Created By: Scooter007 on January 4, 2011 Last Edited By: Scooter007 on May 18, 2011

Like The Television Is Watching

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

(still) Awaiting final consensus re: Title & Clarity Of Definition

Rolling edits

(formerly The Television Is Watching You; it was judged too literal) Alt Titles:

This is like a multi-car pileup of Big Brother Is Watching, Coincidental Broadcast, Evil Overlooker and Traitor Shot:

There's a face on the television screen which seems to be looking out onto the scene, watching. It's usually a villain, and the trope is typically used to create a creepy feeling. Normally doesn't include broadcast advertisements, interviews, news shows or the like, but if the right mood is struck it can still apply.

It's not to be taken literally; if someone on the other side of the screen really is watching, that would be Big Brother Is Watching.

It can also apply if the person on the screen says something that the watching character feels/realizes applies directly to him, so it's as if the person on the TV is speaking directly to him. Note, though, that if a character talks back to the TV and engages in a seemingly two-way conversation, it becomes The Tape Knew You Would Say That.

  • used in the original miniseries V, when the hero and his girlfriend are watching news footage of the humans' first tour of the alien ships. They start making out and on the screen, a close up of The Baroness Diana seems to be watching them
  • In Time Chasers, the TV ad for GenCorps, with the Obviously Evil CEO Robertson, gives off this vibe.
  • In the opening cutscene for Riven, when Atrus first hands you the book to start the game, the Portal Picture is blurry and indistinct -- but you can, just barely, make out a face underneath the static and fuzz, staring out as if watching for your arrival.
  • In Airwolf, when a dormant computer virus implanted in the helicopter by its Mad Scientist designer activates, it's accompanied by an image of the scientist on the video monitor with a creepily impassive expression.
  • kind of played with in System Shock: the resident AI has plastered her face on all the video screens to make you feel like she's watching you. Well, she is, but not through the video screens.

Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • January 4, 2011
    Indalecio
  • January 5, 2011
    Scooter007
    Owch, good call! I didn't even think of that one. ;)
  • January 6, 2011
    Roxor
    Does Nineteen Eighty Four with its telescreens count?
  • January 6, 2011
    Scooter007
    ^^I don't quite remember. Does someone actually watch through the telescreens a'la a communications/spying device, or is it used only as a metaphor? Near as I can recall, at least one scene showed that it's a two-way video phone, which wouldn't count. But correct me if I'm wrong (heavens know that happens a lot!!!)
  • January 6, 2011
    CrownClown
    ^^ In 1984, they really are watching through the T Vs.
  • January 6, 2011
    troacctid
    The title sounds like it should be taken literally, but the trope is narrower than the name implies, so I'm calling Needs A Better Title.
  • January 6, 2011
    JonnyB
    IIRC, there was a Benny Hill sketch that played with this trope. A couple would be lying on the bed watching the late night newscast (the newscaster was Benny, of course), and would roll over and decide to start getting amorous. Benny would start staring and making rude noises in the middle of his newscast, then would call over the weatherman, cameramen, etc. to gawk and ogle at the couple.
  • January 6, 2011
    DannyVElAcme
    @Roxor: Been reading 1984 recently, it DEFINITELY fits. There's one early part where Winston is doing TV exercises(which are forced upon the people by The Party) and the exercise lady on the TV specifically addresses him when he's lagging behind.
  • January 7, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    • In the '"Dexters Laboratory'' "Monkey" shorts, the Commander is always portrayed as a head on a screen who can communicate directly with whoever is watching. One episode reveals that he really is inside that TV.

    • In The Brave Little Toaster, the television in the Master's room "comes to life" by turning its screen on and speaking and gesturing through an image of a news anchorman. The anchorman seems to be an extension of itself and not anyone inside the TV. However, the TV can lose consciousness if someone changes the channel. It's implied that when the Master watches a news program with this anchorman on, the TV is actually speaking to him and can see and hear everything just fine.
  • January 7, 2011
    AFP
    @DannyVElAcme: Actually, that's pretty much exactly why it doesn't fit. You're thinking of Big Brother Is Watching. Another vote for Needs A Better Title.

  • January 8, 2011
    Scooter007
    ^^AFP is correct, literal watching through the TV doesn't fit. I'll boldface that in OP.

    I'm definitely open to Better Title, but I can't think of any other way to say it. o_o
  • January 8, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
  • January 8, 2011
    Catharsis
    Never mind. :)
  • January 8, 2011
    troacctid
  • January 10, 2011
    lala
    Used for scares in The Grudge. A woman is watching creepy stuff happening on CCTV, and then a face suddenly appears right in front of the camera and looking right into the camera as if it can see her.
  • January 10, 2011
    robybang
    Does this count when it's an ad where the spokesman seems to have a conversation with the viewer?
  • January 11, 2011
    Scooter007
    @robybang: I'm not sure what you mean, but I don't think that would fit. If you mean the actual, at-home viewer (like you or me), then no, this is not an Audience Reaction Trope. Well, not entirely.

    On the other hand, if you're talking about an in-universe character holds a conversation with the face on the TV, that would better fit into The Tape Knew You Would Say That.
  • January 12, 2011
    Scooter007
    @robybang: Or, a third idea came to me later on: If you mean an in-universe character watching a TV ad, and feels like it speaks directly to him (but he doesn't really talk back), then yes that would fit. As long as it doesn't take the form of a seemingly two-way conversation.
  • January 12, 2011
    randomsurfer
    How about the Doctor Who episode "Blink?" The Doctor has a conversation with someone watching his DVD Easter Egg - which he's reading from a script, having been told about it in the future, then later going to the past and recording it. To everyone else who's seen it it's gibberish, but once Sally Sparrow actually has the conversation it's a Predestination Paradox/Stable Time Loop via Retroactive Preparation, with a little Timey Wimey Ball Trope Naming thrown in.
  • January 13, 2011
    Scooter007
    @randomsurfer: sorry, my tired old brain is having trouble following your description; but I notice you used the word "conversation" a couple of times in there. If what you mean is that Sally Sparrow had a faux "Conversation" with the pre-recorded Doctor, that would be The Tape Knew You Would Say That.

    If, on the other hand, the pre-recorded Doctor simply said something that Sally was supposed to catch onto, and she did so, that seems like it might fit.
  • January 15, 2011
    Scooter007
    Do y'all think we need a little more hammering out what this trope is, or should we vote us a title? (Or, should we just junk it!!!) You make the call!
  • January 22, 2011
    Scooter007
    Necro Bumping this because I still think this is a valid idea.
  • March 15, 2011
    Scooter007
    third bump in a row? man, that's pathetic. ;}
  • May 17, 2011
    JonnyB
    Another necrobump
  • May 17, 2011
    randomsurfer
    .
  • May 18, 2011
    GinaInTheKingsRoad
    There's a moment into the Witch Hunter Robin opening credits like this.
  • May 18, 2011
    Rolf
    • Doctor Who had this. In one show, bunch of movie DV Ds had hidden film of Doctor Who talking. As it turns out, later on it was actually an conversion with lady, which later saved her replies and gave it to Doctor Who, then in turn made videos talking his half... Time travel is weird.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ra0jgc4r9fnv4rka50fvh53q