't realized that the characters were all puppets. Stine quips that they took this as a compliment.
  • One woman is utterly convinced that she’s married to Sylar, the Serial Killer from Heroes, on the astral plane, and that her 12-year-old sister channels him for her.
  • The Millionaire was a late 1950s CBS drama about a philanthropist who sends out million-dollar checks to random people, just to see how it would change their lives. People would actually write CBS and ask for a check for a million dollars from this fictional character.
  • There is a conspiracy theory, often connected to other theories about Ancient Astronauts, claiming that the Stargate-verse is a form of Fiction as Cover-Up for a real Stargate program by the US government, and that the war in Iraq was to seize a stargate held by Saddam Hussein. The writers of Stargate SG-1 knew about this conspiracy theory, and homaged it with a pair of episodes, "Wormhole X-Treme!" and "200".
  • Star Trek, being a by-word for “obsessive fanboys”, naturally attracted Daydream Believers of all kinds. One group of fans in the early 1970s set up an experimental community where they could live by Vulcan ideals. Leonard Nimoy, in his autobiography I Am Spock, describes an encounter with such a fan who visited the set:
    One of the guests, a dreamy-eyed young woman, came up to me during a break from filming and introduced herself, then revealed some information that took me completely aback. “I represent a group of people in New Mexico who are in contact with an alien intelligence,” she told me, very earnestly. “You may not be aware of the importance of the work you're doing. You have been chosen, in a metaphysical sense, to house the alien entity called Spock.”

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Professional Wrestling is a strange animal, in that the performances are all given as if everything was a real-life sporting event, and thus the stereotypical nerdy wrestling fan doesn’t believe it’s fake. While this isn’t true in the slightest, that doesn’t mean there aren’t fans like this, who believe the performers really do hate each other, and no amount of tell-all programs and parodies will convince the otherwise. Weirdly, the opposite is true as well; sometimes spontaneous unplanned things really do happen in wrestling, but some fans will be convinced that these were staged too.
  • When Donald Trump “bought” WWE Raw, investors were convinced that the story was real. The company did a poor job signaling that he didn't really buy the company (they were trying to pretend it was real even though it wasn't). With the apparent prospect of a person with no wrestling experience apparently going to be running half of the company's programming, WWE stock dropped significantly the day following the announcement. Any long term plans for this arc were scrapped on next week's show with Vince "buying Raw back" for twice what he was originally paid.

  • There are people who believe Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion is talking about a real place when he talks about Wobegon. In a sense, he is; Wobegon is based on his home town, Anoka.
  • Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds is one of the most famous historical examples, as the show didn’t do a good enough job explaining that it was fictional and narrated a Martian invasion as if it were real, prompting much of the public (including some public officials) to believe it was real.

  • The Phantom of the Opera is commonly thought to have been Based on a True Story; it’s even adapted from a novel whose opening line is “The Phantom really existed” and many of whose characters were No Celebrities Were Harmed versions of real contemporary people. A few events were also based on real ones (like the falling chandelier). But the Phantom himself is very likely completely fictional, even if fans believe otherwise; some tone it down and suggest he’s based on a disfigured stagehand.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VII attracts these sorts of fans. One infamous story describes a cult-like society formed by two scarily obsessed fans called “Hojo” and “Jenova”, and Summoner Yuna and Sephirothslave both believe themselves to be the One True Love of Sephiroth, Final Fantasy VII's resident white haired Bishōnen (although Sephirothslave claims she’s really in love with an archangel on the astral plane who inspired the character).
  • A girl calling herself “Link’s Queen” became utterly convinced that she had fallen in love with Link from The Legend of Zelda and that her lucid dreams of living in Hyrule were a real second life she lived in another dimension. She wrote about her dreams in the fanfic My Inner Life. The truth of all this is suspect, which is good because it’s otherwise full of some rather strange sexual practices.
  • In what is either an elaborate troll or a way overactive imagination, this thread on a Pokémon fan forum involves a fan who claims that Pokemon are, in fact, real, and all depictions of Pokemon are actual photographs from real life. She's also confused as to why other people can't see any Pokemon in their backyards.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog fandom contains a number of these people, which adds to the fanbase’s poor reputation. An infamous and Not Safe for Work forum, Sonic Passion, catered towards fans who believed they were in romantic/sexual relationships with Sonic characters, including underage ones, and issued marriage certificates for them.
  • An enormous portion of Touhou Project fandom consists of some form of Daydream Believers. The craziest insist that Gensoukyou is a real place which is hidden from the rest of the world as ZUN describes.

  • Sonichu creator Christine Weston Chandler has a tenuous grasp of reality and believes her characters to be real in an alternate universe, while also claiming to "converse" with them on a regular basis. However she takes this behavior a step further than most other examples as she believes herself to be the goddess of that universe, and that her Author Avatar will intervene accordingly to save her characters from any real harm brought upon from her inaction. She also believes that other authors have a similar power to affect this universe, meaning that Fan Works of her characters can change the universe of her own comic in unintended ways. This is why she has a stringent Fanwork Ban towards anything contradicting her own canon, as well as feeling the need to show her characters directly counteracting with what those fanfics established; such as importing those fanfics' characters into her own work and punishing them accordingly. Unfortunately, and extremely troublingly, Christine has become surrounded by a legion of so-called "enablers", who have brute-forced their own ideas and visions into the Sonichu canon; Chris's ever-weakening ability to tell reality from fiction means that she's either wholeheartedly believed these alterations, or has simply been bribed into accepting them through being handed money to do what the Enablers want, or worse; in some cases, Christine has suffered nothing short of psychological abuse from the enablers trying to get their place in the canon.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • At least one commenter on IMDB believes that Beauty and the Beast is real, as are all the characters therein — but only the first movie. This means that anything that contradicts the canon of the first movie even slightly is evil and a direct offense to these otherwise “real” people; as such, the Direct to Video sequel is now the worst thing in existence, and as for the Lilo & Stitch trailer where Stitch invades the ballroom scene and knocks down the chandelier:
    “This is obviously not what happened in the film. Apparently, it’s meant to be a joke, but it’s a genuinely mean joke. It’s not funny at all. They danced in that ballroom without interruption. That is an indisputable fact known to be true by everyone who has seen the movie. The scene has already HAPPENED. Therefore the ad is meaningless.”
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom is known to be Longing for Fictionland, but some take it a little too far. One obsessed fan, “Mr. Sparkle”, considers himself married to Twilight Sparkle (and became an internet laughingstock when they found his angry letter to a DeviantArt artist who drew Rule 34 of her). Other fans (mostly on 4chan) believe that Equestria is a real place they could visit through astral projection or lucid dreams (though it should be noted most, if not all, of said people believe this tongue-in-cheek like Pastafarianism); their efforts briefly put Tulpa back into the general consciousness.
  • A website and message board for fans of The Powerpuff Girls (1998) had a delusional little girl who first thought she was a fourth Powerpuff. Failing to convince the other members of that, she thought she was on the production staff, lashing out at anyone who contradicted her beliefs and edicts, and when that didn't succeed, she thought she was a moderator on the message board, threatening to ban anyone with whom she had a beef.

In-Universe Examples:

    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece; minor villain Bellamy accuses Luffy and the Straw Hats of being Daydream Believers, as he follows the "New Era" philosophy of piracy where a pirate is a thug who takes what he can get and doesn't go chasing after fairy tales like Sky Islands or the titular treasure. A large number of other pirates have followed his lead and the One Piece is believed to be a myth, and anyone that goes after it is a naïve idiot... that is, until Whitebeard (the biggest, baddest pirate around) reveals that the One Piece does exist with his dying breath, sparking a new wave of dreamers taking to the seas to claim it.

