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Narrating the Obvious

One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in "It's a nice day", or "You're very tall", or "Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you alright?"

Any line in a movie or show that tells us what it was we just saw. "He got away!" "It's a trap!" "They are shooting at us!" You know Show, Don't Tell? This is Show, Then Tell.

Distinct from As You Know in that everyone in the audience and the cast do, in fact, know this.

This is common in children's shows, where it can help the young viewer to make the association between what's being shown and what's being told. It is also seen in Reality Shows, when participant monologues are interspliced with clips of the events they are talking about:

"He started yelling at me." (shot of person yelling)

Possibly a holdover from the days of radio, where it was necessary for characters to describe the action for the audience. The radio play (and subsequent versions) of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy played with (and lampshaded) this by using Arthur's tendency for this kind of talk to demonstrate the primitiveness of the human mind.

Perhaps writers do this because they assume that Viewers Are Goldfish.

See also Captain Obvious, Luckily My Powers Will Protect Me. Contrast Unreliable Voiceover.

Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • A common trend in manga is for chapters to begin and end with a description of what is going on with the scene. For example, if the villain gains the upper hand at the end of the chapter, it might say "The heroes are in trouble!" and at the beginning of the next chapter, there might be a caption saying "How will the heroes survive their plight?"
  • The medium as a whole is a big offender. For instance, it's pretty common for characters in Anime and Manga to narrate what's happening during battles ("Shit, he managed to dodge my attack!"). Most egregious examples follow.
  • In Cardfight!! Vanguard, expect someone to remark on how the person we just saw take damage now has more damage.
  • Constantly in InuYasha. Along with heaping helpings of Captain Obvious.
  • This seems to be Speedwagon's only role during the first part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Other characters have since then inherited this dubious mantle. And then the obvious about him was narrated. One example that has undergone Memetic Mutation is a panel of Speedwagon looking afraid and shouting "GAAAAH!" while Jonathan, providing narration says "Even Speedwagon is afraid!"
  • In some dubs of Dragon Ball Z, when Frieza blows up Planet Vegeta, he takes the time whilst laughing like a maniac to describe how this sight fills him with joy, then continues laughing.

    Comics 
  • The works of Amar Chitra Katha, an Indian publisher of educational/religious children's comics, are full of this.
  • Over the top parodied in Pyton! magazine's "Stuporman" comic: One frame shows Lex Luthor in a mech, announcing that he's going to "Take over the world!", while a fleeing bystander screams "Aiee! Lex Luthor is taking over the world!" while the protagonist looks on and muses that Lex Luthor seems to be trying to take over the world. The narrator points out that Lex Luthor, the villain, is often trying to take over the world, while an arrow box pointing at at Lex clarifies that he is trying to take over the world. The next frame shows the comic's editor, asking the artist if they've made the point clear enough, since their readers are very, very stupid.
  • All the time in older Archie Sonic the Hedgehog comics. The writers and layout artists apparently suffered from the unfortunate delusion that every panel had to have dialog in it; they don't really lose this particular delusion, but at least they learn to make the dialog semi-meaningful instead of this trope.
  • Frequently occurs in Golden Age comic books. A caption will say, "Captain Whizbang overtakes the locomotive!", while in the same panel Captain Whizbang says or thinks, "Got to—overtake—the locomotive!", and the art shows Captain Whizbang—guess what?—overtaking the locomotive.
  • Sometimes comics seem to invoke this as a result of unease to show panels without text.

    Fanfic 
  • The author of My Little Unicorn tends to spell out everything, such as outright telling the audience how a mirror-based monster has the power to reflect attacks right back after it's been shown to the audience multiple times already.
  • Fan Fic author Jus Sonic uses this trope a lot in most if not all of his work. It's so bad in Curse Of The Demon Pony that the person who's currently doing an audio reading of it said that he should try to stop bringing it up so much because then it would be "restating that it's restating the obvious".

    Film 
  • The helpful narrator of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford tells us that Jesse James was missing one of his fingers. At the same time, the camera zooms in on one of Jesse James's hands and shows us — yes, there's a finger missing. Thanks, Narrator!
  • The American dub of Astérix and the Big Fight has a narrator who narrates everything the viewers are already seeing. The original French version and the British dub don't have a narrator.
  • Dogville can be found guilty of this, with the narrator filling us in on every single development and telling the viewer everything that is happening. Then there is this part towards the end"
    Grace: That's Moses!
    Narrator: "That's Moses!" she said, jumping out of the car.
  • The beginning of Elysium has a bit of this: onscreen text explains that Earth is an overpopulated Wretched Hive, while Elysium is an idyllic space station where the rich hide from the masses, but the accompanying flyover visuals and first couple of scenes make all this perfectly clear. A definite case of Viewers Are Morons.
  • The Incredibles: "The remote controls the robot!" We got that, Violet. Justified in that the audience knows it but Violet and Dash did not know about the remote and she was telling him.
  • A semi-famous line in the movie Independence Day:
    "They're chasing us!"
    "Oh, really, you think?"
  • A large part of The Indestructible Man is spent with the narrator talking over everything to the point that it might as well have been an audiobook. Surprisingly, Joel and the 'Bots didn't even touch this aspect during their review.
  • From Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
    "Those people are trying to kill us!"
    "I KNOW, DAD!"
    "Well, it's a new experience for me!"
  • The Last Airbender spends a great deal of time with Katara describing what's happening on screen as we watch it happening.
  • The narrator in Matilda often explained what was happening on screen, even things that are blatantly obvious. The biggest offender is when Matilda goes to school for the first time and the camera shows us the school; he explains that the school was a building with children.
  • Lampshaded in The Naked Gun movie, when Vincent openly has a gun to Jane's head.
    Jane: He has a gun.
    Frank: I... can see that.
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi spends a few good minutes setting up the Emperor's plan, complete with the delightful reactions of the pilots as they stumble right into it... and then Admiral Akbar declares, "It's a trap!"
  • The recut versions of The Thief and the Cobbler, in particular the Miramax cut, decided to make a few mute characters non-mute. How, you ask? By making them narrate their thoughts. However, the original director had already made sure that the audience would know what they were thinking. As a result, you get lines such as:
    "As Zigzag's guards were taking me inside the royal palace, I gazed upon the princess for the first time."
    "Finally, I was free."
  • 12 to the Moon. A member of the crew records the momentous events of the first Moon landing. Unfortunately this becomes a Captain Obvious Log for the audience.
    [While being bombarded by meteors] "We are constantly being bombarded by falling rocks."
  • Some DVD Commentaries fall prey to this trope, with filmmakers offering little more than obvious descriptions of what's plainly happening on screen. For example, William Friedkin's commentary on The Exorcist has been described as "The Exorcist for the visually impaired".
  • At least half of the 1974 movie Black Love consists of the narrator telling exactly (and rather unnecessarily) what's happening on screen. And it's not (supposed to be) a comedy.

    Literature 
  • The first few books in The Dresden Files have a pretty bad case of this when it comes to character descriptions. Harry always tells us that he is a wizard, even though it's mentioned on the blurb. He tells us who Murphy is, even though we've known that for more than four books. He repeatedly tells us how he's tall and lanky. And so on. And obviously, many long running book series are guilty of this. They obviously write it that way so that if someone obviously starts reading the series without reading book one, they will obviously not be lost. Obviously, this entry and the one above fall under this trope. Obviously.
  • The Twilight series is notorious for this. Bella is quite an unobservant narrator of her own story, so half the time she doesn't notice what should be completely obvious to the other characters and/or all the readers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Justified in the Stop Motion Christmas episode of Community, so that everyone knew what was going on in Abed's delusion.
  • In Dexter, the title character provides narration which frequently strays into this territory.
  • Doctor Who:
    • This was a common staple of classic Doctor Who since it was essentially recorded live, "as is". If there's a Special Effects Failure, at least the companion screaming "It's gestating!" will get the point across to the audience. It also provides a handy cue to the video technician to start playing the filmed inserts.
    • During "The Chase" the protagonists are chased through time by a group of Daleks in their own time machine and make a brief stop on a sailing ship, and when the Daleks show up they fight and kill the crew before resuming the chase. The camera then pan over the now deserted ship before stopping on the name plate, which reads "Mary Celeste". That's kinda funny, right? Cut to inside the TARDIS, where Ian tells Barbara that the ship was, in fact, the Mary Celeste. Maybe the writers were afraid the audience looked away at the wrong moment.
  • As excellent as Horatio Hornblower mini-series was, it sometimes failed to avoid this trope. It's especially noticeable in the first part "The Even Chance". It feels like the writers or producers had little faith in their actors. For instance, Hornblower had to fight hard to gain his division's respect. After their first battle, Styles comes to thank him for taking care of their injured fellow sailor and Hornblower praises his men's conduct. Styles thanks him, smiles a bit and salutes him. Hornblower looks pleased and proud, and then says: "A salute! Well, that a start, I suppose." Nothing what the audience didn't see; plus his face said it much better.
  • Parodied to death in That Mitchell and Webb Look with "The Gift Shop Sketch".
  • A staple of incompetent documentarian Roy Mallard on People Like Us. Sometimes his narration uses exactly the same words that his interview subjects use seconds later (though the narration was added long after the people spoke those words.)
  • Surprisingly common in Stargate SG-1 and its spinoffs. There are countless occasions when the gate will activate, a ship will emerge from/go into hyperspace or start firing weapons...and then a character will proceed to tell us that the gate just opened/a ship exited/entered hyperspace/the enemy is firing on us!
  • Various Tokusatsu series have tons of moments where a Monster of the Week runs away from combat, upon which one of the main characters exclaims, "It got away."
  • Played with in one scene on The Young Ones:
    Vyvyan: Look, here comes the postman.
    Mike: Vyvyan, why do you keep telling us what's just about to happen next?
    Vyvyan: Because it's a studio set, Michael, and they can't afford any long shots.

    Radio 
  • A Running Gag in Hamish And Dougal is Dougal doing this and Hamish lampshading how odd it is.
    Dougal: Well, here we are at the Laird's house.
    Hamish: Why did you say that?
    Dougal: It doesn't do any harm.
  • Spoofed in the I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue parody of The Archers:
    Victoria Wood as Susan: It's Joe Grundy coming in on his legs. Hello, Joe Grundy.
  • Every single Radio Drama, as required by the medium. Tends to make the actors sound really hammy to listeners used to visual media.

    Theater 
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead explicitly calls for this in the stage directions: one act opens with the title characters waking up in darkness to the very obvious sounds of the ocean, sailors shouting, ropes and timbers creaking, etc. Only when "the point has been well made, and then some" does Guildenstern helpfully declare, "We're on a boat!"

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied in Red vs. Blue when the Red team find an odd computer underground.
    Sarge: Huh, what's all this business?
    Simmons: It looks like a bunch of computer equipment, sir.
    Sarge: Excellent analysis, Simmons.
    Donut: And it's attached to some kind of TV thing.
    Sarge: So it is. Astute deduction, Donut.
    Grif: It shows all different parts of the canyon. Look, there's our base!
    Sarge: Ah yes, another incredible observation from the stating the obvious department! Thanks for nothing, numbnuts!
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series has a running gag where Joey keeps announcing "Here we are at the (place of interest)" to everyone else's great annoyance.

    Web Original 
  • Let's Play videos of particularly poor quality are prone to this as the players feel a need to keep talking throughout the video, even if they have nothing informative to say beyond what is happening on the screen.

    Western Animation 
  • The 1960s era Adventures of Superman had the narrator state everything that was happening on screen as you were watching it, leading to such helpful narration such as "Superman hurls the rock into the volcano!" as you watch Superman hurl the rock into the volcano.
  • Occurs a great deal in King Rollo.
    Rollo: [paces around glumly for about 10 seconds, staring at the floor]
    Narrator: King Rollo was very sad.
  • Peppa Pig does this A LOT.
  • The Simpsons: Often Lampshaded on the show.
    • When they visited Itchy & Scratchy Land and were attacked by murderous robots, Lisa pointed out to Homer that the camera flash scrambled the robots' circuits immediately after said event. Homer reacted: "What are you, the narrator?"
    • "Well, here we are at the Brad Goodman lecture." — "We know, Dad." — "I just thought I'd remind everybody."
  • Mocked in Titan Maximum. When the titular team shows up to save a bus full of children, one of the children inside the bus says "Look, it's Titan Maximum!", only to be chastised by another child, who asks why he pointed out something so obvious.

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Multiple Narrative ModesNarrator TropesNarrating the Present
Naïve NewcomerExpositionNarrator
Meaningful NameShow, Don't TellSaid Bookism
Motive RantRule of PerceptionNational Stereotypes
Large Ham RadioRadioShock Jock
Doing It for the ArtImageSource/Comic BooksSkeleton Crew

alternative title(s): Obvious Exposition; Redundant Exposition
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