Better Than a Bare Bulb

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Sorry, but even a movie that acknowledges its stupidity is still a stupid movie."

Lampshades. Some writers just love them.

Particularly in parodies, lampshades are the entire point. Usually the idea behind a lampshade is that it is calling attention to the trope it is using and by hopefully doing so it helps maintain the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Here, the idea is just to lampshade everything, and either derive humor from that, or engage in Post Modernism of some other variety.

This can also be a bad thing. Sometimes this is a problem because they explained the bulb too much. In addition, if the goal was drama, excessive lampshading can draw away from the tone of the scene. However, what constitutes "excessive" is debatable, and not the subject of this article.

This trope is about works whose authors and writers believe that lampshades are Better than a Bare Bulb. Please do not address the quality debate in the examples. Examples should merely be shows or works that hang lampshades everywhere, possibly to the point of turning entire scenes into Affectionate Parody. Bonus points for a show that lampshades the extensive lampshade hanging.

See also Tropes Are Tools and Deconstruction. Compare Trope Overdosed and Troperiffic. It Runs on Nonsensoleum is something of a subtrope.

Examples of Better Than a Bare Bulb include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

Fan Works


Schwartz Master Yogurt: Spaceballs: The Lunchbox! Spaceballs: The Breakfast Cereal! Spaceballs: THE FLAMETHROWER! The kids love that one.


  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland does nothing but hang lampshades, being a Book on Trope
  • Both the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series by Jasper Fforde. Hoooo boy.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld series hangs lampshades on and/or subverts practically every trope it uses.
  • Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Many examples, done very well, of characters noting they are like, or are, characters in a saga and that some trope applies to them. "Give us a story, I want to hear about 'Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom'", et cetera.
  • All of the main characters in The Dresden Files are very Genre Savvy and very snarky. Any use of tropes (and there will be many) will thus inevitably be accompanied by a dry Lampshade Hanging, and maybe a Shout-Out or two.
  • Captain Underpants.
  • While much of Postmodern fiction falls under this, David Foster Wallace should get a special mention; he'll frequently hang a lampshade on a plotpoint or theme he's using genuinely...and then hang a lampshade on the hanging itself, which will tie back into the original theme (drawing something real out of irony)
  • In World War Z, the Battle of Yonkers is both in-universe and out a massive contrivance that requires the entire US military command to suddenly become Too Dumb to Live. As it's told by one of the infantry who were present, he keeps recounting how stupid the decisions had to be. Depending on the reader, this just keeps reminding one of how contrived the whole situation is, bordering on a mid-game Diabolus Ex Machina.
    • Also lampshaded is the mysterious absence of Solanum from the news; the companies that own them didn't want to cause a panic. This regards just about everything about how the news works, the entire Internet, and the tendency of news to gyrate towards more sensationalist stories, even if it means sacrificing accuracy. The walking dead would be the Holy Grail for any news organization.
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is constructed almost entirely out of lampshades (held together with British snark, postmodernism, and cynicism).

Live Action TV

  • The Burns and Allen Show had George Burns shading lamps all over the place.
  • Boston Legal. Denny could open a lighting store.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the biggest user of Lampshades.
  • Power Rangers RPM. This isn't because the show is bad by any means, but because the source footage is so ridiculously cheesy that not doing so would almost be an insult, given the nature of the show. Lampshades hung include the cutsey-animal mecha, the transformation callphrase, the prerequisite explosions behind them after transforming (which was brilliantly turned into an actual plot point). Impressively, most of the lampshades also come with justifications wherein the cliches of the franchise are given semi-plausible explanations.
  • Stargate SG-1 loves its lampshades. Particularly notable is its use of Wormhole Xtreme, a Show Within a Show that pokes fun at the series, the creative process, and the entire Sci Fi genre.
    • Plus "Citizen Joe" which contains many a Take That at earlier episodes and "200" which somehow manages to push the ideas introduced in "Wormhole Xtreme" even further. Basically, the older the series got, the more lampshades were hung.
      • At one point, they even explain the term Lampshade Hanging as part of the plot.
      • After the names of the most-recurring props, cast, and crew (and pronouns and prepositions, of course), "lampshade" may just be the most frequently uttered word on all SG-1 DVD commentaries and behind-the-scenes material. Unless you limit that to only material featuring frequent director and story consultant Peter DeLuise, in which case "regular" (as in bowel movement) might just pip "lampshade".
  • The Middleman even has a wall of actual lampshades.
  • Community operates primarily on this rule (especially through Meta Guy Abed) plus a few others.
  • iCarly generally lampshades anything remotely related to the characters picking up an Idiot Ball, as well as a wide variety of common genre tropes like All Adults Are Useless.
  • Due South enjoys giving Fraser increasingly strange and unbelievable abilities and when other characters express astonishment as to how he does it, he merely says "That's not important."
  • Doctor Who, being a show that's a dramedy loves itself a good lampshade hanging.

Newspaper Comics

  • FoxTrot is fond of Lampshade Hanging to an extreme degree. Notice how many trope examples on its page involve lampshades in some way.


  • Arsenic and Old Lace has extensive Lampshade Hanging, including references about how much the villain resembles monster-movie star Boris Karloff (who acted the role during the play's initial run on Broadway but not in the film adaptation). There is also a bit where the hero, a theater critic, lampshades his scene by discussing the same scene in a play he recently saw, which is the play in which he is acting. Confused yet?
    • Karloff's absence from the film was in fact because he was doing the play on Broadway - his contract stopped him.
  • The musical Urinetown hangs lampshades on everything in sight, starting with "too much exposition" and the show's Intentionally Awkward Title.
  • Older Than Radio: This was one of the signatures of George M. Cohan's shows (besides flag-waving, that is).
  • Spamalot. Considering the source material, it's not surprising at all.

Video Games

  • Touhou does this, thanks largely to having a cast with purposefully vague characterization, especially with both the major heroines being Jerkass Deadpan Snarker Meta Guy characters. In Subterranean Animism, Marisa and Alice's storyline consisted of the two of them insulting each other and making fun of everything they ran across to the point where they never actually uncovered what the plot was, they simply blew everything up because they know it's a game where Everything Is Trying to Kill You, and that the motives really didn't matter, so long as they got all the loot they could find in the end.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks has taken great glee in mocking just about every Zelda tradition it can. It has to be played to be believed.
  • There are two dungeons in EarthBound which feature countless billboards lampshading almost every known dungeon cliché, including the overdose on billboards itself.
  • While the main Mario series is not an example, the Paper Mario games love lampshading just about everything about the series. the Mario & Luigi games do it too, but not quite as much.
  • The iOS game Highborn lampshades everything it possibly can: odd things that happen in the story, the fact that they're breaking the fourth wall repeatedly, many of the shout-outs.
  • The recent Sonic the Hedgehog games use Lampshading as a frequent source of humor, most prominantly Sonic's snarky comments towards Dr Eggman's plans past and present.


Web Original

Western Animation

Phineas: Someone should build an All-Terrain vehicle that really goes over all terrain!
Ferb: [Holds up fingers to count] Two, three, four...
Phineas: Hey, Ferb! I know what we're going to do today!
Ferb: ...five, six, seven...
Phineas: Hey, where's Perry?