Medium Awareness

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(No, this isn't about when a character meets an oracle, or pays the usual amount of attention.)

Audiences are very good at figuring out which elements of a work are on which side of the Fourth Wall. No explanation is necessary for why our hero can hear a ringing telephone but not the movie's soundtrack—or why the space ship is menaced by the Negative Space Wedgie, but not by the opening credits drifting by outside the ship—it's part of the audience's Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

It's also a wonderful thing to play with. And that is exactly what Medium Awareness does, by having the characters acknowledge and interact with elements and conventions of the medium that shouldn't technically "exist" in-universe. Suddenly the characters can hear the ominous background music or the disembodied narration, they can read the subtitles at the bottom of your screen, and they can tell when it's almost time for a commercial break.

Generally, this awareness is brief: It's used for a joke or two, then never spoken of again. Used this way, it's Lampshade Hanging as applied to Paratext.

A subtrope of Breaking the Fourth Wall. Compare with other metafictional devices, particularly Painting the Medium, which uses Paratext and artifacts to tell the story. Sorry I Left the BGM On is a specific inversion. Fourth Wall Observer is what happens when a particular character has this on full-time and the rest do not. See also Genre Savvy (which doesn't involve the Fourth Wall) and No Fourth Wall.

See also End of Series Awareness, another specific subtrope.

Examples of Medium Awareness include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

Hagemaru: Hey, Kaka, don't sneeze like this while you're naked or the censor guys will cut the scene!
Hagemaru: I can do anything, I'm the hero of this series!
Note - These lines are from the Hindi version

  • The Gestalt OVA depends on this trope for half of the episode in which Ohri is under a spell of silence. She communicates using video game style text boxes. Her master Olivier even asks "what is that thing?".
  • Hayate the Combat Butler has the characters being aware of commercial breaks, the Narrator, and so forth. At one point Tama is able to figure out 8's identity by remembering the show's Title Sequence. Medium Awareness is constant in the manga, as well.
  • In the first season of The Slayers, Lina grows so angry with Gourry that she grabs a hold of her own Sweat Drop and hits him over the head with it.
  • One Piece has the commentator during the Davy Back games announce that the main event will commence after these commercial messages.
  • The manga of Dragon Half does this. For example, one character is explicitly describing objects with their colors, only for another to point out that the previous page was the last one to be in color.
  • In the rather naughty Kekko Kamen anime, the bad guys are caught by surprise due to the fact that there was no heroic music for one of her arrivals.
  • Also, on the first page of episode 3 of Ichigo Mashimaro before even the episode's title page:

Chika: Miu... and Matsuri... don't get along.
(Nobue looks at Chika as if to say, "Um... who are you talking to?")
Nobue: And nobody cares.
(The words "The End" appear)
Chika: No! Not "THE END"!

  • This happens constantly several of Ai Yazawa's works, such as Gokinjo Monogatari and Paradise Kiss (manga-version only). Characters complain about lack of lines or comment on other characters' thought bubbles. She has also used it in Kagen no Tsuki and Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai, albeit in a less over-the-top way.

George: Oooh, Isabella! Your first full-color shot was really impressive! It's a pity it will be b&w in the tankobon edition...

Paramedic: [looks over his shoulder at a montage playing in the background] "Oh my, her life's flashing by. That's no good."

    • A lot.

Pedro: Yes. Please take a look at the flashback. [background turns into a flashback scene, a construction worker falling off by its sudden appearance]

  • The first episode following the end of the filler of Bleach used half the episode for Inoue to explain to Ichigo where they'd left off in the main story, using slides with pages of the actual manga to bring him back up to speed. Both cases were, needless to say, full of this.
  • In the first episode of Ouran High School Host Club, Tamaki can be seen leaning on a notice which pops up on the screen explaining the real meaning of Kyoya's words.
  • In the Dragon Ball manga, Goku's first fight with Yamcha had him getting kicked into - and bouncing off of - the panels of the page by Goku.
    • Gags like this were also used in Akira Toriyama's earlier series Doctor Slump.
  • Used many times in Mahou Sensei Negima, such as when Misora tried to wave away a caption that introduced her as Misora to the readers after she had just denied that she was Misora to Asuna.
  • In the Tenchi Muyo! manga, someone comments that Mihoshi resembles some other characters, to which Mihoshi replies that she's shaded with a different screentone than they are.
  • The Princess Princess characters regularly comment on backgrounds and other elements. Late in the manga, they even complain when Ensemble Darkhorse Arisada receives a very large close-up.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon's narration is sometimes overheard by the characters, leading to the idea that Kyon just mumbles narration to himself everywhere he goes.
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, Edward lets Winry know how something happened by flashbacking to it and pointing towards that panel.
    • In one instance, when someone mentions his actual height, he covers up the number in that person's speech bubble.
  • Bakemonogatari does this quite straight. Senjougahara compliments her own seiyuu.
    • The line also appears in the original light novel, making this further confusing.
  • Every time a character in Ranma ½ is aware of someone else's daydream, they look up at the panel containing said daydream. And comment on it.
  • Honey Honey no Suteki na Bouken was already entirely silly, with copious lampshade hangings. More than once characters address the commercial break or writers, depending on the dub.
  • Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt makes copious use of Written Sound Effects, and at one point, an annoyed Stocking grabs a bunch of the sound effects, wads them up in a ball, and shoves them into Chuck's mouth.
  • When the GA-1 students were talking about typography, one strips actually have the characters discuss the sound effect typeface on that strip.
  • in Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo, the characters show a certain amount of medium awareness when not directly parodying anything, such as one note in the English version of the anime where Bobobo has to have a pause between words while talking about traveling in order to accommodate for the translation, and he says after "I hope I can talk normally when we get there", actively acknowledging that the dub had just had to mess up. They also show that they are aware that a narrator is explaining things and will sometimes even talk directly to him. The end of the anime also has all characters bemoaning the fact that it's finally the end, and one even notes that it cuts off in the middle of an arc.
  • In Mon Colle Knights, Rokuna at one point dumps the visualized letters of her scream at an attacking group of enemies, Beginner once pushed aside a scene with a resistant Count Collection on it and from time to time the characters will interact with the narrator. At the end of the show, Count Collection talks directly to the audience about his Status Quo.
  • In one episode of Pokémon (back when there were only 150 of the things), one of Team Rocket's elaborate plans to capture Pokémon is foiled early, so they instead wrap the target Pokémon with some whips and begin easily tugging them away from their owners. Cut to this brilliant piece of dialog:

James: Why didn't we just do this in the first place?
Jessie: We have to fill a half hour!

  • In Saiyuki the characters occasionally comment during some of the comic relief on things like Sanzo's fan coming out of nowhere, the fact that they can't prove to the reader that Kanzeon is really a hermaphrodite as the rating isn't that high, and in the most recent chapter, Gojyo wonders why Hakkai has launched into the recap of what the sutras are and they're significance is while they are surrounded by murderous yokai.
  • The characters of Seitokai no Ichizon begin the first episode arguing how being an anime will affect their story which is being adapted from a series of Light Novels.
  • In the anime adaption of Toradora!, Minori mentions she saw something black when Kitamura dropped the towel covering his pride.
  • Daily Life with Monster Girl sometimes has this. For example Kurusu Kimihito says he thinks he hasn't seen Centorea's sword for a while, 'since chapter 4' he thinks.
  • Early in Girls und Panzer, the teams are assigned their tanks, and we're shown a picture of each tank with one or more insets holding pictures of the crew members. One of the six girls of Rabbit Team, crowded by the inset picture's edge, has put up her hand to push back against it.
  • Title pages for Yuragi-sou no Yuuna-san often have text wrapping around the female characters' very curvaceous bodies. One such page includes a complaint by the blushing, scowling Defrosting Ice Queen it shows: "Don't ... don't add words around it like that!!"

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • As the above image shows, Deadpool, of the Marvel Universe, can see the yellow text boxes that indicate scene transitions ("Meanwhile, in Manhattan...") or that act as substitute thought bubbles. This is connected to the fact that for Deadpool, there is No Fourth Wall.
    • At one point, numerous characters tell him he is actually saying aloud everything that was in the yellow boxes, which leads him to suspect his "internal monologue" is broken. No characters listen or respond to what he says, because he is known to be completely insane.
      • In fact, the Deadpool comics became so famous for this that the dual sublines for the comic were "The Merc with a Mouth" and "Breaking down the fourth wall one brick at a time!"
        • This gag has even extended to video games including Deadpool,[1] and his recent movie actor Ryan Reynolds is totally looking forward to the day he gets to do this in a Deadpool movie.
  • The Marvel Universe series The Sensational She Hulk is famous for its characters' acknowledgement of the comic medium, including climbing across panel borders, referencing captions, and other related awareness.
    • When she gained her sidekick Weezi, Shulkie asked how Weezi was able to walk between comic panels, only to be told that it's similar to the way She-Hulk is able to talk to the reader.
      • It's also because Weezi is an ex-comic heroine herself (from Marvel's predecessor in the 1940s), who used the same schtick in her series.
    • Parodied in an issue of Damage Control, which made She-Hulk look like a lunatic who thinks she's a comic book character. Then again, she directly responded to the text captions pointing this out, so... Does that make it a subverted parody?
    • And in Marvel's short-lived Heroes for Hire series, Shulkie regularly got into arguments with the third-person narrator... until she fired him.
  • In DC Comics The Joker from Batman can interact with speech and thought bubbles, grabbing hold of or leaning on them. This is most likely part of the idea - also used to partially explain Deadpool - that Joker is so insane that he has become aware of things other characters have not.
    • There is a theory floating around that the Joker has become so aware of his role in a comic book that the reason he has yet to kill Batman is because he knows that, if the hero of the book dies, the story and everything in it - villain most definitely included - stops existing. Similarly, some have speculated that the reason he can be so casual about the gruesome crimes he commits is because he realizes the people he's hurting aren't real.
  • A throw-away villain in a recent Spider-Man story arc during the Brand New Day storyline (Amazing 557) featured a rather bizarre manifestation of this trope, including the ability to attack our hero through between panels, declaring itself to be 'beyond time.' Holding his scythe to one side would rip through the panel and jab at Spidey's head on the previous page.
  • Ambush Bug can interact with his writers and editors, walk between pages and panels of his book, and comment on the lives of other characters from an "out of universe" perspective. One time Zatanna tries to cast a spell on him, and he asks why the words in her speech balloons are backwards. She bursts into tears.
  • While playing Sidekick to Captain Marvel Comics, who possessed "Cosmic Awareness," Rick Jones came to develop "Comics Awareness," in addition to his usual Genre Savvy.
  • Gorsky and Butch, a Salt and Pepper pair of policemen looking for the sense of their comic, often use this trope. On one occasion they found the plot of the comic scribbled on the wall of the authors' flat. Later, when asked why he hadn't simply read the ending to solve the case, Gorsky responded that he couldn't see it because his speech bubble was in the way.
  • Like everything regarding her, Squirrel Girl is a goofy example of this trope. While she never breaks the fourth wall during the issues themselves, she does it during the first pages of pretty much every issue she's starred in. Now that isn't that unique since lots of characters break the fourth wall during the recap pages, but she justifies it by stating that she is only allowed to break the fourth wall during the recap pages. Not to mention that some of her first pages breaking the fourth wall issues has direct importance towards the plot of said issue. And to make all this even more confusing, her pets Monkey Joe and Tippy-Toe don't know the meaning of The Fourth Wall.
  • At times, especially during the Silver Age, even Superman has appeared to be aware of the Fourth Wall; his trademark wink was always directed at the reader/audience. It was used for the last time (in the comics), and most depressingly, in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow??
  • Animal Man becomes aware of his status as a comic book character and discusses this in a conversation with his writer towards the end of Grant Morrison's run on the series.
  • Sam and Max Freelance Police, in every medium they've been in; comics, cartoons, and video games.
  • Hsu and Chan show medium awareness in both the Slave Labor Graphics comics and the old strips that were featured in EGM. At one point Hsu prepared for a disaster because "that little text-box guy is acting all smug again." Another issue opened with the brothers trying to find a way to get the episode's title out of their house, before finally deciding to leave it there as a table or coat rack.
  • A rare in-universe in-universe example: the French absurdist comicbook series Phil�mon is centered around the idea that labels on maps are actual geographical features, strange lands filled with absurd illogic. The letters that spell out "ATLANTIC OCEAN" are recurring locations in that series, where they're actual islands located in the Atlantic.
  • In the Fables spinoff, Jack Of Fables, the title character Jack has been shown to be aware of the audience, both in recaps, and normal panels. This is because he is half-Literal; Literals, are, in essence, "authors" of reality.
  • DC Comics Earth-2 Lex Luthor and Superboy have both become aware of the real world, threatening 'us' on seperate occasions.
    • Hell, Superboy-Prime is from our real world, and has gone so far as to blame DC for ruining his life, because they wrote the comic books where he's such a villain--and his friends and family read them. That's trippy.
  • The Marvel Comics villainess called The Goddess once gained cosmic power in The Infinity Crusade. One of the realities she planned to destroy was the real world, presented as a person reading one of the 'Crusade' issues. Later, the 'real' world is seen bursting into flames but it proves only to be a telepathic illusion.
  • Katy Keene covers would do this. One had Sis even trying to draw the rest of Katy's dress.


Fanfiction[edit | hide]

  • The aptly named Code: Omake to Aeon Natum Engel has Rei having this. It gets messy when in the Nobody Dies crossover she meets Terrifying!Rei while footmarking.
  • Used at one point in Mass Vexations as a gag on plot-induced stupidity.

-- But that works for my advantage. So I'll chalk it up to happening because the plot says so.

  • Pinkie Pie of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic often takes this role in fanfiction. Antics include but are not limited to directly referencing previous (or future!) chapters, taking shots at slow update schedules, responding directly to the omniscient narration, knowledge of scenes she wasn't present for, and every once in a whiHEY EVERYPONY! Oh wow, this wiki is so much more fun than that last one I went to! They were all grumpy-pants[please verify] and it was like wow you guys need to have a good party because parties always make people not robots unless they're actually robots which would be AWESOME except for all the clanking but I bet we could make some dance music out of that...

Film[edit | hide]

  • The Muppets:
    • In The Muppet Movie, Kermit would explain his situation to other characters he had just met by giving them a copy of the script.
    • The Great Muppet Caper also has many Medium Awareness moments, beginning with the main characters watching and commenting on the opening credits, and continuing with numerous self-aware comments:

Peter Ustinov: What are you doing here?
Oscar the Grouch: A very brief cameo.
Peter Ustinov: Me too.

    • Muppet Treasure Island also uses this to amusing effect. At one point the rats—who have been treating the boat as a cruise ship—are touring the titular island. The tour guide comments that this is setting of the film "Muppet Treasure Island."
      • There are also several moments where the cast does acknowledge that they're singing, especially during "Professional Pirate" when Long John Silver mentions that it's his only number and tells the pirates to show that they've been practicing.
      • Also when Billy Bones dies Rizzo says "He died?! But this is supposed to be a kids' movie!"
      • Possibly the funniest one of all is the Swedish Chef's intro in the movie - as the cook for the island's natives. The cast justifies this by saying "Well? Where did you THINK we were going to put him?" Makes sense when one considers that the obvious job for him - chef on the ship - was filled by Long John Silver.
  • Mel Brooks has a lot of fun with this trope:
    • Spaceballs: When Lone Starr talks about how they won't get too far with the blazing sun of the desert planet overhead, the screen dissolves into the fading sun...and Barf says, "Nice dissolve." Also, when searching for Lone Starr, the villains watch a video tape of the movie itself to find him. Even though (as Dark Helmet points out) the movie isn't finished yet. The entire movie has meta-references to itself being a commercial property, with the Spaceball store, the Spaceball Lunchbox, and even the Spaceball Flame Thrower. And who could forget..."You've captured their stunt doubles!!!" Or Dark Helmet banging his head against a camera... Or killing a cameraman with his Schwartz in the final fight.
    • Robin Hood: Men in Tights has many examples of this trope, including the opening scene. A village is attacked with flaming arrows, and the flames on the buildings form the names of the actors, producers, etc. At the end of the scene, however, the irate villagers curse Mel Brooks (the director of the film) for including this scene. "Every time they make a Robin Hood movie they burn our village down!"
      • A difficult to interpret line from the end of the sequence. "LEAVE US ALONE, MEL BROOKS!"
      • From the same film, the characters consult the script to confirm that Robin does, in fact, get another shot.

Robin: I lost! I lost? Wait a second, I'm not supposed to lose... Let me see the script."

