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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 

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot is fond of Lampshade Hanging to an extreme degree. Notice how many trope examples on its page involve lampshades in some way.

    Fan Works 
  • The author of Weiss Reacts is a troper, and it shows in his writing. Every single trope that pops up is lampshaded, invoked, subverted or exploited mercilessly by the characters, specifically Yang.
  • Queen of All Oni does quite a fair bit of lampshade hanging. To the point that a late chapter even does a homage of the below example from The Order of the Stick wherein actual lampshades serve as the catalyst for the story's crowning line of lampshading its whole premise.
  • Farce of the Three Kingdoms hangs lampshades over every inconsistency and absurdity in Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

    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 Death by Sex, 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.

  • 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.
  • Twilight 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

    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 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 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 which feature countless billboards lampshading almost every known dungeon cliché, including the overdose on billboards itself.
  • While the main Mario series is not an example, the Paper Mario games love lampshading just about everything about the series. The Mario & Luigi games do it too, but not quite as much.
    Toad: Mario! Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser! No one could have predicted this!
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Freeman's Mind spends almost all of its time lampshading just about everything nonsensical about Half-Life.

    Web Comics 
  • Com'c: While the commentary says (lampshades?) that "semi-frequent" Lampshade Hanging might still be an exaggeration, this str'p nearly lampshades lampshading lampshading using a lampshade to lampshade lampshade hanging. No wonder Block got a headache.
  • Shortpacked! is incredibly fond of this, usually with Robin, who tapdances and does backflips on the fourth wall in about every third appearance. Other characters will occasionally do it also, particularly Mike.
  • Muh Phoenix: The comic takes a dig at most of the incongruences of Avengers vs. X-Men, and comic books in general.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • 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 thrives on this, with characters going out of their way to point out how bizarre, unlikely or convenient a situation is.
  • 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.


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