Tedd: Comic? What comic?
If you have a character who has Medium Awareness
or is capable of Breaking the Fourth Wall
, it's quite common to observe his interactions with characters who don't know they're fictional. Any time our medium-aware friend will directly address the audience or mention some boundaries of the medium, everybody else will either ignore him or react surprised and find themselves unable to understand what he's talking about. Eventually the other person will think he either is joking or has a few screws loose
. Usually, no matter what he will do, his efforts to make them realize they're all fictional characters will be meaningless - nobody will believe or even understand him.
Most of the time this trope is played in the same way medium awareness is in said work of fiction. If it's Played for Laughs
, so is everybody's ignorance. If medium awareness is Played for Drama
, this trope may add a little to it - our hero has to deal with being a fictional character and
everybody else thinking he's crazy.
Contrast No Fourth Wall
; compare Cassandra Truth
, The Cuckoolander Was Right
and This Is Reality
Anime & Manga
- In the last episode of FLCL, Kamon explains why manga-like scenes from the first episode didn't appear in later episodes ("It takes time and a lot of work") and why they reappeared in the last one (the creators were "accused of being lazy"). Naota has no idea what Kamon is talking about.
- In the first episode of Haiyore! Nyarko-san W, Nyarko gives introductions for Tamae and Yoichi for anybody who missed the first season; in the next cut, we see Nyarko is facing the front of the classroom and Mahiro asks "Who the heck are you talking to?"
- This happens to Deadpool a lot. Every time he breaks the fourth wall or indicates he knows he's a comic book character in the presence of someone else, they have absolutely no idea what he means. Most commonly the other character will respond with a Flat "What." and an assumption that he's crazy. This being Deadpool, they're probably not that far off.
- Subverted in Uncanny X-Force #34. After saving Wolverine, Deadpool tells him that he wasn't worried of him dying because apparently "everyone knew he wasn't going to die". When Wolverine asks who are everyone, Deadpool points out to the reader, but in the next panel we find out he was actually pointing to a security camera. It turns into Mind Screw when you start wondering why the guys watching the footage of the security camera would think Wolverine was safe from dying.
- Played for Laughs in an issue of Damage Control where the characters met She-Hulk, and showed what her Medium Awareness looked like from the outside.
- One time when She-Hulk guest starred in her cousin's book (or possibly vice versa), at the end she addressed the audience; Hulk (who was intelligent at the time) called her on it.
Hulk: Who are you talking to?
She-Hulk: The people on the other side of the fourth wall.
Hulk: Uh, Jen? There's no wall there. (waves hand to demonstrate) Just air.
- Played straight in Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man. His arc featured the main character gradually becoming aware that he is a comic character.
- Joker's been known to do this in any medium he appears in. This most occurs in Batman: The Animated Series.
- While Brazilian comic Monica's Gang has No Fourth Wall to the point of Post Modernism, their parody of Avatar had this exchange:
! It could only be a wwiter's
-Writer? Who is that?
-Oh, just an imaginawy figuwe.
- Also, when robots went back in time to kill Monica, Smudge and Jimmy so their descendants won't exist to revolt against robotkind, one of the robots theorized the one that came up with the idea plagiarized it from some movie.
- The 2000AD one-shot story It Pays To Be Mental had the main character (a class-D mental patient - quite harmless, released to community care) narrating to the audience. Dredd naturally considers talking to an imaginary audience quite subversive◊ but can't touch the patient due to his mental license, leading to an Aside Glance on the part of Dredd.
- The main character in Woody Allen's Whatever Works does this all the time, to everyone else's bewilderment.
- Invoked in Wayne's World: "Only me and Garth get to talk to the camera!"
- Played with in Pirates of the Great Salt Lake at the Narrator is either invisible or unremarkable to the characters. After one character is killed he can suddenly see the narrator, but not the audience the narrator is talking to.
Kirk: I think he's talking to that grove of trees...
- In High Fidelity, protagonist Rob Gordon continually talks directly to the audience, telling his life story. Nobody seems to notice, until near the end, when he yells:
Rob: "When is this gonna stop?!"
Laura (who just walked in): "When's what gonna stop?".
Rob: "Uhh, nothing."
- The Truman Show has an in-universe example, when Truman sees that his wife is presenting him food as if she was doing advertisement for it — which she's doing, actually.
- This is the plot of Last Action Hero. The kid from reality has to convince the character that he's inside a movie.
- Played for drama in Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely by David D. Levine.
- One episode of Just Shoot Me! had Maya meeting an insane man who thought he was Woody Allen. Near the end, he breaks the fourth wall and starts talking to the camera, to Maya's great confusion.
- When Law & Order: Criminal Intent first began broadcast on the USA Network, a commercial was released that featured Goran and Eames at their desks talking. Goren abruptly asks, "What is that?", and then moves over to the corner of the screen, bends down, and is obviously staring right at the "USA Network" logo in the corner. He even comments that its "different from the usual thing that gets put here in the corner" (that would be the NBC logo). Eames notes is the logo for the USA Network, that they're now being shown on the new network, and the two return to their work.
- In Spamalot, one of the quests King Arthur has been assigned (in addition to finding the Holy Grail) is to put on a Broadway musical. Later on in the show, The Lady of the Lake graciously points out to him that "but you ARE on Broadway!". King Arthur is rather surprised.
- Common in Super Paper Mario, where exposition dumps and tutorials will often make reference to the player sitting in front of the screen, much to the confusion of Mario and company.
- This is also done in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, as there are a couple instances of a character talking to the player, leading your partner to ask what they mean by "you in front of the TV".
- In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Raiden will be utterly confused any time a character breaks the fourth wall.
- In The Secret of Monkey Island, Herman Toothrot makes a number of snarky aside comments during Act 3. When Guybrush eventually asks "Who are you talking to?", Herman cheerily replies "The people watching at home!"
- In Secret of Evermore, a prophet declares that everyone around him is a character in a video game. Some nearby Non Player Characters and the player character all regard him as insane. He even declares that, if he's lying, may the powers that be strike him down! The player then has the option of doing just that, enforcing the beliefs of the NPCs and player character (but if the player refuses, the prophet bestows gifts on the hero.)
- The page quote comes from El Goonish Shive where filler strips have No Fourth Wall, but story arcs do. When Matt and Rat, two discarded characters, tried to complain to Tedd about not being protagonists, he didn't know what they meant. Matt quickly deducted that it means a story arc started, so Tedd is no longer aware he that is in a comic. And then he forced him to break the fourth wall so they could have an argument.
- Said characters were subsequently treated for their shared psychosis and became productive members of society according to Word of God.
- Every time Mindmistress meets medium-aware characters, she tries to explain why it's impossible for them to be comics characters. It never works.
- In Crossoverkill, when the Doppleganger Gang confronts the Master Assassin - leader of the Character Assassins, a killer cult that believes they can break the fourth wall and enslave their creator by killing the "Alpha Character" - we can see how his breaking the fourth wall and addressing the reader looks from their perspective.
Kid Apocalypse: And what's with the kooky asides? Who's he thinks he is talking to?
Syko Suki: Dunno.
- Amusingly, Master Assassin is not actually fourth-wall aware - he just thinks he is. His aside glances are as likely to go away from the reader as towards them.
- The sprite comic Kid Radd uses this trope - it's about video game characters being rescued from their games and living in the internet. Sometimes it takes a while for them to adjust.
- In Drow Tales, the first time Keil talks to the audience, a Guard asks who she's talking to. Inverted later on, when she's talking to Naal, who assumes she's talking to her imaginary friend and walks off.
- 1/0 has this as a major plot point as characters start developing "personal Fourth Walls".
- In Bob and George, Megaman is paranoid, and Protoman disbelieving.
- Done in Gunnerkrigg Court by the trickster god, Coyote. He asks her to tell him stories, and the next panel is an announcement that she tells wonderful stories
Coyote: But what was the dark secret he promised to tell her? Now we shall find out...
Antimony: Who are you even talking to?
- In The Order of the Stick the Oracle confuses Roy by telling the readers that Belkar will die in one year in their world rather than one year in real life.
- In the Duck Dodgers episode parodying 1970s anime, Marvin the Martian explains his motives in villainous monologue directly to the viewers, and one of his robot minions ask who he's talking to. Marvin tries to explain but fails and the robots spend the rest of the episode laughing at him.
- The Kim Possible episode "Grand Size Me" ended with Ron addressing the audience about genetic mutation. Nobody knew whom he was addressing and he was sent to the teacher's office.
- In Turtles Forever, Hun eventually gets fed up with 80s Raphael making asides to the audience, and snaps "Why do you keep doing that? Who are you talking to?! THERE'S NO ONE THERE!"
- From an episode of Brandy & Mr. Whiskers:
Brandy: It works all the time in TV shows!
) I haven't had the heart to tell her.
- The page image is from a fan comic for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, where the character Pinkie Pie is a noted fourth-wall-breaker. Surprisingly enough, this does not happen at all in the actual show, with the exception of...
- In the episode "Putting Your Hoof Down", the minotaur Iron Will gives the fourth wall a thumbs-up while saying his catchphrase, then Pinkie Pie and Rarity look in the same direction with an expression of confusion.
- In the South Park episode "It's A Jersey Thing", Shiela admits via a Jersey Shore-style Confession Cam that she's from Jersey. Which leads to this moment...
Sharon: Um, Sheila, who are you talking to?
Shiela: You wouldn't understand. It's a Jersey thing.
- One episode from the very short lived stop-motion Black Comedy Canadian TV series, What It's Like Being Alone, had one of the mutated orphans, Sammy Fishboy, suddenly becomes aware than an unseen audience is watching him and freaks out that they (us) won't leave him alone and the idea that he may cease to exist if the show ends or we change the channel. Whenever he tries to point out to the others where he's being watched, the camera pans to show him pointing at random objects and locations. The other orphans and their caretaker Aldous think he is insane and use different methods to cure his madness, including medications, being catapulted into a nearby tree, shock treatment, and dumping him in a bath filled with hundreds of leeches. Eventually, the resident sea monster patches things up by stating that Sammy's "delusions" are his imagination and that everyone else has one.
Sammy Fishboy: Oh my god I can see you! Yeah, yeah, yeah you out there! A-am I still asleep? Why does it feel like I'm trapped in a TV show?! Why have you trapped me here while you watch, you ugly pink fleshy things with your sofas and chairs and ugly pictures on your walls! What's going on here! How did this happen! STOP WATCHING ME YOU UGLY PEOPLE! Why are you out there watching meee!
- Jem episode "The Day the Music Died" had the titular character asking who Riot was talking to when he told the audience she was okay.
- On his first battle against The Mask, Kablamus ranted about children seeing them and Mask said he agreed. He then told the audience he knew about the children watching the cartoon but Kablamus was crazy. (He was right about Kablamus, mind you)
- Bugs Bunny makes Gossamer self-conscious when he points out the audience in "Hair-Raising Hare"
Gossamer: PEOPLE!!!!! (runs off through the wall screaming)
- This happens frequently on Danger Mouse. Notably when Mac The Spoon asks who "are all these viewers?" Penfold names four.
- Dexter's Laboratory When Dexter gets fed up with Deedee's antics, he "fires" her and seeks a replacement. He settles on a buxom woman and, after trying to coach her on Deedee's mannerisms, she starts complaining that there are no cameras or people watching. Dexter is utterly confused what she's talking about.