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Confused Bystander Interview

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When large action sequence takes place in an urban environment, it is reasonable to assume that there were a significant number of people who witnessed the events. Sometimes, the incident is successfully covered up, but at other times, eyewitness accounts and recorded footage make this impossible, and it's splashed all over the news the next day.

Some works take this a step further, and have the local Intrepid Reporter interview someone who was there at the scene as part of a news broadcast. This character is usually not a member of the main cast, and will often end up as a One-Scene Wonder at best. Dramatic variants do exist, but these interviews are most often Played for Laughs. The interviewee is often a ditzy teenager or young adult who recounts the story in Buffy Speak, and makes their own sound effects to go with it. Particularly excitable ones may just go nuts over the fact that they are on TV. For added hilarity, the witness will often exaggerate details or get them entirely wrong. Sometimes, they may not even realize they're being interviewed at all or go completely off the rails. If the person is having a mouth, expect Cluster Bleep-Bomb.

Often a sign that the Masquerade is breaking. See also: Vox Pops, Hi, Mom!.


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    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Cassie Arnold uses confused bystanders to help support her agenda driven broadcasts of White Magician's "rescues", often cutting them off if they're about to say something that contradicts the narrative she's building and asking leading questions

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • Happens in Monsters, Inc. after Boo's presence is discovered. "Witnesses" claim to have seen her use laser vision and mind powers.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie features a montage of confused bystander interviews at the end. It's (somewhat) justified in that almost all the characters don't believe in vampires - even after they've just seen them - and are proposing alternate theories instead. ("I think they were Young Republicans.")
  • In Ghost Rider (2007), this scene happens with a goth girl who is not so much confused as impressed.
  • In The Great Man, a radio reporter is given the job of creating a eulogy for their beloved on-air personality who has died. In addition to not being able to find anyone who actually knew him who liked him, they recorded interviews with people who came to walk by his casket as he lay in state. Most were so confused that they simply edited them to make them sound coherent.
  • In The Incredible Hulk (2008), there's an interview that doubles as a Mythology Gag - the two college students interviewed about the Hulk's appearance at Culver University are Jack McGee (Banner's Inspector Javert from the TV series) and Jim Wilson (one of Hulk's Kid Sidekicks from the comics). McGee even mentions hoping to become a reporter some day.
  • The day after SHAZAM! (2019) and his siblings destroy a Christmas-themed park, the local Mall Santa gives a family-unfriendly recap of the action.
  • Happens in the Spider-Man Trilogy movies a few times, one of which features a cameo by Lucy Lawless.
  • In They Cloned Tyrone the protagonists free a bunch of clones from the underground lair of The Conspiracy, and as a crowd gathers to wonder, so do news crews. We then get a montage of both random bystanders and the Gangbangers who took part in the rescue give funny interviews to the cameras.

  • Children's book Tuesday has frogs who inexplicably gain the ability to fly on their lily pads on Tuesday night. The power vanishes Wednesday morning and a bystander is shown being interviewed by a TV crew.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CNNNN: Brett Aspinall is interviewed after a police chase went through his street, while he was inside the house and didn't actually see any of the cars. Which is arguably still more relevant than most of the people consulted during the episode.
  • An episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has Mac storming into Paddy's announcing that he'd just been interviewed by the local news station as an eye-witness to a traffic accident and "went off" on an epic tirade. He's enraged to find out that his rant was cut down to a fleeting sound-bite.

  • Creedence Clearwater Revival's "It Came Out of the Sky" has various eyewitnesses wildly misinterpreting the landing of a Martian spaceship - everything from "The Lord had come" to "It was a Communist plot."
  • Ray Stevens's "The Streak." The same witness is there at every appearance of a streaker.

  • In Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins half of the song "How I Saved Roosevelt" is bystanders who witnessed the attempted assassination of Roosevelt talking to the press, and inflating their own importance in the event.
    We're crowded up close,
    And I see this guy,
    He's squeezing by,
    I catch his eye,
    I say to him, "Where do you
    Think you're trying to go, boy?
    Whoa, boy!"
    I say, "Listen, you runt,
    You're not pulling that stunt,
    No gentleman pushes their way to the front."
    I say, "Move to the back!", which he does with a grunt —
    Which is how I saved Roosevelt!

  • From El Goonish Shive: After a battle involving a superhero, a dragon, and a mysterious cloaked figure, reporter Carol Brown interviews a teenaged bystander. This bystander, identified only as "Heidi," is hyperactive, very animated, and prone to using sound effects and all sorts of Buffy Speak as she describes the battle. Carol even copies some of her odd word choice before catching herself. However, this ultimately turns out to be a subversion. "Heidi" is not actually a bystander, but the superhero she claims to have witnessed. She's also the usually male main character, Elliot, but that is perhaps beside the point.

    Real Life