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The Man in the Mirror Talks Back

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Look in the mirror, familiar figure staring right back at me
Split decision, now my reflection's talking but I didn't speak
Young the Giant, "Mirror Master"

You have Mirror Monologue, where the character is talking to their reflection.

And then you have this trope, which is when the reflection is the one doing the talking (or, occasionally, moving).

The difference? The Mirror Monologue is realistic (physically, if not psychologically); nothing fantastic is happening, so we can pretend we're objective observers. Many versions of this explicitly have the mirror moving in a completely different way than the 'real world', thus bringing it over into either the fantastic, or we're explicitly seeing things through the character's eyes. Those that don't do the 'mirror isn't reflecting the real world' thing via special effects of one sort or another but still qualify are using editing for much the same effect (see, e.g., the first Spider-Man movie, or the Gollum/Sméagol dialogue from film version of The Return of the King).

Usually used, much like the Mirror Monologue, to make visual an internal dialogue, either between different aspects of a character (such as a man and his conscience) or between different personalities sharing the same body; But can sometimes in actuality be a Mirror Self.

Somewhat of an inversion of Mirror Routine; there, it's a different person acting like a reflection; here, it's a reflection acting like a different person.

See also The Television Talks Back for a similarly unrealistic discussion.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In a one-page gag from The Smurfs, Brainy is so annoying with his moralizing that even his mirror's reflection knocks him over the head with a hammer to get him to stop talking.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: During the Silver Age Priscilla Rich, would find herself being mocked and belittled by her reflection, which would usually take the appearance of Cheetah rather than how she was currently dressed. This was not actually happening, but a visual indicator of her fractured mind. When Pris first saw Cheetah, the reflection encouraged her and told her "Don't you know me? I am the real you — The Cheetah — a treacherous, relentless huntress!" The caption read, "Psychologists use mirrors in this way, to discover people's real selves."

    Comic Strips 
  • A comics gag seen in both Doonesbury and Bloom County. (B. Breathed later said he inadvertently ripped off the joke from Trudeau).
  • Used in FoxTrot, of all places, when Jason complains to his reflection how unfair it is that his family want him to donate his allowance to hurricane relief rather than buying a newspaper comic collection. His reflection agrees and goes on about how unfair it is of the family to assume that the needs of those whose homes and lives have been destroyed outweigh his desire to giggle for 30 minutes (or 45 if he reads slowly). Jason's final comment is "I'm not sure I like what I'm seeing".
  • Garfield: Used in the 2014-09-02 strip. Garfield walks in front of a mirror when his reflection says "Stop right there!" with a demanding tone and then compliments: "You are lookin' great today!" The original Garfield says "Back atcha!".
  • Some early 60s The Perishers strips had a Running Gag where the neurotic Wellington would pour out his existential anguish in front of his mirror, and his reflection would make some sarcastic remark once he'd left.
  • Subverted in Pogo. It looks like Porkypine's reflection is talking back to him, but it's actually a bug hiding behind his mirror playing a prank on him.
  • Ziggy: A Running Gag. To quote one panel...
    Ziggy's reflection: Did it ever occur to you that you are the reflection of me?

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • Played for horror in Will Vinton's claymation adaption of Rip Van Winkle. After Rip washes his face when arriving in the mountains to go squirrel hunting, he laughs at his reflection in the water and asks, "And what are you doing here?" The reflection asks him the same question in an echoey fashion, prompting Rip to run away fast.
  • During the end credits for Smurfs: The Lost Village, Vanity's reflection comes to life and gives him a kiss on the lips.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 25th Hour Edward Norton's reflection talks back to him for the main monologue of the film (the reflection monologues, not the character).
  • In Beach Party, Dolores's reflection advises her to be nice to Frankie. She sings a duet about it with her reflection.
  • A musical example in the Marx Brothers' MGM swan song The Big Store: Harpo's harp scene turns into a duet with his mirror reflection, first playing a counter harp melody, and later on violin.
  • In Carefree (1938), Tony realizes that he loves Amanda after his "subconscious mind" talks back to him via his reflection in a mirror.
  • In Cover Girl (1944), Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly) argues with his reflection in a shop window while walking home. The reflection eventually jumps out of the window and dances with Danny.
  • Happens to Ash in Evil Dead 2, with the added twist that his reflection even leans out of the mirror to grasp him:
    Ash: I'm fine...
    Reflection: I don't think so. We just cut up our girlfriend with a chainsaw. Does that sound... fine?
  • In The Evil Within, this trope is kept ambiguous, using camera angles and different demeanor to distinguish between the two sides, but only showing one movement, albeit mirrored.
  • In Hop, the main character E.B. tries to use Mirror Monologue to get himself ready for a performance. However, his reflection instead gives him a What the Hell, Hero? for leaving his friend Fred alone against the Pink Berets.
  • Kitty Foyle is about to run away with her now-remarried ex-husband in order to live in sin, when her reflection in the mirror starts trying to talk her out of it. Real Life Kitty argues with her reflection. Then Mirror Kitty becomes the narrator in a How We Got Here romantic drama, recounting the history of Kitty's Love Triangle in a long flashback.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Jekyll and Hyde berate one another by way of mirrors.
  • Gollum talks to his reflection in water in the film of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, as part of the Gollum-Sméagol conflict.
  • This happens in Mad Love, and it's a bad thing, as the man in the mirror is Dr. Gogol's crazy side. Gogol, a Stalker with a Crush obsessed with Yvonne the actress, stumbles out of surgery upon hearing that Yvonne has come to see him. He sees his reflection in the mirror, and then the reflection changes to him in street clothes, saying "Nothing matters to you but one thing: Yvonne—Yvonne in your arms."
  • Mary Poppins features this during "A Spoonful Of Sugar"; at first, the reflection is echoing her lyrics, but then the reflection starts showing off. ("Cheeky!") The sequel repeats this gag, but this time, with the reflection just staring through as Mary Poppins walks out of frame.
  • The Muppet Movie. The rare non-psychotic instance in which Kermit's inner self materializes to counsel himself.
  • The Muppets (2011) has Gary and Walter sing "Man or Muppet" with their respective reflections. For this song, Gary's reflection resembles a Muppet, while Walter's resembles a human.
  • Rockula has recurring scenes where Ralph converses with his reflection, who moves independently of him and is implied to even have a life of his own. It's never really made clear if this is all in the character's head or if this is actually happening - He is a vampire in a film where Our Vampires Are Different.
  • From the first Spider-Man movie: Norman Osborn had several conversations with his alter ego in a mirror. Later, Harry sees his father in the mirror, taunting him for being "weak". Which is itself influenced by a similar scene in the 1994 Spider-Man series, where the Goblin convinces Osborn to let him out in a similar fashion.
  • In Zoolander, Derek Zoolander works through his confusion over failing to win the model of the year award by asking his reflection in a puddle "Who am I?" His reflection answers.

  • Happens in And Another Thing... thanks to the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation giving mirrors "Genuine People Personalities".
  • In Broken Gate, during an inverted case of The Mirror Shows Your True Self, Nezumi talks to her reflection, said reflection being the first to address her. However, her reflection, later named "Kagami" by the narration, is a manifestation of her (autonomous) madness, explaining why she acts the way she does. When Nezumi destroys the mirror, her reflection is freed, leaving her alone.
  • Discussed in Carpe Jugulum:
    "[Agnes] sang in harmony. Not, of course, with her reflection in the glass, because that kind of heroine will sooner or later end up singing a duet with Mr. Blue Bird and other forest creatures and then there's nothing for it but a flamethrower."
  • Harry Potter sometimes gets a word or two from his own reflection, such as when he spends a few nights at the Leaky Cauldron. Of course, given the setting...
  • Derek's soul sometimes uses the bathroom mirror to discuss things with him in the Red Room books by C.T. Phipps. It's a mage thing.
  • In Peter David's Tiger Heart, the main character has nightly visits with The Boy by communicating with him through the mirror.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick has a conversation with his reflection while waiting for Mary at a fancy restaurant. The camera switches back and forth between Dick and his reflection in the large mirror his table is located next to, before he finally decides to go where Mary is. His reflection says he'll "Cover the check." Dick gets up from the table and leaves. The reflection stays and asks for the check.
  • All My Children. Janet Green's reflection would talk back to her whenever she was going off the deep end.
  • Parodied in the Big Time Rush episode "Big Time Jobs", when James "talks" with his mirror reflection about being a model for a cosmetics line. This is even lampshaded by Katie.
  • Criminal Minds had an Unsub of the Week, who was being egged on to kill by hallucinatory people, see his reflection move independently and join his other hallucinations in urging him to run when the police were coming.
  • Danger 5: In "Merry Christmas, Colonel" Ilsa's reflection tells her she's disappointed in her. Ilsa magically zips her away.
  • In the beginning of the Dinosaurs episode titled "How to Pick Up Girls" Robbie has a borderline argument with himself in the mirror on the inside of his locker door.
  • Hannah Montana: Miley talking to her Secret Identity in "I'll Always Remember You".
  • Niki and her alter-ego, Jessica, would often interact this way on Heroes, with the dormant personality on the other side of the mirror.
  • Edward Nygma sometimes interacts with The Riddler this way on Gotham.
  • A skit on The Muppet Show had Gonzo singing "Act Naturally" when his reflection suddenly starts singing along and then arguing with him. (You know it's unusual when even Gonzo is shocked by it.)
    • Similarly on Muppets Tonight Gonzo performed "Dancing With Myself" in a mirror room. In this case the reflections exited the mirrors.
  • From Saturday Night Live:
    • Once when Mick Jagger was the musical guest he did a sketch where he talked to his mirror self, played by Jimmy Fallon. This got a Continuity Nod and a twist when Jimmy Fallon guest-hosted in 2011 and did the same basic sketch with Andy Samberg playing his mirror self.
    • Averted when Prince was musical guest during the time that Fred Armisten had as a recurring sketch "The Prince Show" where he played Prince having a talk show. They did a mirror bit but he just looked at himself. Could be a Subversion (in that everyone expected a mirror bit so they did that), or that they wrote a mirror bit and Prince nixed the idea, so they had to replace it.
  • Supernatural:
    • In the episode "Bloody Mary", Jill jokingly says "Bloody Mary" three times in front of the mirror. Soon after, Jill sits in front of a mirror and the eyes in the reflection of her mirror start bleeding and the reflection says "You did it. You killed that boy."
    • In the season 5 finale "Swan Song", Satan has possessed Sam's body and has a conversation with Sam's otherwise buried consciousness by using Sam's body to talk into a mirror.
    • "Gods and Monsters" has a similar moment with Dean and the parallel universe version of Michael.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) :
    • In the episode "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room", a weak, cowardly gangster's reflection tries to talk him into changing his life.
    • Similarly, in the episode "The Mind and the Matter", the protagonist's reflection suggests ways for him to use his new-found mental powers.
    • In "The Last Night of a Jockey", Michael Grady's alter ego typically talks to him through his mirror. He claims to live inside his head and to be his conscience. He is not identical to Grady, as is normally the case with reflections, but is notably tidier and better dressed. The alter ego represents the better parts of Grady's nature.
  • Two and a Half Men has a brief arc where Alan sort of stumbles into running a Ponzi scheme. When the pressure starts getting to him, he starts having conversations with his reflection, who has a much more confident and Jerkass personality. After the arc wraps up, he catches another glimpse of himself and finds out that there are a lot more personalities in there, as well.
  • Ordinarily, Zoey's power in Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist causes her to hear others' thoughts and feelings via random musical numbers, but it turns out that it can also manifest this way. She spends a morning in the first season finale hearing Bad Moon Rising from her reflection wherever it appears. This turns out to be an omen of her father's death.
  • Played for drama in Yellowjackets when Tai's reflection tries to send her messages or simply does what it wants regardless of what Tai's doing. It's an open question as to whether Tai has some kind of mental condition or something more sinister is at work.

  • Played with in the song "Mirror, Mirror" by Diamond Rio:
    Mirror, mirror, on my wall
    Tell me, who is the loneliest fool of all?
    Oh, wait a minute, I believe I see
    The answer staring back at me
  • In Foster the People's video for "Call It What You Want," the drummer looks into a mirror and remarks that something is missing. His reflection hands him a tube of lipstick and tells him to put it on and kiss him. Shortly after, he's shown shirtless and Covered in Kisses.
  • In the Sting song "Seven Days" from Ten Summoner's Tales, the narrator considers fighting a romantic rival who is bigger than him.
    Asked if I was mouse or man
    The mirror squeaked, away I ran

    Video Games 
  • In Blank Dream the main character finds herself alone and amnesiac in a strange place after committing suicide. Her reflection in a mirror at the end of a hallway tells her that if she kills herself again in every place that the mirrors take her to, she can get her memories back and fulfill her deepest wish - namely, to never have lived at all.
  • In Celeste, the main character's discolored reflection breaks out of a mirror, introduces itself as "Part of You," and begins to taunt and harass her. It's revealed that her existence is a result of Mt. Celeste's Eldritch Location properties, which bring out the insecurities and inner demons of all who attempt the climb.
  • In The Darkside Detective, during an excursion to the Dark World, Frank McQueen looks in a mirror and remarks, "Looking good, Frankie!" His reflection tells him that actually, he's been letting himself go lately.
  • In Detention, Ray's reflection will glitch out and ask a question when she looks into the bathroom mirror.
    Reflection: Forgotten... or just too afraid to remember?
  • In Devotion, during the Vision Quest sequence, the main character will walk down a mirrored hallway, and his reflection will discuss Mei Shin's situation.
  • In Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, once enemy-now-ally Panda King has a discussion with his former self from the first game. Panda King needs Sly's help saving his daughter, but is still angry over his previous defeat. The two halves, anger and humility, reconcile when the game-3 Panda King points out that the two can work together to save Jing King, and become the father she needs. ("The yin..and the yang?")
  • In the DS remake of Super Mario 64, the man in the mirror actually fights back. In the battle against King Boo (called "Big Boo" in-game), said character at first only appears in the mirror of the boss room and attacks Mario's reflection to damage him. The player has to look in the mirror to know where to punch.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: BMO, with his fascination with humanity but his overall lack of understanding of how things work in the human world, believes his reflection is someone else named "Football" (and that Football is a name). They talk to each other semi-regularly, but, thanks to the camera angle and poses the two make, it's always possible that BMO is just pretending.
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, In the episode "The Return", Richard tries to convince himself that he is a good father by talking into the mirror, but his reflection suggests he isn't that good, and Richard flips the mirror to silence himself.
    Richard: I don't know what she's worried about, I'm a good father.
    Richard's Reflection: Ehh... [makes a "more or less" gesture]
    Richard: What do you know? [flips mirror]
    Richard's Reflection: Aww...
  • Episodes of the Anne of Green Gables cartoon has had Anne talk to her own reflection in the water.
  • Classic Disney Shorts:
  • In the Musical Episode of Daria, Quinn sings in front of a mirror while trying to decide what to wear. Her reflection tells her she could pick any outfit and still look attractive.
  • In an episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, a feverish Bloo hallucinates that his reflection is talking back to him. When his friends mistake Bloo for a ghost, his reflection even yells to run for it.
  • In Goof Troop episode "For Pete's Sake", after Pete receives a note saying "I'm going to get you" (it was actually a message from Goofy saying he was going to replace his hedge clippernote  and Pete accidentally tore in half), Pete thinks that someone has it out for him. While hiding out at his house, his reflection tells him to get a grip, saying the stalker didn't know where he lived. A few seconds later, Goofy slipped a follow-up note under the door saying that Pete's "surprise" would be coming any day.
    Pete: (To his reflection) He found me! What are we gonna do?!
    Pete: (While rapidly packing a bag) What do you mean "we"? I'm outta here! (Speeds off out of sight)
  • At the start of The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat, the Grinch's own reflection catches him in an unusually-good mood, and persuades the Grinch to resolve to be mean and nasty like he usually is. It happens again at the end of the cartoon, but this time Max uses the Vacusound Sweeper to interrupt the reflection's lecture.
  • Infinity Train: In the Chrome Car, Tulip's reflection gains sentience, and after some switching back and forth between both sides of the mirrors, leaves to live a life of her own–-leaving Tulip without a reflection from here on in. Mirror Tulip even ends up becoming the major character of the second season.
  • Happens in Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Jimmy is feeling guilty about running off and not standing up for Beezy.
  • Looney Tunes: Speechless variant: In the Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoon "The Solid Tin Coyote," Wile E. puts a mirror on the highway and does a little hamming up with it when the reflection starts doing things independently of him.
  • In an episode of The Mask animated series, the Mask does this after being framed for stealing cookies from orphans and doubting his own innocence. Of course, since he's a cartoonish Reality Warper:
    The Mask: But... I didn't do it. [stares at reflection in a nearby window]
    Reflection: [leaning out of the glass] How do you know? Maybe you have one of those split personalities.
  • The Mickey Mouse (2013) short "Eau de Minnie" has Minnie's reflection warning her not to overdo it on spraying perfume, but Minnie flips the mirror to silence her.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic sees a neurotic Twilight briefly do this in "Lesson Zero", talking with her reflection in a puddle while the camera cuts back and forth between each personality, similar to the Lord of the Rings example (in fact, it was probably a deliberate Shout-Out).
  • In the Ninjago episode "Wrong Place, Wrong Time", the ninja go back in time to the first half of the pilot and accidentally alter the timeline by interfering with Kai, Nya, and Wu's past selves fighting Lord Garmadon's army. The result is that the skeletons don't capture Nya, which was pivotal to Kai's drive to become a ninja because he only trained as hard as he did to get her back, so the ninja devise a plan to kidnap Nya and hand her to the skeletons that involved Kai pretending to be his past self's reflection to distract him while the other ninja grabbed Nya.
  • Pepper Ann did this so often, some viewers could consider Pepper Ann's reflection a side character in her own right.
  • In the Pig Goat Banana Cricket episode "Zombie Broheims", Goat tries to bribe her Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Thomas Jefferson into making her the customer of the day at a smoothie place by giving him a souffle. He makes her reflection in a mirror customer of the day instead, and her reflection then sasses her about it.
  • Pinky and the Brain: Pinky doing the Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering? thing alone, because Brain isn't there.
  • Pinocchio's Christmas had a song where Geppetto sings alongside his reflection in the mirror about what gift to give Pinocchio for Christmas.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied in the episode "My Fair Laddy", in which Willie sings and his reflection joins in. Willie freaks out and smashes the mirror.
    • Played straight in "Sleeping with the Enemy", when Lisa, who has become self-conscious of her body, looks into a mirror and sees a morbidly obese version of herself talking to her.
      Fat Lisa: Don't worry, Lisa. You can still find someone to love you.
      Fat Milhouse: Now you've got no choice!
  • Appears in a few episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants.
    • In "Wet Painters", SpongeBob is telling himself to be brave after getting paint on Mr. Krabs' first dollar, but when he hears Mr. Krabs coming home his reflection says "You're on your own" and leaves.
    • In "Something Smells", the reflection breaks the mirror to get away from SpongeBob's bad breath, leading him to believe that he's Mirror-Cracking Ugly.
    • "Roller Cowards" has a scene that involves Patrick literally punching out his own reflection after it gets into a short argument with him.
      Patrick: I thought we settled this the last time!
    • A creepy version occurs in "Rule of Dumb" where Patrick speaks to a monstrous version of himself in the mirror.
    • Another variation appears in "Chimps Ahoy", Spongebob and Patrick are trying to invent something, and Patrick keeps coming up with stuff that already exists, including his "parallel universe" (a mirror).
      Mr. Dr. Prof. Patrick: Somebody keeps stealing my ideas!
      Spongebob's Reflection: [in bizarre accent] Well, I thought it was a pretty good idea.
    • At the end of "Squid Plus One", Squidward decides to make his alive-and-talking reflection his plus one (with SpongeBob in a black suit carrying the mirror around). This is foreshadowed early in the episode with Squidward talking to his reflection but then it was ambiguous whether he was just talking to himself or not.
  • In The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! episode "Mario and Joliet", A Romeo and Juliet parody, King Koopa learns that Princess Toadstool has halted the feud (Which he started!) between the fighting families, and as a result, he can't sell them weapons anymore. His reflection tells him to just kidnap the Juliet and blame it on the Romeo, setting the families against each other again.
  • In the Talkartoons short Bimbo's Initiation, one of the four doors Bimbo opens contains a mirror. His reflection tells him to try the next door.
    • A variation occurs in Minnie the Moocher, where Bimbo looks into a well and his rippling reflections do a "Hi-de-ho" in tune to the song.
  • Teen Titans (2003): Cyborg loses to Atlas who imprisons his friends as his trophies. His reflection in the glass talks him into fighting Atlas again, the conversation switching from Cyborg's human side to his mechanical side.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: In the episode "Plucky's Dastardly Deed", Plucky forgets to study for the final exams, so he switches his test with the smartest student of the class. At one point he wonders why he feels guilty about it and his reflection on a window begins to call him out for it.
  • Toonsylvania used this trope in the episode "Phil's Brain", which featured Igor talking to his sentient reflection in the castle's moat.
  • A Running Gag in Tuca & Bertie is that mirrors are made by "Mean Mirrors", and the reflections contained therein reflect that person's deepest insecurities.
  • In The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat ...after Felix's reflection reaches out of the mirror to help spruce him up for a date, no less. (Not surprising, since the show runs on 100% old-school cartoon logic.)
    Felix's Reflection: Felix, ya look like a million bucks!
    Felix: Thanks, Felix. Wish me luck, man! [leaves]
    Felix's Reflection: [sighs] Poor mook don't stand a chance.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: After an exhausting day of fighting the Frightful Four, Peter totally forgot to buy a cake for Uncle Ben's birthday (who's dead). His Spider-Man reflection talks him into taking Fury's offer to train him to be the Ultimate Spider-Man.
  • Downplayed on Uncle Grandpa; in the episode "Belly Bros", Uncle Grandpa puts on his nose in the mirror, compliments himself, and leaves. His reflection doesn't leave and instead takes the rest of his noses.
  • The Unikitty! episode "Fire & Nice" has Unikitty's angry side appearing as her reflection in a lake.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Man In The Mirror Talks Back


Charlie's Reflection

Charlie's reflection tries to encourage him to go out with another woman in spite of his fears that he'll suffer death from sex.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / TheManInTheMirrorTalksBack

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