Calvin and Hobbes go meta.
Footage (specifically, close shots) of people ... talking, with little or no other action. Theoretically easy to write and definitely cheap to film, Talking Heads can be boring.
The term was originally coined in the 70s to describe advertisements shot in this style. Talking Heads has since been used as a criticism for media that relied heavily on dialog.
As American Television and Hollywood became more "cerebral" in the early to mid 90s, the media became noticeably more Talking Heady: Complicated police procedural and legal dramas popular at the time relied on interviews and testimonies, while comedy aped the Seinfeld
and Pulp Fiction
style of rambling, slice-of-life dialog.
complained that Newspaper Comics
are moving in this direction, probably due to a combination of Cerebus Syndrome
and Lazy Artists
, though he
placed on them by newspapers.
Also notable is UK comedy show Peep Show
, the entire premise is based around talking heads (because each shot is from the perspective of another person in the scene).
Of course, the actual Talking Heads
by Alan Bennett conforms to this trope, essentially monologues (with one phantom policeman). The band Talking Heads
(fronted by David Byrne), however, does not (although they claim the analogy fits: "All content, no action"). Even their famous concert film, Stop Making Sense
, is completely free of Talking Heads, a rarity in a genre typically saturated with them. The band is named after the phenomenon, though, with a certain amount of thought put into it (see page for details).
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Anime and Manga
- Reading only exported or scanlated manga can easily make one believe that some unwritten manga code states no work can go without dramatic poses, great drama, and eye candy. Talking Heads seem to be generally discouraged, but they are still around, mainly as one-shots. Don't expect to see them in English.
- Death Note (especially the manga) falls into this trap every now and then, and it's very noticable.
- Evangelion falls into this come episodes 25 and 26.
- The interview scenes in The Silence of the Lambs consist mostly of headshots of Clarice and Lector. However, this serves to add to the drama of the scenes as there is no focus other than the two characters and their emotions. Later on, this technique is used again when Clarice and her friend are discussing the case and Lector's comments.
- The Exorcist III predates Silence, and there are almost no actions scenes. It's a Talking Heads horror film.
- The Man from Earth is mostly this.
- Spaulding Gray during his monologues calls himself a "raving talking head".
- My Dinner With Andre.
- True Stories, directed by the frontman of... Talking Heads.
Live Action TV
- Peep Show does an original take on the cliche thanks to being filmed with a POV camera.
- When Channel Five started as the UK's fifth terrestrial channel, the idea of terrestrial TV had already been rendered obselescent by the advent of satellite and cable. A fifth free-to-view TV station was no longer as exciting as it might have been if there were only five available channels. Five therefore set about attracting viewers by sensationalism, promising a lot of explicit content. Viewers read this as "free porn". many viewers were not amused when the "porn" turned out to be home-made and imported documentaries about the porn business and its stars. There might be a ten or fifteen second establishing scene demonstrating that porn was in fact happening and showing who and what was involved - and then the visual content would switch to "talking heads" who would talk, at length, about the sociological, economic, moral, health, gender-political, feminist, or other, aspect of the business. Viewers got disillusioned quickly.
- Also true of most documentaries, such as Classic Albums, where people will be interviewed.
- Several main characters (and most Enclave soldiers in Powered Armor) in Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 have animated Talking Heads with lip-synced voice acting for their dialogue window. This is even how the developers referred to them. Other characters simply show their world model and communicate via written text. A few, such as John Cassidy from Fallout 2, had Talking Heads animated but no voice-acting recorded (mostly due to looming deadlines), and were thus left out. Most can be restored via game mods, but are still silent.
- Most of Mega Man 10's story cutscenes have caught some flack due to being made of still images, scrolling text and little else. It doesn't help that some players think that the game's presentation required minimal effort to make.