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The Man in the Mirror Talks Back
aka: Man In The Mirror Talks Back

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"Cheeky."
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You have Mirror Monologue, where the character is talking to his 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).

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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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Examples:

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    Anime and 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 (1942): 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.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.
  • A comics gag seen in both Doonesbury and Bloom County. (B. Breathed later said he inadvertently ripped off the joke from Trudeau).
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Used in this Garfield 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!".
  • This is a Running Gag for Ziggy. To quote one panel...
    Ziggy's reflection: Did it ever occur to you that you are the reflection of me?

    Fan Fiction 
  • In the 'Alternate Tail Series'', Mira speaks to her Satan Soul Beelzea through a reflection on a glass panel.

  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic story Asylum, Twilight is repeatedly confronted by a reflection of herself, who tries to to mentally break her, by saying anything she can that will hurt her, though whether this "Other Twilight" is a real being or just a hallucination, is unclear.
  • In Neon Metathesis Evangelion, it is Rei instead of Shinji who pilots EVA-01 against Leliel, and who gets absorbed by the angel. Inside, a series of psychedelic visions begins by her seeing herself in a mirror - and her mirror image, wearing a school uniform while she's wearing her plugsuit, talks back. The mirror image represents Rei II.
  • Queen of All Oni: When Finn wears the Squid Khan mask, the Oni General trapped within it, Kuro, starts talking to him this way.
  • In Kage, Jade's Enemy Within, the Queen of the Shadowkhan, routinely talks to her mentally, but can also appear visibly in Jade's reflection.
  • In Bleach: Happy to Serve You, Hiyori talks to her Inner Hollow like this.
  • In RWBY: Scars, Weiss is routinely depicted talking with a hallucination of her reflection. She even refers to her mirror self as "Mirror".

    Films — Animated 
  • During the end credits for Smurfs: The Lost Village, Vanity's reflection comes to life and gives him a kiss on the lips.
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • The Muppet Movie. The rare non-psychotic instance in which Kermit's inner self materializes to counsel himself.
  • The Muppets 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.
  • In 25th Hour Edward Norton's reflection talks back to him for the main monologue of the film (the reflection monologues, not the character).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Jekyll and Hyde berate one another by way of mirrors.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • In Peter David's Tiger Heart, the main character has nightly visits with The Boy by communicating with him through the mirror.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Invoked but averted 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."

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Niki and her alter-ego, Jessica, would often interact this way on Heroes, with the dormant personality on the other side of the mirror.
  • 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.
  • Hannah Montana: Miley talking to her Secret Identity.
  • 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.
  • All My Children. Janet Green's reflection would talk back to her whenever she was going off the deep end.
  • Supernatural:
    • In the episode "Bloody Mary" (S01, Ep5), 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" (S01, Ep22), 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.
    • The second episode of season 14 has a similar moment with Dean and the parallel universe version of Michael.
  • 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.
  • Edward Nygma sometimes interacts with The Riddler this way on Gotham.
  • 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.

    Music 
  • 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.
  • 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 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 
  • Both of Red Candle Games' titles have a sequence where the main character's reflection talks to them.
    • 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 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 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.
  • 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 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.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • The second strip down, as The Comics Curmudgeon notes, is an example of either this, or Fridge Logic.
  • The SCP Foundation houses SCP-919, a mirror in which your reflection will not only talk to you, but hysterically beg and plead with you not to step away.
  • In Doug Walker's The Review Must Go On, he and The Nostalgia Critic have a moment, through Doug's computer screen. Possibly the best scene that exhibits his internal conflict on the subject of whether to bring back The Nostalgia Critic. As the conversation/inner debate continues, The Critic appears in the bathroom mirror and later negotiates with Doug while sitting across from him at the kitchen table.
  • The entire premise behind this Britanick sketch.
  • In the musical episode of Flander's Company, Dr. Parker's reflection in a mirror turns into Damien, his Superpowered Evil Side.
  • The end of the "Spooky Fog" episode of The Weather has Alan speaking to his own (upside-down) reflection. The reflection is played by a caller, and they have a conversation, become friends, and contemplate murder together.
  • The Sesame Street viral video "Me Want It (But Me Wait)" has Cookie Monster singing to a mirror with a regular reflection. Then he turns to the camera, and instead of turning away, the reflection leans out and they start singing alternate lines.

    Western Animation 
  • Episodes of the Anne of Green Gables cartoon has had Anne talk to her own reflection in the water.
  • In the Classic Disney Short "Tomorrow We Diet", a fat Goofy is lectured on good nutrition by his reflection.
  • In another Disney short, "The Golden Touch", King Midas brags to his reflection that he will turn everything to gold, and the reflection applauds him. Later, as he realizes he's Blessed with Suck, he asks his refection if he's doomed to starve to death. The reflection turns into a golden Grim Reaper and nods yes.
  • 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 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.
  • Pinky and the Brain: Pinky doing the Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering? thing alone, because Brain isn't there.
  • Appears in a few episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants.
    • In "Wet Painters", SpongeBob is telling himself to be brave, but the 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. 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.
  • Happens in Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Jimmy is feeling guilty about running off and not standing up for Beezy.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • The Grinch's reflection in The Grinch Grinches The Cat In The Hat persuades him to be not so very nice.
  • 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!
  • Pepper Ann did this so often, some viewers could consider Pepper Ann's reflection a side character in her own right.
  • Teen Titans: 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.
  • 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.
  • In the Ninjago episode "Wrong Place, Wrong Time", the ninja go back in time to the pre-series special 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 is pivotal to Kai's drive to become a ninja, so the ninja devise a plan to hand Nya to the skeletons which involves Kai having to pretend to be his past self's reflection to distract him while the other ninja grab Nya.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Unikitty! episode "Fire & Nice" has Unikitty's angry side appearing as her reflection in a lake.
  • Toonsylvania used this trope in the episode "Phil's Brain", which featured Igor talking to his sentient reflection in the castle's moat.
  • Speechless variant: In the "Dork Age" 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.

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

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