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This Is Reality

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Good thing you ARE in a comic book.

BoJack: Look, I played a dad for nine years on TV, so I think I know a little bit more about parenting than you two jokers. The kids on Horsin' Around didn't need boundaries. All they needed was some good old-fashioned love.
Todd: BoJack, this is not a TV show, okay? This is real life!
(A lemur bursts into the room. He is on fire.)
Lemur: (running in circles) AAAAAH! LEMUR ON FIRE! LEMUR ON FIRE! (crashes through the wall, making an Impact Silhouette)
BoJack: Some good old-fashioned love.

One character tells another; this is reality, this is not a movie, or any variation thereof, most often the stock phrase "This isn't a/an X, you know"; in order to get them to divorce themselves from an unrealistic notion — only, little do they know, their whole world indeed isn't reality! This phrase is often used when defying a trope. In other words, this trope is a Lampshade Hanging affirmation of the Fourth Wall, with a subtle joke and a bit of dramatic irony rolled in.

It is a message to the viewers that "Hey, this show/movie is more grounded in reality than average." This message is not always true. Sometimes it's done for reconstruction purposes where a trope is played realistically but still works in real life.

It's somewhat common in sci-fi and comedy which feature wildly varying levels of realism and can be used to help the audience get a feel for what the limits are. Beyond the Impossible is when these limits are established and then deliberately broken. Sometimes, this trope is also used in romance stories when a cynical Love Interest feels that Grand Romantic Gestures and certain Wish-Fulfillment tropes of the genre are unrealistic portrayals of love and that real life love does not work that way.

Contrast Not a Game, which (usually) does not invoke the Fourth Wall. May be subverted by an Aside Glance. Another possible twist is to have the characters object to an "unrealistic" idea that is in fact perfectly realistic and sensible within the story.

When inverted, this is Leaning on the Fourth Wall.

Closely related to Wrong Genre Savvy, although the consequences of the latter tend to be much more dire. See also Where Do You Think You Are?, Arbitrary Skepticism, You Watch Too Much X, Real-World Episode, Direct Line to the Author, Literary Agent Hypothesis, Daydream Believer, Trapped in TV Land, and Who Would Want to Watch Us? Contrast with Medium Awareness and Reality Is Unrealistic. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome is the exact opposite of this trope, though it might be a Justified case for the former. The stock phrase itself can be major Narm for some people.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Assassination Classroom: During the Cops and Robbers parkour challenge, Sugaya claims that "This isn't some battle manga" as he dismisses his classmates' warnings about Karasuma's overwhelming stealth and agility. A few seconds later, Karasuma appears behind him and catches him in mid-sentence.
  • In one issue of Bleach, Karin says about Ichigo, "He's a normal guy. He's not some anime character." True, this was in the manga, but he is an anime character.
  • Bungo Stray Dogs: Deputy Inspector Minoura attempts to pull one of these on Ranpo Edogawa, saying that cases can't be solved the way they are in crime novels, but it falls flat since Ranpo really is as good at solving crimes as he claims to be.
  • In Episode 10 of A Certain Magical Index, Touma tells Mikoto, "This isn't a Shoujo manga!"
  • Invoked in the opening skit of Daily Lives of High School Boys: Tadakuni, Hidenori and Yoshitake are attacked by Zakus and embark on a heroic fantasy quest on their way to school before Tadakuni complains there aren't meant to be any mobile suits or heroic tales in a Slice of Life. In fact, the anime goes to great lengths to reinforce this trope.
  • In Digimon Frontier, Koji once chastises Takuya for recklessness: "It's not a game! If we lose, we cannot just start from scratch, we are dead!"
  • A military officer (who is Envy in a disguise) in Fullmetal Alchemist scolds Edward for his overly dramatic behavior by saying "Stop acting like you're in a manga!"
  • In Genshiken, when Ohno is trying to invoke a Skinship Grope during the Hot Springs Episode, Saki tells her "we're not manga characters."
  • In Guardian Fairy Michel, when the Black Hammers learn that there's a time machine, Boogy remarks that "Time machines only exist in cartoons! They're not real!" Biam then retorts, asking if that's just like fairies, then. Boogy is forced to concede.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heavily wounded and facing a lethal attack from Vanilla Ice, the handsome Polnareff has three options: escaping by himself, being suddenly saved by his friends or... just dying there, for "reality is cruel".
    • Earlier in the part, Kakyoin dismisses Polnareff's claims that the stand they were currently fighting is in a mirror world by saying that "This isn't some kind of fantasy or comic book"...when they both have invisible Guardian Spirits, just got done fighting a man that can change the direction of bullets on the fly, and also faced/fought (In no particular order) a beetle, a sea monster, an orangutan, and a doll (at least in Polnareff's case).
  • Kaze no Stigma episode "Pandemonium":
    Vesalius: When will the climax of our little play take place? When will all three of you come together and meet up for the last time in your final scene together? The main characters miraculously discover the secret hideout of the sinister magic user. But then suddenly fall into a trap and get separated, and each of them encounters a formidable enemy. What do you think, quite an exhilarating story, isn't it? And obviously an unexpected plot twist is needed to crown the climax and bring our drama to its bloody conclusion.
    Ren: This isn't some kind of play, this is real life!
  • Lucky Star does this all the time. It's a pretty consistent source for jokes involving Konata.
  • In Macross II, Hibiki's mentor tells him off for only wanting the "good parts" of the battle reported on, stating that "they're not making some series to get ratings." Which is all well and good, since Macross II had disappointing sales.
  • At the beginning of Magic Knight Rayearth, the girls compare their adventure—magic, a quest to Save the Princess, items to fetch—to a Role-Playing Game. When they're attacked by a very powerful sorceress shortly after, Fuu immediately says that it's not like an RPG because they don't have nearly enough Character Levels to deal with it. They get an even harsher lesson at the end of the series when they realize they aren't there to save the princess, but kill her before her inner turmoil destroys the world.
  • Danced around in the final episodes of Martian Successor Nadesico, in which several characters point out that reality isn't as black and white as anime.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ had an opening theme titled "Anime Ja Nai", or "It's Not Anime", whose final lyric is "Honto no koto sa" ("It's the real thing!"). In this case, it was used to signify a lighter tone than the Darker and Edgier Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam — at least for the first half of the series.
  • The original Mobile Suit Gundam had a scene where Char Aznable is showing Lalah Sun battlefield footage as part of her training.
    Char Aznable: Look closely, Lalah. This is what a real battle looks like - wild and unpredictable - not carefully scripted like a movie. And there's nothing glorious about it.
  • In chapter 43 of Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Mikoshiba finds a shoujo manga manuscript that Nozaki dropped. In it, Mamikonote  has a Meet Cute involving tangled earbuds with Suzuki, and ends up sitting on his lap since there's only one seat left on the train. Mikoshiba thinks to himself "That'll never happen" just as Wakamatsu walks by and gets his earbuds tangled with Mikoshiba's. Cue Waka pointing out that there's an empty seat...
    • And THEN Seo shows up, and ends up sitting on Waka's lap when a seat opens up.
  • In Naruto, Neji Hyuuga takes one last taunt to remind the title character that he will never be Hokage and gives him a "sorry but this is reality, you're a fail..." right before Naruto bursts out from the ground and gives him a left hook up his jaw winning the match.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • In one episode, Ash confidently declares that he's not a "cartoon character".
    • In the early episode "The School of Hard Knocks", a student claims to have learned Pokemon strengths and weaknesses from using a battling simulator, to which Misty remarks "this is real life!" and challenges him to a face-to-face battle, beating him with ease. Oddly, in the first scene of this same episode, Brock's line just before the title card is "we've gotta start the show", though the context is ambiguous regarding whether he might have meant it metaphorically.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: In the first episode, Sayaka complains that Homura is acting like some anime character when she learns of her cryptic warning to Madoka. She says it again (about Madoka, to Madoka) when she says that she did meet Homura before - in a dream. Ironically enough, Sayaka is the one who ends up trying to be an anime-ish Ideal Hero, complete with Badass Cape, which goes exceedingly poorly for her.
  • As they're preparing for a dance contest in Rave Master, Lazenby tells Elie "If this were a manga the last man standing would be the winner."
  • In Sailor Moon, episode 21, Usagi is watching the trailer of the new anime of "Sailor V" that is soon to air on TV. Depressed, she wishes that someone would make an anime about her as well. Luna drops a comment about how the idea is too silly to even think about.
  • In one chapter of Sakura Trick, Yuzu insists that they're not in a shoujo manga, and thus Haruka wouldn't lick food off of Yuu's face despite the fact that the two are a pair of lesbians. She's right on both counts; Sakura Trick is a seinen manga, and Haruka only ate the scrap after wiping it off.
  • In the second episode of Shakugan no Shana, the title character says this. It's actually an inversion, since he says this to make him face facts, after explaining the Awful Truth.
  • Tenchi Universe:
    Washu: Because its range is only 800 meters. It doesn't work like it would in a cartoon!
  • Something that Koudai thinks to himself during his narrative in Unlock City, comparing what happens with a TV drama or video game, and at some points having to remind himself it's real life. The irony being that not only is this a book but events are being manipulated by the organization Evillious Net to be like a game.
  • In You're Under Arrest! Full Throttle, in episode 10, Natsumi and Miyuki have to operate robots designed for dangerous rescues. Upon being introduced to them, Nakajima points out that one of them doesn't feature a face nor legs to which the creator answers that robots are designed that way only in anime and manga.
  • On Yu-Gi-Oh!, upon seeing one of Pegasus' Toon monsters, Kaiba exclaims, "This isn't some lame-brained after school cartoon!"

    Audio Plays 
  • The Firesign Theatre uses this trope extensively in almost their entire body of audio comedy work. The layers of trope-play become extremely confusing and interesting. See the quotes page for one example.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes audio drama "The Abergavenny Murder", Holmes announces that if a client doesn't come through the door soon, he'll go mad from boredom, then pauses hopefully.
    Holmes: Oh, how disappointing. I was rather hoping the doorbell would ring. It would have been like a moment from one of your lurid adventures.
    Watson: Unfortunately, this is reality.
    Holmes: Is it? Sometimes I wonder.
    [doorbell rings]

    Comic Books 
  • An issue of Animaniacs has a subtle, almost-subverted example. Dr. Scratchansniff has to babysit Yakko, Wakko, and Dot on a day when he would rather read comic books. He decides he might as well combine the two activities and gives the kids a lecture about how comics are put together. He compares a comic to an unborn baby, pointing out that just as with a baby, it takes many steps for a funny idea to "gestate" into a funny comic book. (At one point, Yakko turns to the audience and asks: "Is anyone else getting tired of this metaphor?") The ironic thing is, Dr. Scratchansniff and the Warner siblings are themselves in a comic book, so the doctor's pregnancy metaphor is actually quite apt where they are concerned.
  • Archie Comics:
  • The last issue of the C.O.P.S. (1988) comic book has Big Boss reply to Bulletproof's claim that Big Boss and his gang will be put away for a long time by saying that it will only be the case if they get convicted, which only happens in funnybooks. Bulletproof responds that this will do just fine for the C.O.P.S.
  • Dark Night: A True Batman Story portrays the real-life brutal mugging and recovery of Paul Dini, a lead writer for Batman: The Animated Series. Dini ruminates over how his all-too-real trauma compares with the Batman adventures he writes about and imagines.
    Batman: You could’ve escaped them, you know. Used the smaller attacker’s momentum and flipped him into the bigger one. A basic jiujitsu move. I use it all the time.
    Dini: There are two reasons that works for you—one, you’re a superbly trained martial artist. Two, you’re a drawing! You can’t get hurt!
  • Don Rosa's Once and Future Duck uses this when a time-traveling Donald Duck is about to get executed by King Arthur's men, and begs his nephews to use the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook and predict a Convenient Eclipse.
  • In an issue of JLA, Batman, in his guise as Bruce Wayne, is trapped in an elevator with several of his subordinates by a madman with a bomb. The other characters vainly search for an escape hatch, to which Wayne drily points out that "Interior escape hatches on elevators are a thing of movies and television. Those on modern elevators can be accessed only from outside the car." He said this as he was preparing to kill the lights, so presumably he had some sort of plan.
  • Played for laughs in Mighty Avengers when Hank Pym tells Stature she has to follow him, not just ignore his orders and hope for the best.
    Hank: This is not a John Hughes movie where the kids know everything and the adults are all morons!
    Stature: Who's John Hughes?
  • More or less the point of Superman: Secret Identity is Clark comparing his life and powers to his comic book namesake.
  • The Ultimates: Kowalski, a soldier in WWII, is completely unfazed by the idea of fighting alongside a "Super-Soldier". He thought that it was just a propaganda trick for recruiting young soldiers, but that at the hour of the action this so-called "Captain America" would die on the battlefield like everyone else.
  • In Watchmen, the Big Bad dismisses the idea that the plan he's describing can be stopped by stating that he isn't some "Republic serial villain." No... he's the villain of a superhero comic. It must be noted that superhero comic books, as a genre, do not exist within the Watchmen fictional universe (or, more exactly, they existed for just a few years in the 1940s, and were largely forgotten by the time being), so it makes sense that the notion of a fictional supervillain may be a bit different. The movie changes the line to "I'm not a comic book villain."

    Comic Strips 
  • One Bloom County strip has an arresting policeman sneer at Steve Dallas's claim that animals Opus, Bill and Portney are capable of talking (and trashing motel rooms): "This ain't the funny pages, pal!"
  • One For Better or for Worse strip has Elly telling Michael while changing the channel while he's watching a sexually explicit Skinemax movie "It's garbage Michael! Real relationships aren't like that!".
  • In Phoebe and Her Unicorn, a girl doesn't recognize Phoebe after the latter lets her hair down. Phoebe says, "It's a different day. It's not like I'm a cartoon character."
  • In Safe Havens, Maria says that Time Travel has restrictions, adding, "This isn't some fantasy, you know."
    • Later, when Rupert turns into an amoeba and splits before turning back, Samantha wants to know if one of him is evil. Rosalind notes that neither has a goatee, and Samantha says, "This isn't fiction, Rosalind. It's real life."

    Fan Works 
  • Adventures in Dimension Hopping:
    Spike: Our lives, and Red's depend on how well we perform. Unlike Super Mega-Death Massacre III there is no reset button. We get it right or we're out of the game.
  • Advice 2: Wheel of Fortune:
    Hermione: I understand as Ginny's older brother, you feel it's your duty to look out for her-protect her, but things between her and Harry have nothing to do with you. There are just some things you are just not going to have control over. Whatever happened between her and Harry happened. There's no changing it. This isn't a muggle videogame where you can just press reset. It's done. It's over.
  • Amazing Fantasy has Izuku thinking this several times throughout the story. He justifies why he isn't training his body like the heroes of old because he isn't a comic book character and uses the same justification when he tries to dismiss his budding spider powers as a quirk. It gets brought up again when he brushes away the idea of Taking the Heat for Bakugou in hopes of rebuilding their friendship, since that only worked in cheesy high school dramas.
  • Anthropology: After explaining all about Discord and what he's up to, Lyra tells her father that “This isn’t one of your books. This is real life.” Hilarious in Hindsight, seeing as Discord has just turned Lyra into a pony.
  • In the The Bridge: Humanity's Stand, Taiyou thinks that the members of the Global Defense Force will think and behave like the clichéd heroes of various action movies and other media she has watched. Miki Saegusa irritably tells her that this is real life and they are a lot smarter and pragmatic than that.
  • In A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script, when Tulkas complains that Beren and Luthien's story isn't supposed to end with Beren being killed by a wolf, Orome replies this isn't a story but real life.
    Orome: [bitingly sarcastic patience] That's because it's reality, not a story, Tulkas. Stories can end happily, because they're not true. In real life, there's no Power capable of preventing people from making idiotic choices and suffering the consequences.
  • A Game of Cat and Cat: Inverted. When Julius Belmont is testing a potential successor, he tells her that this isn't reality, so she should stay within the arbitrary bounds of the test. He clarifies that other candidates attempted schemes that might have worked in real life, but severely impacted his ability to assess their skills.
  • In A Change in Destiny Harry asks if he can call Lia "aunt" if she gets married to Sirius and she points out it's only going to be their first date.
    Harry: But Roger and Anita got married soon after their first meeting, and so did Pongo and Perdita.
    Lia: Harry, this isn't a Disney movie. And 101 Dalmatians isn't real life.
  • In the Pokémon: The Series fanfic, Common Sense, when Seymour declares that villains never win, Meowth laughs at him and asks if he thinks they're in a kids' show.
  • In Connecting the Dots, Beast Boy, while showing the internet to Kiba, explains to him the concept of fanfiction. Beast Boy is shocked when Kiba asks him if there's fanfiction about HIM, because obviously, fanfiction doesn't deal with reality.
  • The Devil's in the details: In "Back in the Ring", Matt tells Peter that "This is real life, kid... not a comic book" when Peter sarcastically calls him "Batman."
  • CONSEQUENCES (Miraculous Ladybug): In TEACHERS: EYES OF THE OWL, Lila mocks Marinette's insistence that her deceptions will eventually be exposed by declaring that "This is the real world. And in the real world, I win." Hilariously, she's completely unaware that Marinette has just gotten her to reveal her true nature in front of the school's CCTV.
  • Didn't Expect That: Eleya's Internal Monologue comment on Space Clouds that from the inside, real nebulae don't work like actual fog "like you see in Jachin Province or Hollywood."
  • The beginning of Episode 1 of Ed, Edd n' Eddy Z includes the following exchange:
    Corey: Ed, Eddy, Double-D. You guys are Saiyans. This must be the tenth time I've said this in a month!
    Edd: And I keep telling you, we're human!
    Eddy: You're nuts, like Double-D keeps saying to you, over and over and over again!
    Ed: I don't care if you are a hero, but I know we're not like in a comic book!
  • Falling Home:
    James: Right, so, we've agreed that it's most likely that you're not from here.
    Harriet: Well of course I'm not from here, I just told you I was at home before this happened.
    James: What I mean is, we believe that you're from an alternate reality.
    Harriet: Excuse me? What the bloody hell do you mean? That's from television shows! That's not real!
  • Fate Kaleid Prisma Taylor: Opal adamantly refuses to equip Taylor's costume with a mask, because to Opal, magical girls do not wear masks. Vista points out Sailor V wears a mask, but Opal screams that Sailor V isn't real.
  • In Fate/Starry Night, Shinji scoffs at Ritsuka's offer to help him save the world, asking Ritsuka if he thinks he's in some kind of anime. This retort is cut short by Ritsuka lowering his voice to a dead serious tone that stands in stark contrast to the otherwise Hot-Blooded and silly person Shinji had seen prior to this.
  • Friendship and Honour:
    Ragnock: Seeing as it is you, Madame Bones, I will get somebody to make copies for you to take away and to hand to the young Lord Potter.
    Amelia Bones: So he is the only heir?
    Ragnock: You expected a previously unknown family member to suddenly appear? That sort of thing is only in poorly written pieces of fiction...
  • In Friendship Is Magical Girls, Scootaloo thinks Rainbow Dash and her friends' battles against the forces of evil are awesome, but Rainbow scolds her by pointing out that unlike in movies and anime, these situations are scary and people get hurt.
  • Guys Being Dudes: While Candela and Arlo are discussing She Is Not My Girlfriend and how it's usually a Suspiciously Specific Denial when applied to a Romantic Comedy, Arlo claims that her point is invalid because they don't live in a rom-com. Well...
  • In Harry Potter and the Herald of the Dreamland Luna makes a leaf fall off a tree in the Dreamland while explaining her seer abilities to Harry.
    Luna: In one future, the leaf didn't fall off the tree.
    Harry: Okay. There isn't an alternate universe where it didn't fall?
    Luna: Of course not. This isn't science fiction - it's reality!
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality has Dumbledore compare the war against Voldemort (which he thinks has restarted, thanks to a badly calculated action on Harry's part) to The Lord of the Rings, and then state that Tolkien has no idea how a wizarding war would really go, and that Gandalf should have taken Frodo and the Ring to Rivendell immediately, as soon as he suspected Frodo might have the Ring, as even if Gandalf was wrong, the magnitude of the danger he suspected Frodo and Middle-Earth were in outweighed the inconvenience to Frodo, and the potential massive embarrassment to Gandalf. He also states that that wasn't Gandalf's only mistake, just his worst.
    • Several times, Harry reflects that Dumbledore apparently believes he lives in a world that runs on the Theory of Narrative Causality, doing things like keeping Snape employed because he believes there has to be an Obviously Evil Potions Master. Harry, who is sure he lives in the real world, is rather terrified by this revelation.
    • But then it turns out he's Obfuscating Insanity, and actually has much better reasons. Maybe.
  • Harry Potter and the Prince of Slytherin:
    • Harry is questioned about the petrifications which have been taking place.
      Scrimgeour: You know, Mr. Potter, some people might think that having a perfect alibi for multiple attacks is itself suspicious.
      Harry: Yes sir. Mainly people who've read too many Muggle mystery novels. In the real world, an ironclad alibi is usually pretty strong evidence of innocence.
    • Harry has a rather theatrical encounter with Gilderoy Lockhart.
      Harry: HE SAID 'BWA-HA-HA'! Who does that? No one in real life goes into a rant and laughs 'BWA-HA-HA'!? People don't even do that in books anymore! Only in very old movies where the villain is a cartoon character who fights Flash Gordon or some other rubbish like that!
  • In Hellmouth Trooper, after Xander comes back to earth after spending six years as a Clone Trooper only to find less than a year has passed, Willow's shocked to hear he won't be returning to high school.
    Xander: "No Willow, I don’t think I can pass for a high school student. This isn’t some TV show where they cast actors in their mid-twenties to play teenagers." note 
  • Her Inner Demons: When Sunny Flare tells the other Shadowbolts about how Sunset turned over another leaf with the Power of Friendship, Sour Sweet points out how much it sounds like a story book.
    Sunny Flare: Twilight and the others defeated her with their own magic of friendship, and this allowed her to step onto the path of redemption."
    Sour Sweet: "Ooh, it sounds like a fairy tale. Except that fairy tales don't happen in real life!"
  • In This World For You:
    Draco: Okay, Boy Who Lived, no need to be such a Hufflepuff. How do you know that removing me from the original timeline won't change history so badly that you end up getting killed after all? Or what if someone else gets the scar that was meant for me?
    Future!Harry: This is not a science-fiction movie, love. But your questions are very clever, and I do understand your concern.
  • Infinity Crisis: In New Charges, Black Lightning tells Miles and Virgil that "this is not a YA novel" where teenagers always come out on top no matter how dangerous things are.
  • In Keep On Running, Zetakid Echo!Clara has this to say why an emergency transmat device can't take both of them to safety.
    Clara: What does this look like, a science fiction movie?
  • Tsuruya dismisses using their prodigious anime collection as a basis for a confession, reasoning that real life is more complicated than that in Kyon: Big Damn Hero.
  • Legacy of War:
    Tracey: Look, Potter...Harry. I'm sure you know that not all of the old guard has been excised from this society yet, right?
    Harry: Of course not. Wars only end with all the bad guys gone in fairy tales and movies.
  • The Many Dates of Danny Fenton: In Chapter 8 of the Danny and Gwen spinoff, when Sam says she wants whatever Gwen is having, the waiter tells her "this isn't a movie". She gives in and makes a choice of her own.
  • Missing Linc: Dirk O'Donnell invokes this, believing that his Darker and Edgier vision of an Ace Savvy movie is more reflective of reality. However, it becomes clear that he himself is completely off his rocker, believing life should revolve around his script.
  • Murphy's Law:
    Harry: You manipulate events.
    Fate: Not exactly. I poke and prod, give people the flash of brilliance they need when they need it most.
    Harry: And that was the payoff? Couldn't you have done better?
    Fate: This doesn't play out according to a plan, boy. It's not a script or a tidy little novel that wraps up years later in a neat bow with marriages and children. Do you know how many times you could have died? How many thousands upon thousands of times your entire world could have ended? How many things could have changed that would have drastically altered your tiny little planet?
  • Multiple times in Not In Kansas Kara will face someone trying to take advantage of Kryptonian weaknesses only for her to laugh at them and point out they don't live in a comic book. Both Angelus and the Initiative try to use kryptonite against Kara, only for her to tell them kryptonite doesn't exist. And both times the Watchers Council attacks her with magic, Kara easily defeats said magic user and notes that "Not invulnerable to magic" is nowhere near the same as "Weak against magic".
  • Open Doors:
    Dumbledore: Didn't you explain it to Harry?
    Snape: He chooses not to believe me.
    Harry: You didn't explain it to me at all! What kind of explanation is 'I am your father'? This is real life not some kind of sci-fi fantasy.
  • Several times in Origin Story, the characters think of an idea, then declare it to be something that'd only work in an action movie or a comic book. Note that this story is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Power Girl cross-over that takes place in the Marvel Universe.
  • In a sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, during one of Dakim's Ante battles, the narration discusses what a particular exchange of moves might look like if it took place in a TV show (even adding that it'd be the perfect to stop time for a cliffhanger), only to say it wasn't happening on TV and talk about the impact.
  • Reaching Through Time:
    Harry: Why are you telling us all this?
    Gothrack: This is not a fantasy book Mr. Potter. You are not going to be tossed into the world with no knowledge of things and be expected to find a happy ending.
  • Reinforced Chamber:
    Hayate: I'm betting she didn't find anything. If there really was something, finding it that easily would definitely spoil the plot! No, if there was something, we would not find out about it until his diabolical plan was already in motion and the villain will tell us it all in a monologue!
    Signum: Hayate, real life is not like books or manga. Something like that is simply absurd, and I really don't want to know why you keep trying to equate the two.
  • Chapter 3 of The Rest Of The Pieces includes the following line:
    Phoenix: Stupid Edgeworth. Where does he get off being so cool, whipping out lines like that and then disappearing off into the sunset. That doesn't happen in real life. It's like something out of a movie.
  • Rocketship Voyager:
    • B'Elanna Torres scoffs at the idea that she can invent and build a faster-than-light drive. "This is real life, not Captain Proton!"
    • Later when they're fighting the Psiborg Collective, B'Elanna thinks that if she was in a space opera she would "babble something technical" to get them out of trouble, but she can't think of anything that would work in real life.
    • Joe Carey says that Subspace or Hyperspace is "...just nonsense they make up for scientifilms!" Likewise military confrontations in the depths of outer space are regarded as "the fantasies of scientifilm."
    • When Tom Paris suggests that a Portal Network works via teleportation, the trope is derided as ...Fortean nonsense that would require more energy than was available in the entire Universe, and violated Heisenberg's Theory of Uncertainty as well.
  • Repeatedly brought up in Shadow Play that the Self-Insert is in a real world based off a shonen manga, not actually in a shonen manga. As such, a lot of plot contrivance and such simply doesn't happen. For example, Mizuki is a difficult fight for Naruto and Shikamaru together, and they don't so much win as buy time for the Hokage to gain the evidence he needed.
  • Strange Reflections:
    Hermione: Ahem, yes. That is, I have a rather outlandish theory of what may have happened. Are any of you at all familiar with the term 'parallel universe'?
    Harry: Hermione, that's fiction. It only shows up in comic books.
  • Talk the Talk:
    Mr. Weasley: There's something wrong with their mining operation. They had to hurry in to go fix it. After what happened last time, I'd think you'd know better.
    Ginny: [Harry]'s not allowed to just ditch me!
    Mr. Weasley: Real life doesn't work as neatly as storybooks, Gin-Gin. In the real world, people sometimes have to work when they'd rather be playing, or at home with their families.
  • A Tumblr user who participated in a roleplaying game based on Watchmen once posted a cap of the aforementioned quote by the Big Bad as adjusted for the game: "I'm not the villain of some over-hyped action film."
  • Used several times in With Strings Attached:
    • Right at the beginning, when John and Paul have to pee, Paul mentions that it seems “a bit crass” to have to pee when they never do in Star Wars or whatever. To which John replies: “Maybe they don't water the crass in fiction, but they do in real life.”
    • Later, after Paul has become super-strong and realizes that he never dare have sex with anyone ever again, he wonders how Superman has sex, and immediately answers himself: Because his writers let him. (Actually, as the book is set in 1980, he also notes that Superman simply never had sex at all.)
  • Xtreme Freak:
    Hermione: Where do you come up with these conspiracy theories, Harry? Next you will be talking about how the Minister and his staff are closet Death Eaters, and that one man controls the entire wizarding world from behind the scenes, playing everyone like some demented cross between Stromboli and Rasputin, with a little Svengali thrown in for flavor. Reality does not work like that, only bad novelizations and dramas on the telly.
  • When Maya Hansen complains about Tony Stark not knowing what she does in Your Mental Health Matters, Pepper retorts that the real world isn't a Harlequin novel. Tony had a one night stand with her over a decade ago; far from following her career afterwards, it's impressive he remembers her full name and that she was working on plants back then.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Dark Messiah, the villain Fortunado has a day job as a director, and as a result bases most of his plans on movie plots. During his duel with Jason, he secretly predicts how Jason will lose, based on a plot about a hero thinking he's about to win, but then destroying himself with a mistake. The plan is foiled when Jason does something different. When the villain demands to know what is going on, Jason comments that this isn't a movie and he's not an actor, so Fortunado cannot control him.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cinderella: The Grand Duke ribs the King for setting up a ball in hopes that the Prince would find a bride. The scene plays out exactly according to The Duke's description, to the point where he finishes with "...a fine plot for fairy tales, but in real life, it is foredoomed to failure!"
  • In The Incredibles:
    • Helen/Elastigirl warns her kids that the Evil Minions are not like the villains in the Saturday Morning Cartoons they watch, and will kill them if given the chance.
    • When Syndrome shows the captured family the TV footage of the landed alien aircraft, he says, "You gotta admit this is cool, just like the movies!"
  • The Last Unicorn: "Robin Hood is a myth! We are the reality!"
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): Grimsby is fond of saying this. He tells Eric that folktales about the sea aren't real, and girls don't just rescue princes from drowning and vanish. Needless to say, he's proven wrong about both.
  • In Zootopia, as Chief Bogo reprimands Judy for causing chaos in Little Rodentia during her pursuit of a petty thief, Judy protests saying she wants to be a real cop and not just be putting tickets on parked cars. Bogo responds with "Life isn't some cartoon musical where you sing a little song and your insipid dreams magically come true!" Doubles as Self-Deprecation on Disney's part, especially when Bogo adds "So, let it go."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The central theme of the song "Hollywood Ending" from Anna and the Apocalypse is that love isn't anything like it is in fiction, and that no one in "reality" gets a Hollywood ending. In an interesting twist, while they are in a movie, it's not exactly the kind where one can get the ending described in the song.
  • In Avengers: Endgame, Bruce feels the need to do this when too many of the other Avengers won't stop thinking about time travel in terms of cinematic and television depictions.
  • In Blade (1998), Blade tells Karen that crucifixes and holy water are ineffective against vampires and advises her to "forget what you've seen in the movies."
  • The Boondock Saints: In a sense, this is an inversion. Usually, the character is contrasting Real Life and fiction, declaring that they are not in a work of fiction (and causing the audience to chuckle). Smecker, on the other hand, has just unwittingly likened Real Life to fiction (since a trope that only happens in "bad television" has just popped up). His intended point is that the killers were unprofessional — though if he followed his own logic, he might have realized that they are, in fact, in a work of fiction.
    Agent Smecker: Television is the explanation for this. You see this in bad television. Little assault guys creeping through the vents, coming in through the ceiling? That James Bond shit never happens in real life! Professionals don't do that!
  • In what may be a case of the fiction protesting too much, the film The Bourne Ultimatum seeks to remind us again and again that "you couldn't make this stuff up", "this isn't some story", and so on.
  • In The Cable Guy, As Chip is holding Robin hostage on the satellite tower:
    Chip: You've gotta admit though, this is a pretty cool place for an ending.
    Steven: An ending to what?
    Chip: It's like that movie GoldenEye.
    Steven: No it's not. It's not like anything. This isn't a movie. This is reality. There's a difference.
  • Chan Is Missing: Jo spends the whole film looking for Chan, who has disappeared. Near the end Jo encounters yet another acquaintance of Chan's. He says wryly that "If this were a TV mystery, an important clue would pop up at this time and clarify everything." Sure enough, the man that he talks to, while saying some interesting things, does not impart any new information that solves the mystery.
  • In The Crow after T-Bird recognizes Eric Draven as the man him and his buddies killed a year ago, he keeps repeating this. It comes across as Villainous Breakdown combined with Go Mad from the Revelation that either his sanity has taken a leave or reality isn't what he has believed his whole life.
    T-Bird: I knew I knew you, I knew I knew you. But you ain't you. You can't be you. We put you through the window. There ain't no coming back. This is the really real world, there ain't no coming back. We killed you dead, there ain't no coming back! There ain't no coming back! There ain't no coming back!
  • Claimed by a character in Cube 2: Hypercube.
    "This isn't a game, Kate. There is no happy ending."
  • Near the end of Dial M for Murder, Genre Savvy thriller author Mark is desperate to save Margot from being executed and comes to her husband Tony with an idea he's worked out of how Tony could claim he had been trying to kill Margot and spend a few years in jail in exchange for saving her life. Unknowingly, he proceeds to outline almost the exact same plan that Tony actually used. Tony says that nobody would believe a story like that.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Simon says this while explaining that magic cannot solve all problems.
  • A snippet of dialog from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial:
    Greg: Can't he just... beam up?
    Elliott: This is reality, Greg.
  • Inverted in eXistenZ, which has several "nested" realities thanks to people playing a virtual reality game that uses all of one's senses. Hence, the characters might be playing the game, then in the game start playing the game, then in that game start playing the game to further something in the "earlier" level of the game. When finally all the strangeness "resolves" in The Reveal, the shock causes one minor character to comment: "Wait, we're still in the game, right?" So maybe this is not reality.
  • The English remake of the movie Funny Games has this dialogue between two characters:
    Paul: You can see it in the movie right?
    Peter: Of course.
    Paul: Well then she's as real as reality because you can see it too. Right?
    Peter: Bullshit.
    Paul: Why?
  • In Glass Onion Benoit Blanc frequently points out that even though he is a world-famous Private Detective, his cases are nothing like the fiction that people expect.
    • When Blanc is first asked to investigate the Disruptors, he warns against unreasonable expectations and explains that he is not Batman. He has no power to punish anybody, and if he does uncover a crime all he can do is provide any evidence to the police and legal authorities to let them make the best case they can.
    • Blanc repeatedly insults mystery/crime games since their clear simplicity bears no resemblance to real-life crimes. He points out that Clue only has a single perpetrator who could have committed the crime, while Among Us just ends once the impostor is identified. In real-life multiple people have motives and opportunities, and merely identifying the true culprit doesn't prove anything.
  • A hilarious example from the 1991 movie The Hard Way; Nick Lang (Michael J. Fox), an action-adventure star parody of Indiana Jones, is doing research for a gritty cop movie by following John Moss (James Woods), a hard-boiled detective. At one point, Moss can't take it anymore:
    John Moss: We live this job. It's something we are, not something we do! Every time a cop walks up to a car and has to give a speeding ticket, he knows he may have to kill someone or be killed himself. That's not something you step into by strapping on a rubber gun and riding around all day. You get to go back to your million dollar beach house and your bimbos and your blow jobs and you get 17 takes to get it right. We get one take. It lasts our whole lives. We mess it up and we're dead.
    Nick Lang: [holding up a tape recorder] Fuck was that great! John. Look. Can you just say that one more time for me, please? John.
    • Later becomes an Ironic Echo when, in the completed movie, Lang's character uses the last line of Moss' speech.
    • As a veteran actor that has made many action movies, Lang warns Moss that the serial killer he's investigating will come after him as it's the Third Act. Moss laughs off the warning, as "real criminals stay well away from the police". The killer being not entirely sane, that's exactly what he does.
    • Nick manages to give the Party Crasher a Tap on the Head on the climactic battle, only for the Crasher to be too tough for one tap to work, and so he turns, yells "this is not a movie, asshole!" and shoots Nick in the shoulder.
  • Near the end of Hugo, Papa Georges sadly states that he knows his automaton was destroyed, because "happy endings only happen in the movies". Cue Hugo running off to get it, because this is a movie, and there is a happy ending.
  • Identity Theft: Our body-snatcher explains what happens to Matt (now in Karen's body).
  • A favorite line of the main character in In the Mouth of Madness is that "This is reality." He's wrong on more levels than you can count as he is not only a character in a movie where a book is controlling reality but a character in a movie who is part of a mind warping movie which is revealed to be the movie that you are watching. With a small chance that he's just hallucinating and it's still not real.
  • In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the two lead characters are being walked, at gunpoint, into a nearby building. One of them starts talking to his friend and fellow hostage about the difference between movies and reality. Specifically, how in the movies anyone you turn a gun on is a hostage, whereas in real life, the professionals like to keep a distance of at least five feet, lest the "hostage" take the gun and "make them eat it". He then proceeds to do exactly that.
  • A good deal of Last Action Hero plays on the differences between the real world and the Hollywood action movie version thereof. Unfortunately, even the supposedly "real" world has movie electricity. Also, the Big Bad rants that the "real" world averts The Good Guys Always Win, but in the end...
  • In Logan, there were comic books made based on the X-Men's adventures. Logan tells fangirl Laura that they don't reflect reality.
    Logan:You read these in your spare time? Oh yeah, Charles, we got ourselves an X-men fan. You do know they're all bullshit right? Maybe a quarter of it happens — but not like this. In the real world, people die! And no self-promoting asshole in a fucking leotard can stop it! This is ice cream for bed-wetters!
    Charles: Logan...
    Logan: That nurse has been feeding her some grade-A bullshit.
    Charles: I don’t think Laura needs reminders of life's impermanence.
  • In My Favorite Year, washed-up actor Alan Swann (played, with magnificent appropriateness, by Peter O'Toole) proposes that he and his minder, Benji, use a fire hose to climb down the outside of a building and crash a party being thrown by the parents of the girl Benji likes. Benji protests to no avail, finally snapping.
    Benji Stone: That was the movies! This is real life!
    Alan Swann: What is the difference?
  • In Network, Max reminds Diana that this isn't one of her television drama scripts, it's real life.
  • The Rainbow Experiment: When Sila is trying to get JC to talk about how the methanol got into the beakers, causing the explosion that almost killed Matty, she says, "This is like when you watch TV and there's a cop drama. This is like that, only this is your life."
  • Subverted in Scream (1996):
    Sidney: But this is not a movie.
    Billy: Yes it is, Sidney. It's all one big movie.
  • And in Scary Movie, the relevant scene even has the guy pointing to the cameras, resulting in annoyed groans from the cameramen.
  • Serenity has The Operative pull this after he beats the crap out of Mal. He's Wrong Genre Savvy, though.
    The Operative: Nothing here is what it seems. He is not the plucky hero. The Alliance is not an evil empire. This is not the grand arena.
    Inara: And that's not incense.
    [Inara's flash-bang explodes]
  • In Silver Streak, Gene Wilder is surprised at how quickly his gun runs out of bullets. Richard Pryor comments "What do you think this is, a western?" Since the movie itself is not a western, this could also be a genuine fourth wall breaking comment.
  • In Smiles of a Summer Night, Desirée brushes off Fredrik's suggestion that he hide when the Count shows up by pointing out that they're not on the stage. Fredrik counters that it's a farce all the same.
  • Practically said word for word by Anthony in Smosh: The Movie when Ian suggest they split up like in the movies.
  • In Spaceballs, Lone Starr yells "Welcome to Real Life!" to the Princess, when she complains that she has to carry her own luggage. Minutes later, the movie's villains use a copy of the movie itself to track them down.
  • Species II: When Colonel Carter dismisses Preston's suggestion on how to track the alien.
    Carter: This isn't The X-Files, goddammit! We're not gonna follow the word of a lunatic.
  • Played straight, but intended for subtle humor according to the filmmakers, in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, where the following exchange takes place.
    Obnoxious Cadet: What, have you lost all your sense of reality?
    Uhura: This isn't reality. [points a phaser at him] This is fantasy.
  • Played straight in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, where Padme tells Anakin that "we live in the real world; come back to it." Which is smashed to bits by her following line: "You're studying to become a Jedi Knight, I'm a senator."
  • In Super, one of Sarah's friends accuses her of acting as if she lives in TV because she plans to marry Frank (who later dresses as a superhero from influence of TV and comic books).
  • Superman: The Movie began with Jor-El declaring "This is no fantasy — no careless product of wild imagination." He was referring to the conspiracy between General Zod and his cohorts, but the line also plays as a wink at the audience.
  • The Tagline for Super Mario Bros. (1993) is "This ain't no game... it's a live-action thrill-ride!"
  • Swordfish starts with John Travolta's character talking to a group of Feds and complaining about Hollywood making predictable, unrealistic movies. One of his main concerns is that bad guys never get off scot-free, whereas, in Real Life, this is a strong possibility. Except, in this film, they do get off scot-free. Specifically, they survive and use their ill-gotten gains to finance their counter-terrorist operations.
  • Played with by the ZAZ movie Top Secret!. After the main characters meet the leader of the resistance movement and discover he's the long-lost love of the main female character, Hillary, the two recount their long, bizarre, The Blue Lagoon-parodying backstory.
    Hillary: I know. It all sounds like some bad movie.
    (Awkward pause. Nick and Hillary look toward the camera, embarrassed.)
  • In Whatever Works, the main character has No Fourth Wall, which his pals doubt.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Benny the Cab warns an armed Roger, as he goes off to rescue Eddie and Jessica, "Be careful with that gun! This ain't no cartoon, ya know." Justified, as Roger is an actor, and Benny is telling him this ain't a cartoon starring him: the perils are real.

  • Rob of An Outcast in Another World initially has trouble accepting that a world of RPG mechanics, strange monsters, oddly-colored foliage, and fantasy races is something that makes any sort of sense. He’s forced to accept it very quickly when he almost dies three times in three days.
  • Superman thinks something along the lines of this in the novelization of Superman Returns when he is saving a jet with difficulty.
  • Animorphs often contrasts the characters' experiences with video games, movies, and comic books. Marco in particular is fond of doing this.
  • From the same author as Animorphs, Everworld often does the same, just Darker and Edgier.
  • The Saga of Darren Shan opens with the 12-year-old first-person protagonist giving an anecdote about the time he vacuumed his pet tarantula because he saw someone get sucked into a vacuum on TV, and it didn't come back to life like the TV character did, to illustrate this point. He means it in the sense that bad things happen, and the "good guys" don't always win — and the author does his best to live up to that maxim. The rest of the series does go to emotionally difficult places, attempt moral ambiguity, and hurt/kill characters in ways that were unusual for juvenile literature at the time (concurrent with Harry Potter, and from the same agent).
  • Some of the less Genre Savvy characters in the Discworld novels use this line in one form or another.
  • Played with in Good Omens, when a character is looking for her lost book, she employs several tropes that, as the narrator notes, would work in any story worth its salt, but alas, not here.
    • Earlier in the book, Aziraphale and Crowley discuss how the Antichrist is going to receive a Hell Hound for his 11th birthday. When Aziraphale wonders if his parents won't find the sudden appearance of a big scary dog kinda odd, Crowley replies that no one will notice because 'this is reality, angel!'
  • In the Goosebumps HorrorLand book Weirdo Halloween, the protagonist asks her friend, a sci-fi nerd, for help with the alien who's made himself an unwanted guest in her home.
    "Let me think..." Carlos replied. "I've read some books with this plot."
    "This isn't a plot," I said. "It's my life."
  • Most of Stephen King's works are rife with this.
    • In Christine, there's a scene where one of the main characters, the scrawny, eternally-victimized Arnie, decks his longtime tormentor. The narrator comments that if it had been a movie or a book, the punch would have knocked him out; unfortunately, this is not the case.
    • In Misery, Paul Sheldon contemplates how to kill the crazy woman holding him captive, only to shoot down every idea he comes up with with "well, maybe in a book that would work, but here, no."
    • A particularly meta example occurs in Thinner (which was written under King's Richard Bachman pseudonym). One character tells another, "You were starting to sound like a Stephen King novel there."
    • In The Green Mile, Paul's friend Elaine correctly guesses the end of his story, that John Coffey would be executed, because "Providence-with-a-capital-P is greatly overrated in the lives of ordinary humans".
  • Older Than Steam: Don Quixote was one of the first works to consciously do this.
  • The protagonist of Mil Millington's A Certain Chemistry, a writer, describes his (supermarket manager) girlfriend's unusual eating habits by saying "If she likes ice-cream, and likes eggs, she might have ice-cream and eggs for dinner. If I was writing her character, I might say that her job means she sees the food as just an output when it goes into the bags at the checkout. But no, she was like that before she worked there." [misquoted from memory]
  • Roald Dahl's The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar uses Direct Line to the Author to observe that the protagonist would have met a Karmic Death if it were a story, but it wasn't a story, so things turned out otherwise.
  • Tom Clancy frequently points out in his fiction works how things in his stories differ from the movies. The books themselves are only slightly closer to reality, however.
  • Many, many modern detective novels (such as Michael Connelly or James Patterson to name a few) feature entries where the protagonist thinks how they could easily resolve the case...if it was taking place in a detective novel. It is sometimes used effectively, other times ham-handedly.
    • Agatha Christie did this all the time.
      • In her classic Murder on the Orient Express, for example, there's a moment when Poirot verbally makes a point of not really going into much of an effort to check for fingerprints at the crime scene, as no criminal with any sense at all would be stupid enough to not use gloves. As such, he does the mandatory checking, but just so he can say his investigation was thorough.
      • Agatha Christie could often poke fun at how cliched the very types of mysteries she wrote could be via a character. Several times, either Poroit or Jane Marple would note that "in the books, Never the Obvious Suspect but in real life, that's rarely the case."
      • In The Tuesday Club Murders/Thirteen Problems, a character telling the story responds to an urge to continue, "But you see, Miss Helier, this isn't a serial story. This is real life; and real life stops just where it chooses."
      • Near the start of Partners in Crime, Tuppence reflects that solving a mystery is easier in books than real life, because the writer starts off knowing who did it, and puts the right clues in place to fit. This gives her the idea of creating their first case.
    • Dorothy L. Sayers did, too. Lord Peter Wimsey frequently remarks that things are not as convenient in his "real" cases as they would be in a mystery novel. And the best instance is when Lord Peter's love interest, mystery author Harriet Vane, spots someone lying on a beach and muses, "Now, if I had any luck, he'd be a corpse, and I should report him and get my name in the papers. That would be something like publicity. [...] But these things never happen to authors." A few grim paragraphs later, the narrator remarks, "Harriet's luck was in."
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, the character Roran has to come to terms with several issues after the destruction of his family, one of which being that, "Justice, the oldest stand-by in songs and legends, had little hold in reality."
  • In Gone, after learning that he had launched one of his henchmen into a wall, Caine asks if he's all right.
    Diana: This isn't the movies, Caine. He looked like roadkill.
  • Andrew Vachss's Burke:
    • In the book Mask Market, Wolfe tells Burke that "this is real life, not a TV show".
    • In Terminal, one guy Burke speaks to tells him that neo-Nazi prisoners on their way to death row can blame snitches, not undercover cops, as "those movies where they put undercovers in prison, never happen. Couldn't happen."
  • In The Last Unicorn, Molly Grue is tired of the made-up stories of Captain Cully's exploits and asks for one about Robin Hood. Captain Cully angrily replied that Robin Hood is a myth.
  • One of the Riders of Rohan in The Two Towers laughs at Gimli for suggesting that hobbits are real. Only in the book, though.
  • Early in The Deed of Paksenarrion, Saben, having just escaped captivity at the hands of a villain, with two of his friends, is excited to imagine bringing word back to the Duke, rescuing the rest of the company, and being "heroes in this tale". Canna replies, "this is no fireside tale, no adventure for a hero out of songs: this is real. We aren't likely to make it as far as the Duke, though we'll try".
  • A scene in Red Seas Under Red Skies has the two protagonists, Locke and Jean, discussing the relative merits of romantic fiction and non-fiction. The two characters make their living through elaborate grifts and confidence games, pretending to be people they aren't. Thus the phrase "we've made it our meal ticket" is an amusing double entendre: the characters mean their profession as thieves, but the readers could take it as a reference to the author's book sales.
    Locke: But romances aren't real, and surely never were. Doesn't that take away some of the savor?
    Jean: What an interesting choice of words. 'Not real, and never were.' Could there be any more appropriate literature for men of our profession? Why are you so averse to fiction, when we've made it our meal ticket?
    Locke: I live in the real world, and my methods are of the real world. They are, just as you say, a profession. A practicality, not some romantic whim.
  • We Can't Rewind: Protagonists Don and Denise take to discussing why the various methods of reversing a "Freaky Friday" Flip that they've seen in fiction isn't working for them, and actually start working out contingency plans for what to do if they can't reverse their own swap with their children. While doing this, they note that unlike all the fictional examples they've been researching, their story doesn't seem to have any writers compelled by budget constraints or child labor laws to bail them out of their situation. Indeed, by the end, they've had to put their contingency plans into practice because they don't find any feasible way to reverse the swap due to their story being a bit of a deconstruction of the lightness and softness common to "Freaky Friday" Flip stories.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • Subverted in the first book; Mat says "It isn't much like the stories," to which Perrin disagrees — "I don't know... Trollocs, a Warder, an Aes Sedai. What more could you ask?"
    • Played straight later in the series. At least once per book someone will complain about how things aren't as easy in reality as they are in the stories.
  • The first few books of Galaxy of Fear have characters dismissing the fears of whichever character saw something by saying this is the real world, people don't just vanish, zombies aren't real, etc, claiming Tash or Zak saw something else and misinterpreted things. However, they soon shape up and start taking these things seriously. As it takes place within the Galaxy Far, Far Away, many things are possible... it's just most of them are well outside of common experience.
  • The first-person narrator in The Name of the Wind insists on this repeatedly to justify things like getting completely sidetracked from his revenge mission for years (to the point that by the end of the book he has only a bare handful of clues to the nature of the beings he is seeking revenge on, most of which we already knew at the beginning). In the opening chapter, a minor character returns to the inn after being attacked by a demon. Even when confronted with the monster's dead body, the townspeople insist that things like that only exist in stories and legends.
    Narrator: Certainly there were demons in the world. But they were like Tehlu’s angels. They were like heroes and kings. They belonged in stories. They belonged out there. Taborlin the Great called up fire and lightning to destroy demons. Tehlu broke them in his hands and sent them howling into the nameless void. Your childhood friend didn’t stomp one to death on the road to Baedn-Bryt. It was ridiculous.
  • In Queen Zixi of Ix, the lord high steward's dog Ruffles has started talking, leading to this exchange:
    Steward: Why, you are the only dog I ever heard of who could talk.
    Ruffles: Except in fairy tales. Don't forget the fairy tales.
    Steward: I don't forget. But this isn't a fairy tale, Ruffles. It's real life in the kingdom of Noland.
  • In More Than This, Seth notices all the tropes in his story, and starts to wonder if the "real" world is actually real. Regine argues against the idea, especially when Seth suggests the Driver might come back to life like a horror movie villain after he was killed. He's right.
  • Constantly done by the titular protagonist in Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise. Living in a relatively-hard sci-fi universe, where FTL Travel does not exist and interstellar travel itself is a rarity, French keeps referring to classic sci-fi novels and pointing out how they got things wrong. Examples include the total lack (and impossibility) of any sort of interstellar governing body, the fact that over 20,000 years humans haven't evolved into brains in a jar, the absence of intelligent alien life, and robots being fully capable of harming a human if ordered.
  • In Clementine, Friend of the Week, after Clementine loses her kitten, Moisturizer, she tells her mother that it reminds her of what her little brother says, "You broke my feelings," that her "feelings are broken." Her mother tells her that she'll feel better eventually and reminds her of when she read the book Ginger Pye, how the kids felt when their dog was missing, but after looking for a really long time, they got him back. Clementine tells her "Mom. That was a book. This is real life."
  • The Guns of the South: When the Confederacy's top explosives expert kicks himself for not being able to manufacture smokeless gunpowder (he has read Schönbein's papers on guncotton and figured out nitroglycerine on his own, so the explosives are no problem, but the rest...) General Lee gives him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. After all, The Smart Guy having the Applied Phlebotinum ready to go exactly when The Hero needs it is storytelling, and bad storytelling at that, and...
  • Bernie Rhodenbarr: In The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian, Carolyn states that Archie Goodwin (one of her cats) has been kidnapped. This initially confuses Bernie.
    Carolyn: I didn't mean Archie Goodwin the person, Bern, because he's a character in the Nero Wolfe stories, and the only way he could have been kidnapped would be in a book, and if that happened I wouldn't run up here in the middle of the night and carry on about it. You want to know the truth, Bern, I think you need a drink more than I do, which is saying something.
  • In Wings of Fire, Clay does this when he derides the NightWings as being unrealistic:
    It all sounded like fairy tale, about as likely as a world ruled by scavengersnote  instead of dragons.
  • In Penny Dreadful, the main character often compares things to books she's read. After the Goonies style plot to search for treasure to prevent the foreclosure of her house ends in failure, she tells her friends that she was certain they would find the treasure because that was what would happen in a book and she noticed the "foreshadowing", to which her friend responds that "You don't live in a book".
  • When Xandri Corelel asks The Mole in Failure to Communicate "Why are you doing this?" he responds, "What, do you think I'm going to spill my guts like some villain in a cheesy vid? Give me some credit, Xandri."
  • The Story of Valentine and His Brother:
    • On Richard's post-marriage life: "According to all precedent of fiction, some other woman ought to have stepped across his path and learned his secret, as Thackeray's Laura does by George Warrington. But Richard Ross had indulged in no Laura."
    • Later on, Violet's mother tells her, "Men don't get ill and take fevers from excitement except in novels."
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: In "The Mule", while on Neotrantor, Bayta is dismayed to have been kidnapped in a palace intrigue plot since this sort of thing never happens to people in Real Life. She repeats this insistence several times more before the climax.
  • Asperger Adventures: In Blue Bottle Mystery, Ben says of a Genie in a Bottle, "Didn't we get only three wishes?" Andy replies, "That's only in fairy books. Maybe this genie gave us all our wishes."
  • Wax takes this as a sign that something's wrong in The Bands of Mourning. The Temple of Doom is something straight out of a story; a statue of the temple's god in front for no reason but flavor, the dime novel overengineered trapped hallway, and the classic fairy tale moment with the treasure being hidden in a small chamber with the bodies of the priests sitting in vigil, rather than the ostentaious chamber above. He's right. The whole temple is a decoy for the treasure's real hiding place: the statue.
  • In Evidence of Things Not Seen, physics teacher Mr. McCloud doesn't believe the speculation that Tommy's crossed over into another dimension, because "we are not living in the panels of Marvel comics."
  • Will from If I Fall, If I Die grumbles about how children in books are always turning out to be undiscovered geniuses or princes. His experiences have made it clear to him that he isn't a genius, despite his mother's insistence that he is.
  • The Reluctant King: Jorian scoffs over tales of swordsmen fighting off a hundred opponents at once, saying that it's nonsense. While fighting just one during the siege of Iraz, he was put in dire peril by another coming to help the first, only being saved when Chuivir killed the fellow.
  • In You Look Different in Real Life, Justine thinks, "This is not a soap opera, folks. This is my life."
  • The Secret Life of Kitty Granger, while Kitty is struggling with the fact that she shot someone to protect herself and Verity: "In the films, spies drank martinis, and shot people without remorse, and had a clever retort for every occasion. Real life wasn't like the films."
  • You Have a Match: When Jemmy learns that Savvy and Abby are long-lost sisters, she says, "I thought this shit only happened in Disney Channel movies."
  • Post-High School Reality Quest: At a frat party, Buffy commands the Text Parser, "Make it happen like in the movies." She clarifies that she wants someone to come out of nowhere and talk to her so they can become great friends, as happens all the time in movies and TV. The parser replies, "I hate to break it to you, Buffy, but this isn't a TV show or movie."
  • The Brotherhood of the Conch: Early in the first book, Anand wishes for a magic apple that could solve his family's many problems. His mother says, "Those things happen only in storybooks, son. Don't you know that by now?"
  • When My Heart Joins the Thousand: When Alvie drops off Chance the one-winged hawk at Elmbrooke Wildlife Center, she imagines that if this were an animal movie, he would have both wings, and she would pull over, let him out, and watch him fly into the forest while inspiring music plays. Instead, she leaves his carrier by the door with a note saying his name, knocks, and runs.
  • In Playback, a taxi driver responds to a Follow That Car request by saying that that sort of thing only happens in books, not in San Diego. When the detective persuades him to try anyway, the driver points out that they don't need to follow the car: it's a taxi from the same firm, so all he has to do is radio dispatch and find out where it's going, then he can get the detective there by a more direct route.
  • The State of Grace: During Grace's first date with Gabe, she thinks about what the movies told her would happen - they would look at each other for a moment, look away, look back, and then one of them would look at the other's mouth, and the other would understand that to mean "I want to kiss you." Instead, they both drink their coffee in silence, then both lean over to put their coffee cups down at the same time, and their faces collide, which turns into a proper kiss.
  • Prudence Penderhaus: In 19 Marigold Lane, Prudence thinks the new neighbor is up to some horrible crime. Her mom says, "Prudence, this is real life. The likelihood of something horrific coming of a new neighbor are... are as... uh-" Prudence says, "As high as a hidden boy and a buried body living right up the street? Because that happened."
  • The Mer: When Val and Will are arguing about who drowned Val, causing her to turn into a Mer, Will says, "It's always the person you least suspect." Val says, "That's not even true! In reality, it's usually the person you do suspect! This isn't a fantasy, it's real life - oh, I can't even say this! I'm purple, for God's sake! I've got gills! It doesn't matter if we look unreal, we are real, real people with real emotions."
  • Joel Suzuki: The villain of Secret of the Songshell says, "Fancy yourself a hero, now, do you? Joel Suzuki, next in the long line of epic 'chosen ones' who save the world from the forces of evil and darkness? Well, I don't mean to shatter your fantastical adolescent bubble, but those stories are just a bunch of made-up fairy tales. As strange as it all seems, this is real life - and I don't know if you've noticed, but real life doesn't always have a happy ending."
  • World War Z: Discussed. The in-universe movie director Roy Elliot, who made a name for himself after the Zombie Apocalypse directing morale-boosting and uplifting films, cheerfully admits that his films are escapist and unrealistic, but also points out that when reality is so goddamned bleak that otherwise healthy people are spontaneously dying in their sleep because their unconscious minds decide they would rather die than deal with reality one more day, and they are considered the lucky ones... that's probably not a bad thing.
  • The Mermaid Chronicles: In Quest for Atlantis, Christina tries to meddle in her son Wade's relationship with Cordelia due to Wade being a selachii and Cordelia being a mermaid. Cordelia tells her, "This is the twenty-first century. We are not in the land of arranged marriages or a Shakespearian world of tragic love affairs. This is real life. This is real, modern life. You need to let Wade make his own decision."
  • Durarara!!:
    • A Blue Square member complains about Kadota and Chikage teaming up after a fight on the basis that "this isn't a fucking manga." He's right. It's a Light Novel.
    • Erika and Walker, as well. They're both complete Otakus and theorize on "if this was a manga" and "I'd like to go to the 2D world."
  • Campione!: When Godou's male classmates hear he hooked up with a hot Italian noble they exclaim, "That couldn't even happen in an anime!"
  • All over the place in Cheat Magician Life That Started From Being Judged Useless, as the very first chapter has the third floor of a junior high, 201 students and some teachers, summoned to another world by Princess Camilla Resenberg. The school troublemaker, Funamaya, starts trying to throw his weight around, demanding favorable treatment as "summoned heroes." Camilla immediately points out that this is not that kind of summon, and all the 8th graders are soldiers and they'd better Join or Die, choose wisely, and it only gets worse from there.
  • Full Metal Panic!. Trapped Behind Enemy Lines and surrounded by a hostile army searching for them, Kaname is reminded of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and suggests that such movies should have a happy ending instead. Her voice startles some birds, bringing down an immediate hail of fire. "Oh I get it, this is reality, right!" But Kurz and Sousake like the idea of the "cool" Bolivian Army Ending and the three of them prepare to go out in a blaze of glory. Fortunately, help choses that moment to arrive.
  • The introduction to Haruhi Suzumiya is exactly this; Kyon begrudgingly accepts the fact that he lives in the real world, where aliens, time-travelers, and espers don't actually exist. They do.
  • In Heavy Object, it's not uncommon for one character to suggest something will happen based on fiction logic only to be reminded by another character that's not how reality works.
    • Zigzagged when Qwenthur and Havia are fighting a group of poachers.
      • When Qwenthur asks why a car shot in the gas tank didn't explode, Havia points out that's just a trope... before static electricity ignites the gasoline and the car explodes.
      • Qwenthur then panics when a knife-wielding poacher attacks the gun-wielding Havia, only for Havia to easily gun down the poacher and point out unlike TV the gun gives him an unbeatable advantage... right before a different poacher stabs Havia by surprise.
  • Overlord (2012): When Climb finds that Ainz Ooal Gown's forces have invaded his country, slaughtered several people, and seemingly corrupted Princess Renner into murdering her own family (Renner actually betrayed her country and joined Ainz on her own), Climb yells This Is Unforgivable! and attacks Ainz in a rage. Unfortunately, Ainz dodges or No Sells all his attacks and beats him down. Ainz says if this was a fairy tale, Climb's righteous fury could have given him the strength to win, but they are in the real world where a mere human doesn't stand a chance against an undead sorceror king. Ainz kills him, but resurrects him both because Renner asked and because Climb impressed him and forced him to get serious for a second.
  • In The Schizogenic Man, Cleopatra tells Heron, "Only in poetry or stage plays are queens allowed to rest on their majesty."
  • In Rubbernecker, Dr Spicer, who works in a neurological ward, complains about films where you're either in or out of a coma. In real life, people can live for decades with brain damage that leaves them in a vegetative state, or conscious but uncommunicative, or in a constant state of confusion and terror.
  • In Small Persons with Wings, Timmo is afraid the Parvi Pennati will turn him into something. Mellie tells him, "People don't turn into things. That's so Brothers Grimm." (She's proven wrong later when she gets turned into a giant frog.)
  • From the Tempest (2011) novel Tempest Unleashed: "I might be in the middle of a war with an evil sea witch, but The Little Mermaid really was just a Disney cartoon. Real life in mermaid territory was much more treacherous than Ariel could ever have imagined."

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the 3rd Rock from the Sun episode "The Big Giant Head Returns Again" (season 5, episode 22) after Dick reveals to the rest of the aliens living with him impersonating a family that The Big Giant Head (the ruler of the galaxy) just told him that he's Dick's father, Tommy says "whoa, that's just like in Star Wars, when Luke Skywalker finds out that Darth Vader's his father", to which Dick says, "oh, grow up Tommy, that was popular entertainment, this is real life!!" (cue the laugh track).
  • In the 30 Rock episode "Larry King":
    Jack Donaghy: I was about to do the whole 'run to the airport' thing, like Ross did on Friends and Liz Lemon did in real life.
  • In the first episode of ALF, the son (Brian) wants ALF to live with them, just like E.T.; his mother (Kate) explains, "E.T. was a movie. This is real. This is on our coffee table!"
  • Babylon 5 slammed its competitor, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, this way:
    Ivanova: This isn't some deep-space franchise, this station is about something!
  • The '60s Batman (1966) used it once, after the Dynamic Duo escape the latest cliffhanger Death Trap, and Robin starts musing rather close to the fourth wall:
    Robin: I don't know how we do it, Batman.
    Batman: What do you mean?
    Robin: The way we get into these scrapes and get out of them. It's almost as though someone was dreaming up these situations, guiding our destiny.
    Batman: Things like that only happen in the movies Robin. This is real life.
  • Big Wolf on Campus:
    • Subverted somewhat on the show where almost every plot is immediately recognized by Merton as being 'like that movie'. The characters almost always end up using a modified version of the movie solution with nary a care for the fact that they're using movie logic.
    • Dean, the titular character's older brother, sometimes cannot tell his life from plots on the television shows he watches. Tommy regularly has to remind him that he never did half the things he's convinced he has. It wasn't helped by the fact that there was an episode where Dean was transported into TV Land.
  • On Boy Meets World, Cory gets caught in a Two-Timer Date scenario and Shawn teaches him to play it out like Fred did in one episode of The Flintstones, leading to this exchange:
    Shawn: ...and Fred never spent more than 75 seconds at either location.
    Cory: Shawn, that was a cartoon, time was compressed, we're real, we're in real time.
    Shawn: Trust me, it's the same thing.
    Cory: No it's not. You see a television show can cover many days in only one half-hour program.
    Shawn: Trust me, it's the same thing.
    Cory: (shrugging) Okay!
    • And the tendency towards meta-humor carried on into Girl Meets World:
      Riley: It's just TV, Maya. You and I, we're real life.
      Maya: Okay, let's go with that.
  • In Bridgerton, Eloise Bridgerton gets the idea that Lady Whistledown — the mysterious author of a scandalous society paper — is a servant, since she reasons that servants would be privy to all the secrets that Whistledown publishes, while passing beneath the notice of their employers. However, when Eloise comes to believe that the culprit is one of the Bridgerton housemaids and demands the truth from her — the housemaid finds it hilarious. She has to explain to Eloise that no working-class person with a fulltime, incredibly busy job would be able to find the time and resources to also research, write and publish a regular gossip sheet.
  • A consistent theme of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is Jake trying to live his life as the hero of the action cop movies he grew up watching and oftentimes thinking stuff like leaping over cars or breaking rules without consequences are fine. Time and again, he ends up either injured or his Captain Holt reminding him bluntly that real life doesn't work like a film.
    • Cited verbatim in "Show Me Going" when Jake wants to race to help Rosa with a shooting in a hotel. He openly calls Holt "the guy in the movie who's so bound in rules, he stands in the way of what's right" and Holt snaps "this is not a movie" and Jake blundering in on his own will only make things worse.
  • When discussing what could be the cause of Buffy's sudden weakness in the episode "Helpless" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer the subject of kryptonite comes up. Buffy impatiently implores the others to stick to reality.
  • Castle:
    • Detective Beckett tries pulling this twice in the pilot episode, pointing out that, unlike in Rick Castle's mystery novels, it can take police up to a week to get fingerprint results back, and, when they find a suspect who seems too obviously guilty, he's usually just actually guilty. Subverted both times, since Castle proves the most obvious suspect really was innocent, and uses his clout with the mayor's office to get the results of a fingerprint match done in under an hour.
    • She's a bit more successful in a later episode, when he eagerly hopes to see the department's 'official facial recognition software'. He has in his mind a Magical Computer which automatically flips through countless faces in seconds before coming across the correct one (possibly with some sort of 'bleep' noise). Then she dumps a large pile of files in front of him through which he, along with the other detectives, is expected to look through.
    • Lampshaded in "Murder Most Fowl", after using the Enhance Button on some crime scene photos:
      Castle: The enhancement only increased the pixellation on all these! You can't even see there's a side-view mirror!
      Beckett: It's not like on 24, Castle. In the real world, even zoom-and-enhance can only get us so far.
    • An episode of season 7 plays with this in a different way: Castle has an interview for his book, in which the interviewer actually only wants to talk about his unexplained disappearance (which she's sure he faked for publicity): "If this were one of your books, Mr. Castle, wouldn't you find the plot a little hard to swallow? I mean, amnesia? Really?" Castle has to explain that the difference is, it's not a novel, it "actually happened".
  • Running Gag in the Charmed (1998) episode "Chick Flick", which revolves around movie characters coming to life. "This is the world of illusion, and you girls are reality."
  • Chuck:
    • In the fourth season premiere, Chuck tells Morgan something to the effect of "This is real life, not the opening of a spy show!"
    • And in season 2 when Ellie asks Chuck what he wants to do with his life:
      Ellie: If you say pilot of the Millennium Falcon, I will hit you.
      Chuck: Why would I say that? That's absurd! I'm going to be a ninja assassin.
      Ellie: No. Try again.
      Chuck: Um, Olympic…
      Ellie: Uh uh.
      Chuck: Secret agent.
      Ellie: This is what happens when you sit in front of the television too long.
      • The last one is the correct answer. Ironically, both his father and his former best friend did their best to keep him away from this life.
  • The Comic Strip Presents: "Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown" had a spoof character from The Sweeney shooting at a spoof of Nineties detective Spender and missing, whereupon the Nineties detective points out that reality has now taken over the Cop Show genre and you can't rely on Improbable Aiming Skills any more. Promptly subverted when a sixties policeman points out that the Rule of Funny is still in effect.
  • Community had Jeff mocking Abed for not knowing the difference between reality and TV. Abed responds with a combination of this trope and What the Hell, Hero?
    Abed: I can tell life from TV, Jeff. TV makes sense, and has structure, logic, rules. And likeable leading men. In real life, we have this. We have you.
  • In an episode of Continuum, a dry-cleaner finds a super-suit (actually armor from the future) and thinks it makes him a super-hero. After he stops a mugging (getting shot in the process, though the suit does save him), his girlfriend gets angry at him for trying to be a hero, informing him: "this is not a TV show, this is your life."
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: "The End of the Movie" is an entire musical number (sung by Josh Groban) on how real life is nothing like a narrative: people are complex and sometimes make bad decisions for no reason, things aren't always connected to others and aren't always tied together cleverly and sometimes, nothing gets wrapped up neatly (most of the times, in fact, they aren't).
    "Because life is a gradual series of revelations
    That occur over a period of time
    Some things might happen that seem connected
    But there's not always a reason or rhyme
    People aren't characters
    They're complicated and their choices don't always make sense"
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Rise of the Cybermen", trapped in a parallel universe:
      Mickey: I've seen it in comics. People go hopping from one alternative world to another — it's easy.
      The Doctor: Not in the real world.
    • The Doctor then clarifies that it used to be that easy until the Time Lords, who were the self-appointed monitors of time and space, were all killed in the Time War, making this a Zig-Zagging Trope.
    • Seven episodes later, they were beaming back and forth between alternate worlds a dozen times an episode using Staples "Easy" buttons.
      • In fairness, that's because the walls between realities were breaking down. The Doctor kept pointing out that it shouldn't be possible, and that doing so was only making things worse.
    • "Silence in the Library": Child psychiatrist Dr. Moon begins to say what the audience would expect him to say to the disturbed little girl, only to finish with:
      "The real world is a lie, and your nightmares are real."
    • Lampshaded in "Amy's Choice":
      Dream Lord: You die in the dream, you wake up in reality. Ask me what happens if you die in reality.
      Rory: What happens?
      Dream Lord: You die, stupid. That's why it's called "reality".
      • And yet both versions turn out to be dreams.
    • In "Mummy on the Orient Express", when Professor Moorhouse is the target of the mummy, he recalls the myth that one can be spared if he finds the right word or makes the right offer, only for the Doctor to comment "This is not a myth. This is real. Forget your superstitions." Except it turns out to be true. The Doctor figures out the right phrase just in time — "We surrender!"
    • In "The Return of Doctor Mysterio", the Doctor talks to the eight-year-old Grant about comic books. When Grant asks if the Doctor knows what happened to Peter Parker, when he got bitten by a radioactive spider, the Doctor replies that he probably got radioactive poisoning. Of course, this episode features a bona fide superhero, although his powers are enabled by an alien artifact (par for the course for comic books).
  • On the 100th episode of Dynasty (2017), Fallon pulls off a big deal during her mom's wedding.
    Jeff: Only you could turn your mom's wedding into an episode of Succession.
    Fallon: Oh, please, this is real life, that show is like a comic book!
  • Farscape:
  • In Father Ted, Dougal starts to swear. Ted admonishes him and claims that people don't talk "like that in the real world!"
  • Reversed in the last aired Firefly episode, "Objects in Space":
    Wash: Psychic though? That sounds like something out of science fiction.
    Zoe: We live in a spaceship, dear.
    Wash: So?
  • At the end of the Pilot of For the People, Jill points out that despite having the moral high ground, this isn't a TV show and Sandra's not going to win a case for an American Muslim accused of terrorism in her first case.
  • Forever: Early in "The Frustrating Thing About Psychopaths" Lucas complains about wanting something exciting to happen in the morgue, to which Henry replies that real death isn't like Lucas's comic books. note 
  • In the Friends episode "The One With Free Porn", Joey and Chandler only watch the porn channel and lose their sense of reality. They then come to regain their connection to reality in this exchange:
    Chandler: I was just at the bank, and there was this really hot teller, and she didn't ask me to go do it with her in the vault.
    Joey: Same thing happened to me! Woman pizza delivery guy come over, gives me the pizza, takes the money, and leaves!
    Chandler: What, "No nice apartment. I bet the bedrooms are huge."?
    Joey: Noo! Nothing!
    Chandler: You know what? We have to turn off the porn.
  • Done once in Greg the Bunny, when Sarah Silverman's character explains to Seth Green's why she's not interested in him. She compares him to the quirky guys who always get the unattainable beauties in romantic comedies, then reminds him that "this is the real world" — at which point a six-foot tall muppet stumbles past the camera.
  • The Grinder often plays with and subverts this. The plot has actor Dean moving to his small town and trying to join the family law firm, convinced playing a lawyer for eight season on a TV show makes him qualified. The Running Gag of every episode is Dean suggesting tactics inspired by plots from his show. His brother Stewart, an actual lawyer, has to patiently explain to him that in real life, those don't work. However, when they try them out, those "unrealistic" plots do work mostly because they're so outrageous they've never been tried before (and the fact many judges and juries give leeway due to Dean's star status). Every time, Stewart is just astounded how Dean's TV-inspired ideas are more successful than his realistic methods.
  • In the "Leave It To Willie" episode of The Hogan Family, Valerie blasts Willie after he confesses to taking the car out joyriding and getting into an accident. He's confused by her anger, telling her he thought she'd understand, like on a TV show that he'd watched with a similar scenario—"The kid steals money, but when he tells his father, the father understands." His mother coldly declares, "That's TV. That's entertainment. That's not how it works in the real world."
  • From the Hustle episode "The Delivery", in which Cool Hand Cooper is being chased by The Mafia:
    Eddie: Hang on, are you saying... the mafia, like on the tellie?
    Mickey: No, Eddie, not like on the tellie.
    Cooper: Yeah, not as cuddly in real life.
  • JAG
    • In "Tiger, Tiger", when anti-communist Cuban terrorists have taken over a U.S. Navy guided missile frigate, Harm and 10 year old Josh are stranded in the helicopter hangar:
      Josh Pendry: Under Siege!
      Harmon: What?
      Josh Pendry: Steven Seagal in Under Siege. He got the Pentagon on a satellite radio from a lifeboat.
      Harmon: Well, unfortunately this isn't a movie, Josh. These lifeboats have satellite radios with an emergency beacon and a short-range voice transmitter. We could activate one. The Coast Guard would come, but before we could inform them of our situation, who knows what these terrorists are likely to do.
      Josh Pendry: It's so cool in the movie.
      Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb: Well, I'm sure it was.
    • Clayton Webb says to Mac in a heated argument that "this is the real world, Sarah" in the season nine episode "Take It like a Man".
  • Janda Kembang: Neneng hears a potential gossip in Malik's story about arguing with Kemal about who should pay the restaurant bill (both are trying to impress Salmah), but Malik denies it became so bad to the point of a fight as Neneng hoped, saying that this is not a soap opera.
  • Kamen Rider Build: When Sento's original, cynical personality prior to his amnesia comes back, he dismisses Sento's friends' belief in The Power of Friendship as nonsense straight out of a shōnen manga.
  • In an episode of Leave It to Beaver, Wally is suspended from the basketball team for horseplay in the locker room while Eddie and Lumpy (who started it) get off scot-free. Later, after Lumpy comes clean and the Beaver thinks Wally will be allowed to play in the upcoming game again, Ward has to remind the younger boy that "life isn't like on television" and Wally still misbehaved and would remain punished.
  • On Lost, when Hurley believes the island, plane crash, lottery, etc. are all part of his hallucination, Libby tells him that their experiences are real, and she's real. "And don't tell me you made me up. It's insulting."
  • Played for Drama in the Madam Secretary episode "Catch and Release". Liz is asked by a State Department employee whose son joined Da'ish and executed an aid worker on video to take her son alive, but the President orders him killed in a drone strike after locating him. When Liz gets home, her son comes racing down the stairs crowing about how "they just lit up Jihadi Judd, BOOM!" Henry hits the roof and sends him to his room.
    Henry: This is not a video game!
  • MADtv (1995): The "Cosby's Crib" sketch, which is a Deconstructive Parody of the Pilot episode of The Cosby Show has Bill teaching his son that it's more sensible to sell crack instead of pursuing a college education in this line:
    Bill: WHY in the hell do you want to become a doctor?! That's not what REAL black people do! That's what the black people on the television do.
  • In an episode of Mighty Morphin' Alien Rangers, Bulk and Skull (as kids) are in detention:
    Skull: Hey Bulky, you think the Alien Rangers could beat Darth Vader?
    Bulk: You dimwit, Darth Vader's just pretend. The Alien Rangers are real!
    Skull: Oh right, I forgot! ...Uh, how about a Klingon?
  • My Dead Ex: Ben complains of how the school dance fails to match tropes in the 80s movies he likes, and is naturally told this isn't a movie.
  • Factual television example: Narrator Robert Lee points out in an episode of MythBusters: "If this were a movie, you'd know something terrible was about to happen. But this is Mythbusters. Factual television. Real life. ...Like I said, real life, real results. In this case, an awful lot of nothing."
  • An episode of NCIS: Los Angeles has Hetty finding Eric playing a first person shooter military game in the Ops center. Eric defends it on having such great graphics and how it's promoted as "just like the real thing." Later, Hetty has Eric watch a real raid by a military team on a terrorist base with some serious gunplay. Eric is sobered to realize how much his games trivialize the real risks of such an event.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Emma says this to Henry. Unfortunately, as Henry knows, it actually isn't.
  • The series Over My Dead Body has a reporter gushing over a detective looking over a picture of the suspect and relating his background and how he commited the crime. She tells this to her friend, a mystery author who immediately states a Sherlock Scan only works in fiction and no one actually has the ability to do that. Thus, the only way the detective could "know" so much is if he's a Detective Mole.
  • Red Dwarf. In "Back in the Red", the Cat asks the young and hot Bridge Bunny in Ground Control out for a date. Then they realise they're in a virtual reality simulation. When they encounter the woman in real life, she's fat and middle-aged.
    Cat: Man, reality sucks!
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch did this with a good dose of Hypocritical Humour, courtesy of Sabrina and Harvey getting stuck at the top of a beanstalk and Harvey throwing water at the Wicked Witch.
    Harvey: Oh no, she's not melting!
    Sabrina: Get real Harvey! This isn't fantasy. Now let's get off this cloud and down that beanstalk.
  • Scrubs:
    • The episode "My Life in Four Cameras" has J.D. fantasizing about what life would be like if he were in a Sitcom — completely oblivious to the fact that he already is. (To be fair, though, he's thinking of the more conventional sitcom style than the style Scrubs uses.)
    • Also used by Dr. Cox, when he claims that medical mysteries that happen in TV medical dramas are unrealistic. Cue the entire episode being full of said medical mysteries, and the good doctor even walking with a cane a la House. Complete with him saying there are no cameras out there and gesturing at... the camera. And Keith looks everywhere but the camera.
  • Sex and the City did one episode where the girls visit a friend of theirs who had become a suburban mom. One of her friends tells them that they'll all eventually settle down.
    "I mean, 4 single women searching for life and love in the big city? We're not in a Jacqueline Susann novel." (Charlotte and Miranda exchange looks as if saying "Yes, we are.")
  • Slasher: When Sarah tries to convince the Chief to take the new Executioner seriously he brushes her off by saying that "real life isn't a mystery novel".
  • Smallville:
    • Lex Luthor once said "Real life is not a comic book." In another case, James Marsters' character openly states that there are no such thing as vampires. In yet another case, one that takes place after Clark's first experience with magic and sorcery, his dad states, "Clark, I know this is Smallville and weird things happen, but witches? Spells? Magic?" Cause ya'know, aliens and mutants are so much easier to swallow.
    • To be fair, at that point in the series virtually all of the weird events in the series were Kryptonian in origin; most paranormal events were the result of kryptonite mutating people or, for more significant events, caused by Kryptonian technology. The appearance of witches and magic in that storyline was one of the first cases of Smallville using something (mostly) unrelated to Krypton for its Monster of the Week. This has become a more common practice in recent seasons, and the characters barely bat an eye when someone shows up with unexplained superpowers.
    • In one episode, Chloe asks Clark if he can fly. Clark goes, "I'm an alien, not a cartoon!"
  • On The Sopranos, Tony attempts to make Carmela less leery of his gambling habit by arguing, "Hey, I was shot. I almost died, but here I am. That's tremendous odds. I'm lucky!"
  • Space Cases in the Evil Twin episode:
    Miss Davenport: Doppelganger? Sounds like science fiction.
    Harlan: But this is reality.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • In "Tangent", when Daniel assumes that Star Trek tropes would carry into the "real world", this exchange occurrs:
        Daniel: We were hoping you could kinda... um, like... beam them out.
        Jacob: Beam them out? What am I, Scotty?
      • SG-1 also has its very own Show Within a Show, Wormhole X-Treme, created by an alien (who doesn't know he is one) from not-entirely-suppressed memories and used by the USAF/SGC as part of their ongoing coverup of the Stargate program; rumors of the "real" thing can be dismissed as inspired by the television fantasy. Wormhole X-Treme is also an excuse for the SG-1 writers to merrily hang lampshades on everything—including making jokes that the bit about the Air Force backing the show to cover up the fact it's real is actually true...
    • The Stargate Atlantis episode "Poisoning the Well" has this exchange:
      McKay: He just doesn't like going through the Stargate.
      Sheppard: He's worse than Dr. McCoy.
      Teyla: Who?
      Sheppard: The TV character that Dr. Beckett plays in real life.
  • In the Starsky & Hutch episode "The Committee," a character grumbles, "You take those shows on TV. The good guys always win. But that ain't the way it happens. That ain't the way it happens at all."
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • An indirect version occurs in "Ship in a Bottle". After trapping a sentient holographic Professor Moriarty (long story) in a small device meant to simulate him living out his life in the universe, the following dialog takes place at the end of the episode:
      Picard: Who knows... Perhaps all this is just an elaborate simulation, running in a box, sitting on someone's desk.
      [Everyone leaves the room but Barclay.]
      Barclay: ...Computer, end program.
      [Nothing happens. Barclay looks around and leaves the room. Cue shot of Enterprise traveling through space and end credits.]
    • Sadly, this is completely in character for Barclay. (Especially given his Holo-addiction problems.)
    • In "The Nth Degree", when Barclay is lamenting his performance as Cyrano de Bergerac, Deanna tells him, "This isn't fantasy; it's drama."
  • Supernatural:
    • This exchange with the Girl of the Week in the episode "Monster Movie":
      Jamie (GOTW): So you two are like Mulder and Scully and The X-Files are real?
      Dean: No, The X-Files is a TV show. This is real.
    • Lampshaded in an episode of season four, when Dean jokes about having both an angel (Anna) and a demon (Ruby) in the backseat. Sam tells him he's confusing reality with porn — Dean asks what about their current situation resembles reality.
    • Said by the Trickster/Gabriel in "Changing Channels":
      "Guys, I wish this were a TV show. Easy answers, endings wrapped up in a bow. But this is real. And it's gonna end bloody for all of us. That's just how it's gotta be."
    • On the show, hunters have a general disdain for most media portrayals of vampires since they present such a distorted version of what vampires 'really' are in the show's universe. The brothers often comment on the differences between movie vampires and 'real' vampires.
    • A tongue-in-cheek example when Dean has a conversation with a high schooler's "interpretation" of what happened after the last Supernatural book "Swan Song" (books made that were actually about their lives). Dean explains to her what really happened (their reality), covering plots of all 5 seasons afterwards, but she laughs and doesn't believe it.
      Dean: So Sam came back from Hell, but without his soul. And Cas brought back a bunch of Leviathans in Purgatory. They lost Bobby and then Cas and Dean got stuck in Purgatory. Sam hit a dog, they met a prophet named Kevin, they lost him too, then Sam underwent a series of trials in an attempt to close the Gates of Hell which nearly cost him his life. And Dean? Dean becomes a demon. Knight of Hell actually.
      Marie: ... Wow.
      Dean: Yep.
      Marie: That's some of the worst fanfiction I've ever heard. [laughs] I mean seriously, where did your friend find this garbage?
  • Take Two has actress Sam Swift who played a cop on a TV show for years hitting the skids. She tries to research a comeback role by following private eye Eddie Valetik only to end up becoming his real partner. The Running Gag of the show is Sam bringing up stuff she did on her cop show only for Eddie to tell her that's just on TV.
    • Looking at a video, Sam presses Eddie to "enhance the resolution." He retorts that "it's scientifically impossible" to do that.
    • Sam tells Eddie to track a phone signal but he retorts that even a real cop would have a hard time with that without a warrant "which takes a lot longer than a commercial break" to get.
    • Eddie snaps to Sam to never promise a client they'll solve their problem as he has several cases he's never been able to solve.
    • Subverted when they're held at gunpoint and Sam manages to disarm the gunman by using the same "kick the gun" bit she did on her show. Even she can't believe it works and Eddie admits he'd assumed she'd miss and he'd just use the distraction to attack the guy.
    • Again subverted when the duo are doing a case trailing a cheating husband. Eddie tells Sam that real P.I. work is amazingly dull and "hot cases don't happen every week." Right on cue, a gunshot rings out as they find a man holding a gun over a dead woman but claiming he's innocent.
  • In a season 19 episode on Top Gear (UK), the boys have race to the Mexican border and, due the controversy with the Mexicans they (particularly Richard) had caused several seasons before, Jeremy and James would very much rather that Richard lose. To give themselves a headstart, the two sabotage his car the night beforehand by, among other things, shoving fruit into his car's tailpipes. As Hammond is removing the fruit from his tailpipe, he complains "Oh, funny, funny all so funny! Thank you! Yeah, right, we live in a cartoon!".
  • In V (2009), there is a reference to the original Trope Namer when Erica notes that she can't stop Tyler from going onboard the Visitor's ship, because his superiors in the Peace Ambassadors would just beam him up if she grounded him. He gives her the nonverbal version of this trope. We do later find out that the Visitors can indeed teleport.
  • In The Vampire Diaries, Caroline asks Damon why he doesn't sparkle, to which he replies, "Because I live in the real world where vampires burn in the sun."
  • Kevin Shinick, the host of the game show Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego, was billed as "the Squadron Leader". His mother appears in one episode, and the two get into an argument about his job, but she's satisfied by the end, saying, "At least he's not a game show host."

  • A line in Starbomb's song Crasher-Vania, a blatant parody of Castlevania.
    To Hell, demon beast, from whence you came; you're in Castlevania, this isn't a game!
  • Hip-hop duo The Blue Scholars Inverts this in their song "Cinemetropolis."
    Now you're saying something's like a movie when it's real/Like a film's much realer than anything you feel
  • Alice Cooper's "Hey Stoopid".
    Hey bro, take it slow
    You ain't livin' in a video

    Professional Wrestling 
  • During the WWE feud between Triple H and John Cena, Triple H told Cena that he had a lot of heart, and if this were a Rocky movie, heart would be enough... but this is reality, and Cena, being a terrible wrestler, would lose, and lose badly. Cena ended up winning the match at WrestleMania 22, so what does that say?

  • In The Dao of the Awakened, Hua Yin's letters to his younger brothers contain a lot of explanation that Cultivation is different from how novels depict it. Song Chyou's duel challenge also seems to have come from reading too many of the same novels.
  • In the second RP of Darwin's Soldiers, this exchange occurs:
    Zachary: Hans, do you think this was a good idea, try to disguise ourselves as staff?
    Hans: It seems like a good idea but I was thinking about going in through the areas not covered by the security cameras and cutting the power long enough for us to get in and disguise ourselves like base personnel.
    Zachary: Also works but remember that the fusion reactor is in the basement and protected quite well by autoturrets and cameras. Also, few areas are not covered by cameras.
    Aisha: Uh, yeah this isn't like the Oceans 11 movies.
  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, when it's suggested that the empowered kids become a legitimate superhero group, Rose shoots it down by saying they aren't in a comic book and things wouldn't end well for them if they tried it.

  • Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado includes the line, "I'm really very sorry for you all, but it's an unjust world, and virtue is triumphant only in theatrical performances." Needless to say, virtue does indeed triumph eventually.
  • In Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, new managers Andre and Firmin watch their star soprano throw a fit and comment, "You'd never get away with all this in a play/But if it's loudly sung and in a foreign tongue/It's just the sort of story audiences adore/In fact, a perfect opera!"
  • Zigzagged in Urinetown, one of Officer Lockstock's many meta lines is: "Well, now, Little Sally, dreams only come true in happy musicals — and a few Hollywood movies — and this certainly isn't either one of those. No, dreams are meant to be crushed. It's nature's way." Lockstock frequently acknowledges the fact that they are in a musical, but only in happy musicals are those tropes relevant.
  • In the final scene of Mary Mary, when Bob has shut Mary in a closet and thrown away the key:
    Tiffany: In the movies, they just break the door down.
    Dirk: In the movies the door is pieced together by the prop men so all you have to do is blow on it!
  • The Threepenny Opera introduces the Last-Minute Reprieve for its Villain Protagonist by commenting that since the work is fictional, there will be a Happily Ever After ending.
  • In The Solid Gold Cadillac, Mrs. Partridge introduces herself to the Corrupt Corporate Executives as an actress who used to play in Ah, Wilderness!. One of them asks her, "You're not acting in a play now?" "No, I'm not," she says.
  • In Bandstand, Donny walks Julia back to her home after a performance. The Song "This is Life" occurs:
    If we were in an MGM film,
    We would kiss and walk through that door there.
    If we were in a radio play,
    We’d admit we’re friends, but there’s more there.
    If we were singing Hammerstein songs,
    We could fix all the wrongs in rhyme.
    But this is life, with a heartache it brings and
    We know that these things take time.
  • How the other characters react to Paravicini commenting on the action unfolding around them as if it was a mystery story in The Mousetrap.

    Video Games 
  • 8 Eyes' instruction manual actually says "This is reality!" after noting the game's aversion of Video-Game Lives.
  • In the Dubai mission of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, performing a certain Dogfight Mode maneuver will make your wingman chatize the player character's recklessness, adding "This ain't Ace Combat, bro." Which actually makes perfect sense, since AH takes place in the modern world, so the other Ace Combat games would exist in-universe.
  • In Beneath a Steel Sky, your robot sidekick Joey gets hold of a new weapon (a welding torch) and rants about going out to zap some humans. The main character brings up Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, to which the annoyed robot replies "That's fiction, Foster!" He then proceeds to roll around chanting "EX-TER-MIN-ATE! EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" (Don't worry. He's a Robot Buddy)
  • The Darkside Detective: When trying to obtain access to a shut down subway station, McQueen and Dooley consider leaping the ticket barrier, but decide their insurance won't cover it and they'd better crawl underneath instead. McQueen complains that police work doesn't include the fun stuff that happens in movies.
  • In The Dig after being taken to an alien planet on a Faster Than Light starship, Intrepid Journalist, Maggie Robbins, says:
    Maggie: After all those bad TV shows, here is the real proof. There is alien life!
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Loghain delivers one of these to King Cailan before the Battle of Ostagar:
    Loghain: Your fascination with glory and legends will be your undoing, Cailan. We must attend to reality!
  • In Final Fantasy VIII (which also makes uses of Not a Game), the possessed Ultimecia kills the dictator Vinzer Deling and then comments "This is reality. No one can help you. Sit back and enjoy the show."
  • Homescapes:
    • Chloe, dismayed by her fear of heights, the dark and wild animals, comments that Laura the Explorer isn't afraid of anything. Austin replies that this is because Laura is a character in a book.
    • When Austin and William unlock a chest full of treasure, William comments that it made you want to swim around in the coins like in a cartoon. Austin replies that since they're not in a cartoon, all it would lead to is bruises.
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: If Flulu sits down to talk with Sol about their rebellious attitude, she emphasizes that surviving Vertumna "isn't some holovid high school drama", but a matter of life or death.
  • Jak 3 features an amusing moment during a scene with the precursor monk, Seem in Spargus City, where Jak is being glib in response to her dire warnings. Seem then snaps, "This isn't a game!", causing Jak and Daxter to exchange significant glances with the player for a few seconds before returning to the conversation.
  • In Kingdom Hearts III, Buzz rejects the notion of worlds being split apart, saying that this is reality, not a video game, in a universe where toys come to life and move around on their own.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II opens with protagonist Rean Schwarzer awakening from a month long sleep and wondering if he's dreaming. Pretty much the first thing Celine tells him is that "This is reality. Cold, cruel reality."
  • In Life Is Strange, Max tells Chloe about her powers, to which Chloe replies, "This isn't anime or a video game; people don't have these powers, Max!"
  • Inverted in Max Payne. When the Big Bad gives him a drug overdose, Max hallucinates that he finds a letter that tells him that he is in a graphic novel. This then repeats, with him hallucinating that the letter tells him that he is in a computer game. Both are true. And both times, Max muses: "Funny as Hell, it was the most horrible thing I could think of."
    • He also starts noticing things he didn't before. In the first case, he begins to see speech bubbles. In the second case, he sees the inventory menu, the health bar, and the bullet-time mode.
  • Metal Gear:
    • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a codec conversation in Pakistan has Kevin rule out the use of an infiltrator on board Air Force One to assassinate the US president as foreign press would not be allowed on board the plane in reality, "not like in the movies."
    • During the first codec conversation between Snake and Otacon during Act 2 of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Otacon wonders anxiously whether Vamp is immortal. Snake dismisses this notion immediately, stating "Not a chance. This is the real world, not some fantasy game." As it turns out Vamp's healing factor is technologically enhanced, allowing him to regenerate wounds from bladed weapons in seconds and recover from a bullet wound to the head in a few seconds more. This explanation distracts everyone, most players included, from the fact that his regeneration itself is never explained; we saw it work less efficiently, without the enhancement, in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
      • Snake seems to be forcing himself into a state of genre blindless; in Metal Gear Solid, he fought more than one supernatural enemy. In MGS2, he brushes off Fortune's ability to have bullets curve away from her with the line "There's no such thing as a witch." It turns out he's right in this case and her ability is completely technological, but he has no way of knowing that going in. In MGS4, he dismisses anything that seems supernatural as some sort of magic trick, not just Vamp. He's actually right in some cases; Screaming Mantis can't possess a fly. What she can do is use the nanomachines in people to manipulate their bodies. On the other hand, Screaming Mantis is also just a shell possessed by Psycho Mantis, Snake's psychic enemy from the first game, who actually comes back to possess Screaming Mantis' armor once you defeat her in combat.
      • This is especially jarring, since the first three MGS games go out of their way to exaggerate the fact that they are fantasy video games. Characters actually talk about game mechanics as character development, among other things — like the whole thrust of the plot of MGS2. The previous games also had psychics, shamans, human-plant hybrids, human hornets nests, electrokinetics, and a ghost. Even this game still has a few fourth-wall breakages, like Otacon referencing the disk-change point when you return to Shadow Moses Island.
      • And it becomes even more mind-numbing when you take into account the canonical state of VR missions in the series. Raiden in MGS2 becomes quickly disillusioned when he suddenly can’t tell the difference between the game’s actual events and the VR missions he did as part of his training. As if there is an actual difference.
  • Oracle of Tao: Those words aren't used, but the are numerous examples of this. For example, thanks to some coding, there is Real Time in addition to an In-Universe Game Clock. The party insists that the clock that shows the real time is off, and has no problems accepting the game time.
  • Persona:
    • Near the beginning of Shin Megami Tensei Persona 3 Mitsuru gives the warning, "This isn't a game, Akihiko." As though that would stop him anyways...
    • Persona 5: At one point in a chat message with the rest of the Phantom Thieves, discussing who ought to be the next target for their Heel–Face Brainwashing social reform crusade, you have the option of suggesting "An evil overlord." If you do, Ryuji will reply saying, "Dude, this ain't some kinda video game!" As it happens, you do actually end up fighting such a figure later in the game. Additionally, the whole plot is referred to as a game created by fake Igor, pitting the MC against Akechi.
  • Near the end of Resident Evil 4, the villainous Lord Saddler mocks Leon's determination to save the President's daughter and stop his evil plan because life isn't "one of your Hollywood movies."
  • In Saints Row 2, pedestrians will occasionally shout "This isn't one of your stupid video games! This is real life!" as they jump out of the way of your speeding car.
  • Soul Nomad & the World Eaters:
    Gig: Hahaha! How you jerks doin'?! I guess it's only in fairy tales where justice actually prevails, huh?
  • In Space Hulk - Vengeance of the Blood Angels, your squad regularly report on what they can see or hear (or smell). One of the lines is admonishing another marine, telling them that "this is not a game".
  • In the second mission of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Lambert warns Sam of a recently installed alarm system. Sam then says "Don't tell me: three alarms and the mission is over?" to which Lambert replies "Of course not! This is no video game, Fisher!". Besides being a meta-joke, this also had the purpose of letting the player know that the old "three alarms and game over" rule had been removed.
  • In Starcraft II, when the xel'naga artifact is assembled, Tychus is worried that it might upset the entire space-time continuum, which prompts Raynor to assure him that "this ain't science fiction". Since that same artifact can kill all zerg in a certain radius every once in a while Kerrigan, really, Tychus' fear of its potential isn't too much more ridiculous.
  • In Super Robot Wars: Original Generation, this is brought up a few times with Ascended Fanboy Ryusei, who learned most of his piloting skills from video games. But it's taken to a whole other level with his rival Tenzan, who never learns to stop treating war like a game. His last words, after losing his grip on reality thanks to a Deadly Upgrade, are that he can eventually win by hitting "continue" and doing some level grinding (this is a strategy you can use in the game). This is played for drama, and Ryusei laments that he had to die like that.
  • In System Shock 2, Polito tells the player to hurry with phrases like "Do you think this is some kind of game?" and later, "this isn't a game".
  • In Tekken 6, Jin sometimes says "This is reality" as Unsportsmanlike Gloating after defeating an opponent.
  • The intro for Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes features Travis Touchdown Breaking the Fourth Wall to address his long absence, drawing his rival Badman's ire.
    Badman: YOU BASTARD! Quit trying to butter up the gamers! Your fight is here in the real world! SON OF A BITCH!
  • In Until Dawn this is said by Mike to Jess when Jessica mentions she saw a bear opening a car door on the Internet after they think a bear chased them to the cabin.
  • The Warriors: "This ain't no movie, Warriors!"

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In the second case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Detective Gumshoe, when asked if he's ever heard of a murder victim writing their killer's name in blood, responds that he's seen it all the time in movies. Phoenix responds with a variation of this trope's title.
    • In the second case of Dual Destinies, the topic at hand is about how the victim struck the killer. Apollo expresses his disbelief that someone could manage to grab an object and hit their assailant with it after being skewered by a large spear, which prompts Fulbright to ramble about how the victim was a former pro wrestler and that the injustice of being stabbed gave him superhuman strength to fight back.
      Apollo: You need to lay off the comic books, detective! We're talking about real life here.
    • In Spirit of Justice, Phoenix just got done presenting proof to the court that that defendant experienced her wedding reception twice after the chapel-blimp they were having their reception on traveled backwards through time. Stodgy skeptic Edgeworth naturally thinks the entire argument is just plain crazy and that there's no such thing as time travel, and Maya comments that he must be one of those people that'd shout "that would never happen!" at the screen during sci-fi movie dates. Edgeworth responds with, "That's neither here nor there! This is real life we're talking about!" It turns out Edgeworth is indeed correct, as the supposed "time travel" the defendant and witness experienced was all staged for the specific purpose of fooling her into thinking she had gone back to just before the wedding reception.
  • This is commonly heard early on in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc to display Naegi's disbelief of what's happening. The most on-the-nose case is early on in Chapter 5, when you find the locked-off Biology Lab, prompting Yasuhiro to comment that if this was a horror-game, there'd be some kind of monster or final boss lurking in there, like a Tyrant or something... prompting Asahina to reply that they're NOT in a horror-game. It sees less and less usage as the game and the series continues, with each successive entry distancing itself from reality more and more. This is mostly due to the incredibly high level of technology needed to make the various memory tricks and artificial intelligence plausible.
  • In Doki Doki Literature Club!, you can get a really bad result after making a certain choice, and the Player Character agonises over how this isn't a game where he could restart and try something new. The joke's on him, of course, since it is a game with the usual functions for saving, loading, and starting a new game, though ironically, he happens to be right that you can't use them to undo that particular choice.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, after Maruhashi is killed by Kubitarou, Akira laments that someone is going to die regardless of what choices he makes, and there won't be a happy 'comic book' ending where everyone turns up alive and okay.
  • Sigma in Virtue's Last Reward says a variation of this to him when he starts thinking about time travel.
    Sigma: This wasn't some shitty sci-fi novel. This was real life.
  • In one Nonstandard Game Over of Your Turn to Die, Sou Hiyori uses the exact phrase as the opener to a speech to Keiji Shinogi, just after the group as a whole is condemned to death by Sara Chidouin and Nao Egokoro to save the latter.

    Web Animation 
  • In Space Tree, this exchange:
    Mee: Plus another great thing about this invisible smoke is if this were a cartoon, the fat lazy hack animating it wouldn't have to draw any smoke. But unfortunately this isn't a cartoon, Space Tree... this is real life. I just hope that one day... you'll be able to accept that.
  • RWBY:
    • In Volume 1, the first night spent at Beacon, Ruby comments that she wants to be just like a fairy tale hero, fighting for what's right and protecting those who can't protect themselves. Blake, who has been worn down by her harder life, tells her that's very ambitious for a child, but real life isn't a fairy tale. Ruby simply tells her that they exist to make real life better. In Volume 8, Blake admits that Ruby's idealism and personal strength have reinvigorated the idealism that life had beaten out of her.
    • In Volume 3, villain Roman Torchwick angrily rants at Ruby that they live in the real world, and that Ruby needs to do what every other heroic huntsman in history has done — die young. He claims that the only thing people should do in this harsh world is survive. His anger attracts a negativity-sensitive Grimm, which attacks him from behind and swallows him whole. However, his rant sets up the death of Ruby's Famed In-Story friend, Pyrrha, who is the model huntress, despite being only a student, and therefore steps up to trying stop a villain she knows she can't defeat because there was no-one else around who had the ability to try.
    • In Volume 6, the heroes are fighting a mecha with a shield generator. Ruby says the shield generator is probably on the mecha's back, since that's how it is in her video games. Weiss says she's being stupid because this isn't a video game, but Ruby is eventually proven right.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Parodied by Julie in 'VRcade'.
    Julie: This isn't some lesson teaching little kids show, this is REAL! I'm REALLY beating you in a virtual reality game where you appear on goldfish, and I'm better than a person who uses plant magic!

  • Employed in Templar Arizona, when Reagan is disappointed that Red Eric isn't ... good looking.
  • Shows up a few times in Megatokyo used by Yuki or her friends. Ironic (subverted perhaps?) because later on, Yuki becomes a Magical Girl.
  • Subverted in Killroy And Tina:
    Fulcrum: This isn't science fiction, Tina.
    Tina: So wait. How is that any different from science fiction?
    Fulcrum: It's science fantasy.
  • Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki is not a Magical Girl manga. Or so Hermod believes anyway.
  • Shadowgirls had it Played for Laughs:
    "The Harbormaster". I have read that story. It is fiction.
    — Perhaps, but am I not speaking to a fish man?
    — Technically, I am crustacean.
  • Played for Laughs in Girl Genius. Evil Genius Martellus is yelling at his sister Xerxsephnia, trying to make her understand how dangerous "the Heterodyne girl" loose in their base really is. Given that the previous generation of Heterodynes were famous characters in (mostly wildly exaggerated) folk tales for 20 years or so, the sister is rather cynical. She comments that she loves a good Heterodyne story, but this is real life, and the Heterodyne girl is trapped in their fortress, hundreds of kilometers away from her city, her base of power, and her own lab. Cue the Heterodyne girl sailing past the window of Martellus' tower in a sleigh lifted by schweincopters: literally, robotic flying pigs.
  • In an Arthur, King of Time and Space 2.0 strip:
    Nimue: See, this is the point where the monster always jumps out.
    Merlin: That only happens in stories.
    Nimue: That's what they always say in the stories.
  • Inverted in the Bravoman webcomic where Bravoman and his powerless alternate universe counterpart defeat a villain who set out to destroy the series' meta-humor by shoulder tackling him through the walls of reality.
    Reverse Anti-Bravoman: I'm the real deal! Neither of you could hack being a real life superhero!
    Bravoman: ...oh, really? Well luckily, it's not real life!
    Reverse Salaryman: Yeah, it's a webcomic!
    Both: And you're not welcome in it anymore!
  • World of Warcraft: A Brother's Grimm comic brings this up when a Horde party is lost in a dungeon. The orc asks whether the bull-like tauren is good with mazes; the tauren replies that he's thinking of minotaurs, which don't exist.
  • qxlkbh: 60: some more about Quick: Max questions what Laurie is implying by mentioning that Quick used to break apart various tropes, and states that "this is reality, not some work of fiction".
  • In Apricot Cookie(s)!, Jammy Smasher gets Fireball Eyeballs after laying the smackdown on an Internet Troll. Meal Deal cheers her on, but Jammy cries that her eyes are literally burning:
    Jammy: This isn't a gag comic! This is real life! My eyes are literally on fire! Put them out! Put them out!
  • In Weak Hero, Dongha mocks Alex for believing that raw willpower is enough to scale the difference in skill between the two of them, and tells him that those sorts of ideas don't work in real life. Unfortunately for Alex, he ends up being right, as Alex would've lost if Gerard hadn't come in at the last minute to save him.
  • Let's Get Divorced!:
    • Baek-hui's colleague Ms. Bang catches Han-gyeol proposing to her in the stairwell at work. Her coworkers don't believe her, saying that she's been reading too many romance novels.
    • Hae-yeong is scared of Han-gyeol when he first transfers in, saying he's a handsome guy with a bad personality. Baek-hui flippantly comments that guys like that only exist in webtoons.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: Spot gives the line "This is real life, not television," in "On the Lamb" when Lucky decides they should pursue Lambo.
  • Ace Lightning — Mark actually says this trope, word for word, to the titular character. Along with such lines as:
    "Ace, we've been through this, they're gnomes — they're not going to attack you!"
  • Adventure Time: In "Rainy Day Daydream" Finn claims that imagination land is boring and calls himself "a kick-butt reality master" (in a post-apocalyptic world gone magically RIGHT), because he prefers adventures over easy stuff... until he burns his foot from Jake's imaginary lava.
    Jake: I WAS JUST USING MY IMAGINATION! Then everything got intense.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • In The Test, after taking a test to determine what type of sitcom character he is and getting "The Loser", Gumball protests "This is ridiculous! My life is NOT a sitcom!"
    • Defied, in some manner, in The Others. Claire tries to get it through to Gumball and Darwin that this is real life, miraculous solutions simply don't exist and bad things will happen that no one can do a thing about. The two ponder it some time, but then realize their reality isn't like that, and a world where things like going to school with a living banana that has a butt for some reason, a T-rex, a ghost, a living piece of toast and others, with whatever the heck Principal Brown is directing it all, is a world where anything can happen, including absurd solutions to Claire's mundane problems, and set out to bring exactly that.
    • An earlier episode, The Quest has Gumball and his siblings try to retrieve a toy from Tina Rex. At one point, Tina corners Gumball and Darwin when they make a break for the exit and Gumball tells Darwin not to move as Tina's vision is based on motion. Tina then drops a bomb.
    Tina: That only works in movies.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Steve and Snot's Test-Tubular Adventure", Steve and Snot discuss cloning methods and are shocked to discover that the clones they produce are all infants. They complain that cloning always produces adults in movies, but then admit that this is "real life" and it won't work that way.
  • Animaniacs: In "Slappy Goes Walnuts", Slappy's nephew Skippy is concerned about her having to face one of her old cartoon rivals, Doug the Dog.
    Slappy the Squirrel: You've seen all my old cartoons, right?...I wrestled with Walter Wolf, Sid the Squid, and Beanie the Brain-Dead Bison. This Doug guy here's nothing.
    Skippy: Yeah, but those were cartoons and this is real life!
    Slappy: [looks at the camera for a long Beat] Don't tell him. He might crack.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Night of the Ninja", the titular Ninja makes it very clear to Dick Grayson that "This isn't the movies, boy!"
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: When the need to erase Dr. Animo's memory comes up, Rook suggests a blow to the head since that makes humans forget things, according to all the TV he's seen. Ben as Gutrot tells him that in real life, a Tap on the Head results in a concussion.
    Rook: I see. Those poor actors.
  • In Beverly Hills Teens, when a plan seems to go wrong:
    Tara: It's like I always say. If you want a happy ending, have a romance novel.
  • At the start of Big Hero 6: The Series, everyone but Fred (a superhero fanboy) is reluctant to be a part of a superhero team. GoGo tells Fred that they're not in a comic book and that supervillains don't exist in reality.
  • Bonkers has this come up at times, mostly due to the fact that it's a show with Animated Actors. In "The Final Review" Bonkers becomes enamored with a cartoon cop show, which Lucky dislikes because of how it portrays police work. When the show's star tags along on order of his agent, Lucky has to tell him and Bonkers that real police work is more than just busting heads.
    Lucky: Real cops may fight crime, but that doesn't mean we use our fists...or our fingers. We use our heads. We gather evidence, we look for clues. We round up suspects.
  • Played with in an episode of Dan Vs. Dan is convinced that a wolfman scratched his car, due to incriminating sneaker-and-pawprints. When his friend points out that wolfmen don't run on all fours in the movies, Dan tells him this isn't a movie, it's real life. However, he later chides his friend for forgetting about the full moon needed for a transformation by saying, "Don't you watch movies?"
  • In the Darkwing Duck episode 'Film Flam', Darkwing takes Gosalyn to see an animated feature at the local cineplex. Dismayed by the violent themes, he hastens to explain the difference between cartoons and reality.
    • The episode "In Like Blunt" has Darkwing meet a Captain Ersatz of James Bond named Derek Blunt, who turns out to be very different from the way he is portrayed in the movies. In particular, he is unimpressed by and dismissive of Darkwing's various gadgets, calling them "gimmicks" and declaring "A real agent works with what's at hand." Darkwing, a fan of the movies, is disappointed by the reality of the situation, but, as is typical of these stories, they end up as friends anyway by the end of the episode.
      • "Derek Blunt" sounds like he was more directly inspired by Derek Flint of Our Man Flint, who was a parody of James Bond.
  • An episode of Dexter's Laboratory detailed the replacement of Dee Dee with a Blonde Brainless Beauty. After Dexter expresses frustration at her failures to recapture Dee Dee's naivete and mischieviousness, she exclaims, "What kind of crazy show is this, anyway?" Noticing Dexter's confusion at this outburst, the blonde asks him if she truly has entered "Dexter's Lab, the TV show" only for Dexter to respond, "This isn't a TV show! I'm a real little boy, and this is my lab!"
    • In addition, this is brought up in the opera episode: Near the end, Dexter actually sings out, "This isn't fantasy. This is reality."
  • In the Ed, Edd n Eddy season two episode "Urban Ed", Eddy and Ed are on the top of a cardboard "skyscraper" pretending to be pigeons and dropping spoonfuls of yogurt onto the people below. Ed drops an anvil off the building, and Eddy, in an uncharacteristic show of concern, says "Ed you're gonna hurt somebody! This ain't a cartoon!", at the same time seemingly oblivious to the fact that Ed has just produced an anvil from nowhere, not to mention how he was carrying it atop skyscrapers made of nothing but cardboard.
    • Later episodes avert this and go straight into Breaking the Fourth Wall, with every character other than Jonny referencing people working on the show and the fact that they're cartoon characters.
  • The Fairly OddParents! had an episode in which Timmy, bored of "the real world", wished that his life would be like a blockbuster action movie. As things got more and more dangerous to the point where the villain accused him of responsibility for the world being on the verge of destruction, Timmy cried out, "Noooooo!! This is so awesome."
  • Family Guy: The episode "Trump Guy:''', features this exchange between Peter and Donald Trump:
    Trump: Many children have learned their favorite Jewish, black and gay jokes by watching your show over the years!
    Peter: In fairness, we’ve been trying to phase out the gay stuff. But you know what? We’re a cartoon! You’re the President!
  • Once, in Futurama, Leela interrupts Fry's eager pop-culture musing with a caustic "Fry, this isn't TV, this is real life — can't you tell the difference?" This was spoken when they were about to engage an alien war fleet in battle in the year 3000 (and naturally, Fry prefers pop culture to reality anyway).
  • While tracking down Norman's nemesis via his trail of destruction in Mighty Max, they arrive at a house whose occupants were slaughtered. Norman was the only one to see the carnage and absolutely refused to allow Max to enter. Max tried to reason that he has plenty of experience with violence on television. Max tries to enter, but is blocked by Norman, who replies that he should not go in there. When Max asks why, Virgil responds simply, "Real violence has real consequences."
  • In the Garfield: Pet Force special, Garfield berates Nermal for getting so into his comic book. When Nermal wonders aloud if it could be really real, Garfield scoffs:
    Garfield: That isn't real life like the newspaper comics!
  • Goof Troop has several examples:
    • "Close Encounters of the Weird Mime" has Max telling PJ that they're too good for TV anyway after their video project goes horribly wrong.
    • In "Buddy Building", Max answers PJ's question about why everyone on TV who gets three wishes always blows it, with "They're just cartoons. They don't know any better!"
    • In "Terminal Pete", when Pistol is chasing a gopher through a hospital, a frustrated doctor cries, "This is a hospital, not a cartoon!"
  • Harley Quinn (2019): In "The Final Joke", Harley cries over Poison Ivy's grave. Later, Ivy comes back to life. Harley excitedly says her tears must have brought Ivy back. Ivy shuts her down by saying they aren't in a Disney movie; she came back due to her connection to nature, though she concedes the tears may have helped a little to cheer Harley up.
  • In the season one finale of Jackie Chan Adventures, Jackie and the others prepare to face Shendu and stop his plan to destroy all of Asia. Kid sidekick Jade says she has to go with them because she's an essential member of the team, "The Cunning One". Jackie says, "This is not a movie!"
  • Hilariously subverted in Kim Possible when Kim's gamer geek cousin Larry says he has an idea for dealing with the current sitch: "This isn't one of your stupid science fiction games, Larry! Ron's facing a kung fu mutant with bio-engineered hands, and mystical monkey powers, and..." At that point, Kim decides that Larry might be on to something and hands him the Kimmunicator. Larry's advice to Ron was based on a video game (boiling down to taking the enemy's power to beat him). This leads to Ron to go past Monkey Fist and proceeding to empower himself with Mystic Monkey Magic and thus taking the first step in becoming the Mystica Monkey Master in a sub-plot that goes on for the rest of the series.
    • Wade suggests the "Be Yourself" to attract his crush, and Ron replies "That only works in cartoons!"
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Has one in "Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3"
    Pinkie: Of course I'm real! I mean, I'm not the real General Flash tenth commander of the Wonderbolts, but I, Pinkie, am really real.
    • In "Fame and Misfortune", one of the fanponies complains about Twilight's character in the Friendship Journal... right to Twilight's face. Twilight is less than impressed, and notes that she and her friends are real ponies, and that the events in the Friendship Journal actually happened to them.
  • Ninjago: When Harumi suggests Lloyd use a baby blanket/map as a makeshift parachute, he declares that would only work in a cartoon. He doesn't realize the implications when he does exactly that a minute later.
  • In Phineas and Ferb on the episode 'A Real Boy' Doofenshmirtz discusses how mishearing things is something that happens in a sitcom, but this is real life.
    Doofenshmirtz: This isn't a sitcom, Perry the Platypus, this is real life! (glances at fourth wall) And, I'm... (glances at fourth wall again) And I'm the father!
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998) has this in "That's Not My Baby"; after defeating the Monster of the Week, the girls find a baby and fail to find its mother. They decide to take care of it themselves, but after an exasperating and tiring night, Buttercup insists they get rid of it.
    Buttercup: It's not our baby.
    Blossom: I know, but we can't just leave it in a basket on someone's doorstep.
    Buttercup: Why not? They do it on TV.
    Bubbles: Well, we're not on TV!
  • In Project G.e.e.K.e.R. (whose main protagonist also is voiced by Billy West), in one of the 13 episodes, the title character, who is extremely childlike and impressionable, discovers some old comic books and soon is enamored with them. A bit of background, the 3 primary characters are a superhuman escaped science project with powers on the level of Q from Star Trek but which he cannot control, a female cyborg, and a superintelligent dinosaur. The female secondary character tries to explain to him that they are nothing like real life. She picks up a comic and says "look at how far fetched this is, it's full of cyborgs and.... dino.... saurs," she says slowly as she looks at a cover of a comic featuring 3 characters that bear a strong resemblance to the 3 of them.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: In "Stimpy's Big Day", Ren goes off on Stimpy about his love of Muddy Mudskipper. To whit: "Cartoons aren't real! They're, uuuuh, puppets! Not flesh and blood like WE!" Which also gets dumped on his head later when Stimpy meets Muddy and gets to be on the show.
  • Rugrats:
    • The first episode has Tommy's mother, Didi, concerned that she won't live up to the mothers on TV; her friend Betty reassures her by telling her, "TV's TV. We're real." (Ironically, she really wouldn't live up to the mothers on TV... a good deal of the series has Tommy wandering off places.)
    • In "Destination Moon", when Chuckie throws his toy spaceship out of sight, Tommy speculates that it could be on the moon, and proposes going there like Captain Blasto does on TV. Chuckie counters with "This isn't TV or something! This is the regular old real world!".
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer tries to get rid of a trampoline by tossing it off a cliff that looks like scenery from Coyote and Roadrunner Cartoons. The trampoline catches on a mesa and rockets upward, falls on Homer, and hammers him into the cliff. He then comments on how if this was a cartoon, the cliff would break now. It eventually does but not until after a long wait well into the night.
    Homer: I'm thirsty...
    • "Three Men and a Comic Book":
      Lisa: Too bad we didn't come dressed as popular cartoon characters.
    • "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington":
      Homer: Cartoons are just stupid drawings that give you a cheap laugh. * gets up, revealing his asscrack*
    • "Lisa the Beauty Queen":
      Homer: Lisa, [your caricature] isn't real. It's just how you might look if you were a cartoon character.
    • "Bart vs. Australia":
      *Bart and Homer try to climb into two kangaroos' pouches, covering their feet in mucus*
      Bart: Ew! It's not like in cartoons.
    • "Lisa the Vegetarian":
      Bart: Cartoons don't have messages, they're just a bunch of hilarious stuff, like people getting hurt and stuff. *Homer opens the door, smashing it into Bart's face*
  • One episode of The Spectacular Spiderman had Spidey try to make Rhino trip on bowling balls, stating that it always works in cartoons. When Rhino's steps merely break the balls, he concludes that television can't be trusted.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series had various characters stating how "...this isn't some Saturday morning cartoon show."
  • In Super Robot Monkey Team Hyper Force Go, when the Sun Riders (who at this point are evil) have taken over the Super Robot and forced the Hyperforce to flee. Chiro suggests that they instead use the Sunriders old fighting Mecha and they head to where they've been told it's stored... only to find out that it is only 20 feet tall (compared to the Super Robot's skyscraper) and is in disrepair, at which point the following exchange takes place:
    Chiro: *Slams his fists into the ground* That's IT! I give up!
    Sprx: If this was just some TV show, kid, we could give up. But THIS is the REAL WORLD!
  • In Turtles Forever, the 2003 Turtles are baffled by the 1987 Turtles' occasional asides to the audience ("Who are you talking to?!") and original comic-book Leonardo's comic-book style narration of the fight scene.
    2003 Donatello: Why is he narrating? Is he crazy?
  • In Veggie Tales: Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah's Umbrella, Larry the Cucumber mocks the villain for getting his idea for world domination from a cartoon. After a pause and a shudder to the fourth wall, he added that some cartoons were educational.
  • An episode of The Weekenders has Tino muse that he and his friends are real people, not the stereotypes seen on television... {dramatic angle} "Or are we?"
  • Wolverine and the X-Men (2009), "Thieves' Gambit":
    Wolverine: So now what? Air ducts?
    Gambit: Heh, only in the world of cinema. In real life, they never hold.


Video Example(s):


"That actually happens to me."

In the middle of the review, Critic wants to do a sketch involving Walter White in Star Trek (and no, context doesn't help explain why), only for Linkara to explain that there are no sketches in his videos. Everything depicted in his story segments actually happens to him, and he lives in constant fear that the next encounter with some villain or eldritch horror would be his last.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (24 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThisIsReality

Media sources: