Leaning on the Fourth Wall
"If this were play'd upon a stage now, I would condemn it as improbable fiction."
—Fabrian, Twelfth Night
Bob: Hey, Alice, have you ever noticed how sometimes a character will talk to another character about something that sounds like it's really about the show they're in, but it makes perfect sense in context?
Alice: Yeah! Usually it sounds strained because it's hard to make this kind of dialog sound completely natural.
Bob: But even if they can't pull it off, it's usually good for a bit of comedy.
- Thanks to food and drug guidelines,just about every drug commercial on American TV is like this, with characters rattling off side-effects in "casual" conversation, sometimes (but surprisingly rarely) lampshaded when the other character will say "You sound like you're trying to convince me to use it!"
- A Bamzu.com commercial features two people on a couch talking about how great Bamzu is. It finishes with the man saying to the woman, "Hey, maybe we could do a Bamzu commercial!" to which she replies, "You think?"
- A series of Geico commercials feature extremely poorly "animated" characters speaking in robotic voices. One of the characters informs the other that the commercial—in which they are currently appearing—took only 15 minutes to produce (which they tie into the amount of time it takes to switch to Geico).
- One Honda commercial had a man talking about his car and the deal he got from it, while his friend says that he sounds like a car commercial.
Anime and Manga
- Fairly early in the Mahou Sensei Negima manga, Ako tells an aged-up version of Negi that she envies Negi because she feels like she's just a supporting character and he's the main character. She is, of course, absolutely right. Negi counters that even if she's a minor character in someone else's story, she's still the main character of her own. As she was the main character of that particular mini-arc, he was right, too.
- In an especially tongue-in-cheek moment, Natsumi refers to herself as a side character right before making a casual observation that turns the chapter (#257) into a Wham! Episode.
- It also has a more fourth-wall-breaky one when Negi sees what his father was like: he exclaims, "It's like he's a character from a totally different manga!"
- Similarly, in chapter 277, minor character Tosaka says to Ako and Akira, "Us side-characters gotta look out for each other."
- In one of the Negima?! OVAs (legal, US/Canada only) has a line lampshading the use of towels in a Hot Springs Episode noting that it isn't some TV anime ("OVA" being comparable to what is known in the west as "direct to video" but generally of higher quality).
- More than once in Naruto, the title character is described as being the sort of person who could never be the main character of anything. They are, of course, absolutely wrong.
- Also, there's one point in the manga where Naruto comes running into a fight late yelling, "The main character of a story usually shows up in these types of situations and instantly kicks the enemy's ass!" Naturally, he then proceeds to be on the receiving end of said ass-kicking.
- Jiraiya having one a non-pornographic book about a ninja Determinator whose name is Naruto (which the character of the series was named after by his parents after they read the book) is fourth wall-leaning enough, but a couple of pages of chapter 448 which were only in the volume release has part of Naruto's speech to Nagato nearly has him talking about himself as if he was fully aware that he was a fictional character, and all of this is done in a completely serious fashion.
- When some of the members of Genshiken graduate, they have a discussion about where the story could go now that several of the characters have left—except it turns out they're actually talking about Show Within a Show Kujibiki Unbalance, which is doing a graduation story at the same time.
- During a Breather Episode in Code Geass, Milly remarks "Sometimes you just get these little Filler moments in life...and that's fine." This could also be seen as a Take That toward the fandom, which had a tendency to gripe whenever School Festival episodes came up.
- "Look forward to me, Jeremiah Gottwald, with all you've got!" This is supposed to be addressed to V.V. but it's obvious he's talking to the audience.
- Andy almost does this in Cowboy Bebop, to Spike's confusion.
- During an insult contest between Ed and Pinako in Fullmetal Alchemist, one of Ed's is "You're so short you're two-dimensional!"
- America has one of these moments in Axis Powers Hetalia.
America: I'm not stepping out of the house until spring comes around!
- Happens in episode 9 of Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini: the episode begins with Kiko Kayanuma making her first appearance of the season. As she and a friend board a train, they are discussing their apparent disgust at how a certain unnamed director added a pointless "gag character" to an otherwise "Dark and Serious" movie.
- As an anime fangirl/cosplay enthusiast, she does this a lot. For instance, when she and Gai end up in possession of an (even more) will-less Yin, they try to figure out where to hide her while everyone's out looking for her. Kiko suggests the hot springs, because you have to go at least once; then she looks at the audience and says, "Kiko is doing her best!"
- The last words spoken during the anime version of Death Note indicate Ryuk is Leaning on the Fourth Wall. They're spoken by Ryuk as he kills Light, but the words of farewell ring on for the series, reminding everyone that all this time, the whole purpose of everything that's gone on from beginning to end was for Ryuk's entertainment.
Ryuk: It was good while it lasted. We eased each other's boredom for quite a while. Well, Light, it's been interesting.
- The English dub of Suzumiya Haruhi has a very clever one in episode six: While Kyon is narrating, the beginning credits are shown. Just as he asks "Who wrote this scenario, anyway?" the current credit is "Series Composition: Haruhi and her friends".
- In Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, the characters all constantly point out that Kaere is only there as a Fan Service character.
- Katanagatari. Togame tends to make comments that'd be fourth wall breaking if it weren't for the fact that she's writing everything down for publication.
- The first half of Baccano!!'s first episode is what seems two Meta Guys arguing over when this whole thing supposed to start, who the "main character" is and whether or not any of it actually had a point. Technically they're an eccentric Knowledge Broker and his assistant trying to sort out the data they have on immortal-related occurrences over the last couple of years, but it sure seems like they're picking apart the show you're just about to watch.
- In the Bokurano manga, several people compare the plot to that of an in-universe manga which is also about kids piloting a giant robot. At the end of that manga, the kids all die and Earth is destroyed.
- In the Oh My Goddess! chapter where Belldandy somehow gets drunk on cola, Keiichi chases after her and trips over an empty liquor bottle, saying, "Geez, you'd think this was a stupid comic book or something!"
- An episode of Pokémon had Misty say that when Jigglypuff drew on her, she looked like a cartoon character. Ash says how ridiculous it would be if they were in a cartoon.
- An Orange Islands episode has Ash and Pikachu take part in a stage show where the trainers do voice-overs that make the Pokémon look like they can talk. In the dub, Ash comments on how hard it is to match the lip-flaps.
- In One Piece, on the last page of Chapter 597 Luffy says "The pirate 'Straw Hat Luffy' is going on a holiday for a bit", then at the bottom of the page it is announced that the manga is going on a four week break, its longest so far. We get it, Oda.
- In chapter 627 after a seven chapter long flashback (one of the longest flashback arcs seen so far), Jinbe apologizes to everyone saying it took so long to tell the story. Almost as if Oda was apologizing to the audience for taking so long by having Jinbe say it.
- The third season of the Crayon Shin-chan Gag Dub has a voice announcing "Adult Swim" followed by another saying "they always kick us out right when we catch on".
- Osamu Tezuka is famous for this, at least in his less-serious stories. In the Black Jack story "Baby Blues", a teenaged girl brings Jack an abandoned baby, and he asks, "Whose baby is it? Is it yours?" The girl slaps him—but instead of Jack she's slapping Tezuka himself, with the caption standing in for the slap. Tezuka is of course gone by the next panel and the story continues.
- In the Super Robot Wars Original Generations anime, a direct translation from the game leads to a hilarious fourth wall breaking moment.
- "Who watches the Watchm-"
- Also "I'm not a Republic serial villain..." (which becomes ridiculously meta in the movie: "I'm not a comic book villain")
- One famous scene in Young Justice featured the Ray, Impulse, and the Post-Crisis Superboy (Kon-El) talking to each other about how their comics—excuse me, their favorite comics—were cancelled for no reason. For added points, all three of them glare at Tim "Robin" Drake when he comes in at the end of the scene. Robin, of course, starred in a solo title that was still going strong at the time and lasted roughly as long as the other three characters' titles combined.
- Young Justice loved to play around with this trope. In another scene, Wonder Girl and Arrowette are using the internet, but their connection dies. Arrowette angrily remarks that she hates ISPs. Wonder Girl nervously replies, "No you don't! You LOVE! ISPs! Especially the biggest one!" Arrowette realizes her mistake and says "Umm, I'm going to shut up now," as she and Wonder Girl look in the reader's direction. At the time, Time/Warner, the parent company of DC Comics, had just been purchased by AOL.
- Also done in the final part of the Blue Beetle backup in Booster Gold #29, where Paco laments the cancellation of his favorite comic and Brenda attempts to reassure him that the character will still be around.
- A very similar scene occurs during the last story arc of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic: Batman, Superman, and the Martian Manhunter are talking about dreams they'd had. Batman and Superman discuss how they've both had dreams about how they're not themselves, but simply actors playing themselves on television. Martian Manhunter laments that he's never had a dream like that.
- Don Rosa's Scrooge McDuck comic The Black Knight Glorps Again features pictures Carl Barks painted of Scrooge as in-universe artifacts. Scrooge McDuck calls the person who did the paintings "his favourite artist" while Donald claims they "look like scenes out of a kid's comic book".
- FoxTrot does this occasionally, usually to make comments about his own writing/drawing process. One example is a strip that was released around the time that Star Wars Episode I was released; Jason goes to see the movie, and when he gets home, Paige asks how he liked it:
Jason: Come on, Paige, what are the odds of a geek like me saying anything negative?
- Y: The Last Man: When Agent 355 asks Yorick why he has "Fuck Communism" engraved on his lighter, he explains it's truly from a comic. "They can say 'fuck' in comic books?"
- There's a truly hilarious scene in Ultimate Spider-Man in which the title character lampshades many of the common trends in his life and how difficult it makes things for him. It fits the character since he just broke up with MJ due to It's Not You, It's My Enemies and recovering from Gwen's death, but it plays very much like he's actually angry at the writer's devotion to making his life a living hell.
"What else was I supposed to do? She was going to get killed because she's Spider-Man's girlfriend and, frankly, she's too stupid to stay out of trouble when I tell her to. Maybe I- Maybe I should talk to her about this. Maybe in a couple of months she'll figure out how to be smarter about being with me and I won't have to- no. NO! NO! She almost got killed six times out of the last twelve big Spider-Man adventures. There is no way I'm putting her in danger because I don't have anything to do on Friday nights. No. No, leave her alone. [...] So I break up with her, which had to be done, but now I have to sit next to her for... what year is it? What am I? A sophomore? Tenth Grade? Well that means I only have a couple of years left to sit and feel her not look at me as I don't look at her. [...] She'll be making out with Flash Thompson and I'll be NOT making out with anyone ever again because I CAN'T HAVE A GIRLFRIEND BECAUSE I'M SPIDER-MAN AND WITH GREAT POWER MUST COME NOT MAKING OUT WITH MY GIRLFRIEND EVER AGAIN!"
- In one Lucky Luke album, Rantanplan (after having eaten a piece of soap) wonders whether he's the only one making bubbles.
- Done in Quantum and Woody when Woody reads the "Dark Kitty" comic book, an Expy of Marvel Comics' Black Panther (also written by Christopher Priest at the time). Woody badmouths the book with criticisms that are entirely applicable to Quantum and Woody...
"The story is told all out of order -- you can't follow the damned thing... God, they just let any idiot write this stuff, don't they..."
- The Asterix book Asterix and the Roman Agent has a few panels where Impedimenta laments that Asterix received a valuable vase from a Roman for being "the most important man in the village." When Vitalstatisix mutters that he's the most important, she retorts, "If anyone was fool enough to write down the story of our village, they won't be calling it The Adventures of Vitalstatistix the Gaul!"
- In a similar fashion, in Asterix and the Soothsayer, when the soothsayer offers to "read" the entrails of Dogmatix, Obelix retorts "No one has ever read us, and no one will!"
- A story in Tales from the Crypt called "Concerto for Violin and Werewolf" had the main character figure out the plot twist of the story because it was similar to one he had read in an American comic book called Tales from the Crypt. The story he refers to called "Midnight Mess" was an actual story that had been published a few issues before.
- Subverted in the fanmovie Metal Gear Solid: Philanthropy. Pierre teases Snake by saying that he's so cool he'd "make a good video game character, no shit - a Nintendo platformer, I'd say!"
- The Kung Fu Panda Fanfic A Different Lesson has a brilliant send-up of this trope via a bookseller the heroes visit, where a scroll is for sale which tells the story of the movie. Thanks to Gossip Evolution, willful misinterpretation, and a certain amount of Shout Outs to Fanon, Po is turned into a Fake Ultimate Hero who took out Tai Lung all by himself while the Furious Five did next to nothing (the fight at the bridge becomes a "footnote"); Viper only cares about makeup and pretty clothes, Monkey is mute, while Shifu's Cynical Mentor and Jerkass tendencies are lampshaded; the filmmakers' ploy with making Tai Lung appear to be a mindless beast before The Reveal of Ian McShane's voice is also referenced by making the snow leopard a drooling savage with Hulk Speak, and...Tigress is a man.
- In Oh God Not Again, when presented with a headline reading "Harry Potter and the Pentawizard Playoffs", Harry muses that it sounds like the title of a book...
- In the Bleach fic Hogyoku Ex Machina, Orihime comments on Ichigo's adventures with "We could serialize them, maybe! Shonen Jump would take the manga!"
- Another Bleach fic, Winter War, has one character musing that "sometimes the princess had to save the dragon, and sometimes she had to save the prince as well, and sometimes the princess and the dragon and the knight all teamed up together and went to argue with the person who’d written the story and complain about how they never got anything interesting and new to do." Of course, it's also from Orihime's POV.
- Turnabout Storm:
- Phoenix while investigating the crime scene makes an off-hand comment about one of his world's Show Within a Show The Steel Samurai, and comments on how amazing it's that a kids show got so popular with the Periphery Demographic. This wouldn't be a very remarkable comment, but he just happened to say it while being in Equestria.
- While Phoenix and Pinkie are investigating, she starts to hum Pursuit ~ Cornered, one of Ace Attorney's most iconic themes. Phoenix comments that the tune sounds quite familiar to him.
- A rather gory fan fic of Digimon, The Interloper, has Original Character Christopher Van Numen regarding what had happened in that very day and how it all felt too perfect to be just a simple coincidence, all the while he infiltrates the DSI's R&D Wing, his thought process eventually goes into:
"Were they nothing more but characters, whose capacities for self-determination were undermined by an unfeeling writer—an omnipotent author that had nothing better to do except enthused prostitution to the ideals of entertainment and fame?"
- Fight Club does this enough times to make the camera a supporting character. The narrator directly addresses the camera upon multiple occasions.
- The "film" even shakes during one of these, to the point where you can see the guide track at the edges.
- In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Holden delivers a monologue about becoming tired of writing Bluntman and Chronic comics. ("I mean, you gotta grow, man.") During the speech, he indicates that he knows that Silent Bob, played by writer/director Kevin Smith, knows what he's talking about.
Holden: "Think about it. A Jay and Silent Bob movie? Who'd pay to see that?"
- Hell, that's not the only 4th wall nod in that movie. As they break into the movie studio, they run onto the set of Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season; and get to stand around as extras during filming, only for Ben Affleck to comment that this was the sort of movie you did because you're friends with the director, with a nod to the camera.
Willenholly: "Someone let a whole mess of animals out of their cages, sir."
- At the end of Shanghai Knights, Roy suggests to Chon Wang (played by Jackie Chan) that they go to California to act in "moving pictures", particularly kung-fu action films.
- Top Secret leans on the Fourth Wall, which promptly shatters:
Nick: "Look, I'm not the first guy who fell in love with a girl he met in a restaurant who turned out to be the daughter of a kidnapped scientist only to lose her to a childhood lover who she'd last seen on a deserted island and who turned out fifteen years later to be the leader of the French underground."
- A similar thing happened on Scary Movie except it's about how teenagers are played by mature actors.
- Magnolia: "This is like a movie, and this is the part of the movie where you help me out."
- In Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr.'s character at one point says, "I'm a dude, playing a dude, disguised as another dude!" This could mean, "I'm Kirk Lazarus, playing Sargent Osirus, playing a farmer," or it could mean... "I"m Robert Downey Jr, playing Kirk Lazarus, playing Sargent Osirus."
- Very subtly in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, when the group of mercenaries are in an elevator which is shut down, casting them into Hollywood Darkness indicated by a vague green light. Wade mentions that the green brings out Striker's eyes.
- In the film Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans, the opening has Sultana exclaiming, "I'll have my revenge... and Deathstalker, too!" Cue title screen. Didn't Family Guy make a similar joke?
- In the movie version of Scott Pilgrim, there is a brief scene where two guys are talking about a comic book version being better or worse than a movie version of something.
- In His Girl Friday editor Walter Burns describes Bruce Baldwin as "He looks like that fellow in the movies - Ralph Bellamy"; Baldwin is being played by Ralph Bellamy.
Tom: What blonde in the kitchen?
- In Jeepers Creepers, our heroes have just decided to go back and see if the creepy guy was really hiding a body. The sister comments to her brother, "You know the part in scary movies when somebody does something really stupid, and everybody hates them for it? This is it."
- Ferris Buellers Day Off—All of it, and how. In fact, most of Matthew Broderick's early movies rely on this trope. The guy verily made his career talking to the camera as a Running Gag.
- In a 1980s Finnish comedy film from the Uuno Turhapuro series, a restaurant waiter has been tricked, by two alcoholics, into drinking a full bottle of vodka. Later, when a lady enters the restaurant, and listens to the waiter singing a song, she glances around, and declares with an enlightened face: "I see. This must be a Finnish movie. There is no other explanation for the presence of so many drunk people in one scene."
- Rango has the title character ask the Spirit of the West why he has to go back to town and save the day. The Spirit's response is "No man can walk out on his own story."
- the ending of Blazing Saddles pretty much consists of this. Governor LePetomane's mob are unable to distinguish between a flat set and the real town, the fight spills across at least two other completely unrelated sound stages and the Sheriff and Waco Kid find themselves out in the street, and go to the cinema to see how it ends... which is where they two of them appear back on screen to Count Basie.....
- The main character of Peter David's Sir Apropos of Nothing has the epiphany early on that he's a supporting character in the storybook world around him. He's not pleased and sets out to change this.
- At one point in The Illuminatus Trilogy, a character pens a scathing review of a book that seems strikingly similar to Illuminatus itself:
It's a dreadfully long monster of a book, and I certainly won't have time to read it, but I'm giving it a thorough skimming. The authors are utterly incompetent -- no sense of style or structure at all. It starts out as a detective story, switches to science-fiction, then goes off into the supernatural, and is full of the most detailed information of dozens of ghastly boring subjects. And the time sequence is all out of order in a very pretentious imitation of Faulkner and Joyce. Worst yet, it has the most raunchy sex scenes, thrown in just to make it sell, I'm sure, and the authors -- whom I've never heard of -- have the supreme bad taste to introduce real political figures into this mishmash and pretend to be exposing a real conspiracy. You can be sure I won't waste time reading such rubbish.
- Of course, since this is The Illuminatus Trilogy, it's entirely possible he's reviewing the book he's in.
- Harry Turtledove has a tendency in his alternate history novels to have characters talk about the absurdity of things like the US winning the Civil War (in his Southern Victory series) or an explosive-metal bomb bursting over Nagasaki (in Worldwar).
- The Lord Darcy stories contain some similar references, usually about how terribly messed-up the world would be if Richard the Lion-Hearted hadn't survived his crossbow wound. In one story, Darcy speaks dismissively of detective-fiction fans, who treat the Serious Business of criminal investigation like it's some kind of entertainment.
- JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: "You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: 'Shut the book now, dad; we don't want to read any more.'"
- Completely justified in that it's Frodo who writes the book the reader is reading (with alterations over the change of the Ages).
- Meggie does this in Inkheart at one point, thinking that perhaps the things happening to her are just a story and hoping that the person reading it will close the book because it's "so horrible and scary".
- This might or might not be justified by the fact that some of the other main characters in the book really are characters from a novel drawn magically into our world. Which presents the ideas of every novel being it's own world and every world just a novel to someone else, because of course, Meggie's story really is just that.
- There is also a point where Elinor expresses a longing for the romantic medieval times and Dustfinger replies that perhaps she was "born into the wrong story".
- Darcy and Elizabeth warping the Aesop at the ending of Pride and Prejudice.
- Jane Austen's first novel Northanger Abbey is full of this, thanks to the main trio being Bookworms.
- in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, Thom Merrilin often says that one day people will read about their adventures in books. and that there is no way of knowing who the main character will be.
- The Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Blue Angel has the Doctor start complaining about the Series Hiatus. In-story, his concern is that, being lost in some tunnels, he's afraid his story is over, but it spills over into a Meta Guy-type ramble about stories. The story contains three plotlines; one deals with an alternate Doctor who's an insane human. He frequently refers to his "episodes", which are in fact psychotic episodes, the content of which is quite a bit like episodes of the TV series. The whole book is just very, very meta.
- On p229 (of 280) in the deeply Mind Screw-y The Infinity Doctors, the Doctor, confronted with a book of infinite pages, says:
"The best thing about a book is that you can always tell when you're getting to the end. No matter how tricky the situation the hero's in, you hold the book in your hand and say 'Hang on, I'm two hundred and twenty-nine pages in, with only another fifty-one to go. It started slow, but it's building to a climax.'"
- In Atlantis Found from the NUMA Series, a character looks into Dirk Pitt and reports that his background looks like a series of adventure novels.
- In Cryptonomicon, Rudy von Hacklheber mentions that "there are certain old family connections" between him and Enoch Root, but that "the connections make a very long story. I would have to write a whole fucking book." That book would be the Baroque Cycle—which is in fact three volumes and can be described as "a fucking book" if anything can.
- In the Dragons series, after main character David goes on a particularly emphatic rant, his landlady Liz soothes him: "David, stop talking in italics. It doesn't help anything."
- In the Alcatraz Smedry the main character will sometimes makes a reference to how the events of the story would appear if they were written as memoirs, which is what the books pretend to be through Literary Agent Hypothesis. Also, the characters will sometimes refer to how long ago an event happened by how many chapters it took.
- In his Zamonia novels, Walter Moers has pretty much declared the fourth wall to be a floor. The books contain a note, that Walter Moers is not actually the author of the book, but actually just a translator and editor. The original scripts have been written by Hildegunst von Mythenmetz (Optimus Yarnspinner in english versions), his Author Avatar who is an author in the world of Zamonia. However, Hildegunst has the habbit of not simply writing down the story he is telling, but constantly interrupting it and adressing his reader. These parts are so numerous that Moers left them all in when he made the translation. Hildegunst is a Bunny Ears Author who rants about nonsense and fictional events, but is himself a satire of the modern literature scene. Hildegunst is leaning very heavily on the fourth wall at all times, but it is explained by him actually adressing his Zamonian readers and not the real world readers.
- In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet novel Invicible, Geary muses about the unrealistic cover that would probably be put on books about his life. He describes the covers the series actually got.
- Bored of the Rings doesn't just lean on the fourth wall, at times it seems like the fourth wall is actively propping the book up. For instance, there is the prophecy with which Bromosel arrives at the Council of Orlon: "Five-eleven's your height, one-eighty's your weight/You cash in your chips around page eighty-eight." It's off by only a few pages.
Live Action TV
- Late in the 11th and last season of Cheers, some of the gang go to an old drive-in theater and see a Godzilla movie. Cliff notices that the lead actress in this edition of the Godzilla series has been recast. Cue the following bit of dialogue:
Norm: She left halfway through the Godzilla series.
- There's a dialogue like this at the end of Season 2 in Lois and Clark:
Perry White: It's like we're supporting characters in some TV show that's only about them.
- Scrubs is fond of this:
- "I wish there was a show on NBC that was about the lives of interns at a hospital. Yeah, and it should be a comedy, too."
- One episode plays with this in the beginning. Three times it seems that JD is addressing the audience directly, but it turns out he's addressing someone in the room standing behind the camera. Except for the third and last time, when someone wonders who he's talking to.
- At the end of the same episode, we get this:
JD::Come on, I know it's tempting to just mail it in, but there's still a lot of people who rely on us week to week. I think we owe it to them to be as inspired as we were our first few years. Now I know we never do great come medical awards season, except for Dr. Shalhoub, he wins everything, but I still think we're as good as anybody else out there.
- Again in one episode where Turk and JD are driving away in a car, and the following conversation can be heard as a voiceover.
JD: Hey, don't you hate it in films and stuff where people will drive away in a car and even though the car's moving away you can still hear the characters talking?
- Another episode had J.D. imagine that his life was a sitcom, which turns out to be a more clichéd one with a Laugh Track. Yet another episode featured a Clip Show in which J.D. remarks that his memories are coming back to him like on a TV show.
- Yet another episode combined this with Take That when J.D. discusses Grey's Anatomy. "It's like they saw our lives and put it on TV."
- On the episode "My ABCs" where Sesame Street characters appeared in the fantasy segments, Oscar the Grouch was appointed as the new chief of medicine and tells J.D. that he'll be watching him, and that "his eyes never close". Of course, seeing as he's a Muppet with immovable eyes...
- Doctor Who: "Music of the Spheres"—the Doctor talks to the audience at the BBC proms through a time portal in the TARDIS. The audience responding is a real audience from the Doctor Who proms, however.
- In the fifth season of the new series, the Eleventh Doctor quietly laments: "We're all stories, in the end."
- This is the same season where the most significant date in the universe turns out to be the 26th of June 2010, because that's the date of Amy's wedding (and the date of the season finale).
- After the 18-month hiatus, in the first episode of "Trial of a Time Lord", the Doctor's opening line is "Am I late for something?"
- In "Planet of the Dead", UNIT Scientist Malcolm Taylor eagerly tells the Doctor that he's a huge fan, and he's read all the files, to which the Doctor replies, "Really? Which was your favorite? The one with the giant robot?" Doubles as a Continuity Nod in reference to the Fourth Doctor story, Robot.
- In "Forest of the Dead", one of the things that convinces Donna that she is in a constructed reality is that she starts noticing the scene breaks.
- In "The Almost People", the Ganger Doctor is struggling to deal with all of his regenerations, crossing into each version of the Doctor as he makes his way to his current incarnation. Eventually he reaches Ten and, in David Tennant's voice, says "Hello, I'm the Doctor--" before being cut off as he screams "DON'T! LET IT GO! WE'VE MOVED ON!" An unsubtle nod to the fans still unhappy with Tennant's departure?
- In "Let's Kill Hitler", Amy mentions how the Doctor's had all summer to look for Melody, after there had been no new episodes(in the middle of a series no less) for the whole of summer.
- The show also sometimes makes references to its title. In "The Wedding of River Song", it is revealed that "the first question, the oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight" is just "doctor who?". It's hidden in plain sight, because it's the show's title and has appeared at the beginning of every episode for 50 years! It's also the oldest question in the Whoniverse.
- In the fifth season of the new series, the Eleventh Doctor quietly laments: "We're all stories, in the end."
- The sitcom Yes, Dear had one episode where someone faces the couch away from the audience. And they keep saying it doesn't feel right, when asked why, the say simply, "I dunno." And then they will turn and look back at the direction of the audience, while wondering.
- In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the TV Star", Monk suspects the star of a TV crime show of murder. During the investigation he meets an obsessed fan (played by Sarah Silverman) who continually comments that the suspect's show had recently changed its theme song, and that nobody liked the new one. Of course, her comments also applied to Monk itself, since it had recently changed its award winning theme song to one by Randy Newman that many fans disliked. At the end of the episode, she comments to Monk that he should have his own TV show, and makes him promise that if he ever gets one he'll never change the theme song. The episode then goes to credits while the original theme song plays it out.
- She also has all of his cases named, with the names of the episodes in which they occurred.
- iCarly: Carly's final speech during the episode "iStart A Fan War".
- Spencer's awareness of being involved in a B-plot in every episode. Having no actual subplot in "iPity the Nevel", he appears doing random antics out of sheer boredom, wandering into the webshow taking swigs from a bottle and appearing mildly drunk. He also asks if they want his advice or need his help with anything.
- The short-lived series Nowhere Man, which was about a man who is "erased" by a Government Conspiracy, sees a TV show about a man who was "erased" by a Government Conspiracy that was made by the Government Conspiracy, just so no one would believe him if he tried to tell anyone the truth. And in the last episode, he discovers that all his memories and his entire life are a simulation.
- In a final season episode of Frasier, children's entertainer Nanette Guzman asks the titular doctor "Do you have any idea what it's like to play the same character for twenty years?"
- The 100th episode had Frasier record the 1000th episode of his radio show, with Seattle organizing a Frasier Crane Day in his honour. Frasier Crane Day really happened.
- Michael Bluth from Arrested Development gives a speech at a dinner party about why the Bluths are such an unlikeable family, and about how they might not deserve to be saved from their fate. This was in one of the show's last episodes before cancellation, and the speech was also clearly about the fate of the show itself.
- Earlier in the same episode, Michael has a conversation with his father about where to get some financial support from. At the time there had been talk about continuing the show on another channel.
- Lampshaded when Michael talks about how the family can't afford to act proud any more and they'll beg for help if that's what it takes.
- When the series ended there was a similar moment when Maeby was pitching her TV series (based on her family life, making it essentially Arrested Development), to none other than Ron Howard, the show's director and narrator. He replies, "I don't see it as a TV show. Maybe a movie..."
- In the finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Q talks about "putting an end to your little trek through the stars".
- Near the end of "Ship in a Bottle", Picard, just short of smirking, muses about their reality:
Picard: "All this might just be an elaborate simulation running in a little device sitting on someone's table."
- In another episode, Deanna remarked about how the ship's constant malfunctioning could be seen as humorous from an outside perspective, were someone watching.
Deanna: "In another time and place, this could be funny..."
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Far Beyond the Stars" has Captain Benjamin Sisko hallucinating/having a vision that he's a science fiction writer from the 1950s who actually writes about Deep Space Nine itself. At the end of the episode, when the whole thing was revealed to have been a dream (vision, whatever), he wonders if life aboard the station is the illusion.
- The Stargate SG-1 episode "200" almost in its entirety, and to a lesser extent, "Wormhole X-Treme". In the instance below, the characters are actually talking about a movie spin-off of a Show Within a Show based on the "real" Stargate Command. (Ironically, O'Neill's "surprise" appearance really made it into the commercial for that episode.)
Martin: I'm talking about a twist; something nobody's expecting!
- In addition, the episode "Secrets". Daniel Jackson admitted that he had not succeeded in his original mission, but promises to continue, though he fears that it may take many seasons.
- When Stephen Colbert accidentally dropped acid, the ensuing existential crisis could be taken two ways—either the character worrying about his insecurities and whether he's lying to himself, or the character briefly realizing that he is just a character. This was mostly to clue in new viewers to the Alter Ego Acting thing, since the show had just gone global.
"Where does this Stephen end and that Stephen begin?"
- The 2004 Battlestar Galactica: When Roslin finally tells Adama she loves him, his response is "'Bout time."
- The Arc Words "All of this has happened before, and will happen again" seem awfully appropriate for a remake.
- In the second episode of the fifth season of Angel, Lorne says this about Angel and Spike's mutual love for Buffy:
Lorne: The vampire slayer that both men loved, both men lost. Oh, I could sell that to a studio in a heartbeat. I'm seeing [Johnny] Depp and [Orlando] Bloom. Then again, I see them a lot. (He notices Wesley giving him a strange look.) Sorry, I need to get out more--I've been spending so much time running Wolfram & Hart's entertainment division.
- Also in Angel, in the first season, one episode begins with a woman being hunted by a gang of vampires. The vampires suddenly turn around, and one of them says, "You." The camera then shows us the person who has surprised them, starting with the feet and panning upward: black boots, a long black trenchcoat, a sword... and then we get to the face, which is that of a young black man (Charles Gunn) we've never seen before. He smiles and says, "You were expecting somebody else?"
- "Stop looking up my skirt!" It all but reaches through the fourth wall and smacks certain male viewers for what they're thinking at the moment.
- In the season 4 episode "Driven", where Tony goes to visit Jeanne at her work, she's talking to another doctor about how oncology results take around a day, but Dr. House gets them in ten minutes.
- On the subject of Dr. House... Cuddy: "You come in with a case like this 24 times a year!"
- House: [On his penchant for Eureka moments occur at highly convenient times]
I'll go talk to Wilson about something completely unrelated and see what happens."
- Similar moment to this when House is suddenly distracted by a eureka moment and Wilson says "You're about to get up and leave without saying anything, aren't you?"
- Dunno if the example fits here, but here goes: House questions a drug-dealer about his business, since he suspects that an undercover cop has been exposed to the drugs in question. First he says, calmly, "I need the drugs." The dealer says "I don't deal in drugs."
- In the finale episode of Season 2, House initially thinks that he might be hallucinating (he is) because he begins noticing the scene breaks.
- In the episode "Dual and Duality" of Blackadder the Third, Edmund contemplates his legacy:
Edmund: Yes, I'm afraid my ambitions stretch a little further than professional idiocy in West London. I want books written about me. I want songs sung about me. And then, hundreds of years from now, I want episodes from my life to be played out weekly at half past nine by some great heroic actor of the age.
- A less extreme example, from earlier in the same series:
Dr Johnson: Sir, I hope you are not using the first English dictionary to look up rude words!
- The title character of Chuck thanks Casey for saving his life "at least once a week".
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In season 5, Tara talks about The Hunchback of Notre Dame: "But he's not really good. He has no moral compass. The only reason he does good things is to win the love of this woman who could never love him back. That's how you know it can't end well..." Gosh, who else could that be referring to?
- During "Once More with Feeling", Buffy famously alludes to her namesake show's timeslot with the following remark:
Buffy: Dawn's in trouble. Must be Tuesday.
- In the episode "Get It Done", Buffy mentions the Hellmouth's tendency of "blowing in May". This alludes to the fact that apocalypses usually occur during season finales, which air during this month.
- Buffy saves Willow & Xander in the opening of the first episode of season 2. She then asks them "Missed me?" while looking straight at the camera.
- In the comics, Xander refers to "every month, every Wednesday".
- "Normal Again" has numerous examples of this, as Buffy is hallucinating she's in a mental institution and her reality is actually a fiction.
- Another example from the comics season 8: when the talking dog is trying to recruit him and tells him that he's been chosen for the plan, Angel says he is "definitely twitchy about CHOSEN". The dog replies with "Yes, that goofy little cheerleader spun you right round." Apparently the dog decided to take the word "Chosen" as a reference to Buffy, the Chosen One, but for the readers, Angel's statement and the dog's answer is leaning against the fourth wall, as "Chosen" is also the title of the series finale.
- In Season 1 of How I Met Your Mother, the Barney is telling Ted that the Universe doesn't care about Ted's love life. Marshall interjects jokingly, "Unless Ted's love life is the glue binding the entire Universe together!" Everyone laughs, of course. If only they knew...
- Ted's daughter complains in the season 2 premiere that it feels like he's been talking for a whole year.
- In season six, Lily comments that "Ted can really drone on about a bitch." She probably should've warned her (presumably) godson and goddaughter about that...
- "The Stinson Missile Crisis" is practically nothing but this, as far as the Framing Device is concerned.
- Employed a few times by Sledge Hammer!. One notable one occurs in the first season finale when the chief tells a terrorist making a live television broadcast, "Your show's been canceled!" Sledge asks, "You talkin' to me?" (As noted, this was expected to be the last episode.)
- An episode of The Pretender had Jarod, the pretender of the title, feign insanity and get locked in an asylum. One of his analysts asks him his last name and he responds with "I don't know..." (Devilish grin—which on Michael T. Weiss looks SERIOUSLY evil) "...It changes every week."
- The end of the 100th episode of CSI: Miami where they say "They all think it's easy to get to one hundred".
- That Will and Grace episode "No Sex 'N' The City" lampoons the show and sitcoms as a whole.
- During the series finale of Will & Grace this exchange occurs between the breakout characters Jack McFarland and Karen Walker:
Karen: Y'know, sometimes it seems like our sole purpose in life is just to serve Will and Grace.
- In a season four episode of Psych, Shawn boasts that he "solve[s] a case every week... and usually one right around Christmas."
- Possible example in the making: when Shawn's girlfriend told him she was going to Uganda, she told him she'd be back briefly on February 24. What do you bet that's the date of the next episode she appears in?
- Nope, it was a Red Herring.
- Possible example in the making: when Shawn's girlfriend told him she was going to Uganda, she told him she'd be back briefly on February 24. What do you bet that's the date of the next episode she appears in?
- In the first season of Heroes, Hiro and Ando make a lot of jokes about Star Trek. All of them seem to be leaning pretty heavily on the Fourth Wall when Mr. Sulu shows up as Hiro's father.
- Not to mention Spock being Sylar and President Whorfbama.
- Abed on Community leans on the Fourth Wall quite a bit, even warning others in the conversation about upcoming "spoilers". The entire cast is pretty Genre Savvy, but stop just short of Medium Awareness, so they're all prone to it.
- This is approaching the point of being a running gag during the last few seasons of Supernatural. First, the Winchesters discover that they have been written about in a popular book series (complete with fan-girls and fan-boys), then they meet the author of said books, who apologizes for the poor writing in certain panned episodes. In a recent episode, they even went to a fan convention all about the Supernatural series. And this is saying nothing of Dean's "they do know we're brothers, right?" reaction when he finds out about Wincest...
- Also in Supernatural, Castiel is named after an angel who in lore helps people who travel a lot and is an angel of Thursday. The Winchester boys travel a lot, and guess what day the show aired at the time?
- There was also Crowley's remark to Castiel in a Season 6 episode: "Castiel. Haven't seen you all season." The fact that it was a bald-faced lie aside, it was an odd way to phrase the greeting, unless it was a passing bit of fourth-wall leaning.
- Crowley does this again with Castiel when he mentions that Cas is the angel of Thursday and today wasn't his day. During that season, Supernatural switched to Friday nights.
- "It's about time we had a nice black and white case." was spoken at the start of the episode that was shown in black and white.
- In "There Will Be Blood," the Alpha says, "See you next season." as Sam and Dean are leaving.
- In Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Danny Tripp and Jordan Mc Deere discussing both the Show Within a Show's low ratings while Jordan is in the hospital for complications with her pregnancy. Danny mentions that a crisis in a pregnancy is a surefire ratings boost. At the time, the real show was teetering on the brink of cancellation after falling ratings.
- Actually, almost any time they talk about ratings for the Show Within a Show, it can also be almost directly related to the actual show's ratings.
- An episode of Star Trek: Voyager featured the ship traveling back in time to the mid-1990s and encountering another time traveler from an additional 300 years in the future, had Captain Janeway remark: "Time travel. Ever since my first day in the job as a Starfleet Captain, I swore I'd never let myself get caught in one of these god-forsaken paradoxes. The future is the past, the past is the future. It all gives me a headache."
- In the Firefly episode "Objects in Space", the character Wash expresses his disbelief that someone could be psychic: "That sounds like something out of Science Fiction." When his wife, Zoë, responds with, "We live in a spaceship, dear," he says, "So?"
- Fridge Logic: please note that, from Wash's perspective, the conversation looked a lot like this:
Walsh: "You're saying she's psychic? That sounds like something from Science Fiction."
- On the other hand, Firefly is set in the future of the real world, so we can assume science fiction about spaceships exists... it's just out of date.
- A better analogy than the truckers analogy would be if Zoe had said, "We live in a world where there are actual fleets of robot assassins patrolling the skies."
- Or someone saying "we're having this conversation from different countries over a globally linked information network".
- Wait a minute... Does the above comment itself count as leaning on the fourth wall?
- In Weeds, Nancy once told her son Shane that he could grow up to a be a "doctor, lawyer or business executive", a clear reference to the theme song.
- In an episode of Smallville that has vampires in it, Clark tells Professor Milton Fine, who is played by James Marsters (who also played the vampire Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) about the vampires, to which Fine replies "Clark, there's no such thing as vampires". The name of the chief vampire in the episode is Buffy Saunders.
- Veronica Mars: In the Cold Open of one episode, Veronica describes her relationship with another character: "We used to be friends... a long time ago." Cue theme music.
- There was also an exchange between Veronica (played by Kristen Bell - 25 at the time) and Duncan (Teddy Dunn, also 25) about Logan sleeping with an older woman... who was 25.
- Stargate Atlantis: Rodney [Talking about TV] Most of which are fictional representations of ridiculously attractive people in absurd situations. (An absurd situation promptly occurs)
- There's also an episode where John, wandering through a forest as usual, says "It's almost as if someone in their warm, cosy room typing at their computer sent us here for their own amusement."
- In an episode of Parker Lewis Can't Lose, an early FOX hit, Parker encounters a student who has been in detention so long that he's lost track of the "outside world." The exchange went something like...
"Dude...what do you see out there?"
- Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon's DVD special act when Mio became the Big Bad. She turns and smiles at the camera that's like she's asking to the viewer "Surprised I came back?"
- Boston Legal had a habit of doing this more and more as the series went on, with frequent references to the lead actors' previous roles as well as the show's own tropes and real-world issues, such as schedule changes.
- During a particularly complicated schedule change for the series, several of the characters appeared for a meeting during the cold open. When nobody else showed up for the meeting, the conversation went something like this:
"Are we early? I thought we were on Tuesdays at 9."
- In another episode, one of the lawyers was so ecstatic at being re-hired by the firm, that he burst into song. The song? TheBoston Legaltheme song. His performance was used in place of the usual opening credits sequence, with scenes of his gleeful singing inter-cut with the usual cast headshots.
- Stars William Shatner and James Spader often have dialog that alludes to their previous film and television roles. For example, Shatner's character reacts with anxiety when he hears about salmon parasites known as "cling-ons," and Spader remarks to Shatner—while both are dressed as flamingos—that he looks "pretty in pink."
- At one point William Shatner's character say: "I'm Denny Crane! I once owned my own spaceship!"
- In Black Books, the three main characters are thinking about going to the cinema and look up what's showing. They find a film with a plot synopsis that sounds exactly like that of the show itself, but decide against seeing it because it sounds awful.
- Charmed, in an episode dealing with Lady Godiva.
Piper: Woman. Keep your clothes on, this is a family show. Really.
- During the last season of Mad About You, Paul and Jamie are sitting quietly together, when Paul says, "It's the last season," and Jamie looks at him quizzically. Turns out he's talking about the MASH marathon he's been watching.
- In the Burn Notice episode "Sins of Omission", Michael starts the episode relating what had happened since he'd been blown up straight to the camera. It turns out that he was talking to Carla.
- The tail end of the final episode of Happy Days, when Tom Bosley's character makes his toast to newlywed Richie and his wife is like this.
- CSI, "I Like To Watch". One of the camera guys following the group around said something about "Beautiful people solving crimes" having potential as a series.
- In one episode of Kamen Rider Hibiki, the titular hero is seen telling some customers at the restaraunt where he works about this movie that "just came out the other day". He describes it as a period piece about "this group of really cool warriors", or something along those lines. The day before the episode aired, The Movie, Kamen Rider Hibiki & The Seven Fighting Demons, which takes place in Japan's Warring States era, premiered in theaters.
Not that music really has much of a Fourth Wall to begin with, but...
- During the 2012 Grammys, Taylor Swift switched a line in her song "Mean" to read "Someday, I'll be singing this at the Grammys..."
- On the song "Just Lay Still", John Congleton sings "...an unrelenting bass drum beat; a stubbornly persistent backbeat" while accompanied by a prominent bass drum beat that spans the entire song.
- FoxTrot is all over this trope. As a sterling example, the last set of dailies is Roger and Andy talking about how, after 19 years, a "major cartoonist" is moving his strip to be Sunday Strip-only. They even suggest ways in which said cartoonist could go out and thank his fans. Andy even gets in a good Lampshade Hanging in response to one of Roger's suggestions: "And break the fourth wall? Not likely."
- Not even the move to Sunday Strip-only stopped these from coming. The strip for July 18, 2010 depicted Jason trying to decide which costume to wear for Comic-Con; showing him dressed up as Pikachu, Gandalf, Batman, Chewbacca, Mario, and a generic Tron character. When Peter suggests he goes as a Newspaper Comic character, Jason complains that he doesn't have a costume for that.
- Candorville takes a darker-than-usual approach to this, as shown on the quotes page.
- Sally Forth had Ted declare that they shouldn't do a "middle-aged couple gets overwhelmed by social media plot." When asked why he said "plot," Ted answered, "Sometimes I like to imagine my life as a series of week-long story arcs, and I want each one to be gold."
- Triple H likes to do this. In his WWF Attitude (video game) intro, he speaks to the player as "that fat-ass guy sitting on the couch." He thinks Edge is a smart guy. "Marrying the boss to get ahead in the business? That's genius!" Throw in his partner-in-crime Shawn Michaels and they nearly break the wall down, from a baby photo with Triple H's head poorly photoshopped on to wondering who got Vince's daughter pregnant.
- Also during the writer's strike when Triple H came out, made a bad joke and then remarked "Who writes this stuff? Oh yeah, they're on strike!"
- On October 10, 2011, Michael Cole said that he got a ton of Twitter posts and emails about how everybody missed him. When Jerry Lawler challenged him to show him one of these, he mentioned somebody named "Sean C" who sent him one of these. Michael Cole's real name is Sean Couthard.
- The Big Finish Doctor Who adventure Legend of the Cybermen has the Doctor and his companions Jamie and Zoe trapped in The Land of Fiction, where they are constantly being tricked into narrating their actions, with a segment where Jamie finds himself in a sound-studio, reading his dialogues from a script while a Cyberman tells him to emote more.
- Also from that adventure:
Zoe: None of this is real. This is all a wonderful children's adventure that adults adore.
- A Death in the Family pits the Doctor against the Word Lord Nobody No-One, whom he finally traps in "The Hand of All", a universe entirely consisting of narratives, yet it seems just as real as the actual one. Nobody No-One calls the Doctor out:
Nobody No-One: How do you know if you yourself haven't been travelling through a universe only consisting of written language and sound for decades?
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead plays with the fourth wall a lot. The first scene centers on the characters flipping a coin ninety times in a row and it comes up heads every time. Guildenstern comes quite close to realizing that the reason this is happening is because they are fictional characters and the result of every coin-flip is determined by the author, not by chance; but he never quite figures it out.
- Older Than Steam: William Shakespeare did it:
- In Twelfth Night, specifically the line "If it were played upon a stage, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction".
- As You Like It: All the world's a stage and we are but players.
- From Julius Caesar, immediately after Caesar's assassination:
Cassius: How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over in states unborn and accents yet unknown!
- Every Pantomime ever produced. It's a key part of the format that while one character will have No Fourth Wall, the rest of the cast are only allowed to lean on it.
- Cyrano De Bergerac: This play is a blend of farce and drama, and his first act is placed at the Burgundy Theater. Cyrano has interrupted the Show Within a Show La Clorise. The rest of the theater actors are rehearsing a new play, and Cyrano invites them to a Sword Fight he will have with one hundred men.
Cyrano: Come all—the Doctor, Isabel, Leander,
- The 2011 revival of Company does this when Bobby and April are discussing Bobby's apartment. As the set was left to be as simplistic as possible, all of April's remarks about the (non-existent) decor ("That's darling!" "Isn't that tasteful and interesting!") were made in reference to the conductor and the audience (with Bobby at one point even reaching out and poking the conductor.
- In Arsenic and Old Lace, the character Johnathan Brewster is described as looking like Boris Karloff. Guess who played Johnathan in the original production?
- In Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros, we get this exchange:
Jean: Instead of squandering all your spare money on drink, isn't it better to buy a ticket for an interesting play? Do you know anything about the avant-garde theatre there's so much talk about? Have you seen any of Ionesco's plays?
- At one point in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Snake lectures Raiden about how computer simulated violence (i.e. video game violence) is completely unlike violence in real life, unintentionally discussing the argument that violent video games contribute to real life violence.
- "I'm a whole different game from Liquid!" yells Solidus. Later, immediately after the penultimate boss battle, he warns the player that there's going to be a lot of cutscenes coming up by promising Raiden, "No more games".
- After a long wait for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and a long cutscene, Snake acknowledges the players's frustration with what would become his Catch Phrase - "Kept you waiting, huh?"
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, if the player wishes to avoid a long sniper battle with the End, they can take the easy way out by setting the PlayStation 2's internal clock more than a week ahead (or by simply not playing the game for more than a week). When the save file loads, a cutscene will be shown of Snake finding the End already dead of old age, and calling Major Zero on his Codec. As a way of chastising the player for cheating, Snake comments that he regrets "disappointing" the End, as it was his dying wish to have a real fight. Zero, however, orders Snake to get his head back in the mission, telling him, "It's not a game. It's not a sport. You think you're competing for the gold at Tokyo or something?"
- Arguably, the entire point of the game was to lean on the Fourth Wall. Raiden, like the player, wants to be the guy, Snake, despite never having met him, although he has "simulated" his other missions. When the opportunity comes to prove himself, however, he constantly fails. Unlike Snake, he wants to go home instead of feeling at home on the battlefield. At the end, none of the bosses (with the possible exception of Fatman) are actually confirmed dead. Raiden is essentially a Deconstruction of a generic video game character, with the player sharing his role of Butt Monkey. For more information, read this.
- Naomi gives a similar lecture to Snake's MGS2 lecture in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, while the visuals show us the covers of violent games such as Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid and so on. Some Fourth Walls are just too thin to be leaned on safely.
- "We've gotta shake off that MGS! We've got an MGS on our asses!"
- Tomb Raider: Anniversary, a remake of the original game, begins with Lara being hired to find an artifact she previously spent years searching for. Or as Natla puts it, "This is a game you've played before".
- In Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, Steven makes a remark along the lines of, "Have we met...before? That's not possible. All the Trainers I have battled seem to have the same look, anyway. Especially the ones who gave me tough battles..." referring to the main character of this or really any Pokémon game.
- In Drawn to Life, at one point, Marie asks Jowie how the Creator can see the Raposa; Jowie comes up with a theory that involves the Raposa living in a white box with two windows and a magic wand, and the Creator looking into the white box to perform experiments on them. Marie dismisses it as the stupidest idea she's ever heard.
- This was done in Kane and Lynch: Dead Men while they were riding in an elevator. Kane dismisses the idea that anyone would play a game based on two washed up thugs like themselves.
- In Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, during the briefing before the final mission, Arthas exclaims something along the lines of: "It's time to end the game ... once and for all."
- Which is a reference to Malah's line from Diablo II: Lord of Destruction: "You knew it would come to this. Kill Baal; finish the game!"
- Ciel and Kohaku in Kagetsu Tohya both complain about their popularity. Kohaku is obviously referring to Tsukihime and breaking the fourth wall. Ciel... well, she breaks it a minute or two later (by commenting that even if she isn't popular, at least her sprite lets her carry an item. Yay umbrella) but hasn't yet by that point and is really referring to the school government play thingy. Oh, and she also complains about how it was called off because they didn't want to make sprites or anything for all the adults in the play... Uh... Yea, it's that kind of game, except when it isn't.
- In Terminator 3: Redemption, the T-850 kills the T-X with the Pre-Mortem One-Liner "Game Over". Very aptly, it's the end of the game.
- In Persona 3 Mr. Edogawa notes that Summon Magic is "widely seen in books, movies, better video games, and so on...". Shin Megami Tensei (except for Digital Devil Saga, where the characters turn into them instead) combat is heavily reliant on summoning demons.
- Well, he did say "better video games."
- Persona 4 continues the trend: During one pivotal late-game scene, when a major twist is revealed, the plot so far is called a "cat and mouse game" and a character remarks, "Games like these always have to have some kind of twist at the end to keep things interesting."
- In the Mountain Range level of The Nameless Mod, you can sneak up on two mooks facing a jumping puzzle the player must pass in order to enter the facility through the back way. One of them mentions how stupid and dangerous it is for people to use it, and that its is "just like those old video games, adding in a stupid jumping puzzle instead of just giving you more enemies to shoot."
- In Dragon Age: Origins, at the landing that leads to the Mage Tower, there are a pair of NPC's beyond a fence that are discussing how they're merely "in a play", prompting one to dismiss the idea that they're being watched by "beings" for amusement by pointing out that he has a boil on his big toe that proves the theory wrong - at which point he claims that anyone doing so are simply sick, twisted bastards.
- Used in Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, Game of Oblivion (which is a recreation of Code Veronica). When walking up the stairs to fight Alfred Ashford, you are attacked by two zombies and Steve Burnside leans on the Fourth Wall here.
Steve: "Zombie, zombie, zombie, zombie! Ugh, it's like a damn video game!"
- In the Mega Man Battle Network series, installing the "Humor" program into Mega Man makes him do and say some nutty things. Battle Network 6 gives us this conversation between him and Lan:
Mega Man: Lan, do you ever get the feeling that someone is operating you...Like you aren't in control of yourself?
- One level in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time takes place in a library. During gameplay, the Prince's sidekick/love interest Farah will occasionally read excerpts from books, and eventually the Prince exclaims, "If you want to be useful, try finding a book that'll tell us how to get out of here!" Farah replies with, "This isn't that kind of game", causing the Prince to mutter, "Game? She thinks this is a game."
- In Portal's end song: Still Alive
GLaDOS: And we're out of beta. We're releasing on time.
- In the sequel, a few of Wheatley's lines.
Wheatley: We can go anywhere! No rail to tell us where we can go! Now where do we go? ...Actually, just follow the rail.
- Super Mario Galaxy 2 does this when Mario is low on lives or runs out and gets a Game Over. If you are low on lives, your big Luma friend suggests using the orange Luma (Player 2) to help you with the more difficult tasks and to have more fun. If you run out of lives, he will suggest to Mario to take a break.
- Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance has several conversations wherein a character is playing a war game and asks for strategic advice on a battle that just happens to be very similar to the battle you're about to play.
- While Sam and Max breaks the Fourth Wall regularly, sometimes they teasingly poke the glass, like lampshading their formulaic exchanges:
Sam: Random but innocuous comment.
- In the first episode of Season 2, the Bad News headline reads "New S&M Season". If you examine it, though, Max says it's a shame Sam (a dog) doesn't wear a collar since the paper says they're in style.
- The penultimate episode of Season Three has Charlie Ho-Tep using Sam as a pawn in his Evil Plan, as he's the perfect Straight Man, an easily controlled guy who always does what he's told.
- Silent Hill 3: "Is this the end? Time to roll the credits."
(While looking directly at the camera) Who can even think about doing something so disgusting?
- At the end of the credits for Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Kaufman's analysis notes on the patient are directly referring to what he's deduced about you during the therapy sessions. Not the first game that's done this, until he ends the notes with "Lots of ground uncovered. Might be best to go back to the start and reexamine everything with the knowledge we have now. Think patient will agree?"
- In Scratches, Arthate's working notes contain his musings over whether the threat in his latest horror novel should turn out to be natural, supernatural, or Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. This corresponds to the original ending of the game itself, and to each of the multiple endings of the Director's Cut version.
- Touhou Project occasionally breaks the fourth wall, but more often makes passing comments in throwaway puns that give translators headaches that lean pretty heavily on the fourth wall. A good example is Marisa's comment in Imperishable Night where, when asked what she was doing out at night early on in the game, Marisa replies, "It's my annual Youkai Extermination Month. I'll go wherever youkai live." - Imperishable Night and the other Windows Touhou games before it were all released in the same month of consecutive years. It's worth noting that even though the game came out in the same month in real life, the games take place during different seasons in-game (with the seasons being important basic elements to several of those games, like Perfect Cherry Blossom being about someone stealing the season of Spring, keeping Winter from passing), meaning the joke only makes sense when it is referencing the fourth wall.
- In Mass Effect 2's DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker, Shepard must battle waves of mooks with Liara as a hacking tool slowly unlocks a door for them--Shepard will reminisce about the days when you could just slap omni-gel on everything. Liara says the change made a lot of people angry.
- In Mass Effect 3 the player meets with recurring character Conrad Verner once again. A well-known glitch in the second game was that Conrad would claim you had drawn a gun on him, even if you had not taken that option in the first game. Conrad apologizes for the mistake, saying he was really stressed out.
- In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, after Travis kills Alice, the 2nd ranked assassin, he unleashes all his bottled rage due to Character Development at Sylvia. Except if you take the rant for yourself, it strikes really close to home.
See that? Now THAT was a BATTLE! Look at this blood! We HUMANS are ALIVE! Even if we ARE assassins! Doesn't matter if it's a video game, movie, drama, anime, manga... We're ALIVE! People shed blood and die. This isn't a game! You can't selfishly use death as your tool! THIS is Alice's blood! I bet you've already forgotten she existed! Same way you would have forgotten me! And that's why I'm tearing down the UAA!
- Note that they're Leaning on the Fourth Wall in a game that never had a fourth wall in the first place...
- This trope is brutally curb-stomped and tossed into oblivion in the Viewtiful Joe series. Almost justified in that they are in a movie in a game, but Joe himself is just so damn Genre Savvy that rarely does a cutscene go by where this trope is not invoked.
- This trope is used often in Ace Attorney. At one point in Trials and Tribulations, presenting Maya with Phoenix's profile prompts the pair into a conversation over Phoenix's strange anime style hair:
"I mean, you normally only see hair like that in video games."
- This is also played in the first game when Dick Gumshoe referees to his constant use of "pal":
"Hey! You can't just go around saying pal like that! That's my endearing character trait!"
- Also played in Investigations when you present a piece of evidence to the judge he will say that the Evidence has been added to the court record to which Edgeworth makes a reference to the first game in the series...
"...I have a feeling his honor still thinks it's 2016..."
- Played again in Trials and Tribulations: when presenting Gumshoe's profile to Gumshoe himself during a certain part of the game:
- In The Reconstruction, whenever a character joins the guild's roster, there's a little fanfare that plays. When the starting cast joins in the beginning, Qualstio says "Is that nauseatingly cheerful music gonna play every time someone joins?" at one point. Kulkumatz also asks "What was that sound?" when he joins.
- Also overlaps with Sorry I Left the BGM On.
- Ember does this in the Spyro the Dragon game, A Hero's Tail. Her line goes "Don't take that bridge to the swamp, Spyro. If you do, I might never see you again". This both refers to the fact that it's dangerous, and she may not seem him again, and that she disappears from the game after you cross the bridge.
- The Disgaea series does this fairly regularly. For example, an optional conversation from the first game:
Goleck: The Prinnies were talking about "Multiple Endings..."
- In StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, just before the final mission if you click on Tychus he will comment that he is worried about the artifact they are using and that he fears it might shatter the entire space-time continuum. Raynor's response is to tell him that it's not science fiction.
- One of the many examples from Super Robot Wars Original Generations:
Sanger: Shut up! The Colossal Blade is the sword of my soul! As long as I have this I can still fight! This mech will inherit my soul! Behold the power of...
- Tenzan, who learned how to pilot mechs entirely through video games, constantly sees everything in video game terms. After he is defeated, he insists with his last breath that he'll just press Continue and try again with full HP. Which is something the player can actually do in case of a Game Over, but he can't.
- A frustrated Guybrush Threepwood complains, "It's like my life is a neverending series of puzzles!"
- Several times in Rusty Hearts, such as:
- Frantz: "Why do they have you cooking for the soldiers anyway? It's obvious you're terrible at it." Patricia: "There weren't enough NPCs..."
- Angela: "I'm only doing this because I need the experience points."
- In Phantasy Star IV when leaving the party he vastly out levels, Rune mentions to not think about defeating Zio, as "At this stage of the game, you're no match for him!".
- Golden Sun: Dark Dawn has a moment of this at Belinsk Ruins when Karis and Sveta wonder if someone else is guiding the party's actions.
- In the city of Windhelm in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there's a book in Calixto's Museum of Curiosities called The Book of Fate, which purports to show the reader's fate. When the Dovahkiin reads it, the book is blank. When you think about the nature of the series (and its habit of making Fourth Wall jokes)...
- Near the end of the true final fight of Asura's Wrath, Chakratarvin's final form starts doing his own QTE's that are similar to your own QTE's, as if someone else is controlling him.
- Of all games, FIFA Soccer 2012 does this. Martin Tyler and Alan Smith comment casually on the fact that the players' passing looks like the players are part of a computer game if they're timed right and accurate enough.
- When Milenna is released for a DLC for Mortal Kombat 11, she finds a subtle way to thank her fans, telling Erron Black, "A million souls cried out for my return." This was a reference to the #WeWantMileena petition on Twitter which had around that many signatures.
- In this scene from CRFH, Roger isn't breaking the fourth wall, he's stoned out of his gourd on hallucinogenic blue mushrooms and talking to a Simpsons poster.
- In Something*Positive, Davan's furniture is in storage when Aubrey comes round. She says "Where's all your furniture? It's like we're in a comic and the cartoonist is too goddamn lazy to draw in the background like he usually does."
- In another strip PeeJee asks why everything seems to revolve around sex. Davan instantly replies "Bad writing", but he's not really listening, he's hating the novel he's reading.
- Gunnerkrigg Court, page 499:
Schlock: I think [the chin] looks cool. Kinda heroic, like it belongs in a comic book or something.
- This page of Girly: "These dickweeds sure can't get enough of it, all this swirly pitch blackness..." "It's probably because it's so easy to draw... [next panel] our attention with it."
- In The Order of the Stick, Tarquin (Dangerously Genre Savvy already) calls out the readers when Thog turns out to be the arena champion.
Tarquin: It's weird no matter how many people he kills, the audience still thinks he's lovable.
- This strip of Wapsi Square starts with Conversational Troping between Shelly and Heather, and ends with Shelly asking who the audience is in this scenario while looking directly at the "camera."
- Discussed (sort of) in this Dinosaur Comics strip wherein God notices the fact that time passes in panels and mentions it, then when questioned about what he meant, insists that he doesn't know and neither should T-Rex.
- the Kitty [dead link] occasionally talks to a pretend audience in-comic. In later strips he also appears outside of the comic panels to deliver an additional sign-off gag.
- In Question Duck, when the duck and main human character return with Wild Hair after Schedule Slip, another character asked where they had been. (This is only the third time in this strip that someone other than the duck has spoken.)
- Nadine in Demolition Squad does this from time to time, pointing out that she has completed the SAME year in school three or four times over, that she is an unrelated teenager below the age of majority freeloading at the principal characters' apartment for no clearly explained reason, that he would do well not to mention this is a job interview, that she has been wearing the same outfit for several years, and so on.
- Happens early on in I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space
Susie: Lesbian pirates from outer space! Psh! Sounds like a comic book to me. One that I'd definitely read.
- The punchline of xkcd #1054 depends entirely on you reading the speech bubbles instead of imagining them as spoken dialogue.
- Servants of the Imperium on wargames with dice and little figures being waste of time ("...and I guess we'd have to paint the models as well").
- Kevin and Kell's strip showing Lindesfarne's 25th birthday. "Any webcomics that old?"
- Nearly every episode of The Allen and Craig Show is about making that episode, and the characters consistently address the audience, camera guy, and the fact that they have very little money to produce the program.
- Near the end of Season 5 of Red vs. Blue, Church expresses irritation at the fact that "something dramatic happens exactly every five minutes" (which is the length of a typical episode).
- The 3rd RP of Darwin's Soldiers gives us this little quote:
Cpl. Thomas Stern: It's as if someone is watching us and giving us what we need in order to get through our problems. That's very odd. Too much like 'deus ex machina' for me. ]
- In the final chapter of Sailor Nothing, one of the main villains gives a Hannibal Lecture/You Bastard speech that can be taken as him addressing either the characters or the audience.
- Done in an episode of Potter Puppet Pals where Harry says towards the end, "...leave a comment, or submit a video response. And remember to subscribe!" It is presumed he's saying it to the audience before the camera cuts to Ron and Hermione, who look very confused.
- The Justice League episode "Wild Cards" ends with Hawkgirl and Green Lantern kissing, resolving the UST that had developed between them since the first season. This is followed by the voiceover of an old woman saying "It's about time!" The camera cuts to show that this is the same old woman who has been playing a slot machine since the beginning of the episode, and she just hit the jackpot.
- Earlier in the episode, Joker announces that the League is being timed on how quickly they can defuse the bombs. A "digital clock" appears on screen and starts the clock ticking at 22:51, the typical run time of the show straight. He then comments "Oh, what were you expecting from me; a round number?" Later he looks at the clock and comments that there isn't a lot of time. Sure he's breaking the fourth wall on his Show Within a Show, but he's leaning on ours as well.
- In Justice League Unlimited Green Arrow makes an entrance where he sings along with his own theme song.
- South Park has a funeral for Chef in-show, where Kyle seems to be discussing the out-of-show reasons why the late Isaac Hayes chose to leave the program. Kyle expresses his fondness for Chef, and it's clear that he's also expressing the writers' fondness for Hayes.
- The beginning of the 200th episode has Kyle and Cartman exchanging insults. Stan tells them to stop, saying "all you're doing is rehashing a bunch of old stuff!"
- The 201st episode had the boys saying that it was silly people would care more about knowing who Cartman's father is than showing Muhammad. He is in fact referring to the show's fanbase.
- In the Ultimate Spider-Man TV show, when Stan Lee's resident Author Avatar for the show hears Spidey's comment on how catchy Amazing Spider-Man (the original title for the comics in their earliest incarnation) sounds, he promptly writes it down, saying that it could be big. Then Spidey says that it would be less than spectacular.
- In The Boondocks, Bushido Brown tells Huey, "Man, you come straight out of a comic strip." (A Shout-Out to a line from Enter the Dragon). He literally does.
- Futurama pushes this as far as it can go in Bender's Big Score with the Fox...er, "Box Network". After being told that Futur--... Planet Express has been uncancelled, Leela stands in front of a pile of ventilation machines and asks "but what does this mean for our many fans?".
- "It means we're back on the air! ... Yes! Flying on the air in our mighty spaceship!"
- In "Beast with a Billion Backs", Amy, just after the wedding, says "This is just like a movie with this happening in it."
- The first ninety seconds of the new series are overloaded with this:
Professor Farnsworth: We plunged into a massive wormhole, never to be seen again!
- Leela has a wall-leanin' line at the end of the season six midseason premiere episode Neutopia when Planet Express is narrowly saved from going out of business by putting out a nude calendar of all their female employees.
Leela: Thank God most of our fans are huge perverts.
- In The Beast With A Billion Backs:
Harold Zoid: I got a part in a fancy DVD-movie! It's only one line but I'm gonna ham it up like you wouldn't believe!
- The Simpsons is surprisingly shy with these, perhaps because creator Matt Groening was adamant about the show maintaining its own reality and not resorting to fourth wall gags. Still, a few nods slip through. In the first clip show, Bart abruptly sets up a clip of an Itchy and Scratchy episode, which has nothing to do with what is being talked about. After it plays, Marge asks Bart why he brought that up. Bart replies, "It was an amusing episode....of our lives."
- In the same episode, Grampa Simpsons described comas as such: "It's like one of those TV shows where they show a bunch of clips from old episodes."
- And when they think the family is cured of its dysfunction, Lisa muses "Could this be an end to our series ... of events?"
- When the family watches the "Mr. Plow commercial" on a bad channel in the graveyard time slot.
Homer: It may be on a lousy network, but The Simpsons are on the air!
- In one episode, they teased at showing a clip show when Homer briefly reminisces about jumping Springfield Gorge, only for Lisa to say "No, Dad, everyone's sick of that memory!" and the episode to resume normally
- Let's put things into perspective, first: Jay Sherman, a character from The Critic, crosses over with The Simpsons. The Critic has him host a Show Within a Show. Marge knew of Jay because of this show within another show. The result? This exchange at the end, where the family is bidding farewell to Jay:
Jay: And if you ever want to visit my show --
- There's a list of all of the meta-references on The Simpsons at SNPP: http://arquivo.pt/wayback/20090710013658/http%3A//www.snpp.com/guides/meta.html
- In The Movie, Homer complains about paying money to see the Itchy and Scratchy movie when they could have seen the same stuff on TV for free, and declares everyone in the theater to be a huge sucker. Especially... *points at the camera* you!
- Part 1 of Who Shot Mister Burns? ends with the following:
Dr. Hibbert: "Well, I couldn't possibly solve this mystery. Can you?" *points at camera*
- Happens in My Life as a Teenage Robot, when Tuck, convinced that he's indestructible, decides to drive turbo-charged tricycle down a nearly vertical ramp, over City Hall, and into a pool of sharks. Jenny insists she won't save him this time.
Jenny: This is your last chance to back down, Tuck.
- Family Guy does this ALL THE TIME, especially in earlier episodes where they would talk about being able to stay on their current network.
- [[Ben 10: Alien Force] has an example which combines this with Development Gag
Kevin: This is the stupidest show ever.
- Considering the length of the average SpongeBob SquarePants episode...
Squidward: Why must every 11 minutes of my life be filled with misery?
- How about this exchange between Squidward and Patrick:
Squidward: Patrick, just how dumb are you?
- And in "Not Normal", when Spongebob visits Squidward's house, he tells Squidward that he doesn't wear pants.
- In one episode, Spongebob hums a snatch of one of the show's stock background tunes.
- In one episode of Teen Titans the titans are Trapped in TV Land. At one point Robin yells at the in-cartoon TV viewers to not watch a show due to a villain modifying it. After a few moments of screaming, Raven says it isn't working, obviously.
- In the same episode, Cyborg mentions that they are in the first episode of the fourth season of the program they got trapped in. They were indeed on the first episode of the fourth season on their own series.
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes has Jimmy saying "I'm glad everything worked out, 'cause usually 'bout this point in the story something goes really wrong." No points for guessing what happens next.
- An episode of the 1990's Spider-Man cartoon had him say, "This is starting to sound like a bad comic book plot!" This was in reference to the show's adaptation of the much-reviled Clone Saga from the comics. The title of the episode was "I Really, Really Hate Clones."
- One of the episodes from the "Six Forgotten Warriors" arc has Spider-Man give us this wonderful line:
"Take Over the World, Kingpin? Now you're starting to sound like a Saturday-Morning cartoon villain!"
- Episode 19 of Scooby Doo Mystery Inc ends with the producer of a reality show wondering if he could make a show about four kids and their talking dog driving around in a van solving mysteries; the gang immediately reject the concept as being unwatchable.
- In the eleventh episode of Young Justice Conner gets angry at M'Gann, when she's trying to help him with his daddy issues, and states that they "don't live in a fantasy world where all problems are solved in 30 minutes."
- In the X-Men: Evolution Spyke Cam Evan is given a video camera to do a class project. So he tapes Kitty and Rogue having an argument, Rogue catches him, and threatens straight into the camera (and speaking directly to the viewer) that if she sees any video on her on the camera "They're gonna be calling you Spike-less."
- Hawkeye joined the Avengers in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes after helping foil the Leader's plan to turn everyone in the world into gamma-irritated monsters. Part of his foiling involved turning four infected Avengers back to their normal selves. The very next episode saw him having to free four Avengers (three of which had previously succumbed to gamma-powered transformations) from the clutches of the Masters of Evil. Once all the heroes reunited, Hawkeye remarked, "I'm not so sure I wanna be part of a team I have to rescue every week."
- On Phineas and Ferb, Doofenshmirtz engages in Conversational Troping by comparing the misunderstanding between him and his daughter to a crazy sitcom. Then he says, "This isn't a sitcom, this is real life!" He and Perry then glance uncomfortably in the direction of the audience.
- Used once in Recess when Gretchen wins a NASA contest because of her essay, and thinks she's going to be going on the space shuttle. This comes to T.J.'s attention, who's life long dream is to go on one of those, so he puts her through "training". One part has her having to swing from a rope attached to the top of the swing set while a group of other kids throw dodgeballs at her, and she starts fooling around before they do, prompting T.J. to say this:
T.J.: Gretchen! You're an astronaut, not a cartoon character!
- "Hero Generation" was the working title for Alien Force