    • And in Blazing Saddles, Hedley goes to the opening of Blazing Saddles and finds out Bart and Jim have tracked him down when the movie screen shows them outside the theater... and they then go into the theatre to find out how things end...
  • A scene in Austin Powers: Goldmember featured Austin talking to a Japanese executive, with his speech subtitled. However, several objects hid parts of the subtitles, causing the sentence to be altered to inappropriate comments (e.g., Please eat some shitake mushrooms), and Austin would look outraged until Foxy moved the objects causing the disturbance. Eventually the executive says, "Why don't I just speak in English?" Austin replies, "Yeah, you should! Then I wouldn't have to read the subtitles and it wouldn't look like you were saying things that are dirty!" followed by smiling at the viewer.
  • At the end of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, Mike and the 'bots riff on their own Credits Gag. "Puppet wranglers? There weren't any puppets in this movie."
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the prince of Swamp Castle is about to start a musical number, and the background music begins playing, but he is immediately interrupted by his father, who demands that there shall be no singing. This gag is repeated several times, until the king is unable to interrupt and the singing number actually begins, complete with spontaneously forming supporting chorus. (As you can imagine, the prince's father has even more trouble stopping the singing in Spamalot, the musical based on the movie.)
    • Additionally the characters in Spamalot seem to be well aware that they are in a musical, most notably when the Lady of the Lake proceeds to bitch about her lack of involvement in Act 2 in the song 'The Diva's Lament'
    • Technically speaking, that's not the character 'The Lady of the Lake'. That song involves her talking about her agent, and the producers, and Tony Awards, and her career, and is named 'Diva's Lament (Whatever Happened To My Part)'. And she comes out in front of a closed curtain in her dressing gown, and has to growl at the orchestra to start. It pretty clearly is intended to be The Lady of the Lake's _actress_ 'breaking character', not The Lady herself. (The Lady of the Lake is not a 'Diva' and does not have either a 'part' or a career on Broadway.) However, later, in a scene, The Lady say she's been 'offstage'.
      • The awareness varies by the character according to what's funny. At one point the knights are tasked with putting on a musical, and the Lady finally reveals to Arthur that they're in one. He finally notices the audience, which becomes key to the plot's resolution.
      • And before that point they sing a song called "The Song that Goes Like This", which is...about the song they are currently singing.
      • "It's the old man from Scene 24!"
      • And let's not forget the whole number 'You Can't Succeed On Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Jews)'. Especially the intro section, which is the characters discussing the extraordinary talent of Broadway actors.
    • Back in the film, Patsy is well aware that Camelot itself is "only a model".
      • Shhhh!
  • The Star Wars parody Thumb Wars featured a Rebel starship crashing into the opening expository text: "Watch out for that word! AAAUUUGGGHHH!!!". (At least on the DVD version - the TV version doesn't even have an opening word crawl, just a pretext and the title fading into the distance.)
  • The movie The Gamers (the 2002 Dead Gentlemen video, not the 2006 film) ends with the player characters killing their own players, thinking that they're evil wizards.
    • And then commenting on/editing their own character sheets.
  • The movie The Truman Show is all about this trope. In a more realistic way than most other examples; Truman's world really is a stage that he's being filmed on.
  • In Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell is a fictional character who becomes aware that he's in a novel when he hears a female voice narrating his life. As such, he gets a nasty shock when he hears her narrate about his "imminent death".
  • At the beginning of the movie Johnny Dangerously, the year 1935 is laid over a busy street scene to set the flashback. Within a few seconds, a car crashes into the number.
  • At one point in The Imposters, a character is eavesdropping on someone talking in a (gibberish) foreign language, which is captioned for the viewers. He eventually realizes that the captions are reflected in the mirror he is facing, and works out what is being said by reading them.
  • Fight Club. Durden points out the "cigarette burn" marks indicating when film reels should be changed in a movie. There also his interesting... habit of splicing single frames of pornography into family-friendly films (and the film itself).
    • In the original theater release reels that particular reel was actually cut about 5 minutes short so the mark he pointed out (which was actually extended by a few frames for effect) was actually marking a real reel change.
    • Then there are the splices of Tyler himself throughout the movie whenever the narrator has insomnia.
    • And there's the Brick Joke exchange at the end of the movie, which repeats the scene from the opening (Tyler: "Do you want to say something?"; Narrator: "I can't think of anything") but changes a line - "I still can't think of anything." "Ah, Flashback humor."
  • In both Wayne's World movies, Wayne is constantly talking to and interacting with the camera. Even Ed O'Neil did for a moment, before being reminded by Wayne that "only me and Garth get to talk to the camera".
    • In the scene here Wayne is speaking with Casandra in Cantonese, Wayne appears to be reading the subtitles while speaking, until he stops talking and the subtitles continue the dialogue.
  • The entire movie of Last Action Hero is essentially this to a T. The main character (and sidekick of Arnold) continually points out that himself and Arnold's character of Jack Slater are in a movie. Perhaps ironically, the trope is also subverted and applied at the same time when Jack Slater finds himself in a real world and keeps acting like he's in a movie - making references and so forth without being in a movie... making the trope's execution decidedly meta at that point. The whole thing is one big Lampshade Hanging of the concept of an action movie.
    • And then we have the ending of the film, where Jack Slater returns to the movie world with full knowledge of being a movie character and begins to refer to everything around him much like the main once did.
  • The German 2004 comedy Der Wixxer parodies a number of popular (also German) crime movies from the 1950s and -60s based on novels by Edgar Wallace. In recognition of the age of the source material, one prominent location is Blackwhite Castle, "one of the last black and white castles in the United Kingdom", where the action is filmed almost completely in black and white with the characters commenting on the palette change. (It's only 'almost' because one renovated wing of the castle is in fact in color, to the visitors' initial surprise.) In the 2007 sequel, they even used a black-white to color switch to defuse a bomb.
  • National Lampoon's action film parody Loaded Weapon 1 features a scene where the protagonist hurts his leg on the subtitles and kicks them away. Another scene has Whoopi Goldberg's character aware of the clock subtitle when she leaves her message on her cop friend's answering machine. She even updates the time she mentions when she notices the clock change by 1 minute.
    • And who could forget Tim Curry as Mr Jigsaw? When Whoopi feigns ignorance of the microfiche he questions her about, he replies "Don't be coy with me, Ms York. This is too important...and it's also the plot."
  • Bugsy Malone: Fat Sam says something in Italian. But his henchman, Knuckles, is Jewish and doesn't understand Italian. He is told to read the translation as the subtitle appears onscreen.
  • Funny Games has this. It's how the villain kills that last pesky survivor with the shotgun.
  • Ridiculous spoof comedy Fatal Instinct has several such moments, including this interaction: "You speak Yiddish?" "No, but I can read the subtitles." - at which point, the two characters discussing the murder/insurance fraud plot look down at their subtitles and Face Palm.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is pretty much all about this trope, with the Toons knowing that they're cartoons made of ink and paint. Then again though they don't know they're in a movie about Toons that know they're cartoons, so it may not count.
  • The Man With Two Brains had an incident where Steve Martin's character, while driving in Europe, is stopped by a policeman who speaks to him in French with subtitles. When the policeman realizes that Martin's character can speak English, he has the subtitles turned off, happily remarking "Now we have much more room down there!"
  • In George of the Jungle characters interact with the narrator more than once. For example:

Max: Thor! Were you arguing with the narrator?
Thor: Well he started it.
Narrator: Did not.

    • The sequel played with it as well.

Narrator: Wait a minute, you're not George!
George2: Me new George! Studio too cheap to pay Brendan Fraser.

  • Return of the Killer Tomatoes has lines like "Excuse me, miss, has there been a Car Chase in this movie yet?" and "Notice how everything we set up in the first reel pays off in the last? Pretty slick, huh?" When a character needs something to write on, he uses a copy of the movie's own script. However, the crowning point is when the movie runs out of budget halfway through and restarts loaded with incredibly blatant (and acknowledged) Product Placement.
  • Julie from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has a black censor bar flash over her mouth whenever she swears. Scott blatantly asks her "How are you doing that with your mouth?"
  • Farce of the Penguins implies that all of the characters are aware that they're in a documentary, featuring scenes such as Marcus telling the sound track director to change from stock music to hip-hop because if he's gonna be walking 70 miles, "the track best be bumpin'," and a few characters talking to or full-blown arguing with Samuel L. Jackson, the narrator.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Thursday Next books have the books footnotes heard by characters, and used as a contact network. The characters from the BookWorld are very impressed by Thursday's ability to know who's talking even when there's no character tags. This is merely the tip of a iceberg of metatextual fun.
  • The Terry Pratchett book Only You Can Save Mankind has aliens in a computer game who seek safety from ruthless humans (the players, blasting them away with careless abandon) beyond "the barrier". The barrier turns out to be an enormous "Game Over" sign. Their environment itself was effected by how aware of the genre trappings the person was. Johnny, whose imagination tends to towards friendly aliens sees them and their ships as non-hostile. Kirsty, who's seen movies and "knows how these things should go" sees the ship's corridors as slime-covered dungeons and the aliens and slavering, razor-toothed monsters. When they hear an alien coming and discover that instead of an armed guard, it's a small and friendly tea-lady, Kirsty complains that Johnny's doing it wrong.
  • Shows up a number of times in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. For starters, Chicken Licken finds out that it's not the sky that's falling, it's the table of contents. (Rule of Funny since none of the book's pages are even numbered.)
  • Sometimes, the characters of Robert Rankin's Armageddon The Musical series realize that they are in a film. Even though it's a series of books. (The final one even had film credits!)
    • Other times, they know that they are in a book. After a major sex scene, the characters involved are annoyed that the entire scene was simply whited out. Some of the characters taunt each other by saying that, if they make fun of the plot, they'll just simply be removed. Characters complaining about a Running Gag has even become a Running Gag ("I hope that's not going to be a running gag. It's crap.") And let's not get start about how one character was able to find where Elvis and his time-traveling sprout went by looking at the previous book.
  • At various points in Spike Milligan's novel Puckoon, the character Dan Milligan objects to The Author's treatment of him, resulting in a series of very funny Medium Awareness gags.
  • In John Barnes's One for the Morning Glory, the characters are aware that they are in a Fairy Tale. They are also aware that they do not know what their role in said fairy tale is, which inspires due caution.

"This is not how these tales end," Calliope said firmly.
"This is not the way that things end when they get to be tales," Amatus said, "but since ours is not told yet, we cannot count on it. There were a hundred dead princes on the thorns outside Sleeping Beauty's castle, and I'm sure many of them were splendid fellows."

  • Jackson in Butterfly's Effect not only shows Medium Awareness, he is also Genre Savvy to the point of being dangerous. When discussing his brother and sister's situation

"Imagine we're in a book. You two WILL fall in love but separate because society will never accept you, your baby will turn out fine thanks to the fact fiction is, well, fiction and you two will go on to live your own happy lives while carrying a torch for each other 'til the day you both die. END OF STORY!"

    • And at the end, we get him shrieking to nobody in particular, "I TOLD YOU SO!"
  • In one illustrated Winnie the Pooh book, when the title character finds himself stranded on a branch too high to safely jump off, he climbs down the block of text on the page. This idea is also used in the animated adaptation...in which the characters are also in a book.
  • One of Dave Barry's many books contains a bit in which he includes an incredibly short (four pages) novel which is very, very obviously being written with the hope that it will be made into a movie. At the end of the book, two of the characters are standing around when the movie end credits begin scrolling up from the bottom of the screen. "Hey," one of them says, "these names are backwards."
    • Also playing on the Book-into-Movie medium is the initial description of the hero:

"He looked like Tom Cruise, or, if he is available, Al Pacino."

