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Painting the Medium
aka: Painting The Fourth Wall
Fig. A: The circus barker speaks in a circus poster's typeface.

Painting The Medium is modifying the presentation of a story in order to convey information about the story. A comic book might give a character special-looking Speech Bubbles that reflect on their personality. A TV show might change to black-and-white or sepia-tone during flashbacks. A video game might change its GUI to show a change in the player character or the setting.

This is typically done for one of several reasons:
  • To imply something about a character or scene without actually stating it. If done well, this will blend naturally into the rest of the work in a way the viewer or reader barely notices, and its meaning will be clear.
  • To create a intentional jarringly Off Model section of a work to demonstrate that something outside the norm is happening. An Eldritch Abomination may be drawn in a different art style to symbolize that it is an "intruder from another reality", for instance.
  • To play with unusual methods of storytelling. This results in the more extreme examples and is wholly postmodern in application. Done well, it creates a sense of confused surreality; done badly, it can be pretentious and incomprehensible.
  • Cheap laughs.

Some of the most popular variants have become so conventional that we stop noticing them completely — for example, dialogue written in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS is shouted. Heck, even we do it (check the entries in Self-Demonstrating Article why not?)

By Painting The Medium, a creator turns a transparent tool — meant to show the work behind it — into a part of the work.

See also Rule of Perception. Unless the characters themselves remark or interact with the audio or visual effects, then it can't be concluded they occur within the setting, so they must only be presented to the audience's side of the fourth wall. The characters who do remark on these tropes may be uncommonly Medium Aware, or they may know that their particular universe is governed by metafictional laws, in which case the 'paint' isn't just on the medium, it's integrated into the text.

Subtropes include:


    open/close all folders 

  • Axe launched a series of ads for Axe Rise which are shot from a fake first-person perspective, from the point of view of a young man. He walks into a restaurant, and meets an attractive waitress, who recognizes him from "that party last week, remember?" And a caption pops up, asking the viewer what name was on her name tag, which she is now accidentally covering. Another commercial, shot later on in the same diner, involves her inviting the man to a party and giving him her address and the time. He's distracted by an attractive woman at the next table, and the waitress says she has to go. "What," asks the caption "was her address?" A third involves said young man putting on a shirt and meeting another pretty girl and her five friends, all of whom she introduces by name before they leave. One of them, clearly interested, stays behind to talk to him. "What was her name?" These commercials work because the next time the viewer sees them, they are actually paying attention, just like the product is supposed to help you do.
  • A commercial on British radio starts out advertising, say, a kitchen sale, until the voice actor suddenly collapses on-air; their co-star or producer freaks out and starts shouting for help. The real point of the commercial is to encourage people to get first-aid training.
  • A Duracell sports match commercial features the TV scoreboard running out of power and having the batteries replaced.
  • There was an entire series of Energizer commercials which would appear to be ads for something else until interrupted by the Bunny. One was supposedly for long distance phone service, featuring a split screen—until the Bunny knocked over the divider, leaving the two actors from the original commercial staring at each other.
    • Although most fake-ad Energizer Bunny commercials were parodies with fake brand names, one ad used the opening to ABC's Wide World of Sports more-or-less as-is—sports-clip montage, Jim McKay's "Spanning the globe" voice-over, the works. It ran one year during ABC's coverage of the World Series, making it look even more real. Everything looked normal through the first second or two of the "Agony Of Defeat" clip, before the ski jumper loses control. Then cut to a "close-up" of the Bunny booming away, apparently walking across the ramp. Then cut back to the jumper wiping out...
    • Carling's Black Label (beer) did the same sort of thing.
  • A radio commercial has the voice actor breaking into the "next" commercial to mention a sale, leaving the second actor spluttering "She can't do that, can she?"
  • Here's a Bounce commercial invaded by an overenthusiastic Old Spice commercial. (Both brands are owned by Procter & Gamble.)

     Anime and Manga 
  • General: In manga, when there is a character who almost exclusively uses katakana in his or her speech, you want to pay close attention to him or her. Chance is that character either has strange accent, speaks with improper tone, or crazy.
  • In the first issues of the Dragon Ball manga, Goku delivers a Megaton Punch to Yamcha, hard enough to send him flying, at which point he crashes into the top of the panel, shatters it, and bounces off.
    • Similar gags showed up from time to time in Akira Toriyama's earlier Dr. Slump.
  • In Hellsing, dream sequences end themselves by panes getting smaller and smaller until they're pinprick-sized, as the dreams go weird before the character wakes up.
  • Many Fan Subs play with the subtitles at least a little for various effects, though this can distract the audience from what's happening on screen.
    • Played by Order, a Fan Sub group, in their release of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: every time Simon and Kamina are Calling Their Attacks, their subtitles get a different font as well as karaoke-like highlights. Also, when someone emphasizes the end of a phrase, the beginning appears first and then the emphasized part appears, and when they're yelling, you can see the words shaking.
      • This (Caution: spoiler warning!) scene from the spin-off Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann — Gurren Gakuenhen shows off interaction across different panels (and involving a flashback scene no less)
    • Similarly, Arienai Fansubs's release of Futari wa Pretty Cure had some of the karaoke lyrics in the opening credits mimic the motion of objects onscreen, sliding across the screen or spiraling off into the distance.
    • A pioneer in these effects was Kaizoku Fansubs with their One Piece sub-work. Each character got an elaborate font for calling out their attacks, and sometimes different ways for the letters to appear. It's a bit over-the-top, but then again it's One Piece.
    • A somewhat humorous one is done in a fansub of GaoGaiGar. A certain energy source that greatly boosts the power of any mecha (potentially, anything at all) with mostly unknown origins goes by the name THE POWER. Whenever a character mentions this, the only subtitles that would show on the screen would say THE POWER! in gigantic orange letters (the color someone or something becomes when infused with it).
    • subtitled This Gurren Lagann scene is an example of the first technique mentioned (in the last few seconds).
  • During Lucy's Start of Darkness from Elfen Lied, the moment when Lucy snaps and murders the cruel kids who have just beaten her little puppy to death has her final words ("...ARE YOU!!!") subtitled in red. In some Fan Subs, the font changes as well.
    • The same effect was used by at least one fansub group in the final scene of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni's Watanagashi-hen, when Mion (apparently) murders Keiichi in his hospital bed.
    • Yet again the same effect is employed by a fansub group in the SHUFFLE! OVA, when Kaede snaps and searches for a scared stiff Asa-senpai with a butcher knife in hand.
  • One Pokémon fansub uses the typewriter-like font "Prestige Elite" for the Pokédex.
  • Houshin Engi is a shounen manga which loves to play with this, for example during a no weapons duel between two characters Street Fighter-esque health bars and names appear at the top of the panel and when the protagonist uses drunken fist to humiliate his opponent the panel arrangement becomes that of a 4koma (which greatly annoys his more serious opponent when he notices it).
  • Kenichi Sonoda often plays around with panel orientation, for example turning the panel upside down, to indicate the use of the alien Artificial Gravity tech in Cannon God Exaxxion.
  • In the first episode of Princess Princess, Akira jokes that the school is from another dimension, whereupon Tooru pictures the background changing to a picture of space. Akira comments that he said another dimension, not space, and Tooru changes the background so it's all swirly. He asks if thats better, Akira says yes and they continue on with the story.
  • In the second volume of Return To Labyrinth, Mizumi "steals" the speech bubbles of Mayor Spittledrum, rearranging them to say something entirely different.
  • In Gunsmith Cats, one of the protagonists is wearing ear protection while shooting. She and the audience can barely hear what an another character is saying until she takes them off.
  • Tamaki in Ouran High School Host Club's first episode is seen leaning on one of the notices that pop up every now and then.
  • Interestingly, One Piece has an example here. The so-called "Levels" of Impel Down are written with Roman letters by Oda himself, katakana spelling shown above, and are also written with Roman letters when the characters mention them. However, in Luffys speech bubbles, they're written purely with katakana. The reason for this is unknown, but might be related to Luffy's rather childish speech pattern.
  • The second, remade Tokyopop translation of the Magic Knight Rayearth manga features a different font for each kind of character.
  • Every speech bubble to be connected to Ichiya in Fairy Tail is full of sparkles.
  • In Kill la Kill, while Cute But Psycho Nui never directly breaks the fourth wall, she does make liberal use of Ninja Props (like leaning on her Boss Subtitles and stroking Satsuki's hair through a split-screen divider) and Limited Animation to make her appear more creepy and inhuman.

     Comic Books 
  • Speech Bubbles are a ridiculously common way to do this; see entry for examples.
  • One trick that's been used in a number of comics is to have pages printed sideways to indicate a change of state or perception.
    • In The Sandman, it's used at one point when a character falls asleep and moves from the real world to the world of dreams.
      • Also, Dream's speech bubbles are white-on-black rather than black-on-white, and have irregular borders. When another character tries to imitate Dream's voice, his speech bubbles change color, too.
      • The same applies to other important characters, especially the Endless. For example, Delirium's speech bubbles are colourful and the font is a little... unusual, and Desire speaks in a very pretty, sharp-edged font. Only Death's font and speech bubbles are normal. Among the other characters, there are Matthew the Raven's orange speech bubbles and thin, "sticky" font, Bast's faux-Egyptian font and angels' beautiful cursive.
      • In fact, in the scene where various gods and other entities turn up to discuss what to do with the now-leaderless Hell, each of the characters involved has a unique and thematically appropriate font and bubble style.
    • In Swamp Thing, it was used when the eponymous plant-creature and his wife make love through the use of hallucinogenic tubers. No, really.
    • Dave Sim seems quite fond of this trope — creative lettering and speech bubbles, the use of separated text and illustrations to depict Cerebus drifting through the astral plane-like Spheres in the "Mind Game" stories, and one issue where the orientation of the panels spins every page to emphasize the protagonist's vertigo.
    • Also, Frank Quitely's 3-issue art duties on Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin, frequently blended sound effects into the scene. Explosions in the shape of "BOOOOM" and when Damian gets smashed into a wall, the cracks spell out "smash", etc.
  • In Y: The Last Man's Safeword arc, Yorick is drugged with hallucinogens, and the structure of the page breaks up, with the panels placed at odd angles and overlapping. The white-on-black title cards (which normally carry objective information like "Tel Aviv, Israel, Three Days Later") show things like "Where The Hell Am I?"
  • An even earlier use of this was the surreal Krazy Kat, done by George Herriman. At times, the characters would draw various props themselves, and one Sunday sequence emphasising words that end in '-tion' ends with Officer Pupp hauling Ignatz to... an incomplete panel. Pupp asks Herriman if he's got 'kartoonist's kramp', while Ignatz muses on 'sweet procrastination'.
  • In the Astérix stories, different fonts are used to show languages that cannot be understood by the main characters (or at least notable accents). Most obvious are the Goths, who are written in blackletter, and Egyptians, who speak entirely in hieroglyphs (that are subtitled for the reader's benefit).
    • In one panel of Asterix and the Secret Weapon, Obelix is doubled over with hysterical laughter, and the panel stretches out due to his body pushing the frame.
    • Other frame-using examples include Asterix leaning onto the frame for support, his hand and elbow going out of the frame. There's absolutely no wall in this place.
    • At the beginning of Asterix and Cleopatra, which depicts a dialogue between two Egyptian characters, a footnote indicates that the scene will be dubbed for the reader's convenience, and goes to explain that the movement of characters' lips doesn't fit the pronunciation of the words because dubbing techniques of the time were not sophisticated enough.
      • At one point, Obelix attempts to speak Egyptian. Since Egyptian is represented by hieroglyphics, his faltering efforts look like a child's drawings.
    • In Asterix and the Great Crossing, Asterix and Obelix go to sea and a storm blows them to America, where they meet some Scandinavians, and mĺybe yřu cĺn guess hřw their lĺnguĺge is treĺted. Asterix tries to talk with them but gets nowhere, and muses that he must not be putting his ˚s and /s in the right places. The Scandinavians have a Gĺulish slĺve with ĺ "hřrrible ĺccent": his slashes are backward and his rings are rectangular.
  • In Superman Secret Identity, almost the entire narration is formatted as if it were written on a typewriter. In the last scene, Clark makes note that the aforementioned machine finally gave out and that he's finishing his autobiography on a computer, something exemplified by the change of narration bubble format.
  • One issue of She-Hulk had the eponymous character (who knew she was in a comic book) escape from a situation by ripping her way out of a page, clambering her way across a two page advert, and ripping back into the story at a later point.
  • Mighty Avengers #9 has several characters accidentally yanked back in time; this is shown by printing everything but the word bubbles and captions in a faux-CMYK halftone style, like the comics of the time they were transported to. In the next issue, it goes even further by adding the era's introductory caption, tiny ads at the bottom of pages, and so on.
  • Rising Stars contains a truly rare and brilliant use of the comic medium. As the protagonists leave a character who has become a hermit because he is plagued by seeing the dead, they comment on how he will be alone when they leave. The last panel is a full right-hand page of him muttering that he'll "never be alone" while huddling in a chair. It's all normal until the reader starts to turn the page and light illuminates it from behind, causing the next page to show through and outline a host of dead people and their speech bubbles clustered all around the huddled man on the chair. The entire next page is just a white space with reversed images of people and text to bleed onto the previous page.
  • In the Sin City comic Hell And Back, the protagonist is injected with a powerful hallucinogen. At this point, the normally black and white format switches to brilliant color until the hallucinations are cured.
  • Maus is a story of German Jews in World War II; it depicts Germans as cats and Jews as mice, then does an extensive Deconstruction of the depiction as overly crude. At one point, the narrator enters a house which was "completely overrun by cats and dogs," and then adds, "Am I allowed to say that, or does it completely louse up the metaphor?" (The humans, at that point, were depicted as humans wearing the appropriate masks.)
  • Jim Steranko was fond of this; one issue he did had Nick Fury making his way through a booby-trapped facility. The page was laid out like a maze, requiring the reader to solve it in order to read. The panels weren't even oriented to each other, which reflected Fury's disorientation.
  • In a short sci-fi story appearing in the Swedish edition of The Phantom, a group of humans are attempting to subvert an alien world so they can seize control. The only thing the aliens care about is The Thinker, a heralded being who, according to their faith, thinks the universe into existence; the humans reason that if they can sedate The Thinker with a stunner, they will reveal him as a fraud, and the resulting chaos from the revelation will make the planet easy for conquest. They succeed in the assault... and the following two pages are filled with empty frames. In the last page immediately after, The Thinker wakes up again, realizes he's forgotten what he thought about, and thinks about something else.
  • In Vögelein, every character has his or her own font. These give some indication of personality or role in the story — Heinrich, dead for two hundred years, has a nostalgically old-fashioned font. Vogelein herself has a tiny, wispy text. The Duskie's is Sand and comes with a Phonetic Accent.
  • Zot! features an issue dealing with Terry's lesbian urges and her dilemma of whether to confess her feelings to Pam, an open (and widely mocked) lesbian. The final page features Pam greeting Terry, only for her to shamefully walk away. Next comes a page of letters to the writer, or if you're reading the trade paperback, author commentary. Flip the page, and you see the real last page, where Terry changes her mind and rushes back down the hallway to say 'Hi' to Pam.
  • Deadpool was also the only character who thought and spoke in yellow boxes or balloons, when everyone else used normal white. Now major characters like Iron Man and Spider-Man have started having their own distinct boxes and bubbles.
    • And when Deadpool starts having conversations with himself in internal monologue, he uses his trademark yellow boxes while the "other party" uses white boxes with typewriter-stype text.
    • In the Daniel Way series Deadpool seems to have developed a sort of internal multiple personality disorder. Each of his personalities thinks in a different font and colour.
    • I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC naturally has some fun with this when Deadpool shows up: he ponders in yellow captions how bad the stop motion animation is and asks for a better editing software.
    • Speaking of the latter bit of that first sentence, many Marvel Universe characters speak in their own specific fonts (Depending on the Writer) including the Thing and Wolverine.
  • A Secret Six story had the team vomiting after being poisoned by Cheshire. Deadshot is shown vomiting, with only his narration boxes, until he pulls a butler by the collar and asks if he heard what he just said. The butler says no, and Deadshot says "Good. I thought that narration was out loud."
    • Specking of Secret Six, Ragdoll has a different italic front than everyone else.
  • One of the many Marvel Crossovers, The Infinity Crusade, has the main villain wanting to kill everything so no more evil happens. This involves all realities. Including ours. One panel has its own page on it, indicating the point of view of the actual reader. Then, all dimensions catch on fire. Again, the very comic book is shown, along with the reader and it all bursts into flames. Ouch. But there's hope. Turns out it was all an illusion to fool the villain. Everyone in all realities, including the reader, is said to have resisted burning to death with their mind.
  • Many issues of The Spirit have the title of the story drawn into the panel. For example, the negative space created by cacti and nearby characters form the title.
  • Watchmen has a few examples. Issue 5, aptly titled "Fearful Symmetry": the panel layout and the locations featured therein are completely symmetrical from beginning to end. A much more subtle example is Dr. Manhattan's unconventional perception of time. Manhattan believes that all of time exists simultaneously and people only perceive it as one moment at a time. Keen-eyed readers will note that all of the past and future events that he mentions throughout the book are things that appear in other panels, and the only time he ever uses the word "maybe" or shows any semblance of free will at all is when discussing his plans for the future that takes place after the end of the book.
    • Rorschach's speech bubbles are raggedy-edged, and he never uses bold or italics. None of this applied until the Blaire Roche case.
    • Manhattan speaks in blue speech balloons while everyone else's are white.
  • In one issue of Spider-Man, an extra who is actually Captain America in disguise asks Doctor Doom how he manages to talk in all caps.
    • "Silence, minion."
  • Sonic the Hedgehog seems to enjoy messing around with comic book conventions:
    • Zonic the Zone cop comes from a "perpendicular" world; he's always shown floating sideways, sometimes with his feet resting on the side of the panel.
    • One story from Zonic's perspective printed entirely on a 90° axis from normal.
    • In issue 50 when the Ultimate Annihilator fires and seemingly consumes Sonic and Dr. Robotnik the color instantly drains from the page to show how everything is being utterly destroyed. The next page is almost entirely blank until a panel border and Sonic's hand appear at the bottom to show that Sonic survived.
    • In one issue a bunch of continuity callbacks and references in one scene causes the Clue from Ed. to grow increasingly disoriented as it has to keep popping up to inform the reader of when things happened.
    • In issue 252 Sonic alludes to events that have been retconned away (he's the only one who remembers they happened) a Clue from Ed. comes up like usual to tell the reader when it happened only to say "STH#... wait a minute...".
  • At the end of the Legion of 3 Worlds Final Crisis tie-in, Superboy-Prime literally punches himself out of continuity. As he does so, he's reduced to inks, then pencils, and then nothingness. He then appears back on Earth-Prime, our Earth, where his family now fears him because they've followed his exploits in The DCU. In the end, he ends up on the official DC forums, just like the whiny, ever complaining fanboy he's been reimagined to represent.
  • One of the Judge Dredd stories in prog 2010 is told in two parts, with the second part set in 2131 and the first in 2098. The first part is done in the style of an 80s story — black and white artwork, a more cartoony art style, campier storytelling, an old-fashioned Lawgiver, and even 80s-style credits. The second part was similar to the contemporary strips.
  • In The Grievous Journey Of Ichabod Azrael And The Dead Left In His Wake, scenes in the world of the living are in full colour, and those in the world of the dead are black and white. Additionally, the grim reapers and their horses are drawn in a very sketchy style which contrasts with the clear, stark art of the rest of limbo; souls awaiting judgement refer to them as blurry.
  • Batwoman villain Alice speaks with black speech bubbles and white text just to reinforce how crazy she is. The only time she uses a normal speech bubble is her last line before falling off a plane into the river: "You have our father's eyes".
    • In the Batman Graphic Novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, all of the patients have different speech bubbles to indicate their personalities, the sounds of their voices, etc. For example, Clayface has muddy, goopy-looking speech bubbles and font, and the Joker has no bubbles at all, opting instead for a single line pointing to some red, scrawled text. The Dark Knight himself also has special speech bubbles - white-on-black, with a gritty-looking font.
    • In the mainstream Batman comics some artists do this with Two-Face to denote which of his two personalities is speaking at the time. They tend to give Harvey normal bubbles and Two-Face either white-on-black, some other color on black, or bubbles with gritty font on an abnormal color.
  • In the Brian Li Sung arc of Grendel, the margin of each page contains an excerpt from Brian's personal journal. At first it appears that only half the pages contain narrative, while the other half are just doodles, but over time the doodles are joined by scrawled phrases in a different handwriting. They're actually the handiwork of the "Grendel" in Brian, which had been taking control of his left hand while he'd been consciously making notes with his right.
  • DC's magician Zatanna Zatara casts her spells by speaking them backwards. In issue 23 of Countdown to Final Crisis we meet her Earth-3 counterpart, Annataz Arataz, who speaks them upside-down. How this sounds to the other characters in the story is not explained.
    • Meta Guy Ambush Bug can see speech bubbles, and asks her why the words in hers are backwards. She runs away crying.
  • In Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, the frame is sometimes made up of words, right-side up or otherwise. Fun to see what words are in there and you can miss some if you don't rotate the book. Also, the Happy Noodle Boy frames have smiley/frowny faces, words, or scribbles between them.
  • In the crossover where Peter Parker meets Miles Morales, when in the main Marvel Universe, everyone speaks in all caps. When in the Ultimate Marvel universe they speak in the font used for most Ultimate Marvel works.
  • Matt Fraction's Sex Criminals does this in issue #3; the protagonist Suzie (who can freeze time when she orgasms) belts out a rousing chorus of "Fat-Bottom Girls" by Queen. While she sings, all of her speech balloons are covered over with yellow sticky-note squares containing a statement from Matt Fraction explaining that they wanted to include this scene due to their respect for Freddie Mercury, but were not able to contact Brian May to get the rights for the song, so they had to blank out the lyrics.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • Here's a really meta one: the early Disney Winnie the Pooh shorts were played out as readings of the books, down to the animated characters being able to walk on the text, a hurried page-turning at one point to keep Pooh from flying out of the book, and so forth. Thus it played with the concept that it was a book, when in fact it wasn't. All this in a cartoon for children.
  • At the end of The Thief and the Cobbler, the Thief comes out and takes the letters from the THE END title. Then he goes and takes the very film he is on out of the projector as it is rolling, rolls it up and runs off into the now blank screen. Gives new meaning to the term "scene stealer".
  • In Disney's Brother Bear, when Kenai is transformed, the movie changes its aspect ratio to subtly tell the viewer that he's seeing through different eyes now.
  • Over the Hedge ends with Hammy running smack into the camera.
  • In The Emperors New Groove, Kuzco-the-narrator freezes the frame and literally paints on the screen to bring the story back to himself. He then continues to interrupt the story so it focuses on himself. Later on in the story, Kuzco-the-character yells at Kuzco-the-narrator to stop talking and leave him alone. From then on, the movie is un-narrated.
  • Ralph Bakshi's animated The Lord of the Rings also has blood splattering the camera during battles.
  • At the end of Shrek, the heroic ogre palms the camera's lens for privacy before kissing ogre-Fiona.
  • In the Rankin/Bass Productions feature film Mad Monster Party, after Francesca has an Inner Monologue about her plan to use Dracula to steal Baron von Frankenstein's secrets, the Monster's Mate suddenly comes to the conclusion that Francesca is scheming with Dracula, and resolves to keep a close eye on her. She then remarks that it's Francesca's own fault for "thinking out loud."
  • Aladdin begins with a narrator telling the viewer to come closer, prompting the camera to come in and hit him in the nose. "Too close, a little too close!"
  • In Tangled, Rapunzel literally paints the fourth wall.
  • In one scene, Ratatouille uses splashes of color to convey the indescribable qualities of tastes that harmonize well, and the differences in taste perception by Rémy and his brother.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Casino features a rather unique example. The characters of Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) and Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) provide offscreen narration throughout the movie. In one scene Santoro is narrating the action when his voice is interrupted—permanently—by a baseball bat upside the head onscreen.
  • Fight Club:
    • Includes a few frames of male genitalia to suggest that Tyler or another member of Project Mayhem is serving as the film's projectionist.
    • There are a few flashes of Tyler before he's introduced, possibly inserted into the film stock by the projectionist.
    • Tyler points to the "cigarette burn" on the film stock while the narrator explains how Tyler tampers with films.
    • In one of the first scenes, Tyler asks the narrator if he has anything to say, and the narrator says "I can't think of anything." At the end, we come back to this scene, but the narrator says "I still can't think of anything." Tyler replies "Ah, flashback humor."
    • While Tyler delivers his "You are not your job" monologue, his intensity causes the film stock to vibrate in the projector, allowing its perforations to become visible at the edges of the screen.
  • During one particularly long oner in Children of Men, a bloodsplatter hit the lens. Originally they were going to drop it, but decided to Throw It In. It stays for a while, but it gradually fades and gets erased as darker parts of the image wipe over parts of the splatter.
  • The English sub of Night Watch does this with subtitles: various characters' subtitles are in different colors, and when a character shouts, his subtitles get bigger.
    • A particularly cool effect from Night Watch is the depiction of The Call, an ability that vampires have to call victims to themselves. This is rendered as a character getting a bloody nose in a swimming pool, and the floating blood forming the subtitles of the vampire calling her prey. When she finishes speaking, the bloody subtitles dissipate, then coalesce into her next line of dialogue.
  • Grindhouse
    • Planet Terror has all sorts of old-fashioned movie theater effects within the normal footage: a missing reel, jumping scenes, burned film, and so on. Most of them are used as Relax-o-Vision.
    • Death Proof had a few scratches and another missing reel, although it was "found" for the DVD release. To make up for this, the DVD had a scene (not included in the theatrical cut) that was entirely in black and white, before fading back.
    • The theatrical release of Grindhouse as a double feature had, sandwiched between the two main films, ads for a fictitious Mexican restaurant and mock movie trailers for "Coming Attractions".
  • At one point in a film titled The Impostors, one of the lead characters overhears a plot to blow up the ship in a foreign language. He hides under the bed, and understands the plan by reading the subtitles that were meant for the audience. And they pull it off without breaking the willing suspension of disbelief.
    • Something similar happens in a The Three Stooges film involving Martians.
    • And in the third Austin Powers film, involving talking to a Japanese man and Austin reading the subtitles, made even funnier by strategically placed objects blocking the subtitles and turning innocent words into swears ("Please eat some Shittake mushrooms")
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch has a scene where the film starts to burn and Hulk Hogan comes out to yell at the Gremlins to start the movie back up. The VHS version features a different scene in its place, with your VCR breaking and John Wayne (depicted via archival footage where he is dubbed over by Chad Everett, since Wayne was dead by the time of the VHS release) and a Bugs Bunny cameo instead of Hulk Hogan.
  • Johnny Dangerously displays the year the movie is set in over a street front shot of Johnny's apartment, and then a car hits the numbers, demolishing them.
  • Be Kind Rewind: After Jack Black has become magnetized, he walks into a video store, and the picture goes wonky a couple of times while he's there. Mind you, this is a VHS video store he walks into...
  • In the "shoot the cook" scene from Once upon a Time in Mexico, the cook's blood splatters against the camera lens.
  • This is also done in Braveheart during the fight scene after Wallace's famous speech, not to mention countless other films.
  • A similar effect to Brother Bear was used in the live-action Disney films Enchanted and Oz: The Great and Powerful, with the prologues using a different aspect ratio than the rest of the films.
  • The scenes that take place in Kansas in The Wizard of Oz are presented in sepia, while all of the scenes that take place in Oz are in vivid Technicolor.
  • Done a few times in Doomsday, particularly Saul's head
  • Done both in the Edgar Wallace parody Der Wixxer and its successor. For example, while the detective inspects a crime scene ominous music plays. When he turns and exasperatedly says, "Oh cut it out boys!" the camera moves to some police men with music instruments who now stop playing and apologetically scamper off. In the second movie, a fake commercial break is inserted into the movie which at first looks perfectly real until it turns out the commercials (for dating hotlines and handy downloads) are parodies, too.
  • The beginning of Loaded Weapon 1. Whoopi Goldberg's character is leaving a message for her cop friend, and she mentions the exact current time. But a subtitle clock (clearly meant for the audience to know what time this was taking place at) pops up, and the minute digit rolls over to the next. She immediately sees it and corrects herself in the message, stating the updated time.
  • Funny Games. The entire film is a direct attack on the audience, solidified by the fact that a character talks to the camera, addressing the audience and even so much as changing the entire outcome of the film by literally grabbing a remote control and rewinding a particular scene in order to avoid it.
  • Quarantine features an infected individual being beaten to death with the camera. The cameraman then spends the next minute or so wiping the lens clean of blood.
  • An early scene in Equilibrium is shot from overhead and has a (vertically ejected) shell casing bounce off the camera lens. The filmmakers deemed it important enough to modify the pistol at significant expense, then have it animated in when they couldn't get the trick to work right mechanically.
  • In the Russian comedy High Security Vacation, the opening credits initially pan over Japanese-esque drawings, starting as Japanese characters and then morphing into Russian letters stylized into Japanese characters. Then, as the camera moves through the prison where the protagonists are detained, the credits blend seamlessly into the scenery, appearing as writings on walls, trucks, and other objects.
  • The lettering of the Zombieland opening credits is sent flying when hit by debris, people fleeing zombies or swinging weapons and so on. "The Rules" appear hanging from ceilings, painted on the ground, getting splattered with blood and so on, but aren't "really" there.
  • In New Moon, early on when Jacob is fighting another werewolf over Bella, they tumble into the nearby woods, where they crash into the camera tripod and knock it over, screwing up the focus and filming everything sideways for a moment.
  • Tropic Thunder opens with commercials and movie trailers starring the main characters of the film within the film.
  • During a very frantic and drug-addled day in Goodfellas the editing and camera work shifts from the usual pacing to an equally frantic and excited style, mimicing the character's drug use.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail ends with cops arresting everyone, and one of them covers the camera with his hand.
  • In Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the opening scenes have the credits spelled out in flaming scenery lit by arrows. The villagers are understandably distressed by this and one remarks, "Every time they make a Robin Hood movie, they go and burn our village down!"
  • In Metropolis, on-screen text about an underground city of the poor scrolls down. Text about the skyscrapers of the rich scrolls up, and is shaped like a tower. In a story sequence, the text shines and bleeds.
  • Spaceballs, the Movie.
    Prepare to Fast Forward!
  • In the 3DMovie version of TRON: Legacy, the Grid is a 3D world, obviously, but scenes in the real world are filmed in 2D.
  • District 9 seems to love splattering the camera with blood every time someone gets shot. Sometimes justified in that portions of the film are in mockumentary form, using footage that was recorded in-universe.
  • In Apollo 13, astronaut Fred Haise pukes in a bag once they've left gravity, and some of it splats on the camera.
  • There's a lot of this in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Sound effects are written on-screen, musical instruments give off waves of sound (only some of which are meant to actually affect the characters); a lot of video game visuals are also here, i.e. Gideon has a life bar during his boss battle, etc.
  • Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare had a segment of the film (in a dream) filmed in 3D. When the audience is supposed to don their 3D glasses, the character entering the dream actually puts on a pair herself; it is explained that while the glasses mean nothing in the real world, in the dream they "can be whatever you want them to be", and allow her to navigate Freddy's mind. The glasses vanish once she puts them on, and reappear at the end of the film, when the 3D is over.
  • The film Brainstorm has the memory playback sequences show in a 2.2:1 ratio instead of the conventional 1.7:1 ratio of the rest of the movie. This was not entirely intentional as MGM backed out of making the whole film in a new 60fps, 2.2:1 format called Showscan. So the director filmed just memory blackback sequences in 2.2:1.
  • The famous score of Inception was based on taking the Edith Piaf song "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" (AKA the song the characters use to prepare themselves to wake up), and slowing it down to various speeds. Remember that the deeper into the dreams you go, the slower the outside world passes, so to the characters themselves, the song would sound distorted and slowed down.

  • This Wario Land: Shake YouTube video causes the entire page to shake up.
  • Britanick plays with the convention of cross-cutting in tv & film here
  • The Due South fanfic Scrabble has the story divided into two-to-three columns, representing the two narrators and, occasionally, the scrabble board they were playing with.
  • The Firefly fanfic Forward invokes this when covering scenes from River's perspective to portray her chaotic and jumbled thoughts. Text is centered instead of left aligned, and a seemingly random mixure of italics, bolds, capitalizations, and underlinings are used. Coupled with a stream-of-consciousness narration that is liberally sprinkled with non sequiturs, random thoughts, and the sheer jumbled confusion that is River's brain, it makes for a very surreal and effective read.
  • During his "Let's Play" of Eversion, DeceasedCrab starts sounding like someone is chipping away at his Sanity Meter. "Stop your cheery lies!" Even the video description descends into madness.
  • During Chorocojo's Let's Play of Pokémon FireRed, he forgoes the use of Flash to light up the Rock Tunnel. The entire Rock Tunnel segment is presented in MP3 format.
  • Open Blue has Kukulu, one of the Powers That Be, as an admin account made to smite God Modders and add unforseen elements to an RP thread. The account always posts with green text as opposed to the forum standard.
  • In the beginning of the eleventh episode of The Escapist's home webseries Apocalypse Arcade, the heroes meet a wizard who pretends he can stop time. After one of the heroes make a sigh of incredulity, the loading icon appears for a few seconds before being pushed aside by the incredulous protagonist.
  • The web story Ted the Caver is presented as a caving log with dated daily entries, and as the story continues it gets progressively weirder and scarier, ending with the protagonist acting oddly and against all logic planning another trip to the cave, but he promises several times that as soon as he returns, he'll write up everything that happened on his final journey. He states it won't be more than a few days. This is, of course, the last entry, dated sometime in 2001. Clicking on the link for "Next Entry" brings the reader to a 404 error. (The ending is told in the lack of an ending!)
  • Survival of the Fittest v4's Maria Graham does this at one point, starting with a flashback where she and another character are having a conversation, with their lines in blue and orange respectively to clarify who's saying what. After the flashback, Maria's still talking and thinking in blue text until she finally goes "Wait, why am I still thinking in blue?" and promptly stops.
  • Whenever some sad, sad person thinks they're being funny on a wiki or message board by using the tired joke of mentioning Candle Jack and then not
  • The "Pokemon Black" creepypasta was turned into a visual novel, playable on Nintendo DSes with homebrew-running devices. The last line is "GHOST cursed you, [DS owner]!"note 
  • In the Pokémon fanfic Ash's Return, Chapter 3 ("Parallel Process") uses three columns of text to represent three simultaneous lines of action. Until...
  • Some moderators on forums are known for emboldening and changing the colour of their text to indicate seriousness (as in, keep-that-shit-up-and-you-get-banned serious).
  • ZALGO! H͉͙̖͎́ͬ̿͟͠ͅȨ̶͚̺͈̬̏̑͊̄̓ͨͪ̚ ̻̬̂̎͒̂̌̕͟C̦̦͚̱̯͕̾͊̏ͦ͘͜O͕͕̟͇͎̩̞̅ͩ̚M̵̪͔̗̺ͯͭ̀E̢̟̙̗̰̬̲͕̘̍ͪͬ̌̏̑͜͢S̴̤̯̫ͩ̑̄̂̚͘͠.̭̞̠̟̘̪̉͒ͧͯ̾͆

  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes is written as a diary by Charlie, the main character, and his grammar and vocabulary weaken or expand in tandem with his intelligence and schooling.
  • This is kind of the whole point of Finnegan's Wake. Joyce does it quite a bit in Ulysses as well, and to a lesser extent in his earlier fiction.
  • Discworld is full of textual variations.
    • Terry Pratchett's Death SPEAKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS (or, in some editions, speaks in Caps and Small Caps). This applies when he appears in Good Omens as well.
    • Klatchians speaking in their vaguely Arabesque native language use an ornate cursive font (interspaced with ordinary letters if they have an accent!)
    • Azrael the Death of Universes takes up a page to speak a single word
    • The Auditors of Reality, those cosmic-level Obstructive Bureaucrats, don't need quotation marks.
    • Reaper Man's twin A-plots are marked out by subtly different font weights.
    • Susan and Mort start speaking in capitals whenever they "do the Voice".
    • Also in Reaper Man, Death's scythe is shown to be sharp enough to slice whatever's being said at the time, leaving big ol' slashes and chopping the rest of the sentence onto the next line of the page.
    • In Thief of Time, Wen is shown to be affecting time with his Procrastinator by repeating the last few lines, the last sentence, or even the last few letters, as if Wen were playing scratch artist with the universe.
    • Also in Thief of Time, each chapter break is marked with the tick of a clock... until the Glass Clock stops time, and the breaks are marked with a simple space as in the other books. The chapter break after the Clock stops time is marked with a ti-... and the breaks are marked with a simple space, until time resumes with an -ick. Thereafter chapter breaks are marked with tick again.
    • In Witches Abroad, while describing the stillness and silence pervading a sleep-bewitched castle, the narrative itself gets rudely interrupted:
    There was no sound in the-
    "Open up there!"
    -no sound in the-
    There was a tinkle of broken glass.
    "You've broken their window!"
    - not a sound in the-
    • And in Small Gods, a powerful deity speaks in numbered, Biblical-style verses.
    • In the hardback edition of Feet of Clay, the (speechless) golems write their words in an Hebraic-looking script. Disappointingly, this was left out of the paperbacks (except the Corgi paperback), so the golems' text just appeared in bold letters. And the ones who can speak Speak Like That All The Time.
    • In Maskerade we come across a rogue "Up here?" in one of the margins. Nearer the bottom of the page, the protagonist starts to throw her voice...
    • One of the thugs in The Truth, Mr. Tulip, says things like, "Shall I hit him up alongside the —ing head with the —ing oar again?" It's not until you're partway through the book that you learn he's really just saying "ing" in a very angry and aggressive way.
    • Several characters are also noted for their ability to pronounce punctuation and italics. The sort of people who can pronounce Wiki Words.
    • There's one paragraph in Going Postal which appears to be a multi-line sentence of dialogue by the main character, only to have the quotes followed by "is what he did not say, because ..."
    • In Men at Arms, there's what seems to be Carrot's one and only venture into first-person internal monologue. It turns out to be Gaspode, using his "put words into the human's head" trick. Unsuccessfully.
    • Going Postal also feature's a greengrocer who suffer's from a bad ca'se of "Greengrocer's apostrophe", as in "Red Apples's". His speech is peppered with apostrope's where they arent needed, and its missin'g them where they are. We find out in Making Money that thi's is required by grocer's guild rule's.
    • Carrot can pronounce "d*mn", said to be "a difficult linguistic feat".
    • In several books, when a character mentions something Important, it is written with the First Letter in each word Capitalized. Other characters note that they can Hear the Capital Letters.
    • In Mort, a gang of muggers are very surprised when their victim, the title character, walks backwards through a wall as if it were insubstantial. The response:
    'Well, —— me,' he said. 'A ——ing wizard. I hate ——ing wizards!'
    'You shouldn't —— them, then,' muttered one of his henchmen, effortlessly pronouncing a row of dashes.
    • In Night Watch, the bell that rings silences is set tolling out of control, making everyone's dialog intersperse with blanks until it's fixed.
    • In Moving Pictures, when film-reality intrudes on Disc-reality and the scene goes soundless, the only things Victor and Ginger can express to one another is "!" and "?". Twoflower in The Colour of Magic spoke in the same way when he wasn't using his translation dictionary.
    • One of the earlier books had an elderly wizard who could pronounce brackets (when he used them, which was often).
    • Edward D'eath is a very dangerous person, as illustrated by his ability to "think in italics".
    • Both Pyramids and Good Omens feature old characters (mummies who have been brought back to life and a 17th-century witch, respectively) who talk exclusively in "Old English," and therefore say things like, "Thys ys spookye."
    • An early example from Equal Rites:
    Esk gazed down defiantly. Granny glared up sternly. Their wills clanged like cymbals and the air between them thickened. But Granny had spent a lifetime bending recalcitrant creatures to her bidding and, while Esk was a surprisingly strong opponent, it was obvious that she would give in before the end of the paragraph.
  • Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events does this sort of thing a lot.
    • From The Bad Beginning, the first book, comes this quote: "He found himself reading the same sentence over and over. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over."
    • In a later book, the author spends a page talking about deja vu, and following it, a copy of (almost) that exact same page talking about deja vu.
    • Yet another later book mixed normal text with mirrored text.
    • Yet another book states that "you should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever..." and then you turn the page and the entire next page is taken up by "...ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever..."
    • And yet another book features the trio falling down a very long elevator shaft. Two pages are pure black. Stop for a moment to consider how closely Handler/Snicket must have worked with his publisher to get the word counts to exactly fit the trick pages.
    • Another example mentioned how sometimes books would have passages that would seem to make no sense to people who were just skimming, to get them to go back and actually read the book. This was followed by a sentence about construction workers carrying a door.
    • Another book contained a long, boring, and appropriately circular passage about the Water Cycle, so that Lemony could slip in a secret message to his sister under the impression that anyone else would have stopped reading by this point.
    • Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography features this in droves with the copyright pages and index.
    No part of this book may be used, reproduced, destroyed, tampered with, or eaten without written permission except in the case of brief, possibly coded quotations embodied in critical articles, reviews, and subpoenas.
  • According to Wikipedia, when The Hobbit was published Tolkien wished for "Thrór's map to be tipped in (that is, glued in after the book has been bound) at first mention in the text, and with the moon-letters (Anglo-Saxon runes) on the reverse so they could be seen when held up to the light." This turned out to be prohibitively expensive and was left undone. Alas.
    • Fortunately the 'moon letter' version of the map has been created in the 2004 deluxe edition.
  • In some editions of Daniel Handler's book Watch Your Mouth, the second half of the story is printed in burgundy.
  • Life of Pi ends with an extended conversation, written in script form, between the protagonist and two Japanese businessmen. The Japanese businessmen alternate between speaking to the protagonist in English and to each other in Japanese. The Japanese dialogue is denoted with a bold, paintbrush-like font.
  • The Neverending Story uses two different colors for the two reality levels in the book, or two different typefaces in cheaper printings.
  • House of Leaves
    • The book is printed in three colors, although there are some variations between the different versions of the book. Normal text is printed in black, the word "house" appears in blue, and references to mythology are in red, with the addition of colored and Braille plates. "Minotaur" may or may not be struck out, depending on whether it's used during one of the aforementioned mythology references. In addition, there are a few instances of purple in the book as well, including the phrase "A Novel" on the front cover, the edition number, and one instance of a struck-out purple phrase in Chapter XXI. There are two different typefaces, which are used to represent the contributions of the elderly blind man, Zampano, and the twenty-something slacker, Johnny Truant, with a rare third typeface for "The Editors" — and even the accuracy of the typefaces is called into question. Mirror text is used on occasion; some pages have only a few words sparsely placed, and in odd orientations. A labyrinth is represented by a chapter consisting almost wholly of footnotes which refer to each other in a way that can only be described as labyrinthine. The vote is out on if it's good surrealism or pretentious crap.
    • Some paperback editions have covers that are smaller than the pages. The book is larger on the inside than on the outside.
  • Danielewski's second book, Only Revolutions, had two stories, one starting from the front and one from the back. With every passing page, a little less page space was given to the one story and a little more to the other story, until at the middle of the book it's exactly 50/50. (Oh, and there's a hint to the font colors in this novel.)
  • Danielewski's The Fifty Year Sword uses different colors of quotation marks to indicate different speakers.
  • The web novel Sailor Nothing is, of course, not content to mess only with genre and storytelling conventions. The color and font of headers reflects the mood of a particular section; Chapter 5 is split into four subpages, presented in a random order that changes on refreshing the page, each written in first person from a different character's perspective; Shin's journal entry uses a monospace font; the title for Cobalt's entry is the periodic table cell for cobalt; and Chapter 7 is rendered entirely as an Interactive Fiction game with sprites, although the author has provided a text-only "walkthrough FAQ" version. Even in the "normal" chapters, the narration switches between first person, third person, diary entries, et cetera. The little divider graphics between sections of a chapter contain one-liners if you squint just right.
  • "jPod" is a post modern novel by Douglas Coupland. Examples of this trope range from spending 16 pages listing prime numbers between 10,000 and 20,000, with one non-prime number added as a game, to random pop-up and spam emails repeated verbatim in the middle of a scene.
  • The children's book The Monster at the End of This Book has Sesame Street's Grover going to greater and greater lengths to keep the reader from turning the page (as he's afraid of the eponymous monster at the end of the book). He tapes pages together, attempts to nail them down, builds a brick wall, all to no avail. (It's okay, though, as the monster at the end of the book turns out to be himself.)
    • Dinosaur Comics homaged this one.
    • Another book, Oscar's Grouch Book, has Oscar the Grouch trying to get the reader to stop reading and leave him alone, through a series of similar tricks.
  • A mainstay of the Thursday Next novels. The most prominent example is the Footnoterphone, which enables Jurisfiction agents to communicate long-distance via the footnotes of the novels. Certain characters speak exclusively in "Olde English" or "Courier Bold," which are treated as foreign languages by the characters even though they are perfectly comprehensible to the readers.
    • In serious trouble at one point, she escapes into the Footnoterphone conduits. The story continues in the footnotes, while the main text is blank.
      • It's better than that: Thursday escapes into the footnotes, and her story then continues in parallel to the main text, in which the people she escaped from are trying to figure out where she has gone. This does, of course, leave the reader to decide whether to read the main text first, the footnotes first, or to switch between the two.
    • Thursday wows the Bookworlders by being able to tell who is speaking even when they turn off their dialogue tags (he said).
    • The most recent book includes a sequence in which Thurs is thrown outside the bounds of the BookWorld, resulting in several wordless pages in graphic novel format.
    • There is also a scene with characters fighting a mispeling vyrus which as the progretion of the vyrus grows teh speling geets progresivvly wers.
    • Not to mention the Bookworm's, which ex'crete apo's'trophe's & ampers&s.
    • Or the grammarvores who consume punctuation and grammar which have overrun Finnegan's Wake.
  • Stephen King is known to have dabbled in this from time to time.
    • In Insomnia, certain characters' telepathic thoughts fade out and back in, signifying that something is wrong with them. The text of their thoughts actually fades into illegibility, then becomes clear and readable again.
    • Several King works (The Dark Half, Hearts in Atlantis, The Dark Tower, Misery, It, Pet Sematary) feature actual handwriting instead of text at certain points where hand-written signs or messages enter the story.
    • In his later efforts (Lisey's Story, The Dark Tower volumes 4-7), King experiments frequently with changing fonts and typefaces.
    • His short story "Survivor Type" is written as the diary of a surgeon who is shipwrecked on a desert island. After he starts to go crazy and cut off parts of his own body for food, his entries become more erratic and nonsensical.
    • Another example used in almost all his works is when a sentence abruptly stops followed by some italicised words in the lines below in brackets before the sentence continues. This is usually done for characters who are currently stressed, and the line usually shows the characters'
      inner thoughts about what they are describing.
  • The very title of a short story by F. Paul Wilson was written by placing the words "DAVID", "COPPE", and "RFIEL" over each other, creating an unpronounceable jumble. The word itself was capable of sounding like the correct answer of any question or proposal to anyone hearing it (though not to the person saying it).
  • Alfred Bester:
    • The novella Tiger! Tiger!, later expanded into the full-length novel The Stars My Destination, employs this excellently in the final two chapters. As the Anti-Hero protagonist Gully Foyle experiences synesthesia (a side effect of a nearby bomb blast), the text is written in an illustrative manner which reflects the confusion of his sensory apparatus.
    • In The Demolished Man, telepathic communication is represented by creative typesetting, sentences that can be read up, down, left or right simultaneously, rebuses, fonts and other trickery. Bester seemed very fond of this sort of thing in general.
      • An example: Two of the characters in this book are named @kins (Atkins) and 1/4maine (Quartermaine).
    • Babylon 5 is full of Shout Outs to Bester's work, down to naming a character Alfred Bester and giving him a Start of Darkness novel series with telepathic communication depicted as in The Demolished Man.
    • Another occurs in the short story Fondly Fahrenheit, about a schizophrenic mass murderer and his robot. At times the guy thinks of himself simply as himself, other times he thinks of himself as the robot, and then there's the times he thinks of them both as one person. All of this is accomplished by Bester constantly switching his use of pronouns.
  • In the Turing Hopper series by Donna Andrews, different typefaces are used for third-person narration vs. Turing's first-person commentary.
  • The 18th-century novel Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne includes such features as a black page when a character dies, and a blank one allowing the reader to sketch their vision of a female character's appearance.
  • Older Than Print: An elegant example of this can be found in The Tale of Genji, the seminal novel of Heian-era Japan, in which the 42nd chapter, "Vanished into Clouds", is left blank entirely after the title — the subtle implication being the death of the title character.
  • Peter David's Star Trek Expanded Universe novel I, Q, working from the point-of-view of Q during the apocalyptic end of the universe, uses a few of these tricks. Data raises his voice above all other noise by rapidly increasing his font size. And near the very end, Q, spitting in the face of death, writes the book up and stuffs it into a bottle which he then hurls into the whirlpool sucking up all existence. The last sentence is cut off halfway (as Q is screaming his defiance of fate), and then followed by not a few completely blank pages. And when you're finally wondering what the heck is up, you run across a few pages of laughter. Seems God was so amused by Q's defiance that she (God) decided to cancel The End.
    • Another Star Trek novel, Vendetta (also by Peter David), did this when a character reached Warp 10. She got stuck in a time loop, so naturally her one-page chapter began to repeat every few chapters, then every other chapter, then for several chapters in a row, until finally it stopped in mid-sentence ("just a few more seconds...") and the next chapter had the Next Generation crew musing about what her existence might be like now.
  • The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall features a scene where a conceptual shark (don't ask) is swimming toward the narrator, and the reader is treated to 45 pages of an ASCII shark getting slowly bigger and bigger as you flip the pages.
  • At one point, Interworld has the bottom quarter of a page go completely black, to symbolize the main character losing his memories.
  • The text for "The Mouse's Tale" in Alice in Wonderland winds down the page and narrows to a point, resembling a mouse's tail.
    • In the beginning of the sequel, an illustration of Alice going Through the Looking-Glass is matched up on the other side of the leaf with an illustration of her arrival. The second of these illustrations — the one showing Alice's arrival in Looking-Glass House — has Sir John Tenniel's distinctive monogram mirror-reversed. (Honest. Look.)
  • Similarly, Karen Hesse's novel The Music Of Dolphins is told by a young girl who was Raised by Wolves (or dolphins, as the case may be). At the beginning, the text is quite large and written in very simple sentences; as the narrator learns more English, the font size decreases and the breadth of vocabulary increases. She eventually has a breakdown and goes back to the ocean, forcing the text to return to its original simplified state.
  • The Athenian Murders by José Carlos Somoza played with this similarly to House of Leaves, with an apparent ancient Greek mystery being the bulk of the book and various footnotes telling other stories. One set of footnotes is by the original translator who was rumoured to have been murdered in the same fashion as the characters in the text, and another set of rare footnotes apparently by the editors of the copy you are actually reading. Most of the footnotes are from the current translator who is driving himself crazy, convinced that there is a hidden message in the translated text, and becomes convinced that the characters in the text are interacting with him. Eventually, it's revealed that both translators are fictional characters, and the entire book and all its footnotes was written by someone else. (Who, to make matters more confusing, wrote himself as one of the minor characters in the Greek mystery, making the translators characters created by someone in the text that they are translating.)
  • When Henry Esmond one of the novels of Victorian author William Makepeace Thackeray came out, there was a special edition made to look like an eighteenth century novel in binding and font (it is a pastiche of such works).
  • In the Boris Akunin novel Leviathan, text in chapters written from the perspective of a Japanese is rotated ninety degrees. It doesn't really look like Japanese vertical writing, but it does look "exotic".
  • In The Eye of the World which begins the Wheel of Time series, an arc spanning several chapters is told in a disjointed series of flashbacks. Near the end, Rand, the focus of the arc, "wonder(s) if his whole sense of time was getting skewed". Fans speculated endlessly on whether this was deliberate editorial commentary or just an accident.
  • The Interior Life by Katherine Blake postulates an unexplained mental connection between an ordinary woman in our world and a mage in a fantasy universe; each one ends up advising the other on her problems. A fairly subtle font change is used to distinguish between the two points of view. (Out of print, but highly recommended if you can find it in a used bookstore.)
  • In Gridlinked by Neal Asher, the main character has a computer-"augmented" brain, which allows him to wirelessly communicate with other people, AIs, and computers. These communications are written in a different font from the rest of the book.
  • In The General series by David Drake, S.M. Stirling and Eric Flint, some of the characters mentally communicate with an artificially intelligent computer (The other "ghost" that appears later in the series is just a simulation run by that computer.) The strangeness of its manner of speaking is described in detail, and its statements are written in bold and without capital letters. Even more interesting, sometimes The Center _uses_ capitals. And characters comment on that.
  • 1984 consistently describes a certain radical book being said by characters either in italics or in a completely different font. It's even pointed out in the narrative text.
  • As usual, William Gibson goes for broke; his poem "Agrippa — A Book of the Dead" (about his dead father) was first released on an encrypted, uncopyable diskette that deleted itself as you read. The book version was printed in photosensitive ink, disappearing after prolonged exposure to light.
  • This is sort of the entire point of most of the "dialogues" in Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.
  • In the aftermath of the rape in Self, the text is split into two columns per page, presumably to be read at the same time. Sometimes one or both of the columns feature large amounts of blank space.
  • J. K. Rowling used it occasionally in the Harry Potter series, often with letters that'd be in a font made to resemble handwriting. Different people had different handwriting. In one instance, there's two blurry blobs on the page, and Hagrid explains in the letter that he smeared some of the ink with his tears. Funetik Aksent was also used.
  • In Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close a father, writing to his dead son, mentions how he wishes he had an infinitely long book with which to write in, because he fears that at his current rate his words will start to slam into each other and become illegible. Farther along the letter the words do begin to get closer, then words start being printed on top of other words, and then the page is completely black.
    • Another instance in the same book has the same father's firsthand account of the bombing of Dresden marked up by red circles that highlight misplaced commas and misspelled words. This is later hinted to be an interview he wrote for his son, who is said to 'correct' mistakes in the New York Times the same way.
    • The young protagonist Oskar solicits advice from a randomly-chosen clerk at an art store, seeking guidance in his search for information about his father, who died in the Twin Towers; later, the reader learns the entire episode is something of a red herring. The clerk mentions that when patrons scribble with a pen (in the store) to test it, often they write the name of a color, but rarely do they write in a different color than whichever word they're writing which names a color (such an act, she contends, would be psychologically unsettling). For example if you're testing a red pen you'd write "red" (all of this might help Oskar determine whether a slip of paper he'd earlier found—on which "Black" is written—refers to someone named So-and-so Black, or merely the color). The passage is accompanied by an "extra" page in the book, in which names of colors are written in different handwriting, at various angles (as if it were an oft-used scrap of paper from the store).
  • In Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff, when one of the mundane characters hears the voice of Hell for the first time and tries to explain it to the protagonist, she asks if it sounded like it was speaking in all capitals, which the author did.
  • In Animorphs, the characters have the ability to communicate via telepathy or 'thought-speak' while in an animal form (as well, the alien Ax uses it when in his normal, mouthless body as his standard form of communication), and dialogue in thought-speak is indicated by the use of the '<' and '>' symbols instead of quotation marks.
    • And some characters use telepathy like this.
    • Similarly, in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books, mindspeech is indicated by being italicized and between colons :like so:
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunts Ghosts novel Only In Death, the interchapter documents are printed in different fonts, and not straight on the page.
  • In C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, the last portion of the book is written in italics, to show it's not the same handwriting as the rest of the book. (The narrator had died in the middle of writing a sentence; a final note was written by one of the people who found the body.)
  • In the Whateley Universe, the superheroes Team Kimba have their own deviser-built communications system. When they're sub-vocalizing and talking over it, the dialogue is in <> instead of quotes, and marked with the codename of the speaker when the voice would be recognizable.
  • Walter Moers does these quite often. To name a few examples:
    • In The 13 ˝ Lives of Captain Bluebear, the font changes when the eponymous character is having an encyclopaedia moment and grows when a giant spider is running after him.
    • In the City of the Dreaming books, the main character is flipping through a book, and finds what he's looking for at the end of the right page. Both the character and the reader turn page, and BAM!

      You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. You have just been poisoned. Repeated for the full double page. The pages following this little surprise are black and the text is in white font, as the main character faints due to the poison.
    • A similar thing happens in Ensel and Grete. Whenever the Author of the book disrupts the flow of the story to digress and talk about what he feels like, the font changes. At some place several pages of the word Brummli are written to terrorize the reader.
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula is a series of letters between many of the characters. The reader is intended to interpret the novel as a bound collection of letters, and each includes headers with dates and signatures. It's very effective at drawing some readers in, especially since the viewpoints sufficiently show different characters' personalities, but it can also seem disjointed, since it switches around a lot and (usually) looks like normal fonts pretending to be letters.
  • In What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonja Sonnes, a 15-year-old girl tells her story in verse, though it progresses like a normal novel. The poetry experiments with several textual plays like e.e. cumming's style.
  • The Taking of Room 114: a Hostage Drama in Poems by Mel Glenn is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, and has some great uses of typography and white spaces.
  • Don Marquis' archy and mehitabel, and other books in the series, are written from the perspective of Archy the cockroach, entirely in lowercase letters... because Archy can operate an old-fashioned typewriter by painstakingly hopping on the keys, but he can't hit shift at the same time! (Marquis would later handwave reader queries about how Archy handled the carriage return.) The shift key got locked down for (part of) one poem, titled "CAPITALS AT LAST."
  • In Still Life With Woodpecker the author alternates between writing a story and writing about himself writing the story. In the final chapter his typewriter breaks down and he is forced to finish in longhand.
  • Elizabeth Bear's Blood and Iron has a relatively subtle one. For the majority of the book, every character uses third person narration. After one character sells her soul her narration switches to first person — the implication being that she was telling the story all along, but is no longer the same person.
  • Iain (M.) Banks loves these. In Complicity, for example, one narrator's chapters are written in first person, while the other's are told in second person. Most infamously, Feersum Endjinn has about a third of the text written in Funetik Aksent. One of the characters (Bascule) is keeping a journal, but some kind of brain dysfunction makes him spell phonetically. It was woolseyized as containing absolutely egregious amounts of orthographic and spelling errors in the Polish version.
  • In Dune, some words like "SPICE" and "VOICE" tend to be printed in capital block letters to give them a sort of mystical echo (see above for DEATH in the Discworld novels). However, there are no capital letters in the Hebrew language, so the Hebrew translation has these words printed in bold and in a larger typeface than the rest of the sentence. This method makes them even more creepy and resonant than the original, if at all possible.
  • Most editions of The Bible in English print the word "LORD" in all-capitals and sometimes in blockier font. Also, to a lesser extent, the use of a capital letter in the words "He, "Him", "His", when referring to the monodeity.
    • This extends past the Bible. In most (if not all) denominations of Christianity, it's considered appropriate to always capitalize pronouns when referring to God.
    • A different version of this can be found in the Hebrew Bible, where God is often referred to by the Tetragrammaton (the "explicit name" often transliterated in English as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah"), which (unlike the rest of the text) completely lacks diacritics, causing it to stand out rather starkly against the rest of the text. Some instances of the all-capital "LORD" mentioned in the previous point are intended to convey such contexts.
      • The Hebrew diacritics are not that old. An older practice (not sure how widespread) was to write God's name in Phoenician script, with the rest of the text in Aramaic letters.
    • Martin Luther's translation of the Bible to German uses "Herr" ("lord" in his era, more like "mister" today) when referring to humans, "HErr" when God is referred to as "Adonai" (or Jesus as "Kyrios") in the original text, and "HERR" when it's "JHWH". Modern editions often still use "Herr" set in small caps for the last variant.
      • Note: German capitalizes all nouns, not just proper nouns as in English. Hence the special capitalization to distinguish nouns referring to the Deity.
    • It has also become somewhat popular among Christians (particularly in America) in the last century to print Jesus' speech in red. The color itself represents His blood sacrifice and the practice has the functional purpose of distinguishing his speech from the other text as it doesn't include quotation marks.
      • 'Red Letter Christians' take their name from this, as they only follow the red letters.
  • The Alcatraz series by Brandon Sanderson uses text formatting to make jokes on several occasions, including printing part of it uʍopəpısdn.
  • The young adult comic fantasy Rogues To Riches includes a scene where two thieves talk their way out of jail by convincing their guard that he's just a mook in a story, and will probably die if he tries to stop them, as they're the heroes. However, if he foolishly lets them go, he'll be promoted to comic relief instead, and might just rate an appearance at the end of the book. Sure enough, the very last page shows the stupid guard sitting in the thieves' former prison cell, wondering if he'll appear at the end.
  • A Wayside School book had a chapter where a character is forced to write a story backwards (end is at the beginning and vice versa). As you might have guessed, the chapter itself is written backwards.
    • Also, whenever a character in the Wayside School books is upside-down for some reason (i.e., hanging from the monkey bars) their dialogue is printed uʍop-əpısdn.
    • And chapter nineteen is always weird or missing, like the nineteenth floor of the school.
  • Clive Barker's book Mister B. Gone is written as though the book itself is possessed by a demon who talks to the reader throughout, exhorting you to burn the book, then complaining when you haven't.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy has the eponymous character's self-narrated chapters anecdoted with footnotes that digress from the current situation in some manner. Later, the reason given that these only appear in his chapters is due to him having a multi-tracked mind, in that he can hold several lines of thought simultaneously. As he says, the best he can do to simulate the effect for us is footnotes.
    • This is teased deliciously in the third book of the trilogy, Ptolemy's Gate. Bartimaeus and Nathaniel are sharing a body and reading each others' minds toward the end. At one point (in one of Nathaniel's chapters, no less!), Bartimaeus starts a footnote describing one of his old buddies. The footnote is interrupted, and when you jump back to the text that it sprung from, Nathaniel is thinking at Bartimaeus to stop thinking in two directions because it makes his head hurt.
  • Marjorie B. Kellogg's Dragon Quartet books use different fonts for each of the four dragons (at least in the first three books).
  • D.J. MacHale's Pendragon series uses different fonts to indicate whether the reader is reading the journals Bobby is sending to his friend Mark, or whether he's reading the narrative of Mark's life on Second Earth.
  • Georges Perec's "La Disparition" (English title: A Void) entirely consists of words without the letter "E" in it.
  • One series, the Fire Within, had a scene that went something along the lines of: "'I can't believe how much I don't understand about this silly family and their crazy dragons,' David said. Liz put a hand to her forehead and spoke, 'David, please stop talking in italics.'"
  • In the hardcover of The Princess Bride, "Goldman"'s interjections on the text are printed in red ink, while "Morgenstern"'s text is in black. In paperbacks, Goldman's parts are usually in italics.
  • Dan Simmons's novel The Terror features chapters written from various characters' points of view. One of them, a surgeon, has his written as diary entries. The one time he gets a normal chapter, it's mentioned that he was too tired to write. He later poisons himself and mentions that his mind will start to deteriorate. His spelling becomes worse and worse, random capitals are inserted everywhere, and letters and words are skipped entirely.
  • In Joan Hess's Claire Malloy mysteries, Claire's daughter speaks in Capital Letters when she's being overdramatic. Lampshaded in the narrative by Claire herself.
  • Chuck Palahniuk's Survivor numbers chapters backwards as a countdown to the crash of the plane in which the narrator is squatting, telling the black box the story of his life, expecting a miracle, or not.
  • Tom Clancy's novel Patriot Games uses this twice. The narrative is going on, describing a nice British park when suddenly the text cuts off. The word BOOM! is printed in bold in the center of a large blank space. This signifies the sudden and dramatic impact of the grenade that the ULA uses to disable the Prince of Wales's car. Later in the book, the chapter title is used to dramatic effect. The end of a chapter has Robby Jackson crouched on Jack's bed with a loaded shotgun, looking through a small window between rooms at where his wife, his close friends, and the Prince and Princess are being held hostage. The chapter ends with something like "Finally, he moved close to the other one." The next chapter begins by describing how fast pellets from a shotgun disperse. The title of the chapter (printed in huge bold font?) is "THE SOUND OF FREEDOM".
  • In Harlan Ellison's short story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, the supercomputer AM describes its hate for humanity to Ted, the narrator, in a burning neon pillar of stainlness steel rammed into his soft grey brain matter. Yeah... it's kinda like that. Anyway, the computer's words are written in block capitals in a single thin column in the centre of the page.
    • Ellison also uses depictions of strips of punchcode tape,note  similar to that used in teletypewriters. There are two alternating messages: "I THINK, THEREFORE I AM" and "COGITO ERGO SUM." The author claims that from the story's first appearance in 1967 until its publication in 1991 in The Essential Ellison, every printing corrupted what he called AM's "talkfields."
    • Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes, from the same short story collection, uses this trope to a greater extent to give a disorienting impression of the moment of death, by using short, unrelated abstract phrases separated by circles, as well as smaller text in a continuous block to show Maggie's soul being trapped in the slot machine she was playing. Again, it's kinda like that. In the introduction Ellison acknowledges the limitations of his medium and calls all this "experimentation" into expanding it. In interviews he has also claimed that the overall look of a page of writing in a book is relevant to the impression he wants it to create; one reason why he hates computers and writes all his stories on a typewriter.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero In Hell, the demon possessing Theo speaks in italics and ALL CAPS.
  • The Provost's Dog books are presented mostly as the journals of Beka Cooper, the protagonist. There is the occasional mispelling, especially when she is sick or exhausted. At one point, she falls asleep while writing and one of her words trails off into a wavy line running down the page. There is also a page where her cat jumps onto her journal, leaving a blob of ink where the inkwell is spilled, and a set of inky pawprints on the page.
  • In the Real Life "Baconian Cipher" (not actually a cipher, rather, a steganographic code), developed by Francis Bacon, two different typefaces (bold, italic, a different font, a different font colour, etc.) stand for the bits of a binary encoding, so that every five letters represent a single letter of a hidden text. It has, therefore, been suggested by some that Bacon in fact might have hidden clues to the supposed "fact" that he wrote William Shakespeare's plays by using this ciphe-er, steganographic code.
  • In The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, the format of the book changes to match the historical era each section is set in. At the beginning, chapters have elaborate descriptions and the prose is frequently interrupted by poetry. Gradually, the prose becomes more solid, the chapter headings shorten to just titles, then numbers, and then nothing but a blank spot between them and the next chapter.
  • In a very subtle example, in The Paths of the Dead, the word "brandy" is always written in italics, as is usually done for words in foreign languages. This is because the book is ostensibly an in-universe novel written by a Lemony Narrator Dragaeran, whose native dialect lumps brandy together with other fruit-derived alcoholic drinks as "wine".
  • In E. D. Baker's The Wide-Awake Princess, a note and a letter are done in a curly font. Then, that Annie can recognize that the handwriting is the same is a vital clue.
  • In the book of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the "editor" makes a note that, for some time from that point on, Duke's writing is so chaotic—and so stained with various materials—that it's practically impossible to make out what exactly he was writing about. The editors explain, to the best of their ability, what they were able to piece together of the story from the mess, then they print a transcript of a section of audio tape of Duke and Doctor Gonzo talking to a woman. The movie achieves a similar function by having Duke—with no memory of the previous night (or nights)—try to make sense of his jumbled, damaged tapes, the film playing a montage of disconnected scenes for what's on the tape.
  • In Horatio Hornblower, it's well-established (if one reads in order of publication) that William Bush isn't very imaginative. Come Lieutenant, which is told from his point of view, there is a noticeable lack of the vivid metaphors and similes that pepper Hornblower's narration. One chapter sneaks some in by describing how interesting and beautiful a pulley rig on a cliff would look to someone other than Bush, who just sees a couple of ropes.
  • In the 25th anniversary edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the type switches from serif to sans-serif to indicate Phaedrus's return at the end of the book.
  • Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World does this. A lot of books will have the title written on the top of the book's pages. During Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World, the "Hard-Boiled Wonderland" chapters simply have "Hard-Boiled Wonderland" written at the left, whereas "The End of the World" chapters have "The End of the World" written on the top right.
  • In the Relativity series, flashbacks are in blue text. (Provided you're reading them online, or on an e-reader with a color screen. At any rate, they are set off from the main text by "<<<" and ">>>" so even in a black-and-white format, you can clearly see where the flashbacks are.)
  • In the book The Name of this Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch, the entire first chapter has been replaced by strings of Xs (because it's a secret).
  • In the Polish young reader book Cyryl, gdzie jesteś? (Cyryl, Where Are You?), two of the numerous viewpoint characters (the ones who aren't in the city where the majority of the plot takes place) have their own font style (italic and all-capitals text) used to describe the events in which they participate. Also, every few chapters, there are fourth wall-breaking musings from the author; these are depicted as hand-written notebook pages, even with some words striked out and replaced by others.
  • Whenever the title character starts really losing it in Jackrabbit Messiah by Geoph Essex, the voice he usually hears starts getting printed in smaller and smaller (and fainter) text. When he's totally lost his mind (leading up to The Climax), the dialogue from the less helpful voices in his head is printed in text that gradually fades in and out (in shades of gray) from the beginning to the end of each paragraph. It's described in the narration as a kind of schizophrenic "Doppler" effect, and the medium painting does a pretty effective job of demonstrating it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 'Allo 'Allo! was set in Nazi-occupied France and has characters of several nationalities speaking several different languages, all represented by the actors using deliberately bad accents. The Germans had bad German accents. The downed English airmen had bad English accents. The French had bad French accents, except when they were speaking English in which case they used bad English accents as well. The English spy masquerading as a French policeman had an atrocious French accent and mispronounced all his vowels (leading to endless double entendres), but only the French characters noticed. And so on.
    • And, of course, whenever a French character spoke "French" (i.e., English with a bad French accent) to an English character who only spoke "English" (i.e., English with over-the-top British accents and mannerisms), it was treated as being completely incomprehensible.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the episode "Forest of the Dead", when Donna is trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine, she starts noticing all the jump cuts and realizes that though it seems time is passing, no time passes at all. Another character tells her about it: "You didn't get my note last night. You got it a few seconds ago. Having decided to come, you suddenly found yourself arriving. That is how time progresses here, in the manner of a dream." These jump cuts actually happen to her in-universe, since it's a computer world that creates the illusion of passing time.
    • Similarly, in "Day of the Moon", seemingly continuous scenes are revealed to have had minutes of forgotten action over the course of a camera change. This comes with a dash of The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You, since the primary threat of the Monster of the Week is that you can't remember them when you can't see them.
    • Also done in "The Wedding of River Song". While the Doctor and Winston Churchill are walking and talking they, along with the audience, gradually realise they are fighting off the Silents in between the scene and camera changes.
    • In "The Pandorica Opens", the final shot has the background music abruptly cut out, to represent the Arc Words — "Silence will fall".
    • The Weeping Angels' schtick of freezing when anybody's watching is as creepy as it is largely because the camera apparently counts as an observer. In one scene, an angel advances on a character by moving whenever its unwitting victim passes between it and the camera.
  • Whenever a location is shown on Fringe, the words hang there like they are part of the actual setting, sometimes with the camera avoiding the lettering as though it is actually there.
    • And in an episode mostly set during the Eighties, those words (and the opening credits) were changed into a font style typical of the period.
  • A similar thing happened in the House episode "No Reason": House is trying to solve a medical case while recovering from being shot in the beginning of the episode. So he briefly talks to his team in the ICU, then we jump cut to him continuing his discussion in a staircase... until he suddenly says "How did I get here?" and states he doesn't remember what happened in between said jump cuts. The events of the episode after the shooting are an hallucination.
  • One National Geographic special was about ninjas. It ended with a simulated comparison between ninja methods and modern military; a "VIP" was placed in a "hotel room" with two trained bodyguards-armed with laser pointer pistols. The "assault team" managed to get to the VIP in less than a minute. The "ninja" took nine hours, and used a a member of the National Geographic film crew.
  • In Farscape, after John Crichton finally reached the absolute nadir of his progressing insanity, he would occasionally hum along with the show's score.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: In the sketch about the Society for Putting Things On Top Of Other Things, the picture becomes conspicuously different whenever people step out of their room. "Gentlemen! I have bad news. This room is surrounded by film." Back then, studio scenes were shot on videotape, while outside shots were shot on film.
  • The Colbert Report once had Stephen respond to the people who didn't broadcast his show in HD by putting his hands in the parts of the screen which is cut off in the standard definition broadcast and sticking out the middle finger of each hand, after which he advises them to upgrade so that they can see it.
  • In the Wayne's World skits on Saturday Night Live, when Wayne and Garth want to do a dream sequence, they wave their arms and make "dream sequence" sound effects until the image fades. They do it to end the dream sequences too, but sometimes can't get particularly stubborn dream sequences to end when they want them to.
  • It's Garry Shandling's Show is arguably the ur-example of all things Breaking the Fourth Wall-related. Garry would talk to — and with — the crew and audience; move between scenes by walking around the walls of the sets; declare time lapses if he didn't feel like waiting for something (and once missed a visit from a guest because another character did a time lapse without his permission); he even had a theme song made up entirely of lyrics like "This is the music that you hear/When you watch the credits."
    • The Jack Benny Show had similiar interaction, since Jack would start out on the stage and walk into the set after speaking with the audience. Including walking through the missing literal fourth wall so he could hand something to someone who walked out the front door.
    • The Burns And Allen Show started the same year (1950) and George Burns especially would talk to the camera and announcer. Also the commercials were built into the show itself and George would sometimes watch what Gracie was doing on their TV set.
  • In the first episode of Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, Dongalor and Barnabas are having a conversation when the Narrator interrupts, then continue as though they had heard the Narrator, then become confused about just who had been talking.
  • Lenny Henry hosted a show about dreams, in which he met an ancient philosopher who didn't speak English, so they agreed to talk in Subtitle. Further parodied when Lenny Henry is talking about whether dreaming of having tea with the queen and whether that meant it was important to really have tea with the queen. His subtitle replaced "tea with the queen" with "sex with Michelle Pfeiffer".
  • A number of How I Met Your Mother play with framing device by having Future!Ted openly alter what's happening either to censor it for his children or simply because he's forgotten the details.
  • In the Wizards of Waverly Place episode "Magic Unmasqued", Alex starts to have a flashback and tells it to go away.

     Music And Comedy Records 
  • In the original double-sided record version of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say", voices came on protesting at the end of the first side, and on the beginning of the second side Ray calls out "All right!" before launching into the second half of the song.
  • In the vinyl album version of the Monty Python sketch The Piranha Brothers, the voice-over announcer for the skit is being menaced by one of Dinsdale's thugs, and told that the sketch has gone on too long. When he protests, the thug "scratches the record", ending the bit. We fade out to: "Aw! Sorry, squire! I've scratched the record — -orry, squire! I've scratched the record! —" over and over. Infinitely, as this part ran on an actual loop on the LP.
  • Cheech And Chong's self-titled first album features Tommy Chong attempting to put a vinyl record (supposedly the very one this skit is on) on the phonograph and failing miserably, the skit (and this side) ending in a fluster of wild record needle scratching.
  • The first of Stan Freberg's Dragnet affectionate parodies, St. George and the Dragonet, opens with this disclaimer: "The legend you are about to hear is true. Only the needle should be changed to protect the record."
  • The Firesign Theatre's How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All? has Nick Danger listen to the other side of the record (which turns out to be a snippet of the other side, played backwards) to figure out where he is.
  • Autotune was first used to correct errors in pitch. Many modern musicians use it to deliberately distort their voice so it's obvious that they're using Autotune, as well as for aesthetic effect, even when they're fully capable of singing themselves. Some people have expressed their distaste. It is also called a Vocoder when used to this effect.

     Music Videos 
  • The music video for Kanye West's "Love Lockdown", if watched on a standard-definition TV or Youtube, is letterboxed. At about one minute in, a character in the video races towards the camera, then actually jumps out of the letterbox.
  • "The TV Show"'s central conceit it that it's showing us a series of TV shows being viewed by two guys in a control booth. Then one falls asleep on a console, and elements from some of the shows start interacting with each other, the camera, and the producers. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Madvillain - All Caps. It's an animated comic book — literally.
  • The video for Justice's remix of Lenny Kravitz's "Let Love Rule" feature the end of a fictitious movie and its credits sequence. Early on, the lead character's sleeve gets caught on one line of the credits. At first, things are fun, but then the video deconstructs the idea of having a credits sequence be a physical part of the world.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • Bloom County was also fond of this: for instance, on one occasion a dangling participle fell out of its speech bubble and whacked the speaker in the head.
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Bill Watterson occasionally used different fonts in word balloons, most frequently when the bully Moe was speaking (in crudely lettered lowercase, suggesting brutishness and stupidity).
  • Dilbert once receives a convict serving prison time into his home. The prisoner complains about how cramped it is in Dilbert's house. The speech balloon of the prisoners complaint in this panel obscures Dilbert from view.
  • In Doonesbury, Dan Quayle's word balloons frequently contained spelling errors, a reference to the infamous incident wherein he told school children that "potato" was spelled "potatoe".
  • FoxTrot by Bill Amend is somewhat fond of this too. One comic had Peter sitting in a chair, and his mother, Andy, apparently chewing him out. Oddly, her speech bubbles had tiny, unreadable text, despite the bubbles being normal size. The last panel is Andy ripping off his previously hidden earphones. "—and take off those stupid headphones!"
    • One strip had Jason walking around and showing people how good he was at juggling knives. Everyone seems oddly unimpressed by this feat, and it isn't until the last panel that we see he isn't juggling at all. The knives have been taped to a piece of plexiglass, which he is just carrying around. Obvious to everyone in-universe, who would note that the knives aren't moving, but surprising to us.
  • This Frazz strip, in which the title character is literally painting the medium.
  • This Non Sequitur strip.
  • Pearls Before Swine is very fond of this. One Sunday comic strip featured Pig running to the end of the panel causing the color to go entirely off-base. Another series had the characters actually sit on top if their own panels.
    • The adult male crocodiles also speak in mixed-case letters, while the smarter (female and child) crocodiles speak in capital letters.
    • Don't forget this classic, where the falling copyright letters interrupt Pig's reply to Rat and prompts the latter to quip "That's one for the blooper reel."
  • One of the earlier uses of this was in 1950s strip Pogo, which had one regular who spoke in gothic type to indicate his pomposity. Guests also often had their own font styles. Note that not only did Pogo not use computer fonts, it wasn't typeset, either. Those baroque, elaborate word balloons were lettered by hand, because Walt Kelly is Crazy Awesome.

  • A common one in pinball machines with an autoplunger is to replace the launcher button with a prop relevant to the game's theme:
  • Whirlwind and Twister both have a fan on top of the backbox that blows at you during gameplay (though the former only activates it when a lock is lit and during multiball).
  • Instead of the amber-orange dot-matrix display used in other pinball games, Bram Stoker's Dracula uses a medium-red screen instead.
  • The Earthshaker! cabinet vibrates when an earthquake occurs (in the game).
  • No Good Gofers has "Short Circuit" mode, when one of the gophers begins nibbling on the wires inside the game. During that time, the prize wheel spins erratically back and forth, and the playfield lights flicker.
  • Black Rose uses the ball as a cannonball that is fired at things on the playfield.
  • Stern Electronics' Meteor uses an oversized playfield bumper to represent the titular projectile.
  • At random intervals, The Brain shuts down everything for about fifteen seconds to show the player what an epileptic seizure is like.
  • In Monster Bash, the various game modes are also the names of the band's musical tracks.
  • Jersey Jack Pinball's The Wizard of Oz has Dorothy's ruby slippers as the bottom two flippers.
  • The flippers in Bugs Bunny's Birthday Ball are a pair of large carrots held by Bugs Bunny.
  • On The Flintstones, the game apron (just below the flippers, where the player's hands sit) is molded to resemble carved rock.
  • In Checkpoint, the player starts a game by turning an ignition key.

     Print Media 
  • The literary journal Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern is as much a vehicle for editor Dave Eggers to play with the magazine format as a collection of fiction. The format changes with each issue, from paperback to hardcover to a collection of smaller booklets containing individual stories. One of the more elaborate issues (#17) was published as a bundle of misdelivered mail, containing some stories in individual envelopes and some in the fictitious magazines that the fictitious intended recipient subscribed to. Sometimes stories take advantage of the flexibility of the format: "Heart Suit", in issue 16, was printed on a deck of oversized playing cards and readable in any shuffled order. On a smaller scale, Eggers will sometimes put long rambling asides in the copyright notice and other bits of paratext.
  • In the book Color: A Natural History of the Palette, author Victoria Finley describes an ukiyo-e print (likely this one) that shows the famous kabuki actor Onoe Kikugoro V portraying a ghost. The brown spot on the ghost's head was once green malachite pigment; Finley theorizes that the artist deliberately used the corrosive mineral to illustrate the ghost's supernatural power and malevolence as it literally burned through the canvas.

  • Hamish And Dougal play with this a lot. In one episode, the Laird turns over an explanation of everything strange that's been happening in that letter form. We hear Hamish and Dougal mutter as they read it, before exclaiming "Well, that all makes perfect sense!" Then there's the Running Gag that pops up whenever they get to a new location...
    Dougal: Here we are at the [location]!
    Hamish: ...why did you say that?
    Dougal: Well...there might be blind people around here, not knowing where they are.

     Stand Up Comedy 
  • At one point during the video of Bo Burnham's live show what., he starts to make an insulting joke about video editors, only to be suddenly cut off by a mysterious Jump Cut.

     Tabletop Games 
  • The Dresden Files tabletop RPG rulebooks are... unique. They're presented as a rough draft written by Billy the werewolf and handed over to Harry for perusal and correction. As a result, they're full of marginalia written by Harry (complaining about how Billy describes him, making bad pop culture references, and yelling at him to cut out top-secret White Council information), Bob (technical details about magical beings, plus a bunch of dirty jokes), and Billy himself (responding to the other two), who are differentiated by different typefaces, colors, and sizes of "handwriting." There's sticky notes all over the place, Harry occasionally uses it as scrap paper, the illustrations are taped in, and Billy dropped it in a puddle. And when Harry is being used as an example character, the fourth wall is in danger of being tipped over.
  • Used a lot in Magic: The Gathering. For example, in Time Spiral, the timeshifted cards are printed in the old card frame to show that they are from the past; in Planar Chaos, they are printed in an alternate version of the new frame to show that they are from an alternate universe (i.e., they are color-shifted versions of existing cards); and in Future Sight they are printed in a futuristic frame because they are previews of possible future sets. Also, there are numerous single-card examples in the Unglued and Unhinged joke sets:
    • "Old Fogey" and "Blast from the Past" are both in the old card face. "Old Fogey" also says "summon" instead of "creature".
    • "Look at Me, I'm R&D" looks like a playtest card.
    • "Richard Garfield, PhD" looks like a religious painting.
    • Stone-cold Basilisk has a frame that appears to be made of stone.
    • Fraction Jackson's text box, art box, and expansion symbol are cut in half.
    • Topsy Turvy is printed upside down.
      • Let's just shorten this list by a lot and say that in Unglued and even moreso in Unhinged, you've got probably between a one-in-four and one-in-three chance of a card having a nonstandard card frame.
    • The Eldrazi get special colorless frames as well.
  • Done with the rulebooks for Paranoia. Player documents have security level Red, while gamemaster materials are classified Ultraviolet. Since the players' Troubleshooters start at Red level, they are technically guilty of treason if they read the higher-level rules. The GM is encouraged to terminate the PCs if they try to game the rules, and players are encouraged — in true Paranoia fashion — to know the rules but don't let on that they know them...
  • Game supplements for Shadowrun are often presented in the form of in-character online documents, to which various deckers have appended their own commentary. Often their remarks contain plot-hooks for Game Masters as well as jokes for readers.
  • In the original Malkavian Clanbook for Vampire: The Masquerade, various pages throughout the book were altered, using mirrored text and other techniques. One of the most dramatic was a page talking about alternate food sources for some Malkavians. As it reached the end of the page it discussed a particular vampire who fed on words — and then featured a picture of said vampire who appeared to be eating the text off the page, leaving scattered words and a large blank area.
    • What's even scarier, the Malkavian in question was supposed to eat not only words, but also ideas that these words represent. Cue the paragraph about the Word-Eater's diet not only blurring and falling apart under his hand, but at the same time degrading into gibberish ending with an orphaned line on the other page: "...and other butchers' aprons."

  • This is actually the origin of the traditional ninja costume. In kabuki theater, the stagehands were clothed head to toe in black, which made them easy to ignore. As long as they were ignored, they were invisible. Thus, when ninja characters were put in the same outfit, they were ignored, too... right until they jumped out and became part of the production.
  • A Man For All Seasons features the character The Common Man, who is dressed in a black body stocking and opens the play by ranting about the lousy character he's been given to play. Through various costume changes he then becomes a variety of small parts, allowing the play to avoid needing separate actors for all of them. The last is Thomas More's executioner.
  • Picasso at the Lapin Agile opens with Albert Einstein arriving at the eponymous cafe, only to be told he's not supposed to be there yet because the cast has been listed in the program in order of appearance and another character is supposed to arrive before he does. Einstein leaves and later returns, acting as though the previous exchange never occurred.
  • Given the difficulty in transferring Terry Pratchett's famous footnotes to the page, the play adaptation of Guards! Guards! recommends having someone in a footnote costume — complete with a label on their shirt — step on stage, hit a klaxon to get everyone to freeze, deliver the footnote, hit the klaxon, and then leave as everyone goes back to normal.
    • In another Discworld play, Discworld/Maskerade, this is the recommended way of portraying the impossible talents of Agnes Nitt: for the singing lesson scene, the script recommends that 'Agnes' stands at the back of the auditorium, with Dr. Undershaft facing out to speak to her, and her singing, which is all pre-recorded, is played in by P.A. This covers for the fact that Agnes is supposed to be an uncannily good mimic (and the fact that the plays are usually performed by non-professionals, and so her abilities are usually created with trick recording)— it's less awkward than having the actress mime.
  • In the first published edition of the script of Lady in the Dark, the musical Dream Sequences (but not the childhood flashbacks) were printed in red, as was a snippet of the Dream Melody.
  • Shakespeare's plays include a number of jokes based on the custom that the female roles were played by men.
  • Jean Racine got some of his best effects by inflicting small, perfectly calculated cracks in the weirdly rigid wall of conventions that defined 17th-century French theatre. Take Phčdre: to the tastemakers of King Louis' court, it was obvious—virtually holy writ—that a stage is immaculately unfurnished, and that royal personages never show weakness. In that environment, putting a chair into the opening scene and having a queen collapse into it had an effect not unlike rolling a grenade onto the stage. It was Racine's economical way of announcing "hang on, because all bets are now off."

     Video Games 
  • The vintage adventure game Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders represents the eponymous character's eponymous treatment by emptying his set of commands and having them gradually return as he recovers.
  • Captain Blood represents the degenerative disease the main character quests to cure with an increasingly jittery mouse cursor.
  • The DOS installation program of the first Command & Conquer pretends to be an elaborate setup sequence of the AI interface.
    • In the Red Alert games, the installer pretends to be a highly classified program that contains an intelligence briefing on the current situation. Your CD-key is called a "security clearance code" by the "secret program".
      • The setup process Red Alert 2 pretends to have hacked into the Allied network, requiring you to use your CD-key to disable the security measures. The installation itself plays out as a slideshow briefing.
      • It also takes the liberty of informing you that a Navy SEAL team has been dispatched to your location.
    • In Firestorm, Nod's CABAL taccon AI goes rogue and tries to kill the player. For the next mission, you have none of the usual voice responses from your HUD, because those are all generated by CABAL; the mission after that is to steal a GDI EVA as a replacement, and the player's UI is changed to the GDI voice for the rest of the campaign.
    • In an interview with the developers, they said worked on the idea that you were a "telegeneral" leading your troops through communications links from a control centre — you're supposed to be sitting in front of a computer guiding your forces in the manner of someone playing a real-time strategy game.
      • The actual interface shows up in Renegade, and the idea of "battle commanders" comes up a few times throughout the series.
  • The Rats, a 1985 Spectrum horror strategy interspaced with scenes of text adventure (unfortunately written years before this concept became feasible), depicts the encroaching presence of rats by having teeth marks, claw marks and actual vermin appear on the screen, and being killed by a rat by having one TEAR THROUGH THE TEXT WINDOW AND LUNGE AT YOU!
    • The Prisoner, a 1980 Edu-Ware game, upped the ante by having the game over scenario involve entering in a specific secret code at any point in the game. This includes at least once scenario where the game apparently crashes to the operating system prompt and a recovery program asks for the line number of the crash... which just happens to be your secret number.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart actually include items whose entire purpose is to block the players' view of the playfield. (which, incidentally, doesn't affect the AI at all...)
    • Smash Bros. also allows characters to get knocked into the foreground, where they bounce off the screen before they're KO'ed.
    • Adventure games Quest for Glory II and Escape from Monkey Island, as well as the Super Nintendo Tiny Toon Adventures sports game, each have a scene where a badly aimed projectile breaks the screen.
    • As did Bowser in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.
    • The eponymous protagonist of the Danish-made Hugo TV game had a habit of knocking on the screen to get the viewer's attention.
    • The fighting game based on JoJo's Bizarre Adventure features the character Hol Horse, whose partner has a Stand named The Hanged Man that can only materialize through reflections. In one of his super moves, Hol Horse shoots the screen so The Hanged Man can attack his opponent through the broken glass.
  • Conkers Bad Fur Day, which ends with the main character winning solely because the game crashes.
    • In the remake, during the war chapter, the bullets litteraly break the fourth wall, as they make the screen look as if it was shot.
  • Kane And Lynch 2: Dog Days is presented as if someone just decided to start filming right behind a madman with a gun. Brutal headshots (and nudity) get censored, the camera drops if you die, digital artifacts are everywhere, a timestamp appears, and during one explosion in the demo, the frame rate drops incredibly, the camera gets almost entirely pixelated, and the fake camera man almost gets knocked off his feet.
  • The fourth Tropico game has a Modern Times Expansion Pack that unlocks new buildings and edicts as time passes in-game. After 1986, you can enact Ban Social Networks to increase productivity, disabling the integrated Twitter and Facebook functionality of the game in the process.
  • The DS game The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has a puzzle that requires an emblem to be "stamped" upon the player's map from an inverted map. The solution? Move the inverted map to the top screen, open your map on the bottom screen, and physically close the Nintendo DS. Problem solved!
    • The same puzzle is used in Cing's two DS Adventure games: Another Code (also known as Trace Memory in North America) and Hotel Dusk: Room 215, and is the way to defeat a Metal Slime in The World Ends with You.
    • Yet another puzzle in the same game involves producing a stream of air to set windmills spinning. Blowing into the DS' microphone does the job.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess gave important characters their own colored texts.
    Midna: Ha. Such conceit.
    • As do the two Zelda games for the Nintendo 64. Navi from Ocarina of Time always spoke in blue, and some other characters had their own color.
      • In addition to that, important keywords in dialogue had a different colour to make sure the player noticed them.
    • In Skyward Sword, Fi gets a purple, cloudy text box with a diamond pattern.
  • It's debatable if the Metal Gear Solid series actually has a fourth wall.note 
    • Most famous example is the fight against Psycho Mantis.
    • Not to mention the entire last hour or so of Metal Gear Solid 2. It's one massive Mind Screw.
      • Up until that point, you've been manipulated by your superiors and heard numerous references to a "simulation" of some kind. In this last area, the idea of the game being a simulation starts getting pushed harder and harder, with a fake Game Over screen that can kill you for real if you're not paying close enough attention. Mission Control also starts to call you with increasingly deranged messages that reference the first three games and mock the main character/player for thinking he's some kind of hero. In short, it uses the very conventions of the game to mock both you and itself.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater gets in on the act with the fake death pill, which causes a fake game over screen. Not to mention the fact that, if you kill someone important to the plot in the first two games (it's a prequel), you are informed by Non-Standard Game Over that you're creating a time paradox.
      • MGS 3 also gives us the scene with Ocelot. Not only are bees all around after the fight, they usually stick to the screen. Enough to make some players feel paranoid
    • Guns of the Patriots has a flashback to the first Metal Gear Solid which appears with PS1 graphics, including a dream sequence that you actually play. Also, Psycho Mantis is back: when he tries his old tricks, you realize you can't change controller ports and changing controller order doesn't work, he realizes there isn't a memory card anymore, and he gets pissed if you're using SixAxis controller, which doesn't vibrate.
      • Shortly after Snake meets Drebin, Drebin wipes his own identifying subtitle off the screen.
    • On a more subtle note, the series was the first to treat the game camera like it actually existed, which first cropped up in MGS2 with water dripping down the camera lens. A downloadable audio commentary for MGS4 discusses this little feature and even tells the player to look up during Act 3 (Eastern Europe), where it's frequently raining.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Final Fantasy V often used a cartoonish thought bubble over the characters' heads reading '?' whenever something confused them. When Galuf meets his granddaughter Krile in the Ronka Ruins, the bubble appears again. Then it bounces away across the floor as he regains his memories.
    • High concentrations of Mist in Final Fantasy XII produce distorted reflections of the characters, their surroundings, and their status bars.
    • In Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, the game's spritework is of higher quality than the original game; in general, everything is larger and, as a result, more detailed and more smoothly drawn. This is especially noticeable on people. Whenever the story calls for a flasback, (flashing back to the destruction of Mist, for example), the spritework reverts to the original squat style of Final Fantasy IV. A copout to avoid remaking the scenes with new sprites? Not quite, as the style also reverts when flashing back to events not in the original, like Ceodore's birth.
    • The makers of Crisis Core promised that their slot-machine-inspired "Digital Mind Wave" combat system, which seems like just a game mechanic, would somehow prove to be a pivotal, emotionally intense plot point at the end of the game. Anyone who doesn't believe them obviously hasn't played to the final battle...
  • The main menu for each Freespace space sim is a mock-up of the inside of the carrier the player character is stationed on. To play a mission, click on the ready room doors. The atmospheric impact well makes up for the fact that changing carriers in the plot means that the player won't even know where the exit button is.
  • The main menus of X-Wing and TIE Fighter do this as well. The game opens up with a pilot selection screen presented as a roster. An officer will ask you to enter your identity, and if you try to skip ahead, armed guards will block you. Once you get inside, the main menu is presented as the interior of a Rebel or Imperial base. In X-Wing Alliance, the main menu becomes the ship the player is based at ala Freespace.
    • In X-Wing Alliance, this "hangar menu" is more than just a menu styled like the hangar—it actually is the hangar, as becomes especially apparent when, during a mission when your ship is under attack, you can enter the hangar to rearm and the red alert lights will be flashing and the battle going on even though you're at the menu screen.
    • In the pilot entry screen in X-Wing, the computer will refuse to let you play if you enter "Vader" as your name, since the Alliance doesn't admit "known Imperial agents".
    • Flight sims love to play with this trope, living up to their "simulation" status. For example, F-15 Strike Eagle III's main menu is a recreation of a hanger at the Nellis, NV air force base, with pilot selection being done by clicking on a locker, mission selection by clicking on a map or officer, and starting the mission by clicking on a plane just outside the hangar.
    • Jetfighter III had a whole aircraft carrier for the player to explore. You could choose and arm your plane, read your in-game mail, paint your squad emblem and launch your plane by getting into the right room.
  • The interface of the strategy game Evil Genius conspicuously reconfigures itself during the final stages, down to a large section sliding aside to reveal a big red "launch" button.
  • The Mojo stage of the Sega Genesis X-Men game gives the player a time limit to reach the end of the stage. Once there, the player receives a message that he needs to reset the computer core to escape the level. This puzzle is solved by hitting the Reset button on the Genesis.
  • The 1985 wargame Theatre Europe simulates conventional WWIII. Accessing nuclear weapons requires a real-world phone call. Wikipedia: "The telephone number connected the player to a recorded message, which started with the sound of air raid sirens and dramatically built up through various sounds of war to a huge explosion, followed by the sound of a crying baby. As this faded out, a voice stated "If this is really what you want... the code is 'Midnight Sun'"." Global thermonuclear war is a complete loss; for single strategic missiles, the player has to remember to turn off automatic retaliation for nuclear attacks with equal or stronger force, a system that both sides use and which responds to retaliations. At the hardest difficulty level, it's impossible to win as the Warsaw Pact.
  • In what's probably one of the most genuinely disturbing things in video games, there is a level of the Reservoir Dogs game where you play as Mr Brown, the getaway driver who has been shot in the head; in the movie we cut directly to him crashing the car after several miles and shouting, "I'm blind!", to which Mr Orange informs him that he isn't blind, he just has blood in his eyes. In the game, you have to drive Pink and White out of the jewelery store with your sight increasingly obscured by blood dripping down the screen, a narrowing field of vision, and eventually flickering between black and white, colour and sepia tone.
  • There was a pornographic demo, Dutch Breeze, on the Commodore 64 that required the user to wet a finger and rub it into the joystick port...
  • In Star Hawk (a 1980's coin-op space combat game), an X-Wing style spacecraft would occasionally rise from behind the horizon and shoot at the on-screen representation of your score; if you didn't shoot it in time, you lost points.
  • At the end of Aces Of The Galaxy, you can shoot at the text of the credits, while one of the bosses that you fought makes quips about destroying the Puny Humans before they can make a sequel.
  • Furcadia advertisement: "This advertisement is in Finnish when you're not looking."
  • Similar to the Stephen King example further up the page, Ron DeLite of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations occasionally trails off in his speech as the text fades to match the window's color. Throughout the series, characters have their text scroll faster when they're nervous or angry, indicating that they're speaking faster; two separate characters (Wendy Oldbag and Moe the Clown) have their text move so fast it's nigh-impossible to follow when they start rambling. When someone yells, their text shoots up in size.
  • In No More Heroes, when Travis gets a call on his cell phone, it comes through the Wii Remote's speaker instead of the TV's speakers. As such, the volume is (in theory) lower and thus you're holding the Wii Remote to your ear as Travis holds his cell phone to his. (In practice, the voice coming through the remote is surprisingly loud — Sylvia has No Indoor Voice.)
    • That's not even going into everything that happens once you finally make it to the final ranked battle. The poor, unfortunate fourth wall gets painted, destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed again, and then the pieces get repainted. It's the most divisive ending since the MGS2 Ending.
    • Speaking of Metal Gear, if you have a wireless headset registered to your PS3, you can receive CODEC audio via the headset rather than your speakers.
      • Two Sly Cooper games also allowed you to do this.
  • The Humor NaviCustomizer Part in the Mega Man Battle Network series has at least one joke in each game it appears it that paints the fourth wall, if not outright breaks it.
  • This editor once encountered a Touhou doujin in which the dialogue of Cirno, who is The Ditz and a Cheerful Child, is given entirely in hiragana (since she is too childish to "speak" in kanji).
  • The Stitch summon in Kingdom Hearts II sticks and crawls on the surface of your TV screen... even when you're looking in first-person. And during his Limit Break, he stands on the command menu and licks it to restore your MP.
    • Also, the command window changes to fit the theme of each world.
  • Malkavian players in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines have an alternate, jumbled-up font for their alternate, jumbled-up dialogue options.
    • The oddness continues in that news broadcasts on various TVs, which serve as background and interesting little recaps of your more public adventures in the game for other characters, take a more sinister turn for Malkavians. Not only does the news anchor speak directly to you, his descriptions of various stories are far more twisted and violent than normal — the game's way of translating your character's madness into a form that the player can directly experience.
    • There was a Malkavian Thin Blood on the beach in Santa Monica who offered to read your future. She actually did describe events that happened in the game (though they only make sense in retrospect), and if your character was Malkavian, your lines would add even more information. Also, if asked about how it all ends, she'd answer that it's not important whether you win or lose, it's if you bought the game that counts.
  • For a time in the early 1990s, it became almost de rigeur for platform games to make the player's avatar get bored and in some way address the player if not moved for some time. We have a trope for those things.
  • The classic Infocom text adventure The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a scenario whereby you cause a Temporal Paradox, which, in typical HHGTTG style, destroys the universe in a most thorough fashion. The game explains in literary detail the havoc which ensues, ending with "The universe ceases to have ever exis" — cut off just like that, in mid-"existed".
  • In Tales of Hearts, the characters experience the Mysterious Waif's guilt flashback to just before she had an inadvertent hand in Armageddon. Late in this flashback, another character tells her past self to come along and begin the project. Her text box simply says "Yes," but the voice actress screams out "No!" At this moment, the viewer-character separates from the flashback-character and enters the final stage of her Heroic BSOD.
  • Happens at least once in Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2. Normally, when you begin a mission, there's a short text explanation of what's happening, then the mission's number and name appear on a blue background before fading out to reveal the map and begin the actual gameplay. However, on some important occasions, this screen doesn't appear, and instead these details flash up onto the screen after said important occasion has occured. When this happens during episode 30, immediately after having -EPISODE 30- DYGENGUARD- appear on the screen, the level boss yells out "What was that!? ...And what does "Episode 30" mean!?".
  • In Suikoden II, Shin and Genshu's unite caused them to to swing their swords and cut every single enemy, plus the screen, in half.
  • Everyone always seems to forget this one. In Donkey Kong Country, after beating King K. Rool once, a set of fake credits scroll down the screen. And then he gets up and starts attacking again. First time around, most players might lose a life to this trick.
    • Though more directly, DK himself will break the screen open at the end of the game.
  • In the first two Fallout games the character's dialogue options depend on his intelligence. A sufficiently stupid character will only be able to say "Duh."
    • In the second one, they made a joke about it that also painted the fourth wall. Early in the game, you meet a very dull-witted man (Torr). If you try to talk to him as a character of average or higher intelligence, he'll just respond with grunts and short words. If you are also of low intelligence, you will have a conversation of 'Duh!' and 'Grr bad man' translated into verbose and elaborate speech, in which you discover a very helpful piece of information much quicker than usual.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog CD has a subtle one concerning its soundtrack, tying with the time travelling gimmick: in the original Sega CD release, the music tracks for Present and Future areas are in Redbook Audio, while the Past songs are in analog PCM (and thus, of lower quality).
  • The Warcraft games have a subtle detail. The UI has a sword on the button for "attack," a shield on "stop," et cetera, so upgrading equipment makes those buttons fancier.
    • This is also true of World of Warcraft's auto-attack and auto-shoot buttons, which use your currently equipped weapon's icon (or cat or bear paws, for druids in those forms).
    • Clicking on characters will result in the character speaking as though they are waiting for you to issue their orders. Clicking on the same person multiple times in succession causes them to get annoyed with you. Some of the characters will demand to know why you keep poking them.
  • Kagetsu Tohya has numerous outright breaks in the fourth wall, often with Ciel complaining about her low popularity. In this case, however, during the school festival Ciel and Shiki are talking about the play when Ciel gets momentarily irritated then shrugs it off, saying it's nothing. 'If it's nothing, then why was the background music so threatening?!' They also continue to note how even if she isn't popular, at least Ciel gets some props in her sprite, right?
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction uses the rather cool technique of 'projecting' elements like mission objectives and backstory onto the surrounding environment. For example, as Sam approaches a mansion the words "Infiltrate the Mansion" appear on its facade like they're being beamed from a film projector.
    • At the end of the Third Echelon HQ level, Sam learns that his daughter's death was faked and goes into a full-blown Unstoppable Rage. To illustrate this, the player is given unlimited Mark and Executes, allowing you to finish the level by headshotting everyone as soon as they appear.
  • Wet is heavily influenced by the Hong Kong action films of the 80s and early 90s, along with the drive-in movies and grindhouse films of earlier decades. As a constant reminder of this, it uses phony projector tricks similar to Grindhouse — fake fading and scratching, the film slowing down when you're near death and catching and burning when you die, loading screens composed of in-film advertisements, etc.
  • This is the primary gimmick of the Viewtiful Joe series, except that the player controls them, and it's cinematic tropes that are used. Slow motion lets our hero dodge attacks and punch more dramatically (and punch bullets), zoom in temporarily stuns foes, mach speed lets him move very fast, Silvia's Replay lets her attack for triple the damage, and sometimes Joe will smack foes so had they bounce off the screen.
  • In Modern Warfare, cutscenes before the start of a mission are presented as the networking and information system used by the protagonists' various orginizations displaying relevant information while important characters speak over it, although the presentation itself is a heavy dramatization of what anything like this in reality would be displaying, it takes up the entire screen and the characters speaking are never seen, as if they're standing right next to you, watching it just like you are. And then it's taken up a notch in Modern Warfare 2 when one entire cutscene is, with no elements recognizable from the game itself, the emergency broadcast system of Washington DC, telling you where to go for evacuation as the Russians invade the city.
    • Dialogue cut from the first game would have had Griggs comparing the two player characters to one another. Likewise in Call of Duty: Black Ops, the player can find a hidden text file where the main player character of the game, Mason, recounts his time in a Russian gulag; he notes early on that Reznov told him stories about Dimitri Petrenko, the player character of World at War that this game is a sequel to, and mentioned that he and Mason were much alike.
  • The main Assassin's Creed games are masters of this trope: the Framing Story takes place near the end of 2012, and you only play as the Assassins through accessing their genetic memories through a device called the Animus. The game uses this to justify several standard video game tropes, most obviously why the HUD is laid out the way it is — because the Animus is letting Desmond control his ancestors like a video game. Losing health is called "desynchronizing," and fully desynchronizing (i.e., dying or failing mission objectives) simply restarts the genetic memory from the last checkpoint.
    • The sequel takes it up a notch with the Animus 2.0, which adds several gameplay refinements and subtitles, which were absent in the first game. A note in the game's manual from Lucy is a reminder to fix the nasty bug in the Animus 1.0 software that prevented the ancestor from swimming (and indeed, Ezio is a very prolific swimmer), and a side conversation has Desmond thanking a member of his Mission Control for the subtitles.
  • The Golden Sun games tend to avoid this, with the exception of the final battles in both games. Just as the fight starts the screen appears to shatter.
  • This trailer for Just Cause 2 uses YouTube's feature of embedding links in videos to turn itself into Choose Your Own Adventure.
  • During the Little Sister sequence in Bioshock 2, the city of Rapture becomes significantly more serene and dream-like. White satin and roses adorn everything, and the bloom is cranked up to eleven. The game occasionally flashes back to the normal view to remind you how much of a hellhole Rapture really is. And that was the creepiest part of the entire game.
  • If you kill an enemy Mook with the chainsaw bayonet in Gears of War the 'camera' gets sprayed with lots of blood.
  • Speaking of chainsaws: In Brain Dead 13, if Lance gets killed during Fritz's sword-versus-chainsaw battle, pieces of Lance's skin will fly and land onto the camera. Messy!
  • And again, in Splatterhouse 2, when you defeat the boss in the tool shed, blood pours all over the screen. This is the only time in the series when it happens.
  • In Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, females speak in red text and males speak in blue.
    • In Pokémon Black and White, the character, N, is chastised by Cheren for speaking too fast. This fact is highlighted by the fact that the text appears in the dialogue box much more quickly than they do for other characters, even when one has their text speed set as fast as it will go.
  • In In FAMOUS, the game opens to a simple "Press Start" screen, with a busy street visible. When the player finally presses the start button, a huge explosion occurs, killing thousands and leaving a large chunk of an island a smoking crater - The explosion is actually caused by the main character using the device that gives him superpowers. Way to go, hero.
  • The Disgaea series is famous for Fourth Wall tomfoolery and this, down to cases of characters changing each other's names and hacking their titles. "Do you have some reason to believe you can defeat my father? Like... being level 100,000,000?"
  • One stage in God Hand requires Gene to deflect cannonballs back at the ship firing them. How do you do that? Well, you have to hit the right button according to the four cannons that can fire... and incidentally the PS2 face buttons are painted onto the side of the ship, laid out just as on the controller, with each button corresponding to the cannon next to it.
  • The old Cinemaware game Rocket Ranger introduces The Man Behind the Man by having it slash the victory screen in half.
    • Marvel vs. Capcom 3 also does that by having the boss make his entrance by ripping apart the victory screen (or if you continued, the character select screen) from behind as if it were paper. Likewise, the super move background is also papery —- slashing moves leave marks on it
  • Canonically, nothing in Kingdom of Loathing is painted to the fourth wall, it's all real to that world. It really is black-on-white line art populated with stick figure people.
  • Many 3D Mortal Kombat fatalities involve body parts hitting the camera and splattering blood on it and fire moves burn it away at the end instead of the background ripping itself apart.
  • In the early Resident Evil games, there are places where you can shoot the fourth wall/camera, causing bullet holes to appear momentarily.
  • With regard to the entries about cases where blood spatters the screen (which also happens in some Grand Theft Auto games, by the way), many racing games feature similar effects such as water or dirt hitting the screen if the player chooses to place the camera outside of the car, to convey a similar sense of being in the driver's seat.
  • In Portal 2, the Aperture Laboratories logo on loading screens changes depending on the part of the facility you're in; in decommissioned old chambers it changes to the old Aperture logos the company had at the time those chambers were built, and when the player returns to the modern facility after it was taken over by Wheatley, the logo reads "Wheatley Laboratories". Some of the tutorial's on-screen prompts are mislabeled, cheerfully implying that the main character may have "a very minor case of serious brain damage."
  • In Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, as you lose sanity, the game will do things to screw with the player, such as turn the volume down or pretend that your Gamecube has been reset.
  • The original version of Star Control II predated digitised speech so each alien race spoke to you in a different font, matched to their personality. For example, the Ur-Quan had a heavy, declamatory font, while the terminally depressed Utwig have a spiderey one.
  • In the iOS game The Heist, you regularly recieve phone calls from the PC's partner in crime. During said calls, the game actually mimics the iPhone "incoming call" interface to give the illusion that you're recieving an actual phone call. The final call even has the partner using Facetime. However, this has the drawback of looking silly when you're playing on an iPod touch...
  • The Paper Mario series in general gleefully demolishes the fourth wall at every opportunity, but there's one notable part in The Thousand-Year Door where a doppelganger steals your identity and voice, and you have to guess his name in order to get it back. If you already know his name Doopliss, you would think that you could just enter it into the name-entry screen and sequence break the chapter, but the doppelganger has removed one of the letters needed to spell his name in the screen and hidden it and you need to find the letter in a chest first before you can give the correct answer.
  • The Mr. Saturns in EarthBound are the only characters in the game to speak in a different font from everyone else, highlighting how strange and different they are. This continues in Mother 3.
  • Fahrenheit has a quick-time event where the on-screen cues light up like a Christmas tree, and it becomes impossible to win. This represents the way the main character has panicked and is franctically hammering on a keypad. There's also a scene where the solution is to fail a series of quick-time events, since they're for making the main character shake off a horde of glowing hallucinatory spiders, actions which the not-hallucinating policeman interrogating you will take as proof of violent intent.
  • In Mass Effect, the various starting menus and character creation scenes are invariably part of some in-universe computer system. Also, the Bullet Time effect in Mass Effect 3, in addition to being used for standard action sequences like the shootout with Dr. Eva, pops up whenever Shepard suffers health damage or is stunned by attacks.
    • Outside of the game, in quotations, discussions, and especially fanfic, the Reapers' distinctive style of speech is generally rendered in either bold or smallcaps to emphasize their monstrous...ness.
    • Doors in Mass Effect 2 have either a red (locked), yellow (hackable), or green (open) symbol in the middle that serves as your interaction point with the door. During the Overlord DLC adventure, the symbols start blinking different colors or giving false information, culminating in one of them sliding across a wall to another door, to demonstrate just how much the AI has screwed up the base systems.
  • In Homeworld, Mission Control is injured before the last mission, and many of the voice notifications stop working.
  • Used to kill the player in I Wanna Be the Guy - in The Guy's Castle, the Ryu room has a Windows XP error message pop up... then drop down and kill you. Amusingly enough, the game has a tendency to actually crash.
  • Bad Machine is an Interactive Fiction game that initially lies in its descriptions of rooms' exits - info that's assumed to be objective, out-of-character knowledge in most games. This ends once the player repairs a particular problem with the main character.
  • The Wii U console features context-sensitive audio. For starters, the instruments in the menu music are divided between the TV and main gamepad's speakers. The player holding the gamepad will also receive special audio based on the game they're playing or the menu they're looking at.
  • The main menu of Knights of the Old Republic II: Sith Lords will be one of the titular sith lords depending on how far your current game has progressed: Darth Sion, Darth Nihilus, or Darth Traya. If you're severely dark-sided, though, your character will be standing there instead.
  • iOS game Device6 uses this as its main draw, forcing you to turn the device as the character moves.
  • Metroid Prime actually has the player looking through Samus' helmet instead of just being a disembodied camera where her head should be like in many First-Person Shooter interfaces. Diegetic Interface aside, this also results in effects like the player being able to see Samus' reflection on the inside of her visor when something flashes nearby. The second game also has a mechanical enemy that can infect Samus' suit with a computer virus, one of the many ill effects including an intentionally choppy framerate.
  • While Comix Zone doesn't paint the medium in a video game sense, it does do so in a comic book sense. The main character is a writer trapped in his own comic while the comic's villain is transported to the real world and tries to kill him. Each level is laid out like a comic book page, with the protagonist jumping between panels, and ripping open pages can be done to do things like find hidden items or form giant paper airplanes to throw at your enemies. Meanwhile, the main villain is actually drawing enemies into each fight scene, and at one point actually sets fire to the page.
  • Done very subtly in Hearts of Iron 3, where the nation selection screen has a map of the world with Axis members in a Germanic gothic font, Allies in a sans-serif, neutrals in a typewriter-style font, and Comintern members in Faux Cyrillic.
  • In the second game of the Mega Man Zero series, which takes place a year after the first ended with Zero stranded in a desert, the Start menu initially appears as a battle-damaged version of the Start menu from the first game. It is only after Zero is reunited with the Resistance that the menu design changes to the one used throughout the second game.
  • The Secret Of Monkey Island had the memorable cutscene in which Guybrush is attempting to steal the Idol of Many Hands from the Governor's mansion, and a fight ensues between him and Fester Shinetop. Most of it takes place in another room that the camera doesn't cut to, so Guybrush's unshown actions are represented using the UI's command bar, with items appearing and disappearing from his inventory as appropriate. The result is much funnier than actually seeing what's going on would have been.
  • After the introduction of MIND: Path to Thalamus, the Player Character notes that he can't feel or see his actual body. Neither can the player, despite being able to interact with the world, but that was probably chalked up to standard video game conventions until it was pointed out.

    Visual Novels 
  • General: A wave dash, the alien-to-English-punctuation tilde-like symbol is used in Japanese for things like "denoting semi-excited but not alarmed tone", "for cute or comic effect" at the end of sentences. Tildes or something of their likelihood can be seen retained in English text translations as well. Which preserves at the very least a degree of contrasts intended by the original.
  • In Cross Channel, at one point Taichi flips Touko's skirt up expecting a Megaton Punch. When he doesn't get one, he decides to go one step further by pulling her panties down and quickly requesting that someone throw up a mosaic. And, of course, as per Japanese laws on H-Games, it's already there.
  • In Ever17, the text box changes color depending on the current POV character — green for Takeshi, blue for the Kid, and gray for Blickwinkel himself.
  • Fate/stay night colours the screen red or fills the screen with static whenever the protagonist is badly wounded (or going through an epiphany). In the final route of the game, Heaven's Feel, the screen cracks whenever the protagonist uses his Deadly Upgrade which induces brain damage; the static becomes omnipresent, and certain words are whited out or simply not there, as he slowly loses his precious memories and ability to recall events, providing a chilling and saddening effect.
  • At one point in A Profile, Masayuki questions his mother's use of a tilde in her sentence.
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, red text is always true. Blue text is used to present theories that deny witches. There's also gold text. The Anime of the Game shows this by making the screen take on the appropriate color tint and having the words fly around the speaker.
  • Hideo Kojima's Snatcher: At one point, the player is asked to turn up the volume to listen for a faint noise. When a loud explosion occurs shortly therafter, Gillian complains his ears are ringing. "That's because you turned up the volume," Metal cheerfully replies.
  • In CLANNAD, when Kotomi plays the violin, the screen (picture, textbox and all) constantly shakes to illustrate how bad it sounds in lieu of us actually having to hear it.
  • With Rewrite when Kotarou stops to let the player think about whether they want to hang out with Shizuru or not he lampshades the weight attached to really inconsequential seeming choices.
    Kotarou: Incidentally, I always seem to think hard about little choices like this. Is that normal?
    • Later, when Shizuru makes Kotarou forget her name her name turns to ?? for a few lines.
    • The Terra route also does this when it locks in your choices so that you must follow the only path to saving humanity. Choices pop up all the time, but you can only pick one option.
  • In Little Busters!, there is a game mechanic where characters who lose fights with another character are given an Embarrassing Nickname, which shows up with fanfare on the screen. At the end of a fight this is normal, but at other points in the game when a character gives another a nickname (such as when Kurugaya calls Riki 'Boobs Demon' or when Kyousuke's Digging Yourself Deeper actions causes him to be branded a 'Lolicon Suspect') the same little textbox shows up. This carries on to the anime, too, where the game-like screen is even more out of place.
  • In Katawa Shoujo In Rin's route, there are a large number of confusing choices, hinting at the protagonist's inability to understand her.

     Web Comics 
  • Llewellyn in Ozy and Millie speaks "in a non-regulation font".
  • In The Order of the Stick a mysterious voice is found out to be evil because it speaks in red-and-black speech balloons.
    • Pretty much any kind of unusual or otherworldly speech pattern is conveyed by coloured text balloons. The lich Xykon's speech balloon is black with white font to get that "undead evil power reverb" feeling. Fiends and outsiders in general usually have coloured speech ballons that correspond to their primary colours. After a character makes a Deal with the Devil and gains evil power, their speech balloon turns black, with the secondary colour being the same as the colour of their magic.
    • An earlier strip sees Tsukiko blast Haley with Electric Orb, blowing her through the side of the panel. The actual title of the strip is "At Least It Wasn't The Fourth Wall Again".
    • The priest of Loki figures out that the Thieves Guild has arrived to capture him and the heroes because the comic does a cutaway to them talking in the second-to-last panel of this strip.
    • At one point, Haley reaches into the cast page to steal a diamond from her own cast page entry. If the story was in any other medium, it would have been a lot harder to find the material components for a resurrection spell for Roy.
  • Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire has used sequences that break the comic strip, once to symbolize a breakdown of reality, other times of the mind. (The mouth-things and mosaics in the former are completely normal — the place depicted is weird.) More recently, as of this writing Dominic pulled a spell he'd been fighting with in his mind outside of his body, and for the next few days, has been fighting with it outside the boundaries of the panels.
  • In Achewood, Chucklebot (a robot, duh) speaks in a digital font. Blister, a ghost squirrel, speaks in unpunctuated block capitals. The most notable example, though, is Roast Beef, whose rambling speech is conveyed in a slightly smaller font with no commas.
  • It's Walky! pulled a similar stunt here.
  • As did Bob and George, when the character representing the author apparently dies and the comic pages fade from existence. Later, when the author is having a nervous breakdown, the comic literally starts falling apart.
    • Bob and George also uses this to lampshade, subvert, and Double Subvert Contractual Immortality. The characters Bob and George can't die because their names are in the title of the comic. When the plot calls for their (temporary) death, the title of the comic temporarily changes in order to allow it to happen.
    • Plus font tricks like this, and this, and this.
    • And when you have two parallel stories, running one on top and the other on the bottom, how do you find out what's happening in the top one from the bottom? Flight
  • Similar to the Bob And George example, in the V for Vendetta strip of Joe Loves Crappy Movies, Author Avatar Joe makes a snide comment about George W. Bush and is promptly taken into custody. He is then replaced by a government agent called George that replaces Joe for several strips, interacting with his friends and then girlfriend (now wife) Yeoh (who, strangely enough, are unfazed by this). Bringing this into Fourth Wall Painting territory is the fact that the strip's title changed to "George Loves Crappy Movies" and the movie reviews that accompanied each strip were made as if they were written by George (with his own Strawman Political bias).
  • This page of Gunnerkrigg Court uses the end-of-chapter symbol to censor a profanity, basically creating a Sound Effect Bleep without the sound effect.
    • This page. Note the bright light that bleeds into the gaps between panels, and the way Antimony's hair flows out of the last panel as she re-enters the Ether.
    • For scenes set in the Ether in general, there are no borders between panels, and the art simply bleeds off the page. And on this page, Annie is in the Ether but interacting with the physical world; it's represented by her reaching into an inset panel.
    • After Rey's revelation in Chapter 31 that Annie indirectly caused Surmas's death., The panels and art become increasingly wavy to show Annie's fragile state of mind, which culminates in this page, in which Annie looses a wall of flame to cut off Eglamore as she runs across the bridge to Gillitie. The borders become warped and burnt, as if reacting to the fire.
  • In the Gunnerkrigg interim comic City Face, the Shout Box below the comic doesn't display reader comments—instead it shows comments from the Animated Actors involved in City Face, or other other characters in-story. Unfortunately, these posts can no longer viewed in the comic archives, but they can be viewed here.
  • The Insecticomics does this twice.
  • Books Don't Work Here does this often. here is an example of Odd-Shaped Panel, and here is where they play around with Flashback Effects twice
  • In 8-Bit Theater, after Thief's class change, he's seen in a red outfit for a few strips, then changes to black. When Black Mage asks him about it, he replies that his outfit was always black — and the red outfit in the archived strips was changed to match the "new" black one.
    • 8-Bit Theater once represented the Light Warriors experience in distorted time by having a strip where the characters could see themselves in the past and future by looking around.
    • In addition, one of the many, many abilities of resident omnipotent jackass Sarda is a spell that lets the caster rewrite a person's speech bubbles to change what they just said to something Sarda finds more satisfactory. Something Sarda finds more satisfactory, as Black Mage finds out when he learns the spell and tries turning it on Sarda only to change the insulting remark Sarda just made to something more insulting.
  • In Lick My Jesus (which is, unfortunately, no longer accessible), one strip was based around the idea that different fonts were different languages. One character admitted, "I'm sorry... I don't speak Garamond."
    • Kinda like the old Brit Com Allo, Allo, in which different languages are represented by different accents — the Germans speak English with a German accent, the French speak English with a French accent, and so forth. One British character's "French" accent is very, very bad and leads to him saying things like "Gud moaning" rather than "Good morning".
  • Used in the Astérix books where Viking speech has extra punctuation, the Goths talk in Gothic script and the Egyptians talk in hieroglyphics.
  • In a similarly defunct example, This is, a webcomic presented as a series of brief, tongue-in-cheek descriptions, had as its 404 page a picture and brief, tongue-in-cheek description of a 404 page. Sadly, it has since been replaced by the 404 page from the author's subsequent project, which is significantly less meta about itself.
  • Apropos 404 not found: Loserz once used this as a gag. See this strip.
  • The lizard man Draak in Irregular Webcomic! speaks his native tongue in an unreadable symbol font, rotated 90 degrees so that it runs in vertical columns. He also speaks English in a larger, more messy font than all the other characters. (Entirely monosyllabically, though this is unrelated to his intelligence level, which is actually quite high.) Exemplified here.
  • In Antihero for Hire, the eponymous Anti-Hero was kidnapped, resulting in an All Up To You situation. As a result, the comic's panel borders changed to white and pink, the rescuer's colors. Taken even further with green panels matching a comic relief character's scenes.
  • Shortpacked! gets a pretty big one when Lucy becomes the new Amazi-Girl.
    Schtick-Shift: ...the hell do you think you are?
    Lucy: I'm the new Amazi-Girl.
    Robin: [from off-panel] psst, say it like it's a logo
    Lucy: What?
    Robin: like in comic books. say it like it's a logo
    Lucy: Robin, this isn't a comic book. You can tell because I'm a woman with agency.
    Robin: doooo eeeet
    Lucy: ...I'm the new AMAZI-GIRL?
    Robin: muy bueno
    Lucy: I said it the same way.
  • Schlock Mercenary used to use different fonts for the (English) speech of different races of beings in the galaxy. Humans "spoke" in a Courier-like font, the AI entity Petey spoke in a font that filled empty space inside of letters with a dot, and the F'sherl-Ganni aliens spoke in a very "pointy" font. The author phased out this practice due to the difficulty that fans had with reading these exotic fonts, but not without a fourth-wall-breaking strip to explain it. There are still a few holdouts, however - Ennesby and Schlock use different fonts from most other characters, since they use lowercase and most of the humans and other sophonts in the strip don't.
  • This page of Spanish webcomic ˇEh, tío! allegedly depicts an epic zombie battle involving a ballpoint pen and two chickens — except that the image links for the middle six panels are deliberately broken. (Unfortunately Firefox 2 doesn't show that images are missing, so that part of the joke is lost to some.)
  • From Request Comics: "Anthropomorphic toasters are so harsh and uncaring, they speak in Courier."
  • In this page of Subnormality, a ninja shuriken is essently made into an asterisk, which the characters use to read the note on the end of strip.
  • This page of the Spanish webcomic GeekInLove depicts the characters hunting a "archtypical" internet troll, but he is smarter than the main characters thought and he breaks the strip and goes down to the comments area to escape. He is still chased by one of the heroes, who finally kills him in the comment entry box. The "comment area" is in fact a mockup, but it's very well done and the comments are perfectly synchronized with the action.
  • Here's an example of Painting The Medium from the comic strip Liō.
  • Chapters 5-2 and 7 of City of Reality are brilliant examples. The introduction of the Choose Your Own Adventure Device in 5-2 is fairly straightforward, but you won't see the Chapter 7 example at all unless you read an offsite version of the chapter whose link is provided at the beginning.
    • This comic, by the author of City of Reality while not part of a continual series, is a wonderful, if creepy and somewhat depressing example of Painting The Medium.
  • Used occasionally in xkcd, such as in this strip, where speech balloons crossing the panel divisions are used to represent an interaction between present and future. Randall Munroe paints a nice Fourth Wall, and doesn't want to see it broken.
  • This strip of The Antagonist, where a counselor points out the eponymous ex-villain's, K's, specific speech, assuming the villain is immersed enough in the the act to be able to see his own word balloons, to which K answers, "This isn't a comic book."
  • What Birds Know uses a backwards speech bubble to show a seriously frakked up side effect of an alleged alternate dimension. The other characters can't understand the backwards speaker.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja does it, almost literally, in this strip — read the Alt Text to get the joke.
  • This Count Your Sheep comic.
  • This strip from Out at Home.
  • Homestuck, like the other MS Paint Adventures stories, gives the readers the opportunity to influence what happens in the story by using the character specific suggestion boxes on the forums. However, after one character's house is hit by a meteor at the end of Act One, his suggestion box was locked, and replaced with a picture of a crater, until he was controllable again.
    • Also, you know the normally-unflappable Doc Scratch is pissed off when even his text in the chatlogs looks like it's about to go nuclear.
    • At the end of the fifth act, Doc Scratch takes over as a first-person narrator for a while. (All of the story up to this point has been in second person.) To make his text easier to read, he rewrites the site's CSS to have a green background. The top of the page is also replaced with a wide shot of his home (which actively changes as he and his guests move around in it.)
    • Space shots of the players' session shows the various planets (Skaia, Derse, Prospit, etc) with their orbits and neat descriptive labels. These appear to be more than mere subtitles, as a few shots show characters looking up from one planet or another at the giant 3-D letters hanging over their head. Given the nature of the game, it's entirely possible these labels really are there next to each planet.
    • During [S]: Cascade, one of Jack Noir's attacks rips the flash window larger. The effect is slightly less impressive on Newgrounds, because of their border.
    • There is also the practice of chat-users typing in their "quirks" (these quirks being different styles of typing; for example, Tavros rEVERSE CAPITALIZES while Vriska repl8es letters and sounds in phr8ses with 8s). While technically the quirks are literally being typed out by the trolls in their chat logs, they are still employed in their speech bubbles when they're portrayed talking face to face. The humans, trolls, and Cherubim are just speaking normally when they talk out loud; the quirks are only used to emphasize the differences in their mannerisms and personalities.
    • The Big Bad later changes the story's CSS in a similar manner to Doc Scratch, except instead of providing abridged narrations, he uses his narration to show his fan fiction. This later gets a flash sequence that switches between his location and the main story proper multiple times, and during that, everything (except for the dark green at the far ends of the page) flips around between the two layouts to show which part of the comic the flash is focused on.
  • Andrew used this trope in Problem Sleuth as well:
  • Used repetitively in Cyanide and Happiness.
  • This Diesel Sweeties strip, where one of the characters laments that they're just standing around talking about Star Wars
    "My God, we're living in a webcomic."
    "This is nothing like a comic! You're a girl."
  • In Zebra Girl, spiky speech bubbles signify that the speaker is a demon.
  • Girl Genius does this with speech balloons. Rectangles for machines, spikes for shouting, wavy edges for madness, dashes for whispers, icicles for hostility and icons for clank language. A few examples. Othar Trygvassen (Gentleman Adventurer!) uses a special font when announcing his name.
  • The webcomic Moo & Keo took this trope to a more literal degree.
  • This is used in Keychain of Creation to show the reality-bending abilities (referred to in the strip titles as "Infinite Canvas Style") of a Sidereal Exalted. Examples include dodging by jumping into a different frame, using a chunk of the comic's gutter as a projectile, and abusing perspective to hit three enemies at once from twenty feet away.
  • This Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip subverts its normal format, for very Black Comedy.
  • A Moment Of Peace: Evi's falling text in Worry Circles.
  • This strip from Precocious is all about Chiller Font.
  • Charles Bogle loves to do this in Hello Cleveland!. Examples range from Newt resting his hands on the edge of the panel to Newt removing the panel dividers.
  • The Dreamland Chronicles: for dragontalk
  • Bob the Angry Flower is rescued from a hopeless situation by a friend who spots a text box narrating how his rescue attempt will fail. He shoots the letters clean off it and they escape.
  • Used in All Over The House when Emily let colour into the comic for the first time. Tesrin complained that it burned her but Emily thought it "much nicer".
  • Wapsi Square: Dialog outside the bubbles
  • Pibgorn Colored fonts
  • The Phoenix Requiem Colored speech bubbles
  • In Memoria dialog balloons such as here; note Pink Girl, Blue Boy to tell Harriet and Matty apart.
  • Derelict Symbols, or an alien alphabet, in dialog
  • Bird Boy: Runic dialog
  • Rusty and Co. Presumably counting
  • Footloose How to say "Uh oh"
  • Impure Blood Whisper in gray
  • Harry Potter Comics has the Necromancer speak in gray speech bubbles, and souls in the afterlife speak with partially transparent bubbles.
  • Every character in The Last Days Of FOXHOUND speaks with a differently-coloured speech bubble.
  • The Fan Webcomic Roommates, and its Spin-Off Girls Next Door, does this a lot. Different characters' speech is written in different fonts, and various kinds of speech bubbles are used depending on character mood. (It's hardly possible but the Hungarian translation is actually worse in the weird font department... but it's consistent between the two, which the originals aren't.)
  • Girls with Slingshots isn't usually Medium Aware, but in this strip Thea corrects the spelling in Hazel's Speech Bubble.
  • In The Mansion of E, each species has its own dialogue-font, and a few feature colored speech-balloons as well.
  • In Zelfia, males and females speak in different fonts.
  • In Commander Kitty, MOUSE gets his own font and speech bubble style and speaks in programming code on occasion. Zenith also has all her speech bubbles and dialogue in a distinctive blue.
  • Heavenly Nostrils: Marigold can tell Phoebe's not pronouncing "The Shield of Boringness" in a properly dramatic fashion because of the font being used.
  • Karin-dou 4koma: As the Cute Ghost Girl of the series, Ran gets semi-transparent speech bubbles.
  • In Freefall, when the police chief dons his rig, they speak in parallel for a time, then their speech is superimposed, not quite perfectly, then they speak in unison.
  • Dark Legacy Comics: has the midgets discovering the panels. They then stab, smack, and break the panels in such a way that they affect the past and future.
  • One story arc in Leftover Soup had Ellen and then Jamie being introduced to Lily's new RPG setting, Florenovia. Since they heard it said out loud and didn't know how it was spelled, their speech balloons also misspelled it based on their respective guesses until they'd seen it written down.

     Web Animation 
  • The Defrosters.
    James: I thought for sure that kissing her in one-shot hand-drawn action sequence would work... Time to stop monologuing. The inside set is way prettier, and has nicer music.
  • On Homestar Runner, the Strong Bad Email "virus" involves computer viruses not only infecting Strong Bad's computer, but apparently the Flash file for the cartoon itself, as reality starts falling apart in strange, interesting, and funny ways. This also created a Main Page on the site based on the sbemail, though the "virus'd" components were just animations from scrolling over the buttons; the page is just as functional as the other Main Pages.
    Bubs: My mouth was a broken jpeg!
    • Additionally, the site went down for a day or two, and they returned with an auto-loading animation featuring the same standard 404 page, and the characters walking on-screen to comment. "What happened to my website?"
    • A few weeks after Email number 99 was released, typing in the URL (which follows the same format as the previous 99 emails) brought you (and still does) to a similar "page could not be displayed" page where Strong Bad berates the user for being impatient. Supposedly, this page was created to trip up users trying to view the 100th Strong Bad Email before it was officially released.
    Strong Bad: Teach you to poke around in my HTML...
    • Then the actual 100th Email itself plays with the fourth wall. Strong Bad says that this story must be shown "IN WIDESCREEN!" and the Flash window expands to do just that.
      • And Homestar himself appears behind the right side. He's pretty much always there, just usually he's Behind the Black.
    • In a similar way with the above, typing in the URL brought you (and still does) to a fake Firefox "address not found" page where the "Deleteheads" camp out waiting for the 200th Strong Bad Email.
    • Typing in an invalid URL on the site will bring up a "404'd" page in the style of Strong Bad's "Teen Girl Squad" comics. The title is a play on a Running Gag in Teen Girl Squad: injuries named with the object used to cause it, plus a "-'d" on the end (examples: MSG'd, team manager'd... Strong Bad even LampshadeHanging'd it once: "Those Teen Girl Squad girls are sure gonna get something'd now!") While this works with any URL that is not a valid file in the domain albeit not in a different directory (due to relative linking, pages such as this one will not load), the official URL is
    • In the 150th e-mail, "Alternate Universe", the style of talking changes depending on which universe Strong Bad is in at the moment. For example, in the Strong Badman comic, speech bubbles show up during speech, and in the storybook universe, everything anyone says is subtitled like a children's book.
      • Also in the Strong Badman comic, Strong Bad tells Strong Badman that his comic is getting boring, then jumped out of the panel and landed in a later one, thus basically gaining the power of time travel.
    • In Strong Sad's character introduction video, he is actually running his fingers through the side of the screen.
  • Naruto The Abridged Comedy Spoof Series Show: "PILOT NO JUTSU!" gives us this exchange:
    Naruto: Hey, Sensei! Why are there sometimes black bars at the top and the bottom of the screen?
    Iruka: Oh, they're there to make the show look really cool. Everyne knows that widescreen is better than the original aspect ratio.
    Naruto: Oh, I thought that maybe they were there to hide the subtitles.
    • Later in the same episode...
    Naruto: These black bars make our show look really awesome. Believe it!
  • Although Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series flip-flops over the presence of a fourth wall, Shadi reveals he is tasked with protecting it.
    • In fact, the abridged Noah arc is subtitled as 'The Cancelled Series' because the show has been cancelled from within by an organisation claiming to be 4KidsEntertainment, and the protagonists are fighting to bring it back. Yeah.
      • The meta joke being that said arc is the one that follows the point where 4Kids ended the American dub of the original show.

    Web Original 

     Western Animation 
  • Kim Possible has Ron at the end of "Grande Size Me".
  • The classic Looney Tunes short "Duck Amuck" is eight minutes of the animator screwing with Daffy Duck. Changing backgrounds, messing with sound effects, redrawing Daffy himself... even seemingly screwing with the film projector so that parts of two frames are on screen at once (prompting the two Daffys to confront each other).
    • This was remade as a game on the DS, with similar "painting," including Daffy "ripping up the game code".
    • Bugs Bunny has a similar episode, Rabbit Rampage by name, where Elmer Fudd is the artist. Needless to say, this may be the only time Bugs doesn't pull a Karma Houdini. And that also had a video game remake.
    • It was also referenced on The Simpsons, when Homer badmouthed Matt Groening only to have a huge pencil eraser loom toward his head. The camera zooms out to reveal the pencil as a diegetic piece of an art installation that is on its way to being installated.
  • South Park:
    • In "201", when Tom Cruise steals Muhammad's goo, a Censor Box appears over him just like Muhammad. When Stan makes a joke at his expense during the final battle, the box disappears.
    • Also in 201, there were two main plots; one was a political plot about censorship, the other was about finding Cartman's true father. Cartman and Kyle argue with each other about which is more important, then look straight at the camera.
    • The "Coon & Friends" arc initially got bad reviews after the first episode, in part because the boys (playing superheroes in silly outfits) couldn't be recognized due to the Only Six Faces art style. And then it turns out to be done on purpose, deconstructing the secret identity aspect of superhero stories, and the characters' identities are very slowly revealed throughout the episode trilogy. And then the story takes a few very dark turns once Mysterion's is revealed.
  • In the pilot episode of Wolverine and the X-Men, the ellipsis between the explosion that starts the main intrigue and the "present moment" was symbolised by a fake television signal disruption — as though Charles Xavier's huge psychic overdrive temporarily blew out your TV.
  • An episode of Chowder once had the title character playing around with a marker until he accidentally drew on the screen. Gazpacho then said he needed to clean that up, and kept telling the camera to move around until he could reach it, saying it was "too far" with a wide shot, and cleaned it up when he got a close-up. When Chowder said he missed one (the Cartoon Network screen bug), Gazpacho informed him he'd tried before and it doesn't come off.
    • This become especially bizarre with re-runs after the network logo changed, as the old logo suddenly re-appears (along with the new one) when Gazpacho taps it, but disappears right after he said it wouldn't go away.
    • Another episode had Mung tired of Chowder singing, so he had Schnitzel skip to the next scene, physically switching the screen out.
    • And in the first episode, Schnitzel cleans the kitchen by shaking the film frame clean.
  • One of The Simpsons' many couch gags had the family running right off the frame into empty space in their race to the couch. Unfortunately, it was replaced in syndication.
    • Another episode had Homer grabbing a promo for Joe Millionaire, eating it, and then spitting out the "FOX" in the promo.
    • In one episode, Lisa directly looks at the fourth wall and asks if you can help her solve a riddle. It turns out that she actually asked Milhouse, and it was just shown from his perspective. (By the way, said episode seems to be spoofing Dan Brown's novels. It would have been hilarious if Robert Langdon actually did something like this in one of the movie adaptions...)
    • This was used earlier in "Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part I)":
    Dr. Hibbert: Well, I can't solve this mystery. [points at the screen] Can you? [the camera changes, revealing that he's pointing at Chief Wiggum]
    Wiggum: Yeah, I'll give it a shot, I mean, you know, it's my job, right?
    • In The Simpsons Movie: Homer calls everyone watching The Itchy and Scratchy movie a "giant sucker" for "paying to see somthing they can watch at home for free" and starts pointing at a random theater audience member... only for the camera to swivel around so that Homer's finger is pointed directly at the fourth wall while he says "Especially YOU!"
  • Family Guy once had the usual promo for the Simpsons (8/7c) come on over the top of the regular cartoon, with Marge Simpson walking into frame. Suddenly, Quagmire walks into view and tackles her, ostensibly for sex. She fights him off, and he chases her around with his pants around his ankles. Eventually, she gives in, offscreen, and they both return to view and decide to head back to the Simpsons' for round two. The characters in the body of the cartoon actually stop talking to watch what's going on. The next scene is an exterior shot of the Simpson house. The audio indicates that Homer walks in on them, and gets shot by Quagmire in self-defense. Then he shoots Marge to keep her from calling the police. Then Bart walks in and gets shot. Then Lisa. He hesitates with Maggie. Then the show cuts right back to Family Guy like nothing ever happened.
    • In a later episode, an intrusive ad for 24(Mondays on Fox) appeared at the bottom of the screen, and Stewie stopped the action for quite a while to notice and complain about it.
    Stewie: Oh- oh, I'm sorry, is my wedding interrupting your- your promotion? We're right in the middle of our show. Okay? Right now. You have a timeslot. Go there. Maybe finish this candy bar before you open another one.
    • Which kicked off a running joke in the same episode as fake live-action sitcom ads periodically showed up at the bottom of the screen, including "Shovin' Buddies" and "Slowly Rotating Black Man". The characters reacted to them each time.
    • After Stewie's time machine rips a hole in the fabric of the universe and leaves Brian and Stewie floating in an endless void, a generic ClevelandShow ad pops up, commented on by Stewie.
    • In yet another episode: Stewie makes a reference to the "wonderful decisions" made by Fox executives, and as he's finishing up his seemingly sincere statement, an ad for Sons Of Tuscon appears on the bottom of the screen. SoT had been canceled halfway through its season; Stewie then has a tired/disgusted look on his face as he turns to the camera, "let's all remember, that this, was a thing."
      • Speaking of Sons of Tucson, in the American Dad!! episode "Jenny Fromdabloc," Roger has a stress ball that he uses for....other purposes, and at one point he picked it up and noticed it was advertising Sons of Tucson, to which Roger remarks, "What is this? I watch Fox, I've never heard of this."
  • The Tex Avery cartoon Magical Maestro includes a gag where it appears that a hair has gotten caught in the movie-projector showing the cartoon, only to have a character pause midaction, pluck the "hair" and toss it away.
    • This cartoon was eventually shipped with a big red warning sticker so projectionists wouldn't be driven crazy trying to eliminate the hair.
    • Several of Avery's cartoons feature similar gags; in "Dumb-Hounded" the Wolf runs around a corner so quickly that he swerves off the film and back, and in "Lucky Ducky", George and Junior stray past a sign reading "Technicolor Ends Here" and find that their surroundings have changed from color to monochrome.
  • Another on-screen hair sneaks up in the Warners short "Aviation Vacation", bobbing around while an Irish tenor is singing. After a minute he stops and yells at the (presumed) projectionist to "Get that hair out of here!"
  • In one episode of the animated series of Men In Black, in a scene where the heroes discuss how to vanquish the powered-with-sound Monster of The Day, the sound seems to suddenly have a bug until the surprised expression of the character realizing that a weapon is being tested on them.
  • In The Adventures of Mark Twain, a claymation feature film, God reaches out from the heavens to nudge a sleeping Adam awake. Adam is a claymation figure, the hand of God is a live-action human hand.
    • In a similar vein, God in The Simpsons has four fingers and a thumb on each hand.
  • Any computer or conventional animation that adds "Lens Flare" from the sun or a bright light source is painting the fourth wall, but to make it seem more realistic, as if a physical camera lens was used to record an actual scene.
    • Firefly goes even further, having shot where the camera zooms in on a spacecraft, but then needs to move the ship back into shot and refocus. It's all an effects sequence, so all this takes extra effort to seem more real.
    • Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) did this along with steadicam effects. In one case, a bit of shrapnel hits the "camera" with an audible thunk and sends it flying, as though the camera had really been floating in space.
  • The 4th season of Teen Titans opens with Control Freak talking directly to the viewer, or so it seems until the camera zooms out from the screen of the Titans television.
  • As the world falls into chaos in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Return of Harmony: Part 2", a pony is shown running along the top and left edges of the screen.
    • Some of the Japanese fansubs will have stressed words suddenly grow big, and certain lines following the speaker.
    • In "Lesson Zero", when Twilight has her minor breakdowns, Spike snaps her out of it by physically changing the shot by shoving the backdrop out of the way or using his claw to pop the thought bubble containing Twilight's Imagine Spot. Not to mention the sun and windmill moving like clock hands, representing Twilight's looming deadline.
    • Although Word of God denies her ability to outright break the fourth wall, Pinkie Pie has been known to use cartoon physics and Rule of Funny to her advantage - mostly Offscreen Teleportation.

    Real Life 
  • Universal Studios' The Incredible Hulk roller coaster suddenly hurls the passengers forward during the climb up the first hill, right when the audio says the experiment they're listening to goes wrong. The engineer says this represents the sudden surge of uncontrollable power experienced by Bruce Banner upon turning into the Hulk.

     Repeatedly used in this very wiki 

Noticing The Fourth WallMetafiction Demanded This IndexPlaying a Tree
Out-of-Genre ExperienceMeta-ConceptsPastiche
PogoImageSource/Comic StripsPopeye

alternative title(s): Painting The Fourth Wall
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