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Fourth-Wall Observer

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Abed: Shirley, would you like to spin off with me? I'm just riffing here, but maybe we could open a hair salon.
Shirley: I don't understand, Abed. Is this you being "meta"?

The Fourth Wall can be a fragile thing, but some are more fragile than others. Oft times, it stands just outside the sight of the characters, completely unnoticed, even though we all know it's there. But sometimes, even when everyone else can't see, there's one character who notices that there happens to be a script, or that someone's watching them, or that they're living life on a set.

As you can probably guess, this trope is about that one guy in the group who knows his life takes place behind a TV screen, knows that he's being written by someone, or can see the little effects that happen all around him. Usually, his friends dismiss him as being completely off his rocker, though to be fair he probably is.

Compare Meta Guy, who is the stage below this: completely Genre Savvy, but not necessarily knowledgeable of the Fourth Wall. Reading Ahead in the Script is a step up, where the meta character has real knowledge of the future due to their awareness of the medium. If several characters are fully aware of their fictional status and make regular reference to this fact, you've got a case of No Fourth Wall.

Audience? What Audience? is a related trope when one character breaks the fourth wall, but the other doesn't understand it. Also compare Red Pill, Blue Pill.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Many tankobon volumes of manga (i.e., any individual-series manga you'd pick up in a shop) have additional sketches or comments from the author between chapters. Some of these are just random blurbs of information about the author and what went on when making the series, others fall into this, bordering into No Fourth Wall territory. A particular set of examples in several of the tankobon volumes of Fruits Basket are single-panel reactions from characters stating their disdain at not being featured as prominently in that particular volume, with another talking about the one with the most focus, or whoever's on the cover. Some go as far as to have the characters actually holding the very book themselves.
  • In AnotherHOLiC, the ×××HOLiC story written by Nisio Isin, Yuuko Ichihara says that something is "most vexexing". When Watanuki asks if she just stuttered, she replies "No. Merely a typo."
  • Xiaomei from EDENS ZERO, who was given powers of omniscience by Mother, and serves as the all-knowing narrator of the story. However, apart from the odd side comment and wink at the audience, she mostly limits her reader interactions to scenes she doesn't share with other characters, treating her role within the story separate from her narrator duties.
  • Love Hina: Has Mutsumi and Su doing this from time to time, For example:
    • Mutsumi talking to Naru about a letter from Keitaro:
      Mutsumi : Don't you remember... I told you about it just a few pages ago.
    • Su talking to Keitaro about his broke leg.
      Su: Can't ya just put a band aid on it and make it better in the next scene like ya normally do?
    • The anime-only Kentaro. Originally The Rival, morphed into something of a personified Deus ex Machina, who makes some comment about the narrative he points at the subtitles when Naru gets his name wrong.
      Kentaro: Well. I suppose that's all the screen time I'm getting this time.
  • Makura no Danshi: During the opening sequence, Merry is the only one out of the boys that blinks when they look at the viewer, showing him to be the only real one among the still pictures. This helps emphasize the reveal in the last episode that he's a very otherworldly person.
  • Ajimu of Medaka Box is fully aware she's in a manga, saying that fighting Medaka head-on would be pointless since she's the main character and thus will always win in the end. Her ultimate goal seems to be ending the manga before the Animated Adaptation airs, and her plan for doing so involves dethroning Medaka and instating a new protagonist. It's ultimately subverted: she isn't truly aware that she's a character in a manga, she just very strongly believes it because reality seems to follow the same kind of "narrative" as a Shonen Jump manga. She wants to defeat Medaka so she can accomplish something that breaks the narrative, allowing her to commit a Seen-It-All Suicide. Medaka does lose her main character status, but prevents the suicide and challenges Ajimu to really do the impossible by defying her "role" and finding her own path in life. Additionally, she cameos in the last episode of the anime and speaks directly to the audience, explaining that the episode will be covering sidestory material since the story left off in a place that couldn't be turned into a satisfying ending.
    • Kumagawa seems like this, but in reality he's just read a lot of Shonen Jump manga and sees reality in terms of tropes and clichés.
  • In Monster Musume, Lala is a very subtle variation: It's a Running Gag that she'll move her removable head around to make sure that her face isn't blocked by speech bubbles or other characters.
  • Jessie, James and Meowth in Pokémon: The Series, particularly in the English dub, frequently reference the writers, the artists, the audience, the half-hour time slot, and the fact that they're in a "cartoon" — and if they're in a movie, they're sure to appreciate being "on the big screen". None of the other characters seem to notice this. Or do they?
    Jessie: Prepare for trouble like you've never seen!
    James: And make it double, we're on the big screen!
    Ash: I'll have to catch this on video!
    TR: GAH! [near-face fault]
  • Rosario + Vampire has Koe the bat, who narrates to the audience, as well as acting as a censor by flying between the camera and any inappropriate shots — no-one knows who he keeps talking to all the time.

    Fan Works 
  • While other characters ignore the Fourth Wall, Shadi from Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series has the job of protecting it.
  • In I'm a Marvel... And I'm a DC every character already knows they're fictional characters with films and stories being made about them. Deadpool, true to his character, manages to take it one step further, as he is the only one who is aware that they're actually action figures in a Stop Motion web series. He even comments on the quality of the animation, his yellow subtitles, and the wait between episodes.
  • Pinkie Pie in Twillight Sparkle's awesome adventure knows that she's in a terribly-written fanfic, leading her to make snarky comments, and eventually a full-on Rage Against the Author, about the story's quality.
  • Oathkeeper's Awakening: The Genie kicks the fourth wall down in his first scene by having a direct conversation with the author of the fic. He also has a tendency to make references to the Kingdom Hearts franchise as a whole.
    "Girl, this is a Fan Fiction! Anybody who's reading this has already seen at least the first movie and played through Kingdom Hearts, II, and (hopefully) III! Seriously audience, if you haven't played Kingdom Hearts III yet, then you just got seriously spoiled in that first chapter there.
  • Naturally, Narrator of Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, since he is essentially the same character from The Smurfs film series.
  • An entire clan are made up of these in The Unsung Story of the Inconspicuous. They're all aware of the fact that they're living in a story and make it a point to do their absolute best to stay out of the way of the plot.
  • In the RWBY fanfic, Shard, minor OC character Zek often makes comments that indicates that he is somewhat aware that he is in a story. He also nicknames many of the characters after the people they allude to. Such as Yang being Goldilocks. Lampshaded further by the fact that he can't come up with a nickname for major OC character Aero, who is his best friend.
  • Pinkie Tales:
    • There's Pinkie Pie of course, which leads to her constantly bickering with the narrator of the week and causing all kinds of mischief For the Lulz.
    • More surprisingly Applejack of all ponies is this, as she often breaks character to point out various oddities in the story, like why she of all ponies was cast as the fairy godmother and often tries to address her friends as she would in the show.
  • The Tumblr ask blogs Ask Lost Episode Mystery and Ask Self Aware Mystery deal with two variations of this trope, the former going insane and cannibalizing his friends upon realizing the truth, and the latter attempting to cope with it as best as he can.
  • The characters in Aesir: Cross Wars cannot do anything to manipulate the medium that they are in. However, they know that they're in a Wattpad story, and they commonly comment on this. They also talk to the narrator/author a lot.
  • The Many Dates of Danny Fenton: Like in their series, the Warner Siblings are fully aware they're fictional characters and take full advantage of it. Danny, someone who has no such ability in canon, is confused who they're talking to.
  • Entrapta in Sweary She-Ra breaks the fourth wall in nearly every sentence she speaks.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Fifth Path resident goddess Sothis is quite clearly aware that she's fictional, from little things like referring to Byleth as the protagonist to large ones like outright stating she can hear the narration.

    Film — Animation 
  • Genie from Disney's Aladdin is one of these; though his insights usually have more to do with real world events, celebrities, and popular characters than actually referencing the fourth wall, he still has the same effect on the other characters. The cartoon series discusses this at one point; Aladdin explains to Jasmine that Genie is just referencing things that don't exist yet, and basically admits that he just ignores him when he does this.
  • All the characters of Wreck-It Ralph are fourth-wall observers in-universe, as they can literally see the player of their game through either a huge window in the air or a screen on a robot, but one character takes it one step further for the purpose of Paranoia Fuel: Turbo, during his Motive Rant to Vanellope, turns and gives his signature thumbs up to the people watching the movie in just one single frame.
    • In Ralph Breaks the Internet, this also shown to be the case with the Disney Princesses, who are quite aware of the existence of Pixar, the "other studio" that Merida is from.
  • Turtles Forever: The Grand Finale crossover film between the 2003 Turtles and the 1987 Turtles which celebrates the end of the Mirage led franchise before the IP switched to Nickelodeon. Throughout the movie, the 87 Raphael continuously breaks the Fourth Wall to speak to the audience, much to the confusion of the other characters. At one point the villain, Hun, grabs him and started yelling at him asking:
    Hun: Why do you keep doing that? Who are you talking to? There's no one there!

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the eponymous character casually speaks to the audience. No one else narrates this way, nor do they notice that Buster does.
  • Black Mirror: Bandersnatch:
    • Colin is aware of the multiple timelines the story takes place across, and on some level knows that he is a character in an interactive film. During a Previously on… segment, he proves that he even has some measure of control over the narrative by forcibly skipping to the next scene; by that point both he and the audience have already been through that scene multiple times, and he's gotten bored of seeing it.
    • Choosing the 'Netflix' path is essentially you, the viewer, turning Stefan into one of these. You inform him that he's a character in a Netflix original film, and that you control his actions. Given that the story is set in 1984, he has no idea what Netflix is, but starts to believe that he's being controlled by "his friend from the future". Then things get... weird.
  • One visitor in The Cube is a film critic who tells the man that he's just a character in a teleplay, and produces a TV to show him the ending.
  • Like his original comic book self, the star of Deadpool is constantly breaking the fourth wall, commenting on everything from his own actor to the film's budget. He even makes fun of X-Men Origins: Wolverinenote .
  • Ferris Bueller from Ferris Bueller's Day Off regularly comments directly to the audience about the film's plot, about the other characters, about being in High School, and so on. At the end of the film, after the credits, he even says to the audience, "You're still here? It's over! Go home! Go."
  • The Narrator in Fight Club constantly monologues to the audience, talking about certain events that are happening or to fill them in on what's going on, at one point he starts talking directly to the camera to explain Tyler and his different jobs, by extention Tyler is also this trope due to the fact he and the narrator both speak to the audience at different times
    "you are not your fucking khakis"
  • Groucho Marx of The Marx Brothers incorporated this into almost all of his movie roles. It's one of the traits he passed on to Bugs Bunny.
    Groucho (looking out at the theater): "I may be stuck here, but there's no reason you can't go out into the lobby until this all blows over." (from Horse Feathers)
  • Louis, the Child King: As soon as the film starts, the young Duke of Anjou Philippe d'Orléans (Jocelyn Quivrin) turns at the camera and talks about his brother Louis. He keeps doing this over the course of the film.
  • The Graverobber, of Repo! The Genetic Opera, so very much. He speaks directly to the camera on multiple occasions, and even refers to the medium he's in during "Epilogue".
  • Stranger Than Fiction is an interesting variation. The main character can hear the narrator and recognizes a sort of fourth wall, but the narrator is actually someone in his world whose writing dictates his life. In fact, they eventually meet.
  • This trope's inverse is basically the plot of The Truman Show: Every character can see the fourth wall except one.
  • In a Finnish comedy film from the Uuno Turhapuro series, a waiter has been tricked, by two alcoholics, into drinking a full bottle of vodka. Later, when a lady enters the restaurant, and listens to the waiter singing a song, she glances around, and declares with an enlightened face: "I see. This must be a Finnish movie. There's no other explanation for the presence of so many drunkards in one scene."

  • Kaitlyn Werhner, from the story Dark Red Mind, is well aware that she is fictional, knows she's being written, points out certain tropes that occur, and even tries to hurry dialogue along so the reader doesn't become bored. She's not just a fourth wall observer. She's a fourth wall manipulator.
  • Ed in The Chronicles of Blarnia.
    Susan: ...Do you think we might be in a children's book?
    Ed: Of course we are, if you look down you can see the page numbers.
    • A similar thing happens with Bromosel in Bored of the Rings, after it has been foretold that he'll die sometime "around page eighty-eight." None of the others seem to understand this, but whenever they get into dangerous situations, Bromosel is mentioned as taking a quick glance at the page number.
  • In the superhero novel The Silver Seven the character Timothy Wonder looks directly at the fourth wall on numerous occasions, calls out tropes as they are played, but still demonstrates a complete lack of Genre Savvy.
  • One of the Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy from Memoirs of a Space Traveller by Stanisław Lem is about a scientist that succeeds in creating sentient AI in the form of computer-generated phantoms living in a digital world. One of these beings is aware of how things are (or rather foreknows it), and is held by the others as a madman. It is suggested in the story that its characters may well be in the same situation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one of the later seasons of The X-Files, a movie producer witnesses a skeleton assemble itself and walk/dance around the room. When talking about it later on he says: "It was either animatronics or CGI." For the record, it was the latter.
  • Originally, Denny Crane was the only one who knew that Boston Legal was a TV show. In later seasons other characters, particularly Jerry Espenson, start to notice as well.
  • If Abed on Community had a job description (other than "student"), it would be "Fourth Wall Observer." He believes the world to be like TV, and because he's a character in a TV show, it is. He can even predict the future thanks to his knowledge of tropes. Heaven knows why he doesn't have a handle here.
    • Abed does break the Fourth Wall occasionally. In one episode opening skit, the other characters ask him if he can stop acting like everything is a TV show. His reply? "That's kind of my gimmick...but we did lean on that pretty hard last week, so I guess I can lay low for an episode." He has no further lines that episode. And, yes, the previous episode had been particularly Abed-heavy.
    • This gets even better when Jeff starts to understand Abed's way of thinking a little bit after some time, slightly becoming a Meta Guy himself. More frequently referring to 'seasons' and 'episodes' as well.
    • This is ultimately deconstructed. Abed doesn't truly believe he's in a TV show, he just has great difficulty understanding the world around him. Framing his life as a TV show makes it easier for him to understand, and is sort of a coping mechanism of his. When his life temporarily turned into a mafia parody, he dropped the meta shtick as reality then made perfect sense to him and didn't need a framing device.
  • In the 'Til Death episode "Hi Def TV", the character Doug spends whatever screen time he has being the Fourth Wall Observer. He is suddenly fully aware of when the camera is on him, that their food is from brands that don't exist, convenient plot elements, censors, the laugh tracks, that all the rooms have only three walls and there is no such thing as a second floor. He is even unfortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one of the mics. Needless to say all the other characters think he's a little off his rocker.
  • The eponymous character in Malcolm in the Middle turns to the Fourth Wall in the middle of scenes to talk about his Dysfunctional Family directly with the audience. No one else in the show seems to notice.
  • Made in Canada lead character Richard Strong would open every episode with a short rant about a topic that would turn out to be pivotal to the episode's plot and explain to the audience mid-episode where he stood with his own scheme amidst the stack of other zany schemes. The episode ends with either the winner looking to the camera and saying "I think that went well" or the loser saying "This is not good."
  • Lovejoy regularly speaks to the audience, usually to share a witty observation. No one else seems to notice or comment on this, though Lady Jane does giggle once when she overhears him.
  • Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock when he's off his meds.
    We're all on a Show Within a Show! My real name is Tracy Morgan!
  • In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, where Marshall and Lily hold a game show to decide which of their friends is to be the guardian/godparent of their newborn child, Marshall gives the opening narration of the show to the camera. Ted asks him who he's talking to.
  • There were times on Green Acres when Lisa Douglas couldn't sleep because she could see the credits. Oliver never saw them.
    • Then there was the time when Oliver ended an episode with a stirring speech — only for Lisa to interrupt, asking where that patriotic music was coming from...
  • MythQuest: In-universe whenever Alex or Cleo travel into a myth. Also Gorgos, who knows he's in a myth.
  • There's a hilarious sketch in A Bit of Fry and Laurie, where Fry and Laurie are policemen looking for a criminal. At one point Laurie, caught up in his speech to the woman present, walks off the living room set and past one of the cameras. When he realizes what he's done, he then casually strolls back on, never breaking character or stopping the sketch.
  • The main characters in both versions of House Of Cards - Francis Urquhart in House of Cards (UK) and Frank Underwood in House of Cards (US) - speak directly to the camera; sometimes to confess that they are lying, sometimes to bring the audience in on what the complex scheme they're working actually is, sometimes because it just seems to amuse them. In the closing moment of House of Cards (UK), it almost seems as though the character is aware of, and slightly ashamed of, the audience's disgust with them, and is talking himself into continuing on his path. "You might very well think that. I could not possibly comment."
  • The Burns and Allen Show: In the TV series, George addressed the camera in every episode. In the live episodes (the first two seasons), George addressed the camera and the theater audience. In the filmed episodes over the remainder of the series, George not only addressed the camera, he also had a TV in a den that allowed him to watch the other characters in the show.
  • In the British TV show Hustle, where the main characters are a group on con artists, they would regularly use Fourth Wall Observations to walk the audience through the plan for the con.
  • The main character in Fleabag makes comments and looks to camera all the time, of which the other characters are unaware. This takes a dark turn near the end of S1 when she realises that she can't turn it off and we're still watching as she has her breakdown. Part of her Character Arc in S2 is that she gradually learns not to be a fourth wall observer.
  • The 1972 BBC anthology series The Sextet had an episode, "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" written by Dennis Potter, in which the lead character perceives the fourth wall. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs and he is forced to take refuge in drugs and therapy.
  • Gentleman Jack: Anne often looks at the camera, and knows the viewer can hear what she's thinking. She occasionally talks directly to the camera as well.
  • Given she's not our page image for nothing, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has Jen Walters become aware of the fourth wall after getting She-Hulk's powers and thus frequently talking to the camera (at times acknowledging the series format). Although the first time she does so, both her and the Hulk seem confused at what she just did.

  • The Eminem and Dr. Dre song "Guilty Conscience" has the conceit that the two rappers are arguing back and forth as a Good Angel, Bad Angel pair, with Dre trying to talk various characters out of committing evil acts, and Slim Shady trying to encourage them into it. However, in the third verse, Slim stops commenting on the actual story and instead starts making fun of the real Dre, pointing out that you shouldn't take advice from "Mr. AK, Mr. N.W.A" and the guy who once "slapped Dee Barnes" (referring to an incident where Dr. Dre violently assaulted a woman). It flusters Dre enough that he eventually gives up and join's Slim's side.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • WWE's Triple H holds the crown of fourth-wall breaking. From hinting at his Real Life marriage to Stephanie McMahon to cracking jokes about the referees, the sound crew, the cameramen, and how the heel / babyface relationship works. Some of his more humorous examples are:
    • To an audience at a Raw taping: "And for the millions, who, five minutes ago, were watching at home. (crowd boos) Oh, come on! It's like, 11:08, guys, we're off the air!"
    • After a microphone malfunctions at a press conference: "Crack sound team we got here. Where'd you buy these things, Wal-Mart? I think we're gonna be auctioning them off later, you might wanna get a receipt."
    • To Shelton Benjamin, coming down the ramp during an episode of Smackdown: "Shelton man, stop right there. That's not how this works. See, I'm doing what we call a 'promo' (does air quotes). In this 'promo', I'm gonna stand here and talk about how I'm gonna beat you in our match. And then you're playing what we call a Heel, you've gotta wait till my back is turned and then sneak up on me. That's how this works."
    • To Vince McMahon off of Vince's outraged "What are you doing here?", after first waiting several minutes for the crowd to stop cheering: "I'm waiting for this pop to die down, man, did you hear that?"
  • The whole "CM Punk will leave the company with the title" story has kind of turned Punk into a fourth wall observer. Every story connected to it revolved around real life issues. It's very evident when Punk had promos with John Cena because there's an obvious contrast when Punk is talking about the stuff that make all the smarks cheer their heads off while Cena stays totally in character and treats Punk like the evil Heel.
  • Backstage segments in wrestling simply have an odd relationship with the fourth wall. Usually, it's acknowledged that there are cameras back stage, but sometimes we'll see wrestlers plotting something like no one is supposed to know what they're planning even though it's on the giant jumbotron.

  • Not every character in Wanya Kingdom VS Awoofy Unity is fourth-wall aware, but those who are will address the creators and make meta commentary with varying degrees of frequency.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Guise's cards in Sentinels of the Multiverse will frequently instruct the player to do non-gameplay related things, like give high fives or yell "Woo!". In the video game version, he will point at your hand and try to tell you which card to play. And his Completionist variant allows the players to swap another hero card out for one of its variant cards mid-game, by virtue of Completionist Guise owning all Sentinels merchandise.

  • Amadeus — Salieri (and only him) is aware of the audience, alternatively believing them to be his torment or his salvation, and addresses all of his monologues to them. (In the film version, the function of Salieri's confessor is instead given to a nameless priest.)
  • In the 2013 stage musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka is this — possibly owing to his being both a Large Ham and Mr. Imagination — and turns his awareness of the fourth wall to his own amusement. He turns out to be the unseen narrator of the "Creation Overture" at the top of the show. At the end of Act One, as the Golden Ticket tour group heads into the factory, he follows along behind them — but before slamming the door shut invites the audience in as well. At the top of Act Two, he is revealed to be "conducting" the entr'acte and even briefly takes a seat in the front row (or, even better, on a front row audience member's lap). At the end of the show, he addresses the audience to reveal that he's going to continue his creative their world. During the first stretch of the curtain call, after everyone else has taken their bows, he is revealed to be sitting in a box seat in the auditorium.
  • Ride the Cyclone has two examples that play the trope in different ways:
    • The first is The Amazing Karnak, a mechanical fortune teller at a Crappy Carnival whose in-universe psychic powers allow him to serve as both a character in and the self-aware narrator of the show:
      • In his opening monologue Karnak addresses the audience directly, making a comment about "who gets which armrest" and silencing cellphones before the show starts.
      • He reads aloud the Dramatis Personae-esque character introductions throughout the show to familiarize the audience with the other characters.
      • The Amazing Karnak also forewarns the audience that the show will effectively end when he dies in "little over an hour" (said at the beginning a show with an approximate ~90 minute runtime), as he won't be around to narrate anymore.
    • To a lesser extent there is also Virgil, the rat chewing through The Amazing Karnak's power cables. Although his narrative function is limited to inadvertently killing The Amazing Karnak, the character of Virgil is meant to be played by the bassist of the live band that provides music for the show. Virgil is aware of the audience, with Karnak introducing him to viewers as "my executioner" while the rat waves and poses. "Virgil" spends the duration of the show outside the context of the narrative while he provides the musical backdrop for the other characters to perform against, returning to the story at the end to kill off Karnak.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy:
  • Knights of Ambrose: Of the characters in this series, Malady seems to be the most aware of the fourth wall, especially in Finding Light, where she is aware that the game is in monochrome while every other character still sees the world in color. She also addresses the player outside the screen at a few points. This is deconstructed because this is one of the reasons why Uno considers her too crazy to take care of their son Dylan.
  • The Scout in Team Fortress 2 refers to himself as a class, the battlefield as a map, and taunts people by telling them to Rage Quit.
  • The MLB: The Show series does an admirable job making its in-game presentation as if it were a TV broadcast, but occasionally, the commentators will break the fourth wall. During a cutscene of a frustrated pitcher, Rex Hudler will comment that "he's using words we can't use in the video game!". And if you get a generous call at the plate as the year's cover athlete, Dave Campbell will remark, "See, that's the kind of call you get when they put you on the cover on the game." Conversely, if Roy Halladay (opposing franchise MLB 2K11's cover boy) has a bad call go against him, Campbell will opine that Halladay would have gotten the call if he was on their cover.
  • In Dead Rising 2, player character Chuck Greene, always says something relevant when you have him put on new clothes. Get him to crossdress, and he'll express discomfort, saying things like "Um...Seriously?", "Uh..." "If you say so..." and "I got a bad feeling about this." These seem to be his only moments.
  • Deadpool carries his Medium Awareness into video games with him. You fight him in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 because he declares that it's time for an "obligatory mini-boss fight". In Marvel vs. Capcom 3 he geeks out over meeting Street Fighter characters (and thinks that KOing them means he gets the cover of Street Fighter V), makes "Welcome to Die!" and "Curleh mustache" jokes upon seeing Magneto, criticizes Spencer's redesign, beats opponents with their own health bars, grabs the camera to address the player... long story short, he knows he's in a video game. And wait until you see what he gets up to in his own video game...
    Deadpool: "Taunt Button!"
  • If a certain bartender in RuneScape is asked where a brave adventurer might find her or his fortune, he fears that giving away hints will make the 'computer game' too easy. One of the options on the resulting dialogue tree triggers an amusing conversation in which the bartender attempts to explain things by heavily breaking the fourth wall, only for the player character to give up and tell him that he is obviously mad.
  • In Max Payne, a mysterious voice turns Max into a Fourth-Wall Observer. During one of Max's hallucinations on the drug V, he is told by a letter (heavily implied to be from his dead wife, Michelle) that he is in a graphic novel (what the cutscenes are presented as). He instantly realizes that his life is all fragmented still shots and the fact that he can see his thoughts and words hanging in thought/speech bubbles in the air. Another letter then tells him that he's in a computer game. Once again, he instantly sees "weapon statistics hanging in the air, endless repetition of the act of shooting, time slowing down to show off my moves. The paranoid feeling of someone controlling my every step."
    Max: Funny as hell, it was the most horrible thing I could think of.
  • In Rogue Galaxy: All the characters have flavor lines they say as you move around. These lines might change given where you are, and what events are unlocked. Well... Kisala, when you play for longer than a certain amount of time without saving (or defeating a few bosses also seems to trigger it) she says something along the lines of "Hey, shouldn't you save soon?" And if you play more than 3 hours or so, "You've been playing a really long time! Aren't you tired?"
    "Wow... You've been playing forever. Why don't you call it a day."
  • Travis Touchdown of the No More Heroes series fits this well. He says a lot of things that imply he's aware he's in a videogame, like telling the player what button to press to start the game. He even speaks to the player during a sum up scene of him explaining how he got into this mess in the first place.
  • A scientist in the StarCraft universe holds a theory that they are all nothing but units in a computer game obeying some greater entity's whims. Naturally, she is mocked by everyone else.
  • In Dragon Age II, a patron at the Hanged Man frequently comments on various aspects of the game and openly wonders if he's just a character in a story that someone else is telling... and why he couldn't have been made more attractive.
  • Secret of Evermore has a ranting prophet in the city of Nobilia. He declares his entire universe to be at the control of a "button-pressing overlord" and eventually gives you the option to transform him into one of several objects. If the player cancels out of the dialog, he thanks you (the player) for not polymorphing him and gives your character an item.
  • Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid may be one of the most famous examples. He knows how many times you've saved, reads your memory card and comments if specific games are on it, makes your controller move "with his own mind".
  • Cranky Kong of Donkey Kong Country spends most of the time cynically yearning for the days of Nintendo Hard games with rudimentary graphics, while complaining about how the games he is in now can't compare to the ones he was in during his youth.
  • The dwarf sidekick in Save the Prince is very much aware of the fact that he's in a game. When the main character Giselle asked what he was doing at the start of one level he said he was consulting the strategy guide, and when she asked if they were still a long way from the castle toward the beginning of the game he replied that they were only on level nine.
  • The Neptunia series takes this trope and goes to town with it. Basically, most of the characters treat the fourth wall as a courtesy, acting like it's not there except for the occasional side-reference when it's funny. Neptune, our fair heroine, loves breaking the fourth wall when the opportunity presents itself. At one point, the other characters actually tell her to stop breaking it.
  • Undertale has Flowey, who is aware of the player's capability to save, load and reset the whole game, and how they can use it to keep coming back after dying or change choices for different outcomes. Other characters sometimes display limited awareness of the events of previous saves, but only as a sort of Déjà Vu.
  • The Terror Mask in the Splatterhouse remake is quite aware that it is in a video game, noting some of the things that Rick does is why the game has an M-rating, that he was originally going to be a Villain Protagonist, and occasionally telling the player to hurry up and click continue on the game over screen. Even when it delivers the Title Drop, it's done in a blatantly Breaking the Fourth Wall way:
    Show him why we call it... 'SPLATTERHOUSE'.
  • The Plumber from the Ratchet & Clank series. Also has Medium Awareness.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has M'aiq the Lair, a recurring Easter Egg Legacy Character who has appeared in every game since Morrowind. M'aiq is a known a Fourth Wall Observer (and Leaner and Breaker) who voices the opinions of the series' creators and developers, largely in the form of Take Thats, to both the audience (given the ES Unpleasable Fanbase) and isn't above above taking some at Bethesda itself. His "meta" dialogue understandably doesn't make any sense from an in-universe perspective and justifiably makes him seem very detached from the game world.
  • Marcus Kane in Twisted Metal 2 is well aware he's in a video game, going so far as to address the player directly as such in his biography screen. Unsurprisingly, everyone else just things he's insane.
    I know the truth you freak! You sit back in your living room with your little video game console and play, play, play! But I know what's happening, I can see you! They think I'm crazy but you'll find out I'm the only one who's sane!
  • Shantae: Squid Baron gains this status from the third game onward. He also tends to induce it in other characters while they're talking to him.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: The Malkavian player character dips into this, as does the Thin-Blooded Malkavian Rosa. While Rosa doesn't actually know what she means by "buying the game", the Malkavian PC mentions that they'd rather not do the stuff they're being ordered to do, but the player won't let them disobey.
  • Downplayed with Jibolba in Tak and the Power of Juju; He assumes the player (Not the player character, the actual player) is a Juju spirit he summoned to help with the crisis, and acts as a Mr. Exposition for us at the beginning of the game. Being a shaman from an indigenous tribe, he doesn't quite know what to make of us; He is impressed by our 'power-stick' (The controller) and intrigued by the 'box' we observe his world with (The tv set).

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • Duke from Daria Cohens The Vampair has given numerous Aside Glances throughout the shorts and addresses the audience directly in the Land of the Dead, as well as some of the animation tests Daria has done.
  • Cuddles is heavily implied to be this in the Happy Tree Friends episode "Blast From The Past", in which he makes a remark just before his death which reveals that he is the only Tree Friend to have become aware of the fact that he dies all the time.
  • invoked Caboose from Red vs. Blue. According to his voice actor, Joel Heyman, he's the only person in the series who's actually aware that he is in a video game. With this in mind, a few of his actions at least make some more sense. And as it later turns out, he's also aware he's in a show, since he says the time he shot Church with the tank "was an exciting episode" and once said in an (admittedly non-canon PSA) that he'd "dance right now, but our animation budget can't afford it!"
  • In Star Trek Logical Thinking, Spock, and only Spock, can talk to the viewer.

  • Com'c: Block is a professional wall breaker specializing in walls labeled "4". He doesn't fit the "not believed by anyone else" part of the trope, however, because the author has made him unnoticable to the characters with an intact Fourth Wall.
    • Krixwell doesn't have a Fourth Wall. Justified because he is the author.
    • It seems this isn't a problem with Nope Guy - NG has been shown to interact with both Block and the main characters, which may indicate that he is also an example of this trope.note 
  • In Bob and George, normally everyone can break the fourth wall. However, when George find himself in what the comic would have been by that point without the Megaman stuff (actually an illusion by a villain with psychic powers), the other characters initially do not seem to be aware of the audience, but eventually turn out to be faking this.
  • Cherry from RPG World is quasi-Fourth Wall Savvy. She keeps questioning the tropes of the game in which they exist.
  • Drowtales: Kiel "has an imaginary friend who just happens to be wherever the camera is." Said friends — and by extension the readers — are actually the demonic taint itself.
    • Subverted after Book 1 ends. After Naal'sul mutates into a demon fused with an experimental summon spirit, she starts excreting shadowmandyr essence, a special substance that allows demons to possess and control tar without leaking The Virus. Suddenly, the readers gain a LOT of influence in the story itself, effectively breaking the fourth wall and cleaning out the edges.
  • In The Order of the Stick, all of the characters show Medium Awareness and huge amounts of Genre Savvy, but Elan generally shows more than the rest, but not necessarily knowledge of the fourth wall more than the rest (as the characters consider the fourth wall more part of the sets of rules for their universe, and rarely ever directly break it as much as reference it). However, the Oracle does show complete omniscience in that regard, talking to the audience as well as the general Medium Awareness the characters show, and gets the same reactions as most of these examples, thus, he is one of these relative to the rest of the characters, even though the other characters show bits of No Fourth Wall themselves. This has extended as far as borrowing things from themselves in other places on the site, with the artwork for those places being contemporaneously updated to reflect the change.
    • Think of it this way: Most of the characters have a jackhammer with which to dig a hole (size varies with the character) through the Fourth Wall, through which they can look at and interact with our world. The Oracle? He gets an Earthmover, and is very well acquainted with the controls.
    • In particular, the demon roaches who are always loitering around can break the fourth wall at will, and do so at every possible opportunity.
    • Thog is also this as well. He acknowledges that the early strips had non-traditional panel layout, he liked the Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity subplot despite not being there, and is unaware of murders he committed off-panel.
  • Tea, the white-haired girl in Gunnerkrigg Court, appears in some between-chapter bonus pages to talk directly to the reader. Since author Tom Siddell has stated that all strips (except for the one in which he himself appears alongside Tea) are Canon, it can be deduced that Tea has the power to see our world and know about her own world's true nature.
  • The four kids (and Karkat) from Homestuck each get a few pages after their introduction for fourth wall breaking, though after that they are stuck with an intact fourth wall for the rest of the story.
  • Joel in Concession. In fact it was recently revealed that spiritual awareness involves knowledge of the fourth wall.
  • The protagonist of A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe is not a full-fledged Fourth-Wall Observer who knows he's in a comic, but he's the only person in the world who is aware of the game mechanics of the RPG Mechanics 'Verse. All of the other characters just brush off his references to them as nonsense.
  • Penny from Out at Home behaves this way regularly, most recently here.
  • Erin from Dragon City pretty much knows it's there. The rest of her family is quasi-aware of it because she often gets in trouble for breaking the fourth wall, but for the most part, everyone else pretends they don't know.
  • In Keychain of Creation:
    • The Sidereal fate-ninja Nemen Yi dodges attacks by jumping between panels and utilizes skewed perspective to do things that should be impossible (such as slashing three people standing ten feet apart with a single strike). On one page she even breaks off part of the nearest frame and uses it as an Improvised Weapon, which other characters still cannot see. (In Exalted, Sidereals can see and manipulate Fate in a way no other human can.) However, she does not acknowledge the audience.
    • The Fair Folk take this to the next level: They're fully aware that they exist in a webcomic, and in fact attack the party solely because they wouldn't exist otherwise. They also operate the Fourth-Wall Mail Slot, bringing letters to other characters who have no clue who sent them. Of course, the humans think they're insane. All this is perfect, because in Exalted The Fair Folk very much treat themselves, each other, and Creation as fiction and story-telling, and they've even been compared to role-players.
  • In Persona 4TW, Teddy is this; it's more or less his new gimmick instead of Bear-puns and -kuma Verbal Tics. Hasn't started talking directly to the audience yet, though.
  • Everyone in Roommates (and presumably in its Spin-Off s Girls Next Door and Down the Street, so in the Buildingverse) has some level of Medium Awarenessnote ... But the Good Omens guys take the cake: They know the author, his/her phone number and Crowley steals his/her beer.
  • Magellan features the cult of murderers called the Character Assasins, who assasinate people seemingly indiscriminately. Their leader believes they are all characters in a fictional world, and that by finding and killing the "Alpha Character", they can take control of the creator. All characters in the world treat him like a loony, but in a way he's Properly Paranoid (though assuming the "Alpha Character" is the protagonist, he did get the wrong one). Naturally, he breaks the fourth wall during his rants.
  • Tiernan in Leif & Thorn sometimes thinks about reader reactions. She doesn't tell the other characters, since she's a cat and can't talk.
  • While everyone in L's Empire has Medium Awareness to a certain degree, gods and demigods have what's known as "Viewers Recognition", a type of omniscience that lets them see everything that the audience sees.
  • The Bird Feeder has Darryl.
    • The characters page states, "He is the only character that actually knows he's in a comic strip."
    • In #207, "Vacation" he mentions the fourth wall by name.
    • The Rant for #399, "Another Apology," reiterates this point.
  • Marco & Marty has Puzzle Rat the Puzzle Fink. He only appears to ask the audience to help the Title Characters solve scavenger hunt clues, and refers to himself as a plot convenience. Marco(a cat) finally gets fed up and eats him, leading him to come back as a ghost.
  • In the Interactive Text Adventure The Motley Two, Rambar Devito has this attribute as part and parcel of his Psychic Powers. Other characters can "hear" the extradimensional voices telling them what to do (I.E. the readers), but only Rambar can talk back to them.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Matt and Rat had this role before they canonically got treated for their shared psychosis and became productive members of society.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • One Dr. Rioghail went mad, believing he was coming up with SCPs, writing reports on them, and submitting them to the SCP database for review.
    • Joey Tamlin. One of several versions of O5-13, he's well aware that he's a fictional character and addresses both the narrator and audience directly multiple times. Given that those around him aren't as aware of the fourth wall, they're left confused when he seemingly makes random statements at nothing. The declassification for the tale Code Brown is even told from his perspective.

    Web Videos 
  • In Half-Life but the AI is Self-Aware Dr. Coomer grows to learn that he lives in an artifical world. While at first he takes to attacking Gordon as a means to access the "world in his dreams" (the real world) he later grows to accept the reality he lives in. In The Stinger he suggests that Gordon takes his data along with the rest of the Science Team along with him to the next game he plays so that their adventures may continue.
  • Gavin Taylore in KateModern becomes one of these, when he's going crazy. Most memorably when he attempts to confront the executive producer of the show for making his life hell.
  • James in TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life tends to apply his knowledge of tropes to his life, with varying degrees of success.
  • Evilina from The Nostalgia Critic. When he's prostrated on the floor at the end of Son of the Mask and begging for death again, she decides to leave him alive because the complaints were too loud when he Died Happily Ever After in To Boldly Flee.
  • Schizophrenia from The Mental Illnesses has the ability to observe the fourth wall. He can hear the show's laugh track and see things offscreen like microphones and ring lights. He also has (albeit minimal) knowledge of the web series Jreg created before The Mental Illnesses, Centricide. He tries to tell the others their reality is fake, but his observations are written off as part of his delusions. To a degree, even Schizophrenia himself believes what he's seeing are hallucinations.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventure Time episode "Beyond This Earthly Realm", Ice King is hinted to be this as he stares into the static on Finn and Jake's TV set (and eventually at the audience) while rambling:
    Ice King: Whaddaya think, Finn? Can we pull back the veil of static and reach into the source of all being? Behind this curtain of patterns, this random pattern generator... so clever, right here in every home, watching us from a one-sided mirror... (realizes Finn is staring at him) Heh heh, whoops! Just wizard-talking to myself!
  • Angelo Rules: Angelo is fully aware of the camera and often talks to the audience as if were one of his friends joining him wherever he goes.
    Alaina (Angelo's sister): [ranting about fashion]
    Angelo: [turns to look at us] I'll spare you the next 5 minutes. [fast forward" icon appears next of him and the scene speeds up until they get the mall at which point a "play" icon appears and he gives the viewer a "You're welcome" look]
  • Downplayed in Archer.
    • Cheryl can hear the background music as shown in "Sea Tunt", but doesn't realize that it's because she's in a cartoon.
    • Sterling Archer himself has been implied to be this a few times. In "Scorpio", Lana asks him "where'd you get that grenade?" to which he irritably replies "Hanging from the lampshade!". In "Skytanic" Archer recognizes that the bomb is a metaphor for Cyril and Lana's relationship problems. In the Season 2 finale, he comments that one fight scene is "not the explosive climax I was expecting". In "The Man From Jupiter", he notices that there are two identical sequences and asks "was that the same footage?". In one episode, he shouts "Trope alert!" after the Pope and Woodhouse are noted to be Inexplicably Identical Individuals. After a montage of scenes in "White Elephant" foreshadowing events of the fifth season, Archer whispers "Archer Vice!", the title of the fifth season, and no one else knows what he's taking about. In "Achub Y Morfilod", he looks into the camera for no apparent reason and says "Glenngoulie. For the best of times."
  • The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series occasionally becomes this:
    Joker: (while preparing to throw a bolo over the wall of Arkham Asylum in order to snag a passing truck and escape) Don't try this at home, kiddies!
  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Bat-Mite was turned into this in order to rescue him from the Scrappy heap, giving him a refreshing spin on his usually annoying characterization that just doesn't fit with usual Batman fare. This eventually gets deconstructed; Bat-Mite applies his reality-warping powers in an attempt to force the show to jump the shark and get cancelled, allowing a darker cartoon to exist. When Ambush Bug points out that a Fourth Wall Observer wouldn't be welcome in that type of cartoon, Bat-Mite is forced into nonexistence.
  • Birdie in Central Park is this of the All-Knowing Singing Narrator variety.
  • Megavolt in Darkwing Duck. Let's count the ways: complaining that the show's theme song is stuck in his head, observing that the "frequency fiend" monsters could return if they obtained a part from a standard television set, momentarily thinking himself to be the villain of Scooby-Doo (before correcting himself: "Wrong cartoon!"), and, to take the cake, inventing an in-universe device that teleports him and Darkwing to a world where they're only a cartoon — in other words, our world.
  • Inverted with Jonny 2x4 from Ed, Edd n Eddy. While Jonny is unaware of the fourth wall, every other character is.
  • Esme on Esme & Roy. When one of the little monsters that she and Roy are monster-sitting does something especially funny or cute, she likes to comment to the viewer "Don't you just love monsters?"
  • Stewie Griffin from Family Guy frequently breaks the fourth wall; talking directly to the audience or being one of the most heavy abusers of Toon Physics. It helps that most of the characters don't seem to understand him so his fourth wall breaking wouldn't seem odd to them anyway.
  • Greg Weisman had the idea that Puck in Gargoyles would be able to do this, but Executive Meddling prevented it.
  • The Loud House has the main protagonist, Lincoln Loud, sometimes talk directly to the audience. Often narrating his daily life and situation. The sisters to a lesser extent sometimes give the audience a Aside Glance and sometime speak to them. Though it's not as frequent as Lincoln's narrations.
  • While The Mask could taken for a Talkative Loon speaking to himself, more often than not he's actually talking to the audience. While there's at least one good case in the movie, where the Mask shushes the audience before attempting to sneak by his landlady's apartment, it's mostly in the cartoon where he's always commenting on the situation.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Downplayed with Pinkie Pie. Unlike popular fanon, the show doesn't show her having real Medium Awareness, only moments of breaking the fourth wall. However, she's allowed to break the fourth wall way more strongly than any other character (and use more Toon Physics). She's interrupted the Iris Out multiple times, shaken the camera, and directly addressed the audience. Her friends dismiss all her odd behavior as "Pinkie just being Pinkie" — it never gets to the point that they have to ask Audience? What Audience? — with one episode's moral directly resulting from Twilight deciding to no longer question how the character works. Word of God says that Pinkie is allowed to do almost anything as long as it's funny.
    • Discord, unsurprisingly: he is a Mad God who's title is "Spirit of Chaos and Disharmony", after all. While Pinkie Pie usually sticks to making heavy use of toon physics, Discord regularly shows even greater Medium Awareness with his mischief, gives the odd Aside Glance or two, and occasionally addresses the audience directly. Still downplayed for the same kind of reasons, though: if he has real Medium Awareness, he refrains from showing definite proof of it.
  • In the Oh Yeah! Cartoons short "Planet Kate", Kate is the only character shown addressing the audience, doing so to give exposition on how she's encountered the group of alien dogs and how they tend to inconvenience her and her dog Toby.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: Holo-Jane from "Your World is an Illusion" is aware that the show is a cartoon, and tries to explain this to K.O., pointing out things like his inability to pick up a rock that's part of the background. She leaves and K.O. makes further observations that slowly causes him to panic about nothing being real, making him unstuck from the world and left floating in a void of production art. Holo-Jane returns to apologize for giving him the revelation, but further explains that while the universe of the cartoon may not be the reality, it is his reality, allowing K.O. to fully entrench himself back in the show and go back to life as normal.
  • Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty regularly addresses his own antics as if he's a fictional character (such as referencing his "catch phrase" as such), mentions things like character arcs and show seasons, and of course takes Jerry on a "RICK AND JERRY EPISODE!!!". One fan theory has it that he's aware that, in all the infinite parallel universes, he'd logically be a fictional character in half of them.
    • In another episode, Morty has cajoled Rick into playing Minecraft when business with the President of the United States comes up. Rick gets up to walk off and address it, Morty asks if he'd rather just play more Minecraft. Rick brushes it off with "South Park already did it." Morty's unquestioning understanding of what Rick's talking about shows that Morty's in on the nature of the television show they're in as well.note 
  • In what has got to be a consolation for the above, in the Weisman-run The Spectacular Spider-Man, the Green Goblin was shown to see through the fourth wall on occasion, and in one instance of this, quotes/paraphrases lines from Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • Steven Universe:
  • The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald: Live-action segments or not, Ronald McDonald is the only character in the videos who directly speaks to the audience.

    Real Life 
  • There is a variant of paranoid schizophrenia now named "Truman syndrome", in which the patient believes that their lives are actually a television show. This may be the best and most controversial example of Defictionalization ever.
  • Anyone who has a lucid dream. In a nutshell, they're dreams that you're aware they're dreams whilst having them. Exactly how aware you are of them being dreams varies, however. With enough awareness, you can take full control as a Reality Warper or will yourself awake.
  • A fair number of religions also subscribe to the belief that we are subject to supernatural observation (from Heaven/Hell/both), and some adherents speak to these cosmic observers not only in public or private prayers, but also in casual monologues the same as any of the characters in the fictional works listed above do to their audiences.
  • A lot of people break an imaginary fourth wall when talking to themselves, sometimes because explaining something to someone else (or pretending to do so) resolves the problem or crystallizes the issue in our own minds. Since the rise of documentary-style comedies, a meme has developed of people descibing a real-life frustrating or weird conversation or situation and them looking at the camera like on The Office. Perhaps it's equivalent to 'casting your eyes to heaven' - we've always selectively imagined a sympathetic oberver to our lives and reactions, only now some tend to imagine a camera rather than a deity.
  • The math in Quantum Theory pretty much requires that there be an observer of reality so that things can actually happen. This has spawned large debates among scientists about what that observer might actually be, and if it's possible for that observer to be us. The only other reasonable explanation is The Multiverse, which has its own problems. Needless to say, there is no consensus and Quantum Theory will drive you nuts.
    • This is actually a common misunderstanding, and one that was solved by physicists over the last century: Observation and interaction are the same thing. Consider a police officer using a radar gun to check your speed. What's actually happening is that the radar gun is shooting photons of a known momentum at the car, and then checking the momentum of the reflected light — the change in momentum will depend on the velocity of the car. But what actually happened to all that momentum? Well, it was absorbed by the car. But then, what happens when you get down to the quantum scale? Now the car is an atom, or some other super small thing, but the light is still the same light, so those photons which were thousands upon thousands of times too small to have any effect on the car are now strong enough to change the nature of the thing you're observing. You literally can't observe anything without interacting with it!
  • Many people, including some serious scientists, believe the Simulation Hypothesis - that our universe is a simulation, created by humans from an era in our "future" or by entirely alien beings, perhaps in a universe with completely different physical laws. The purpose is unclear but would certainly involve observing us in some form or another.


Someone there?

Vice's doing his fourth wall breaking. Ikki's confused as to why he's doing it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / FourthWallObserver

Media sources: