Created By: ghghg on January 3, 2012 Last Edited By: Koveras on April 19, 2015

Talk to the Back

A character has his back to someone as they talk.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Alice and Bob have a conversation, but instead of facing each other, Alice turns her back to Bob. Such turn of events can have several reasons:

Dramatic Downstage Turn is a subtrope wherein Alice additionally turns towards the audience for them to better see her emotions. Compare Contemplative Boss.

Examples:

Film
  • In Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin turns his back on Obi-Wan in their final conversation before the climactic battle, signalizing that he doesn't want to listen to him anymore.
  • In Star Trek, when young Spock hears his classmates approach from behind, he keeps his back turned to them while saying "I trust you have prepared new insults?" and only turns around once they have answered "Affirmative".

Video Games
  • The really tense moment between Lightning and Snow in chapter 11 of Final Fantasy XIII, when Lightning (who initially hated Snow for being an Idiot Hero--and for dating her dear little sister Serah, whom they are now trying to save) demands that he promises to make Serah happy. She cannot bring herself to say it in his face, but when he turns around to walk away, she grabs him and begins to talk.

Will go under Dialogue and Body Language.
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • January 3, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Needs A Better Title that's not dialoguy/Snowcloney.

    • Its A Wonderful Life: When George is about to leave for college after the board meeting which keeps the Building & Loan open - but only if he'll stay on as the head.
      George: I'm leaving. I'm leaving right now. I'm going to school. This is my last chance. Uncle Billy here, he's your man.
      George turns and starts to leave
      Dr. Campbell: But, George, they'll vote with Potter otherwise.
  • January 6, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin turns his back on Obi-Wan in their final conversation before the climactic battle
  • January 7, 2012
    PaulA
    We have Dramatic Downstage Turn:

    Alice and Bob are having a discussion or argument. In a moment of pure angst, Alice turns away from Bob towards the camera (or, in Theatre, the audience), possibly walks a short distance forward, and then continues the conversation -- now facing away from Bob (and toward the audience/camera), breaking any sort of eye contact with him. However, the conversation continues just the same.
  • January 7, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^Wow. ZERO wicks.
  • February 3, 2012
    Mith4
    I think you're being too specific. I'd broaden it to any instance in which someone (not just the hero by the way) turns their back to someone they're talking to. Sometimes they'll have their back turned to someone when that person enters the room, and start the conversation with their back still turned, and say one or two sentences before they turn around. And it isn't always a tense moment either.

    There are SO many examples of this, it's almost too common place in fiction. Particularly in Animes I think.

    • In Star Trek, when young Spock hears his classmates approach from behind, he keeps his back turned to them while saying "I trust you have prepared new insults?" and only turns around once they have answered "Affirmative".

    And I like the title. I was gonna start a YKTTW with the exact same title. It appears to be a more general version of Dramatic Downstage Turn.

  • February 3, 2012
    Duncan
    Also related to Contemplative Boss?
  • July 4, 2012
    Koveras
    So is this Dramatic Downstage Turn or not? In any case, I find Talk To The Back a much better title, since that's what I would google for when looking for this trope...

    • The really tense moment between Lightning and Snow in chapter 11 of Final Fantasy XIII, when Lightning (who initially hated Snow for being an Idiot Hero--and for dating her dear little sister Serah, whom they are now trying to save) demands that he promises to make Serah happy. She cannot bring herself to say it in his face, but when he turns around to walk away, she grabs him and begins to talk.
  • July 15, 2012
    Koveras
    How about putting the Dramatic Downstage Turn through TRS for a possible rename and rewrite to focus less on the camera angles and more on one character not wanting to face another?
  • July 19, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^ That's not a bad idea, though you might call this a supertrope to that one. People turn their backs on people they're addressing to hide their emotions/faces, or they keep doing something else while talking and give priority to the activity as a means of controlling the situation.
  • October 11, 2012
    Koveras
    OP hasn't been spotted in a while, so I will take over this one. I will operate under assumption that Dramatic Downstage Turn is a viewpoint-specific subtrope for now.
  • October 11, 2012
    Chernoskill
    What about a character who wants to leave the conversation and begins walking away, when after a few steps the other one says something important or threatening to his back, upon which he either continues to walk away or turns around and stays. The latter one happens in Blade Runner in the police station, when Bryant thretens an unwilling deckard.
  • January 26, 2013
    Koveras
    Well, I guess this one isn't going anywhere, so I am just going to discard this soon...
  • January 31, 2013
    Koveras
    You are confusing me, fellow tropers. I only have three examples and wanted to discard this, and suddenly I come back to find three hats here. What should I do know?
  • January 31, 2013
    Khantalas
    I started a similar YKTTW that covered meaningful instances of conversations where two characters aren't facing each other because of an emotional difficulty, but it didn't go anywhere. Can this be expanded to cover such examples as well, not just the ones where a character is talking at the other's back?
  • January 31, 2013
    Koveras
    I guess this one can be merged into your YKTTW, since it's obviously not getting any more examples, and your entry is more generally defined.
  • January 31, 2013
    Khantalas
    It's been dormant for a while, so it would be easier to add what little I had here. Here's the link, for what it's worth.
  • January 31, 2013
    StarSword
    Better be careful this doesn't turn into every single instance of somebody talking to someone with their back turned because they're, I dunno, working on paperwork or something.
  • April 19, 2015
    Headrock
    I wrote the original article for Dramatic Downstage Turn, and I've just discovered this YKTTW, so I'm going to throw in my two cents, despite the fact that this YKTTW seems dead for two years - it does still have potential (but sadly not enough examples, so I won't add another hat).

    The Dramatic Downstage Turn is not a sub-trope to this trope - they are actually opposites of sorts (though I would classify them as being closely related, not directly opposed). One is a narrative-driven trope, while the other is a technique-driven trope. I'll explain.

    It seems to me like Talk to the Back covers any in-universe reaction of one character to another, where Alice actively turns her body away to give a physical signal to Bob, or out of a direct display of emotion towards Bob. It is a purely natural reaction. In contrast, the Downstage Turn is a purely out-of-universe convention, an interaction with the audience that the narrative does not necessarily justify. It is a purely unnatural positioning for the benefit of the audience. In other words, whereas Talk to the Back can occur in everyday life and won't seem strange, Dramatic Downstage Turn can only occur in a visual work of art, imposed on the characters for whatever reason the scene's designer had. A Downstage Turn, for instance, cannot occur in a book, whereas Talk to the Back could.

    So these two are distinct tropes, which could be contrasted with one another, and have a strong horizontal relationship rather than being sub- and uber-tropes.

    However, this puts a great onus on editors to ensure that the examples they are describing actually belong to the correct trope. So if Talk to the Back is ever launched, this needs to be given a lot of attention, and both articles need to ensure that they describe the difference between them so that new editors won't get confused.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=kqq45y4cdvofa82aum5yvgeg