Follow TV Tropes


This Is a Work of Fiction

Go To
"Really? I thought water-walking, bisexual, bullet dodging vampires were a regular occurrence these days."

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Some form of this disclaimer can be found at the front of nearly every novel out there as well as in the credits of most films and TV episodes. It's an attempt to stave off libel suits; it seems to have originated as a response to a suit against the makers of the 1932 film Rasputin and the Empress by a Russian princess who believed one of the characters to have been modeled on her.note  Think of it as the more professional equivalent of I Do Not Own, though with more legal force.note 

Minor historical footnote 

Sometimes this disclaimer is the only part of the movie that's fiction, especially when the real people in question lived long enough ago that they're not going to sue anybody. (And sometimes publishers make the mistake of putting it in books openly Based on a True Story; e.g., the first printing of the Touchstone paperback edition of Schindler's List.) Works Based on a True Story may use a modified disclaimer, acknowledging the historical basis for the work but stating that it doesn't necessarily conform 100% to history.

Although not a Dead Unicorn Trope, this can easily be mistaken for one by the unobservant. When played straight, the disclaimer is generally buried amid a bunch of similar legalese (at the end of the credits or on the copyright page of the book, for example) where it might be easily missed. More playful versions are generally given much more prominent placement, so everyone can recognize how clever the creators are being, though subtle modifications of the phrase "persons living or dead" may be easily missed by less alert viewers.

If a work uses Write Who You Know, the issue will probably be avoided.

A Sub-Trope of Our Lawyers Advised This Trope.

Compare No Celebrities Were Harmed, No Communities Were Harmed.

Contrast Falsely Advertised Accuracy, where you have a work of fiction that the author tries to pass off as true or accurate.

Compare and contrast "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer which often includes a list of which parts the author is making up.

(As the disclaimer itself is ubiquitous, only parodies, inversions, In-Universe examples and the like should be listed)

    open/close all folders 

  • Used as Weasel Words (Implying it is a fiction when it is actually a fact) with sex toys and the like, which often have "for entertainment only" or "for novelty use", in the advertisement despite being obviously for and functional as what it looks like they are for. This is to cover the company legally. Some places in the United States and elsewhere have laws against the sale of these products, but this gives the company the legal standing of saying "It's all for fun. What the customer actually does with it is their own business."
  • This Pepsi-produced movie theater policy trailer produced by Pepsi featuring dolls animated in a fashion similar to Action League NOW! opens with an amusing disclaimer...
    "Nothing in the following is real. The setting? Fake. The furniture? Fake. The blonde? Fake. It's a figment of someone's imagination that's so bogus, only the use of non-living objects could ever make it possible."

    Anime & Manga 
  • In one chapter of Great Teacher Onizuka, a note between panels mentions: "The characters in this story are fictional. Any similarities to people living or dead is completely coincidental and quite bizarre." Another chapter mentions "Any resemblance to people or events in your life means you're an extremely strange individual."
  • It's repurposed in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya; the SOS movie includes a version of it so that Haruhi won't inadvertently make everything in the movie real.
    Haruhi: This story is a work of fiction. All character names, organizations, incidents and any other names, phenomena and such, are fictional as well. It's all made up. Even if it resembles someone, it's probably just a coincidence. Oh, except for the commercials! Shop at Omori Electronics and Yamatsuchi Model Shop for great deals. Stop by and buy! Huh? I gotta say it again? This story is a work of fiction. All character names, organizations, incidents and any other names... Hey Kyon! Why do I have to say all this stuff anyway? I mean, it's totally obvious.
  • Night Raid 1931, which is set in China in 1931 and deals in a great part with the events leading up to the Second Sino-Japanese War, has one such disclaimer at the end of every episode. Unlike most anime that use this trope, this one is deadly serious, considering that historical revisionism of World War II is a very touchy subject in East Asia.
    "This is a work of fiction. Although it is based on real historical events, the characters have been created for the sake of this story. We are not trying to present a new interpretation of the era and its events."
    • This is pretty gutsy from a series that in fact goes against the popular (in Japan) interpretation by not ignoring Japan's role in what happened and presenting it as a bad thing.
  • Occult Academy ends with this: (translated to English) This program is a work of fiction. Departed Spirits, Psychic Abilities, Aliens, UMA's, etc., do not exist.
  • In One Piece, specifically the anime, the writing just below the bounties that would normally have details of the wanted persons is actually said disclaimer written in romanji.
  • Played with in Oshi no Ko. The story opens with a narration stating "This is a work of fiction." The following sentences make clear that the "fiction" disclaimer also refers to the idol industry at large, being highly exaggerated and embellished to cater for its fans.
  • Pani Poni Dash!. After Himeko presses a button on Ichijou's back at the end of an episode set entirely in the Edo period and blows up a building labelled "Squ Eni": "This program is pure fiction. Resemblances to people that existed, organizations, the Edo period, Pani Poni, Pani Poni Dash!, etc... are all coincidental"
  • Samurai Champloo: "This work of fiction is not intended as an accurate historical portrayal... LIKE YOU GIVE A %#@&!"
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei has a different disclaimer at the end of each episode, always related to the plot of the episode and always a Suspiciously Specific Denial.
    "This programme is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the real Plan to Turn Humanity Into Livestock, Ozeki or Che Guevara is purely coincidental."
    • In the last episode they go so far as to claim that any similarity with their own show is purely coincidental.

