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Stylistic Self-Parody

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"That... thing on your neck. Is that your ear?"
Norm the Genie, noting Mr. Crocker's Nonstandard Character Design

Cartoon characters, even human ones, aren't always drawn to the exact specifications of real life. This is done to give the characters a unique look, or for the sake of simplicity. A common form of Lampshade Hanging in animated cartoons is characters pointing out such oddities in their own designs, or the designs of other characters. This usually means Breaking the Fourth Wall, though it's possible for an example to merely lean on it.

Fourth-Wall Portrait is a Sub-Trope.

Contrast Stylized for the Viewer, when the characters seem to appear realistic to themselves.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A Certain Scientific Railgun at one point had Misaka questioning the sparkles in Shokuhou's eyes, saying they make her look like a shoujo manga character. Shokuhou insists she was born with them.
  • Doctor Slump:
    • In an early chapter, someone points out that Arale has no nostrils, and Senbei protests "Neither do I! This is a manga, for crying out loud!"
    • In a different chapter, as one female character disguises herself as another, the narrative captions lament that the plan is foolproof because Akira Toriyama can only draw one female face.
  • Doraemon: Doranichov of The Doraemons is a werewolf that transforms whenever he sees a round object, which seems to ignore that all of the Doraemons have rounded designs. This is alluded in a bonus chapter when Doranichov's friends try to stop one of his rampages, only for him to remain in werewolf form after seeing his friends' round head, hands, nose, etc.
  • A similar gag occurs during the first Tournament Arc in Dragon Ball. Krillin battles an unwashed bruiser named Bacterian, and is nearly overcome by the brute's body odor. Then Goku points out that Krillin doesn't have a nose, and Krillin somehow becomes immune to the smell. This is then later ignored, as Krillin gains nostrils for flinging boogers then sniffing a diamond that came out of Bulma's panties (don't ask).
  • In Pani Poni Dash!, there are several gags about how Mesousa has trouble doing things because he has no fingers.
  • Pokémon: The Original Series: In the episode "Pokémon Scent-sation!", Team Rocket gets sprayed by the foul-smelling spores produced by a Gloom, and Meowth realizes he shouldn't be affected because "The cartoonists never gave me a nose!" His Team Rocket teammates aren't so lucky.
  • Reborn! (2004)'s I-Pin suffers from terrible nearsightedness. When asked why she doesn't wear glasses, she points out that she doesn't have any ears. She does have ears ten years later.
  • After causing a Cosmetic Catastrophe to herself with some lipstick, Squid Girl's title character mentions having a hard time telling where lips start or end — a good question considering the show's art style doesn't normally draw lips.

    Asian Animation 
  • The characters in Happy Heroes have noticeably simplified mouth movements, a stylistic trait that's lampshaded in Season 8 episode 9 when Little M. attempts to lip-read what Happy S. and Smart S. are saying and comes to the incorrect conclusion that they're referring to their non-biological father Doctor H. since they seem to be saying "papa" over and over. Big M. berates him over this, telling him that "Every cartoon character moves his mouth like that!"

    Comic Books 
  • A short gag of The Smurfs has a Smurf sad due to having a big nose. Another Smurf points out that his nose is just like any other Smurf's nose. The sad Smurf only says "precisely", which causes the other Smurf to get sad too.
  • In Monica's Gang, Smudge "reveals" that he wears pantyhose colored just like his skin, and that's why he doesn't appear to have any toes.

    Comic Strips 
  • A Baby Blues strip had Darryl noting that his parents had him sleep on his back when he was an infant, with the reason being he had his Gag Nose even as a baby.
  • In one Speed Bump strip (by Dave Coverly), a man in a doctor's office learns why he has vision issues- it's because his eyes are just little spots!
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
  • In one Peanuts strip Lucy asks Charlie Brown if she has beautiful eyes, and he replies "I think you have very nice eyes. They sort of look like two round dots of India ink."
  • FoxTrot:
    • In one strip, Peter tells Jason his snowman looks weird because the nose is in the wrong place. Jason moves the carrot so that it is sticking out of the side of the snowman's head, level with his eyes - in keeping with Bill Amend's drawing style for the human cast of the strip.
    • In another strip, Peter is assigning baseball signs. When he gets to "five fingers for a knuckleball" Jason questions this, and Peter says to skip it, since they don't have knuckles either.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Fat Albert, Dumb Donald tells another character that he can't take off his hat, which he wears as if it were a ski mask, because the animators never drew his whole face.

    Live-Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • The official Nintendo strategy guide for Super Paper Mario, upon finishing its explanation of Peach's (who, in the game, has no visible nose) abilities, says the following;
    "All in all, Peach is quite a handy girl to have around - despite the fact that she has no nose."
  • A character in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has a Mohawk that looks like an exclamation point from behind. When he is first seen from behind, the series trademark ! sound plays.
    • Snake's "MGS1" FaceCamo is a mask that looks like Snake from Metal Gear Solid. By which we mean pixels, low poly count, and all.
    • While it's not art related, characters often comment on the limitations of the game, like Snake mentioning in Metal Gear Solid that he can't walk slowly and Big Boss telling The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater that he has no sense of smell.
  • Fantasy World Dizzy has the "KNOCK AND ENTER!" "That's easier said than done when you're wearing boxing gloves" gag. Which, of course means you have to find a door knocker somewhere...
  • Minecraft: Story Mode: The game has several nods to the fact that it's set within the world of Minecraft, from the name of "Boom Town" being written using Leet Lingo to the in-universe term for "criminal" being "griefer" to blocks floating in mid-air.
    • When the Sky City is abandoned in Episode 5, Jesse advises the inhabitants to start punching trees as the first thing they should do.
  • In LEGO Dimensions, the black-suited version of Batman from The LEGO Movie alludes during his quest inf Free-Roam to the fact that the characters from that world (And The LEGO Batman Movie one) retain their stop motion style movement from the film while every other character moves their limbs freely thanks to being in 3D.

    Web Animation 
  • Done too many times to count in Homestar Runner. Strong Bad has received countless e-mails asking "How do you type with boxing gloves on?", and there have been a few jokes about how some characters (like Homestar, Marzipan, and the King of Town) have no visible arms, yet are still able to manipulate objects.
    • It doesn't hurt that this is done so perplexingly and Lamp Shaded so often that The Homestar Runner Wiki has a running list of evidence for/against said characters having arms/legs or not that rivals your average JFK conspiracy list.
    • One of the most awesome examples has to be the Strong Bad Email "the bird", which is about various characters flipping each other off. Zero of the characters involved have visible fingers.
  • DSBT InsaniT: This is what most of the Self Deprecation jokes amount to.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind But Really Really Fast pokes fun at itself when covering the Notorious B.I.G. arc with Trish saying that Giorno's hands were cut off and Abacchio sarcastically pointing out that he can see that. The art style's extreme simplicity has it so limbs are invisible and anything that someone happens to be holding just hovers in front of them.

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The comic occasionally makes reference to the characters not having noses, including one police sketch artist being fired for including noses in a more realistic picture of two characters.
    • Also, in this comic Elan mentioned the art upgrade, while Haley tells him "We're supposed to pretend we were always drawn this way."
    • Also, drawing X eyes with eyeliner to feign death.
    • Another strip has a Shadow Dancer need to have it explained to him that stick figure comics have no shadows.
      • Subverted a few pages later when an explosion casts dramatic lighting on the scene... "Look! Shadows!"
    • Roy once mentioned that he always forgets whether the "big boot" (i.e. the one closest to the audience's P.O.V.) goes on the left or the right.
      • Similarly, Celia once mentioned that she can't draw people well because she always draws their eyes the same size (the one closest to the audience appears bigger).
    • It has been mentioned that Haley always has a stray hair on the side of her face facing the audience.
    • Haley also once mentioned that after paying her father's ransom she planned to give herself a "three-finger discount".
    • In the attack on Azure City, Redcloak creates Xykon decoys to confuse the defenders. When the Monster in the Darkness asks how he got them to look exactly like Xykon, he bluntly says he didn't. "They're human skeletons. I put a blue robe on them and called it a night." The only one that's at all visually distinct from the real Xykon is the Eye of Fear and Flame, which has a constant wide-eyed fear expression.
    • When Mimi the Mimic takes humanoid form she has realistic hands, which the other characters find hits the Uncanny Valley in exactly the same way as AI art with too many fingers in our world.
  • It's Walky!:
  • In Schlock Mercenary, one character asked the doctor if her breasts were real, to which she replied that they were just the product of the cartoonist's puerile imagination.
    Narrator: She's not really a 38-Triple-D. She's just drawn that way.
  • An xkcd strip featuring one of the stick figures talking to A. Square from Flatland has the Alt Text refer to "the time I entered your world and everyone freaked about the lesbian orgy overseen by a priest" (in Flatland, women are lines and priests are circles).
  • Characters' standing pose in MS Paint Adventures have no visible arms. Commanding them to 'retrieve arms' from the environment is a Running Gag.
  • In Awkward Zombie, Roy tries to help Captain Falcon remember who he is after being gone so long.
    Roy: Aw, you know me! I had my own game? Sword of Seals, blah blah blah? My hair points to the left no matter what direction I'm facing?
  • Housepets!: King once used this to prove that Marion the squirrel is a Forced Transformation victim:
    King: Marion, can you hold up five fingers for me?
    [Marion holds up one, four-fingered, hand before stopping and staring at it]
    King: Human.
  • This Cyanide and Happiness strip mocks itself for being hand-drawn.
  • A Patreon bonus comic for Dumbing of Age has Joyce showing off her freshly painted nails. Given that characters aren't drawn with fingernails, the audience is forced to take her word for it.
    Joyce: Thank you!

    Western Animation 
  • Many cartoon characters are drawn with only three fingers and a thumb on each hand, both as a timesaving measure and because drawing and animating a five-fingered hand is difficult for many animators. In series where human characters live side-by-side with "toons", the humans are typically drawn with five fingers and the toons with four.
  • The Simpsons:
    • When Homer's father dates Marge's mother, he thinks them marrying would make him and Marge brother and sister and their children would be "horrible freaks, with pink skin, no overbites, and five fingers on each hand". This scenario is even illustrated (as a part of Homer's imagination), to Homer's horror.
    • "Bart's Friend Falls in Love " has Lisa show Bart a magazine that hypothesizes humans will eventually evolve a fifth finger. Bart reacts to this idea with disgust.
    • Lenny: "Hey? Why is it called a 'high five' when we only have four fingers?"
    • Sideshow Bob is shown in prison with the words "LUV" and "HĀT" tattooed on his knuckles, the diacritical mark on the Ā (a macron) making the latter an ingenious homophone of "hate".
    • God always has 5 fingers when appearing on the show.
    • Homer once uses Bart and Lisa's hair to scratch himself.
    • In one episode Bart, Lisa and Maggie notice that they can't tell where their hairline is. They take it badly.
    • The subplot of "In Marge We Trust" is Homer trying to find out why there's a Japanese dish-washing detergent mascot named "Mr. Sparkle" that looks identical to him. The company sends him a video explaining Mr. Sparkle's look comes from putting a cartoon fish face on a light bulb because they're a joint venture of two companies that deal with those products.
      Bart: There's your answer, fishbulb.
    • In "New Kid on the Block", when questioned why he's taking so long in the bath (it's to freshen up for a "date"), Bart replies with "Hey, sometimes a guy just likes his skin to look its yellowest."
    • In "Lisa's First Word", Homer dismisses Marge's concerns that Bart will be jealous of the new baby with "Yeah, well, Bart can kiss my hairy yellow butt."
    • In the Family Guy crossover, Peter remarks that everyone in Springfield looks like they have hepatitis.
  • The Fanboy and Chum Chum episode "Normal Day" has Fanboy point out that there's no way Boog's tiny legs can possibly support the weight of his huge body.
  • Futurama also references Groening's Signature Style with Bender, where his (non-visible) overbite once catches on his neck hole when he's sinking down into his torso.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
    • In one episode, Mandy complains about the stench produced by a stink-bomb Billy made, and Billy retorts "How can you tell? You don't even have a nose!" In another episode, a "nasalmancer" steals Billy's nose; when Billy discovers vicariously that his nose is fairly grotesque in its habits, Mandy pointedly remarks that this is why she doesn't have one.
    • In another episode, a talking Taking Tree counters Mandy's insulting observations with "Well, why don't you have a nose?", with her lampshading the scenario with her retort: "Yeah, like I've never heard that one before."
    • And lampshading its Art Evolution, a flashback to the pilot episode is criticized by Grim: "That didn't even look like us."
  • Hey Arnold! routinely acknowledges the characters' unusually-shaped heads and proportions, most commonly through Helga making fun of Arnold himself and Gerald by respectively calling them "football-head" and "tall-hair boy".
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • The girls are normally drawn without fingers. In the "Freaky Friday" Flip episode "Criss Cross Crisis", Buttercup, now in Professor Utonium's body, has difficulty picking up the hotline phone's receiver, apparently thinking it would just stick to her hand as usual, and she exclaims "Professor, your hand doesn't work!"
    • Cartoon Network used to have a Cartoon Cartoon Fridays block, in which various characters from the shows would introduce the cartoons. In one of these segments, Mojo Jojo starts berating the Powerpuff Girls for not having fingers. "What are they beating me with? Flippers?" In another, Blossom ends her spiel by saying "I'll keep my fingers crossed!... if I had fingers."
    • The comic book story "Amoeba Las Vegas" (issue #23) involves the girls playing rock-paper-scissors with the Amoeba Boys. After revealing their moves, Blossom points out that Bubbles is showing rock, with the response "I am? I am!" (The Amoeba Boys played scissors, by spitting out an actual pair of scissors onto the table.) Whether Bubbles has "rock" or not is up for debate but the Amoeba Boys are stupid enough to buy it.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has a hard time deciding whether or not Patrick has a nose. Or ears, for that matter. Or fingernails. It also becomes a plot point in one episode where Patrick gets a nose through plastic surgery; after discovering everything stinks, he becomes obsessed with cleaning the world.
  • One episode of the Earthworm Jim cartoon series had Jim and Peter Puppy traveling to a planet of reeking beasts. As Jim comments on the creatures' powerful odor, Peter wails, "You think you've got it bad? You don't even have a nose!"
  • Rocko's Modern Life has an episode where Bev gets a nose in a plastic surgery mishap and realizes her husband, Ed, stinks.
  • South Park does this a few times.
    • When the boys join a cult that makes them shave their heads and wear the same outfit, they can't tell each other apart (except for Cartman because of his extra weight). Stan actually switches sides in the middle of an argument because he starts to think he's Kyle.
    • "The Coon" introduces a superhero named Mysterion, and Cartman spends the whole episode trying to figure out which of the other kids it could be. At the end, Mysterion publicly unmasks, but only reveals his face. Everyone gasps and marvels at the fact that that character was Mysterion the whole time, while the viewers, of course, can't tell who it is until the "Coon and Friends Trilogy" revealed him to be Kenny McCormick.
    • A stranger example happens with Terrence and Phillip. They have a weird art style, but since they're from a Show Within a Show it originally seemed to just be a case of Stylistic Suck. Later, however, the creators decided this actually is because they're Canadian, and afterward other Canadian characters are drawn the same way (and Ike, who was already drawn that way, was revealed to be Canadian-American).
    • "A Very Crappy Christmas" has Butters make little paper cutout versions of the other characters. Of course, they look exactly like them in miniature.
    Kyle: Stan's got blue eyes and I've got a sharper nose, but I mean, they kinda look like us.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy frequently pokes fun at its own art direction, with the implication that the characters are not stylized, but really are supposed to look exactly the way they're drawn. A prime example coming from Ed figuring out that Eddy's head in profile is the basis for a treasure map, with the little indented "x" on Eddy's ear marking the spot where the treasure is buried.
  • Zorak once did a rap number on Cartoon Planet hanging a lampshade on the fact that he frequently switches shades of green as a result of his artwork being recycled from the original Space Ghost show:
    Zorak: I'm green; I'm olive; I'm chartreuse; I'd like to stay one color, but what's the use?
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • The show has made more than a few jokes about Candace's absurdly long neck, such as her being the only one that can wear a dress with a very high collar and a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot taking longer to get through that particular area.
    • Then there's Perry grabbing Doofensmirtz's nose to pop the bubble they were trapped in to which Doofenshmirtz asks, "Is my nose really that pointy?"
    • There's also Doofenshmirtz questioning how Major Monogram's sunglasses manage to sit perfectly on one side of his face (the side facing the camera), and yet are perfectly normal when removed.
    • Phineas's triangle-shaped head has also seen its fair share of gags, such as in "Quietest Day Ever" where the gang dress up in special ninja outfits and Buford admits he doesn't know which direction Phineas is facing.
  • The characters of VeggieTales have no arms or hands but are still able to function as if they did. This is occasionally lampshaded:
    • "The Toy That Saved Christmas" stars a human-looking doll with a buzzsaw in his hand that comes to life. In the climax of the video, he and his vegetable costars have been tied to a sled that's heading toward a cliff. He uses his saw to cut the ropes, and then there's this exchange:
      Buzzsaw Louie: OK, everyone who's got hands, start tying!
      (everyone else glances at each other confusedly)
      Buzzsaw Louie: ...That'd be me.
    • In "Rack, Shack, & Benny", Rack (played by Bob) and Mr. Lunt get in an argument over whether the former is sitting down or standing up.
    • In "Josh and the Big Wall", a round of applause from the whole cast prompts Tom Grape to ask "How are we clapping?" Pa Grape answers, "I have no idea."
    • During "Lyle, the Kindly Viking", Mr. Lunt can be heard exclaiming: "I'd clap if I could!" during a scene where the characters are celebrating.
    • The Dr. Jiggle segment of "A Snoodle's Tail" pricelessly lampshades the characters' lack of limbs three times total, with the sudden appearance of a hand knocking on the door, a pair of feet walking to a street corner, and a hand holding a pocket watch to correspond with Scooter's character doing these exact actions, causing him to freak out afterward each time.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012) frequently lampshades the characters' abnormally large heads.
  • In one episode of Breadwinners, Buhdeuce denies looking like a frog, referencing viewers' claims that the main characters look more like frogs than ducks.
  • There have been multiple jokes in The Fairly OddParents! that Mr. Crocker's ears are apparently on his neck. In his origin episode, they're even depicted moving from his head to his neck as part of his transformation into the hunchbacked nutjob everyone loathes. In one episode where he's briefly cured of his fairy obsession, his ear moves back to his head, then to his neck again when Timmy turns him back to normal.
    • Cosmo's hair once gets caught in Wanda's hair swirl, to his consternation.
  • Steven Universe:
    • In "Historical Friction", an actor portraying Pearl wears a pointed birthday cone-hat over his face to represent Pearl's oversized triangular nose.
    • When Steven makes himself look older in "Steven's Birthday", Amethyst points out that he finally has a visible neck.
  • Kaeloo:
    • In Episode 55, Stumpy and Quack Quack try to attack Olaf with smelly gas. It doesn't work, since Olaf doesn't have a nose to smell it with.
    • In the episode "Let's Play Guess Who", Quack Quack squashes his head into a bizarre, bean-like shape and makes his eyes bug out from the side of his head while imitating Stumpy.
    • In another episode, when the gang are playing Truth or Dare, Stumpy asks Pretty the rabbit why one of her ears is shorter than the other one as a "truth" question.
    • In Episode 108, Kaeloo informs the others that disturbing news "has reached [her] ears, even though [she doesn't] have ears".
  • In the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, Raphael complains that sitting around "with our thumbs up our noses" isn't getting anything done. Michaelangelo looks at his blocky, enormous thumbs compared with his apparent total lack of nostrils and says, "...I don't think they'd fit."
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Master Shake has yellow hands even though the rest of his body isn't yellow. In the Grand Finale, Meatwad informs Carl that Shake is dead, having died via a Heroic Sacrifice. When Carl asks for proof, Meatwad holds up a dishwashing glove, revealing that Shake was wearing yellow dishwashing gloves the whole time.
    Meatwad: I guess we'll never know why he wore these. Some people never do the damn dishes.
  • Family Guy:
    • There are a few jokes about Peter's chin looking like a pair of testicles, including one incident where the FCC considers censoring them.
    • In "Running Mates", Peter mocks Lois by holding half a sandwich to his face in reference to her large nose.
    • In "The Juice is Loose", O. J. Simpson holds Stewie by his football-shaped head and tosses him to Chris.
    • In the Star Wars-themed movies, Chris-as-Luke is hanging upside down in the ice cave and unable to reach his lightsaber while complaining "damn these short stubby arms!"
  • House of Mouse: In "Clarabelle's Big Secret", Mickey reveals that he starches his ears to make sure they always stay round no matter which way his head turns.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic pokes fun at how most characters strut around mostly naked with nothing to see on several occasions. Once, Rarity won't let Spike into the dressing room with the women because "it's inappropriate", but concedes the point when Applejack points out that they don't normally wear clothes anyways. Another time, Rainbow Dash pulls the covers off of a sleeping Fluttershy who inexplicably covers her bare chest. It happens a third time when Rarity gets her clothes pulled off by a vacuum cleaner and covers both her chest and crotch in embarrassment.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: In the episode "Who Framed Jimmy Neutron?", Jimmy is framed and arrested for a robbery he did not commit. One of the arresting officers yells at Jimmy to come out of his lab with his hands above his head. Jimmy attempts to comply, but owing to the massive size of his head in comparison to his body, he is unable to, and declares it physically impossible.


Video Example(s):


The Tomato is Sitting Down

This joke can only be made funny by Squash and Stretch vegetables.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / StylisticSelfParody

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