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Lecture as Exposition

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As a subtrope of Infodump, an easy way to present Exposition in a story is to have a character, often a lead character, as a lecturer or teacher in a classroom, conference or boardroom. Alternatively, particularly when the character is less experienced, they could be the one attending the lecture, class, conference or boardroom.

Compare Chekhov's Classroom. Both use The Law of Conservation of Detail in a way, but since Exposition is used to set up and frame the situation throughout the plot, this trope will emphasize the importance of the scene more, while the Chekhov's Classroom will often be presented more as background. Also, Lectures as Exposition often tell the viewer things they need to know immediately or things they needed to know two scenes ago.

For similar tropes, see Infodump.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Episode 2 of 86 EIGHTY-SIX uses a classroom lecture to get the audience up to date about the basic state of the world concerning the Legion War. This is an anime-original scene as the light novel simply tells this information straight to the reader early on.
  • Chapter 5.5 of A Centaur's Life is about a teacher giving a primer on how evolution went on this Alternate Universe, giving birth to the various human sub-species and how this made racism even a worse problem than in our world.
  • Happens in the first episode of Eureka Seven.
  • Happens in the first episode of Gunslinger Stratos The Animation to explain (sort of) how Japan became fragmented due to the rise of the megacorporations.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS has Fate delivering an impromptu lecture to her students and wards Erio and Caro, explaining to them how and why the TSAB outlawed kinetic energy weapons and switched to the setting's ubiquitous Magitek Devices.
  • In Mnemosyne, some Back Story about the Tajimamori and the "Fruits of Immortality" are filled in during a lecture at Mishio's high school. Notably, the lecture is on the topic of legends and myths but turns out to consist of pretty accurate truth.
  • Subverted in Neon Genesis Evangelion: it turns out the teacher's expository teaching is the government's cover-up version of the backstory.
  • One entire episode of Read or Die: the TV series is devoted to a character writing the Exposition Lecture that another character has to give.
  • In Yuki Yuna is a Hero, some critical background information about the setting is delivered during Itsuki's history lesson in Episode 4.

     Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • Milo gives two lectures on Atlantis in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The first one is actually his rehearsal for a proposal to his superiors, which he never gets to give due to them suddenly changing the time that makes it impossible for him to make the meeting.
    • He later attempts to give a lecture to the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits with a slideshow and some plumbing metaphors, only for some of his vacation photos to get mixed in by mistake. "Hubba-hubba!"
  • How to Train Your Dragon begins with one. In the space of a 5 minute lecture, Hiccup introduces himself, the other villagers, and the different species of dragon while at the same time sounding almost like a tour guide.
  • In Zootopia, Judy's narration in the opening School Play fills the audience in on the history of Zootopia.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 21 has Kevin Spacey's professor character tell us about the Game Show Problem during a lecture. He is an MIT professor, after all.
  • Done rather creatively in The Big Short. Rather than fill the viewers in on complex financial issues through traditional exposition, the film Breaks the Fourth Wall to introduce celebrities to explain them. We get Margot Robbie explaining mortgage bonds in a bubblebath, Anthony Bourdain using unsold fish to illustrate how banks handle unsold mortgages, and Richard Thaler and Selena Gomez at a blackjack table illustrating how synthetic CDOs work.
  • Copycat opens with Dr. Helen Hudson delivering a guest lecture on criminal psychology at a university in which she outlines the typical characteristics of a Serial Killer. The lecture later takes on additional significance when she realises that the Jack the Ripoff is basing his murders on the order in which she mentioned famous serial killers in her lecture.
  • Crazy Rich Asians begins with Rachel demonstrating the risk-averse nature of most humans through a successful bluff at a game of poker with the T.A. Curtis. It returns back near the climax when Rachel loses to Eleanor in the mahjong game while seemingly implying that the story-long machinations to separate Nick from Rachel had worked...until Rachel reveals she let Eleanor win both the mahjong match and got to keep her son's happiness by turning down his marriage proposal, unafraid of losing Nick in order to protect his happiness and relationship with his family.
    Rachel: Our brains so hate the idea of losing something that's valuable to us that we abandon all rational thought, and we make some really poor decisions. So, Curtis wasn't playing to win. He was playing not to lose.
  • Deepwater Horizon: Not quite, we just see the practice for one. Sydney's demonstration of Mike's job for a parent career day involves shaking a can of soda up, then punching a metal pipe into it, followed by pouring honey down the pipe to keep the soda from coming out, which will show her classmates (and shows the audience) what drilling mud is and how it works.
  • In The Faculty, Mr. Tate starts history class by repeating the prior week's lecture from chapter 4, espousing the values of conformity among the masses for the purposes of establishing a unified state. Stan is quick to remind him that they were on chapter 5 instead, which is about individual action in society. In this case, it's Mr. Tate himself who's the subject of the foreshadowing as much as the content of his lecture — he and the other teachers are controlled by alien Puppeteer Parasites who are trying to assimilate humanity.
  • The Final opens with a high school history teacher describing how the Han Dynasty would sometimes leave their defeated enemies alive, disfiguring them in order to serve as an example to those who would oppose them. Guess what a group of pissed-off teen outcasts do with this knowledge...
  • This is how we learn the main complication in Give My Regards to Broad Street — in a board meeting.
  • Harrison Bergeron: A surprise class quiz is used to explain just how the US got to be the dystopian nightmare it's become, by the teacher asking questions of her students and them providing answers, with her confirming or correcting them to fill the viewer in.
  • Subverted amusingly in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Dr. Jones is showing giving a lecture on archaeology, but he merely makes the point that archaeology is not about journeying to exotic lands and following ancient maps to lost cities, "and X never, ever marks the spot." Since this is Indy, however, he definitely does not go on to practice what he teaches — and he even references the lecture later with a wry grin when it turns out that X does mark the spot after all.
  • In Knowing, Nicholas Cage's character gives some basic information about the sun and the fate vs. free will philosophies during his college lectures.
  • MonsterVerse:
    • Godzilla: After Hokmuto escapes from Janjira, Drs. Serizawa and Graham give Ford an exclusive lecture in a makeshift boardroom to fill him in on what the hell he's been caught up in. The doctors explicitly confirm what the movie's opening heavily implied about the nuclear bomb tests in the 50s, and they detail the origins of Monarch, the MUTOs, and this movie's new incarnation of Godzilla.
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters: Early in the movie, Dr. Graham gives a briefing to the Monarch top brass, the G-Team and Mark in a boardroom complete with slides and videos on a wall; revealing to them (and the audience) what happened to Mothra after Jonah's assault on Outpost 61, and who Alan Jonah is.
  • The Rite has Father Lucas explaining the basics of exorcism in lectures at the beginning of the film.
  • Saving Leningrad: The audience learns all it needs to know about the military situation around Leningrad (the Nazis have cut off land access to the city, the city will soon run out of food, and the Russians are desperately trying to evacuate civilians across Lake Ladoga by ship) via a German military briefing early in the film.
  • Serenity starts out with one of these (a teacher giving a history lecture to a group of young children).
    • It isn't clear from the very beginning due to the matryoshka-doll-like Framing Devices at work, though.
  • Shattered Glass is about former journalist Stephen Glass and his now-notorious career as a fabulist for The New Republic. It includes as a Framing Device several scenes in which Glass is telling a class of journalism students about his career for TNR. Besides presenting basic plot exposition, Glass' talk explains the fact-checking process at a magazine and illustrates how Glass got away with his fictions (in short: the main fact source was the reporter's notes, which Glass fabricated).
  • In Species, Fitch gives a lengthily exposition of the SETI project and the failed DNA experiment to the summoned group in his boardroom.
  • Stargate opens up with Daniel Jackson giving a lecture on why he believes the ancient Egyptians did not build the great pyramids. The people listening to him all walk out at the ridiculousness of the theory. In a radical plot twist that surprises no one, he was right.
  • The Sure Thing gives us wise and funny if eccentric Professor Taub, who closes her first onscreen lecture with the theme of the entire picture, "Life is the ultimate experience, and you have to live it to write about it." Even better, her in-class analysis of Gib's and Alison's work pinpoint their respective weaknesses and strengths — Gib is incredibly imaginative but too out of control, Alison is amazingly analytical but too much in control. Finally, her reading of Gib's work at the end of the picture resolves the conflict between Gib and Alison and gives the film its Happy Ending.
  • Older Than They Think: This trope shows up in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse from 1933.
  • Early in Titanic (1997), one of the characters demonstrates a computer-generated simulation of how the Titanic was damaged and eventually sank (sped up greatly). When we flash back to the actual sinking, the audience knows exactly what is happening to the ship, and the characters don't need to comment on what's going on (and often are fairly ignorant of anything other than a generalized "the ship is sinking!").
  • Transformers Film Series:
    • A class presentation but one not from a teacher, Sam attempting to sell his stuff at Show and Tell in Transformers when told to give a lecture on his ancestors as part of his grade. However, he is distracted by Megan Fox doing that weird thing she does with her teeth.
    • In Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, Sam has a "full-blown meltdown" in the middle of the first day of astronomy class, and ends up babbling at breakneck speed about various things that become important later on in the film.
  • Urban Legend tells us about, well, urban legends by means of a lecture given in a college classroom.
  • In Whiteout, Doc gives the new arrivals at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station a lecture on exactly how dangerous the Antarctic environment is to the human body, and also tells them what a 'whiteout' is. This means that the viewer knows how much danger the characters are in later, without having to pause the action to explain it.

  • In Dan Brown's book The Lost Symbol, Robert Langdon lectures his symbology class on the secrets of Freemasonry.
  • The Harry Potter series occasionally uses these (in addition to Chekhov's Classrooms). For instance, Professor Binns' (McGonagall in the movie) retelling of the Chamber of Secrets legend and Moody's demonstration of the Unforgiveable Curses.
  • In The Name of the Wind, this tends to be the way the reader learns more about the world. It's occasionally presented as a story or myth, instead.
  • The Assassins of Tamurin teaches the reader the history of the Constructed World via a session of the heroine's history class.
  • The Functional Magic of the Mistborn series, allomancy, gets explained to the readers through Kelsier's lessons to Vin.
  • In Ashes Of Victory, Honor Harrington has been assigned shore duty as a Military Academy instructor while she recuperates from (extensive) injuries she suffered in the previous two books. We are treated to a number of such lectures, including one where a junior officer mortifies a group of awe-stricken midshipmen by calling Honor's tactics in a recent operation horribly reckless, stating that she only came out alive because the enemy simply wasn't paying attention that day.note 
  • A teacher in Strength & Justice: Side: Strength educates the reader on the history of the city in the form of quite a large Infodump taking up several pages.
  • In Theodore Judson's Fitzpatrick's War, the general history of how the world turned into a post-apocalyptic steampunk Neo-British Empire-dominated dystopia is recited in a verbal exam by the novel's protagonist, Robert Mayfair Bruce. Coincidentally Bruce was shocked to have gotten such an easy topic.
  • Pharaoh has quite a lot of fleshing out of the Ancient Egypt setting, some of it in lecture form.
  • Brave New World opens with chapter after chapter of this to explain how and why the society in the World State works as it does.
  • Area 51: Plot-important information is often conveyed through scientists or other experts explaining things for other characters (and the reader), along with dumbing this down for them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Breaking Bad's pilot episode gives us a scene where Walter White, a chemistry teacher, describes how energy can either be released gradually and unnoticeably or suddenly and violently... and in the episode's climax, uses mercury fulminate, the explosive he described in class to successfully threaten a violent drug lord.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer did it in "Hush", where everyone's voices have been stolen. Giles delivers the exposition through transparencies and mime. In fact, the very beginning of the episode is this with Professor Walsh giving a foreshadowing lecture by saying "It's about communication", explaining that it is *not* the same thing as language.
  • Chernobyl does this with chemist Valery Legasov, who is asked by bureaucrat Boris Shcherbina how a nuclear reactor works while they're in a helicopter flying to Chernobyl. Boris is asking so that he knows enough to tell whether or not the power plant's managers are being honest with him, and Legasov's simplified explanation of how a fission reaction is harnessed for energy informs the audience at the same time. Later, Legasov gives a similar explanation in the courtroom that is more complex but uses visual aids to explain how reactivity is meant to be balanced, and exactly which components of the process went wrong.
  • Doctor Who: At the beginning of "Oxygen", the Doctor delivers a lecture on the dangers of the vacuum of space. Of particular note is his description of how long you'll take to pass out, and his mention that the fluids of the eyes will boil. Bill gets to experience some of those symptoms when she's exposed to the vacuum of space without a helmet, and the Doctor winds up blinding himself when he has to give Bill his helmet so she'll survive a spacewalk.
  • The Enemy at the Door episode "The Raid" is about a British commando team raiding a German radar installation during World War II. It happens to coincide with an inspection tour by the German brass which begins with a lecture from the officer in charge of the installation to impart the necessary information about the installation's function to the visiting officers and to the audience.
  • The Expanse has a lecture from a Martian Admiral so that he can explain to the audience the very basic strategy that if you control the interior space of the stargate ring network, you control who goes in, who goes out, who gets to go to what ring gate, and you can use the resources of the entire ring network to eventually come back to dominate the solar system.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Maester Luwin teaches Bran of the various Houses vying for power in Westeros, which also serves to educate the audience on the matter.
    • Sansa gets quizzed by her septa about the history of the Seven Kingdoms.
  • Happens frequently in Hannibal. When he's not profiling for the FBI or getting psychoanalyzed by Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Will Graham is a lecturer on profiling and criminal psychology at the FBI academy. His lectures flesh out the show's backstory or the psychology behind the case of the week, and occasionally provide Mythology Gags or Foreshadowing (i.e. the time he lectures on the killer of the week to a hallucinatory class, foreshadowing his mental illness).
  • Jack Ryan: In an early scene in season 2, Jack gives a lecture explaining why Venezuela is the biggest threat to national security: it has loads of vital natural resources. Sure enough, the season's plot hinges on natural resources in Venezuela.
  • The Last of Us (2023): The premiere opens with two scientists being interviewed on a chat show in the 1960s, where a mycologist (played by John Hannah) speaks in detail of how parasitic fungi like cordyceps can infect their hosts and change their behavior in order to reproduce. He ends his lecture by theorizing that while these fungi can only infect insects, dramatic environmental changes could cause them to evolve the ability to infect humans.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Late in "Big Murderer on Campus", Murdoch is in a university classroom giving a lecture on the "applied physics" of execution by hanging. The lecture turns into a means of pressuring one of the accomplices to a murder into confessing against the other—the soon-to-be-infamous James Gillies.
  • On Relic Hunter, Sydney was telling her class about a particular Indian tribe's mysterious shift in culture right before she went out and solved the mystery.
  • Stargate SG-1: Jack O'Neill's young clone lectures a class of pilots on the F-302.

  • In the first scene of Abe Lincoln in Illinois, a teacher is giving young Abe a lesson in grammar — using the text of a Daniel Webster speech as material. The audience is thus given a little lesson on secession and state's rights as political issues.
  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto — the one time Cesare Borgia bothers to come to class is for the special lecture on Dante. He ends up speaking almost as much as the professor, a famous Dante expert. His words during the debates in class show how Dante influenced his philosophy, and the play continues with dream sequences where Cesare interacts with Dante, seeking — and refusing — his advice.

    Video Games 
  • The opening of Final Fantasy VII combines this with a solid Establishing Character Moment. Barret asks Cloud, who has just joined Barret's group, if he's familiar with Mako reactors, and — despite the fact that Cloud tells him that he is — starts lecturing him about what Mako reactors are. Cloud's understandably annoyed reaction causes Barret to get pissed off with him, and they continue bickering for the first couple of hours of the game.
  • Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers has Gabriel attending a lecture at Tulane University early in the game where he learns some important concepts and terms relating to Voodoo.
  • God Eater Burst has several cutscenes of Dr. Sakaki briefing the Player Character, Kota, and Alisa on the nature of the Aragami. Justified as the main characters are all new recruits, with you and Kota hinted at not having had much of an education at all, and Fenrir wants to spread around its institutional knowledge so nobody leaves too big a hole if they die suddenly.
  • Tales of Symphonia introduces its Cliché Storm plot in this only moderately clichĂ©d way. Unusually for this trope, the entire exposition dump is later revealed to be one big lie.

    Web Animation 


    Web Original 
  • A favorite technique in the Whateley Universe, since it's set largely in a Superhero School. We've seen lectures on supersuit design, several kinds of superpowers, strategy and tactics, the (made-up) physics behind this universe, how magical contracts work, and several other things.
  • An chapter of Brennus is about an "Introduction to Metahuman Studies", providing an Infodump on superpower classifications. This is justified by the creation of a new superpower classification system, and so the characters, as well as the reader, have to be informed.

    Western Animation 
  • Kamp Koral: In "The Jelly Life", SpongeBob dresses up like a jellyfish. He's unable to sting people, but when he walks on a carpet and builds up a bunch of static charge, he's able to give them electric shocks. This doesn't work when he tries it again a few hours later, after exhausting all the charge, so he and Patrick are confused. Sandy then runs in at that exact moment with a chalkboard on wheels, draws up a presentation explaining how the charge worked and why SpongeBob was able to sting earlier, then leaves before anyone can say anything to her.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): School Of Exposition


Marie LaTour

After having gone over Vampires and Voodooism, the tour guide at the LaTour Museum brings the audience to Marie LaTour's private drawing room and explains the story of how she murdered her husband for discovering she was a Werewolf. Werewolf lore is also introduced, showing Werewolves as voluntary shapeshifters who kill for pleasure... or to protect their privacy.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / OurWerewolvesAreDifferent

Media sources: