Sometimes as a person recalls an event, we get to see what happened then... but wait, why is this person's memory showing the person who remembered it? For example, if Bob remembered a date with Alice, and we see in his memories: Alice at table, waiting... then Bob appears late and in such a messy state! If it's Bob's memory, we should be seeing it though his eyes...or at least, we certainly shouldn't see anything from before the point when he showed up.
Usually an acceptable break from reality
as it's usually hard to convey events through someone's viewpoint, and sometimes because the stage cannot be recreated with the remembering character's viewpoint if it was filmed much earlier.
Another reason this could be an acceptable break from reality is for some nice visual cues or adding a Rewatch Bonus
into the Third Person Flashback. A Third Person Flashback could be perfect for placing a Chekhov's Gun
of some kind, a Brick Joke
, Funny Background Event
, or a bit of Foreshadowing
Anything transmitted through an Exposition Beam
is likely to be this. A sign of an Unreliable Narrator
As this is very common, only list examples that is a subversion or averted. Some of some very odd examples may be added like Farscape
- In an episode of the anime School Rumble, Yakumo has a flashback/dream to when she was a little kid that is from the first person perspective. Up to and including when the camera shakes up and down to indicate her nodding her head.
- Every longer One Piece flashback has this, but in several cases, the third person scenes are really only there to enlighten the viewer with the whole picture of the past events, because the main character in the flashback often doesn't understand the whole situation, and so it would be confusing and not very good Exposition to only tell the story through his/her eyes. In most cases, it's not that noteworthy because one character is simply flashing back without any other character knowing it. However, in a few cases, like Nojiko's and Jinbe's, the trope is played straight: here, the flashback is actually one character telling his/her recollection of times past, and the flashback is a Show, Don't Tell method preferable in manga instead of filling page after page with long speech bubbles. Still, the flashback should logically be told from Nojiko's and Jinbe's points of view, but there are still some scenes (especially in Jinbe's flashback) that they don't take part in and shouldn't realistically know about.
- Possible aversion: In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, we see the movie as a 3rd person memory of the protagonists dreams. In real life he has no memory of his romantic rival's face because he didn't see it, so even though we see it in 3rd person, no matter how he moves the guy he's always The Blank.
- Pulp Fiction's flashback to when Butch is given his father's watch, with Christopher Walken telling him the story, starts in first-person but then goes third.
- In Flash Gordon, as Doctor Klytus and General Kala are draining Hans Zarkov's mind, historical events are seen in third person (things Zarkov watched on television, for example), but his personal memories (like when he was fired from the university, or meeting and marrying his wife) are all shot from first person.
- This is one function of a Pensieve Flashback in Harry Potter. The most obvious example is in book five, when Harry sneaks a look at one of Snape's school memories and spends more time following his teenaged father than Snape himself. He does worry that if they get too far apart he won't be able to keep following James, but it never happens.
Interview question: So there are things in there that you havenít noticed personally, but you can go and see yourself?
Rowling: Yes, and thatís the magic of the Pensieve, thatís what brings it alive. (Ö) Otherwise it really would just be like a diary, wouldnít it? Confined to what you remember. But the Pensieve recreates a moment for you, so you could go into your own memory and relive things that you didnít notice the time. Itís somewhere in your head, which Iím sure it is, in all of our brains. Iím sure if you could access it, things that you donít know you remember are all in there somewhere.
- Unintentionally hilarious in The Star Wars Holiday Special, when Chewbacca's memories are all film clips from Star Wars. Noted by Rifftrax:
Kevin: Uh, so why are all of Chewbacca's memories from the perspective of someone observing Chewbacca?
Mike: Why do none of his memories involve his family in any way?
- The Rifftrax gang also mocked this back in Mystery Science Theater 3000:
Crow: He's flashing back to other people's memories!
- Farscape: As Bialar Crais was forced to recall events on the memory probing chair operated by Scorpius, the screen shows Caris snapping the commander's neck.
- In the Babylon 5 Pilot show, this is notable averted when Kosh got poisoned and a telepath saw the events as seen from Kosh's eyes.
- Played for Laughs in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in the Unreliable Narrator episode.
- An episode in Touched by an Angel used this in the episode where a student was accused of plagiarizing. The flashback started with what the person remembered, and it was then extended to include something the person didn't see (his own submission being modified by a person he helped). That caused a negative reaction from the person, who wasn't present during the extended portion.
- Lampshaded in an episode of How I Met Your Mother, when, while Barney and Robin are discussing something within a closed room, Robin says how hard it is to measure any men since she and Ted broke up. Future Ted then says "I wasn't there but this is how I imagine it happened."
- During his quest for a perfect week(7 women in 7 nights), Barney is largely narrating by being interviewed by Jim Nantz. During this he does exactly the same thing assuming that each of his friends were in love with him in various ways.
- Averted in all flashbacks in Silent Hill: Homecoming as flashbacks are in first person.
- Justified in Chrono Trigger. During the trial, all the flashbacks of what you did are in third-person..because they were actually coming from somebody else's descriptions.
- The Mansion of E: All flashbacks are shown with all characters blackened out with, sometimes with vague background. At one point, author stated that it is possible that person doing flashback may have misremembered or imagines what have happened. Example.
- Lampshaded on Invader Zim. Zim remembers escaping from Frycourtia, and Sizz-Lor coming in and swearing to recapture him. Back in the present, Sizz-lor asks how he can remember that last part if he already left. Zim doesn't have an answer.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series lampshades this trope occasionally, even making fun of how TŤa was somehow able to remember something when she was unconscious.