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From Beyond The Fourth Wall
Sometimes a character needs help, and sometimes that help comes from a highly unexpected place - us, or the author. When something like this affects the plot from outside the work in a very definite and obvious way it can be said to come From Beyond The Fourth Wall
. For example, when an audience member tosses the hero an item that helps save the day, or the author nips into their own work to lend the characters a boat (or, inversely, a character sneaking into our world to steal one). The author may even step directly into a work in order to assume a role of some sort, if this is the case they often have Author Powers
and can manipulate the fabric of their fictional universe
. Of course, it isn't always good things that come from beyond the Fourth Wall
, the author could add something dangerous 'to make things more interesting' or for some other reason.
Sometimes related to No Fourth Wall
, though only in cases where the interaction directly
alters the work in a physical way. For examples where the fourth wall is internal and the story affected is a Show Within a Show
see Intrepid Fictioneer
. Related to Deus ex Machina
, though far less subtle
. Could be considered a Super Trope
of Author Powers
and, occasionally, Creator Cameo
. Not to be confused with Refugee from TV Land
, Mary Sue
characters, Audience Participation
, or Clap Your Hands If You Believe
not to be confused with regular examples of Breaking the Fourth Wall
, if a character simply talks to the viewer it doesn't count!
- Instances where the main character is portrayed as the author of a work (such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time), alternate realities and dimensions, references to real world events (such as 9/11), and anything else where it is not clear that something from our world is directly intervening in the plot (in a way that is Breaking the Fourth Wall) do not count!
- An abridged series you may have heard of is NOT the Trope Namer.
open/close all folders
- The Love Hina Again OVAs have Ken Akamatsu, the mangaka (writer and artist) of the original manga, lending some of the girls money, as well as a boat. This is, in both respects, a textbook example of this trope.
- In Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers Zatanna reaches through the comic panel for the author (or possibly the reader) to help her. She ends up being helped by seven DC Comics writers, including Morrison himself. Later on in the story she asks the reader to help her cast a spell to sort things out. What does the spell do? It welds the separate pieces of the Jigsaw Puzzle Plot of Seven Soldiers together, which couldn't be done without the reader's help, i.e. his interpretation of the plot.
- The essential concept of DC's Earth-Prime, ever since The Sixties when The Flash first wandered into it and got to read his own comics & similar. DC editors regularly cameoed in Prime stories.
- Last Action Hero features a boy who travels into films. The major theme of this film is how different the film world is to our own. This is a borderline example but it counts because he is an audience member affecting the outcome of a film.
- In the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie, Boris and Natasha steal a map from the Lemony Narrator.
- At one point in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a monster that was chasing the heroes disappeared when, "suddenly, the animator suffered a fatal heart attack!"
- In The Baby Of Macon, Cosimo de' Medici acts as both an audience member to the stage production as well as a character. He occasionally steps onto the stage and interacts with the characters, influencing the plot. Because he is an aristocrat, it makes sense that the players would adapt the play on the fly to whatever Cosimo suggests. The film is all about the interaction between various layers of reality in an artistic work.
First person 'this is a true story' narratives do not count, the effect must be portrayed as being from an outside influence.
- There are a few authors who make a joke of this.
- Inkheart explores this in great depth.
- The Dark Tower: In Stephen King's series, the characters meet Stephen King to discover his impact on their lives and get him back on track writing the series.
- Another example from the series: At a particularly climactic moment, a character runs into a bathroom and finds a sticky note on the mirror that says "Here comes the Deus Ex Machina!" from, you guessed it, Stephen King. Not as the character Stephen King (who's also in the story), but literally as himself.
- In Peter Pan, there are moments where J.M. Barrie himself comments on the story, once even going so far to consider telling Mrs. Darling of the imminent return of her children, only deciding not to at her insistence.
- Vonnegut does this in Breakfast of Champions.
- Inversion: an Australian movie theater ran a trailer for a movie in which two people Meet Cute and go on a picnic and one takes out a gun and shoots ... a zombie in the audience, because the whole thing is an ad for The Walking Dead.
- Dungeons & Dragons Adventure WG7 Castle Greyhawk. One of the dungeon levels has the author of that level being omnipotent and interacting with the PCs as they explore the level.
Please note that Audience Participation
is something different! If the audience is simply interacting with the cast (such as in Peter Pan
) it doesn't count!
- Stephen Gregg's short play S.P.A.R. essentially is this trope padded out to 40 or so minutes.
- In the Doctor Who stage play (and audio adaptation) Doctor Who and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday, the two companions, Jimmy and Jenny, are (supposedly) theatregoers who have come to watch the play. Close to the beginning, the injured Doctor calls for help; they run to him, and become part of the action.
- Jon English recently played the Pirate King in a production of The Pirates of Penzance. In this performance of "O Better Far to Live and Die", he ends up sword-fighting with the conductor halfway through.
- Cirque du Soleil examples:
- In "O", the Crusty Caretaker Le Vieux summons an "audience member" to read the show's opening announcements, then sends him further into the Magical Land that the theater turns out to be — to become the show's protagonist.
- In Varekai, a pair of "ushers" (male and female, and actually the show's clowns) who appear in the preshow are dragooned into the story by the forest creatures as the show begins. They proceed to cause havoc during the show by trying to show off their dubious "talents" — and the female usher even makes off with the hero at one point!
While almost all video games would seem to count, since you are playing the character directly. This is not the case for the same reasons that first person 'this is a true story' narratives do not count. The effect must be portrayed as being from an outside influence.
- The ending of EarthBound. You, personally, deal the finishing blow to the final boss.
- In Enchanter, you can summon an Implementor (that is, one of the developers of the game), who will make a comment about "fixing bugs" and then disappear.
- Spiritwrak, a fan-made sequel set in the same universe, has this as a puzzle solution; at one point you need to travel to the developer's room and delete an obstacle from the game.
- The Impossible Quiz has a few puzzles which require manipulating the program window.
- Black Lodge 2600 is an Atari 2600-ish game with graphics, audio and gameplay mimicked from the era. You interact through your on-screen player character. Near the end you are given a clue you'll need a white arrow to solve the final room. It's your mouse pointer.
- In the first Metal Gear Solid, you are told that you need to find Meryl's codec number so you can get in contact with her. Where is this codec number found? The back of your CD case.
- The Last Half of Darkness games likewise use in-case supplemental documents as part of the scenario, and the later games even use markings on the CD itself as one of their clues. Also, Shadows of the Servants's Mind Screw ending reveals that Mira "summoned" the protagonist and others to the mansion by putting the video game on the market.
- The main concept of Skylanders is that the characters were thrown out of their world and into ours, and that by using the Skylander toys the player can send them back home.
- In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, in order to neutralize The Dragon, a genie, you have to figure out what his bottle looks like to trade it for a fake. How do you do this? By making Alexander use a fake death potion in a shop where the disguised genie is hanging out which triggers a cutscene where he reports to the Big Bad and his bottle is shown. However, only the player witnesses this, not Alexander. Lampshaded when Alexander is asked how he knew what the bottle looked like and he says he just had a "good feeling" about it.
- In The Stanley Parable, the story is structured so that, while you can hear the Narrator, Stanley (the person you're playing) isn't hearing his own narration. Or, at least, he isn't supposed to in the Narrator's story, although the Narrator begins addressing Stanley directly once you send the story Off the Rails. (He also refers to the player as "Stanley" most of the time, even while breaking the fourth wall.) Thus, when the Narrator reveals to you (the player) a code to a locked door that you subsequently have Stanley input, it counts for this trope. The Narrator also becomes surprised at this, assuming Stanley had just pushed the right code in at random.
- This is a huge part of the premise of Ciel nosurge and Ar nosurge. The player is directly connected with the games' universe and intervenes in the main characters' lives, for good or for ill. Other people can be connected too, and their intentions might run contrary to the player's goals...
- Virtue's Last Reward never makes it clear, or officially confirms it, but confirmed canon facts from the developer, as well as further facts put together by fans, put the player of the game as the game's "observer", or "God". There's loads of subtle evidence in game; the parasite metaphor, Sigma's constant talk about how he has no idea why he did certain things, ect, but the biggest push comes in the post-game-epilogue. You play (or watch, since it's all dialogue) as Kyle, Sigma's robot clone to put it very simply...although, you don't. You soon learn that someone else's spirit, from 2028, has mind-swapped with Kyle's, and is currently borrowing Kyle's body. Someone who seems to know everything that happened during the game's events. It was later confirmed by the developer that this person is indeed supposed to be the player. Although what exactly it means, whether it's implying us as player-gods got swapped into the game, that it's an elaborate way of having the player become a part of the sequel, or whatever it does mean, remains fan-theories.
- In Drowtales, Kiel is constantly being swarmed and talked to be black masses of demons, which are in fact the readers. Through their eyes the readers of Drowtales see the world and they are for all intents and purposes the living fourth wall.
- In the Order of the Stick our favourite rogue actually leaves the comic to steal a giant diamond out of her character bio, causing said diamond to actually vanish from the page and leaving a note reading "I.O.Me One Big-ass diamond", which is still on the page.
- Andrew Hussie literally breaks into Homestuck through his "Fifth Wall", which he designed to separate him from the other omniscient narrator, Doc Scratch, in order to force the story to progress.
- In the Popeye short "How Green was my Spinach," Bluto has destroyed all the spinach in the world. We cut to a live-action child watching the short in a movie theater, who reaches into a grocery bag and pulls out a can of spinach and throws it into the film.
- A similar incident occurs in "A Date To Skate".
- Another Popyeye short, "It's the Natural Thing to Do," starts with Popeye & Bluto fighting in Olive Oyl's backyard. Olive gets a telegram:
Cut out the rough stuff once in a while and act more refined. Be like ladies and gentlemen. That's the natural thing to do. (signed) Popeye Fan Club
. P.S. Now go on with the picture.
- An in-universe example occurs in "Popeye's Premiere", where Popeye give a can of spinach to himself on the movie screen.
- In the Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Rabbit Rampage" (a remake of "Duck Amuck.") Bugs Bunny fights with the animator, represented by a brush that does all sorts of unpleasant things to him. Subverted in that at the end it's revealed to be Elmer Fudd.
- In another Bugs Bunny cartoon "Hair Raising Hare" Bugs is trapped in a Mad Scientist's Big Fancy Castle. At one point, as Bugs is behind a door and a monster is trying to break through, a desperate-sounding Bugs cries out, "Is There a Doctor in the House??" A silhouette, seemingly from the theater audience, stands up and offers, "I'm a doctor." Bugs suddenly relaxes, grins, starts munching a carrot, and asks, "What's up, Doc?"
- A Porky Pig short, The Case of the Stuttering Pig", featured a villian saying that no one could stop him, not even the guy in the third row. He is defeated at the end and when asked who did it, the guy in the third row responds.
- In "Ain't That Ducky", Daffy Duck notes that, according to the script, there's supposed to be a barrel for him to hide in, and threatens to have whoever's responsible fired. A brush appears and paints in the barrel and the action continues.
- This is practically the premise of Winky Dink.
- An episode of The Spooktacular New Adventures Of Casper called "The Y-Files", Casper's friends and settings are melting away and it turns out that paint thinner is being dropped on the sleeping animator's drawing desk.
- The Mighty Mouse cartoon "Goons From The Moon" has alien cats abducting all the mice in Terrytown. The radio reporter (a mouse caricature of Walter Winchell) comments "there's only one mouse who can save this situation!" Cut to an animator's table where the animator's hand drawns Mighty Mouse in flight atop a missile. (The artist stops drawing briefly, causing Mighty Mouse to chime in "Hurry up! I've got a job to do!")
- The cartoon "The Cat's Tale" has a mouse-traumatized cat telling the hero's origin and his subsequent battle against a giant cat. The cowardly cat then tells us how he'd show Mighty Mouse a thing or two, only for the animator to draw Mighty Mouse floating right behind him. The cat runs off in fright.
- In the Bakshi episode "Mighty's Wedlock Whimsy" (billed as a cautionary tale), Mighty Mouse is getting married to Pearl Pureheart. But he's getting cold feet just as he's about to take his vow, just stammering "I...I...I...", then it cuts to a pencil drawing of him on an animator's table. The animator cops out and can't go through with it. It ends with the cartoon characters at the wedding all laughing as everything is up in flames.
- In the Donald Duck cartoon "Duck Pimples", Don is being harassed by the characters of a mystery novel, who accuse him of stealing a pearl necklace. He is saved when the book's author appears to declare his innocence and reveal the real culprit (although he has to look it up in his own book to do it).