Follow TV Tropes


Reality Is Unrealistic

Go To

"As we've mentioned a few times before, the real world occasionally gives rise to murderers so terrifyingly crazy that if we saw them in a horror film, we would instantly write them off as utterly ridiculous B-movie cheese."

When exposed to an exaggeration or fabrication about certain real-life occurrences or facts, some people will perceive the fictional account as being more true than any factual account.

This might lead to people acting on preconceptions about unfamiliar matters even in a life-or-death situation, or cause viewers to cry foul when things on a show work out in a way that actually is realistic but contrary to "what everybody knows", like complaining of the "fake Scottish accent" of a real Scottish actor or about a character's death from a bullet "merely" to the shoulder.

This is known as an "Orange Box" in television and movies, named after the "black box" of airplanes which are actually orange to make them easier to spot.

Very widespread in fiction. In Real Life, it is commonly expressed as "you cannot make this shit up".

For cases in which the unrealistic thing is reality—that is, the real-life element doesn't just seem unexpected or fake, but actually bizarre or absurd—see Aluminum Christmas Trees below. For a list detailing how unrealistic tropes can be dangerous in reality, see Television Is Trying to Kill Us.

    Tropes commonly falling into this 
  • Gender and Sexuality Tropes
    Men and women don't always fit neatly into socially expected gender roles/dynamics...nor do they always want to. And gender/sexuality roles march on just like everything else.
  • Television Is Trying to Kill Us
    Fictional characters can do x and be just fine because they're fictional. Try that yourself in that situation and you could ruin or possibly even end your life.
  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: A girl can conceive two weeks before her first period, which is usually at 11 or 12 years old. And in one particular case, a then-5 1/2-year-old Peruvian girl, who had gotten her first period around age 3, became pregnant.
  • Aerith and Bob: People from the same area can have names of various different origins, especially in more multicultural places.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Actual drug dealers don't come up to random kids or teens (or adults for that matter) and pressure them into trying and getting hooked on drugs, or slip them drugs in the guise of "candy." Most people who use drugs get their first dose from a friend or family member, or even their own doctor. If they then want more or become addicted (and they don't always), they seek out a dealer, often by asking a friend who "knows someone." It certainly has happened that someone randomly tries to sell a stranger drugs (particularly in certain locations), but generally if the other party is uninterested they'll leave quickly, as pressuring random people (especially minors) into trying drugs is a great way to wind up in Prison, and most dealers take great pains to stay Beneath Notice. For the same reason, drug dealers do not (and rarely, if ever did) loiter around payphones waiting for "customers" to call them; that would generate suspicion, which is exactly the opposite of what they want.
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Cacti are present in fictional deserts anywhere in the world, even though in reality they're endemic to the Americas barring one species (which is not the stereotypical saguaro).
  • All Flyers Are Birds: Birds are the only avian ones, even though there's also bats, for example. Thus creatures that fly must be inherently bird-like.
  • All Periods Are PMS: PMS or premenstrual syndrome only affects 25% of menstruating people, so most women and other AFAB people won’t have this problem.
  • Alpha and Beta Wolves: This was thought of as fact for decades but it was due to faulty research done on captive wolves. In their natural environment, most wolf packs are just family units.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: An element that strikes viewers as patently fictional when it is, in fact, real.
  • Anachronistic Animal: Animals from different time periods are shown living together. Particularly, Tyrannosaurus rex is often depicted hunting Brontosaurus and Stegosaurus, both of which died out millions of years before T. rex in real life.
  • Animals See in Monochrome: Few animals have completely monochrome vision. Many, such as dogs and cats, would be considered partially colorblind by human standards, but they can still see some colors.
  • Artistic License – Space: In fictional space, everyone can hear you scream.
  • Audible Sharpness: Real swords only go shing! when they're touching something metallic. Air does not count. Nor, unless it's built incorrectly, does the inside of the scabbard.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: Even handguns are expected to sound like huge explosions rather than firecrackers in real life. In real life often the only way to differentiate the two is firecrackers lack the distinct echo of the bullet breaking the sound barrier.
  • Beeping Computers: In real life, having a setup where every tap of the key produces a noise from the computer would be impractical at best, infuriating at worst.
    • Although noisy keyboards were once a commonplace thing, and at least one computer device had a "virtual key click" feature that yes, beeped on every keystroke.
  • Beneficial Disease: Once you've had Tropeosis, you can't get it again, and if you currently have it, you can't get Tropeitis.note 
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Square-Cube Law tends to prevent insects and arachnids from growing to an enormous size. (While some prehistoric arthropods were much larger than their modern counterparts, they still weren't kaiju-sized.)
  • Bitter Almonds: Not everyone has the (genetic) ability to detect the almond smell that is associated with cyanide, and even those who can smell it may not know what it means.
  • Boom, Headshot!: No one ever goes for the safer, more sensible shot at the center of mass.
  • Burn the Witch!: People accused of being witches are invariably shown being burned at the stake. In real life, burning witches at the stake was only done in Continental Europe. This is because burning at the stake was the prescribed punishment for heresy (well before the witchcraft hysteria, it was also used on the Cathars). In Britain, most witches were hanged instead. The reason for this is that witches in Britain were being accused of treason rather than heresy, because heresy was not actually a crime in Britain. However, since the King was God's representative on earth, conspiring with the devil was also conspiracy against the King. Or so the witch-hunter logic went. Also, first offenders (if convicted, which was not a Foregone Conclusion) tended to get off with just a fine or a penance.
    • Even in colonial Salem, witches were hanged, and mostly only people who pled not guilty to witchcraft but were found guilty. In fact, most of the accused witches that pled guilty to being witches simply sat in prison until the colony governor shut the whole ridiculous farce down and most of them were freed.
  • Calling Cards and other Criminal Mind Games: While not completely unheard of in Real Life, they are nowhere near as prevalent as they are in fiction. That's because most criminals are trying not to get caught, and leaving a consistent pattern or signature makes catching them easier.
  • Cartoon Bomb: It actually is a realistic representation of 19th century explosive artillery ammunition.
  • Cartoon Cheese: In cartoons, cheese will resemble Swiss cheese colored like cheddar. In reality, they come in a much wider variety.
  • Cartoon Meat: Meats in cartoons tend to look different than in real life. For example, steaks will be shown as red even when they're supposed to be cooked, and whole roasted birds will often be missing their wings.
  • Choke Holds: In fiction, it takes at most thirty seconds to incapacitate/kill someone with an air choke. In real life, it takes several minutes (Most humans can hold their breath for at least a minute or two, so why would someone suffocate to death in seconds?) and the victim is fully capable of fighting back throughout. Blood chokes are portrayed more accurately, but they are more dangerous than media would have you believe. Even trained fighters can accidentally kill or seriously injure someone with a blood choke, while blood chokes in fiction are almost never lethal and the victim is just fine afterward.
  • Clean, Pretty Childbirth: Actual childbirth is much messier than most TV and movies would have you believe.
  • The Coconut Effect: The fictional version of an element is so ingrained in perception that it has to be used to represent that element, even when everyone knows it's fiction.
  • Common Fan Fallacies: Fans think something in a work of fiction is inaccurate but is actually true.
  • Common Hollywood Sex Traits: Leads to many misconceptions about how sex actually is or should be like. Real sex isn't always sexy.
  • Cool, Clear Water: Water in fiction is almost always presented as clean, pure, and potable right from the pond/spring/lake/river/whatever. In actuality, drinking water directly from a stream without treating it or checking the quality first is highly inadvisable, because it may be contaminated with harmful bacteria and parasites, or even toxic chemicals.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: While this does happen in real life, you'd be surprised at what can successfully kill a person and what can fail. The classic example of this trope is "committed suicide by shooting themselves in the head twice", which sounds like an obvious lie, but there are some real documented cases of suicides where the person survived the initial headshot and then finished the job with a second (especially if they aimed wrong, or used a low-caliber weapon).
  • Creepy Camel Spider: Fictionalized depictions of solifugids tend to portray them as hyperaggressive desert terrors, and often assign them traits — such as venom, the ability to scream, or a willingness to attack anything much larger than a mouse — that they plainly don't have in real life.
  • The CSI Effect: The fictionalized depiction of crime scene investigation has given the general public unrealistic expectations of Real Life crime scene investigation. (It has also created more savvy criminals.)
  • Dawson Casting: Using adult actors to play teenagers has given people unrealistic ideas about what young adults really look like, leading to accusations that a certain actor is "too young" to play an adult when in fact they are in their late 20s or early 30s.
  • Dreaming of a White Christmas: Winter holidays are always snowy, and said snow is always fluffy and white, never miserable or wet or slushy. It is also largely cosmetic instead of a potentially life-threatening hazard (unless the story demands it).
  • Eagleland Osmosis: When non-Americans expect things in their country to work like America.
  • Endangered Soufflé: Soufflés are so sensitive that even the slightest shock can cause one to collapse.
  • Enhance Button: Fictional computer programs can accurately sharpen pictures or video that started at very low resolution. While there are methods that can tease some additional detail out of pixilation and noise like combining multiple frames of video, the ability is not remotely at the level in fiction. Claims of AI-powered enhancement like this provide flashy-looking "enhancements" based on the program's guesses, inserting detail the same way one could have the program guess at what's outside the image. See for example this research where a model has been trained to turn pixilated faces into more detailed faces that range in accuracy from "passing resemblance" to "eldritch mockery" based mostly on how perfectly the image matches those in its database.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: As in Aluminum Christmas Trees, but here the disbelieved thing is common, not bizarre or kitschy.
  • Every Pizza Is Pepperoni: Pizza in cartoons is always topped with pepperoni and rarely anything else.
  • Evil Poacher: Poachers are typically portrayed as either doing it for money or for entertainment. In real life, the former are called "commercial poachers" and in regards to the latter, poachers-turned-ranger have reported there being such individuals.
  • Evolutionary Levels: The idea that evolutionary history has tiers of "advancement" when it's really just millions of years of trial-and-error. In Real Life, this led to an incredibly prejudiced classification of the human races along the evolutionary spectrum.
  • Explosive Decompression: People don't actually explode in the vacuum of space.
  • Fair for Its Day: Societies of former times also uphold values that modern audiences might see as too progressive for the era.
  • Flushing Toilet, Screaming Shower: In fiction, flushing the toilet while someone is showering always results in a pressure change and hilarity ensuing. Because it's not like pressure-balanced shower valves nowadays are specifically designed to prevent this from happening.
  • Freakier Than Fiction: When adapting a true story, the story has to be toned down because the audience wouldn't believe it otherwise.
  • Fille Fatale: A young girl (or, for that matter, a young boy) acting in a sexually precocious manner is troubling, but not for the reason most people think. It's often a sign that somewhere along the line she (or he) was sexually abused. (As people have begun to get more of a clue about the prevalence of child/teen molestation, they're more likely to remember this.)
  • Five Stages of Grief: Following Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' clean pretty timeline, grief follows a set timetable, with very specific stages. In reality, not everyone goes through every stage, nor does grief follow a neat and well-defined timeline. Additionally, grief can come in unpredictable waves or cycles; the grieving person may feel fine one day, and then the next day, they may feel sad or angry again.
  • Gentle Giant Sauropod: Sauropods may or may not have been as friendly as they are usually depicted in media.
  • Goofy Feathered Dinosaur: The concept of feathered dinosaurs is rejected due to the misconception that dinosaurs were "big lizards".
  • Groin Attack: In real life, a kick to the groin is just as effective and dangerous against a woman as is against a man (though less funny).
  • Guns Are Worthless: Depending on the setting. In real life, it depends on the situation. A pistol won't do much against an armored car or a .22 caliber target gun would be next to useless for hunting grizzly bears.
  • Hard-to-Light Fire: In fiction, it often takes someone a few seconds to make a fire. In reality, it can take hours if fuel must be gathered and matches/lighters are not handy.
  • Headbutting Pachy: While pachycephalosaurs may have rammed their opponents in real life, their skull roofs were not as durable as in fiction.
  • Heart in the Wrong Place: It's never as far to the left as people think it is.
  • Hollywood Density: Just because two blocks of material are the same size doesn't mean they're the same weight.
  • Hollywood Drowning: In movies, drowning victims thrash and scream for help. In real life, they're far more likely to paddle quietly for a few seconds and then sink.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Hacking is fast and easy! No need to spend days finding weaknesses in the system, coding viruses, or anything un-dramatic like that.
  • Horny Vikings: If you don't have horns on your helmet, how will anyone know you're here to loot and pillage?
  • Hydrant Geyser: Damaging a fire hydrant always results in a massive eruption of water, because municipalities certainly haven't gotten engineers to prevent that kind of thing.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Learning and performing extraordinary feats from watching movies, playing video games, etc. In real life, this can happen, though the success rate varies.
  • Incorrect Animal Noise: Many animals voices don't seem to fit an animal's looks, so they're replaced with more "fitting" voices.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: If you cough, even once, you're on your way to the grave. You don't just have a cold or a tickle in your throat, oh no. May have something to do with Law of Conservation of Detail.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Fictional bullets can cause a person to drop dead of a chest or gut shot, even when a real person could probably keep moving (or talking, or moaning) for another few minutes.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: Basically the opposite of the above — someone in fiction shrugs off a wound that in real life would be a medical emergency.
  • Kensington Gore: Fake blood people have come to associate with how "real" blood looks.
  • Killer Gorilla: Real-life gorillas are peaceful and non-violent animals, and when they do get provoked they prefer to stage mock-battles.
  • Latino Is Brown: The assumption that all latino/latina people are brown skinned and vaguely Native American in appearance, when in fact many have quite a bit of European, African or even Asian ancestry.
  • Lead the Target: Sufficient distances require a weapon using bullets/shells to shoot "in front" of the target to make their trajectories intersect and thus hit. Fiction often ignores that or, on the other extreme, wildly exaggerates it.
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple: Despite this being common in media, not all gay couples are restricted to a strict masculine-feminine dynamic.
  • Naturally Huskless Coconuts: The coconut most people are familiar with is actually the seed of a coconut. Real coconuts are actually fruits with a smooth husk colored green or yellow, though they do turn brown and rough as they mature.
  • Neck Snap: It is possible to snap someone's neck with your bare hands, but it requires lots of strength and technique. Even then, it's never as easy, quick or clean as it is in fiction and broken necks aren't fatal unless the spinal cord is severed.
  • Never Gets Fat: Many real people make a habit of eating big in public, with only small meals if any in their free time. This can give the appearance of a mythical "fast metabolism".
  • Noisy Nature: On-screen animals make a sound for every movement or gesture, but live animals are fairly quiet, especially the non-domesticated ones.
  • Nobody Poops: People in fiction never need to use the restroom unless the plot dictates it.
  • No Dead Body Poops: In reality, only about 10% of mammalian deaths involve the body voiding its bladder or bowels upon death. In fiction, it either always happens or never happens.
  • One Hit Poly Kill: Mostly by accident. It's one of the main safety concerns of guns, and is called "overpenetration" in most gun circles.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Being shot in the shoulder, arm, or leg will merely slow down a fictional character. A real person, on the other hand, has large blood vessels in those places, not to mention bones that can be broken and require major surgery (and possibly amputation) on the injured limb.
  • Only in Florida: Weird events aren't more prevalent in Florida than anywhere else; they're just more visible, by virtue of the state's "sunshine laws".
  • Pawprint Stamping: Yes, in Real Life, there have been cases of animals using their pawprints to sign documents.
  • Percussive Maintenance: A device will always start working again if hit with the right force in the right place. Knowing where and how hard, however, is pretty much impossible without intimate knowledge of the device in question.
  • Piranha Problem: Real piranhas are not as voracious as in fiction, but in certain circumstances do in fact attack in flesh-stripping swarms.
  • Polar Penguins: Only two species of penguin live exclusively around mainland Antarctica; the rest are found in much warmer climates, such as Australia, South America, and the Galapagos Islands.
  • Politically Correct History: Changing or removing uncomfortable facts from history in a work that is supposed to be historically accurate. Itself often used as a criticism towards regimes with a Retcon-happy attitude.
  • Pregnant Reptile: It is commonly taught that almost all mammals are the only ones who are viviparous (a fancy word for being able to give live birth), yet there are species of reptiles, amphibians, fish, arthropods, and worms that are viviparous or ovoviviparous (eggs develop and hatch inside).
  • Prehistoria: In fiction, the land of dinosaurs is nothing but jungles, swamps, deserts, and volcanoes. In reality, it's far more varied and complicated.
  • Primal Chest-Pound: Real gorillas pound their chests with their palms, not their fists. They also make a "pop" sound upon impact.
  • Puzzling Platypus: Just... just platypuses, man. Those things should not exist. (These guys are so unrealistic that they were initially dismissed as hoaxes by naturalists in the northern hemisphere — and the more we've learned about them, the more we've found out how bizarre they truly are.)
  • Quicksand Sucks: Quicksand is deep and has active suction in fiction, even though the real stuff is fairly shallow and can be escaped with your own natural buoyancy and patience.
  • Raptor Attack: Real Velociraptors were much smaller and would have behaved more like flightless eagles.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Fictional dialogue is unrealistically polished.
  • Red Live Lobster: The lobster served at the seafood restaurant is red on the plate. Surely, it must've been the same color when it was alive.
  • Reflectionless Useless Eyes: Most blind people don't have clouded or grey eyes. In real life, cataracts are the reason behind some blind people having cloudy eyes, but this is only one potential cause of blindness.
  • Removable Animal Markings: In fiction, an animal's natural markings, such as spots or stripes, are removable.
  • Removable Shell: In fiction, a turtle's shell is a type of clothing or mobile home. In real life, it's its ribcage.
  • Rhino Rampage: While real rhinoceroses can be dangerous, they're not likely to attack you as a hippopotamus would.
  • Rubik's Cube: International Genius Symbol: A Real Life person with average intelligence and basic problem-solving skills is a match for a Rubik's Cube, but in fiction only an absolute genius can make all the sides the same color.
  • Savage Spinosaurs: Real spinosaurids were mainly fish-eaters and likely were not as aggressive as they are commonly portrayed.
  • Scary Scorpions: Real scorpions are not as deadly as the ones in fiction.
  • Short Teens, Tall Adults: The need for an older actor to be believable as a teenager leads to casting actors that are uncommonly short. This leads to many situations where the teenagers are all somewhere around five feet when in real life most teenagers (especially at age 16-19) are already at their adult height, which may be as tall as or taller than their parents.
  • Snow Means Cold: Only up to a point. Believe it or not, it can actually be too cold for snow to fall in any significant quantities.
  • Space Is Cold: It depends on exactly where you are in space. If you're in orbit above Mars, you will freeze, but in orbit above Venus, you'd fry like an egg. Neither one is instantaneous.
  • Spiders Are Scary: Unless you live in the Australian outback, real spiders you see around civilization are not as deadly as the ones in fiction.
  • Stock Animal Diet: If an animal is eating food that's not part of its stereotypical diet, then it's weird.
  • Stock Beehive: In fiction, wild beehives resemble hornet nests. In reality, not so much... but many bee-like insects build nests of this sort, and for thousands of years baskets or jars modeled after these nests were the standard "build nest here" structures used by beekeepers
  • Stock Object Colors: An object must have a certain colour because the audience expects it so, else there must be something wrong with it.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Explosions aren't fireballs. Hollywood adds fuel to the mix in order to make those.
  • Technicolor Science: Pretty colors! Science is awesome!
  • Telepathic Sprinklers: Real overhead fire sprinklers only go off if the temperature just below one is hot enough to trigger it. But in fiction, if one goes off, the rest will too.
  • Terror-dactyl: In fiction, a chilling combination of dinosaur and vampire bat. In reality, far more complex.
  • Threatening Shark: You're more likely to be struck by lightning than eaten by a shark. And even then, only three species of sharks are consistently dangerous to humans, those being the Great White, Tiger, and Bull Sharks in decending order of contribution to the 440 fatal shark attacks recorded worldwide since 1958. That said, a third species called the Oceanic Whitetip is infamous for acting out this trope in the wake of shipwrecks as part of its "assume everything is food" open ocean survival strategy, these impossible-to-tally deaths being lumped into the generic "lost at sea" category.
  • Three-Month-Old Newborn: Because a TV or movie set is a bad place for a newborn, babies seen on TV and film tend to be about 3-4 months old.. .and don't actually look like newborns.
  • Too Smart for Strangers: Most children who are kidnapped are taken by someone they already know and trust, including family members (such as parents in a custody battle). The stranger who allures children with candy/a sob story about a lost puppy/the promise of a ride home/whatever else is the exception, not the rule.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: A sometimes-jarring moment when you need to apply commonsense, everyday logic to a videogame that typically works under its own logic and rules.
  • Unorthodox Holstering: While it may look cool, it's actually a very good way to injure or kill yourself.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Portraying Black Holes as anything other than just a giant gravity field that will trap anything that passes its event horizon. The typical portrayal is more akin to a vacuum cleaner.
    • Powered by a Black Hole: Yes, you can get energy out of a black hole, although you're typically not diving into one to do it. This generally involves tapping the black hole's immediate surroundings for energy, such as harvesting the radiation emitted by matter as it falls in from the accretion disc.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Obscure or heavy accents can sound fake to some listeners, especially if they live outside of the country being represented. People who have lived in several regions during their lifetime or have parents with different accents can end up with a mishmash of dialects all rolled into one. In addition, second language speakers with fluent English will often mix words from several dialects and elements of pronunciation. Using British English words with a Valley Girl accent? Totally happens - totally too strange for fiction.
  • Yaoi Genre: Traditional yaoi stories involve a Seme and an Uke, in very fixed roles. Real male-male relationships are not obligated to conform to these roles.
  • Your Costume Needs Work (real-life examples)

Contrast with Uncanny Valley, where a certain amount of increased realism causes the remaining unrealistic aspects to become extremely obvious and disconcerting.

See also: Based on a Great Big Lie and Artistic License.


Example subpages

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • Beer commercials, 'cause tropers love their drink:
    • You know how these always have a "beauty shot" with a glass of beer with a thick, frothy head? Not all beer froth that much, but the average viewer thinks it should, so some advertisers add detergent to the beer to achieve the effect.
    • Similarly, beer commercials are also fond of showing the head overflowing and spilling over the glass. Bartenders are told by their bar managers not to do that, as it wastes beer, and needlessly messes up the bar and the napkins. When the head overflows, you've poured too much.
    • Besides, to get that beautiful head that consumers have come to expect, many a brewer have resorted to additives (for example E405, propylene glycol alginate). To get that head without those additives you have to pour the beer badly (straight into the glass, rather than down the side) or use a special foaming nozzle (once common in northern England).
    • All of above points dominantly apply to USA beers. European beers have usually natural head consisting of beer itself. Photo of beer with standard head Video demonstration of tapping of standard 0,5l (video by Honest Guide). Similar effect can be found with tapped Czech drink Kofola.
  • Cereal commercials:
    • The "milk" they use is actually white paint with a little bit of turpentine mixed in. Apparently, it looks thicker and more real than actual milk. Real milk under studio lighting looks transparent and bluish, and less attractive than the PVA glue or white paint that usually stands in for it. (Milk also curdles quickly under hot film lights.)
    • The milk-swirling-into-coffee images were similarly mocked up, usually with white paint and treacle (or Marmite in the UK). There was at least one photographer's studio in the UK in the 1980s dedicated to this kind of phototrickery.
    • It's also unlikely you'll get a lot of steam off freshly served food, unless it's very hot, moist food in a quite cold room. The steam you see on TV? Probably a soggy microwaved tampon.
  • Remember those "Ask Dr. Z" commercials for what was then Daimler-Chrysler, with the actor with an odd-looking fake mustache and goofy German accent purporting to be the company's CEO and taking customers' questions? That was the actual CEO of Daimler, and the accent and mustache are both real.
  • Darker soft drinks, e.g. Coca-Cola, often have to be diluted significantly when photographed because they look too dark in their actual state.
  • One ad for the Hint brand of fruit-flavored water features a couple visiting a fruit stand, and marveling that the grower was able to make her fruit taste exactly like the corresponding Hint water. She plays along, claiming that the fruit had to be reared on Hint water to get it to taste so much like it.

    Comic Books 
  • Superhero costumes being skin-tight spandex-looking material are often derided for not being practical, to the point it's now seemingly mandatory when the Live-Action Adaptation happens to swap it for "more realistic" armour, leather, and muted colours. Putting aside that many superheroes have no need for armour due to their powersnote , but in real life, people wear brightly coloured spandex all the time for sports and athletics, due to it being the most comfortable and aerodynamic. For characters who are moving at Super-Speed or jumping over rooftops, you'd want to be light and manoeuvrable, something more afforded by spandex. The use of tights as superhero costumes in itself originates from what was common sporting attire at-the-time, right down to the Underwear of Power trend (which follows from how old-fashioned circus wrestlers and strongmen dressed), and nowadays, outfits used for various sports actually strongly resemble comic book superhero costumes.
    • Even the bright colours have practical basis. As darker colours absorb more heat, it make the material hotter and less comfortable as they're more likely to sweat under, whereas brighter colours would reflect more external light and heat away from them and be somewhat cooler. It also increases visibility, which unless the hero is The Cowl, is a bonus for both making them less intimidating to civilians and law enforcement (thus resulting in less Hero with Bad Publicity or being mistaken for a Malevolent Masked Man), and makes it easier for them to be found and recovered if they're knocked unconscious or injured. This is in-part why real life rescue workers often wear bright reflective gear, so they're easier to identify.
    • This even goes for Stripperific outfits Ms. Fanservice heroines wear — to a limited extent. As noted, superhero costumes originally take inspiration from athletic wear, and women's athletic wear does tend to show more skin than men's, due to differing fashion norms between the genders. Generally speaking, many women are more comfortable showing off skin than men often are, and when it comes to athletics, this has an advantage of providing more room for their skin to breathe during physical activity, is less restrictive and causes less chafing, and also provides less to be grabbed during a fight. Of course, this only excuses it to some extent, and doesn't excuse non-powered heroines wearing Thong of Shielding outfits, nor does it cover the other issues with how women are drawn in comics.
  • Batman:
    • Defied in Batman: Hush. Catwoman is shot in the arm by Harley Quinn...and while she survives, in subsequent scenes, she is shown to be physically weakened from loss of blood.
    • Batman: No Man's Land; a major American city gets hit by a national disaster, and the government basically leaves it to fend for itself, up to and including writing off the city and blowing the bridges out of town. Some people, including folks who liked the story, decried it as impossible, pointing out things like No FEMA Response. Then Hurricane Katrina rolled over New Orleans, and it didn't seem quite so improbable anymore. (Of course, Gotham City is the DC Comics version of New York, which would likely receive more and faster aid than New Orleans if similarly damaged, but the point remains, and the main complaint is the length of the No Man's Land story, which was months)
  • Blue And Gold: In-universe example. Booster Gold has taken to livestreaming his adventures, and at least one commentator vocally thinks the whole thing is being faked. To be fair, Booster does have a past rep for this sort of thing (mostly unfairly), and the commentator comes round eventually.
  • Daredevil: One particular nitpick among fans is Matt Murdock's ability to "feel" what color a piece of clothing is. While it's presented in a more superhuman light, a large number of legally blind people can still see colors, even if they can't make out specific objects clearly, and even completely blind people may be able to tell, particularly with their own items of clothing, by feeling different fabric textures, patterns, etc. and recalling that particular object's color.
  • W.I.T.C.H.: In-universe example in one story. Irma had been drafted to write the script of a musical based on the first saga, and the dialogue she wrote for a romantic scene was laughed at as too cheesy and unrealistic-except she had copied it from a phone call between Peter Cook and Cornelia (who was in the room), the latter of which is the base of one of the characters.
  • Wonder Woman Vol. 2: In-universe example. In Eyes of the Gorgon, a battle between Medusa and Wonder Woman is being broadcast on national TV, and one of the viewers comments that "The CGI looks totally fake!".
  • X-Men: One common critique about the X-Men is often that they don't 'fit' with the rest of the Marvel Universe, since their entire premise is based on Fantastic Racism; it makes no sense for people to be OK with the Fantastic Four but not like the X-Men, simply because the X-Men gain their powers from being mutants. However, in real life, it's fairly common for people to be bigoted against one minority group but not have any issue with another, or even being good friends or idealizing people of one group while despising another, even if there's no real difference between the groups or what they can do. On top of that, its been shown that some people do hate non-mutant superhumans too, with Johnny Storm actually once getting attacked outside a nightclub by some bigots blaming him for the terrorist attack done by a villain note . To put it bluntly, of course the double standard is unreasonable, bigotry is is essentially unreasonable hatred against a group of people. (Of course, there's also the fact that the Four are led by an unbelievably handsome man - albeit with a plasticized body - while the two most prominent members of the X-Men are a somewhat sinister bald man in a wheelchair and a long-sideburned punk with metal claws. Who do you think would be more aesthetically appealing?) Though it still leaves the question of how people can actually tell mutants and non-mutant superhumans apart, which would be necessary for anti-mutant racism to actually be directed at mutants.

  • In The Aristocats, Duchess' kittens are the ginger Toulouse, black-furred Berlioz, and snowball Marie. It should normally be impossible for such a litter to exist. All My Kittens explains this by Marie having a different father from her brothers: Marie's father was white-furred while her brother's was a fertile calico. It actually is possible for littermates to have different fathers if the queen mates with more than one tom within a certain period.
  • Happened In-Universe to Tonks in The Awakening of a Magus. She was quite plain looking while a child, but when the She Is All Grown Up trope started kicking in, everyone assumed she was using her recently manifested Metamorphomagus abilities. She resorted to using an appearance extrapolated from her earlier looks, which is implied to be the reason for her clumsiness, due to different balance and all.
  • Some fans of Welcome to Night Vale can be extremely picky about racial depictions, even though the show is well-known for being inclusive. Both actors who have played Carlos give him a standard Midwestern American accent. Fanfic writers who have him speak Spanish or Portuguesenote  have been accused of otherizing and Latin Lover stereotyping, since if he spoke Spanish he'd have that accent when he spoke English. These critics have perhaps watched a little too much I Love Lucy and may never have been to Southern California, where Night Vale takes place; Hispanics routinely switch back and forth in mid-sentence and use crisp American English accents as Carlos does.

    Films — Animation 
  • Balto
    • Some viewers assume that the Incurable Cough of Death caused by the diphtheria epidemic is just a clichéd device to indicate the kids are sick, since coughing is so often used in fiction for made-up diseases or diseases that don't actually cause the sufferer to cough. In reality, diphtheria actually does cause a cough because of the toxins and fluid filling the lungs.
    • The death toll is also sometimes thought to have been greatly reduced for the sake of making it kid-friendly. In reality, the majority of the kids did survive thanks to the dog sled teams delivering the serum in time; the actual death toll is uncertain (especially since the native population didn't report all their deaths), but it may have been as few as six or seven in Nome.
    • Also, some people say that there was no way that little Rosy could have still been alive as the grandmother in the live-action framing scenes, because the serum run was so long ago. Actually, it was in 1925 - when the movie was done in the 90s, a person could have easily still been alive, as she would have been in her 80s-90s.
  • Fire and Ice (1983) is an example in a surprising way: the rotoscoped movements of the characters are often criticized as being "unrealistic" because they have none of the exaggeration found in almost all animation.
  • One of the oft-cited "absurdities" of George Miller's Happy Feet is that the main character somehow ends up far out his region, washed ashore and stranded. This has happened more than a few times, the most recent and talked about being the African Penguin who ended up a world away, and the King Penguin who'd somehow spirited himself beyond the Falklands. Penguins have even wound up in Alaska - admittedly, most likely by boat (escaped ship's pets), but still...
  • Ratatouille: Invoked in-universe by Linguini when he defends Rémy, and explains that the rat is the real cook while he has no actual talent. As he points out, "I know it sounds insane, but, well the truth sounds insane sometimes!" Sadly, it just wasn't enough.
  • One of The's biggest complaints about TMNT is that Splinter's voice doesn't sound Asian, when in fact it was voiced by the famed Japanese actor Mako Iwamatsu. (They were probably thrown by the fact a Japanese accent doesn't sound much like the played-up Cantonese accent used for all Asian people in most Western media.)
  • CinemaSins claimed Galvatron falling into Unicron's mouth in The Transformers: The Movie was a mistake, since there's "no gravity in space". Actually, Unicron is explicitly stated to be the size of a planet, meaning he would have the same gravity as a planet and thus anything near by would fall towards him.
  • In Turning Red, the streetcars in the movie show the driver holding a steering wheel. Streetcars run on rails and cannot turn freely like a bus. Given that the other details of the streetcars are portrayed as realistically as possible, the presence of steering wheels in this case is probably because having buttons instead (as is actually the case for streetcars) would look out of place for a vehicle on the road that seems more similar to a bus than a train.

    Game Shows 
  • This happens to poor James Acaster on Taskmaster when the contestants are challenged with altering their appearance as much as possible during an elevator ride. James hops on, hits the floor, and then hits the emergency button, expecting it to stop like it does in movies and give him all the time in the world to change. All that happens is an alarm sounds, but the elevator keeps moving. By the time he realizes he's screwed, all he manages to do is get his jacket half off and one measly point.
    Greg: This is what happens when you believe what happens in films! You pressed the emergency button and you just thought it would stop? You could take your time? Yeah, just a weird little alarm went off and you continued to travel! One point, James Acaster!

  • Tiffany is a medieval name, short for "Theophania", but authors can't use it in historical or fantasy fiction because it looks too modern.
  • Rainbow High has a meta example in Delila's albinism. In the case of people, "albinism" refers to their lack of pigment, not always complete absence thereof, so, yes, a lot of people with albinism (or some form thereof) can look very much like Delila.