    Comic Books 
  • Booster Gold: The eponymous time-traveling hero once tried to persuade his boss Rip Hunter to let him make a stop in The '50s — so he could meet Fonzie. When Rip informed him that the Fonz is a fictional character, Booster replied, “Now that’s just mean.” Knowing Booster, it’s hard to say whether or not he was joking.
  • Swamp Thing: In “Growth Patterns”, one of Constantine’s psychic contacts, the mentally disturbed Benjamin Cox, claims that the cosmic threat that John’s team expects will manifest itself in a year is really Cthulhu.
    Cox: Everyone thuh-thinks Lovecraft muh-made Cthulhu up... buh-but I know.

    Comic Strips 
  • In FoxTrot, Jason falls into this behavior on occasion. At least once, he commented that Star Wars really happened and the production reports were just “monkeys on keyboards”, and he also had to be told that comics didn’t reflect reality when his Spider-Man web-shooter didn’t work. Another time he called the FBI to try and join the X-Files Unit.
  • In Peanuts, Linus’ unwavering belief in the Great Pumpkin is the source of much consternation, philosophizing, and mocking.


    Film — Animation 
  • The entire premise of Bolt is that Bolt has been deliberately raised by the studio to believe he really is a superpowered dog, but he’s really just the protagonist of a TV show about him. They even shoot each episode in one shot.
  • In the Toy Story franchise, the Buzz Lightyear toy line has a recurring problem where all the newly minted action figures believe themselves to be the real deal rather than a toy based on fictional characters.
    • The most notable is Andy's Buzz Lightyear during Toy Story, who believes himself to be a real space ranger on a mission to save the universe despite the fact he's interacting toys of all shapes and sizes. It took a Buzz Lightyear toy commercial and leap of faith to make him realize and later accept the truth.
    • In Toy Story 2, a special Utility Belt Buzz Lightyear and an Evil Emperor Zurg action figure also share the same delusion.
    • Toy Story 3 reveals this part of the reason why these space toys suffer these delusions is because they were originally set to demo mode rather normal mode, explaining why they were conditioned to believe themselves as the real deal.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Galaxy Quest revolves around a group of alien Daydream Believers who saw the Galaxy Quest show but believe it to be a historical document. So deep is their faith in the daydream that they base their entire civilization on the show and build exact and functional representations of all its technology. They rope in the show’s actors to save them from the bad guys, not realizing that they aren’t really a space ship crew. But the lead actor has his own tricks up his sleeve, and at one point he calls on his own Daydream Believer back on Earth, whose acceptance that the show is fictional turns out to have been rather shaky:
    “Oh my God, I knew it. I knew it! I knew it!”
  • In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Harmony told her sister, whom their father sexually abused, that she was actually adopted and that her real father is a Hollywood actor who was in town shooting a movie. Harmony is distressed to realize years later that her sister believed her and never stopped believing that throughout her life; this would eventually lead to her suicide.
  • Martian Child has a dark spin on this; the eponymous kid is a Daydream Believer as a coping mechanism for his social awkwardness. It chronicles his adoptive father’s struggles with the son’s delusion that he’s really from Mars and his “real parents” will come pick him up any day now.
  • Simultaneously subverted and handwaved with Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where the world of cartoon characters (many well established) and the world of live action people live in separate communities but co-exist on a professional level.

