It's not some carefully crafted story; it's a mess and we're all gonna die.
If you saw a movie that was like real life, You'd be like, "What the hell was that movie about?
It was really all over the place."
Life doesn't make narrative sense.
Somebody thought they were protected by the power of narrative convention. Then reality ensued.
By definition, fiction is unrealistic. But most readers don't ask those stories be completely like reality. As long as things are kept internally consistent, the audience is willing to go along with just about anything an author can create... no matter how irresponsible, immoral, or unhinged their more likeable and sympathetic characters might be acting by the standards of Real Life. For that reason, a creator can sometimes ignore or Hand Wave consequences of the real world in their stories. This trope, though, is about what happens when a creator chooses not to ignore said consequences, and even factors them in as part of the plot or events.
This can sometimes be seen on the hard end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, though it isn't necessarily so since realism, despite what many claim, is not the same as cynicism. There are many realistic stories that run on optimism.
Generally, this trope is not used in order to make fiction completely and entirely mirror mundane everyday life... except when it is. This is also surprisingly often used as a Comedy Trope. Contrast Fantasy All Along, when reality ensues and immediately afterwards fantasy kicks in again (occasionally undoing the damage done by the "reality" moment).
Not to be confused with Hilarity Ensues, although when done right, the two can and will overlap. Also note that, even with this overlap, this is not strictly a "humor" trope: the defiance of a fantastic element
Note that, when we say "reality", we mean reality as in Real Life. We have "X happens" and "Y happens as a consequence of X"; the Y must not involve the fantastic in-story aspects of the work's own universe. For realistic consequences of unrealistic superpowers, see Logical Weakness.
The Extraordinary World, Ordinary Problems trope is a variant. Also related to Deconstruction and Deconstructive Parody, and is mainly used for comedynote . Still, do note that this is not strictly a "humor" trope: the defiance of a fantastic element can be a pretty powerful tool for deconstructive drama and sometimes even horror.
Characters who use this to their advantage almost invariably are Genre Savvy. A Wrong Genre Savvy character has chances to be hit hard by an Ensuing Reality. The No-Nonsense Nemesis runs entirely on this trope played for drama and sometimes horror. Violates No Ontological Inertia when things do not automatically change because one thing comes to an end.
Since this trope is entirely about outcomes happening under the rules of Real Life, real life examples would be redundant. If you want more detailed information on this, see Television Is Trying to Kill Us, a detailed list of why many different fiction tropes would not only not work out well in real life, but will end in disaster for anyone who actually attempts to do it.
Warning: As this trope frequently occurs at the climax of a work, spoilers are likely to be unmarked. Caution advised.
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Gretel: Egad, Hansel. Look at the size of that ant-hill!!
- In a spoof◊ of Hansel and Gretel, the witch is cackling to herself as she builds a gingerbread house to ensnare and covers it with various candies and sweets to entice any little boys and girls who might pass her way. When Hansel and Gretel arrive sometime later...
Hansel: Listen, Gretel... do you hear someone screaming?
Jiggs: That's right! Have a good laugh while my wife beats me up! Laugh like you have all these years!
- A particularly savage example involved Bringing Up Father, a very old-school newspaper comic from the early 1900s about a Wacky Irish Immigrant, Jiggs. Think Little Orphan Annie or The Katzenjammer Kids. He is constantly abused by his wife, which is played for laughs in the original strip. In a rather dramatic Art Shift, the parody begins like this and ends like this: showing Jiggs in a pool of his own blood as his vicious wife looms in the doorway, rolling pin in hand. This ran in Mad #17, 1954.
Maggs: You WORM! My doggie is dead and it's all your fault!
Maggs: That's odd! There isn't a mark on the dog!
Jiggs: That dog didn't get hit by a plate! It's just that in this serious atmosphere, that dog died from being too skinny! ... No skinny dog like that can survive in this serious atmosphere... and nobody getting beatings like me can survive either!
- Articles parodying cliche scenes in movies include a scene in which a mobster decides that it is, in fact, easier just to shoot Lance and his girlfriend. While the way the scene played out in movies lasts most of two pages, this is resolved in two panels.
- Mad had a regular feature for a while called "Reel vs. Real" in which it regularly parodied whichever popular movies were in theaters or being released for home viewing at the time by taking their basic premise and showing how it would play out in real life. For instance, whereas in the [movie] "reel" world exposing some turtles in the sewers to radioactive ooze gave us the sentient anthropomorphic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the ooze is shown giving those turtles cancer and turning them into non-sentient mutant animal freaks with weird stuff growing out of their shells in the "real" world.
- The ending to their satire of Double Jeopardy did this by way of subverting Wrongful Accusation Insurance.
- In a contrast between a movie cowboy and a real life one, the movie cowboy is hailed as a hero for defeating his rival in a fistfight, while the real life one is knocked out in one blow, wins by ambushing his rival at a later date, and is lynched for murder.
- Another comic has an inexperienced race driver enter a 24-hour race in an old piece of junk of a car. Everyone laughs at him, but the plucky underdog takes chances none of the other drivers dare, pushes his car to the limit, wins the crowd over with his death-defying driving... and finishes dead last, because his car is a piece of junk.
- In a parody of the airlines' safety instructions, Mad shows panels of what people would actually do in those situations - panicking, making mistakes and not following the directions. In one example, two people frantically grab oxygen masks, strangling the man seated between them, and in another, a swarm of people rush to the emergency exit.
- One feature spoofing comic strips features what would happen if the characters behaved more realistically:
- If Peanuts Gang talked like real children. It just has Charlie Brown and Lucy spouting off random things you would expect a four-year-old to say, such as "I got a hole in my knee" or "You know what I would like to see? A green sky."
- Another one about Bringing Up Father which also plays on the abuse Jiggs experiences from Maggs, but this time, he simply files for divorce after it happens.
- One about if Dennis the Menace (US) had parents with normal patience just has Dennis getting spanked (this was before his Menace Decay).
- The UK edition of Official Playstation Magazine once had a semi-regular guest column about this trope as applied to Amusing Injuries, in which an ER nurse would watch some footage from a particular game and describe exactly what would happen if someone was on the wrong end of such an injury in real life. If the intent was to convince young readers not to try and recreate anything the saw in a videogame, it worked! They also once had a special feature in which a Royal Air Force fighter pilot had a go at Ace Combat 3 to see how similar it was to his actual job - unsurprisingly, the answer was "not very".
- The Bible:
- Moses sees an overseer whipping a Jew and is overcome with rage, killing him. Rather than immediately viewing him as an ally and savior, this makes the other Jews view him as a dangerous murderer — the next day, when he confronts one of the Jews about fighting with some other Jew, he asks if Moses is going to kill him, too.
- The Pharaoh let the Israelites go after the 10th plague killed his son. However, once the people are gone, the Pharaoh and other officials realized that they just let go all their workers and now they're economically screwed.
- There is a more-positive-than-usual example in a Far Side comic strip. Some Vikings are returning to their ship after what is obviously a pillaging raid, as we can see a burning settlement in the distance and a captive woman being carried over one Viking's shoulder. The crew's dog is very happy to see them and is wagging its tail enthusiastically. Cartoonist Gary Larson admitted that many people didn't understand the strip, and asked him what the punchline was. He later explained that the point was that as long as you're nice to it, your dog won't hate you and will happily greet you when you come home, no matter "how big a jerk you are."
- In one Pearls Before Swine strip, the crocs decide to kill Zebra in a manner inspired by Popeye the Sailor. While one of them sings the theme song, the other one pops open a can of spinach, swallows the whole thing in one gulp—and chokes to death.
- In Calvin and Hobbes, since Calvin is a lazy six-year-old kid, a lot of the jokes and gags come from his naivete when his perceptions don't match reality.
- When Calvin has to write a report about bats, he deliberately doesn't do any research because he hates homework, doing an in-universe bit of Critical Research Failure by assuming that bats are bugs because they're hairy and they fly. He fails the assignment.
- In an early arc of the strip, Calvin finds a raccoon by the side of the road who had been hit by a car. Calvin takes the raccoon in to try and nurse it back to health, but the raccoon still dies. The only solace Calvin's dad can give Calvin is that at least he died in peace.
- Calvin spends a lot of time rolling a giant snowball to throw it at someone, only for Hobbes to point out (much to Calvin's dismay) that it's too heavy to lift. Calvin's disheartened response is, "Reality continues to ruin my life."
- Calvin trying to disguise himself as Stupendous Man never works. Everyone sees through his Paper-Thin Disguise no matter how hard he tries to deny it. It kinda gets sad when he tries to pull it on his own mother, who made the costume for him.
- Calvin orders a beanie with a motorized propeller in the mail, expecting to be able to fly with it. When he gets the beanie, it barely works and the propeller snaps off. Even when Calvin could get it to work, the propeller just spun, not lifting him off the ground at all.
- Throughout the comic, Sarge beating up Beetle Bailey is typical Played for Laughs, but in one story in the 90s, he actually ends up getting locked up for it.
- Many routine professional wrestling moves such as the power bomb, suplex and even DDT have proven to have very nasty effects when used in Shoot Fighting and Mixed Martial Arts, though they show up rarely rather than routine and almost always as counters than as offensive moves. Conversely, popular moves such as the stunner and the various bridging submission holds, while doable, tend to get shrugged off. The most popular pro wrestling move in combat sports is the plain old ankle lock. The ankle lock is a dangerous move that gets on-and-off bans, rather than the infamous pile driver (which tends to fall under "only as a counter").
- This often happens when a champion from a past era makes a comeback in boxing or MMA and returns to the ring to challenge the new champion or highly ranked contender. These bouts are almost inevitably promoted as a battle between the ages, with the champ from the past talking about how much better the fighters from their era were, and how they'll be too smart or too tough for the young guy. Fans, maybe despite themselves, start to believe in the hype and want to see a storybook performance from their old favorite, so they cheer the old guy on. Then the fighters get in the ring and it seldom ends well for the old champion. Sometimes, it's downright tragic.
- This is rare, but some themed rides may successfully be able to invoke this trope.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a mine train roller coaster located at four of the Disney Theme Parks. The theme of the ride is that you're traveling on a possessed mine train through an old mine from the 1850s. One thing that sets the Disneyland Paris version of the ride apart from the others is that the trains are painted to look weathered from years of neglect, while the other versions use trains that look shiny and brand-new.
- Into the Woods is all over this trope. Not only does it show the considerably more realistic consequences of fairy tales (particularly in regards to Fourth Date Marriage and Parental Abandonment), it also shows just how dangerous some fairy tale characters can be in a more realistic setting. When a giant comes down from the beanstalk, the audience goes "hey, cool!" at first, until she starts actually stepping on people. It's not played for laughs whatsoever. However, this only applies for Act II. Act I is frequently used for school productions, as it's a fairly straightforward mash-up of recognisable fairy-tales that ends with a musical number celebrating how all the heroes have had their dreams come true and now they're going to live Happily Ever After... and then Act II opens, and everyone is faced with the fallout of their decisions.
- This trope is often taken as the reason for Hamlet's ambiguous reluctance to kill Claudius — in reality (and contrary to the Elizabethan revenge dramas that were popular at the time), most people simply wouldn't be able to live up to the command to put a knife in another person's back. Doubly so since Claudius is family by blood and the reigning monarch, which means that killing him would render Hamlet Not So Different from him.
- Hamlet also doesn't just take his father's ghost at his word - he notes from his knowledge of legends and theatre that something as fantastical as a ghost could easily be a trick of the Devil to tempt him. As such, he doesn't act on his revenge until he has more convincing evidence. Of course, that doesn't mean he isn't seriously affected by the whole affair...
- Urinetown takes place in a town where a drought has caused a terrible water shortage. A corporation controls the public toilets and forces people to pay to use them to control water consumption with harsh laws ensuring the townspeople comply. The poor people of the town eventually rise up and overthrow the corporation, changing the law to allow people to use the toilet for free… only for the remaining water supply to quickly be used up and causing most of the population to die from thirst.
- In Aladdin, the side character Prince Achmed is never heard from again after being attacked and humiliated by Princess Jasmine's tiger. When the same thing happens in the parody musical Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier, he ends his kingdom's trade alliance with the princess's and declares war in response, and is openly baffled that she seemed to expect that such an assault on the prince of a sovereign nation would have no political consequences.
Captain: Today things got a little out of hand, and a lot of good people are dead. [...] The sword-swallower slit his throat from the inside when the thief's pet monkey ripped the sword right out of it... Do you know the guy who sleeps on the bed of nails?
- Aladdin's antics in escaping the guards at the beginning also takes a slightly different turn than in the film:
Captain: A fat guard fell on him. Now he's dead. Then, when we fell from the window and into the cart of manure...Kabal snapped his neck on impact...two more choked on shit... All this, for a loaf of bread.
- Later, Aladdin's arrival in the city via an opulent parade with no prior notice or clearing of the streets beforehand results in much property damage and several deaths.
- A couple events play out more realistically in Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol than in the original story.
- When Marley first haunts Scrooge, instead of shrugging it off and eating by the fire, he hides in preparation to defend himself with the fire poker.
- Scrooge points out the hypocrisy of Marley asking him to change his ways when he was just as bad in life, also pointing out that his business dealings are perfectly legal and he pays his taxes.
- Beast Wars: Uprising: Preditron is the creator of the Predacons, a Proud Warrior Race Guy capable of inspiring terrified warriors into action with a rousing speech. And then he fights Tripredacus, a Combining Mecha. He gets beaten to death without ever managing to land a solid hit. Valiant warrior or not, he's massively outclassed by the combiner's sheer power.