Fourth Wall Psych

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Any time a character appears to be Breaking the Fourth Wall, but a moment later it is revealed that their action has a perfectly legitimate in-universe explanation; the Fourth Wall is in fact intact.

For example, a character may look into the camera and seem to address the audience directly, only for the scene to pull back and reveal they were talking to another character who is "behind" the camera. Or, a character may appear to be making a Screen Tap, but they're actually tapping on a window to get another character's attention from the other side.

Related to Aside Glance. Compare and contrast also Aside Comment, where a character seems to address the audience, but no commitments about whether they really do are made either way. Not to be confused with Leaning on the Fourth Wall, wherein the fact that the characters are in a fictional work is lampshaded in the dialogue.

For cases where a character taps on a literal "fourth wall" between them and the audience, see Screen Tap. See also Unseen Audience, Behind the Black.

Examples of Fourth Wall Psych include:


Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

  • A commercial for the Visa Check Card had a woman telling the camera about the product, explaining its advantages. She concludes by saying "If you had the Visa Check Card..." Cut to the guy she's actually speaking to. "...I could get out of this line already!"


Anime and Manga[edit | hide]


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Deadpool does this once with Arcade, though it's unusual, because that series has No Fourth Wall.
  • Marvel Comics' Uatu The Watcher had been apparently talking directly to the readers for years- until it was revealed (in an issue of Quasar) that he was actually addressing a recording device, recording his impressions of events for the people of the universe that will come after this one. So technically, he was just filming his own Vlog.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Pirates of Silicon Valley: The movie starts off with Steve Jobs talking about a film. You think he is talking about the movie when he is really talking to the director of the "1984" commercial.
  • In Gangs of New York, Bill the Butcher points directly at the camera after assassinating newly elected Sheriff Monk with a meat cleaver. Based on context, we find out he's talking to the (unseen) clients in Monk's barber shop.

Bill: That, my friends, is the minority vote. Why don'tcha burn 'im, see if his ashes turn green.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Scrubs does this on several occasions when they are not abusing the Fourth Wall outright.
    • Three times in a row on one episode, with JD continually turning and asking, "What do you think?" "But what do you think?" "All that matters is what America thinks," about his new tailored Italian suit. It turns out he's asking 1. His friends 2. His residents 3. His tailor, who protests his name is "Amerigo", and adds of course he likes it, he made it.
    • Happens again in the eighth season when they switched from NBC to ABC. JD points to the bottom corner of the frame (where the ABC logo/watermark resides) and comments "hey, that's new!", at which point the camera cuts to what he was actually pointing at.
  • In the first episode of the fourth season of 30 Rock, Jack turns to the camera and says "Welcome to Season 4." The camera pans away and it's revealed he's introducing people to a new, swanky restaurant named "Season 4."
  • In an episode of Burn Notice, Michael Westen described the things he'd discovered over the course of the last half-season while looking right into the camera. Turned out he was talking to The Handler, who had told him to investigate those things.
  • In a season 3 episode of Weeds, Shane addresses the fourth wall and says "Yeah, it's just a bug in the system". In the next episode it is revealed that he was speaking to his late father, Judah.
  • Furuhata Ninaburou: just before the final act, Furuhata usually pauses the action to address the home audience directly, but in "Furuhata vs SMAP", he approaches the camera to apparently yell at the fourth wall for interfering in a crime scene—except that turns out to be a SMAP staff member.
  • "Little Brown Noses", an episode of Maid Marian and Her Merry Men: Marian and the gang are holding a charity telethon (despite the fact that it's The Dung Ages and television hasn't been invented yet; it's that kind of series). After a while, the scene cuts away to show what the villains are up to, then cuts back to the telethon, where the MC goes into a back-from-the-commercial-break style "Welcome back" spiel. The camera then turns to the telethon's in-story audience, one of whom wonders out loud who's being welcomed back, since nobody's actually gone anywhere in the meantime.
  • Happens in an episode of How I Met Your Mother when Barney is addressing what appears to be the audience about Christmas being the time of giving. He then says the greatest gift is the gift of booty and "why not bang someone in need?", with the camera switching to the girl he was talking to.
  • Supernatural Castiel looks straight at the camera and says, "Let me tell you my story." Then we find out he's talking to God.
  • The Prisoner has the episode "A, B, and C" where Number 6's dreams are examined for clues to why he resigned. In the end he figures out what's going on and takes control of the dream, and teases the Village overlords observing the process with the idea that he's about to reveal everything: "We mustn't disappoint the people watching."


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • There is a Calvin and Hobbes strip drawn through the eyes of Hobbes. At the start, Calvin looks at the fourth wall and asks "Are you ready?", but was actually talking to Hobbes.
    • There's also the time he talks about a little boy living in an oppressed country who dreams of coming to America and learning about freedom. He says he wants to meet that little boy—and the camera cuts to reveal he's sitting at the dinner table with his family--"and tell him the awful truth about this place!" Dad tells him to pipe down and eat his food.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Played for Nightmare Fuel in Ghost Trick. When someone tries to talk to a ghost and they aren't using the ghost world, their sprite will turn and directly face the viewer as if talking to the player themselves. And when Yomiel does it, catching you in the act of trying to save Cabanela, it's fucking terrifying.
  • This happens once in The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess. While exploring Castle Town, you can run into a guy that appears to be trying to catch the attention of the actual player behind the screen. If you walk down his line of sight in game though, it turns out that he's actually addressing another (very confused) NPC.
  • In Ratchet and Clank, the titular duo ask why it seems that they're always just behind the villain, and seem to look at the camera; then it switches to a viewpoint behind them and they're just looking at the city.
  • In in the final cutscene of Assassin's Creed II, Minerva begins her monologue talking to Ezio, but turns to stare into the camera a few sentences in. When Ezio expresses his profound confusion, she tells him that she's not talking to him and continues to talk to the camera, despite his protests that there's no one else there. It isn't until the end of the cutscene that she confirms she's addressing future Desmond and friends. It should be noted that this is technically still breaking a fourth wall, just not The Fourth Wall.
  • Dante does this in his ending in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Talking to Ghost Rider.
  • In "Meet the Medic", the Scout is blasted by rockets and crashes into the camera, until it's revealed he actually flew against a window.


Visual Novels[edit | hide]

  • Sharin no Kuni, Himawari no Shoujo: The main character, Kenichi, spends the majority of the game addressing the audience directly and making random narrations. The fifth chapter of the game reveals that everything of that sort was actually directed at his sister, Ririko, who has been present for almost the entire game, but was never directly acknowledged because she is under a legal punishment where acknowledging her existence in any way is a capital crime.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • In a Killroy and Tina strip, The Ditz Brandon says he's saying what Tina already knows for the benefit of those people watching them—and it turns out a couple of nearby kids are eavesdropping on the characters.
  • Beautifully exemplified in this Cyanide & Happiness strip.
  • Roger did this once in CRFH. The "camera" never moves, but the others comment that he's apparently talking to a Simpsons poster (he's high on hallucinogenic mushrooms at the time)


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In the Potter Puppet Pals episode Harry's Nightmares Harry turns to the camera and asks for comments and subscriptions. The camera shifts to show he's talking to Hermione and Ron who have no idea what he's talking about.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Because The Simpsons tend to embrace This Is Reality despite being a Farce, they prefer this trope to more overt Fourth Wall gags... except on Halloween Episodes and other specials where they are allowed to resort to Leaning on the Fourth Wall.
    • In the Simpsons episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" Dr. Hibbert says that he can't solve this case, and then points at the audience and says, "Can you?" The camera changes angles to show that he's really pointing at Chief Wiggum.
    • On The Simpsons at the end the episode "Duffless" when Homer decides he would rather take Marge on a romantic bike ride than have a drink at Moe's, the other barflies leave with him causing Moe to exclaim "You'll be back, and you" than he points to the audience and says "And yoooou". Moe is revealed to be talking to Barney who replies, "Of course I'll be back. If you didn't close I'd never leave."
      • This is a clear reference to the same line in the unintentional classic Reefer Madness.
    • A variation occurs in the episode "Mom and Pop Art", in which Homer is displeased to see artwork from series creator Matt Groening's Life In Hell in an art museum, because "He (Groening) can't draw!" Suddenly, the eraser of a giant pencil descends from above and appears to strike him in retaliation, prompting Homer to scream, "Help! I'm being erased!" In the next shot, it is revealed that the giant pencil is merely an art exhibit being relocated.
    • This was inverted in The Simpsons Movie: while the family is watching the Itchy and Scratchy Movie, Homer expresses incredulity that they're paying to see something they can watch on TV for free, points at the audience of the theater they're in saying that "everyone in this theater is a giant sucker"...and the "camera" swivels so that Homer looks like he's directly pointing at the "real" audience while saying "Especially YOU!"
  • In the final scene of the second series of Beast Wars, Megatron rants about how he's changed history so that the villains win. At the end of his speech, he points towards the screen and exclaims "And YOU! You no longer EXIST!" In context, he's pointing to the Maximals who were just in the foreground as the shot zoomed in.
  • In the middle of one episode of The Replacements, Sheldon essentially summarizes everything that had happened thus far in the episode, after which he looks directly at the fourth wall and says "What do YOOUUU think [will happen]?" Cut to Buzz, who is standing right in front of him.
  • In one of the Jimmy Neutron / Fairly Oddparents cross-over specials this was a Running Gag. Sheen would ask, seemingly no one in particular, "Do you know what this means?! Do you?" He would then lean directly at the camera, asking "Do yoooouuu?" We then switch angles and zoom out to see that each time, he's asking Libby, who exasperatedly tells him to back off.
  • The episode "Lesson Zero" of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has Pinkie Pie, the resident fourth-wall master, skip over to a picnic with a basket, and when she uncovers it, a cluster of balloons floats out and carries it away. Pinkie then appears to look at the audience for approval of her gag, and being disappointed when she doesn't see a reaction. This is due to her taking up the entire screen before hand focusing the viewer on the party pony. A second look shows that she's actually looking for a reaction from Fluttershy, whom the viewer likely didn't notice enter the frame via zoom-out.
    • In the same season, in "A Friend In Deed", Pinkie's "morning workout" involves making random silly faces and noises to the camera... until we find out she's actually trying to entertain the baby twins Pound and Pumpkin Cake.[1]
  1. (For the record, it doesn't work... but accidentally sitting on some jacks, leaping up into a ceiling fan, and landing in a pile of stuffed animals does the trick).