  • In Animorphs, the first Yeerks to visit Earth picked up TV broadcasts of Star Trek and assumed humans were much more advanced than they actually were; they also concluded that Hollywood was the most important city in the world.
  • Zig-Zagging Trope in Artemis Fowl. Annoying Younger Sibling Billy Kong is told by his older brother that he needs to stay at home while the brother goes out to fight evil supernatural creatures (in reality, getting into fights with gangs and getting out of babysitter duty). When the brother eventually gets killed in a shootout, Billy at first blames the demons, but once he grows up, he realizes they don’t exist and his brother lied to him. Unfortunately, once he meets real fairies, he goes right back to thinking they did indeed kill his brother. His mental balance doesn't last much longer.
  • Zilpha Keatley Snyder ’s The Changeling (1970) is about a girl who was raised by a great-aunt who believed in reincarnation and many folk tales as legends, presenting them as complete reality. She grew up to be what we would now think of as an Otherkin (or at least wanting to be one) and a famous ballet dancer.
  • Don Quixote is about a retired hidalgo who becomes obsessed with fictional chivalry books and is convinced that they’re real. His friends think he’s gone mad and try to talk sense into him. Undeterred, he cobbles together a suit of armour, restyles himself “Don Quixote”, and rides off to tilt at windmills. It later emerges that other characters, such as illiterate peasant-turned-sidekick Sancho Panza, also have trouble telling fiction from reality (which is how Don Quixote can recruit them so easily). Then real life wrote the plot: after the first half of the novel was published in 1604 (making this Older Than Steam), someone wrote a continuation that was essentially a fanfiction that seriously derailed the main characters; in the real second part, Miguel de Cervantes has Don Quixote read this fictional second part, which is so obviously fake and creates such a paradox that he gets Bored with Insanity.
  • The Emberverse includes a faction calling themselves the “Dúnedain Rangers”, who consider themselves the spiritual (and in some cases literal) descendants of the group of the same name from The Lord of the Rings. They consider Tolkien’s writings holy texts and practice a religion which is a mishmash of Tolkien’s cosmology and the neo-Wiccan beliefs of a neighboring community.
  • The short story The Gospel of Nate takes place in a universe where Daydream Believers turn out to have been right all along, and some characters are even reincarnations of fictional characters.
  • In The Great Gatsby, one of Gatsby’s most endearing characteristics is that he really believes all the stories in the magazines about millionaires — so much so that he chooses them as the basis of his Multiple-Choice Past as a Gentleman Adventurer. This makes him look like a Cliché Storm of various dime novels. Nick is skeptical at first, but Gatsby turns out to be The Charmer, and after he produces a medal from the Montenegro Republic and a photo of him with the actual Earl of Dorcaster, Nick feels obliged to believe:
    Then it was all true. I saw the skins of tigers flaming in his palace on the Grand Canal; I saw him opening a chest of rubies to ease, with their crimson-lighted depths, the gnawings of his broken heart.
  • The back inside cover of the first Leven Thumps book says that the author originally wanted his book published as non-fiction, but the publisher wouldn’t let him. He then said he was fine with it being labeled fiction because getting the story out was more important and the Daydream Believers would do the work for him. The author blurbs are also written in the style of a Lemony Narrator.
  • In the Red Diamond novels by Mark Schorr, Sam Jaffe is a New York taxi driver who suffers a total nervous breakdown when his wife sells his beloved collection of pulp magazines. He starts believing that he is his favourite pulp character 'Red' Diamond, Private Eye, and starts living his life as it were hardboiled pulp adventure. As part of his delusion, he believes that all other fictional privates (Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Jim Rockford, etc.) are real, and that he is friends with all of them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On 30 Rock, Jack’s fiancée’s mother follows a soap opera, believes it to be real, and believes Jack is the villain, as both Jack and the villain are played by Alec Baldwin.
