"Ah, another one of the puzzles which the Freeman is famed for swiftly solving. I eagerly await the Freeman's solution."
The role a character takes when questioning the unlikely trappings of their own show, especially if this becomes their recurring trait. Often falls to a new character who happens to be Genre Savvy
. Occasionally this allows another character to lampshade
the answer to the question with an even more roundabout explanation.
There are two types of Meta Guy
: a bumbling idiot
who has no idea of what they're saying (or at least, not the deeper implications), or a Genre Savvy Deadpan Snarker
who goes out of his way to point out flaws in each plan
. While a Type A Meta Guy
(typically wearing already blood-colored attire
) would say something like, "I don't get this plan! It looks like I'd get mutilated/executed/a nasty paper cut
" etc., a Type B in a similar situation might say, "Are you sure this is a good idea? I don't get out much", alluding not only to their situation but the fact that they've actually considered not coming back.
This is often the gag involved in a Boke and Tsukkomi Routine
, where the tsukkomi plays Meta Guy
. The key to being a subtle Meta Guy
seems to be skepticism built on natural cynicism, rather than actually being aware of the Fourth Wall
. The latter takes the character one step further to become a Fourth Wall Observer
Very common in parodies
. Not to be confused with Meta Knight
. See Genre Savvy
and Deadpan Snarker
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Anime and Manga
- Kyon from Suzumiya Haruhi.
- Haruhi herself can be meta at times; for example, she seeks out members for the SOS Brigade based quite specifically on anime character cliches.
- Chisame the computer geek in Mahou Sensei Negima!. Ironic since she herself is just as weird as any of the other characters, and getting weirder- the more she struggles to stay normal, the more bizarre stuff happens. Up to the point she becomes a semi-Magical Girl, whereupon she gives up on the reality she knew and dives headfirst into the abnormal, and gives up the Meta Guy thing except in extreme cases. Such as Jack Rakan.
- Rakan himself occasionally acts as a Meta Guy, especially in combat situations.
- Everyone towards Jack Rakan, because everyone realizes from the get go that he's an outrageously broken video game character.
- Kanako in Love Hina, one major reason she didn't make friends easily. She has her harsh but rather genre-blind opinions on Keitaro's bizarre relationships with girls, made calculated awkward moments to entice him, and had a complete dislike of Naru's hot-and-cold personality.
- Being the straight man in Haré+ Guu, Haré assumes this role frequently.
- A few characters played Meta Guy in Best Student Council whenever the characters seemed to remember they had no idea how Pucchan and Lance Bean (who were puppets) could think and speak of their own accord.
- Beauty fulfills this role in Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. At first, Gasser also performed this role, but in later episodes he seems to slip into bouts of Not So Above It All.
- Gasser's case is strange in that at times, he plays this trope so straight as to loop right back in the series' weirdness. His reactions are usually so far over the top that they play a role similar to the rest of the antics.
- Nagisa from Futari wa Pretty Cure often questions the things she has to do as a Magical Girl, especially the speech.
- Strangely enough, Suzaku Kururugi becomes the Meta Guy in the Code Geass side materials, especially those related to the second season, sometimes going as far as Breaking the Fourth Wall and acting out of character at the whim of the Rule of Funny.
- And Lampshade Hanging. For example, remarking to himself that he gets more attention in side materials than in the main story, and refusing to go along with Milly's orders because he knows that her smiling is a great big warning sign (compare to the show, where he does whatever she asks because it's "President's Orders").
- Kallen sometimes fills this role in the main series, mainly due to having a better sense of morality than most others in the main cast.
- Carol and Gustav St. Germain serve this role in Baccano!!. Conversation topics include: where is the story supposed to start, who exactly is the main character of the series and whether or not the loose thread about Dallas's missing body is a blatant sequel hook.
- In the dubbed version of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Amon Garam (Adrian Gecko) takes this role in several episodes. It's around this point that the writers were getting more self-aware (or just fed up) - see also Dub Text and Who Writes This Crap?!. "The sooner I beat you, the less bad dialogue I have to hear!"
- In Death Note, Ryuk frequently questions the implausibilities in Light's plans, and is in many ways an audience surrogate. In fact, he's the one that started off the entire plot, and only hangs around Light for as long as he is entertaining.
- A few different characters in Ouran High School Host Club. Renge is probably the most overt example.
- Rebuild of Evangelion combines this with Wham Line at the end of the second film: Kaworu remembers the events of the original series.
- Maybe. That's not how the line was rendered in the dub, and one would think that such an important revelation wouldn't simply be dropped in the dub, so it could just be a mistaken translation, or a misinterpretation of the line itself.
- Shinpachi in Gintama, as the token tsukkomi of the series, being meta is primarily his role of the series.
- Usopp and Nami tend to be this in One Piece, which makes sense being that they are the only members of the Straw Hats with no special powers.
- Brainy Smurf from the The Smurfs. Unsurprisingly, this often made him the most unpopular smurf in his village.
- Oh hey. Nice to see you here. It's me, Deadpool. Ever since I was told by Loki that I was a comic book character, I do this, sometimes bashing the fourth wall in until it doesn't exist anymore. Everbody thinks I'm insane in-universe, though, so no one takes me seriously.
- The Boondocks comic has Michael Caesar, who occasionally makes self-referential jokes and comments about the themes of the series, or points out comic strip quirks.
Caesar: "Y'know, you're supposed to be all smart and political, but you always seem to be at least a week behind the news..."
Huey: "Do you have a point?"
- Sometimes, particularly when John Byrne is writing, the She-Hulk will take this role.
- As will Squirrel Girl (once claiming that it was okay to break the fourth wall in recap pages, another time actually being interrupted during a recap) and her two squirrel partners, Monkey Joe and Tippy Toe.
- Keith Giffen's Ambush Bug was one of the first characters to do this, making this older than they think.
- Matthew the Raven, from The Sandman, was noted by the author as serving as a sort of mouthpiece for the audience, frequently questioning the actions of other characters who went outside the bounds of real-world common sense.
- Batman's nemesis The Joker has played this role to an extent some times. One issue even had him directly addressing the audience at the start while recapping the events of the previous issue. It is apparently a canon fact that the Joker is so crazy that he's actually aware of practically everything having to do with the DCU, including events of stories that haven't happened anymore and, conceivably, the fact that it's all just comic books. It's described on multiple occasions as "supersanity." The disturbing part is that this could explain the Joker's behavior in the first place; it's possible that he's a psychotic killer because he knows his actions don't matter. Nobody he hurts is real. He's beyond solipsism... and he's right. In fact, the more atrocities he commits, the more comics he appears in!
- Spider-man is a more "classical" type, as he often comments on the unlikely events of the plot, how his actions go against rationality, and makes pop culture references, but he's still completely unaware of the Fourth Wall.
- Empowered regularly breaks the fourth wall when she appears in the title pages of stories; Ninjette and ThugBoy get confused when they appear and have no idea who she's talking to.
- Animal Man is an example of this trope being played mostly for drama. He was less than happy when he realized that he was a fictional character and side characters made the same realization with worse reactions.
Animal Man: Oh my God, I'm important to the plot...
- Mr. Mxyzptlk often gets portrayed this way in the modern era.
- Brainstorm and Chromedome take on these traits under James Roberts, commenting on story pacing, infodumps, and how often their titular race is called on to save the universe from destruction.
- You can get a similar effect from being in a "Groundhog Day" Loop: in the fanfiction Dr. Strangelove or how I learned to stop worrying and love the N bomb, Shinji Ikari is trapped in one of those that allows him to retry the events of the series from the telephone scene up until the End, unless he dies. After thousands of iterations in which he gleefully murdered Gendou in the very Eva bay by prog knife, by stabbing, by squirting, by drowning... etc. etc. etc. and many many other things, by the time the fic bothers to tell us the latest iteration in detail Shinji Ikari has become tougher and meaner than Duke Nukem and Johnny Montana, simplynote through sheer brazenness brought by lots of accumulated experience and the knowledge that he doesn't have to worry about the consequences of his actions.
- Kyon of course, remains the Only Sane Man within The Emiya Clan, and by extension, he takes the role of questioning the plausibility of every wacky adventure or absurdly random event that happens within the massive Multiverse the fic belongs to. He then proceeds to display knowledge of the various laws of narrative causality, and begins predicting exactly what's going to come next in the story, with stunning accuracy.
- Chisame, to a lesser extent, serves as this as well. However, she can only lampshade the events, not plot the storytelling.
- In If You Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em, Rainbow Dash (after barfing in her special room the day before the contest) groans and says if she were a human, she'd be dead. Doubles as a Take That when she adds she'd probably be barfing even more if someone tried to make a movie like that, referencing Equestria Girls. Word of God is that it was put in due to the author's intense hatred of the movie.
- Marco in Animorphs. The others often do it, but Marco makes it an art form.
- Leggy Starlitz in the Bruce Sterling novel Zeitgeist is so genre savvy he uses narrative to change reality. The antagonist Greek Mafiya Magnificent Bastard, Mehmet Ozbey, discovers this power, and goes on to use Bond-style Action Hero tropes for his own nefarious purposes. Leggy's young daughter Zenobia is particularly adept. At one point she's dancing on the ceiling, saying "Look Dad! I'm being impossible!"
Live Action TV
- Denny Crane of Boston Legal. He once commented about a new character, "If he was important, he'd have been in the season premiere."
- Although Denny is by far the most frequent offender, everyone in Boston Legal does this from time to time. A recent episode opened with several characters worrying about whether the show had started yet.
- Alan Shore is definitely the most overt Meta Guy on Boston Legal. For a relatively minor example, he wants to be on cable.
- Media-saturated Abed on Community to the point where he's almost a Fourth Wall Observer.
Jeff: Abed! Stop being meta, why do you always have to take whatever happens to us and shove it up its own ass?
- 8'Doctor Who'':
- In "The Power of the Daleks", Ben's refusal to accept the new Doctor and his conviction that he has been replaced with a malevolent imposter is a clear metaphor for audience feelings about the actor change.
- In "Robot", the Doctor's detached boredom from proceedings and on-the-nose Genre Savvy comments are supposed to spur audiences into feeling similar boredom towards the Spy Fiction tropes of the Pertwee era, and several of his lines allude to a need for Revisiting the Roots.
- The Fourth Doctor in his late seasons is master of the Aside Glance and continually pokes fun at stereotypical Doctor Who tropes such as: monsters Immune to Bullets, the BBC Quarry sets, unconvincing People in Rubber Suits, plotlines about him constantly getting captured and escaping, how the hammiest person in the room is obviously going to be the villain, bits of bad writing that occasionally turn him Technical Pacifist, Insufferable Genius and Chaotic Stupid, and even the four-episode structure and the Saturday evening broadcast slot for the show. Even in his Darker and Edgier Season 18, he makes comments foreshadowing his eventual replacement with another actor, Played for Drama.
- Donna appears to take this role for the Doctor, being a brash, gobby thirtysomething woman. She comments on how fantastic things like a "translation circuit" are, calls the Doctor out on his Technical Pacifist traits and knew the best place to find him was where there was anything weird going on.
- Professor River Song. Pretty much everything she says is a meta reference to TV or fandom in general. Spoilers anyone?
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures, when The Doctor guest stars, as Matt Smith, after a minute Sarah Jane (A Tom Baker-era Companion, who met the David Tennant Doctor) recognizes him, and says, "Don't you see? It's the Doctor." Jo Grant (A Pertwee-era Companion), blurts out "What Doctor? *The* Doctor? *My* Doctor?". A common trope in long term Doctor Who fandom is to refer to the actor who you first connected to in the role as 'my Doctor' (ie, 'my Doctor is Peter Davison').
- The 50th Anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor":
- The War Doctor, a previously unknown incarnation just before the new series started. As such, he essentially takes the role of a classic series fan complaining about all the changes the new series has done.
- The Curator, another previously unknown incarnation from the distant future, who resembles a fan-favourite old Doctor. Almost all of his dialogue has careful double-meanings relating to the anniversary itself and to the fandom - for instance, his comment about 'visiting old, favourite faces' alludes to fans (re)watching the Classic series.
- Clara, when she tells the Doctor that the sound of the TARDIS always spreads hope wherever it goes and reminds him of the 'promise he made to himself' (after which the Doctor quotes some beautiful statements actually from the production documents kept by the BBC informing the Doctor's character).
- Osgood, who wears a Fourth Doctor-esque scarf and spends the whole episode acting like she's in a Doctor Who episode.
- Chris was expanded out to one in the novelisation of "Shada", as a scientist very concerned with the potential implications of the massive amounts of Nonsensoleum the universe turns out to run on.
- Wash from Firefly, who is the Audience Surrogate and often questions the flaws in the other characters' plans.
- One scene involved his wife joining in on the action though:
Wash: "Psychics? Really? That sounds like something out of science fiction."
Zoe: "Dear… we live on a spaceship."
- In Heroes, this is (or used to be) done by, appropriately, Hiro.
- Jac Naylor from Holby City is the Ur Example of this trope, but now Chantelle has fell into this trap too.
- Dr. Arzt, a minor character on the show LOST who appeared near the end of the first season, was taken along with some of the main characters to find explosives, and comments on fan theories, such as why Hurley never gets thinner, or why only the main characters get to go on expeditions without consulting anyone else. Shortly afterwards, he is blown up while assuring the main characters of their safety... while holding a stick of dynamite.
- Hurley has been described as "the voice of the audience" by the show's producers, and often gets these lines. Some of his comments have included "X and Y are together... who didn't see that happening?" "He's my friend, but he also has this weird other life where he does super ninja moves," various direct questions addressing plot points and, in the Season 5 premiere, a long ridiculous summary of the show's events up to that point.
- Ziggy from Power Rangers RPM, with Flynn running a close second. 'Ranger Blue' opens with the entire team quizzing Doctor K on things like why their Zords have 'big, googly anime eyes', why they need to yell "RPM, get in gear!" whenever they morph, and how come things tend to spontaneously explode behind them when they do.
- Martin Loyd from the anniversary episodes of Stargate SG-1. His story is that he's an alien writing a TV series (and later a movie) based on the SGC. This allows plenty of room for parodying their own mistakes.
- Stargate Command (wisely) lets him continue his work, so if anybody else discovers the secret they'll be dismissed as some kook who watched the TV show.
- This seems to be Jack O'Neill's job, as he does this at every opportunity.
- Cameron Mitchell is stated to have read the case files of every single mission the team had ever been on before joining. This reflects Ben Browder watching all the episodes on DVD before joining the show. He hangs several lampshades on common plot devices early on.
- Chuck from Supernatural, a prophet who wrote a series of books based on Sam and Dean's adventures without knowing they were real until they found his books and investigated. At first, he thinks he might have actually been causing all these things, and apologises for some of the less popular episodes.
- Triple H and Shawn Michaels occasionally fall into this role under their DeGeneration X gimmick. They will very often reference long-forgotten storylines or things outside of kayfabe. In their most recent incarnation they have made reference to the Katie Vick disaster, Jeremy Piven's "Summerfest" flub, Kofi Kingston's gimmick change, and Shawn Michaels' real name. And talking about what segment of the script they were in, and that the villain of the week needed to hurry up and interrupt them so they could have their confrontation and get to commercial break.
- A more serious example would be CM Punk's promo from the June 27, 2011 episode of Raw, wherein he acknowledged that he was Breaking the Fourth Wall, by referring to The Rock by his real name, talking about Rock and John Cena kissing Vince McMahon's ass, and blasted office stooge John Laurinaitisnote , Vince's "idiot daughter" and "his doofus son-in-law."
- Destroy The Godmodder: Twinbuilder is this, TT 2000 is this, many of the players pull this off. The actual posters are supposedly characters even though they're in real life, so that's not too surprising.
- 'Director' Hotti from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All, may also have 'supersanity' - he's a mental patient who is able to somehow cut into Phoenix's Inner Monologue and who is aware of the fact that the game uses static backgrounds - when you choose to examine a hospital patient on crutches, he points out that the patient hasn't moved since the last time Phoenix was there, and says 'doesn't it make you wonder if any treatment is really going on in this place?'
- Embodied in the character Cherry Blossomfeather from the long-comatose comic RPG World. As the story continues, it turns out that she has a special magical skill which allows her to look beyond the boundaries of her world - which manifests in a painfully deadpan attitude and a trope spotted at least once a strip.
- Relatedly (sort of), Ardam in Adventurers does this all the time, with most other characters doing it once or twice. Eventually, he manages to turn this into a dramatic speech.
- A Fourth Wall-preserving example: In Gunnerkrigg Court, the utter silliness of Dr. Disaster's space battle simulation breaks Antimony's Willing Suspension of Disbelief like a twig, amplifying her latent snark until she's a lampshade-hanging killjoy. At Kat's insistence, she eventually takes the MST3K Mantra to heart and starts having fun, but this doesn't stop her from noticing plot holes and questioning the use of one liners.
- Everyone in The Order of the Stick does this from time to time. The kobold oracle does it all the time. Elan is probably the most notable example within the order. Genre Savvy is his only form of useful intelligence, and after he takes a level in Dashing Swordsman, he derives his new powers from adventure tropes.
- The entire plot of 1/0 was characters debating their own existence with the author.
- Though Petitus seems the most like this.
- Torg of Sluggy Freelance is a fairly subtle case, always being the first one to realize when they're in stick figure filler strips and deducing the existence of the author for example. It's unclear whether this carries over to normal continuity but may be related to the fact that he's said to be unusually psychically sensitive.
- In Homestuck, Caliborn takes this roll on occasion, such as when he complains about the series use of Rainbow Speak Wall of Text chatlogs... in a Rainbow Speak Wall of Text chatlog.
- Dave ends up playing this role during Act 6 Intermission 3.
- Karkat has some elements of this possibly due to his ancestor's ability to remember other universes. In Karkat's very first log of Hivebent, he is confused that Gamzee can get hold of Faygo (since they are aliens), and when he meets his pre-scratch Ancestors he complains about how flat and shallow their characterisation mostly is compared to him and his friends. Kankri has a noxious variant in that he criticises the 'pr96lematic' elements of the world from inside his own universe, as if he were a sociologically-inclined fan complaining about Unfortunate Implications in his fandom on tumblr. At one point he lectures Mituna for being too much like a stereotype of The Mentally Disturbed, even though (from their perspective) Mituna cannot help acting that way.
- David of Bittersweet Candy Bowl is often this, when he isn't Leaning on the Fourth Wall or just being a Cloud Cuckoolander.
- Halo of Grrl Power. When you have superpowers and you co-own a comic book store that sells superhero comics, you get self-referential. Before she signs up as a superhero, she sits and considers whether she has any 'bad' superpowers that will plague her, like having Wolverine's regeneration so she would get seriously hurt regularly. This specific example is defied by Maxima immediately afterward, pointing out that, to these characters, this isn't fiction, and thus the consequences of those "bad powers" might not actually apply.
- Everybody in Bob and George. Megaman demolishes the fourth wall in the very first strip and it never gets rebuilt. The entire cast knows they're in a comic, interact with the Author on a regular basis, and lampshade pretty much everything that happens throughout its run.
- Everyone here.
- Quincy Archer from Survival of the Fittest is the resident Meta Guy, writing a blog about the fake SOTF and the tropes it shows, and then commenting through out the stories on the actions of the various villains and heroes. He commits suicide, but if he hadn't, one of his personal favorite villains, JR Rizzolo, would have left him to burn.
- Phelous of That Guy with the Glasses, a notorious Deadpan Snarker who constantly lampshades everything. All of his reviews include a few jabs at the whole review show format, but it tends to be played up even more in crossovers.
- Practically everybody has been a Meta guy in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, but especially Yami, who's often incredulous that his evil opponents take a children's card game so damn seriously.
- Regular Yugi is just as bad. Take for example the episode about Mai and her celebrity stalker, where almost every single line of Yugi's in that episode is him moaning and groaning about how this has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the season and how absolutely useless it all is.
- In Project Voicebend, Amon is aware of the narrative structure and has the power to make his victims aware of it as well. Minor characters become terrified by their insignificance, and Bolin becomes aware of his parents' deaths being nothing more than a plot device.