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Better than a Bare Bulb

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Artix: No problem at all, my friend! We can solve this the same way we justify all the plot holes and bugs in the game.
The Hero: How do we do that?
Artix: Magic!

Lampshades. Some writers just love them.

Particularly in parodies, lampshades are the entire point. Usually the idea behind a lampshade is that it is calling attention to the trope it is using and by hopefully doing so it helps maintain the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Here, the idea is just to lampshade everything, and either derive humor from that, or engage in Postmodernism of some other variety.

This can also be a bad thing. Sometimes this is a problem because they explained the bulb too much. In addition, if the goal was drama, excessive lampshading can draw away from the tone of the scene. Lampshading a badly written plot point or stupid character decision can also have a negative effect as it can make the characters look dumb for not realising their stupid idea earlier, which in turn makes the writers look stupid for allowing themselves to write their plot and characters in an idiotic manner.

What constitutes "excessive" is debatable and not the subject of this article.

This trope is about works whose authors and writers believe that lampshades are Better than a Bare Bulb. Please do not address the quality debate in the examples. Examples should merely be shows or works that hang lampshades everywhere, possibly to the point of turning entire scenes into Affectionate Parody. Bonus points for a show that lampshades the extensive lampshade hanging.

See also Tropes Are Tools and Deconstruction. Compare Trope Overdosed and Troperiffic. It Runs on Nonsensoleum is something of a subtrope.


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    Anime and Manga 

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    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • The Emperor's New Groove has a tone closer to an extended episode of Freakazoid than your average Disney movie. Most blatantly: after our heroes manage to escape Yzma and Kronk in a chase scene, they make it to Yzma's secret lab — only to find Yzma there waiting for them. Kuzco demands to know how she pulled that off.
    Yzma: Uh... how did we, Kronk?
    Kronk: Well, ya got me. [pulls down chart showing the chase] By all accounts, it doesn't make sense.
  • Strange Magic: This movie loves to throw in jokes about the fact that it is a musical, the characters will constantly comment how strange it is for them to be singing or even point out how weird the lyrics to the songs they're singing are.
  • Starting with The LEGO Movie, this has become something of a house style for Warner Bros. in its animated movies:
    • The LEGO Movie repeatedly had the characters point out all the "LEGO logic" and the oddities in the world.
    • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part also did the same - even down to making the characters 'fight' like minifigs.
    • Storks, while not related to the LEGO movie, still was produced by the same company and has all sorts of lampshadings of movie tropes. The characters repeatedly ask How Is That Even Possible? and lean on the fourth wall.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Every Movie movie by Seltzer and Friedberg (such as Epic Movie, Meet The Spartans, and Disaster Movie) is all about hanging lampshades when it's not shoehorning pop culture references. But then they explain what the lampshade is hanging over.
  • The bulk of Playing It Cool's characters are writers and performers so they spend several scenes discussing the various tropes related to romance and the narrator's monologue also touches upon various tropes as they happen on screen.
  • There's Nothing Out There, in which a group of teenagers stay at a cottage in the woods and then get attacked by an alien. The twist is the Genre Savvy protagonist, who points out the absurdities of the Cat Scare, predicts Sex Signals Death, and eventually figures out that they're all literally trapped inside a horror movie.
  • Zucker/Abrams parodies from the '80s are a good example of this, as often not a minute goes by where a lampshade isn't hung on something.
  • The entire idea behind Spaceballs. It even hangs lampshades on itself.
    Schwartz Master Yogurt: Spaceballs: The Lunchbox! Spaceballs: The Breakfast Cereal! Spaceballs: THE FLAMETHROWER! The kids love that one.
    • The reasoning behind that particular joke - which is not explained in the film - makes this a case of reality being weird combined with a Take That! at the lawyers, making this a very peculiar case of a joke simultaneously being a bare bulb and lampshaded at the same time. note 
  • Every movie involving The Muppets hangs enough lampshades in its 90-or-so minutes to open a store with more than a week's inventory.
  • The narrator in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang points out and occasionally mocks the storytelling devices being used.
    Harry: Yeah, it's a dumb movie thing, but what do you want me to do, lie about it?
  • Elmont and Roderick from Jack the Giant Slayer just love lampshading Fairy Tale tropes and referencing the original story.
  • Kung Pow! Enter the Fist gleefully points out its own editing inconsistencies, such as The Chosen One asking Master Tang why he's suddenly lying in bed when a moment before in the same scene he was walking around in a completely different room, and Betty proclaiming he's a magician and changing the color of a lackey's shirt throughout the scene.
  • The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle is loaded with these even by the standards of this trope. Given that many of the major characters are fully aware that they are fictional characters transplanted from a cartoon (with all the tropes that "cartoon" implies), it's not entirely surprising.
  • Burn After Reading: Without the CIA scenes, the plot would look like a ridiculous, disconnected mess. Just having an omniscient observer acknowledge that the plot is a ridiculous, disconnected mess somehow manages to absolve this.