  • On Barney Miller, a woman came to the 12th precinct claiming to have witnessed a murder, only for it to turn out that she had been watching a soap opera.
  • In Corner Gas, Davis believes that the events of Battlestar Galactica actually happened, and he regularly meets with others who agree.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Unicorn and the Wasp", after lampshading that they've run into a murder mystery with Agatha Christie, Donna wonders if she and the Doctor could find Enid Blyton having tea with Noddy. She sounds like she really wanted to meet the character when the Doctor makes it clear that "There's no Noddy."
  • One episode of Friends has Joey fend off a stalker who believes he’s really Dr. Drake Remoray, the character he plays on Days of Our Lives, and that the show is real and filmed in real time. Joey quickly gives up and starts dating her, but she sees “him” with another woman on TV and accuses him of cheating on her. Then she notices that he’s in the room with her and on TV at the same time, and she starts losing it. The gang decides to convince her that Joey is actually Drake’s Evil Twin and the real Drake lives across the country.
  • On I Am Not Okay With This, Stan suspects that the authors of superhero comics must have done some research on the supernatural abilities they depicted in their stories, and uses them for research once he finds out that Sydney has Psychic Powers, envisioning her as a budding superhero and himself as her mentor. She actually winds up closer to Carrie White than Jean Grey.
  • An episode of Married... with Children turns this on its ear as Al is trying to get rid of a rabbit invading his garden. Kelly has an idea as she says she saw a documentary on rabbits. She was describing a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
  • One episode of NCIS had an obsessive fan of McGee’s books realize that the characters were all based off McGee’s real-life co-workers. Unfortunately, he starts killing people who pose a threat to McGee’s Author Avatar, and eventually he goes after Abby, whose in-book counterpart “Amy” hooks up with “MacGregor”. McGee eventually talks him out of it by promising to have MacGregor and Amy get married, to which Abby claims that it makes no sense and ignores all previous characterization.
  • The episode "The Trouble is Not in Your Set" from the sixth season of Night Court was based around an elderly woman who had come to think that the events of her favorite soap opera was real, and that the protagonist was a real person being falsely accused and railroaded through the courts. Thus, she took Harry's court hostage with a grenade trying to secure his release.
  • Joy Aston from Psychoville is a tragic example. She carries a plastic doll she calls Freddy Fruitcake around and treats him as if he was a real baby, forcing her husband and others around her to do the same.
  • Inverted in a scene from the Israeli sitcom Shemesh: resident Dumb Blonde Ogen tells the eponymous main character Shemesh that she watched an engaging movie the night before, The 91st Minute (a programme about soccer that aired at the time), and was wondering who played some of the characters. When Shemesh tells her the names of the soccer players, she insists he is mixing up the characters and the actors.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy" deconstructs this trope. The Doctor adapts a daydreaming program to experiment with. However, when the daydream program malfunctions, he can't tell what's fantasy and reality anymore, and he almost ejects the real warp core because the warp core in his daydream was going to explode.
  • The X-Files episode “Arcadia” features a tulpa, as described under the Real Life “General” examples — it turned out to be responsible for the murders in that episode.

