A Shout-Out is an element in a piece of media—a name, line of dialogue, a prop, etc.—that intentionally refers to something or someone outside the work such as fans, family members of the cast or crew or, commonly, another piece of pop culture.
The idea isn't new, even if this term is. In literary studies these indirect references are known broadly as allusion, and they can be found across genres and ages from ancient epic poetry to Elizabethan theatre to contemporary video games.
Note that to be this trope, the reference must be unambiguous and reasonably construed as deliberate on the part of the creators. Fiction is constructed from the repetition of storytelling devices: Many tropes, symbols, and ideas are embedded in the popular consciousness, and works can share a similar element without one being a reference to the other. As a general rule of thumb, if the example needs to be couched with Word Cruft like, "seems to be," "bears a resemblance to" or "could possibly be," it's almost certainly not an example.
A good Shout-Out should still fit within the context of the story, or it may end up being a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment to people not familiar with what's being shouted about. It should also be subtle enough that viewers either only notice the double meaning after a trip to the fridge or have a short chuckle if they notice it immediately: a blatant Shout-Out runs the risk of violating Suspension of Disbelief and kicking the audience out of the story.
An explicit, open Shout-Out to one of the work's sources of inspiration is an Inspiration Nod. Reference Overdosed is when a series is loaded with Shout-Outs; Referenced by... is for the work that the Shout-Out is aimed at.
- Actor Allusion: A reference to another work with an actor in common.
- Art Imitates Art: A shot in a visual medium homages a famous piece of art.
- Company Cross References: When the reference is to another work by the same creator; see also Creator In-Joke.
- Expy: An unambiguous and deliberate copy of another, older character.
- Literary Allusion Title: A referential title.
- Profound by Pop Song: Quoting a sound to sound wise and intelligent.
- Stock Shout-Outs
- Shout-Out Theme Naming: When multiple characters carry allusive names.
- Spoiling Shout-Out: A shout-out that spoils the work being referenced.
- Take That!: A malicious or critical reference.
- Unusual Pop Culture Name: A character named after an aspect of pop culture.
- Waxing Lyrical: Quoting song lyrics.
Compare Homage and Parody, which are more thorough recreations of other works. Opening Shout-Out, Continuity Nod, Call-Back, Production Throwback, and Mythology Gag are for works internally referencing themselves.
See Stock Shout-Outs for a list of Shout-Outs and other references common enough to earn their own page.
Remember, a Shout-Out is intentional. If a character just happened to use a similar turn of phrase to another work, that's just a coincidence.
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