  • Stan Freberg's "St. George And The Dragonet" starts with "the story you are about to hear is true. Only the needle should be changed to protect the record."

    Comic Books 
  • In Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem starts watching porn based around his persona, preceded by this disclaimer: "This is a work of fiction not intended to represent anyone living, dead or writing a weekly column for a newspaper."
  • The Books of Magic III has: "This is a work of fiction. All the characters in it, human and otherwise, are imaginary, excepting only certain of the fairy folk, whom it might be unwise to offend by casting doubts on their existence. Or lack thereof."
    • Neil Gaiman is fond of doing this. The collected edition of The Books of Magic has this:
      This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any real people (living, dead, or stolen by fairies), or to any real animals, gods, witches, countries and events (magical or otherwise), is just blind luck, or so we hope.
  • Marvel UK's The Real Ghostbusters and Count Duckula comics disclaim any resemblance to persons "living, dead, or undead".
  • As does Eric Powell's The Goon, published by Dark Horse.
  • Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel has the usual kind of disclaimer but with more colorful wording:
    The following legends of princes and prophets, gardens and graves, water and fire, will not be found in books of history. Any resemblances to real people, places, or events may be blamed on the vivid imagination of the reader.
  • Alan Moore provided a meta-example in his classic Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?:
    "This is an imaginary story. Aren't they all?"

    Fan Works 
  • In Chuck Versus the CGI, Chuck encounters the Roarkbot, an AI modeled after Season 2 villain Ted Roark, at a computer animation studio. When the Roarkbot reveals the 4,000 identical female AIs he's going to send out to wreak havoc on the Internet, one guy asks if they all look like Beverly D'Angelo. The Roarkbot replies, "If you say so. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental."
  • In OSMU: Fanfiction Friction, Opal comes across a fanfic titled Omar, My Partner, My Love and has to remind herself of what Oprah told her earlier — that the stories she comes across on the Internet are not real and the same goes for any of the ships presented in the stories. It doesn't stop her from giving a moan from having the story be available on the Internet though.

    Films — Animation 
  • Free Birds starts with a disclaimer that goes: "The following film is a work of fiction. It is loosely based on historical events and is in no way meant to be historically accurate. Except for the talking turkeys. That part is totally real."
  • In Despicable Me, Gru is reading a storybook he wrote to the three girls. When Edith points out that the kittens in the story look like the three of them (specifically how one wears a pink hat like hers), he denies the correlation.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Airplane! has a standard disclaimer, but ends it with " there!"
  • Inverted in the 1969 film Z, which satirizes the military dictatorship ruling Greece at that time. It has this notice: "Any resemblance to actual events, to persons living or dead, is not the result of chance. It is DELIBERATE." Original French 
  • The Three Stooges short "You Nazty Spy!" claims that "Any resemblance between the characters in this picture and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle."
  • The disclaimer in An American Werewolf in London notes the fictional status of all characters "living, dead, or undead". The remake of Dawn of the Dead did the same thing.
  • Subverted in an epilogue to the 1931 Dracula. Edward Van Sloan (Van Helsing in the film) speaks directly to the audience, giving them what sounds like a reassuring message about the fictitious nature of the preceding film... until he gets to the kicker: "There are such things as vampires!" Sadly, this epilogue was cut from the film's 1936 re-release (for fear of offending religious groups), and is now lost.
  • (500) Days of Summer begins with the standard disclaimer, and then appends, "Especially you, Jenny Beckman. Bitch."
  • The Great Dictator begins with the notice: "Any resemblance between Hynkel the dictator and the Jewish barber is purely co-incidental". (They are played by the same actor.) The movie is very clearly and emphatically a parody and satire of Nazi Germany, and the subverted disclaimer only underlines how it's completely unapologetic and unsubtle about it.
  • Hands over the City: This social realism drama about a corrupt slumlord in 1963 Naples ends with a title card saying that the story is fiction, but "the social and environmental context is real."
  • Jacob the Liar is about a prisoner in a Jewish ghetto in World War II Poland, who winds up somewhat unintentionally pretending to have a radio and faking stories of advances by the Russians in order to raise morale. The film opens with three title cards. The first says "The tale of Jacob the liar is not true." The second says "Honest." Then the third says "But maybe it is true after all."
  • Trinity And Beyond The Atomic Bomb Movie combines this with No Animals Were Harmed to get "The story, names, characters and incidents portrayed in this production are real. Some goats, pigs, and sheep were nuked during the original photography of some operations."
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail has the regular "accidental and unintentional" message... but follows it up with "Signed Richard M. Nixon".
  • In Sons of Provo, the film ends with the disclaimer "Everyone in this film is based on someone the creators know, so if you know the filmmakers at all, you're probably in this film. So sue us."
  • The Hunt for Red October has an interesting variation: The film specifically states that according to the US and Soviet governments, nothing that you are about to see in the film ever happened.
  • The Laurel and Hardy feature Block-Heads has a message from Stan and Ollie reading "The events and character depicted in this photoplay are fictitious. And similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not our fault!"
  • The Return of the Living Dead opens with a disclaimer stating that the events of the film are not fiction. Given that the movie is about brain-eating zombies, this is of course blatant lies.
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy has the disclaimer "The film you are about to see is based on real events. Only the names, locations, and events have been changed."
  • The 1966 sci-fi movie Thunderbirds are GO! (The Movie of Thunderbirds) ends with the disclaimer: "None of the characters appearing in this photoplay intentionally resemble any persons living or dead... since they do not yet exist!"
  • The Andromeda Strain starts with this on-screen message:
    This film concerns the four-day history of a major American scientific crisis.
    We received the generous help of many people attached to Project Scoop at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the Wildfire Laboratory in Flatrock, Nevada. They encouraged us to tell the story accurately and in detail.
    The documents presented here are soon to be made public. They do not in any way jeopardize the national security.
  • In one of the stranger examples of this trope, Noah carried a disclaimer stating that the film is merely inspired by the Biblical story, and not a direct retelling of it.
  • Averted by Bloody Mama. "Any similarity to Kate Barker and her sons is intentional."
  • Satirical comedy Italiano Medio opens with the claim "Based on a fake story".
  • Asteroid City begins with a TV host introducing the titular play-within-a-play in this manner.
    "Asteroid City does not exist. It is an imaginary drama created expressly for this broadcast. The characters are fictional, the text hypothetical, the events an apocryphal fabrication; but together they present an authentic account of the inner-workings of a modern theatrical production."

  • Being written in the 2nd Century AD, the satirical True History may be the Ur-Example of the trope, as the author explains in the introduction of the story that it's a completely made up Tall Tale, as the author lived too simple of a life to write his own adventures.
    My subject is, then, what I have neither seen, experienced, nor been told, what neither exists nor could conceivably do so. I humbly solicit my readers' incredulity.
  • No More Dead Dogs has a disclaimer that goes (something like), "This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons or dogs proves you have some strange friends."
  • American Gods has a long version of the disclaimer, including discussion of precisely how real certain locations discussed in the book are, and ending "Furthermore, it goes without saying that all the people, living, dead and otherwise in this story are fictional or used in a fictional context. Only the gods are real."
  • Carl Hiaasen has a tendency to start his books this way.
    • Sick Puppy has:
      This is a work of fiction. All names and characters are either invented or used fictitiously. To the best of the author's knowledge, there is no such licensed product as a Double-Jointed Vampire Barbie, nor is there a cinematic portrayal thereof.

      However, while most events described in this book are imaginary, the dining habits of the common bovine dung beetle are authentically represented.
    • Skinny Dip explains:
      This is a work of fiction. All names and characters are either invented or used fictitiously. The events described are mostly imaginary, except for the destruction of the Florida Everglades and the $8 billion effort to save what remains.
  • Kurt Vonnegut had a standard parody of this, as exemplified in Bagombo Snuff Box:
    As in my other works of fiction: All persons living and dead are purely coincidental, and should not be construed. No names have been changed in order to protect the innocent. Angels protect the innocent as a matter of Heavenly routine.
  • A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers has the anti-disclaimer:
    "Any resemblance to persons living or dead should be plainly apparent to them and those who know them, especially if the author has been kind enough to have provided their real names and, in some cases, their phone numbers. All events described herein actually happened, though on occasion the author has taken certain, very small, liberties with chronology, because that is his right as an American."
  • Edgar Pangborn's post-apocalyptic novel Davy has a disclaimer by the author to the effect that:
    The characters in this book are fictional in a limited sense, i.e. they haven't been born yet.
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency claims that it bears no resemblance to any people ", dead, or wandering the night in ghostly torment."
  • Each book in the 87th Precinct series features the following disclaimer (which is partly a shout-out to Dragnet):
    The city in these pages is imaginary. The people, the places are all fictitious. Only the police routine is based on established investigatory technique.
  • Subverted in Michael Crichton's Next, an Author Tract about the dangers of genetic engineering loosely based on some real events.
    "This novel is fiction, except for the parts that aren't."
    • A Creator Thumbprint of Mr. Crichton was to invert this disclaimer (himself, obviously the publisher would place a regular one someplace for legal reasons) and acknowledge the help of the fictional characters and/or organizations with whatever information he was handed so he could write the novel.
  • A novel involving, among other things, the author having the Virgin Mary as a house guest has — in small print, on the flyleaf — "this novel is a work of fiction". Except that Mary and the author explicitly discuss the fact that the author would never be able to publish it as truth.
    Mary (paraphrasing): You could publish it as fact, of course. But where would that lead? ...they would dig up your tulip bulbs and sell water from your garden hose as holy. They would flock to your house and turn it into a shrine. The prayers would drive you mad.
  • The late '80s teen novel A Royal Pain, about an American girl who discovers she's the Switched at Birth princess of a fictional foreign country, includes the standard disclaimer. Underneath is a second disclaimer by the main character urging the reader to ignore the first one, because "it really happened. I know. I was there."
  • Go, Mutants!:
    This book is a work of fiction. The public figures, historical events, and popular entertainments referred to in the text are from a different universe, one with no libel or copyright laws.
  • The Star*Drive novels subtly parody this with the disclaimer "All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons or aliens, living or dead, is purely coincidental."
  • In The Pale King, David Foster Wallace points out the paradox of the book being both a memoir and literary fiction in The Author's Foreword, first saying that everything in the book is true, and then pointing out that the sentence in which he says that is itself covered by the disclaimer at the beginning of the book.
  • Pseudonymous Bosch:
    • In You Have to Stop This, the final book of the Secret Series, the disclaimer reads "The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. Of course, you know what they say about good intentions...."
    • Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, a later book by Bosch, has a normal version of the disclaimer. There is, however, a label before it reading "Traditional (and absolutely completely totally sincere) disclaimer."
    • Bad Luck, which is a title in the Sequel Series to the Secret Series, again has a normal version of the disclaimer. Underneath it, however, it says "Blah, blah, blah..."
    • Bad News, the final book of the sequel series, has a normal version of the disclaimer, but next to it in italics: "Any resemblance to actual dragons is a different story—a story that the author of this book would very much like to hear." Additionally, on the copyright page, it has "Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce creative works that enrich our culture. Incidentally, that is also the purpose of chocolate."
  • The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog (by Dave Barry) has this: "Any resemblance to people and circumstances from my childhood in Armonk, NY are, frankly, a baffling coincidence."
  • Captain Underpants, in The Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, had a comic with this disclaimer on the back, "Any simalarities to real people (living or dead) is very, very unforchenate."
  • The book Simply Weird: The (fake) History of Weird Comics Incorporated, A (fake) Comic Book Company starts this way. It's more or less a joke when the title already says the history present in the book is fake.
  • Robert Rankin's Raiders of the Lost Car Park has such a disclaimer. One of the characters is Prince Charles Windsor. With a train fixation. Complete with him using a train-into-tunnel euphemism with shagging his PA.
  • In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash (the book that served as the basis for A Christmas Story) has this— "The characters, places, and events described herein are entirely fictional, and any resemblance to individuals living or dead is purely coincidental, accidental, or the result of faulty imagination."
  • Say, Darling by Richard Bissell:
    As anyone on Broadway can tell you, none of the fictional characters in this novel resembles anybody living or dead on the main stem. They are all too lovable. At any rate, the only place they have ever lived is in the author's imagination.
  • Barefoot Boy with Cheek by Max Shulman has an author's note explaining that "the University of Minnesota is, of course, wholly imaginary," and that "Minnesota" is a combination of two Indian words that has little if any meaning.
  • Red Prophet by Orson Scott Card begins with the traditional "any resemblance to real people or events is entirely co-incidental" despite Tecumseh and Tenskatawa being major characters who do essentially the same things as they did in real life. The book then has a more detailed disclaimer, explaining "This story takes place in an America whose history is often similar to, but often quite different from our own ... In particular, you should be aware that William Henry Harrison ... was a somewhat nicer person than his counterpart in this book."
  • All of Mercedes Lackey's Doubled Edge books contain the standard disclaimer, despite most of the human characters and many of the events being straight out of history. Naturally, the scenes that are copied straight from life (such as the scenes of young Elizabeth I being sexually abused) are the most bizarre and troubling to the modern reader.
  • Go Ask Alice is marketed as being the real-life diary of a girl who died due to drug abuse, but was actually a fictional story either written or edited by Beatrice Sparks. According to Snopes, however, it plays this trope entirely straight by having this on its copyright page: "This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental."
  • In the Author's Note for The Fault in Our Stars:
    "This is not so much an author's note as an author's reminder of what was printed in small type a few pages ago: This book is a work of fiction. I made it up."
  • At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien claims as fictional "all the characters represented in this book, including the first person singular."
  • The Rosemary Wells picture book Otto Runs for President makes sure it's covered legally throughout time. "The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person running for office in the past, present, or future is entirely coincidental."
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: The book includes a disclaimer:
    "This is a work of fiction. Although many of the places referenced in the book are real, some characteristics have been changed to fit the story. Some real and historical characters and events have been included to enhance the story. However, the characters and events in this book are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental."
  • The disclaimer used by Lawrence Block in Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man:
    "All characters in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. The earth is flat."
was quite clearly meant to lampshade tenuous nature of such disclaimers, but it brought him an invitation to join The Flat Earth Society of Canada.note 
  • Baby Monkey, Private Eye, a children's book by Brian Selznick which blends the genre of picture book and chapter book, has the disclaimer "This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, monkeys, zebras, lions, snakes, or mice, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental, except for the astronaut who, with her permission, looks very much like the real astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison (thank you, Dr. Jemison!)"
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: Rozemyne's mentor, Ferdinand, is quite popular among noble ladies, to the point that most of the adult female population of the Noble's Quarter has a Celeb Crush of sorts on him. Rozemyne, who's using her Past-Life Memories from Earth to introduce printing to the setting, tries to make money by selling mass-produced illustrations of Ferdinand in the Noble's Quarter, but quickly gets discovered and Ferdinand's veto on the activity. Rozemyne continues via all the Loophole Abuse she can think of, including illustrating printed stories with a Comic-Book Fantasy Casting version of Ferdinand. For the occasion, she also introduces a common disclaimer from Earth:
  • Inverted in Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, purportedly a biography of Sherlock Holmes.
    "No characters in this book are fictional, although the author should very much like to meet any who claim to be."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Red Dwarf has an episode in which an ancient scroll containing this disclaimer for The Bible is unearthed.
  • The video case for Blackadder's Christmas Carol states that all characters are fictional and any resemblence to any real person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Except the Awful Screeching Woman, who knows exactly who she is.