  • Roxane, the heroine of Cyrano de Bergerac, is a member of the precieuses movement — as such, she is truly convinced that the romantic and eloquent heroes she has read about in the novels exist in Real Life. She models her ideal man after that archetype, and is convinced that Christian (whom she has only just glimpsed) is one of those men. She particularly cites d’Urfe’s novels, which typically featured uneducated shepherds eloquently elaborating about love and life. Cyrano at one point suggests that these heroes aren’t real, to which Roxane suggests if not, she’d kill herself.

    Video Games 
  • Anghel Higure from Hatoful Boyfriend is presented as one of these. He acts like he’s in a JRPG-like fantasy world based on his own independent manga titled "Absolute Zero", and describes everything and everyone in overly-dramatic fantasy terms (such as calling his narcoleptic math teacher "the Sage of Nightmares"). More lighthearted storylines hint that it’s a self-imposed game of pretend and that he does have some awareness of reality; however, in the more serious storyline it’s eventually revealed that this really is how he sees the world, because he is a living hallucinogen and is susceptible to his own hallucinogenic properties, causing him to constantly have wild visions which he can pull others into.


    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, the Ice King knows that his fanfic characters, Fionna and Cake, are real somewhere. He just hasn’t found them yet.
  • Referenced in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode “Dumber Dolls”, where Master Shake claims that “Highlander was a documentary, and the events happened in real time.”
  • In the Arthur episode "Buenas Noches, Vicita," the titular Vicita seems to not only believe that the storyline of her favorite storybook, The Very Magic Mango Tree, is real but also that the events of the supposedly true story are retroactively altered by her own memories of it; when Arthur and D.W. create a new copy of the book for her based on her memories of the story, she realizes that she incorrectly ended the new version of the story with the protagonist, Uaica, falling asleep in a tree, when the original book had him falling asleep under it, and worries that he may fall down unless and hurt himself unless she goes to get him down. Justified since Vicita is 3 and ⅞ years old.
  • Weaponized by Simon Harper in Batman Beyond where he convinces some nerds that the Guardians of the Cosmos game he created is actually real and that the game is meant to recruit soldiers to fight in the conflict, in order to trick them into donning real weapons and armor and effectively performing hits as his hired goons. To said nerds' credit they do live in a world where things like superheroes, killer robots, magic, ghosts, monsters, and even aliens are very real, so an intergalactic war fought by Sentries isn't exactly much of a stretch of the imagination.
  • In the Bob's Burgers episode “The Equestranauts”, fans of the fictional equivalent of My Little Pony are mostly middle-aged men who are generally into it for a love of the show and the sense of community — except Bronconius, who believes that rare collectible spin-off items will grant him eternal youth.
  • In the Home Movies episode “Renaissance”, Melissa explains her preference for the Medieval Fest over the Sci-fi Fest based on medieval history being real. Jason argues that sci-fi stuff is real too. Coach McGuirk later insists that the medieval people and the sci-fi people have been battling each other for thousands of years.
  • The titular character of Freakazoid! is pestered and chased around by Fanboy, who wants to be Freak's sidekick. The chase goes to a comic book convention where Freakazoid sees the distraction he needed: Mark Hamill. He sways Fanboy to pursue Hamill instead ("Why settle for a sidekick when Jedi knighthood awaits?"). The drooling simp tries to schmooze with Hamill, thinking his ascension into the Jedi league is in the offing.
  • On Kim Possible, Timothy North and the actor who played the villain Whitestripe in “The Fearless Ferret" believe their show was real and act accordingly.
  • Ready Jet Go!: In "Diggin' Earth", Jet seems to believe that he and his comrades can dig to the center of the Earth just like Commander Cressida and her squad. Sydney reminds him multiple times that Commander Cressida is a made-up story and is not real.
  • The Real Ghostbusters discussed this trope to explain how the ghosts of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Dr. Moriarty appeared in New York City. Apparently, enough Daydream Believers will cause the characters to come into being through “belief made manifest”.
    Egon: Even though there was never a real Sherlock Holmes, millions of fans believe in him.
    Ray: Right! The London post office gets thousands of letters every year addressed to Sherlock Holmes.
    Peter: Well, this is just great! I mean, who are we going to be fighting next? Darth Vader?
  • The Simpsons:
    • When Becky is staying with the family after a broken engagement with Otto, Marge gets a warning from Patty and Selma that Becky will try to usurp her like in the “documentary”, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Marge tries, in vain, to tell them that it wasn’t real (which makes you wonder why Marge believed anything else they had to say about the subject).
    • In “The Ziff Who Came to Dinner”, Lisa tells Artie Ziff of how Homer once read a book and became convinced it was real.
      Lisa: He's still looking for that chocolate factory. It consumes him.
    • "Lisa the Drama Queen" introduces a One-Shot Character called Juliet, whose poor relationship with her father leads her to write a Self-Insert Fic as a coping mechanism. She soon becomes obsessed with her idealized life, hallucinating that some of its elements are crossing over into the real world. Despite Lisa's efforts, Juliet is unable to let go of her delusions and embraces the fantasy, proclaiming that she has no reason to pay attention to reality when she can just imagine better things.
  • One episode of Totally Spies! had the girls trying to solve the abduction of the star of their favourite soap opera. The culprit turned out to be an old lady who thought the show was real.


Video Example(s):


The Worst Type of Fan

Bob discovers Bronconius takes his love for "The Equestranaut" way too far and it creeps him out. He thinks he can keep himself eternally young by kissing pony dolls.

How well does it match the trope?

3.67 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / DaydreamBeliever

Media sources: