Mundane AU

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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: Non-magical AU
Related: All Human AU, Modern AU, Earth AU, Magic AU
See Also: Mundane, AU, Alternate Reality
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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Mundane AU is a term that is sometimes used to refer to an Alternate Universe fanwork set in a Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror canon where all the genre elements have been removed. The resulting AU takes place in our own mundane world without magic, non-human creatures, time travel or alien technology. (The opposite concept is a Magic AU.)

Some fans use the term Non-magical AU for fandoms like Merlin or Harry Potter with canonical magic. In BTVS, the term All Human AU is used when Spike and/or Angel are written as human. In X-Men, these are generally called "non-powered AU"s. In some fandoms there is no standard term. You might see a story header like, Dean and Cas are in high school, but there's no Demons and Cas isn't an Angel. High School and College AUs are popular choices when a fan makes a mundane version of a genre source. In Gateverse fandoms the term Earth AU is often used, but it can also include stories that are set on Earth, but still retain some genre elements.

Some fans do not like the trope, and think it's just badfic or crackfic. Or, if they're into the canon for the genre elements, stripping them away may take all the fun out of it. In the header for a Kingdom Hearts story on ff.net, Hades' Phoenix says, "This fic will also retain things like magic, potions, and moogles because it's just no fun to write a purely mundane AU."[1]

Sometimes the character is so closely tied to the parts of the canon that a Mundane AU removes, they become a different person. This might actually be the attraction for fans of the trope. If you write about Spike as a human, you are, in a negative image way, still talking about Spike the vampire. You might also just want to write your favourite character as someone who hasn't murdered scores of people. Or you might want to write about the characters on your favourite show working at a coffee shop.

Appeal

The trope works well and is popular in some fandoms and not others.

The peace and lack of danger is an aspect of the trope that may be related it its appeal.[2]

In a reposted conversation between hradzka and thefourthvine about AUs in general, thefourthvine says:

"So let's consider SGA instead, and McKay/Sheppard because it's what I know and what there's the most of. First, these are not complex characters, relatively speaking; we know little of their backgrounds, histories, goals, fears, whatever - we have bits, but just enough to salt through an AU; not enough to make it hard to do. And they have point-by-point characterizations rather than three-dimensional characterizations. Is he sarcastic? Does he talk too much and too fast? Is he smart? Kind of not so up on the social niceties? It doesn't matter if he's a computer repairman or an alchemist or a flower: we know that's Rodney McKay. (If you can make his dialog sound like McKay, you're golden, basically.) Second, it doesn't matter if they're in Atlantis. They change a little over the seasons, but in standard arcs that are easy to mimic in any story. And what does Atlantis make them, really? Adventurers? Not exactly, and anyway, that's not unique to the setting. Um - interested in Ancient technology? Substitute another word for "Ancient" and you're golden. A team? Absolutely, but you can get that in almost any story. And so on."[3]

She generally makes the point that AUs, particularly mundane AUs, work when the characters in the canon are more archetype than three-dimensional character intertwined with the setting. SGA is absolutely a fandom with a huge number of Mundane AUs.

trobadora came out and asked about the attraction of All-Human AUs and lots of people gave lots of answers that covered the gamut from badfic, to easier to write, to separating individual from identity.

Sailor Moon fandom at one point was heavily saturated with Usagi/Mamoru mundane AUs, which were heavily criticized both for being so far removed from the original series and for twisting Usagi and Mamoru into sexist caricatures found in the standard romance novel. [4] One of the most notable examples was Lady M. Harris's Dance Beneath the Moon, in which Mamoru was a doctor and Usagi a schoolteacher and their torrid affair resulted in an unplanned pregnancy.

In Canon

  • Supernatural showed Dean and Sam in a fantasy world where their mother didn't die and they weren't raised as hunters in the Season 2 episode "What Is and What Should Never Be", and the angels put them in a fantasy world where they were corporate drones and not brothers in the Season 4 episode "It's A Terrible Life". They also crossed over into an alternate universe without the supernatural in which they were temporarily swapped into the bodies of television actors Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki in the Season 6 episode "The French Mistake".
  • Stargate: SG1 showed Teal'c in a fantasy world where he was a human firefighter on Earth in the Season 6 episode "The Changeling".
  • The 20th Pokémon movie, I Choose You featured hero Ash Ketchum suffering a nightmare in which Pokémon did not exist, he went to an everyday school, and everyone was content with life simply being what it was. The animation featured washed out colors and Ash struggling to remember what existed beyond this life, finally waking up when he heard Pikachu calling out to him.

Comments by Fans

sheron in response to Sexuality and slash fandom (2007 post):

That's not to say I don't enjoy some stories that are domestic in nature, but I'm just not interested in reading about the actual picking out of curtains, or my guys going to an antique fair to buy a quilt, or something. But, to me, there's a difference between domestic and mundane. :P

The 2014 tumblr post Yes You Are Allowed attributed mundane and domestic AUs to a hesitance to take risks due to social justice culture:

In fact, the one “yes, you are allowed” message we’ve taken to heart is that we’re not beholden to the original canon, which is a phenomenon I… have mixed feelings about. But the point is, that message combined with the fear of fucking up, of writing “unrealistic” or “problematic” stories about monsters and aliens and superheroes, means that mundane AUs and domestic fic are the path of least resistance. And not only is fic being pushed towards the generic, the moral pressure that drives fandom SJ makes it feel almost… risky?… to stray from the fanon status quo. Breaking the mold, instead of being a sign of creativity, increasingly feels like a sign that you’re Doing It Wrong and may in fact be a bad person.

queen-roger in 2016:

I don’t get the appeal of human or domestic AU’s. It’s basically just taking everything that made the original piece of media interesting and stripping it away, and in it’s place we get characters working shitty minimum wage jobs, taking college classes while dealing with students who’re walking stereotypes, and watching TV on the coach with their significant other, snuggling and complaining about life. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I read, watch, and play media to escape from my boring and mundane existence, visiting fantastic worlds and witnessing awe inspiring events. Now I’m not saying that it has to be the most earth shattering stuff imaginable, I’m just asking for something a little more interesting than normal people living normal lives, because god knows I get enough of that from life itself.[6]

Fanworks

References

  1. Lithium, accessed December 10, 2010
  2. "don’t you think it’s kind of funny that we have these characters with magical powers that go on incredible adventures and do amazing things and that’s really impressive but after a while we’re like “okay so what if they just owned a coffee shop. imagine them filing their taxes” - post by killuangel 2015
  3. TFV and me (mostly TFV) on fannish AUs, accessed December 10, 2010
  4. Feminism For Dummies
  5. wikipedia:Benjamin Sisko Benny Russell, accessed December 10, 2010
  6. September 10, 2016 Tumblr post