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Pop-Up Texting

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This occurs when a character is looking at something on a phone, which is small and hard to show to the audience, and the contents of the screen are shown as a pop-up floating somewhere in the midst of the action. This is done to avoid having the character either read or say what it is he's looking at, or the camera cutting to a tight shot of the screen over their shoulder or from their POV. In this way, viewers are kept in the loop without having possibly needless exposition dialogue or close shots that limit action in other places.

While most often used with cell phones, it can be used to show what's on any kind of screen without showing the screen itself.

This video by Every Frame a Painting has further examination and analysis on this trope in the first half (the second half is about the portrayal of the internet).

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Contrast Sounding It Out, and Viewer-Friendly Interface, which is having impractical interfaces on computers that are easily seen by the audience.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Occurs frequently in Laid-Back Camp whenever characters text with each other, usually with small Super-Deformed versions of their faces next to their texts.
  • Like in Laid-Back Camp, the cast of Asteroid in Love text a lot. While most of them are displayed in a phone-screen cut, in many cases they are depicted as LINE screens appearing on on-screen speech bubbles.

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts: A variation was used when Snoopy was typing on his typewriter, and the text would be shown in the air above him. This was all the way back in the '60s.
  • Done in Zits frequently, since Jeremy, being a child of the 21st century, quite often communicates via text. The strip often uses these to satirize modern teen's near-dependence on texting, even when there's another person mere feet from them.
  • In a Garfield comic strip, Garfield attempts to write poetry by dipping his paws in ink and pressing them on the paper. In the air, we see what we think is what Garfield is writing, but when Jon Arbuckle comes to see what Garfield is doing, all we see on the paper is just paw prints.

    Films — Animated 
  • Used in The LEGO Ninjago Movie when Lloyd Garmadon's classmates start texting to complain about having to wait for the school bus at the same stop as him.
  • The Peanuts Movie: As in the original strip, Snoopy's story appears in the air above him as he types it out on his typewriter.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Non-Stop: The terrorists initially contact Marks via text, which is shown appearing next to his phone. All phone communications are displayed this way, even one when he's gotten a hold of a suspect's phone, which has a cracked screen, also visible in the pop-up.
  • In Fruitvale Station, Oscar's texts and various other cellphone functions (like searching his address book) are displayed in pop-ups.
  • The Fault in Our Stars did this, with sketchy "hand-drawn" bubbles popping up whenever main characters August and Hazel texted each other. They come across as a sketch of iPhone text bubbles.
  • In the French lesbian romance film Les Meilleures, all of the SMS that are exchanged in the film appear in big letters on the screen as they are typed.
  • In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, text relevant to the scene often appears on the background. One time Walter gets a text from a coworker and it appears carved on a mountainside behind him.
  • Men, Women & Children makes use of this a lot, often in crowd scenes to showcase all the intimate (or mundane) secret thoughts going on in people's heads.
  • Sex Drive, In the first scene when Ian is messaging "Ms_Tasty," over the internet on his laptop.
  • Other Halves has highly interactive text message (as well as app screens) that disappear behind objects on-screen, as if they really are floating in space. One even plays as a Meaningful Background Event, showing the audience that a character left her phone behind.
  • The Shallows: Seen as Nancy looks at pictures on her phone, texts with her friend, and even has a video call with her sister and father, with the video screens moving aside as she walks through them. Her watch is also shown this way as she keeps checking when the tides come in, and when she's using it as a timer or stopwatch.
  • Played with in the film adaptation of iBoy. Whenever Tom texts someone, the message will show up like this for the viewer, but this is because he's actually got the ability to see electrical signals. He doesn't even have to use his hands.
  • In order for the audience to follow the chat conversations in Disconnect, some of its content is displayed as on-screen text.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming: Briefly used as Peter sends a text to Happy Hogan telling him he's ready for his next mission... still.
  • Desperados (2020): When Wesley is writing her hate email to Jared, we get a pop-up screen showing its contents, including misspellings and autocorrections.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sherlock is the Trope Codifier, making considerable use of this, showing texts and anything else on a phone screen floating in the air, and allowing Sherlock to have his Establishing Character Moment when he's not even present!
  • The second episode of Burn Notice used pop-ups as Micheal texted his friends, although they didn't notice because they were too busy arguing. Later episodes did away with the trope, so it only existed early on.
  • This trope pops up (no pun intended) on The Mindy Project. The episode "You've Got Sext" uses it a lot, as it's about Morgan and Pete taking Mindy's cell and sending fake texts to Cliff.
  • MeTV seems to be having a series of TV promos featuring this.
  • House of Cards (US): Used frequently, with characters texting each other furiously to make deals, arrange meetings and conduct other governmental or personal business. Commentary tracks reveal that the creators felt their use of this trope was ground-breaking and were dismayed to learn that the same effect was being deployed in Sherlock while they were finishing the first season.
  • UK Soap Opera Hollyoaks will do this sometimes, especially if the text is important to the storyline. This was pretty unique for the time.
  • In the first episode of Utopia, a group of characters have a conversation on the forum dedicated to a cult Graphic Novel called The Utopia Experiments. Each line of text appears floating next to whoever the camera is focused on. If it is the person that is typing the message, it appears next to their head. At one point, a line text distorts as it passes behind a glass of wine.
  • Web of Lies is an Investigation Discovery series about online relationships that lead to disastrous, sometimes tragic, results. Given the nature of the subject matter, it should be no surprise that much of the correspondence between the subjects is shown this way.
  • CSI: Cyber: Not surprisingly, many displays are shown floating in the air next to the devices, though they also use close-ups of the screens.
  • Jane the Virgin uses this whenever text conversations are involved.
  • Selfie's main character, Eliza Dooley, spends most of her time looking at one or more screens simultaneously. While all the things she's looking at are done in this manner, important text conversations are usually displayed more prominently and legibly, while the less relevant windows are shown in thumbnail, represented as icons, or scaled-down.
  • Batwoman uses this method to display texts. As well as fellow Arrowverse show Black Lightning.
  • Pretty much every text message in Mimpi Metropolitan is displayed as a pop-up, usually combining it with Voiceover Letter or more rarely, Sounding It Out.
  • Every text message in Jejak Suara Adzan is shown to the audience via a pop-up.
  • Ms. Marvel (2022) has a variation; rather than have the messages pop up in text balloons, they're instead incorporated into the background, like having neon signs light up with the messages or them appearing on road markings.

    Sports 
  • The British pop-culture segment of the London Olympic Games opening ceremony showed these as it portrayed young people going out for a night on the town, phones in hand, keeping in contact with each other, and culminating with two of them getting a Relationship Upgrade on not-Facebook.

    Video Games 
  • Done in Splinter Cell: Conviction whenever objectives are consulted. Instead of popping up in an in-game display, the objectives appear in the environment itself.
  • Batman: The Telltale Series does this whenever Bruce Wayne sends or receives text messages.

    Web Animation 
  • MoniRobo shows characters interacting with one another via text messages. The original Japanese channel uses text pop-ups while the English dub uses a phone overlay.
  • Refreshing Stories: Like MoniRobo above, the characters will be frequently be communicating via texting. The English version uses an phone overlay while the original Japanese channel uses text pop-ups.
  • Trouble Busters: The characters frequently communicate with each other by texting, which is shown using a phone overlay.

    Web Comics 
  • Done in Megatokyo whenever characters communicate via text messages (for example, Erika and Kimiko's fanboys)

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Happens in the Adventure Time episode "Stakes" between Princess Bubblegum and Peppermint Butler.
  • Parodied in the American Dad! episode "Kloger" when Roger is texting Klaus. Once Francine steps back, she sees the floating text bubbles, but when she touches one, it burns her finger off. Afterwards, Roger states that text bubbles are made of flesh-eating bacteria, and Francine cowers as the text bubbles surround her.
  • Used in the Rick and Morty episode "A Rickconvenient Mort" to show the text messages Morty and Planetina exchange.
  • The Windshield Wiper: One person texts the other (as the film shows only the communications satellite that's relaying the texts) and says "Yesterday was fun, right?". The other person agrees. After a couple of more texts the first person says that they felt a connection and they really want to see the other person again, and again, and again. This vignette ends with the other person's text window going "...".


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