  • The advent of the synthesizer allowed amateur songwriters to fake any number of musical instruments and other sounds to near-perfection. Because of that, people who enjoy the synthesized stuff would be mighty surprised when they're told that their favorite song was, in fact, played by a real band with real instruments.
    • Queen in particular were notorious for this; contrary to popular belief, the "no synths" disclaimer on their early albums wasn't because they had anything against synths even then, but because they were annoyed that Brian May's guitar proficiency and their overdub tricks were being mistaken for synth effects. When Dave Grohl hired May to play several guitar tracks on the Foo Fighters song "Tired of You", he made a point of mentioning in interviews that the song is all guitar and vocals in case anyone mistook parts of it for strings or synths.
    • Rage Against the Machine have a similar disclaimer on their albums that all sounds are made by guitar, drums, bass, and vocals. That didn't stop some reviewers from assuming Tom Morello's guitar solos on "Bulls On Parade" and "Guerilla Radio" were a turntable and harmonica respectively.
    • Phil Collins also had to put a disclaimer on No Jacket Required clarifying that "there is no Fairlight on this record," as by that point the Fairlight CMI digital sampler had become ubiquitous enough among professional musicians for consumers to expect it to appear on every major release by a major artist, especially for horn and string sounds like the one that Collins used — with real instruments and live performers — on the album.
    • When the trope comes back around and eats itself, you get The Alan Parsons Project, which was sometimes criticized for its (real) orchestral parts that, according to detractors, sounded like a keyboard player's idea of what an orchestral part sounded like. In other words, the orchestra was aping a keyboard aping an orchestra...
  • In an article about the use of pitch-correcting software in the music industry, one producer noted that singers who don't use the software get criticized by fans for sounding "pitchy". Ironically, the article was mainly about rappers who use the software to intentionally distort their voices.

    The implication that electronic-sounding pop music (and only electronic-sounding pop music) is singled out for employing the same studio trickery, autotune, drag-and-drop editing and effects processing that almost all modern recording studios have access to in all styles of music doesn't help matters. This is also true with live performances and "mimed" TV appearances.
  • As a general performing note, singing is quite different from normal talking and often contorts your face. Since people don't often see the band in-studio and video shoots are often lip-synced or prettied-up, they will notice that when someone's performing live, they make some pretty strange expressions.
  • Same thing with singers; lip-syncing scandals (like with Milli Vanilli, Britney Spears, and Ashlee Simpson) have become so prevalent in the public memory in recent years that it comes as a shock to listeners when they're told a performer they swear is lip-syncing actually isn't.
  • Producer Gus Dudgeon was often asked by Elton John fans if Dudgeon sped up the tape when recording Elton's vocals on the title track to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, as it has a very nasal, high-pitched quality to it. Dudgeon assured them that that was how Elton chose to sing it (he was known to experiment with his vocals at the time). His natural register has deepened over the years to the point that he's physically incapable of singing it that way.
  • Listeners often complain that Gorillaz vocalist 2D sounds too different between singing and speaking to have realistically performed those songs. (In all fairness, he is played by two separate voice actors.) In reality, people can have dramatic differences between their speaking and singing voices: accents disappear, pronunciation becomes clearer, tones vary widely etc. It's not uncommon for someone with a thick accent or odd mode of speech to sound fine in recordings; learning to shift between voices is one of the first things aspiring vocalists are taught. For a perfect example, see Ozzy Osbourne.
  • Heavy Metal usually doesn't have the stereotypical "doodily-doodily-doo" guitar sound. You're probably thinking of either Hair Metal (which is, relatively speaking, a footnote in the genre's history) or the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (Judas Priest, Iron Maiden) and the American bands they inspired (Metallica, Slayer). The earliest metal bands (Deep Purple, Blue Öyster Cult) would occasionally perform hammer-ons, but for the most part their music wasn't especially technically accomplished and was really nothing more than standard Hard Rock played at extreme volume. Hammer-ons didn't become semi-obligatory until the coming of Van Halen in 1978 - and even after that, many of the hair bands used them only sparingly, or sometimes not at all. Then, in The '90s, Nu Metal (Music/Slipknot, etc.) shifted the focus away from guitar solos and back toward riffs, albeit less pentatonic (blues-based) ones. (Ergo, what we have here is something of a Dead Unicorn Trope.) Part of the problem is that popular culture (or, specifically, people who know next to nothing about metal) has for years pounded into viewers' brains a ridiculously cartoonish image of heavy metal, complete with a crazy guitar sound, wild hair, and leopard-print spandex.
  • A lot of people in general tend to think demo versions of songs are sloppy low-quality takes which sound as if they'd been recorded through a telephone line. Fair enough, some of them are (e.g., demos recorded via portable recorders in the 70's), but many, many, many demos are recorded under similar circumstances as final cuts: at professional studios with multi-track technology and built-in limiters, etc. People often dismiss a demo as 'fake' if it sounds 'too good.'
    • For instance, Foster the People's hit "Pumped Up Kicks" was a demo that Mark Foster recorded before forming the band. The band never re-recorded the song, so the version that became popular was that original demo!
    • "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore (at that time, a 16-year old New Jersey schoolgirl taking voice and piano lessons) was produced and recorded, vocals, orchestra, brass section and all, as a demo recording in a small four-track studio in New York City by a young Quincy Jones over the course of a day and not meant to be released commercially. That changed after Phil Spector talked to Jones at a concert both attended of his plans to record the song with the Crystals; Jones mixed the recording, released acetates to radio stations across the country over the course of that weekend and it reached #1 in a month.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven was once commissioned to arrange some Scottish folk music for the piano. Everyone praised how "realistic" the tunes he had "composed" were.
  • A hot-ticket act for many years around Canada is the Musical Box, a fantastically accurate tribute band that plays spot-on performances of vintage (usually Peter Gabriel-era) Genesis music with spot-on theatrics; in fact, the only tribute band Genesis and Gabriel personally endorse and allow to perform with those theatrics. This is the closest you are going to come to a recreation of the band in its progressive rock heyday. This is until you technically take into account that Genesis performed to much smaller, feistier crowds, with less spit-and-polish than TMB use, lower-tech and less reliable sound equipment, lighting, musical instruments, theatrics and staging, and smaller road crews (if any). They were also flying by the seat of their pants as a young, naive, hungry unknown band playing unknown and weird experimental original music with unheard-of, weird, outrageous, experimental theatrics in The '70s, with all the nerves, spontaneity and hunger to prove themselves you would expect out of such a band starting out.
  • The same thing happened to Roger Ebert once: when reviewing the 1998 remake of Psycho he complained of the evident electronically tweaked voice of the cop to make it sound unusually deep for effect. After someone wrote to him in the "Questions for the Movie Answer Man" column correcting him he had to add a footnote to later versions of the review saying, "I was wrong: that's James Remar's real voice."
  • The contrast between Rick Astley's youthful, slender appearance and his powerful baritone voice made many believe his singing was due to studio trickery, or even that he was lip-syncing a black singer (after the Milli Vanilli scandal put the existence of such a trick into public prominence). Such rumors resurfaced with the Rickroll meme. But that is his natural voice.
  • This is more about facelessness as opposed to sound techniques, but it definitely fits. Back in 1989, Rolling Stone did an article about R.E.M. as promotion for the release of Green. The article included R.E.M. performing at a club in their hometown in Athens, GA, where a patron is quoted as saying, "Who is this fucking R.E.M. cover band?"
  • Same with Punk Rock, which until relatively recently received a crass depiction from mainstream media. It is not simply "metal with shorter haircuts." Of course, the greater prominence of Hardcore Punk in later years (following the mainstream decline of first-wave punk in the 80's) didn't help, and even then there's a fairly clear distinction between hardcore and metal.
  • Similar with first takes: people think that a first take is always full of mistakes and low quality, and indeed, sometimes that's the case, but sometimes not. There's no set difference between Take 1 and Take 200; either one of those (or anything in between) could have been used for the final comp.
    • In fact, there are plenty of well known songs that the version that was released was the first (or only) take, including The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun", The Beatles' "Twist and Shout" and Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy".
  • Some drummers are so accurate (with or without the aid of metronomes and click tracks) that a lot of people find it hard to believe it's actually them rather than a drum machine or a loop of samples. Because sequencers are so common nowadays, those who achieve a similar precision without that are often dismissed as fake, and drummers who are widely known to genuinely be that accurate are often called "human drum machines" for this reason (most notably Chris Frantz of Talking Heads & Tom Tom Club and Stephen Morris of Joy Division & New Order).
  • This is somewhat a film example as well as music, but "Weird Al" Yankovic holds a note out so ridiculously long in the Theme Song to Spy Hard that it's commonly thought that this was a sound editing trick.
  • Thanks to the Loudness War, people sometimes describe modern CDs and digital releases mastered with proper dynamic range (that is, as it was par for the course until the mid-1990s) as sounding unprofessional. It's prominent enough for many high-headroom remasters to still raise the volume to the loudest level possible without dynamic range compression, just to sound more palpable to people used to hearing brickwalled music.
  • From an AV Club piece about "Weird Al" Yankovic: "It's anyone's guess how Sheryl Crow's 'All I Wanna Do' slots in with the 120 Minutes standards compiled by 1995's 'Alternative Polka'." Crow was actually all over alternative rock radio in 1994-95, alongside Green Day and the others. "All I Wanna Do" got to #4 on Billboard's "Modern Rock Tracks" chart and "Leaving Las Vegas" and "Strong Enough" were also Top 10 hits.
  • Former Yes lead singer Jon Anderson's distinctive singing voice is often mistaken by music journalists as falsetto singing. It is in fact a naturally high-pitched tenor head voice; his natural speaking voice is equally high.

    Professional Wrestling 

  • Mom Can't Cook!: Luke thinks that the Disney Channel Original Movie Jumping Ship doesn't look like it's set in Australia, but it was, in fact, filmed there. The hosts then claim you really need to film in New Zealand for it to look like Australia.

  • Horse hooves were always simulated with coconut halves in golden age radio shows. But by then, the automobile had almost completely replaced the horse as everyday transportation. Thus, the common man came to think that horse hooves actually sound like coconut halves banging together, simply because he didn't know any better. This misconception has persisted to the point that while it would be a simple matter to digitally insert actual horse hoof sounds into a work, audiences won't believe it sounds like horse hoof sounds because they will only accept the coconut sounds.

  • The 1990's World Cup Qualifiers of the Colombian National Football Team were filled with this trope, whereas the team was filled with memetic badasses with the most cartoonish appearances possible. The team had such an uplifting effect on the otherwise violence-ravaged country at the time that the government actively campaigned for them to represent the actual Colombian values to the world. At one point, they were said to be serious contenders for the World Cup title, until everything came tumbling down in an even more unrealistic and tragic manner.
  • The 2016 Handball European Championships. Germany was basically a bunch of nobodies from a country that just a few years prior had to be given a "wild card" to even make it to the world cup. They squeaked by in the first round (after a loss in the first round to Spain) and only made it to the semifinal with a lot of luck and dedication. The semifinal is another squeaker which gets them to the final... Against Spain... Cue a 24:17 Curb-Stomp Battle - for Germany. It was not even as close as the score makes it sound.
  • Red Smith practically wrote the Trope Codifier when he wrote about the improbable "Shot Heard 'Round the World" (Bobby Thomson's game-winning home run to win the 1951 pennant for the Giants, after being down 13 1/2 games to the Dodgers in August).
    Red Smith: Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.
  • Cricket - the 1981 series between England and Australia. England's captain and all-rounder Ian Botham had suffered a spectacular loss of form both batting and bowling, and turned out to be a poor captain too. England lost the first match, barely hung on for a draw in the second, but Botham was dismissed for 0 in both of England's innings, and resigned as captain immediately after the match, about ten seconds before the national selectors said they had been going to sack him anyway. The previous captain, Mike Brearley, was brought out of retirement to act as temporary captain for the remainder of the series. Then in the third match, at Headingley in Leeds, everything went wrong for England: first Australia scored 401, England were all out for 174 (although Botham, at least, recovered a bit of form with bat and ball, scoring 50 and taking six wickets), then when England batted again they were reduced to 105/5 when Botham came in, and shortly afterwards 135/7: 92 runs behind, only three wickets left, and likely to lose by an innings. At this point the odds against an England victory were given as 500-1 (and a couple of Australian players even put a bet on it, apparently as a joke). What followed was one of the most amazing turnarounds in cricket history: Botham smashed his way to 149 not out, aided by Dilley (56) and Old (29), England's second innings reached a score of 356, and instead of winning by an innings, Australia had to chase a target of 130 to win or 129 to tie. It looked well within their capabilities when they reached 56/1, but after that they collapsed to 111 all out (eight of the nine wickets falling to Bob Willis), and England won the match by 18 runs. It was a change of fortunes so improbable that if it had been written as fiction it would have been dismissed as ludicrous. (Botham's fairytale recovery of form continued in the fourth and fifth matches of the series: in the fourth, Australia were again chasing a tiny target in the last innings, nearly got there, but collapsed to defeat, this time from Botham's own bowling as he took 5/11: and in the fifth match he smashed another century. England won the series 3-1 thanks to Botham's one-man efforts.)
  • Brian Wilson, a closing pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, was said by one commentator to have "the fakest-looking real beard I've ever seen".
  • The 2003-04 English Premier League title for Arsenal, in which they went completely undefeated. This is not only strange in world football, it only had happened once in the highest level of English football... 115 years before.
    • Which is nothing compared to Leicester City's Premier League title in the 2015-2016 season. For those not in the know, most European football leagues run on a tier system, where the top few teams in each of the lower tiers each season are promoted to the next tier while the bottom few in every tier above the lowest get relegated to the next one down; in England, it's a four-tiered system, with the Premier League at the top and the Football League Championship, Football League One, and Football League Two below in that order. Due to the economic inequalities involved on all levels, the same few teams tend to bounce up and down between tiers year after year, while the highest tier is dominated by a select few teams. Leicester City was, for quite some time, one of those teams that tended to bob up and down—in their history dating back to the 1894-1895 season, their longest stretch at the top tier was 12 years from 1957-1969, and their longest stretch at any tier was 14 years at the second tier (starting with their founding). So is this just your usual underdog story? No, that doesn't begin to capture it. It took a furious closing stretch to the 2014-2015 season just for Leicester City to avoid being relegated back to Championship—a common fate for those who've just been promoted, as Leicester City had following a 2014 Championship title—which itself came just five years after a League One title. The preseason oddsmakers had Leicester City at 5000-to-1 to win the Premier League, which doesn't sound like much, but actually exceeds anything you'll ever get in American sports—to get up to 5,000-to-1 odds with the British bookmakers, you have to go to stuff like confirmed sightings of a living Elvis Presley.
  • As mentioned above, the English league system is a tiered system. There are also leagues below that in what is commonly - and paradoxically - referred to as "non-league"note  , which sends two teams to League Two from its highest tier. In 2014, one of those teams were Luton Town. They spent a few years in that division before starting to rocket up the leagues. After losing out in the play-offs in 2017note , they finished second in League Two, gaining promotion to League One. Also as mentioned above, teams promoted to a higher division tend to go back down the following season, but Luton not only avoided this fate but won League One in their first season there. Upon being promoted to the Championship - it's rare for a team to be promoted in back-to-back seasons, but it's even rarer for them to stay up - they would gradually finish in a higher position than the previous season. After losing in the play-off semifinal in 2022, they dusted themselves off and went again, finishing third in 2023. In the play-offs, they banished their demons from the previous season by getting to the final... which they won, gaining promotion to the Premier League, just nine seasons after being promoted into League Two in a season when their manager left for a club in the Premier League and was replaced by one who was fired by his previous team after winning three of their first ten games. Oh, and their stadium - which is being upgraded to fulfil the Premier League criteria - is squished into a housing estate, only seats 10,356 people (the lowest capacity in the Premier League. Ever.), the away fans enter through an entry built into the houses backing onto the stand and one of the other stands is literally a row of executive boxes.
  • The year is 2005, the competition is the UEFA Champions League, the most prestigious association football club competition in the world. While other associations have their own continental championships, and there's the Club World Cup between the winners of each, but Europe is where all the money, and thus best players and greatest prestige, is. The final is Europe's Super Bowl... and it brings in nearly 7 times as many viewers around the world. In one group is Liverpool FC, a fallen giant of European football - 4 times Champions of Europe, still at this point the most successful team in English history, yes, but the last of the European titles had been in 1984 and the last League title had been in 1990. They have a drastically under-strength squad and Rafa Benitez, an unknown quantity in English football, as manager. Making matters worse, they have lost their star striker, Michael Owen (the last Englishman to win the Ballon d'Or, the award for best player on the planet), to Real Madrid, while their homegrown star captain, Steven Gerrard, is being tempted by the prospect of riches and titles at upstarts Chelsea. Their league campaign is middling for a club of their stature, while their Champions League campaign is a bunch of narrow squeaks, getting out of their group (a round robin tournament between four teams to decide which two reach the knockout stages) by a single spectacular goal, courtesy of Gerrard, having had to play an extra two-legged qualifying round to get there in the first place. They beat unfancied Bayer Leverkusen comfortably over two legs, then run into another European giant, Juventus, and wriggle past by a narrow home win and then a stubborn defensive away performance, before running into newborn giants, Chelsea. Powered by the billions of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, stocked with stars, and managed by Jose 'the Special One' Mourinho at the height of his powers, who had won the Champions League the previous year with a very unfancied Porto side, they were on the way to a comfortable title victory and an 86 match unbeaten run at home. Liverpool's stubborn defence held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw away, and then they secured a controversial win at home thanks to the so-called 'Ghost Goal' courtesy of Liverpool forward Luis Garcia (to this day, there is still a great deal of argument whether or not it actually crossed the line. These days, referees have a signal attached to their watch that lets them know if it has or not, but back then, they had to go by eye) and Liverpool hanging on for dear life. So, they reach the final by the skin of their teeth... and face AC Milan. One of the greatest teams in European history, with 6 European titles, the most recent had been won in 2003, and only the season before, they had won the Italian title. This season, they are runners up. One of their players, Clarence Seedorf, has won the Champions League three times with three different clubs, including Milan. Andriy Shevchenko, star Ukraine striker, is the last winner of the Ballon d'Or in 2004. Legendary captain Paolo Maldini came third in 2003. Brazil midfielder Kaka, has just turned 23, will win the Ballon d'Or in 2007, and has already come in the top 10. Liverpool have lost one star, seem on the verge of losing another, and having been beaten to the 4th place in the league by fierce local rivals Everton, they won't qualify for the next season of the Champions League. Milan demonstrate the sheer disparity in quality by scoring in 38 seconds through Maldini, before proceeding to tear straight through a demoralised and bewildered Liverpool, taking a 3-0 lead into half-time. 3-0 is usually the point where teams give up, and victory is assured, especially with such a talent disparity. Benitez replaces right-sided defender Steve Finnan with defensive midfielder Dietmar Haaman, releasing Gerrard to play further up the pitch. 9 minutes later, 54 minutes on the board: Gerrard scores a powerful header. 3-1. 56 minutes on the board: Czech midfielder Vladimir Smicer drills a shot into the bottom corner of the Milan goal. 3-2. 59 minutes on the board: Gerrard storms into the box, one on one with Milan goalkeeper Dida, and is hauled down by Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso. Penalty to Liverpool. Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso steps up, has his first attempt saved, but follows in and scores from the rebound. 60 minutes on the board: 3-3. Half an hour remains. Milan throw everything at Liverpool, bringing on some of the best players in the world. Liverpool hold on for dear life. The match goes to Extra Time, another half an hour. Liverpool can barely jog, let alone run, are outclassed in every department but sheer determination, but keep throwing themselves in the way of every Milan attack. Then, it comes Down to the Last Play at the end of Extra Time - Shevchenko, voted best player in the world the year before, is three yards out, with only Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek to beat. Dudek, somehow, blocks both his shots (this is later voted the greatest Champions League moment of all time). It goes to penalties. Milan, first to kick, are rattled. Dudek's re-enactment of legendary Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobelaar's antics on the goal line doesn't help. One penalty is blasted over. Another is saved. Liverpool score three out of four. Milan, having scored two of four, need to score their fifth and hope like hell Liverpool miss their fifth/have it saved. Milan penalty taker number five? Shevchenko. Guess what happens. Liverpool fans go nuts. Liverpool players go nuts. Liverpool automatically qualify for the next Champions League season as winners. Gerrard spends the night sleeping with the trophy, a copy of which Liverpool keep for good as 5 times winners, and remains at Liverpool for another decade, winning everything but the League title, spending the last season of his career at LA Galaxy before returning to Liverpool as a coach. The match becomes known as 'The Miracle of Istanbul'. Later interviews make it clear that no one on either side is entirely sure how it happened, with Milan players speaking disbelievingly of "six minutes of madness". As a coda, Liverpool and Milan have a rematch two years later in the 2007 Champions League Final (Milan won that one).
  • How long has it been between triple plays where the batter wasn't retired? Almost as long as it took for the Chicago Cubs to get their third World Series title. And yet, the Texas Rangers did just that. And yes, everyone—the Rangers, the Los Angeles Angels, their managers, the umpires, the broadcasters, and even those watching—had no idea just what in the hell was going on. The players themselves, including the runner at first base, thought they were just dealing with a line drive gone barvy.
  • Imagine seeing this on TV: It's the 4th quarter of a basketball game, one team was on the losing side, and there was only about one minute left on the counter. People were packing up and leaving, thinking that the rival team won this one for sure. Not backing down, one determined player rose to the challenge and managed to score thirteen points in thirty seconds, securing his team a narrow victory. Sounds like something out of a Hollywood sports movie, right? Except that was how the match between the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs happened in 2004. And that player who won his team the game? Future Hall-of-Famer Tracy McGrady.
  • Japan's 34-32 victory over South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup was the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history, and arguably in the sport's history. Two weeks earlier, a reviewer of the Rugby World Cup 2015 video game had commented that its simulation of matches in the pool stages "just ends up in weirdness sometimes", citing Japan beating South Africa as an example, adding that "in no reality does that happen". Cue the Flying Pigs.
    • The same reviewer complained about the lack of simulation of rain during matches, for a World Cup held in England. In reality, it didn't rain for any of the matches until the semi-finals.
  • Major League Baseball over the last sixty years: 1960 Pirates, Red Sox (pick a year: 1967, 1975, 1978, 1986, 2004, 2011), 2007 Rockies, 2010 Giants and Rangers, etc. Tell anybody who doesn't know much about baseball those stories and the likely reaction is: "No, really..."
    • The 1991 World Series in its entirety. Seven contests, all won by the home team, four - including the climactic Game 7 - won in extra innings; Game 7 won in a 1–0 shutout by a veteran starting pitcher who went all 10 innings. And both the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves having finished last in their division the previous year.
    • The 2001 World Series deserves a mention as well. The upstart Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the venerable New York Yankees in seven games with the home team winning each game and two of the three games in New York being won in a walk off, as was Game 7 in Arizona. All done in the shadow of 9/11.
    • The St. Louis Cardinals' path to the 2011 World Series definitely fits this trope. They were 10 1/2 games back from the wild card spot and most people assumed they wouldn't make the playoffs. Then they starting winning. And winning. And winning some more. And the Atlanta Braves crashed and burned. The Cards faced off against the Phillies, whom sports writers called "the best team in baseball". Then Cards ace pitcher Chris Carpenter shut out his Friendly Rival Roy Halladay. Then they toppled the Brewers, who had the Draco Malfoy-esque Nyjer Morgan on their team. And then they faced off against the Texas Rangers and were Down To The Last Strike twice in Game 6 (and were down 3-2 for the entire series) when a hometown kid named David Freese tied the game with a triple and eventually won it with a walk-off home run. The next night, they took Game 7 and the Series. If this had been a movie, critics would have torn it apart because it would have been a Cliché Storm of most of the underdog sports tropes on this site. But in Real Life, it was one of the most jaw-droppingly Troperrific playoffs in baseball history.
    • The 2019 Washington Nationals had perhaps one of the most improbable runs in MLB history. A perennially-cursed team that had yet to make even the National League Championship Series since their inception in 2005 (they had made the NLCS once as the Montreal Expos in 1981, but lost to the Dodgers), the Nationals had just lost their former MVP outfielder, Bryce Harper, in free agency. Their first 50 games saw them stumble out of the gate to a 19-31 record. But over the remaining games, the Nats went 74-31, clinching a wild card spot. There, they beat the Milwaukee Brewers on a clutch three-run single by Juan Soto, who proved to be a capable replacement for Harper. They went on to face the 106-win Dodgers, and despite an early 3-0 deficit in the winner-take-all Game 5, the Nationals rallied to tie the game with consecutive home runs off ''Clayton Kershaw''. That set up Howie Kendrick's 10th-inning grand slam, giving Washington a 7-3 win. They proceeded to sweep the red-hot St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, heading to their first World Series against a loaded Houston Astros team. In a series that went the full seven games, the Nationals lost their three home games, but won all four games played in Houston to take home their first ever title. It was the first time the road team had won all games in a series in any American sports league. And the MVP of the series? Stephen Strasburg, the Nats' #1 overall pick in 2009. A sweet ending for a man who struggled with injuries throughout his career.
  • The 2016 season of Seattle Sounders FC in Major League Soccer. Shortly before the start of the season, the Sounders lost one of their high-profile players to the Chinese Super League. A string of inconsistent and poor performances led to the team spending much of the first half of the season below the playoff line, at one point sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference. After the firing of head coach Sigi Schmid and his replacement by then-assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, as well as the signing of Designated Player Nicolás Lodeiro, the Sounders went on a run of form rarely seen in MLS, carrying the team all the way to the MLS Cup finals. There, despite the Sounders not registering a single shot on goal, a tight defense (and a miraculous save from GK Stefan Frei) led to penalty kicks and the Sounders' first MLS Cup win in their history of being an MLS team.
  • There's this Quarterback. Let's call him P.M. He is by all measurable (and some unmeasurable) categories the best of his era. However, any team he plays for suffers from chronic Every Year They Fizzle Out - and the blame is often (justly or unjustly) put on him. Cue his last season (for all we know) where he plays horribly but for the first time in ages is surrounded by a good or even above average defense and special teams. Of course he makes it to the Super Bowl (beating his longtime rival with a reputation of being "clutch" in a 20:18 squeaker that went down to the wire to get there) against the undisputed MVP and probably one of the best young QBs of his era. Of course "P.M." wins his game. Of course this all just too cheesy to be true. Only that it is the story of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
  • In the 2016 NBA season, Stephen Curry's shooting was so unrealistically good that it was not replicable in the video game series NBA 2K, leading the developers to remark that they have to change the shooting algorithm they had been developing for the past decade just to reflect Curry's shooting ability.
  • There's a guy...we'll call him Andy. He graduated with a degree in economics from a prestigious college, where he starred on the basketball team. After a few brief gigs as an NBA assistant he takes an executive job with a startup software company. While there, he dates a Maxim magazine cover model and they bond over a shared love of sports (their first date is a basketball game followed by dinner at Taco Bell) and get married. But he misses coaching and gets a job as an assistant at a large university. After a few years he takes a head coaching job at an obscure university that had only had a basketball team for 10 seasons, and had only been in existence for 14 years. After a losing record in his first year, his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits team use their exciting brand of basketball to win an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Andy’s #15-seeded team shocks the nation with a decisive victory against a traditional power in round 1, then pulls off another upset to become the lowest seeded team ever to reach the Sweet 16. There they play against the most prominent team from their home state, who had shunned the upstart school in the past. Andy’s team jumps to a big first half lead but runs out of gas and loses. Still, the team becomes the darling of the basketball world, and Andy accepts a job offer from one of the most glamorous schools in all of college sports…Good luck pitching that story to Hollywood without getting laughed out of the room. Except, that’s the true story of Andy Enfield, Amanda Marcum and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles’ 2013 NCAA tournament run.

    Tabletop Games 
  • d20 Modern:
    • Players and reviewers often complained about how unrealistic it was that wielding a weapon with a burst fire setting doesn't give you the effects of the game's Burst Fire feat. As the game's designers have pointed out, the point of the burst fire setting on guns is to ensure you only fire the three to five rounds in an automatic burst that have any realistic chance of actually hitting the target. If you don't know how to effectively fire an accurate burst with an automatic weapon, this setting won't make it any easier.
    • This game got this in a lot of respects. Many players and reviewers complained about how a submachine gun could easily kill a character in the early levels of the game (where the median hitpoints could be around 7 or 8 at first level and a submachine gun could deal 2d6 (2-12)). The logic on why this was bad? Because SMGs shoot 'little pistol bullets' and everyone knows from movies those only wound you, not kill you.
  • The Dragon Magazine article "Illusions of Grandeur" proposed a Spectral Farce spell weaponizing this. It makes things in the affected area to be perceived as less believable, whether they are real or not. Of course, in this case Illusion/Phantasm magic aura actually helps the effect if detected. The whole point is that a harmless spell becomes ridiculously lethal once the victims disregard as "fake and tacky" something like a swooping dragon — or even a badly disguised trap.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition tries to head off arguments over this trope from either direction with a sidebar in the intro that notes that yes the rules are abstract and not totally realistic for the sake of ease of play and fun, and that, "Should anyone start querying the rules, citing martial arts training, historical precedent, or even, Gods forbid, logic, the GM is fully within their rights to throw dice, food, or even this book at the offender. WFRP is a game, not real life."
  • House rules are the bread & butter of Tabletop RPGs, but they also show how pervasive this trope is. Those who read an AD&D newsgroup or a forum for several years probably reflexively laugh from hearing or seeing the word "realistic". Or at least grin, remembering some "realistic" accomplishments that good rules absolutely have to make possible. Let's say, shooting a squirrel in the eye with a longbow (yes) is not nearly the worst. Conversely, the foreword by Rich Baker to a Players' Options book (that derived some of its parts from internet house rules) set it straight on the very first page:
    The Combat & Tactics book is a compromise that adds some detail to combat — not to make it more realistic, but to make combat more believable.

  • The Bonnie and Clyde musical was, if historians are anything to go by, the most accurate fictional depiction of the infamous duo to date. The entire first act was devoted to backstory, and details like Clyde's traumatic experience in prison and the unpleasant nature of their life on the run were left in where the 1960s movie omitted them. Critics panned the show for being boring and nothing like the movie; it only ran about a month.
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda said in the Alexander Hamilton episode of Drunk History that he explicitly removed things from Hamilton because audiences would find them unrealistic.
  • Frankie Valli lost two daughters within six months of each other, the first in a fall from a fire escape, and the second to a drug overdose. The play and film Jersey Boys depicted only the second, because showing both would have appeared contrived and melodramatic.
  • Natalie Portman was punished by some for doing her homework when she starred as Anne Frank on Broadway. Some sources outside the diary suggest Frank was something of a brat, but when Portman incorporated this into her performances, some patrons and critics couldn't accept it.
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: In-universe, The Player mentions that he once arranged to have one of his actors who was supposed to be executed hanged on-stage during their next show. It was terribly unconvincing.
  • A line ended up removed from the musical 1776 because of this trope: John Adams claimed that if they allowed slavery in America, trouble would happen a hundred years hence. That was actually claimed by the real Samuel Adams (John's cousin) but the writer knew people would just attribute it to historical hindsight by him and removed it.
  • The Sound of Music: Many people will scoff at the idea of landlocked Austria having a navy, and, as a corollary, find Captain von Trapp's past as a submarine commander ludicrous. In reality, pre-World War I Austria-Hungary controlled a large part of the Adriatic Sea coast, and had a small but well-trained and well-equipped navy to keep their blue-water ports open. The real-life Captain von Trapp, in the meantime, earned his stripes as a midshipman in China helping to put down the Boxer Rebellion, commanded two submarines during World War I (U-5 and U-14), sank an Italian sub and a French armored cruiser and was Austro-Hungary's most decorated Navy officer after the war. Incidentally, he also angsted over the German offer of a submarine command a lot longer in real life than the musical; after having been a naval officer without a navy for two decades, the offer of a top-of-the-line submarine command was sorely tempting to him.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the first victim is killed with a glass bottle to the forehead, leading to people to question why it didn't shatter, leaving it to be presented in court intact (made worse by the fact that the series is based on finding such contradictions, but asking this in game isn't an option and a previous game in the series featured a bottle that broke when someone was hit non-lethally). Glass is not as fragile as depicted in Hollywood, and the process used to make the bottle (of which there are several) and the quality and amount of material used are a factor. In fact, the non-lethal broken bottle from the previous game was likely a cheaper product, and was non-lethal because it broke, which absorbed a significant amount of the energy involved, while the unbroken bottle would have transferred more energy into the skull, thus causing more damage. The common misconception of Soft Glass exists because scenes where glass is broken don't use real glass — they used to use "sugar glass" (essentially, flat rock candy), and now just use a plastic "breakaway glass".
    • The act of calling a parrot to the stand in the first game seems ridiculous (the person who brings it up as a possibility does so to mock Phoenix), for good reason, but in actuality, such a thing has happened in real life trials before, and the idea of using words a parrot can speak as legal evidence is something that has happened before. The absurd part is how the game presents it in the context of such a serious moment in a murder trial, along with the way the parrot's cross-examination is treated in the same manner as that of an ordinary person's, rather than how it would realistically be if you were to use a parrot's understanding of human language as proof (most likely, you would present it as evidence, not as a witness).
    • One of the cases, Turnabout Big Top, is considered the worst among fans, with one of the reasons being the absurd coincidences which answer a lot of the cases riddles. Such as- how did a witness, Moe, see the defendant fly away? The killer, Acro, who just happened to have an exact murder plot which involved dropping a heavy object out a window, used a random object that his monkey pet has in his stash, which just happened to be a bust of the defendant, Max Galactica. And the victim, the ringmaster, just happened to wear the defendant's clothes, and when the bust fell onto him, the defendant's cloak just happened to fly forward off him and snag onto the bust. Then the killer pulled the bust on a rope back up. So when the witness looked out the window, it was only by an absurd string of coincidences that he saw the defendant's silhouette 'flying' upwards as the killer pulled the bust up. And it was also only by these absurd coincidences that the defendant ended up being the prime suspect. In actual fact though, what's not realistic is the typical murder plots seen in Ace Attorney where everything's completely planned out. If anything, this case is one that'd be more likely to happen in real life than most.
    • The regular judge in the series is portrayed often as a feeble-minded old man, who has trouble keeping up with the proceedings. However, you'll often see people lumping moments in which the judge asks for clarification over a specific thing that he should already know about as a judge, or something that anyone should know, into being part of this character trait. For example, he asks Edgeworth to explain exactly what he means, when he says that the defendant has lost her chance of escaping criminality for her killing.Note In fact, this is a realistic and common thing for judges to do during a trial, and they're very often quoted as asking for clarification on what something rather common place is, or for a legal dispute to be given more clarity or put into more simplistic wording. This is mainly for the sake of those in the courtroom such as the jurors, and the actual sides involved in the case, as well as the gallery, who may not understand what is being talked about. As stated on the show QI:
      Stephen Fry: Judges have to make sure that absolutely everything in the course of the trial is abundantly clear to everyone in the courtroom, particularly the members of the jury. So judges often ask for such clarification on behalf of everyone else, because you never know when there's that one woman who's been living in a cave for the last hundred years and honestly doesn't know who The Rolling Stones are. That's why you often see judges being quoted as asking stuff like, "So, what exactly is a Muppet?".
    • Uendo Toneido from Spirit of Justice. You'll often see people bring up "unrealistic" aspects of Uendo's multiple personality disorder, such as how he has four personalities, how one of his personalities is a different gender, the fact that all but one share the same memories and switch in when they feel like it, and that his "child" personality who thinks himself five years old comes out whenever he passes out drunk. As others rightfully point out however, this is probably one of the most accurate depictions of your typical dissociative identity disorder in fiction.spoilers The typical Split Personality (one "normal/good" personality, and one "evil" personality who share seperate memories) as depicted in fiction is a very rare occurrence of it in real life.
  • Katawa Shoujo: Hanako Ikezawa's shutdown is a more accurate depiction of panic attacks than most people think it is. The typical depiction of panic attacks as gasping, shaking, crying, and generally melting down in a conspicuous manner is only accurate to one kind of panic response. Many people who suffer panic attacks do indeed shut down the way she does, and unfortunately this panic response means that few people realize it's happening at all, even after it's passed. Some people develop the shutdown response naturally; others do so out of necessity. Anyone's guess which is the case for her...

  • Invoked in Girl Genius by Master Payne's Circus of Adventure, whose crew explicitly avoids everything that looks too realistic: most notably, for a talking cat, they use a man in a cat costume rather than Krosp. Much like with Dawson Casting, there is also the issue that real cats, talking or not, are proverbially difficult to direct.
  • Mind Mistress weaponized this at one point, by using the ludicrous way the United States both subsidizes crops to keep too many from being grown, and subsidizes them to grow more at the same time to convince an attacker that he was trapped in a poorly made imitation of reality.
  • When the cast of Multiplex film an amateur zombie movie, Becky vomits after taking part in a gory effects shot. Kurt decides to Throw It In!, and naturally someone decries how fake it looks.
  • In Nip and Tuck, a lecture on the importance of doing things right, and the effects it can have.
  • Schlock Mercenary amorphs had a problem because repeating what Sergeant Schlock does on the TV is impossible and no one is impressed by their tricks now. Schlock can't either — so he considers solving it in his usual style:
    Schlock: The TV-me is putting me-me out of a job. [...] Maybe we can kill another TV network. Is there still money in that?
    • Footnotes are often employed to point out examples of this happening, sometimes with in-universe justifications. For instance, stellar remnants aren't nearly this colorful in reality, but by the time spacefaring technology had advanced to the point where people could tell the difference themselves, they had gotten so used to the idea that they put smart filtering into their viewports and visors to restore the color they'd come to expect.
  • Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff in all its Stylistic Suck glory is clearly something of a parody of crude MS Paint comics, rife with rock-bottom-quality art and JPEG artifacts, and are instantly recognisable as such. The kicker? MS Paint alone is incapable of that level of pure shittiness. Even using Photoshop to save a JPEG at the lowest quality possible isn't enough to reach SBAHJ's echelon of suck. Andrew Hussie has described his techniques for pulling it off, and they are surprisingly involved and detailed, infinitely more so than anything the theoretical poor "artist" persona could actually do.
  • Mocked in Weregeek:
    Dustin: Well, to be fair, there can't be that many Jamaican voice actors in the business... they probably just hire black actors who can sound Jamaican.
    Mark: Hey, you know where Blizzard could have found a LOT of guys who can do a perfect Jamaican Patois accent, and could use the work?
  • The page image comes from xkcd, where this trope is exaggerated. She's holding a genuine 19th century saber, in her hands, in front of him. He's still convinced that it must be photo-manipulated since those sabers are so rare... despite the fact that there are no photos, and he's looking at the saber in front of him.
    • Another xkcd example in "Plutonium". One scientist suggests using a "power orb" made of a metal that emits energy, and a couple of others respond dismissively. Lampshaded in the caption "For something that's real, plutonium is so unrealistic."
    • In another comic, Cueball acts like Ken Burns's series of PBS history documentaries are a fictional series set within the same shared universe, and he thinks Burns forced a connection between his films by making Doris Kearns Goodwin both a historian in The Civil War and a sportswriter in Baseball. That would be an unlikely combination in a fictional setting, but Goodwin is in fact both.

    Web Originals 
  • On The Agony Booth Solkir notes in the Gladiatrix review that the villain was going to be described as horribly written... if the review hadn't aired shortly after the Isla Vista killings and their fallout, meaning that it's recently been demonstrated that there actually are quite a few people who have the villain's attitude ("Why don't women like me? What's wrong with them? How dare they?! I'll kill them!") almost exactly, making him Birds of Prey (2002)'s most believable villain.
  • Almost any photography blog (or any blog where someone puts up scenic photos in general) will immediately attract a flood of commenters complaining that the image is 'obviously Photoshopped'. Of course, a talented photographer is perfectly capable of capturing an impressive shot without resorting to Photoshop software to touch it up, but try telling them that. In many cases, comments of these nature indicate that the commenter is either a troll just trying to stir up trouble or just unfamiliar with professional grade SLR cameras. Point-and-shoot cameras have about as much in common with these SLRs as, say, a butter knife has with a chainsaw. Many effects you can get with an expensive manually controlled camera really are impossible with a point-and-shoot. Moreover, many commenters are unaware that effects have long been added to traditional film photos in the development process.
  • As modern vehicles have been fitted with increasing levels of electronic driving aids the sorts of tyre squealing, rubber burning, back end sliding maneuvers typically seen in chase scenes are no longer possible without intentionally disabling such features first. When such features are on vehicles will maintain almost full traction no matter what sort of craziness the driver attempts to do. The result is not only vehicle behavior that looks completely alien, but also one that is quite dull to watch.
    • There's another layer of unrealistic reality here, as many cars' traction control systems will interfere with the performance of the powertrain, say by cutting fuel. Hard cornering while accelerating is very much hampered by most traction control systems, so it's very common for a performance driver to turn them off (or to a less intrusive setting). If the characters in the chase are skilled drivers, it's totally believable that they would disable such aids. A strong case can be made for justifiability here, but someone who doesn't performance drive their car (99% of people) wouldn't know.
  • Similar to Cracked's lists, Diply's "17 Facts That Sound Like Total Bull, But Are Actually True"
  • Cracked sometimes makes collections of such stuff.
  • Ross Scott of Freeman's Mind was repeatedly told that his voice didn't suit the character of Gordon Freeman. He responded by posting a picture of himself, showing that, at the time, he looked practically identical to Gordon.
    • On his review show Ross's Game Dungeon, he was going to slam the game Bozo's Night Out for lack of realism, since the objective of the game is to drink 60 pints of beer in one night and get your wobbly drunk self home safely. Ross didn't think anyone could drink that much without killing themselves from alcohol poisoning, until he discovered that André the Giant currently holds the world record for drinking approximately 90 pints of beer in just six hours. Bozo isn't as gigantic as André, of course, but he is still a rather large and fat man who is obviously very experienced at drinking. After doing some calculations based on a reasonable estimate of Bozo's weight, Ross eventually concluded that if he were real, he actually would be able to down 60 pints in one night and still live.
  • Game Grumps: Their justification for not using a Face Cam while playing: while they SOUND funny, they just LOOK like stereotypical gamers plopped in front of a TV. They only LOOK funny when they have the power of editing or a script.
  • Ice is known to be less dense than water, but just how much less dense is a surprise to people. As this video shows, water is so much less dense in its solid state than its liquid state that it even floats in oil. Note how he even showed the oil being poured on top of the water to ensure people wouldn't claim it was staged.
  • The Jolly Roger Telephone Company is a company that provides bots which are designed to talk with telemarketers. In certain cases, the caller will be told by a knowledgeable supervisor that they've been speaking with a bot, only to refuse to believe that they could have spent that much time not speaking with a real person. In at least one case, the reserve was true and the caller figured it out, only to not be believed when she told those around her.
  • Jonathan Pie invokes this when complaining about reporting on the phenonomon of Fake News, citing unlikely sounding real stories.
  • This Let's Play of Mercenaries 2 notes Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping with regard to Swede character Mattias Nilsson. What they don't know is that Nillson is played by Swedish actor Peter Stormare.
  • In Moviebob's escape to the movies review of Like A Boss he criticises the villain for being "over the top rich and mean" for no real reason even though he acknowledges this type of person does exist, but from fiction he still requires motivation.
  • Not Always Right tells the story of someone who was unaware of the rarity of disapproval voting outside game shows:
    (A young girl of 18 or 19, clearly a first-time voter, skips the line and rushes up to my table.)
    Me: "I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait. There’s a line."
    Voter: "I’m sorry, but it’s important! I need to get my ballot paper back. I voted for the wrong person!"
    Me: "Alright, give me the spoiled one."
    Voter: "I can’t. I put it in the box."
    Me: "Then I’m afraid we can’t get it back. The boxes can’t be opened until the end of voting at ten o’clock."
    Voter: "But I didn’t know! I don’t want the Conservatives to get in so I voted for [Conservative candidate]. I should have voted for someone else!"
    Me: "Um, why did you vote for the Conservative?"
    (The girl turns scarlet and looks utterly miserable.)
    Voter: "I thought it was like TV where you vote them off!
  • In the Overly Sarcastic Productions video on El Dorado, Red notes that if she knew nothing about the Conquistadors, then a story about brutal imperialists who conquer, enslave and pillage numerous civilizations while searching for a non-existent city made of gold, throw away tons of platinum because it wasn't gold, and ultimately wreck their empire by way of tanking their economy due to all the gold they did manage to find and import would strike her as a heavy-handed morality tale.
  • When The Angry Video Game Nerd covered Paperboy, he was skeptical that a thrown newspaper could actually break a window as they can in the game, so he tests it out himself by throwing newspapers at a window at a rapid pace. To his surprise, the window actually does eventually break.
  • The Reddit subreddits /r/thathappened and /r/untrustworthypoptarts are for busting doctored posts and flat out bullshit, but many submissions are of things that actually do occur in real life, much to the surprise of the person who thinks they're calling out karma-whoring.
  • Because of the increased focus on realism in later versions, occasionally Survival of the Fittest runs into this. One of the most notable examples is that many handlers have pointed out that if they made a completely played straight self-insert, it would be denied because "it wasn't realistic enough".
  • In Everything Wrong With Terminator 2: Judgment Day the movie gets a sin for Sarah "proving you can pick any lock with something metal and straight". Not only is the lock picking portrayed in a very realistic light (Sarah clearly uses part of a paper clip as a tension bar and begins finding and setting the individual pins with the other part) but Linda Hamilton actually picked that lock for real during filming of that scene. Yes, she proved she actually can pick any lock with something metal and straightnote .
  • This "review" of the History Channel's "World War II Show" provides a hilarious example. The author denounces the show for being a Cliché Storm full of lazy writing, and calls out The Bomb for being an Ass Pull with no Foreshadowing, which then became Forgotten Phlebotinum as the writers never used it again despite the numerous subsequent wars.
  • When Nuclear Apocaluck was launched — a site with simulations of damage caused by nuclear attack — the overwhelming response was "I know that a nuke would do more damage than that." Nukes are powerful enough in their own right, but they've been so over-dramatized that people don't recognize the insane horror of their power when they do see it. What some people don't realize is that the way the system is set up is kind of off; unless a city is at fatal ratings for 12 months a year, they don't get glowing brightly, and "glowing" (with no shockwave or heat blast) can range anywhere from being 40-90 rads or deadly for seven months of the year and very bad for you another five.
  • Played for Laughs in Legal Eagle's analysis of Tiger King where he rates it for legal realism. He gives it a solid F, citing that the characters are completely unbelievable caricatures, that the dialogue is incredibly phony, and how the scenario has absolutely no basis in reality and could never happen in real life... only to be informed by someone off-screen that yes it actually happened.
    Legal Eagle: What? — What's that? — It's real life? Alright, shut it down, SHUT IT DOWN!
  • Cake Wrecks ran into this with a groom's cake made to look like a photorealistic replica of the groom's head, back when the existence of edible photo paper wasn't as well-known as it is now.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of American Dad!, Klaus makes a joke about black Germans as though they're an entirely fictitious thing. In real life, there have been black people in Germany for a century and half. Like many other European countries, Germany's history of Colonialism means that there are many descendants of slaves and African immigrants still living there. In more modern days African American soldiers have had children with Germans as have "guest workers" in both east and west and immigrants from "socialist brother countries" to the GDR. Any major German city will have quite a number of black Germans, if less than in the US
    • Parodied in "Black Mystery Month" where Stan and Steve find out that George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter (he didn't) and uncover a conspiracy. The episode ends with them submitting this to Wikipedia. This does in fact appear on Wikipedia's list of common misconceptions, but the conspiracy obviously isn't real.
    • Some western viewers assumed that singing being a crime in Saudi Arabia in "Stan of Arabia" was an exaggeration of the country's harsh law code. In reality, it is in fact true that music is banned in Saudi Arabia.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • The film used real Chinese characters for the posters and messages in its universe, as well as the opening, and actually had an expert in ancient Chinese calligraphy as part of the staff. The Last Airbender used a made-up sqiggle language because Shyamalan thought actual Chinese didn't look Asian enough.note 
    • In a similar vein Shyamalan also had the characters' names pronounced "properly", so that "Aang" (rhymes with bang) became "AAH-ng", "Sokka" (SOCK-ah) became "SOE-kah", "Iroh" (AYE-roe) became "EE-roe" etc. Detractors complained that the names were pronounced wrong, even though the Shyamalan pronunciations match their etymology - Sokka was named after the Japanese phrase sou ka? meaning "Is that so?", for example, so there is valid justification for going with the alternate pronunciation. The issue is that said etymology is based on the Chinese and Japanese languages which meant that the altered pronunciations should've been reserved for the Chinese and Japanese dubs. Placing them in the English dub was still the wrong move as the original pronunciations were clearly meant for an English-hearing audience.
    • Fire Lord Sozin had Azulon when he was 82. While this is really old to be a father, it's not at all impossible, as unlike women (who only have a set amount of eggs), men can keep making sperm their entire life as long as they still have a prostate. Also, it's made clear that benders live longer, so they might effectively age slower as well.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "Heart Of Ice", the sight of Batman defeating Mr. Freeze by cracking his glass helmet open with a canteen of chicken soup can come across as unintentionally funny and out of place in an otherwise tragic episode, but it makes use of actual science via thermal shock, which can crack or outright destroy brittle matter by introducing something hot to something cold.
  • Lampshaded on Futurama, where Zapp Brannigan tells Kiff to make an image larger and goes "Why is it still blurry?" When Kiff explains that just because it's larger, that doesn't make the resolution clearer, Zapp responds "Well, it does on CSI: Miami!"
  • Hey Arnold!: Some people have noted that Helga's obsession with Arnold seems oddly sexual at times considering she's only nine. That said, while most kids don't really have "those feelings" till puberty (about 11-12 for most kids) its certainly not unheard of for kids younger than that to have sexual thoughts and feelings.
  • Jem: Roxy Never Learned to Read despite being in her 20s in the mid-to-late 1980s (changed to the mid-to-late 2010s for the comic reboot). Someone being illiterate in modern day America is considered absurd to many viewers. This, however, isn't as unrealistic as it seems. 2017 studies show that 16 million Americans are considered functionally illiterate and many of these are 30 and under. It's also mentioned (and outright shown in the comic) that Roxy ran away as a teenager. She likely read enough to get through school and dropped out before it became a major problem.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Some viewers complained that the world, modeled on The Roaring '20s, looked too advanced for "only seventy years" to have passed between the franchise's first and second series. Yet when you consider the level of tech that was already in the previous series — tanks, ironclads, and giant drills, to name a few — if anything the show's technological evolution is slower than in the real world. Seventy years before the real world 1920s, the first ironclads hadn't even come off the drawing board, and tanks were decades away. Furthermore, when you consider the first powered and manned flight (1903) took place only 58 years before the first manned flight to space (1961) there is nothing unrealistic about technology advancing fast, especially in a world where bending would make large-scale fine construction and power generation faster, easier, and cheaper than it is in real life.
    • When General Iroh II was revealed, fans complained because his voice sounded the same as teenage Zuko of the original series, when in fact General Iroh is somewhere in his thirties. Dante Basco is in his late thirties and that is his natural voice.
    • The same thing happened in season 3 with Zaheer, who is old enough to be greying but has a very young sounding voice. His actor Henry Rollins is using his natural voice for the role and is in his 50s.
    • Turf Wars: The degrees of homophobia shown here, namely the Water Tribes' "legal but keep it to yourself" policy, are (unfortunately) historically spot-on with real-world Asian cultures such as pre-Unification Japan and not simply a product of injecting Western social mores despite what some readers/critics claim of "pandering," as Asian historians/queer people can personally attest to, so yes, Sozin revealed to be a Heteronormative Crusader is both culturally and thematically accurate. note 
    • On a more meta level, some fans objected to the Uniqueness Decay of Lightningbending and Metalbending in Korra's time. They were both were portrayed as either incredibly difficult or literally impossible in the original series and that making it more common breaks immersion. In reality, these phenomena are not uncommon in our world. Jimi Hendrix seemed to be uniquely a skilled guitarist, but only ten years after his death, emerging styles like Speed Metal and Power Metal produced guitarists that equaled, if not surpassed his skills in various areas. Long division was once thought to be incredibly difficult, but eventually a reliable method was developed and it's considered so simple that fourth graders can learn it. Similarly, Metalbending was considering genuinely impossible. Once Toph worked out how it works she is almost immediately able to bend metal as easily as earth. With a Metalbending master to show others the basics, it's unsurprising that it would spread very rapidly.
  • The Magic School Bus: Arnold's "block of ice" moment during the climax of "Gets Lost in Space" seems implausible enough that it gets brought up in the Producers Segment. It has since been established that you can, in fact, survive brief exposure to outer space.
  • Lampshaded on Metalocalypse in the episode "Dethstars." The band's helicopter breaks open an oil rig, spewing oil on hundreds of people, one of whom is smoking a cigar that ignites the oil, causing the rig and everyone on it to go up in flames. As the band flies away, Murderface looks down at the burning wreckage and says "That is so fake."
  • A case of skin color confusion: in The Proud Family, LaCieniga is obviously Hispanic, and takes after her mother (who has dark skin). Felix also obviously looks pretty Hispanic as well (but is lighter), but his father Papi is white and could pass for being white European. There was actually a bit of debate where people assumed that Felix's mother was Hispanic and that he's only half Hispanic. In reality, there is such a thing as being "white Hispanic" and Papi most likely is.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied where a Hollywoodesque special effects team paints a horse's skin in a cow pattern, because "real cows don't look like cows on-screen." When asked how they would make something look like a horse on-screen, they suggest stringing a bunch of cats together.
    • In another episode of The Simpsons, the guest star was John Waters (while Waters didn't actually appear As Himself, it's still a case of Ink-Suit Actor). John Waters' real mustache is basically a very straight thin line across his upper lip. However, in the cartoon, he had a wavy moustache. In the audio commentary, the reason John Waters' straight thin moustache was replaced by a wavy line was because John Waters' real moustache would just look like a straight line over his lip and disappear. John Waters said he actually liked it, but considered that it would be difficult to shave his moustache to look like that.
  • South Park:
    • In the episode "Satan's Super Sweet Sixteen", an in-universe example occurs when Steve Irwin shows up to the party, stingray barb still in his chest. People think he's a guy in a tasteless costume at first, but he is asked to leave once it's revealed that he is Steve Irwin (because he has no costume).
    • In South Park's "Trapped in the Closet", the Church of Scientology believes Stan to be the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard, and their president offers to reveal to him Scientology's "highly classified" secret doctrine. He proceeds to tell a fantastic story about an alien overlord capturing and brainwashing people's souls. A natural reaction from viewers would be to laugh and assume it's a deliberately ridiculous "secret doctrine" that was made up for the show, when in reality, the story was taken from Scientology's actual secret doctrine that had previously leaked. Which is why the creators felt the need to add a caption saying "THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE".
  • Parodied in one SpongeBob SquarePants episode in which Mr. Krabs pulls his way to use the sponge himself as a promotional money-making tool for the Krusty Krab, after a food critic complimented him. He makes SpongeBob leave his current position to manually work on a ride, having set up Squidward, in costume, for his place. After tiring out, SpongeBob gets attacked with insult and mockery for not looking like the real thing. It's not until the end of the episode that Mr. Krabs fixes things up.
  • Thomas & Friends is surprisingly concise about using a real-life basis for most of its engines, even during its Denser and Wackier years. There are obviously occasional liberties here and there (e.g. international engines being resized to work on British rail systems), but generally, even some of the wilder designs are based on real-life models, if sometimes one-time experiments (eg. engines with a built-in crane or water cannons). Diesel 10 is the nearest to a fantasy design, though even then only in his modifications such as a mechanical claw, his locomotive build is still factual-based.
  • Young Justice (2010):
    • One complaint about the character design of Artemis was how she's half Asian but has blond hair. Greg Weisman responded that she's actually based on one of the producer's daughters, whose parents are both half Asian and have natural blond hair because both could have inherited the blond gene from their non-Asian parents. However, Artemis' mother is Vietnamese and Weisman mentions elsewhere that Artemis is fluent in French, due to Vietnam being a former French colony. If Artemis has at least one French maternal ancestor, it is plausible.
    • When we finally see her father, Artemis has the exact same color hair as he does.
    • More recently, the fandom has gone after her for having dark eyebrows, taking this as "proof" that she dyes her hair. They are, however, ignoring two critical pieces of information: Word of God says that her hair is natural, and blond people often have eyebrows that are much darker than their natural hair color.


Video Example(s):


RGD: Drinking 60 pints of beer

While reviewing Bozo's Night Out, Ross brings up that he initially planned to criticize the game for its unrealistic goal of drinking 60 pints of beer, only to learn through research that Andre the Giant set the record at a little under 90 pints in 2 hours. Ross concludes that Bozo's goal is actually feasible for a man of his weight and experience with drinking.

How well does it match the trope?

4.41 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / RealityIsUnrealistic

Media sources: