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Longing for Fictionland

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"You can just picture all the eight-year-olds in the audience going 'This is cool! I want to live here!'"
Stuart Wilson, The making of No Escape

A work of fiction with a very immersive setting appears so idealistic and 'perfect' in comparison to boring, everyday life that it causes fans to feel the need to emotionally invest themselves in it. The same carries over to characters in a story, who feel they are leading uninteresting lives. They wish they could live in the stories they love and begin Longing for Fictionland.

Frequently, these characters may feel detached from real life or seem to suffer from depression. After all, they wish to leave to somewhere they can never go or wish to meet people who don't even exist yet seem so vastly superior to those they do know. Or they may decide to actualize it, try to build something like it in the real world.

Sometimes they begin to wish they could become a part of the world, or meet the character they love.

When this character gets his/her wish, see I Wish It Were Real. May lead to an Anti-Escapism Aesop.

Compare Mythopoeia, Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality. For Real Life examples of people really believing fictional characters are real, see Daydream Believer. See also Thinks Like a Romance Novel, for one form this can take. If someone wishes a fictional character were real because they have sexual feelings for them, that's Perverse Sexual Lust.

Very, very, very much Truth in Television for many people.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Literature Girl in Daily Lives of High School Boys wrote a Romance Novel, then had a crush with the novel's hero, and then sought to reenact a Meet Cute scenario from her novel in the series' Real Life... Deconstructed in that the series is a fairly realistic (and comical) Slice of Life, and Hidenori, the boy to whom she is projecting her hero on (simply because they frequent the same Artificial Riverbank), got weirded out. Her example is a bit more downplayed than most examples of this trope as she's not all that detached from the series' Real Life as long as Hidenori is not in her presence.
    Hidenori: "She's probably hoping for an unrealistically romantic 'Boy Meets Girl' encounter! ...Can her mind shake off gravity or what?!"
  • This is pretty much the definition of "chunibyou" given to the audience in Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!, with the infected person being unsatisfied with reality and immersing themselves within a world of fantasy. In both the anime and the light novels, Rikka plays this the straightest out of the cast.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: As a child, the Mock Turtle always was trapped in wardrobes because he was trying to find a portal to Narnia. As an adult, after arriving in Astro City and accepted into the super-community, he sees the city from above. Through his green-tinted visor, he breathlessly notes that it resembles an Emerald City.
  • As his moniker implies, Batman rogue the Mad Hatter aka Jervis Tetch prefers whimsical Wonderland to gritty Gotham, especially the more sympathetic versions. Tetch genuinely does not understand why Batman would want to stop him from having riddle games and tea parties with friends all day, even when it involves kidnapping, Hypno Trinkets, and tea spiked with hallucinogenics.
  • John Constantine invites some of his muggle friends to visit Fiddler's Green for a day and one couple gets into trouble when they conspire with an unhappy resident to stay there permanently. They eventually get back to the real world safely but become severely depressed and addicted to drugs and alcohol because they were banned from Fiddler's Green so hard they can't even dream of it.

    Fan Works 
  • Really, this is the entire point of the Self-Insert Fic. Applies across a wide variety of media even in more complex fan-works.
  • It's practically a requirement for BIONICLE fans to write at least one fic starring a human or group of humans getting magically transported to Mata Nui somehow. Usually by way of a space portal opening up or getting lost at sea.
    • Several fics by popular fan-author GaliGee poke fun at this trope by having all the characters being real and merely starring as themselves in the series. Her Author Avatar is taken back and forth from the Bionicle world several times by Teridax, who makes good and frequent use of LEGO's secret gateway in Denmark.
  • An example of playing with the concept slightly meta take by the sad My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan fiction, Equestria. Equestria is shown to be the perfect, idealized fantasy world that was to be the setting of a series of stories planned by a woman who was emotionally abused by her mother. She never got around to writing it and the emotional abuse that she suffered drove her into her dream world. There, she was no longer Tara but Twilight Sparkle. As a result of this she is institutionalized for a few years, causing her fantasy to grow even deeper.
    • "Human in Equestria" (HiE) fan fics are extremely popular for this reason. Although the sheer number of these fics track in blatant Wish-Fulfillment, particularly those with romantic elements to them, these stories have spawned a great number of spin-offs from dark deconstructions to silly parodies and more.
  • Chloe Cerise in Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail wishes to find a place that she and her Childhood Friend were always together, a place where she didn't have to be pressured by everyone to follow in her father's footsteps, and just for once feel like she was loved. The next scene has her run away from the Cerise Lab and onto the Infinity Train and she begins to grow into her true self. In Chapter 12, Professor Cerise finally understands why his daughter would want such a thing.
    Professor Cerise: Chloe was…She was hurting, and I wasn’t helping her at all...and so she entered the land of gods and monsters for an escape...
  • Splatoon provides yet another example of a Fandom-Specific Plot used as wish fulfillment, with its nigh-omnipresent "human time-travels forward to Inkopolis" fan fics.
  • The plot "Yukari brings an outsider to Gensokyo" present in many Touhou Project fics is also popular because of this.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Brick: In a awkward conversation with Brenden, the Pen implies he really wishes he could live in Middle-earth.
  • Don Juan DeMarco: When making his 'true' statement to the Judge, John explained that reading Lord Byron's Don Juan book was what inspired him to create his imaginary persona.
  • Dr. Wai in "The Scripture with No Words": The main character, Chow, is an author struggling with Writer's Block trying to envision the story for his fictional creation, Dr. Wai the adventurer. As he writes, Chow daydreams himself as Dr. Wai and his globe-trotting adventures, but the harsh realities in life drags Chow back to the real world.
  • The movie Pleasantville has the protagonist David, who longs to be in the black-and-white 1950s TV sitcom world represented in the TV show "Pleasantville". Thanks to a strange remote, he gets his wish, setting off the main plot.
  • Tony Manero plays this as dark as you can get, centering around a creepily obsessed Chilean fan of Saturday Night Fever (and, specifically, John Travolta's fictional character).
  • Tsutomu, the main character of Ultraman Gaia: The Battle In Hyperspace, is a lonely boy who spends most of his time fantasizing that the Ultramen were real. His wish is eventually granted when he comes across an alien artifact that opens a portal from our world with the Ultramen's, but unfortunately the monsters also comes along for the ride.

  • Bridge to Terabithia: The main two characters create a fictional world called Terabithia to deal with their school troubles. They are aware that it is a fantasy and wish it were real, although this doesn't stop them from having fun.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, the Pevensies appear to do this. Actually the land they're longing for is very real, and they ruled there for fifteen years.
  • Discworld: Terry Pratchett did such a good job of humanizing the Grim Reaper he would receive letters from terminally-ill patients hoping to meet his version of Death when their time came.
  • Norwegian author Ingeborg Refling Hagen once wrote a novel about a girl living a really crapsack life. But being gifted with a rich fantasy and a mother who had told her quite a lot of fairy tales before she died, she handled her daily suffering with this, crossing over into daydream believer territory. When she gradually lost all hope, she entered her own fiction completely, preferring to be a cloud cuckoolander for the rest of her life. And to everybody else, she was passed off as completely out of her marbles, but initially happy.note 
  • Jetlag Travel Guides essentially promote the opposite: No one wants to go to the lands they feature.
  • Quentin Coldwater in The Magicians dreams of traveling to the land of Fillory, from the Fillory and Further series by Christopher Plover (essentially an Expy of The Chronicles of Narnia and C.S. Lewis with a dash of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). Eventually, he succeeds - though it's quite unlike what he imagined.
  • Anais Nin has another story about a fantasizer in the midst of crapsack. A blind man lives with his daughter in a dilapidated shed in a sordid back lot. She describes it as a cute little house, beautiful flowers in the garden, etc. Then the blind man regains his sight. She worries how he will take his actual surroundings, but he says the clear images of her stories are in his mind and he can now work with her to actualize the fantasy into reality.
  • Heavily implied to be the case in Pale Fire, with Charles Kinbote trying to edit his late friend's last poem but unable to avoid inserting long, idyllic references to his own, probably fictional, home country in the commentaries.
    • The friend in question, John Shade, has said in Kinbote's hearing that a person who re-imagines their own history into a nostalgic Fictionland is not insane, merely fleeing a "drab and unhappy past".
  • Not initially in Norman Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, as Milo does not use the titular tollbooth because he hopes to go to fantastical kingdoms, but because he's got nothing better to do at the time. In the end, however, he states he might go back for a visit when he finds the time.
  • Ready Player One, in which almost everyone on Earth plugs into the virtual utopia, the OASIS, in an attempt to escape the rather sobering reality.
  • The Carroll children in Pamela Dean's The Secret Country had a long, elaborate fantasy game about said country for years. They had thought it was a fantasy of their own creation. It wasn't. Once they're involved with the actual place and its people, not only the real world but their old fantasy looks dull and wrong by comparison.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Freaky: In "Sitcom", a girl with a troubled home life fantasizes about being part of the perfect family in her favourite Dom Com. This turns into a case of Be Careful What You Wish For when she becomes Trapped in TV Land.
  • Downplayed in Samurai Gourmet. Kasumi isn't trying to escape his real life, nor is he quite obsessed with Sengoku samurai stories. Nevertheless, when he encounters a social challenge, he can't help fantasizing about how a samurai would have handled it. Sometimes this provides useful insight, and sometimes it amounts to little more than escapism.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "A World of Difference", Brinkley thinks that Gerald Raigan has convinced himself that he is Arthur Curtis, whom he is playing in The Private World of Arthur Curtis, as he is attracted by the character's happy life with his loving wife Marian and daughter Tina.
    • In "A Stop at Willoughby", the extremely stressed advertising executive Gart Williams keeps dreaming of Willoughby, an idyllic 1888 town straight out of Mark Twain's work. By the end, he gets his wish at Willoughby Funeral Home.
  • WandaVision: It's revealed that Wanda has been a fan of sitcoms from a young age and prefers them over her tragic reality. While her Reality Warper powers allow her to enjoy life in one for a while, it turns out the townspeople really don't enjoy being forcibly converted into NPCs for her plots.


    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance introduces the main characters leading troubled lives in the real world, and they have a conversation about what game world they wish could be real, which they (naturally) answer "Final Fantasy". The next day, they wake up and find themselves in that world.
  • Jean in Weapon Shop de Omasse, despite being in a stock JRPG setting, acts like a Sentai hero. He takes his weapons and uses them to beat up children in the park he calls his 'secret base', in encounters that they usually win by kicking him. He could be a Genre Refugee, but several of his throwaway lines make it clear he collects 'statuettes' and reads a lot of manga.
  • Rakenzarn Tales version 1 had an opening monologue that went into the feelings behind this trope. It was removed in later version when the game's creator thought it was too preachy.
    Reality...Fantasy...What is reality? What is fantasy? Those are two entirely different aspects. It depends on your perspective view on them. But no matter what people say, they would always prefer Fantasy. For you see, Reality is harsh and painful. Every day, many bad things bound to happen in one's life. Even after they had resolved that problem, another would occur. It would happen repeatedly until the end of the day. The next day, it would happen once again...And again...And again...until the end of their lives. Fantasy, on the other hand, is full of joy, life, and happiness. Even though they're not actually real. The most important part of fantasy has to be "entertainment". People loved it, either it's music, films, and video games. Fantasy always helps them forget about Reality. Sadly, they can't escape Reality. They have to return to Reality either they want to or not, where their suffering will begin anew.

    Visual Novels 
  • "School eccentric" Anghel in Hatoful Boyfriend has a bizarre fantasy world in which he is the Crimson Angel of Judecca and the protagonist is an angelic warrior called Edel Blau who defeated him by encasing him in ice. It's implied by the fact that he's a member of the manga club and the fact that whenever you see inside his fantasy world it's just a JRPG that he's one of these people who unfortunately has the ability to induce hallucinations in others when physically agitated. Though it's also hinted that there may be more to it.
  • Mio in Little Busters! was always more fascinated by fantasy and stories than the real world, so she didn't have any friends as a child for the simple reason that she didn't bother trying to make any. It wasn't until the end of middle school that she even began to socialize normally, apparently. Until then, she had an imaginary friend or little sister.

  • Bob the Angry Flower resorts to extreme science in an attempt to become a Powerpuff Girl.
  • In Kevin & Kell, Tyler Meadowvole described many situations he saw in terms of fictional settings. It was a coping mechanism to deal with the death of his biological parents, who were eaten. This eventually faded as he settled into a new life being adopted by his uncle Mark and Mark's wife, cat Aby Eyeshine.
  • The Trope Image comes from Sandra and Woo, where characters compare a real sunset unfavorably to the sunsets in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

    Web Original 
  • In middle of his Break the Cutie, Donnie from Demo Reel has a rant over how real life is not a movie and even though you can try your best to not make movie mistakes, you can still fail. This leads to missing his dead mother and almost committing suicide to be with her again.
  • Tom Scott has a video entitled "I asked an AI for video ideas, and they were actually good", which is rather self-explanatory. While some of the suggested titles were about real subjects, many were not. Towards the end he mentions that some of the fictitious ideas sounded so compelling, he wished they were real and that he could visit the world in which these videos would have been filmed. (In fact, he did film part of a fake video for one of them: "The Dream of a Russian Utopia in East Yorkshire".)
  • An SCP Foundation researcher working on SCP-1230 that produced an extensive fantasy world in the sleeping user committed suicide upon waking up. Having spent the equivalent of 200 years inside, he couldn't bear to return to his reality. In a subversion of the usual Foundation-contained Eldritch Abomination, the entity of the fantasy-making book had a My God, What Have I Done? moment and went into such a debilitating Heroic BSoD that it refused to even communicate for weeks. When it finally "wrote" something on the pages, all it could say was "I'm so sorry. I never intended for this to happen. I just wanted to make people happy..." on every single page, while the book was soaked with tears.
    Book Keeper: As sweet as dreams may be, eventually we all have to wake up.
  • One particular Tumblr macro expressed this.
    Fiction taught me how to feel.
    Reality was all too real.

    Western Animation 
  • Marcy Wu from Amphibia loves role playing games and video games to the point of obliviousness to the real world. This is the main source of her chronic clumsiness. Getting transported into the titular fantasy world is a dream come true for her, especially because she planned to come there.
  • Bill Cipher uses this to prey on Mabel Pines in Gravity Falls: rather than a physical prison, he keeps her in a pocket dimension that is filled with all her favourite things like cute stuff, fantasy, magic, happiness, and fun, knowing that even if she realises that she's being held prisoner, she won't want to escape.
  • The Owl House: Before arriving in the Boiling Isles, Luz Noceda didn't fit in, and often poured over fantasy novels to imagine some place where she could. She got her wish, to an extent, when she arrives on the Boiling Isles, even if it's "not the PG fantasy world [she] dreamed of".
  • In Robot Chicken, this is part of the Nerd's gimmick. His sketches commonly begin with him putting down a book and saying "I wish I was in (the setting the book he was reading took place in). That would be so cool. So cool..." before falling asleep and dreaming about getting his wish.
  • One episode of The Simpsons, in a parody of Heavenly Creatures, had Lisa making friends with a girl named Julie. Together they create an imaginative fantasy world where they ruled together. As they get deeper into the fantasy, and after her mother sees that she may be troubled, Marge decides that Julie is a bad influence on Lisa and says they can't see each other anymore. Lisa and Julie run off together so they could continue being in "Equalia" but after getting into trouble with some bullies, Lisa decides that she wants to live in the real world. Julie is sad, telling Lisa that the real world is for people who can't imagine anything better. Cue Lisa giving a Cuckoo Finger Twirl as Julie leaves.
    • In one episode, Homer gets on the bad side of a corrupt private detective, who ends up blackmailing Nelson for dirt on Lisa by stealing a photo of Nelson with Snow White at Disneyland. Nelson is relieved to have the photo back, but not for the reason you'd think.
      Detective: You know, she's just an actress.
      Nelson: Shut up! Some of us prefer delusion to despair!

    Real Life 
  • In the early 1970s, there was a group of Star Trek: The Original Series fans in Kentucky who planned to buy some land and create a small community where they would live according to Vulcan ideals.
  • Devoted fans of The Lord of the Rings reported doing this. The original Tolkien Society incorporated the food, the languages, and the cosmology into their daily existence. People had the appendices memorized. They took their class notes and doodled in Quenya, and founded communes with names like Lothlorien (one of which still exists, devoted to eclectic paganism).
  • Not an uncommon development with highly intelligent and imaginative children. Some of them grow up to be writers (e.g. the Brontes, whose unpublished works included an extremely elaborate fantasy world).
  • The effects of certain hallucinogenic drugs are often strongly affected by the expectations and desires of the person taking the trip. For instance, on certain plateaus (i.e. levels of inebriation) of DXM, it is not at all uncommon for the hallucination to be moulded to the past experience and thoughts of the day and the mindset of the tripper (i.e. the world around you slowly begins to morph into the kind of landscape they had in the film you were just watching). With practice, you can get yourself to control your trips this way. Lucid dreaming is said to work on vaguely comparable principles.
  • The #1 Google search that begins with "Is Edward Cullen..." is quite often "Is Edward Cullen real?" or some variation thereof.
    • That also happened with A.S. Byatt's Possession. Type in "Randolph Henry Ash" and see what you get.
  • There have been a few reports of people experiencing depression after seeing the beautiful world of Avatar and then having to return to the real world. Jennifer Lawrence, in one interview, talks about an incident where she and Josh Hutcherson were hanging out in his hotel room and had a freak out over how unfair it is that they'll never get to visit Pandora.
  • An abnormal psychology textbook from 2006 or so contained a section on really hard-core Elvis fans. It advised readers not to regard these fans as schizophrenic or otherwise mentally ill, because, devoted though they are, they will quite readily admit that Elvis really has left the building.
    • In his account of life as a disappointed musician turned rock journalist, I Hate Rock 'N' Roll, Tony Tyler writes about hardcore fans of Barry Manilow. One middle-aged British housewife, despite being married with three children, was obsessed to the point where she believed Barry was going to pick her out at a concert, take her home, and offer to marry her. She believed this so absolutely that she refused to have sex with her husband, seeking instead to hasten the Day by "keeping herself pure for Barry". Apparently her husband left her. She didn't notice.note 
    • This is called erotomania. Unlike what it says at The Other Wiki, erotomanic episodes can happen to anyone, male or female, and is not limited to the mentally ill. Despite the name, it often has little to do with sex; in fact, it can include the idea that you and the famous person will help to promote and exemplify a more spiritual love.
  • Gareth Edwards has admitted to having a "secret fantasy" of living in a world where Kaiju are real (never mind that such a world would more likely than not be terrifying). This is probably the reason why his two breakout films, Monsters and Godzilla (2014), are devoted to making such giant monsters seem real.
  • Quite a few people would like to go to Equestria from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and some would be more than willing to stay there permanently and give up their humanity in the process. The "Human in Equestria" fan-fiction genre is both popular and reviled for this reason and others. Some (such as this guy here) go far enough that they hope that Equestria is the afterlife, or at least that the afterlife involves ponies.
  • A lot of hardcore Disney fans have a similar mindset to the above, which isn't surprising given Walt Disney's stated goal of trying to reach the inner "innocence" of audiences. This can be particularly distressing when it comes to children. In fact, over 40% of wishes granted to heavily ill kids by the Make-a-Wish foundation are Disney related. When it comes to struggling children (and adults) who dream about living in Zootopia, hanging out with Buzz, Woody, and the gang, exploring the Hundred-Acre Wood, and the like after their troubles are finally over, it's hard to say 'no' to them.
    • Mark Hamill confirmed a long term rumor that one Make-a-Wish child had the specific request to meet Luke Skywalker, the actual Luke Skywalker. Hamill fulfilled the wish and stayed in character the whole time, with the child genuinely believing it was the Jedi Knight come to life. Hamill reflected it was one of the most humbling experiences of his life.
  • The infamous "Project Digiclipse" from the early to mid-2000s. What started out as just a bunch of kids having fun with roleplaying about Digimon in the real world got out of hand quickly, as some people either genuinely believed that Digimon was real and believed in the site's mission of one day reaching the Digital world or signed up to troll the people who didnote  began to join the site in mass. Then the goons at Something Awful caught wind of it and it proceeded to get out of hand from there. Although some people briefly mistook it as an actual cult, nowadays it's generally agreed on that it was just a bunch of kids wanting to have some fun roleplaying only for it to snowball horrendously out of control.
  • Some transhumanists who lean more closely to reality simulations/mind-uploading as their preferred path to trans and post humanity do so partly out of this trope. If humanity eventually acquires the sufficiently powerful tech, why not simply manufacture the worlds we want to escape to that may well turn out to be objectively better than anything we can (currently) do to remedy real life?
    • In recent years, VR tech has really started to take off in a manner not seen in previous decades. Given a few more years(and some advancements in peripherals and mind-machine interface), you may well be able to really "be" in another world, sensory inputs and everything, and without the nasty dilemmas that come with directly uploading to said world.
  • When the movie Mannequin came out, an LSD researcher named Jerry Kelly was arrested several times for fondling and undressing female department store mannequins. When questioned, he said he wasn't on drugs, he was trying to find a mannequin that would come to life like in the movie.