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Breaking the Fourth Wall

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"Hey audience, what do you think of my caption?"
"Hey! Yeah, you! I'm down here, busting my ass, while you sit on yours watching me jump around? How is that fair?"

"Hey! How're you doing out there? It sure is nice to be the Breaking The Fourth Wall page on TV Tropes. Sure, I don't get as much attention as some of the other pages, but I try my hardest."

Anyway, the Fourth Wall is the fact that in any work of fiction the characters are unaware of the fact that they are fictional characters in a work, the audience observing them, and whatever medium conventions occur in between the two.

Breaking the fourth wall is when a character acknowledges their fictionality, by either indirectly or directly addressing the audience. Alternatively, they may interact with their creator (the author of the book, the director of the movie, the artist of the comic book, etc.). This is more akin to breaking one of the walls of the set, but the existence of a director implies the existence of an audience, so it's still indirectly Breaking The Fourth Wall. This trope is usually used for comedic purposes.

It should be noted that other sources will refer to any fiction that draws attention to its fictionality as "Breaking the Fourth Wall". Our definition is a bit narrower: Breaking The Fourth Wall only occurs if the characters acknowledge the audience or the author, whether directly or indirectly, got it? It's not enough that I recognize my status as a wiki page, it's the fact that I'm commenting to you about it!

Although Breaking the Fourth Wall are mostly Played for Laughs nowadays, serious fourth wall breaking is not unheard of. Such if the person is suffering from insanity or goes under some kind of existential crisis.

Named for the theatrical convention of building sets with right, left and back walls, while the audience observes the action through an imaginary "fourth"note  wall located at the front of the stage. Breaking the fourth wall would occur when the actors would step through where the virtual fourth wall should be and address the audience directly.

This is a very old trope: William Shakespeare's characters often addressed the audience. They broke it regularly in Ancient Greek theater, too, pretty much as soon as they'd invented the Fourth Wall - or, arguably, before inventing the Fourth Wall. It was an commonly-used technique in the epic theatre movement of the early-to-mid 20th century.

When a series breaks the fourth wall on such a regular basis that there may as well not be one in the first place, then you've gone straight into No Fourth Wall.

Can be expressed using Medium Awareness. When done literally, it's Camera Abuse. See also: Narrator (this trope is their job), Postmodernism (loves this trope), Aside Glance and Aside Comment (particular kinds of this), Animated Actors (an animation-specific subtrope), and Who Would Want to Watch Us? (characters lampooning the premise). He Knows About Timed Hits often involves breaking a videogame's fourth wall through necessity. For a detailed discussion of the line between this and No Fourth Wall, see Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness. If the creator of a work, the audience, or you, personally, interact with characters in a way that isn't Audience Participation, it may well be From Beyond the Fourth Wall.

Often used for Lampshade Hanging. But if a character lampshades without addressing or acknowledging the audience, it's just Lampshade Hanging. Similarly the fourth wall can be broken with no lampshades in sight.

If somebody is not in the break and doesn't understand who the ones breaking the wall are talking to, see Audience? What Audience?. If the other characters are aware of the wall but are also aware that they're not supposed to show that they're aware, that's Scolding the Fourth-Wall Breaker.

If it's made ambiguous whether or not the fourth wall is being broken, it's Leaning on the Fourth Wall. If something slams into the screen and literally breaks it, it's Camera Abuse or Interface Screw. If the characters are attempting to use, or implied to have used, the fourth wall to escape into the real world, especially with malicious intent, it's The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • Allegory of the Four Seasons: Summer has her body turned, as if she was just watching the other seasons' antics, to shoot a piercing stare right at the viewer.

