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A group of people decide that, for whatever reason, they want to make something. It's not serious. Maybe they're making a fake college so their parents don't find out that they've been rejected by every college in the country. Maybe they make a fake movie so they can bang actresses, or a fake play so that they can offend people. But, somehow, people find out about their fake and think it's real. Everyone wants to be part of it, and now they must make it real.

Similar to Becoming the Mask, but with entities. For cases where the goal was to make something real, but have it fail, see Springtime for Hitler. If it's a person being faked it becomes Invented Individual. See also Secret Identity Identity. Compare Defictionalization. For examples where this is prevented from happening by Idiot Ball, Status Quo Is God etc, see Cut Lex Luthor a Check. Not to be confused with Face Heel Turn.

Examples of Fake Real Turn include:

Anime and Manga

  • This happens to the Team Rocket trio multiple times. They'll open a beauty salon or engage in some other form of seemingly legitimate business just so they can steal Ash's Pikachu or some other rare Pokémon/items. While they're biding their time, their business draws actual customers and money; why don't they just keep the business and stop trying to steal every valuable Pokémon or thing they come across?
    • Because on the rare occasions that Ash and friends aren't holding an Idiot Ball and figure out the lame disguises, they immediately shout that the seemingly nice people are Team Rocket, and they have to run away or be arrested. This only happens when they are trying to make a legitimate business, which they did a lot in Diamond And Pearl.
      • Most often this happens with the tournaments that naturally require the main cast to stay in one place for more than a couple episodes, and having Team Rocket continually escape and attack the same place 7 times in a row would stretch disbelief too much.
  • This is pretty much the origin of the Dollars in Durarara. Initially, people got e-mailed to join an online group called the Dollars, which was presented as a secret society of sorts, but had no membership obligations, and it was pretty much a joke. Over time, rumors got started about their power and because they acquired a reputation for violence, people started committed crimes in the name of the group. Eventually, their founder realizes things have gone horribly wrong, and starts spreading counter-rumors about them being a heroic group in order to stop this.
    • The fun part is that this also works, or at least it does until Izaya arrives.

Comic Books

  • In the comics miniseries Generations, Bruce Wayne, now elderly and retired as Batman, confronts Ra's al-Ghul one last time. He wins the duel, is rejuvenated by the Lazarus Pit, and takes Ra's' place. Bit by bit, he dismantles the criminal empire while developing the facades of its front organizations into full-fledged legitimate and socially beneficial enterprises.


  • The movie Accepted used the fake college plan. By the end it becomes legitimate.
  • "Sweding" from Be Kind Rewind.
    • The plot of the last act inverts this partway through, when it is revealed that Fats Waller was not born in Passaic, NJ, or grew up there, but they go ahead and make a "documentary" movie about him based on that scenario anyway.
  • In the movie Camp Nowhere, four kids get out of summer camp by inventing a fictional camp just far enough from their suburb to be hard to check on. Then the four head out to enjoy summer where their parents can't watch them. Unfortunately, one of the kids blabs about it to a friend, and soon every kid in the neighborhood (who also hate summer camp) shows up to hide there for the summer. Now they have to create at least the illusion of a real camp, because parents will be coming to check. Even worse, the parents have been told different lies. (One pair thinks their kid is going to drama camp, another pair thinks their kid is at weight-loss camp...)
  • Munna Bhai MBBS starts out with Sanjay Dutt's character hiding his mafioso persona from his father. Accordingly, every year, he converts his base of operations into an imitation hospital and dresses up his goons as assistants. It only falls apart when the father meets an old friend who's also a doctor.
  • In Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks two want-to-be bank robbers rent a storefront next to a bank in order to tunnel their way in. The wife of one runs a cookie store out of the storefront to act as cover. They fail completely at tunneling into the bank vault, but the cookie store is a huge success.


  • Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco does it with an Ancient Conspiracy. And it does it in the cruelest way possible: By the end of the book, the more enthusiast of the group becomes a victim of cult assassination, and the other one ends up merely waiting until everyone realizes it's all a hoax to come and kill him as well. AND THAT'S THE END OF THE DAMN BOOK.
  • A major plot point of The Postman (both the David Brin book and the Kevin Costner movie): a drifter tries to get into a town by posing as a United States postman After the End, and things snowball.
  • In H. Beam Piper's novel The Cosmic Computer, the protagonist begins organizing a search for a supercomputer left over from a recent war, even though his investigations on Earth indicate that the computer never even existed. The search itself leads to an economic and morale revival (as the protagonist intended). It turns out that the computer exists after all. The Federation covered it up because it had predicted that 1)the Federation was irreversibly decaying and 2)the decay would snowball if this fact became generally known.
    • The "short version", Graveyard of Dreams, cuts off just before the spoiler...but has a better-sounding name.
  • In Poul Anderson's "The Critique of Impure Reason," Felix Tunny is trying to motivate an improperly imprinted robot to go on a space mission; the robot has become addicted to literature (and literary criticism) dripping with Wangst. Tunny fakes the revival of Space Opera, and the robot is inspired -- but other people read excerpts from his (plagiarized) story, and like it, and want more....

   "Maybe our book is crude, but it does touch something real ... there's going to be a spate of novels like this, and many will make a whopping profit, and some will even be genuinely good..."

  • In Son of Interflux by Gordon Korman, the protagonist uses student government funds to buy a patch of land that his father's corporation needs for a building project (as a joke). When the student government figures it out, he pretends he did it for the environment, and a real environmental movement grows up around it.
  • In a way, this is how Dumbledore's Army comes about in the Harry Potter series.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga novel The Warrior's Apprentice, Miles invents the "Dendarii Free Mercenaries" out of whole cloth as a quick cover story. Then the new "provisonal members" start to inadvertently Pull the Thread , so he adds more detail. The sound doctrine means they win battles, which leads to people joining. By the end of the novel there actually IS a Dendarii Free Mercenaries, uniform, field manual, hidden government backing, and all. The majority of what defined the Dendarii was essentially made up on the spot by 3 terribly overworked people.
  • In the beginning of Dhampir, Magiere and Leesil had a good scam going in staging Vampire Slayings and taking peasant hamlets for everything they can get, but them Magiere gets tired of it, buys a bar in a seaside town to retire to... and ends up at odds with the real vampires haunting the place (not to mention learning the hated whispers of her childhood had basis in fact).
  • In The Godfather this is explained as the ultimate objective of the old-line Mafia families--to create conditions in which their children could become legitimate pillars of society. Vito and Michael Corleone actually try to get the Corleone Family out of 'the olive oil business' by avoiding narcotics trafficking and moving its resources into legitimate businesses (legalized gambling in Las Vegas, construction, and the movie industry). Unfortunately, things don't turn out as planned.

Live Action TV

  • I Love Lucy had an episode where Lucy and Ethel tried to pay their way to Europe by inventing a charity.
  • An episode of Seinfeld when one of Elaine's co-workers keeps calling her Susie, and due to an elaborate chain of events everyone is convinced Susie is a real person. Elaine "kills her" by telling her co-workers Susie killed herself, and there is somehow a funeral at the end.
  • Not exactly TV, since it was a direct-to-video special, but in Chou Ninja Tai Inazuma the main character, a TV producer from 2076, starts out trying to make three losers from the Edo period think they're superheroes, but when actual monsters start attacking she has to make them into real superheroes.
  • On Its Your Move, Matt invented a fake band, the Dregs of Humanity, when Eli accidentally lost the money to hire a band for a school dance. The band actually consists of four skeletons from the biology department, but somehow they not only make it big, but are sued by several people, from a man who claims to be their original manager to a woman who claims one of them is the father of her baby.
  • Off Center had an episode where Chau, creates a fake band ("The Chau Project") in order to get girls. He gets carried away and ends up booking a gig despite him only having had one guitar lesson and none of the other band members knowing anything about music. However in the end it was revealed said lesson was a really good one...
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun had an episode where Sally puts up a sign advertising her "hair salon" (which was really an excuse to get a tax refund) and then begins getting customers. She decides to run with it, because she enjoys the gossip...but the business tanks when her customers realize her haircuts are awful.
  • The Community study group was originally completely fake, created as a means for Jeff to try and hook up with Britta.
  • In one episode of Car 54, Where Are You?, "White Elephant", a team of crooks moves into a diner next door to a bank with the intention of tunneling through ... but the two officers of Car 54 continually interrupt them by trying to help the diner succeed.
  • When GOB on Arrested Development mockingly pretends to be a waiter at the restaurant his mother is eating at, it backfires. Actual members of the staff begin to give him instructions and his mother fails to notice him since she doesn't look at waiters. Not knowing how to end the joke, he finishes the day out actually waiting tables, earning tips in the process, and inadvertently doing an honest day's work.


  • Jean Shepherd started his radio career as the overnight host of WOR in New York City. He organized gags with his listeners, the most famous of which involved creating a hoax about a non-existent book, I, Libertine, by the equally non-existent author "Frederick R. Ewing", in 1956. He told his listeners to go to all the book stores and ask for this book and author. Shepherd, Theodore Sturgeon and Betty Ballantine later wrote an actual book of this, with a cover painted by illustrator Frank Kelly Freas, published by Ballantine Books.

Tabletop Games


  • In a strip in the Full Frontal Nerdity webcomic, the players get more obsessed with running the inn they started as a front for their criminal activities than the actual criminal activities themselves.

Western Animation

  • In the Kim Possible episode "Odds Man In", Drakken establishes a gourmet cupcake franchise as a cover for his world domination plot. The cupcake franchise proves to be a highly successful moneyspinner.
  • In the Dilbert episode "The Virtual Employee", Dilbert, Alice and Wally hack the human resources computer to create a fake employee named Todd so as to make use of an unassigned empty cubicle. However, thanks to stupid management and a series of Springtime For Hitler-esque mishaps in trying to get him fired, he is not only considered real, but is practically seen as a veritable messianic figure.
    • When they try to reveal the deception, they get charged with murdering him.
  • In the South Park episode "Li'l Crimestoppers", when the boys play at being detectives they are recruited by the South Park police force, and tasked with taking down a meth lab by using their hands as guns and making pew-pew noises.
  • In The Replacements Series Finale Todd and Riley learns that the Fleemco replacement program was made by their long lost uncle because he was bad at parenting. A short time later, The Replacement Program becomes real.
  • In Family Guy, Brian Griffin's mocking self-help book, Wish it, Want it, Do it becomes a best-seller, eventually leading Brian to buy into his own hype.
  • In an episode of DuckTales Fenton Crackshell creates an advertisement for a product that doesn't exists and it becomes so popular everyone wants it. He then takes an untested bubblegum product from Gyro Gearloose and sells it. Of course, being an untested product it gets worse.

Web Original

  • In the Strong Bad Email "pizza joint", Strong Bad and The Cheat try to make a fake pizza joint to pick up chicks and end up making a real pizza joint in the process.
    • In the e-mail "diorama", Strong Bad notes that it used to be possible to cheat at book reports by writing them about made-up books, but the Internet means that the only way to do that is to follow this trope by making websites for the author and publisher, and then going ahead and writing the book.

Real Life

  • This Is Spinal Tap seems to have resonated so well with the actuality of the music world that the fictional band has released actual albums and done multiple "reunion" performances and appearances. Whether fans of the band are in it for the tongue-in-cheek charm of the Mockumentary or legitimately appreciate the band's unoriginal-original music sort of blurs the line between fiction and reality.
  • In 1969 Greil Marcus, a critic for Rolling Stone magazine, penned a spoof "review" of a pending release from the Masked Marauders, a purported supergroup consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, and Bob Dylan. So many readers bought into the hoax, inundating the magazine as well as the various artists and their managers with requests for information on how to get the album, that Marcus decided to take things a step further by recruiting a London-based skiffle group to record an album in the guise of the fictional Marauders. Even after the hoax was revealed, said album actually made it onto the lower reaches of the Billboard charts.
  • Subverted In Marvel Comics, in Retcon, the person who pointed out a problem in continuity and at the same time provided a plausible explanation was awarded a Genuine Marvel Comics No-Prize by editor Stan Lee, a tradition that was kept alive by other editors after he became publisher. This was initially created because fans wanted prizes for finding errors and Stan Lee decided to give (for finding specific things)these no-prize awards (in print) without actually giving anything. However, eventually fans started demanding no-prizes, looking and writing to Marvel just so they could receive one. Some complained that they never received their no-prize, so Marvel began sending out empty envelopes with no-prize on them. Some fans complained their envelope was empty. Writers and artists are sometimes annoyed by receiving some letters just pointing out errors for no-prizes.
  • According to this interview, the term "witch house music" was invented as a joke and has now taken on a life of its own.
    • This happens more often than you'd think with music genres. "Chillwave" was invented the same way.
  • More or less as a joke, one hockey fan in upstate New York began an online campaign in 2006 to use the National Hockey League's "vote online as often as you like" policy to get fringe defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick voted as a starter in the 2007 NHL All-Star Game. The "Vote for Rory" campaign gathered such steam, and garnered so many votes, that Fitzpatrick was vaulted to the top of the race with only weeks remaining before the game. This led to Hype Backlash among some NHL pundits who thought the All-Star Game was, somehow, Serious Business. In response, the Vote for Rory campaign became less about having fun with a wonky system and more about using that system to grant recognition to a hard-working, "aw shucks" nice guy who would never get that kind of attention otherwise. Ultimately, the only reason Fitzpatrick did not get voted in was poorly-engineered Executive Meddling by the National Hockey League, as revealed in this Slate article.
  • ThinkGeek posts several imaginary new products every April Fool's day, some of which end up being popular enough and physically plausible enough that they become real products:

 Yep. This unusual shirt was originally a joke product for April Fool's day. But after your overwhelming positive response and hundreds of e-mails screaming to "make the damn shirt already" we went ahead and made the damn shirt... please enjoy.

  • Emo - a musical genre made up by Thrasher magazine in the mid-'80s as a satire on [any word whatsoever]-core punk. Twenty years later, emerged under that name as an actual hardcore-punk-derived musical subculture.
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