  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland does nothing but hang lampshades, being a Book on Trope.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld series hangs lampshades on and/or subverts practically every trope it uses, as befits a series in which characters have scientifically proven (and named) the Theory of Narrative Causality.
  • Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Many examples, done very well, of characters noting they are like, or are, characters in a saga and that some trope applies to them. "Give us a story, I want to hear about 'Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom'", et cetera. Justified insofar as in their world there isn't much difference between a story and a history lesson, so this is a little like (for example) drawing parallels between the Iraq war and Vietnam.
  • All of the main characters in The Dresden Files are very Genre Savvy and very snarky. Any use of tropes (and there will be many) will thus inevitably be accompanied by a dry Lampshade Hanging, and maybe a Shout-Out or two.
  • Alcatraz Series is rather fond of this. Considering it is written as an autobiography by a protagonist who likes to go on philosophical tangents and flat out make things up.
  • Captain Underpants combines this with Leaning on the Fourth Wall and Medium Awareness, as George and Harold frequently lampshade whatever Contrived Coincidence or convoluted plot they're currently involved with.
    "That only happens in children's book where the author is clearly running out of ideas."
  • While much of Postmodern fiction falls under this, David Foster Wallace should get a special mention; he'll frequently hang a lampshade on a plotpoint or theme he's using genuinely...and then hang a lampshade on the hanging itself, which will tie back into the original theme (drawing something real out of irony)
  • In World War Z, the Battle of Yonkers is both in-universe and out a massive contrivance that requires the entire US military command to suddenly become Too Dumb to Live. As it's told by one of the infantry who were present, he keeps recounting how stupid the decisions had to be. Depending on the reader, this just keeps reminding one of how contrived the whole situation is, bordering on a mid-game Diabolus ex Machina.
    • Also lampshaded is the mysterious absence of Solanum from the news; the companies that own them didn't want to cause a panic. This disregards just about everything about how the news works, the entire Internet, and the tendency of news to gravitate towards more sensationalist stories, even if it means sacrificing accuracy. The walking dead would be the Holy Grail for any news organization.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is constructed almost entirely out of lampshades (held together with British snark, postmodernism, and cynicism).
  • Belisarius Series does this several times to reconcile the writing of an epic with the pragmatic and rather cynical view of war which moderns and probably Byzantine soldiers too have. For instance when Valentinian and Rana Sanga are having a gloriously heroic Combat by Champion, the Roman officer Maurice commits that it is the craziest thing he had seen in his life.
  • The Twilight Saga is filled with moments where Bella comments on the series' much-maligned flaws like how inexplicably stupid her own decisions are, the disturbingly unhealthy nature of her relationship with Edward and her lack of any discernible personality traits.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, the SOS Brigade create a film for the Cultural Festival. Kyon becomes narrator, as usual, and proceeds to act as a Lemony Narrator, doing things such as threatening to beat up Koizumi should he kiss Mikuru or pointing out that some scenes just don't make sense.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Power Rangers RPM. This is because the source footage is so ridiculously cheesy that not doing so would almost be an insult, given the nature of the show. Lampshades hung include the cutesy-animal mecha, the transformation callphrase, the prerequisite explosions behind them after transforming (which was brilliantly turned into an actual plot point). Impressively, most of the lampshades also come with justifications wherein the cliches of the franchise are given semi-plausible explanations.
  • Before that, Power Rangers Ninja Storm had a good amount of jokes about brightly colored heroes fighting evil space ninjas. And the villains send monsters like the foot monster... with anti-gravity bunion pads.
  • Stargate SG-1 loves its lampshades. Particularly notable is its use of Wormhole Xtreme, a Show Within a Show that pokes fun at the series, the creative process, and the entire Sci-Fi genre. After the names of the most-recurring props, cast, and crew (and pronouns and prepositions, of course), "lampshade" may just be the most frequently uttered word on all SG-1 DVD commentaries and behind-the-scenes material. Unless you limit that to only material featuring frequent director and story consultant Peter DeLuise, in which case "regular" (as in bowel movement) might just pip "lampshade".
    • Plus "Citizen Joe" which contains many a Take That! at earlier episodes and "200" which somehow manages to push the ideas introduced in "Wormhole Xtreme" even further. Basically, the older the series got, the more lampshades were hung. At one point, they even explain the term Lampshade Hanging as part of the plot.
  • Community operates primarily on this rule (especially through Meta Guy Abed) plus a few others. It's even lampshaded this trope.
  • iCarly generally lampshades anything remotely related to the characters picking up an Idiot Ball, as well as a wide variety of common genre tropes like All Adults Are Useless.
  • Due South enjoys giving Fraser increasingly strange and unbelievable abilities and when other characters express astonishment as to how he does it, he merely says "That's not important."
  • Glee started doing this around the fourth season - lampshades were present before, but never to such a degree. It's since increased to the point that most jokes are lampshades on the show's own inconsistent logic.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reaches this territory, especially in later seasons. The show has No Fourth Wall and frequently cracks jokes about its existence as a Non-Actor Vehicle, characters switching actors, and its use of the Reset Button.
  • When it isn't outright Deconstruction Romantic Comedy tropes, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is instead thoroughly mocking them. Often in the form of a musical number.

  • Arsenic and Old Lace has extensive Lampshade Hanging, including references about how much the villain resembles monster-movie star Boris Karloff (who acted the role during the play's initial run on Broadway but not in the film adaptation. Karloff's absence from the film was in fact because he was doing the play on Broadway - his contract stopped him.) There is also a bit where the hero, a theater critic, lampshades his scene by discussing the same scene in a play he recently saw, which is the play in which he is acting. Confused yet?
  • The musical Urinetown hangs lampshades on everything in sight, starting with "too much exposition" and the show's Intentionally Awkward Title.
  • Older Than Steam/The Zeroth Law of Trope Examples: In A Midsummer Night's Dream, a troupe of peasants put on a horrible cliched play about Pyramus and Thisbe. Every lame standby is used and acknowledged. The King and his court—while happy to point out the flaws — still thoroughly enjoy the show, and reward the performers.
    King: The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.
    Queen: It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.
    • For added fun, "Pyramus and Thisbe" has the same basic plot he used for Romeo and Juliet at around the same time.

    Video Games 
  • Artix Entertainment games do this so frequently they have 3 or 4 lampshades to a bulb. Games like AdventureQuest, DragonFable, MechQuest, and AdventureQuest Worlds have so many examples of this that they start lampshading how frequently they lampshade.
  • Touhou Project does this, thanks largely to having a cast with purposefully vague characterization, especially with both the major heroines being Jerkass Deadpan Snarker Meta Guy characters. In Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism, Marisa and Alice's storyline consisted of the two of them insulting each other and making fun of everything they ran across to the point where they never actually uncovered what the plot was, they simply blew everything up because they know it's a game with Everything Trying to Kill You, and that the motives really didn't matter, so long as they got all the loot they could find in the end. This form of conversation continues in the Extra Stage, where Marisa asks why the hell she's visiting the Moriya Shrine, and Alice outright tells her that it's the Bonus Dungeon. Marisa's response is along the lines of 'Haven't I already done enough by beating the game already?'
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks has taken great glee in mocking just about every Zelda tradition it can. It has to be played to be believed.
    Princess Zelda: (to Link) You have a very important mission ahead of you. I will wait here. That's what we princesses have always done. From what I understand, it's kind of a family tradition.
  • There are two dungeons in EarthBound (1994) which feature countless billboards lampshading almost every known dungeon cliché, including the overdose on billboards itself.
  • Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is loaded with meta references to the game's story. For example, Peach predicts that it's "that part of the story" where she gets kidnapped, and Bowser refers to Mario's constant attempts to stop him. However, the previous installments were much more story-focused than the Excuse Plots of the main series.
  • Paper Mario:
    • Paper Mario: Color Splash has very silly humor, with references to the game's age rating, background music, and a "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot joke.
      Toad: Mario! Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser! No one could have predicted this!
    • Paper Mario: The Origami King loves to do jokes about Toads being the only friendly species, in response to criticism that the previous two games had too many Toad characters. A Goomba complains that he "never got to see Toad", there's dramatic reveals that both the Ancient One buried underground and Olivia and Olly's creator are Toads, and Olivia refers to a "random unnamed staff-member Toad" at an amusement park, among others.
  • The iOS game Highborn lampshades everything it possibly can: odd things that happen in the story, the fact that they're breaking the fourth wall repeatedly, many of the shout-outs.
  • Neptunia runs off of this, combining a Moe personification of the Console Wars with a complete lack of subtlety.
  • Endless Frontier hangs lampshades on nearly everything in the game, ranging from minor "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot moments to its endless Double Entendres.
  • Its fellow DS Spin-Off of Super Robot Wars, Supa Robo Gakuen, uses its gimmick of being Pokémon with Super Robots to lampshade the heck out of Mons, mecha anime conventions, school anime conventions and anything else they can get their hands on, including its parent series.
  • Mobius Final Fantasy is supposedly a dramatic story about a Warrior Of Light rising to save Palamecia. The problems? There's several hundred people who claim to be The Chosen One, everyone else is just trying to reassure the people of the world that they are going to be saved, and the Exposition Fairy outright uses No Plot? No Problem! as a Shrug of God over the fact that some of it is literally a Random Events Plot, and even your loyal companion seems to not have a clue what he's doing half the time. It even allows the player character constantly let rip with some of the more obvious snarks!
  • Clarence's Big Chance: Due to the game's parodic and humourous nature, Pseudolonewolf is able to hang even more lampshades than he usually does.
  • Duke Nukem Forever frequently has the protagonist quip about some modern shooter cliché, only to indulge in them anyway. One level has Duke moan "Not another valve puzzle!" for instance, only to do the valve puzzle anyway.
  • Yooka-Laylee is rather fond of this. Kartos's character in particular: he's a sentient minecart who's out of a job because the old-school Minecart Madness level has fallen out of fashion. His primary joke is about how nobody really liked minecart levels... but Kartos's main contribution to the game is—you guessed it—minecart levels.
  • The sillier side of Fate/Grand Order is a mix of hanging lampshades on the weirdness of the Fate Series, creating characters and plotlines for that express purpose (and bringing in characters who already were for good measure), having the characters involved lampshade that too, then playing it all straight anyway. Special mention goes to the GUDAGUDA events, which are events that parody Grand Order itself that star characters from a series that parodies the rest of the Nasuverse, and frequently hangs lampshades on both.
  • A good chunk of the humor in Mystery Science Theater 3000 Presents "Detective" comes from the riffers pointing out the original game's many strange aspects, including going through a door and being prevented from returning for no apparent reason ("Sorry, folks, it looks like the door just vanished into thin air") and a dead end that inexplicably kills you ("Oh, I get it! It's a 'dead' end! See?").
  • Zigfrak: The loading screens alone are a gold mine of lampshade hangings to various sci-fi tropes and cliches.
  • Poptropica:
    • On Timmy Failure Island, you tell Timmy to "just give [you] the darn medallion" at the end of the island.
    • On Red Dragon Island, your character notices when they don't get a reward for doing a good deed.
  • Hi-Fi RUSH is filled with meta-humour of all kinds: jokes about the Vandelay Campus' virtual inaccessibility to normal humans or robots, a suspiciously detailed robot that it's a shame you weren't able to fight, the pathetic Mecha-Mooks, and so on.

    Web Animation 
  • Zero Punctuation: Yahtzee has a habit of pointing out how cliche something he's about to do is, and in one case, lampshaded lampshading.
  • Matt 'n' Dusty frequently points out its own flaws including lackluster animation, questionable voice acting, Dusty's behavior, and Matt's unlikeability.
  • A lot of the Dorkly Originals videos tend to lampshade just about anything that's considered ridiculous in fiction, with video games being the most common victims of this.


    Web Videos 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: The Movie: A good chunk of the film's humor comes from pointing out just how ridiculous the idea of a comic book reviewer having a spaceship and fighting interdimensional threats is. It even seeps into the film's dramatic moments too, with Pollo at point comforting MarzGurl by claiming that "storylines" are always going to interrupt their daily routines and having to deal with them is just a part of living.
  • Chuggaaconroy, in his Let's Play videos will lampshade anything and everything that happens. Usually done with regards to tropes within the game itself, either the story or gameplay, but often will point out how cliche something he says is, or how badly he's playing due to the Let's Play Curse.
  • Freeman's Mind spends almost all of its time lampshading just about everything nonsensical about Half-Life.
  • The Game Grumps often lampshade the stranger aspects of the games they play.
  • Screen Rant Pitch Meetings: In the Halloween (1978) pitch meeting, both the Screenwriter and Producer realize it makes no sense for Michael Myers to know how to drive despite having spent most of his childhood in a sanitarium. The Screenwriter decides to have the characters note how strange this is without explaining it "because a character pointed out it makes no sense, it's okay."

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshading common cartoon tropes is the whole point of Drawn Together. The show also tends to point out and/or ridicule really offensive stereotypes and lazy adult jokes before immediately playing all of them straight right afterwards.
  • The Fairly OddParents! gets into this, particularly in the later seasons, where characters are constantly commenting on how bizarre the plots are.
  • Phineas and Ferb, usually on any of its vast amount of Once per Episode tropes.
    Phineas: Someone should build an All-Terrain vehicle that really goes over all terrain!
    Ferb: [Holds up fingers to count] Two, three, four...
    Phineas: Hey, Ferb! I know what we're going to do today!
    Ferb: ...five, six, seven...
    Phineas: Hey, where's Perry?
  • Archer has a lot of jokes pointing out its own use of spy fiction tropes, to the point where it's even lampshaded Lampshade Hanging.
    Lana: Where'd you get that grenade?
    Archer: Hanging from the lampshade!
    Lana: ...What?
    • Season one had Cyril mistakenly believe that the literal Chekhov's Gun would be the problem due to a hair-trigger, but it was instead the metaphorical one that poisons Trinette.
      Archer: God, I said the cap on the poison pen slips off for no reason, didn't I?
      Cyril: But I just assumed that if anything bad happened...
      Archer: No, do not say the Chekhov gun, Cyril. That, sir, is a facile argument.
      Woodhouse: Also woefully esoteric.
  • Grojband uses this a lot, with characters (and sometimes even the Wicked Cool Transitions) often pointing out how bizarre, unlikely or convenient a situation is.
    Corey: We just need to find another genie and wish up a fix. (grabs a jug and rubs it)
    Laney: Core, finding another genie in the same pile of jugs should be- (a genie appears from Corey's jug) ...impossible?
    Corey: Finding one genie should have been impossible too. Roll with it, Lanes.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball does this a lot. Unlike most examples, the lampshading of the show's weird aspects is often relevant or even central to the plot; in these cases, it will usually be explained by the episode's end, but if not, it'll just get left as Rule of Funny.
  • Characters on Adventure Time often point out how contrived certain plot points are.