    Asian Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy has several fourth wall breaks. The characters occasionally talk about "previous episodes", for starters.
    • In Season 1, Episode 10, Computer and Probe answer fan mail that the latter stole from BoBoiBoy per his boss' instructions.
    • Season 2 has Adu Du and Probe re-use an old plan of theirs, as the latter convinces the former that the audience wouldn't notice.
    • In BoBoiBoy Water and Adu Du's banter in Season 3, the exchange shows that Adu Du actively plays the villain for the show to continue. Water reminds that the show ran just fine during Adu Du's temporary Heel–Face Turn, and that he as the hero is going to win anyway.
      Adu Du: Relax?! I'm the bad guy, you know that? If I relax, how is this BoBoiBoy story meant to keep going?
      BoBoiBoy Water: Last time, you changed into a good person, right? And this story went on just fine. [...] Besides, you know who's going to win, right?
      Adu Du: Huh? Who?
      BoBoiBoy Water: Definitely me! Who else? It couldn't be you, could it?
  • Crazy Candies: In the Season 3 finale, while a yeast monster is wreaking havoc on the town, a candy civilian notices it's flat on one side and wonders why it's like that. Another candy person answers with "It must be a cheap option because the production team didn't have enough funds."
  • Happy Heroes features several jokes that break the fourth wall. For example, there is an episode where Little M. comments that Big M.'s idea for a machine to sabotage a School Play (he intends to make one that scatters banana peels everywhere and make everyone slip) seems rather childish. Big M. says that, since this is a cartoon, of course it's going to seem childish somehow.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf also features several fourth-wall-breaking moments. Among them are:
    • In Joys of Seasons episode 84, after Wolnie accidentally gives away the surprise gift Wilie wants to give him, Wolffy says not to worry since "I'm the best actor in this cartoon!" and he should be able to pretend to be surprised easily.
    • The spin-off series Pleasant Goat Fun Class is designed to be educational, and it often accomplishes this by having the characters directly talk to the audience about various topics.
    • In episode 41 of Rescue Across Time, Wolffy tells Weslie he's known him for 5,000 episodes (an inaccurate number - the series up to that season actually has over 2,000 episodes).

    Audio Plays 

    Film — Animation 
  • In Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Harold and George occasionally break the fourth wall by talking to the audience and even freeze the movie at certain points to explain what's going on.
  • Dino Time has a strange case of this. The main character breaks the fourth wall in three early scenes, but after about 20 minutes into the film he never does it again.
  • At the end of a particularly downer scene in The Emperor's New Groove, Kuzco literally stops the movie reel and uses a marker to remind the FILM that the movie is about HIM, and not Pacha. Later, after considerable Character Development, Kuzco gets in an argument with Narrator!Kuzco, telling him to shut up and stop whining.
  • Free Birds: After Jake tells Reggie his plan to prevent turkeys from becoming the staple dish of Thanksgiving via time travel, he turns to the camera and repeats his line to the audience in order emphasize the ridiculous nature of the film's premise.
  • Kubo and the Two Strings:
    • At the very start of the film, Kubo does his signature "if you must blink" speech, but tacks on a few things to provide some backstory exposition, which makes it seem like he's directing this specific speech at us. It's like he's telling us to pay attention.
    • At the end, Kubo says "The End" in voice over.
  • In Lilo & Stitch:
    • When Lilo gets Stitch to move his hips to the side, he looks at the viewer and oohs in wonder before the duo immediately go into their dance.
    • The titular duo look directly towards the viewer twice during their dance at Mrs. Hasagawa's fruit stand.
    • A more subtle fourth wall-break happens earlier in the film when Stitch is adopted, with a nice little Easter Egg on his adoption paper.
  • The Lion King (1994), in the middle of "Hakuna Matata".
    Pumbaa: And I got downhearted...
    Timon: How did you feel!?
    Pumbaa: Every time that I—
    Timon: (slaps hands over Pumbaa's mouth) PUMBAA! (looks at the fourth wall) Not in front of the kids!
    Pumbaa: (also looks) Oh! Sorry.
    Simba: (stares at the duo, perplexed)
  • In Mulan II, Shang walks away and Yao asks Mulan, "What's his problem?" When Mulan walks away, he asks the screen, "What's her problem?" Then he asks, "Who am I talking to?"
  • Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe:
    • The song "We're Back" is already leaning on the fourth wall, with the characters heavily alluding to the fact that this a reunion film being released years after the original series ends, but one lyric has Phineas directly mention that this a movie that's being made for and streamed on Disney+. The version that plays during the credits omits this verse.
    • Baljeet says building a portal will take at least a montage. It ended up only taking a scene flip.
    • When Perry peers from the bushes, he actually shushes his backup singers who do in fact sing it quieter.
    • When Super Super Big Doctor's ship speeds up to Warp 2, reality breaks down to its bare essentials, with the film breaking down to rough animation, an animatic, and then storyboards. As the characters question if it can go any farther, it zooms out to creators Dan and Swampy pitching this scene to the audience, before the show returns to normal. The characters, stunned that the fourth wall broke down to that extent, agree to Let Us Never Speak of This Again.
    • The song "Silhouettes", which plays over the credits, describes the format of the Creative Closing Credits.
    • In the finale song, "Us Against The Universe", Isabella takes a verse to thank all the folks who worked on all the animation.
  • At the beginning of the Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf film The Mythical Ark: Adventures in Love & Happiness, Wolffy vows to avenge his "thousand episodes of insult". This wasn't long before the TV series started airing a season called Happy Formula, which had the series' 1,000th episode in it.
  • In Quest for Camelot, Devon does this in a blink and you'll miss it moment:
    "But we can't fly! (to the audience) We explained that before our song."
  • In The Simpsons Movie, when Homer criticizes the Itchy and Scratchy film at the beginning, he complains about paying to see something they can watch on TV for free, then calls everyone in the theater a giant sucker, before looking and pointing at the camera, "Especially YOU!"
  • In The Sponge Bob Movie Sponge Out Of Water, when the background characters refuse to go the surface.
    Random Fish: All secondary characters come with me.
  • In Turning Red, Mei talks to the audience at the start and ending as a narration monologue.
  • Used straight, and topped with a turtle themed green lampshade in Turtles Forever. When 80's version Raphael keeps breaking the fourth wall, other characters pause with confused looks. The third time he does it, The Dragon gets angry and starts shaking him. "Why do you keep doing that? Who are you talking to?! THERE'S NO ONE THERE!"
    • When it comes to it, this is the whole plot of the movie. The 2003 Shredder learns about the fourth wall and decides to destroy it forever.
  • Chuck Jones is infamous for this, but in his movie The White Seal, the fourth wall is broken constantly by characters looking straight into the camera. At certain points, it happens repeatedly with only seconds between them.
  • In Moana, Tamatoa does this in his Villain Song 'Shiny'. After beating Maui, he tells the audience to 'look it up' in regards to crabs being decapods.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, when Turbo is giving his Motive Rant to Vanellope, he mugs for your attention right the hell out of nowhere in one single frame.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • There was this gem from Hulk Hogan on a November 2010 episode of TNA ReAction:
    "Well, brother, we're lightening the load around here. We're trimming the fat. We're thinning the herd. I mean, you know, it's pathetic. It's pathetic, that Dixie would let this company get in the shape it's in. It's her train of thought! Raven? Who hasn't had a damn shower or bath? Y'know, with RVD, and that whole crew out there? They meant to professional wrestling what Hulk Hogan, who sold out Shea Stadium? who put 94,000 people in the Pontiac Silverdome? who slammed a 700-pound giant? They mean to professional wrestling what Hulk Hogan means?
    "No wonder this company was in the shape it's in. It's time to get rid o' the trash, the garbage, the worthless piece of crap out here, and we started with Dixie Carter. Yeah, we're gettin' very real around here. We are so, real, it's unbelievable. Because, if you don't get over like I said, you're fired. If you don't draw number, if you don't entertain, if you don't put asses in seats, if you don't put the coinage in the piggy bank, you're fired. No more games. No more, "Kayfabe." "It's a work." "I've won 34 tag team belts." Who gives a damn how many fake belts you won!? If you don't draw money, you get fired around here. If you don't put asses in seats, you are gone."
  • Professional Wrestling as a whole exists in a weird space where there is no fourth wall...but there is. The universe portrayed in the ring is considered "real", for all intents and purposes. The people who enter the ropes, be they the living undead, obliviously narcissistic, or rich beyond belief; that's who they actually are. The audience has to believe that they exist both on and off the clock just as you see them. Likewise, they are constantly aware they are on television and performing before a live audience, so the concept of a fourth wall in the traditional sense is not there. The actual fourth wall is Kayfabe, which is something you generally do not want to break (as the notion is almost critical to the concept of pro wrestling making sense at all; even admitting its existence, like the above, is a surefire way to throw Willing Suspension of Disbelief out the window and even the audience knows it).
  • CM Punk, through his scathing Worked Shoot promo on 6/27/2011, created an on-screen character for himself where he could fly between the fourth wall and reality. He even lampshaded his own fourth wall-breaking in the promo.
  • The Rock does this a lot. For example, in reference to the brief John Cena / Zack Ryder / Eve Torres love triangle in early 2012, Rock pointed out that Cena is married in real life.
  • Triple H is the patron saint of this, especially when teaming with Shawn Michaels and DX. From addressing his real life romance, marriage, and baby, to the mantra of his heel Authority run being "best for business", to flubbing a line on live TV and addressing it, he does not let up, not even in video game form.
    "Put down the controller, get off the couch, and hit the gym, fatass!"

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Cashore Marionettes do this occasionally; one of the most significant instances is the skit "The Quest", in which a puppet scales his own puppeteer like a mountain, accompanied by triumphant music.
  • It's a Big Big World: Snook talks to the viewers, and is surprised to learn that they don't sleep in trees.
  • The Muppet Show:
    • In the first broadcast episode, Kermit the Frog (a puppet) is shown sipping milk from a glass with a straw; he takes a moment to say to the audience, "Think about this, friends."
    • Also, comes up in one of Statler and Waldorf's closing comments to an episode:
      Waldorf: How do they do it?
      Statler: How do we watch it?
      Waldorf: Why do we watch it?
      Statler: [looking at the camera] Why do you watch it?
  • Pili Fantasy: War of Dragons: The series open with the death of Su Huan-chen, the protagonist, and two comic relief friends of his note that it's unlikely this is really how the story will start.

  • John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme uses this fairly regularly, especially in the latest episodes.
    • Possibly the most explicit example is in Season 5, Episode 4, where one of the sketches is actor Simon Kane getting increasingly annoyed at actor and writer John Finnemore about the fact that he always plays the discontented characters. During the sketch, he frequently points out that John Finnemore has written all of this, and it isn't even his opinions.
    • Series 2, episode 4: Margaret Cabourn-Smith gets grumpy about the fact that her only role in the last sketch is as an owl.
  • In The BBC's remake of Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel, Michael Roberts, playing Groucho Marx playing Waldorf T. Flywheel, would often ad-lib in character as Groucho, but not necessarily as Flywheel. On at least one occasion he commented on what had been a topical reference in 1932, and its complete failure to get a laugh in 1990.

  • A common joke in Destroy the Godmodder. Quite a few of the characters (especially the ones that know the one summoning them, and even more since the players themselves are characters) are quite knowledgeable about the fact that the entire thing is fictional.
    • Lampshaded when the 'Fourth Wall'note  is destroyed by Jack Noir, which results in Minecraft being completely open to outside attack. And boy, does it get attacked.
    • And then there's the fact that apparently a large chunk of the multiversal community is aware that as a whole, most universes are generated by stories from the real world, which the denizens of the multiverse can't view.
    • Bill Cipher outright makes references to events taking place "pages away," indicating that he is aware of the game's nature as a forum game.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Twilight Sparkle's Secret Shipfic Folder has Cheerilee, who knows she's in a shipping card game and wants no part of it.
  • In the My Little Pony Collectible Card Game, the backs of the 2013 demo cards have Derpy Hooves saying "This is a demo, right?"
  • This is part of Guise's power in Sentinels of the Multiverse. In the video game adaptation, he's shown editing his own character bio, and most of his cards are themed around parodying various comic book trends and genres. His card game version is also somewhat aware he's in a card game; one of his cards has him using the card type bar as a club, and his backdrop image in the video game adaptation has him point out a card for you to play. In a Letters Page Live convention spot, the creators were asked how far Guise's Medium Awareness extended; they immediately pointed to a Guise cosplayer in the crowd and say "well, there he is".

    Theme Parks 
  • In the former Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast ride at Universal Studios, there was a scene where SpongeBob is flung through Bikini Bottom, saying hello to everyone along the way. When greeting the regular Bikini Bottom citizens, he refers to them as "secondary characters".
  • In the Florida version of Revenge of the Mummy, towards the end ride it appears to have ended, with a worker behind glass saying the ride is over. This worker is then killed by the Mummy and the ride continues. When the ride ends, you see a recording of one of the makers of the ride, wishing you a good day. He is then also killed by the Mummy.
  • At The Simpsons Ride, also at Universal Studios, there is one last bit of motion simulator craziness because, in the words of Krusty the Clown, "Every amusement ride needs to stop by the gift shop." Made even funnier by the fact that it has no gift shop: the nearest one is over at Men in Black: Alien Attack!
  • In The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, while the ride vehicle travels up and down on the track, Tigger is heard to say "I almost bounced right out of the ride!"
  • Then there's Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway. During the Pre-show, where a boiler explosion in the titular engine blows a large hole in the movie screen itself, causing Goofy to invite the guests into the cartoon to experience it from the inside.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Akatsuki no Goei the maid Tsuki tells Kaito that he's Tae's boyfriend, bodyguard, teacher and more and he gets irritated at the long string of uninterrupted kanji. So she replies by saying the same thing, except this time it's all in hiragana, meaning it's nothing more than a long, incomprehensible string of syllables. That's why kanji exist in the first place.
  • Subverted at the end of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney: We see Phoenix talking to what sounds like the player. He's actually talking to the members of a jury.
  • AQUARIUM: In "Marine's Route", Aqua barges in (despite not being introduced yetnote ) and says that the game is titled AQUArium, so Marine shouldn't even be a romance option, before the two fight over the protagonist role and Marine hijacks the plot, with the ending being non-canon.
  • In Asagao Academy: Normal Boots Club Mai does this frequently throughout the story with other occasional examples from some of the boys.
  • Danganronpa:
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc when Monokuma starts expositing on the backstories of the culprit and victim in Chapter 2, he says to hold O (or Ctrl in the PC version) to skip it in case you didn't want to hear all this.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony deconstructed, Played for Drama and Horror, by revealing that the various fourth wall breaks of Monokuma are actually because the series have been turned into a reality TV show. When the characters discover this, they are utterly shocked as they realize all of their memories and emotions were fiction. This reveal almost entirely cripples the surviving members, until Shuichi comes to the realization that even if everything is fictional, their experiences and pain are real. The final battle is against the embodiment of the TV audience itself.
  • Monika in Doki Doki Literature Club! breaks the fourth wall a couple of times, such as to advice you about saving the game. The game's download page is also written as if it's her addressing the potential player. It looks like the usual kind of plot-irrelevant joke, but it isn't. She has Medium Awareness all along, she's just reluctant to break the fourth wall at first.
  • In Double Homework, Johanna and Tamara summarize the events of the previous episode (according to the options chosen) to the players the beginning of each new one.
  • Monster Prom: In an event where Liam asks the player if he knows about a crowdfunding site called Startkicker, the Narrator will abruptly snark about whether Liam knows the reason why he exists, since Monster Prom was a game crowdfunded on Kickstarter.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend is pretty aware that it's a dating sim, and a silly one at that. However, the standout moment is the introduction to the sequel Holiday Star, in which Ryouta directly addresses the audience to explain that it takes place on a separate timeline from the original game to prevent continuity errors.
  • Steins;Gate: Near the beginning of the novel, Okabe Rintarou talks to the audience for a good time while he stares very near the camera. He actually is refusing the idea of him being a fictional person and you (the audience) being the real one, while the other two characters on the scene just act as him being delusional (which he actually is, so his actions 'make sense' In-Universe), so it might also qualify as a Leaning on the Fourth Wall.
  • Tyrion Cuthbert: Attorney of the Arcane:
    • If you examine the hallway in the Aurinax inn, Tyrion points out that it's identical to the McCoy tavern's hallway. Initially Celeste tries to rationalize it, but upon further skepticism from Tyrion she outright says that it's expensive to make these backgrounds and that you should pay for another one if you want it so badly, referencing the fact that the game was crowdfunded.
    • If you present wrong evidence when cross-examining Eris, she points out that the music didn't stop, which is a sure sign that the objection is invalid. Tyrion is confused.

    Web Video 
  • Dora the Explorer and the Destiny Medallion: Dora asks the audience whether they can solve the puzzle, and stands there looking at the camera waiting for them. This makes Diego call her crazy.
  • The opening sketch of Drew Gooden's "Vine: Where Are They Now?" video ends when one of Drew's characters realizes the news anchor is also himself, leading the other character to point out that they're in a sketch he wrote, and that the only reason this is happening is because he couldn't find a good way to end the sketch.
  • Tactical Cupcakes: Meta humor is used often in the series, with almost everyone able to comment on game mechanics or the fact that they're in a Youtube video.
  • Unwanted Houseguest: It isn't clear in-universe how the Houseguest communicates with his audience or produces his music, but he's reliant on a landlines phone for external communication, so it seems unlikely he had internet.

Alternative Title(s): Break The Fourth Wall, Fourth Wall Breaking, Breaks The Fourth Wall


F&F Breaking the Fourth Wall


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