  • The 70s tokusatsu series "Chojin Barom One" had a disclaimer after a couple of episode aired stating that the villain, Doruge, was not based on anyone in real life. This was caused by an incident reported in a newspaper of a German foreign exchange student with a similar name was bullied by his fellow students.
  • An old CBS film from 1957, known as The Day Called Xnote , depicted a Real Life evacuation exercise in case of a nuclear attack on Portland, Oregonnote . Genuine city officials and other government figures played their parts as if the attack was real. Anytime anyone spoke of or even tangentially referenced the hypothetical attack, a large subtitle showed up on the screen, announcing "AN ATTACK IS NOT TAKING PLACE" to make it absolutely clear to people tuning in late that what they were seeing was a drill and that World War III had not just broken out.
  • Decker: The first televised season of Decker, Unclassified, begins with a black screen stating that "The following events are fititious but well within the realm of possiblity
  • Dragnet and Adam-12 also did this with the revelation that the events were based on real cases since Jack Webb had a good relationship with the LAPD. It might have been the first, or one of the first, police procedurals to use Ripped from the Headlines stories.
  • Square One TV: The opening spiel of Dragnet parody Mathnet:
    The story you are about to see is a fib, but it's short. The names are made up, but the problems are real.
  • Many episodes of shows from the Law & Order franchise begin with the caption "The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event." Some have a modified version: "Although inspired by true events, the following story is fictional." Experienced viewers know that either means "Okay, this story's been Ripped from the Headlines. Please don't sue us."
    • The series pilot film "Everybody's Favorite Bagman" and the first-season episode "Indifference" both ended with a caption and voice-over pointing out that while the stories were similar to, respectively, a scandal at the Parking Violations Bureau and the child-killing of Lisa Steinberg, both episodes were fictional. (In the latter case, the disclaimer cites specific differences between the real case and the episode.) These remain the only explicit disavowals in the franchise's history.
    • In episodes that aren't Ripped from the Headlines but show parts of the legal system as corrupt, a modified version specifically stating that the episode is fictional and doesn't actually represent the department and is not meant to imply anything.
  • The Good Wife had an interesting take on this where a film studio made a movie about a Mark Zuckerberg substitute internet billionaire and got sued for defamation. If they admit that they intentionally made the guy look bad they are guilty of defamation. If they publicly say that the movie was a work of fiction then the movie loses a lot of its appeal since they based their advertising and Product Placement on the fact that it is an accurate depiction of actual events.
  • The "Spam" episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus begins with Fake-Out Opening credits for an epic adventure, mangling the disclaimer to "Any similarity between persons living or dead is coincidental."
  • Every episode of Unsolved Mysteries started out with a warning in (first) an ominous male voice, and on the Lifetime broadcasts, an equally ominous female voice:
    This program is about unsolved mysteries. Whenever possible, the actual family members and police officials have participated in recreating the events. What you are about to see is not a news broadcast.
  • This disclaimer was suggested on Mock the Week while discussing "Unlikely lines to read in The Bible".
  • Meanwhile, Penn & Teller: Bullshit! referred to The Bible itself in this way in the closing line of their episode on the subject.
    "The characters and events depicted in the damn Bible are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons living or dead, is purely coincidental."
  • ABS-CBN was forced to put up the following disclaimer in the Filipino fantasy series Bagani in response to Unfortunate Implications with historical societies and indigenous groups, who took offense at what they deemed to be a misrepresentation of their tribes and the use of the term "Bagani" on a Fantasy Counterpart Culture heavily based on pre-colonial Philippine societies:
    "Ang kuwentong inyong mapapanood ay kathang-isip lamang at kumuha ng inspirasyon mula sa iba’t ibang alamat at mitolohiyang Pilipino. Ito’y hindi tumutukoy o kumakatawan sa kahit anong Indigenous People sa Pilipinas." translation 
    • A new line preceding those was added:
      "Ang mga Bagani ay totoong mandirigma na mula sa kultura ng Indigenous Peoples." translation 
  • Kamen Rider Build ends with this message. They probably felt the disclaimer was necessary since Build ends with Sento having compiled the events of the series into a set of scripts and starting to record the Opening Narration from the first episodes, as if the show we just watched was his resulting account.
  • Canada's Worst Driver has this inverted for laughs. The trailer reversing challenge in season 13 is presented as a skit show. At the end of it, there's a fake set of credits with the names of many of the bad drivers from previous seasons and with the disclaimer "This unreal driving is truly a piece of work. Names, characters, places, and events are beyond imagination yet completely true. Any resemblance to safe driving is purely coincidental."
  • Most likely in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic, each episode of Utopia (US) contains a prominent warning at the beginning stating either "This program is a work of fiction, and not based on actual, related, or current events. It contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised," or "This program is a work of fiction, and not based on an actual pandemic or related events. It contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised."
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of Better Call Saul, where a series of Saul's commercials show people overtly making obviously defamatory claims about damages done by various businesses in town that Saul can help you sue. At one point, a disclaimer flashes past at the bottom of the screen saying "Actor portrayal based on actual incidents or fiction."

  • The AC/DC song "Ain't No Fun (Waiting Around To Be A Millionaire)" starts with Bon Scott declaring "The following is a true story. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty."

    Music Videos 
  • The phrase "...any persons living, dead or undead" is also used by the music video for Michael Jackson's Thriller (which, like An American Werewolf in London, was directed by John Landis). On a more serious note, a (ghostwritten) disclaimer by Jackson was added at the beginning disassociating Jackson and his religious beliefs with the film's occult themes, stating "Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult."

  • Somehow inverted with Disney, in which this trope is seldomly seen in recent years, outside of one Frozen (2013) parody regarding what Kristoff said earlier in the end credits. Most of the time instead of the said disclaimer after the copyright notice, for some reason, it has, along the lines of "For the sake of copyright protection in the United Kingdom, The Walt Disney Company (Or its affiliate studios/production companies depending on the movie) is the copyright owner after the movie was made."

  • Hello, from the Magic Tavern is presented in-universe, Audio Play-style, as a completely nonfiction, informational podcast trying to let the world know about the existence of other dimensions. The show begins and ends with disclaimers from an external voice insisting that the show is not real. But over time, these disclaimers develop into their own storyline, as it's revealed that the Mysterious Man doing the voice overs is some sort of Cosmic Keystone who's desperately trying to maintain The Masquerade that there are no other dimensions, when in fact there are many.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Parodied with the disclaimer seen at the beginning of Crank Yankers, which gleefully informs viewers that "The calls you are about to hear are real. The names have not been changed. Screw the innocent."

    Tabletop Games 
  • The roleplaying game Nephilim has an interesting disclaimer. One page reads, in all caps, "THIS GAME IS NOT REAL." The next page reads, again in all caps, "YOU ARE."
  • All of the Old World of Darkness games had funny disclaimers at the beginning of their books to ward off the Satanic Panic accusations along the lines of "You are not a vampire and if there really was a secret society of vampires, someone would have noticed by now."
  • For the New World of Darkness:
    • The default disclaimer is a less funny "This book uses the supernatural for settings, characters and themes. All mystical and supernatural elements are fiction and intended for entertainment purposes only. This book contains mature content. Reader discretion is advised."
    • The Inferno supplement, detailing demons and the singularly awful means of summoning and dealing with them, has a more pointed reminder that the rituals don't work, demons aren't real, and the book is a work of fiction.
  • Ars Magica is set in a "Mythic Europe" where, among other things, divine and infernal forces from the Abrahamic religions are demonstrably real and active. In older editions, the books detailing things like the nature of Hell, the disposition of souls, and the supernatural power of faith have disclaimers that the content is for roleplaying purposes only and its resemblance to real-world beliefs is coincidental.
  • Thirsty Sword Lesbians: has fun with this disclaimer on the copyright page:
    invoked This is a game where people make up stories about wonderful, terrible, impossible, glorious things. All the characters and events portrayed in this work are fictional and worth celebrating. Any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental or is possibly a self-insert character. If you feel called out by the playbooks, that's between you and your therapist.

  • Knickerbocker Holiday, Epilogue for Stuyvesant:
    What more remains is but to say
    All characters and all events
    Incorporated in our play
    Are fictional in every way,
    Nor does one actor here portray
    The person that he represents.
  • Louisiana Purchase devotes an entire Opening Chorus to a disclaimer explaining that everything in the show is "mythical," including the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans.

    Video Games 
  • Used at the beginning of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, because it was written in 1999, depicted terrorist attacks in New York and was completed only two months after September 11, 2001.
  • Almost all the Shin Megami Tensei games have this disclaimer at the beginning in some form.
    • Can be seen at the beginning of both the English and Japanese versions of the Raidou Kuzunoha games, perhaps due to the historical(ish) setting and the use of a few Historical Domain Characters.
    • Persona 5 plays with this by not only including the disclaimer, but making the player agree to it before starting a new game. If you don't, you get sent back to the start screen. The message takes on a sinister new meaning with some of the end game reveals by making it clear that the Big Bad is the one voicing the message and by accepting, the players agree to reject the existence of the Phantom Thieves.
    • Another way it plays with this trope involves The Velvet Room: In previous Persona games, access to The Velvet Room is restricted to only those who have a contract. But you never signed such a contract in game, in the end it turns out you did sign a contract: the big bad took over the Velvet Room, and the "this is a work of fiction" disclaimer that was read to you at the game's start WAS in fact a contract that lets you enter the Velvet Room, and you agreeing to its terms was you signing said contract.
  • Because of the historical and religious implications of the plot of the Assassin's Creed series, every game takes care to point out that it "was designed, developed and produced by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs".
  • Due to the crazy and unfair court system used in Ace Attorney, the Western version of the game manual contains a disclaimer to the effect of "This game's legal system applies only to the game, and does not reflect any actual legal system." Despite this, it is, in fact, based on the former Japanese court system — the disclaimer in that region reads more like "This game's court system is exaggerated for entertainment purposes and not intended to be an accurate representation".
  • Played with in Touhou: Ten Desires — "This game is a work of fiction. All characters and organizations that appear have entered Gensokyo." Gensokyo, the setting, is composed of things that people have stopped believing in. And the plot of this game involves this happening a major Japanese historical figure...
  • Parodied in Granblue Fantasy. The Lady Katapillar and Vira form has a description talking about how Katalina was transformed into "an ancient and magnificent tool of destruction", and is now a "slave to Vira's will" sent on a path to kill everyone she meets. Under this is a notice:
    *This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and referenced incidents are products of the collective imaginations of Lowain and Bros. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
  • Played straight in the legal screen of Mafia II. As the game was set in a historical era and involved or mentioned organizations such as the Mafia, it would make sense for the developers to say that this isn't a true account of what happened in the mob underworld.
  • Subverted in July Anarchy: Prologue, which manual opens with the following text:
  • Danganronpa:
    • Inverted with the "Twilight Syndrome Murder Mystery" in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, which Monokuma claims to be entirely non-fictional. It apparently involves some of the actual characters, providing a motive for the next murder, though Danganronpa 3 retcons the situation somewhat.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has one at the beginning of the game, which is rather unusual since the series has never had one before. In the final trial you learn that it's actually an in-universe message, as the game is a Meta Sequel where the previous Danganronpa games and anime are fictional, and that the current killing game is an "Ultimate Real Fiction" reality show based on the series where the participants have had their memories and identities erased and replaced with fictional ones more suited to the Danganronpa universe.
  • L.A. Noire has the following disclaimer on the back of its box:
    This is a fictional story set in 1940s Los Angeles depicting invented and fictionalized historical characters, groups, locations, scenes and events in a manner that is not historically accurate and should not be interpreted to be factual.
  • Appears at the end of Normality. The first half is played straight, reading "The characters portrayed in this game are totally fictitious." The latter half is where it gets snarky and self-aware. "Any resemblance to any persons dead or alive is rather unfortunate and disturbing." This either relates to the early 3D modeling causing an Unintentional Uncanny Valley effect with its often grotesque character models, or the characters themselves exhibiting unpleasant behavior.
  • A message like this, laced with some subtle Nightmare Fuel, can pop up at one point in the Silent Hills Playable Teaser.
    This game is purely fictitious. It cannot harm you in any way, shape, or form.
  • The in-game description for the Dancing Zombie from Plants vs. Zombies says, "Any resemblance between Dancing Zombie and persons living or dead is purely coincidental." This is probably a joke, since the zombie is obviously based on Michael Jackson in his zombie-themed Thriller music video. Or at least it was, until the real Michael Jackson died a month after the game's release. As a result, the Dancing Zombie was redesigned into a more generic Disco Dan. The disclaimer is still there, though.
  • Speaking of Thriller, the 25th Anniversary Edition of Night Trap seems to use this disclaimer as a Shout-Out to the music video: "The events and characters depicted in this photoplay are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons living, dead, or undead, is purely coincidental."
  • The Darkside Detective:
    • McQueen pauses in the middle of telling the life story of the mobster Al Caphoney to claim that any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
    • The game's end credits include a standard "This is a work of fiction" disclaimer, followed by a couple of paragraphs of worryingly specific clarifications about which aspects of the game are definitely fictional and nothing to be concerned about.
  • Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden: This game is set After the End and features characters who are Beast Men, including a Pig Man. The following appears at the end of the credits: "All events and characters appearing in this work are unlikely to be based on anything or anybody who really exists (we'd love to meet a pig-faced person!)."
  • Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair begins with the following disclaimer.
    "This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real, people, events, locations and supernatural beings is purely coincidental."
  • The When They Cry series uses the standard "Any resemblance to actual persons or organizations is entirely coincidental." Ciconia: When They Cry takes this further, with "Any similarities to real individuals, groups, religions, all of creation, the will of the universe, plan of God, or Vatican document #34 are entirely coincidental", but also has the serious disclaimer "This work does not approve of any ideology, nor does it represent the ideology of its creators."
  • Habitually used verbatim at the start of Like a Dragon games (re-)released in the West from Yakuza 0 onwards, with a specific form of words used as both a Content Warning, a means of setting the scene for the player and also a legal disclaimer — which is very necessary given that the games feature numerous people, in a relatively realistic portrayal of the yakuza world, habitually committing many, many violent criminal acts.
    "This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Furthermore, this work takes place in [year]. Any laws or viewpoints mentioned herein are grounded in that time period."
  • Used in the ending of Chocobo GP to tell the player that "any persons, groups, names, etc., that seem familiar are entirely coincidental." It's hard to tell if it's parodying the lack of a fourth wall in the story or if it's a straight use.
  • Tokyo Xanadu opens with a disclaimer that "This game is a work of fiction. Outside of specific instances, all places, persons, situations, etceteras are not real and are products of the author's imagination. Because seriously, high school students wielding psychic weapons?!"
  • Parodied in the Japanese version of Super Mario RPG and in all versions of its remake, where using Mallow's Psychopath/Thought Peek spell on the Guerrilla enemy (which heavily resembles Donkey Kong) will reveal its thoughts to be:
    "I am a work of fiction. Any resemblance to preexisting apes is purely coincidental."

    Web Animation 
  • In Cartoon Drive Thru's Deadly Space Action! season two, at the end of each episode:
    Any similarity to future historical events is entirely intentional, because we totally called it.
  • The Lackadaisy animated pilot has the following in the end credits:
    The stories, institutions, and characters in this talkie are fictional. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Any resemblance to cats living or dead is entirely purposeful.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • South Park displays this at the beginning of each episode:
    "All characters and events in this show—even those based on real people—are entirely fictional. All celebrity voices are impersonated ... poorly. The following program contains coarse language and due to its content it should not be viewed by anyone."
  • The opening caption in the Futurama episode "The Route of All Evil" is "DISCLAIMER: Any resemblance to actual robots would be really cool."
  • Beavis and Butt-Head had two notable disclaimers at different periods of its series run, the latter essentially a slightly slimmed down version of the former, accompanied by jaunty banjo music:
    "Beavis and Butt-Head are not real. They are stupid cartoon people completely made up by this Texas guy whom we hardly even know. Beavis and Butt-Head are dumb, crude, thoughtless, ugly, sexist, self-destructive fools. But for some reason, the little weinerheads make us laugh."

    "Beavis and Butt-Head are not role models. They're not even human, they're cartoons. Some of the things they do would cause a person to get hurt, expelled, arrested, and possibly deported. To put it another way, Don't Try This at Home."
  • Wartime Cartoon Blitz Wolf: "The Wolf in this photoplay is NOT fictitious. Any similarity between this Wolf and that (*!!*%) jerk Hitler is purely intentional!" A postscript adds a rationing joke: "P.S. The tires in this photoplay are fictitious (and we ain't kidding, brother!)"
  • The Looney Tunes cartoon Rocket Squad, an homage to Dragnet, had the following disclaimer: The story you are about to see is true. The drawings have been changed to protect the innocent.
    • Daffy Duck and Egghead opens with a foreword stating that the ducks depicted are fictitious, and any ducks seen in the picture, "living or roasted, are purely coincidental."
    • Porky Pig's Feat has "Any resemblance between this hotel and real hotels, living or dead, is coincidental."
    • Porky's Road Race has the forward: "All the characters in this picture are strictly phony! Any fancied resemblance to any living person is the bunk! Any incident portrayed is pure fiction!"
    • Porky's Building opens with a disclaimer saying that the similarities to actual persons and events is definitely intended ("If you think we're going to sit around for days thinking up new ideas - you're pixilated!").
    • Detouring America, a 1939 parody of short travelogues, starts with the disclaimer "All states depicted in this photoplay are fictitious. Any similarity to actual states, either Democratic or Republican, is purely co-incidental."
  • Celebrity Deathmatch has the standard disclaimer, but ends it with "Anyway, IT'S JUST CLAY!!!!"
  • The Woody Woodpecker short "Under the Counter Spy" opens with the card "The story you're about to see is a big fat lie. No names have been changed to protect anybody."
  • Ben Hillman's animated short Nietzsche Pops, featuring a boy who becomes a world-conquering Übermensch after eating a bowl of the titular cereal, combines this trope with faux German, displaying this at the close of the ending credits:
    "Anie zimiliaritie betwixten Karaktieren in diesem Film und Personen Livink ur 55 Millionen Dedd ist purelich Koinzidentall."
  • Total Drama Island has its own variation on the disclaimer at the beginning of each episode.
    Chris: This episode of Total Drama contains series of extreme stunts performed by animated teens. Do not try any of what you see here at home. Seriously, you could get really messed up.

...I see. Everything that happens from here on in is real... Is that your cognition of this? ...Then unfortunately, I cannot allow you to partake of this website. I must ask that you leave...


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): All Persons Fictitious Disclaimer, Any Resemblance Is Coincidental


I Must Ask That You Leave

When starting a new game in "Persona 5," Igor tells you that the story is a work of fiction and that similarities between characters or events to persons living in your world are purely coincidental. You are required to agree to this as a condition of playing the game or you are tossed back to the title screen.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThisIsAWorkOfFiction

Media sources: