Created By: batgirl1 on May 20, 2010 Last Edited By: batgirl1 on May 20, 2010

Ninja Prop

Name Space:
Page Type:
Or Ninja Scenery. I can't decide.

This is where Painting the Fourth Wall meets Chekhov's Gun.

There are certain things we're used to seeing in certain media: speech bubbles and captions in comics, wires that make people "fly" in shows, and stage hands that move props and sets around in theater. This last one is where the trope gets its name. The classic outfit associated with Ninja (black, tight suit & a mask with a slit for the eyes) actually comes from stage hands in Japanese theater. They wore black so that the audience knew to ignore them. Imagine the shock of the audience, then, when the non-entity setting the castle walls in place for scene 4 suddenly pulls out a BFS and kills one of the characters.

And thus is named the Ninja Prop. You didn't see it coming, because you were actively ignoring it as just a necessary part of the medium.

Compare Chekhov's Gun. Sometimes invokes Medium Awareness. Someone Else's Problem may be an in-universe related trope.

Rolling Updates


  • A Wizard Of Id strip has a guard in a tower with a Z over his head. The invaders report that the guard is asleep, and go to attack. Cut to the tower, where the guard is holding up a fake speech bubble with a Z on it.

  • The Most Triumphant Example of this trope would probably be the diamond from Order Of The Stick's cast page, which Haley Starshine stole in order to pay for a spell in the main comic.
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • May 16, 2010
    So . . . what is this trope about, exactly?
  • May 16, 2010
    I thought I'd made that clear. Its when you ignore an object because it's a part of the medium, but it ends up being acknowledged and used in the show. For instance, in the Python example, the audience can see the wires. We think nothing of it because wires are often used to make people "fly", and the show's low budget means they're not going to be air brushing those out. It turns out, though, that the character isn't even meant to be flying, but hanging from wires.

    ETA: Okay, edited. Is it better?
  • May 16, 2010
    The lead paragraph is better now, yes. But be wary, ninjas are so awesome that the mere mention of them could be distracting....

    Upon reflection, it seems this would be a clear subtrope of Medium Awareness.
  • May 17, 2010
  • May 17, 2010
    Sounds like a subtrope of it, but it's vague enough to just be covered by it... it needs to be tightened if it's going to be a separate trope.
  • May 17, 2010
    Infamously used in I Wanna Be The Guy when obvious parts of the background, such as the moon and a fake Windows error message, directly attack the Kid.
  • May 17, 2010
    In the third Austin Powers movie, Fat Bastard outright calls his attack a wire move, we can see a bunch on henchmen pulling on the cables, a group of terrified Japanese businessmen in the bath he's jumping over and in the end it fails after one of the wires breaks.
  • May 18, 2010
    This sounds like Painting or Breaking The Fourth Wall.
  • May 18, 2010
    From what I see in the description of the article, Painting The Fourth Wall ... actually has little to do with the Fourth Wall.

    If the characters within the work acknowledge the conventions of the medium itself, they're not Painting The Fourth Wall, they're breaking it by Medium Awareness.

    The Wizard Of Id example, for example: The reader dismisses the "Z" bubble as a convention of the medium, that the guard is sleeping. The invaders would need Medium Awareness to come to the same conclusion themselves. Those expectations are then turned on their head by revealing that it was not a convention of the medium as expected.
  • May 19, 2010
    The ping pong ball example from the Muppet Show in The Coconut Effect may count.

    Monty Pythons Flying Circus episode 14 has a scene where a woman is being interviewed about a gangster. Of course, like in many Monty Python skits the woman is played by a man in drag. So the audience would just think of this as the case here... right up until he says "... and what's more, he knew how to treat a female impersonator."
  • May 19, 2010
    There's a Benny Hill sketch where he plays a film stagehand in all black. Hilarity Ensues.