  • The Divine Comedy. Didn't expect that, did you? Dante addresses the reader (he specifically uses "reader") more than thrice in Purgatorio alone.
  • In Sophie's World, an introduction to philosophy textbook thinly disguised as a novel, has the main characters realising they're in a book and plotting to escape. At one point Sophie is instructed to do very interesting things for a while so that the narrative will focus on her, letting the other character make plans in secrecy.
  • The Lord of the Rings parody Bored of the Rings has several instances of this, one of the most notable being when one of the party members asks how much further to their destination and another "looks across the vast expanse of pages to the right" and replies they have a long way to go yet.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Will Smith's character describes another character to Carlton as "The dude who be spinning me over his head in the opening credits"
    • The episode above ended with Will deciding to stay in Philadelphia. The following episode started with him being kidnapped. Will seems to know the men and asks why they're kidnapping him. The kidnappers respond by saying the show couldn't be called "The Fresh Prince of Philadelphia." He is then shoved into an NBC van.
    • Another episode's Cold Open involved Uncle Phil lecturing his children on how they didn't have to worry about money. As they leave the room, Smith says to the audience, "We so rich, why we can't afford no ceiling?" The camera pans up to reveal the ceiling-less top of the set they're filming in.
      • When Baby Nicky undergoes Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome, Jazz asks Will about it, who mumbles confusedly.
        • Even more amusing, Jazz first asked "Who's playing the mom this year?" (lampshading the previous change in actresses.) Post-SORAS Nicky comes out and answers "It's the same mom!" which prompts Jazz's confusion.
    • In yet another episode, Will convinces Carlton that one of his pranks has resulted in Will killing a woman, which results in Carlton hysterically running through every set of the episode and finally into the studio audience.
  • Abed, from Community. In the show, it's played off as him being unable to tell life and TV apart (and being a general oddball). However, his comments seem to be just too spot-on sometimes.
    • In one episode, Jeff asks him to stop continually referencing how things they do adhere to TV tropes. Abed's response? "That's sort of my gimmick, but we did lean on that pretty hard last week. I can lay low for an episode." And he plays no further part in that episode's story.
    • In "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" Abed realizes the characters are stop motion animated. The mere fact that said episode is in stop-motion is central to episode's plot.
  • Green Acres liked this trope:
    • In at least one episode the opening credits were painted on the furniture in the main characters' farmhouse.
    • In another, while both lying in bed, Lisa asks Oliver, "Who are [names of two people featured in the opening credits]? I just had a dream where their names were floating above us."
    • In another episode, Mr. Ziffel waits at Mr Douglas' house while the credits appear behind him, only for them to disappear when he turns around. When Mr. Ziffel manages to turn around on time, he says, "Gotcha!" Mr. Douglas appears and asks, "Got what?" Ziffel says, "The names!"
    • Every time Oliver makes some long-winded, heartfelt speech about life in the country, patriotic fife-and-drum music starts playing, prompting everybody to wonder where it comes from. In one episode, Oliver listened to a recording of himself and murmured in astonishment, "Is that a fife?"
  • Arnie Becker, finding himself in a thorny situation in The Teaser in one episode of L.A. Law, shouts, "Close the trunk!" This leads to the opening credits, which always began with a shot of a car's trunk being closed.
  • An episode of The Facts of Life featured Tootie trying to sneak up on a Serial Killer, only to complain that the loud ominous music was spoiling her stealth. Of course, it was All Just a Dream.
  • In the all puppet version of the Muppet show Dog City, Ace finds a note from his father that contains a strange postscript, "Dum-Dum-De-Dum." When his girlfriend wonders what that is supposed to mean, they both suddenly hear the equivalent notes played out of nowhere and she realizes that it's a music cue. They suddenly realize the big reveal of the plot and suddenly, and without irony, sing along with the replayed cue, "Dum-Dum-De-Dum!"
  • In an early episode of Roseanne dramatic music plays each time the word "audit" is used. The characters begin waiting for it it to happen and are freaked out by it.
    • One episode of Growing Pains used a similar joke. Mike was explaining something through Flashbacks. When he doesn't immediately continue his story at one point, Maggie asks him what's wrong, and he replies, "I'm waiting for the ripple!"
  • In Mystery Science Theater 3000, the Satellite of Love had "Commercial Sign", a light that indicated it was time to begin the commercial break. (The break itself wouldn't start until a character triggered it by touching the light.) For further redundancy, the Magic Voice would count down until the start of each episode's first Commercial Sign. This was dropped in later seasons.
    • It was later revealed by Joel Hodgson that the Mads were taping the events of the series and selling them to Comedy Central. Thus, it is entirely possible that the series events are broadcast live in-universe, and Commercial Sign is simply the necessary extension of this.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Once More With Feeling", after learning that Dawn has been captured, Buffy remarks "....Must be Tuesday". Tuesday is when Buffy aired on UPN.
    • In the same episode Anya comments on their number in the apartment, saying "It was like we were being watched. Like there was a wall missing from our apartment. Like there were only three walls, and not a fourth wall."
  • A promo for Law and Order: Criminal Intent on the USA Network featured the lead detectives puzzling over the network logo they just now noticed in the corner of the screen.
  • In the Doctor Who episode Forest Of The Dead, when Donna is trapped in a computer simulation of ordinary life, she experiences the usual TV-style jump-cuts between scenes as gaps in her memory. At first she's confused and her therapist Dr. Moon has to tell her what happened during the parts we didn't see. Later on she starts filling in the gaps herself: "You said you were tired, so we put the kids to bed and watched TV for a bit, and then we came up to bed." It's clear to the audience that the computer is using this device as a way to fast-forward Donna through several years of virtual life in a few minutes.
    • Though, to be honest, the series has had several bizarre affairs with this trope. A perfect example comes up in The Caves of Androzani, where the Doctor dies of an exotic poison and regenerates into his sixth incarnation (played by Colin Baker), and then proceeds to explain what happened by turning to the camera with a bizarre smirk on his face and explaining "Change... And by the looks of it, not a moment too soon." Of course, later episodes showed that this Doctor may well be borderline insane anyhow, so it could well be explained like that.
    • In the episode "Blink", the behavior of the angels—who can move with blinding speed but are "quantum locked" in stone when anybody looks at them—only makes sense when you realize that the camera counts as an observer. When the audience sees them, they're frozen, even if nobody else is looking at them.
      • Until season five, when in the episode "Flesh and Stone" the camera shows the angels slowly realizing that a blindfolded character can't actually see them. The resulting scene of the supposedly solid statues turning their heads to look at Amy definitely qualifies as Nightmare Fuel.
        • Don't forget, those Angels moved very slowly...and there's a shutter passing behind the lens of the camera 24 times a second...
    • As with the Buffy example above, the Doctor asks a passing milkman in "The Stolen Earth" what day it is. The Doctor responds with "Saturday. Good. Good, I like Saturdays," which is a nod to the show's main broadcast night on BBC One.
      • Similarly, "If you change over to ITV, there's a slight chance it could cause the world to explode"
  • In a recent GEICO advertisement, Mrs. Butterworth is aware that her face is being obscured by the GEICO logo.
  • Boston Legal plays with this trope at least once or twice per episode. An interesting thought experiment is to watch the fourth wall breaks and try to work out whether anyone other than Denny can actually see the credits/hear the theme music/etc, or if they're just humoring him. Jerry certainly can. He's sung the theme song twice, after all.
  • The characters of The Basil Brush Show seem to be well aware that they are in a television programme and often reference this.
  • The Monkees did this frequently. Many episodes contain references to the fact that they are characters in a TV show.
  • In the season 2 finale of House MD, House goes from a hallway shot directly to a stairwell shot, and then stops, looks at the stairwell, and mentions that he has no idea how he appeared in the stairwell. To viewers, it's a scene jump. To poor House, who's leaning against the fourth wall, it's vanished time.[2]
  • In the Society for Putting Things on top of Other Things sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus, the characters are aware when the recording medium changes from video (inside the building) to film (any shots taken from outside):

Exterior shot: a door opens and Sir William appears out of it into the fresh air. He suddenly halts.)
Sir William: Good Lord. I'm on film. How did that happen?
(He turns round and disappears into the building again. He reappears through door, crosses set and goes out through another door. Exterior: he appears from the door into the fresh air and then stops.)
Sir William: It's film again. What's going on?
(He turns and disappears through the door again. Cut to him inside the building. He crosses to a window and looks out, then turns and says...)
Sir William: Gentlemen! I have bad news. This room is surrounded by film.
Members: What! What!
(Several members run to window and look out. Cut to film of them looking out of a window. Cut to studio: the members run to a door and open it. Cut to film: of them appearing at the door hesitating and then closing door. Cut to studio: with increasing panic they run to the second door. Cut to film: they appear, hesitate, and go back inside. Cut to studio: they run to Sir William in the centre of the room.)
A Member: We're trapped!

    • Done with a number of other sketches, such as the Argument Clinic (which ends with a policeman trying to arrest everyone for ending the sketch without a proper Punch Line).

2nd Policeman: Namely, simply ending every bleeding sketch by having a policeman come in and.. wait a moment.
3rd Policeman: Hold it!
2nd Policeman: It's a fair cop!
The hand of a 4th policeman then enters frame to seize the 3rd policeman by the shoulder.

    • When a chemist (Michael Palin) goes off-screen, his customer (Eric Idle) fills the space with:

"Sorry about this. Normally we try and avoid these little pauses. Longeurs. Only dramatically he's gone down to the basement, you see. 'Course, there isn't really a basement, but he just goes off and we pretend. Actually what happens is he just goes off there, off camera, and just waits there so it looks as though he's gone down to the basement. Actually, I think he's rather overdoing it. Ah!"
(The chemist is shown standing on the edge of the set, sees the camera, and rushes to get back into the sketch.)

Rick: I wish they wouldn't do that!
Neil: It's the passage of time, Rick.

    • "Summer Holiday":

Vyv: Oh look, here comes the postman.
Mike: Vyvyan, why do you keep telling us what's just about to happen?
Vyv: We're on a small set, Michael. There isn't any room for a long shot.

    • "Sick":

Neil's mother: Look how flimsy this chair is! (she grabs a chair that falls apart immediately)
Mike: Actually that's a trick chair that Rick was supposed to get hit in the back with in the next scene.

(shortly after that a policeman bursts into the room and breaks a real chair on Rick's back)

  • Episode 3 of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy begins with a potted history of the Galactic Empire, signified by the coat of arms of the Empire floating in space. Then a spaceship containing a Real Man, a Real Woman and a Real Small Furry Creature from Alpha Centauri crashes into it.
  • Malcolm in the Middle is all about a dysfunctional teen who tells the viewers about his difficulties - at one point, he's called out on "talking to himself", but every other time, people ignore him. This isn't limited to realtime, and he'll often announce a fatal error in-progress and slow the show down to yell "Abort!" (with normal speed) (and resumes making the error anyway, still slowed).
    • Which all implies that the "face the camera" segments are just internal monologue, rather than any real acknowledgement of the fictional universe.
  • One episode of Angel had Lorne speaking directly to what was purportedly a nightclub audience. Then the show cuts to commercials, and when it comes back...

Lorne: Well, those were some exciting products. Am I right? Mmm. Let's all think about buying some of those.

  • J.D. in Scrubs has elements of this. Sometimes it's just Leaning on the Fourth Wall (like when it looks like he's noticed the ABC logo), sometimes it isn't. In particular, he's shown awareness of (or at least thinks he's imagining) the drums that lead into the opening titles (in one episode he mimes them as they play), the Full House Music (in "My Old Friend's New Friend") and the weird sound effect that plays when characters exit (in "My Happy Place").
  • The plot of Red Dwarf: Back to Earth.
  • Lilly in Hannah Montana begins to develop some of this in season 3 to go along with her Genre Savvy when she not only knows that her fantasy sequence is about to appear, but is able to point out to Miley where on screen it will be appearing.
  • The episode "Sun Tea" of Thirty Rock aired during NBC's 2009 Green Week. Since the show is about the production of a (fictional) show that airs on NBC, naturally the characters are all aware of this fact. At one point it's mentioned that for Green Week the NBC Peacock logo that sits in the corner is turned green, at which point Kenneth looks directly at it in the corner of the screen.
  • The "Wormhole Xtreme!" and "200" episodes of Stargate SG-1 pretty much hung a lampshade on the entire series and sci-fi in general. Although the SG-1 team never gave specific indications outside of the Show Within a Show that they weren't in the real world.
    • In "Small Victories" two red shirts on a Russian submarine are investigating a noise. One says to the other — in Russian — "maybe it's one of the bugs from the other episode."
  • Phil of the Future sometimes played with this trope. One example had Pym pondering about something her father, Lloyd, had said to her earlier in the episode, with Lloyd appearing in a "thought balloon" and repeating his earlier line. After Pym continues to reflect silently for some length of time, her father impatiently addresses her from within the insert:

Lloyd: Look, are you about done with this flashback? 'Cause I have stuff to do...

  • In several episodes of Psych, either Shawn or Gus has observed, "We solve a murder a week. And usually one around Christmas."
    • Similar to the Law and Order: Criminal Intent example above, in one promo Shawn and Gus notice small versions of themselves at the bottom of the screen advertising the upcoming episode. Shawn laments that "mini-us" sold out and Gus walks off at the end to call an exterminator for their "rat problem."
  • On an episode of Seinfeld George says "All you see on TV these days is four morons sitting in an apartment whining about their dates!"
  • In newer episodes, Adam Savage will have one-sided conversations with the MythBusters editors, asking them to replay a clip or put two scenes together in split-screen.
  • In one Christmas Episode of Married... with Children, Al and Peggy try to watch TV together and both hate anything the other one wants to watch. Halfway through, Al goes to the bathroom, turns to the camera...

Al: And I really hate this commercial!
[commercial break]

  • An extremely subtle one in Firefly, with this exchange:

River: (Jayne)'s scared of us. Scared we'll know.
Simon: Since when?
River: Since Ariel.

    • 'Ariel' being the name of the episode where Jayne betrayed them. Okay, so it could equally be that River means 'Ariel'-the-planet where the action happened, as in 'since we were on Ariel'). But the no-fourth-walliness intention of the phrasing is confirmed by Word Of Joss on the commentary. This is after all the science fiction show with the following exchange:

Wash: Psychic, though? That sounds likes something out of science fiction.
Zoe: We live of a spaceship, dear.

Shawn: ...and Fred never spent more than 75 seconds at either location.
Cory: Shawn, that was a cartoon, time was compressed, we're real, we're in real time.
Shawn: Trust me, it's the same thing.
Cory: No it's not. You see a television show can cover many days in only one half-hour program.
Shawn: Trust me, it's the same thing.
Cory: (shrugging) Okay!

  • The characters of How I Met Your Mother occasionally seem to know that they exist only in Future!Ted's memories. Especially obvious in "The Mermaid Theory", where Future!Ted forgets what happened in the middle of a story, and when his narration trails off into "no that's not right...hang on a minute...let me think..." Barney and Lily, who are frozen mid-conversation on the couch glance anxiously into the camera, break character completely and scowl in exasperation, and even impatiently check their watches as Future!Ted continues to flounder.
  • Episodes of The Saint typically had someone speak Simon Templar's name in The Teaser's final seconds. Then a stylized halo appeared above Simon's head, and the opening theme and credits played. In several episodes, he glanced upward just before his halo appeared, evidently expecting it.


Music[edit | hide]

  • The Newsboys song "Your Love Is Better Than Life" has this line near the end: "I don't know how I can wrap it in a four-minute song."


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Played straight for one character and subverted for another in an early Bloom County strip, Opus runs into Pac-Man in a bar, who is complaining about the pointlessness of all this eatin' and runnin' while being chased by one's ghosts in this crazy maze-like world. At the end, he violently shakes Opus, asking for him to put it in context as a metaphor; when Opus says, "A video game?", Pac-Man stops, thinks about it, then says, "Naw, it's not that."
  • In one example of Doonesbury an extra demonstrates awareness of the swear word censorship by literally hearing "obscene gerund" instead of the actual swear then wondering exactly what an obscene gerund is.
  • In one installment of Little Nemo in Slumberland, Nemo, Flip and Imp are so hungry that they begin tearing off lines from their comic panels and knocking down letters from the Little Nemo In Slumberland logo, eating them. Nemo worries that this will upset the artist but Flip maintains that it will teach the person who draws them a lesson. When Flip asks what's in the letters they're eating nemo replies that it's printer's ink as far as he knows.
  • The characters in Pearls Before Swine frequently make reference to the fact that they're in a comic strip, often interacting with creator Stephen Pastis's cartoon self, and other "visiting" comic strip characters.
  • Garfield is fond of this as well. In one early strip, he is hit by a shoe which makes the Written Sound Effect "SPLUT!" over his head. He then looks off-panel and says, "Wait a minute! Shoes don't go 'splut'!"
    • Another time, he had a cold and pointed to his speech bubble, saying "Loog, eben my thoughts are stuffed ub."
  • Swedish cartoonist Jan Romare is very fond of this trope, using it often in Pyton (Python) and Himlens änglar (The Angels of Heaven) with the most common form being characters interacting with the panel borders (hiding outside them, running into them, getting things stuck in them, eating them...)
  • This sequence of Tank McNamara sees a pitcher becoming aware of a batter's thought bubbles in the middle of a baseball game.
  • Schroeder considers putting in a transfer to a new comic strip in a Peanuts strip from 1952, after Charlie Brown thinks he's talking about baseball when he comments that he has perfect pitch.
  • In Krazy Kat, Ignatz and Krazy are both aware that they're drawings who exist in a newspaper, though Krazy sometimes needs to be reminded. Ignatz even takes advantage of his position by asking the "boss" for extra ink when he needs it.
  • Beetle Bailey has all kinds of weird gags involving the characters interacting with comic strips elements that are supposed to be only symbolic—such as Sarge eating a "Z" produced by a sleeping Beetle in an effort to get to sleep himself, or characters managing to produce empty speech bubbles.


Radio[edit | hide]

Ruby (narrating): ". . . Who really wanted him dead? . . . Yeah, the Author. Authors—they create characters just so they can blow them away. Writing is a dirty business."


Stand Up Comedy[edit | hide]

  • Jeff Dunham's character Peanut knows he's a puppet. For example, in one of his specials Guitar Guy looked at Peanut, prompting him to say "You know how I know you do drugs? You're looking me in the eye and you think I'm actually looking back"
    • "What are you thinking?!?!? We can't talk at the same time!!!!!"

Jeff: What're you doing?
Peanut: A-speaking in Jose's tongue!
Jeff: Well, don't do that.
Peanut: Why not?
Jeff: It makes me feel left out.
Peanut: [looks at Jeff] Huh?
Jeff Dunham: I don't speak Spanish!
[Peanut and Jose look at him. Jose turns from Jeff, imitating the theme music from The Twilight Zone.]
Peanut: "Picture, if you will..."

    • Pretty much all of Dunham's puppets are aware that they're puppets.
  • Eddie Izzard plays on this all the time, a good example being his Dracula bit - "Let's all go to Transylvania, and increase the plot of this movie!"; "Ooh, I wouldn't go up to the castle if I were you - you get filmed if you go up there!", and another gag about a horror movie character navigating a dark forest by avoiding the paths that go "Duh-duh duh-duh duh-duh..." and taking the one that goes "La lala lala!"
  • One of Andy Kaufman's stand-up bits involved his writer and friend Bob Zmuda sitting in the audience and heckling him by (among other things) saying the punchlines to his jokes before he does. Then they get into an argument, and Zmuda's character calls Kaufman out on the fact that he's a plant and the whole thing is scripted.
  • Jim Gaffigan regularly has an 'internal audience.' A good portion of his jokes are commenting on what the audience must think of his jokes, in a high-pitched whisper.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Over The Edge involves a metaplot which could result in the PCs becoming aware of what they are.
  • The joke Dungeons & Dragons supplement Portable Hole Full of Beer contains a Prestige Class that slowly causes the character to become aware of the fact that they are in a roleplaying game. At the final level the character becomes a real person and moves in with you.
  • Foxbat, in the Champions superhero RPG has Wrong Medium Awareness, being firmly convinced he's a comic book villain. He retains this in Champions Online, where he begs for a "GM to port me to a different spawn point"
    • Straighter example: A Mutants and Masterminds fansite introduced Foxbat II, who rejected his mentor's ludicrous view of the world, and instead believes himself to be an NPC in a superhero RPG.
  • The RPG Tales From The Floating Vagabond has a number of "schticks", powers that can help (and occasionally harm) your character. One of these is the 'Rogers and Hammerstein Schtick', which gives your character his own theme music that he and everyone around him is aware of. This means that if someone is sneaking up on him, the music will shift to sneaky music (makes it really hard for him to sneak up on anyone not deaf, though). Sudden shifts to dramatic battle music can predict an ambush, etc.
  • The Star Munchkin RPG based on the Munchkin card game has one class called "Farce K'n'gits". Their power is awareness of the great Farce - that they're in a comedic RPG - and thus gaining the ability to manipulate the game and its players directly, as well as ignore things like those laws of physics and common sense not actually covered by the game's rules. Non-K'n'gits can dabble in Farce powers as well.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Late into the first act of Mel Brooks' The Producers, Max and Leo tell their Swedish intern Ulla to tidy up their office. As act 2 begins, Max and Leo return to the office to find everything, from the walls to the furniture, painted white. When asked about when Ulla managed to pull this off, she responds that she did it during the intermission. Later on in the same scene, Ulla will ask Leo why he is moving so far to the right of the stage, replaced with "camera right" in the film version.
    • In one scene Leo loses his temper at Max and calls him "FAT!". This insult doesn't work very well when Nathan Lane has been replaced by the much slimmer Tony Danza, causing Tony to look confused and Leo to say "Well, you used to be."
    • Also, in the song "Betrayed", late in the second act, Max is recounting the events leading to him ending up in a jail cell. At the point in the recounting where the play had gone from act I to act II, he shouts "Intermission!", the stage lights dim and he sits quietly on the bunk for a few seconds before continuing the song. In some performances after Nathan Lane left the show (having played Max), Max would pull a Playbill out from under the bunk, thumb through it, and then announce "He's good, but he's no Nathan!"
      • In another performance Max said "They were saving this cell for Michael Jackson" during the pause.
      • In one London production Max had a good old moan about the refreshments on offer in the theatre: "What? THREE POUNDS for icecream?! It's tiny! Where's the proper spoon? What are you supposed to do with this little wooden thing?"
  • During 'Untitled Opening Number' in Title of Show, the cast calls attention to tropes common in musical theatre as they illustrate them, "We'll softly start the coda from a very tiny point. And then we'll get a little louder to further emphasize the point. And then we'll cross downstage towards you! And now we're yelling fortissimo!"
  • All the characters in NF Simpson's play A Resounding Tinkle are quite aware they are in a play. There are frequent conversations about whether or not the audience will understand what's going on, at one point two characters are on stage being silent and then debate as to whether they should entertain the audience or not, at another point one of the characters wanders off the stage to talk to two cleaners in the theatre, all the characters are unceremoniously pushed off-stage in order for a group of critics to come on and debate the play, and the play ends when a member of the audience complains that the audience have had quite enough and demands to speak to the producer; the play concluding with all the characters thanking the audience for putting up with them.
  • In the PDQ Bach parodic opera The Abduction of Figaro, Donna Donna tells Donald Giovanni, in recitative, that she's so mad that she's not going to sing her aria. She then stamps offstage in a huff, leaving everyone scratching their heads until the orchestra director gets them back on track.
    • The Stoned Guest has the two main female characters briefly discussing their opera careers before getting back into character. Later they start singing ever-higher notes until one of them breaks off and says "I'm only a mezzo, you know."
  • At the end of the first act of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Miles Gloriosus is threatening to put Pseudolus to death. Pseudolus asks if he can have a word first, and Miles agrees. The word? "Intermission!"
  • Spamalot features The Lady of the Lake, who co-sings "The Song That Goes Like This" with Galahad and has "Diva's Lament" as a solo. Her awareness of the 4th Wall actually leads to the plot resolution: The Grail is under an audience member's seat. (Sir Robin, on the other hand, is Genre Savvy about musicals, but doesn't realize he's in one.)
  • Triple dose of William Shakespeare examples:
    • Puck's closing monologue reveals his Medium Awareness to any audience members who haven't picked up on it yet (which, depending on the production, can be quite obvious or completely hidden).
    • Feste, on the other hand, has his Medium Awareness vary drastically by production.
    • In the epilogue to The Tempest, Prospero asks the audience for applause and cheers to provide the wind that will blow his ship home.
  • Whether Galileo is aware of being in a Musical or not during We Will Rock You remains open for debate, that his band knows that they're in a musical is established when they tell the Big Bad that they've in fact been in the wings for the whole show.
  • In Les Misérables the characters bring in and even sometimes conduct the pit orchestra during "Beggars at the Feast".
  • In the most recent production of Oliver! in London, the orchestration uses a violin soloist during "Reviewing the Situation". Since a violin is one of the items that Fagin has in his box of treasures, there were several Played for Laughs moments where Fagin, apparently hearing the violin solo, would stop and stare at the violin, and even pick it up to examine it. The same part also featured a long monologue by Fagin where he seemed perfectly aware that he was on stage in a theatre (see the entry in Breaking the Fourth Wall for details).
  • Urinetown lives and breathes this trope, especially in the case of Officer Lockstock and Little Sally, who hang lampshades all over the place. Probably the most notable example is the Act One Finale, which Officer Lockstock explicitly refers to as such twice and tells the audience to enjoy intermission.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • From one of the Spyro games:

How do you know Spyro is still alive?
If he wasn't, we'd've gone back to the last save point by now.

  • Bromantic Foil Sumiyoshi from Snow Sakura seems very aware of his role on the Visual Novel and sometimes talks about raising flags or complains about not having an ending.
  • During a dream sequence in Max Payne, the titular hero is momentarily made medium-aware of the game's graphic novel-style cutscenes, and later on in a hidden scene he is made aware of being in a computer game to boot.
  • Medium Awareness is a running theme in Hideo Kojima's works: For instance, one of funniest moments in his previous game Snatcher occurs when the main character's Robot Buddy hears a faint ticking sound in an empty warehouse, and tells him to turn up the volume on his TV to hear it. Naturally, the sound is coming from a bomb, and the player character dashes out of the building just as the bomb goes off, leaving his ears ringing... obviously, his Robot Buddy quips, because he left the sound turned up on his TV.
  • Oh my, Metal Gear Solid... It starts when the Arms-Tech president forgot Meryl's codec frequency, but reminds Snake that there's a screenshot on the back of the game's CD case that shows the correct number. Snake notices that the background music has stopped playing, and shortly after Psycho Mantis talks with you about the savegames on the memory card of your PlayStation. There are many more examples, but a particularly noteworthy one occurs in MGS4 when Snake returns to the location of the first game. Otacon informs him that he has reached the point where he has to change to CD #2, but then remembers that the Play Station 3 uses Blu-Ray and changing the disc is no longer necessary.
    • "Snake, use the action button to climb the ladder."
  • The entire plot of The Simpsons Game is launched when Bart finds the manual for the game in the game, making him realize that he's a Video Game character with appropriate super powers.
  • Kirby Super Star features Kirby shooting an Aside Glance at you when the game calls him a "pretty jolly guy" (Spring Breeze tutorial). Its Video Game Remake added an "Oh Crap" look directed towards the bottom screen when, in the Milky Way Wishes tutorial, it informs you that Kirby can't copy abilities.
  • Meeting with Ciel during the culture festival in Kagetsu Tohya leads to an odd conversation. For a moment, Shiki can't figure out why the background music suddenly turned so foreboding. Turns out, the play Ciel was supposed to be in was cancelled, mostly because (as she explains with a peculiar expression) it wound up being a lot of work, and she's not one of the more popular heroines, so they didn't bother. Then she pulls out an umbrella, just because she and Kohaku are the only ones with props in their sprites...
  • When Bowser explains the rules in one of the Game Cube Mario Party games, he mentions the A button, whereupon Mini Bowser adds: "A. That's the green one. <G-rated insult>"
  • In Super Paper Mario, at various points characters explain to Mario the controls for a new technique he's acquired, which is par for the course for most video games. Mario, however, responds with confusion, because of course he has no idea what the "A button" is. The other character will then often refer to a "being from another dimension" that is watching them, and assures Mario that they will know what to do.
  • From The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening "Hey, man! When you want to save just push all the Buttons at once! Uhh... Don't ask me what that means, I'm just a kid!"
  • Shadow of Destiny and Time Hollow, both by the same director, have a mind-screwy New Game+ where the character can confront the main antagonist with all the details of the game at the beginning... because they've already played through the game before, so they know the plot. Ow, my brain.
    • There's also a lady in the City Hall: when she gives you the old map of the town, she says that you should use the map button to view it.
    • The Time Hollow example is Justified Trope, because Hollow Pen users retaining their memories even if the past is changed drives the entire plot of the game.
  • This can be seen in Breath of Death VII when the hero, Dem, complains about the shortness of the game, and is reprimanded by the rest of the party in a Take That against people demanding too much from inexpensive indie games.
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, in one of the post-game dungeons, the main party come up against bosses they have previously faced. After defeating a certain someone, the party comments on the fact that they would never have been able to beat him if he was that strong in the main game.
    • Also, in a strange twist, near the end of the game the main characters move into "4D Space" - which is actually the real world. They quickly realize that they're all characters in a hugely popular game called Eternal Sphere. Very deserving game-within-a-game Inception references.
  • EarthBound and Mother 3 have you enter your real name partway through the game, for reasons that become clear and brilliantly pulled-off near the end.
    • Another instance in EarthBound involves gameplay tutorial. When characters take damage in combat, their HP gauge counts down to the appropriate number one point at a time, rather than subtracting it all at once. One result is that, if a character receives mortal damage he/she won't die until it counts down to 0, so if they're healed during that time, they'll be ok. When a character explains this to you, he calls it your HP meter at first and then back-pedals, saying "uh..I mean your life force."
  • Some characters from the Disgaea series exhibit this. Mao's quest in the third game begins when he steals Almaz's Hero title from him when he's not looking.
    • Disgaea takes a sledgehammer to the Fourth Wall in general. In Disgaea 2, Laharl declares that the reason he lost to the player characters is because he's not the main character, and then tries to beat them again, so he can take over the story.
    • In Disgaea 2, one of the motions you can vote on in the Dark Assembly has one of the guest characters wanting to be the main character. If it passes, it's a Nonstandard Game Over.
    • There's also the NI character Asagi, who flies around trying to become the main character of NI games. You fight her in Soul Nomad and the World Eaters.
  • The Lord of Games, an omnipotent figure in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts who claims to have a part in the development of every single game ever, adores this trope. The characters were very aware of things even before his arrival, as demonstrated in this conversation from Banjo-Tooie:

Banjo: "Huh, looks like there's no one here."
Kazooie: "Oh, yes there is, Banjo. The music's changed again. Every time that happens, some big enemy drops out of nowhere to fight us."
[Klungo drops out of nowhere to fight them.]

  • In Flower, Sun, and Rain, Sumio interrupts his mission in order to chase a kid who is engaging in massive fourth wall breaking. At the end of the chapter, he gets fed up with the kid and orders the chapter to end.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, one skit called "For Lazy People" has Lloyd complaining about having to walk through one of the dungeons again. Specifically, he asks "Couldn't they at least give us a Quick Jump option?" This, of course, confuses the other characters, who have no idea what he's talking about - he's referring to a few dungeons that can be skipped after you've beaten them once. It's done again by Tenebrae in another skit for the sequel.
    • This happens in other Tales Of games as well; these comments usually come from the main character, who often represents the player and asks questions about his world that should be common knowledge.
  • In what might be the ur-example in this medium, Mr. Do! featured an "EXTRA" at the top of the screen whose letters representing the five steps needed to gain an extra life. The steps in question were to kill the letters one by one after they climbed down into the gameplay area. And yes, like all killable entities in the game, they could kill you too. Also, the pre-shoveled-out areas of the levels formed the level numbers.
  • Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is all over this trope.
  • In the point and click adventure The Secret of Monkey Island, Guybrush has to find a ship and crew, but as soon as they set sail the crew decides to mutiny and just laze about sun-bathing instead of doing their duties on ship. If you use the parser to perform the action "USE PIRATES" on the crew, Guybrush responds that "they're not the only ones being used around here."
  • NPCs in Thousand Arms are well aware that they're video game NPCs. They often complain about their limited roles and lack of voice overs.
  • The Typing of the Dead's Final Boss, in its final phase, asks you a series of questions. One of these questions asks what you love to hate, and one of the possible answers is "The Emperor Boss in this game."
  • Yukari from Shikigami no Shiro laments the fact that she has to be the first boss of the third game, when she was originally boss #4 of the second game. If you defeat her while playing in Dramatic Mode, she'll chastise you for "cheating" because you were using "two players".
    • This awareness is briefly shared by other characters during that boss fight in the third game, and only during that boss fight.
  • A lot of the characters in My World, My Way, but especially the princess, use RPG terms frequently. Some of the characters direct her to other areas in search of "more experience points", an offer which the Heroic Wannabe princess is all too happy to oblige.
  • The Touhou series has some examples:
    • In Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, Sakuya appears as the final stage's midboss, saying that she's got to at least make the heroine waste a bomb on her before her mistress gets angry at her.
    • In the same game, the Extra Stage boss Flandre Scarlet asks Marisa Kirisame to play with her. Players can't continue in Extra Stages, nor change its difficulty and initial amount of lives and bombs.

Flandre: Will you play with me?
Marisa: How much?
Flandre: One coin.
Marisa: One coin? You can't buy a life with that.
Flandre: No, it means that you can't continue!

    • In Perfect Cherry Blossom, the game's second stage boss (Chen) reappears in the Extra Stage as a midboss. After Reimu defeats her and reaches the Extra Stage boss (Ran Yakumo), Ran learns of Chen's second defeat, as Reimu refers to her as being still a Stage 2 Boss afterall.
    • In Subterranean Animism, Marisa and Alice constantly reference video game tropes as they proceed ("Look, it's the Extra dungeon for after you beat the game! Good luck!"). However, they seem to think they're in an RPG, not a shooter.
    • In Undefined Fantastic Object, after Sanae defeats Ichirin:

Sanae: Secret treasure ... ? Are you talking about those charms with "P" and "point" written on them?

      • And of course, Kogasa shows up as the EX-Midboss with a huge "SURPRISE!" because she's surprising us this time!
  • Simon the Sorcerer has an early scene where Simon has to get past a group of wizards' attempted denials of their being wizards. The correct dialogue option is to mention that the word 'Wizards' pops up when the mouse cursor is pointing at them.
  • ALL of Artix Entertainment's games show notice that they're aware that they're in a video game. One particular example is the player character in Adventure Quest stating "I have the gift of fourth wall sight...I can see what's just off-screen!"
  • Also Ninja Ninja, from Afro Samurai: "Afro, you button-mashing motherfucker!"
  • In Shadow Hearts: Covenant, an NPC tasked with handing out items to the main character points out, in a fit of self-doubt, that "it's not like you can't finish the game without me!"
  • The narrator and protagonist of The Company of Myself seems to be aware that he lives in a puzzle platformer, and talks about his experiences therein in a near-omniscient manner. Even the preloader and volume control have relatively Purple Prose eloquence compared to nearly all other games. Of course, it's all in his head....
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day did this at quite a few points, particularly at the end when the game freezes, saving Conker from certain death, and he begins interacting with the video game designers. The Xbox remake continues this tradition, wherein Conker and other characters make snide comments about the changes in the remake, with one early character mentioning that they changed the early levels significantly to fool players into thinking the rest of the game would also be different.
  • "If you need instructions, check out the enclosed instruction book."
  • At the start of a tutorial in Final Fantasy VII a giant finger pops up to direct you around the screen: Cloud responds "Huh? Finger?! What the hell?!"
  • Star Ocean: Second Evolution: When recruiting Welch, she gives you three options: "Please, join us", "Okay, fine, you can join us", and "Something's not right". The third will lead to Claude complaining that the selection menu doesn't have an option that lets him say no!
  • In Pokémon Red and Blue, the PC can go into a building in one of the cities with programmers inside, one of which tells you that he drew you. Interacting with computers results in the PC stopping you because he doesn't want to see the end of the script or saying that he doesn't want to bug out the game by messing with the code.
  • In World of Goo, the Sign Painter remarks that one of the goo balls said that life was a lot like a physics simulation, but it didn't matter as he fell off the cliff to his death.
  • Zepar and Furfur seem wholly aware that they are in an anime-like Visual Novel.
  • In Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts have a line[3] that imply they know about the player's control over Gordon.
  • In The Sims, sims seem to be aware of the green plumbob that marks the player-controlled sim. They will occasionally discuss it, and it appears on their national flag.
  • The fourth wall only appears when convenient in No More Heroes. Travis is willing to do some pretty stupid stuff only during cutscenes, and the characters actively work to stop the game from getting an AO rating and becoming No More Heroes Forever.
  • Yo-Jin-Bo likes to go around Breaking the Fourth Wall. The guys like to tease Mon-Mon about "not being one of the characters you can get at the end of the game", and his response is that he has an Image Song and has spent too much time reading his lines to not be a "captureable character".
  • In zOMG!, Old Man Logan points out the Bass'ken Windmill to the player, only to be told that they can only see one screen's worth of scenery at a time.
    • An April Fool's joke also included the player trying to explain to an NPC that the game crashed when trying to travel to the "secret area".
  • A prisoner on The Secret Island of Dr. Quandary begs the player to help him escape the Num Lock imprisoning him. The player character asks in all seriousness if they should use the Num Lock key. Both characters then give an Aside Glance, as the prisoner replies "Not in this program! You have to guess the number combination."
  • In Duke Nukem Forever, Duke seems to be aware that he's in a video game, and as such, lampshades and jokes about everything.
  • In World of Warcraft, there is an NPC in Honor Hold who claims he feels as though he is going through the same sequence of actions repeatedly, making reference to the fact that all characters go through an action loop.
    • In the dungeon Zul'Gurub, Bloodlord Mandokir is not only aware of the process of leveling, he exploits it by leveling up mid-battle after finishing off a player.

Bloodlord Mandokir: Ding!
Jin'do the Godbreaker: Hey! Grats, mon!

  • In "Team Fortress 2" the Sniper is aware of respawning, and the Scout knows about ragequits.
  • Just about everyone is aware that they're in a video game in Kid Icarus: Uprising.

Pit: What are we talking here? Mini Boss? Final Boss?


Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "flashback", Strong Bad doesn't see Homestar standing about a foot to his right because Homestar is Behind the Black. In "virus", the computer virus-induced breakdown of reality strands Strong Bad in the cold, black space outside the cartoon window, and allows Homestar to notice the navigation links below the cartoon. In one of the Halloween cartoons, Homsar walks along the entire perimeter of the cartoon window.
    • And this is all on top of the fact that the majority of the site's content is a Fourth Wall Mail Slot segment, in which most of the characters are aware they're on some kind of show.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • While characters in A Moment of Peace mostly exist in their own universe, they occasionally acknowledge the 4th wall in a casual way, going so far as to use it as a slide at one point.
  • Roomies also has the narrator directly interact with the cast. The plot device to explain this is he is a disembodied spirit of some kind. (Not to be confused with the other webcomic named Roomies, which evolved into It's Walky!, or the other other webcomic named Roomies)
  • Narbonic did this a few times.
  • In this non-canon intermission page of Girl Genius, Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer! reacts to the narrator's foreshadowing.
  • Order of the Stick sometimes refers to lengths of time in "Strips", and the characters sometimes mention that their main purpose in life is to make jokes about the rules of Dungeons & Dragons. In an interesting twist, they also often display an awareness that they're Player Characters in a game of D&D. Which, of course, they're not, really, that's just part of the strip. This is your brain on fictional metafiction...

Belkar: Hey! If we don't stop the weepy melodrama I'm going to start dropping pop culture references, and I don't think anyone wants that!

    • Just to made it more confusing, they're also aware that they're in a comic strip. In this strip, they plan to sneak in during the darkness, but have all day to wait. Haley invokes the standard RPG trope by declaring "Later, that evening..." and night falls.
    • During a fight, Haley is shot by a spell that blasts out of the comic's box. In the first panel of the next says 'At least I landed back in the panel.'
    • A couple times they've done some Lampshade Hanging on this, with characters saying it's okay to use No Fourth Wall terms like "+5 sword" or "red-and-black speech balloon" to newer characters awkwardly trying to avoid breaking the wall.
    • In the collected edition, Dungeon Crawlin' Fools, one of the bonus strips has Roy siccing a dangerous monster on the Narrator (a guy with a microphone who'd been standing 'just out of the frame') to get them both out of their way.
      • In the later collection, War and [XPs], a book-exclusive extra strip shows Julio Scoundrel's daring escape from Cliffport; Elan comments that it was pretty exciting "for a bonus comic!"
    • And in this strip, one of the characters realises that they're about to be attacked due to a sudden cutaway panel.
    • And then there's the time Haley climbed the sidebar of the strip's Web page so she could make her way to the illustrated cast biography and steal the diamond she she was holding in her profile, which has since been replaced with a note reading "I.O. Me One big-ass diamond".
    • In this strip, Sabine needs to explain to Thog how time can pass in comic strip panels.
    • And there's also the time when they needed to feed the monster in the darkness, and Belkar complained that he couldn't do it because "I told you that in one of the dragon comics, so I'm not even sure if that's the same continuity..."
    • Don't spell Zykon's Xykon's name wrong in your speech bubble. He can tell if you do.
    • thog will always treasure thog's adventure with talky-man. it featured non-traditional panel layout.

Roy Greenhilt: What about the dozens of civilians you killed to lure them there?
Thog: actually, thog hazy on that. did thog kill them off-panel?

  • Schlock Mercenary used to go way over the top with this, to the point of a character pulling aside an orange narration box to get a good look at a grisly wound, or a commander calling out an underling for her use of italics in the previous panel. The use has gradually reduced over time, though the narrator is still occasionally treated as a separate character.
    • The cartoonist also likes to show characters holding on to the panel borders when leaning into frame.
  • Bob and George's "Attack of Bob" arc begins with George noticing the changed background color, realizing that it means the start of a new Story Arc, and panicking.
    • Also, it's an explicit law of the comic's universe that neither of the titular characters can die, solely because their names are in the title. So, when the omnipotent Fistandantilus attacks George, he circumvents this rule by changing the title to Bob: The Comic Strip beforehand.
  • In the Bob and George subcomic, "Metroid: Third Derivative", Samus comments on the specific background music that accompanies fights with space pirates in all three Metroid Prime games (when you defeat all the pirates in the room, the music changes back to normal). Ie, "Music is fading, I got the last one".
  • On this page of Gunnerkrigg Court, Antimony (narrating from some point in the future), tells the readers that the skipped scene would have made a very amusing Makeover Montage.
  • Scene changes are commented on in this strip of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures.
  • This strip of Casey and Andy has the titular characters treat the borders of the comic panels as visible edges of the space-time continuum, with disastrous results.
  • The narrator starts messing with T-Rex in this strip of Dinosaur Comics.
  • Played hilariously in one strip of Eight Bit Theater, where Sarda demonstrates his omnipotent powers by rewriting Black Mage's speech bubbles.
    • In an earlier strip, the Light Warriors were trapped in a place where causality and space-time were twisted in on themselves, and could actually see alternate-time versions of themselves above, below, and to either side in other comic panels, and were commenting on each other's comments.
  • The webcomic Warmage has built up a plot point around characters who gain "webcomic awareness". It's played as a serious dramatic point without any exploration of the nature of the medium, or the nature of fiction, not even a light-hearted Lampshade Hanging. The people who realize they're in a webcomic are still Genre Blind fools carrying the Villain Ball.
  • Fancomic Pokémon Yellow Comics has the main character pointing out whenever the color changes in different areas.
  • It's a bit Epileptic Trees, but there's a theory that Torg from Sluggy Freelance has a mild Medium Awareness - he's always the one to realise it's a guest week or the art style has changed, possibly tying in with the fact that he's stated to be unusually psychically sensitive within the strip's setting.
  • In the Insecticomics, the panel lines seem to be akin to dimensional barriers. Sideways (by virtue of being a sentient chaos virus), can just walk out of the panel onto the rest of the webpage, Kickback fishes for Vok with a fishing line extending past the bottom panel, and Override's cannon is so powerful that it blasts Dreadmoon and Thrust out of the comic entirely.
  • On this page of Rice Boy, Golgo's robot eye was able to see the speech bubbles from Rice Boy and T-O-E's conversation. One could interpret this as a way to show that the robot eye made an audio recording, but Word of God confirms the Medium Awareness interpretation.
  • 1/0 never really had a fourth wall to begin with (except when certain characters were given a fourth wall), but one moment that stands out as Medium Awareness is when they're messing with the camera angles due to the rule about not showing the jar and Marcus complains that nobody even knows he's there because of how short he is. Ghanny replies that they would if they've memorized the characters' text fonts by now.
  • Dungeons and Denizens did this a fair number of times, but my favorite has got to be this strip, in which Zerelda complains that Seidistika has planned out her Training Montage in advance.
  • The first book of Erfworld was built around this trope in a sense. The main character Parson was pulled in from reality and is aware that it's a wargame, though while everyone else is aware of the rules, they don't get the context.
    • And even if Parson understands that Erfworld has game-like rules, he still hasn't gotten the fact that he's in a webcomic.
  • A one-shot guest strip for Sluggy Freelance had Riff discover that time was separated by "panels," and invent a device to travel between them. He accidentally hits Sasha with it and is very worried when she falls through the ground, but everything turns out fine when she falls from the sky thirty seconds later.
  • K, the protagonist of Antagonist is Genre Savvy and very medium aware, typically looking straight at the fourth wall and talking to an audience that no one else can see. Another character even references his speech bubbles at one point, though he seems to regard them as a delusion or mental image. K's sarcastic response? "This isn't a comic book."
  • Precocious: Ms. Monster apparently has a rule against students saying her name in Chiller font.
  • In The Way of the Metagamer, the characters can read each other's speech bubbles.
  • The Fey in Keychain of Creation are explicitly aware that they live in a webcomic based around the rules of Exalted. This befuddles most of the other characters, who 'know' that they live directly in Exalted. In this case, it is because the Fey in the aforementioned game have an utterly alien mindset, and this was an easy way to represent that. The Sidereals seem to have a little bit of this too, with moves that rely upon breaking perspective and knocking people through the box boundaries - which is kind of what Sidereal Martial Arts normally do.
  • Girls with Slingshots: Hazel reaches up, grabs her own speech bubble, and eats it to suppress a comment she didn't want to say.
  • This Subnormality strip somehow manages to go even more meta with this concept than usual.
  • At least one Xkcd comic references this. One or two of the early ones do it a way that could be seen as Nightmare Fuel - the comic panels (and thus their whole world) begins to crumble and fall apart.
  • Art and Leaf of Apple Valley frequently make references to the fact that they are in a webcomic, something most of the other characters either ignore or don't notice. The author has justified that, since this is their 4th webcomic (following The Apple of Discord and two previous comics) they've more than had enough time to figure out what's going on.
  • In Problem Sleuth, Sleuth ends up attacking and destroying DMK's health bars directly, after he starts regenerating any damage taken instantly.
  • In The Non Adventures of Wonderella, God exhibits this.
  • The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge briefly gave Slick awareness that he was just a comic strip character. Luckily the River Lethe was nearby to keep him from losing it completely.
  • Woo apparently knows Sandra and Woo's update schedule.
  • In Rusty and Co, Mimac, being a D&D adventurer, knows tetanus is not a danger because it's not in the source books.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • A Very Potter Musical uses this quite a bit, ranging from characters talking about things they did while offstage, to Ron accepting a package to Twizzlers from a member of the band, to Voldemort, during the final battle, yelling at the band to change the tone of the background music.
  • Similar to the Thumb Wars example above, in A Clone Apart, the following exchange is the first dialogue we hear:
    • "Did you see that? It's a bunch of floating text out in the middle of space!"
    • "No no no, that was a midichlorian cluster."
    • "There aren't any midiclorians in space."
    • "Of course there are! How else do we hear sound in space?"
  • In Smashtasm, Princess H introduces herself to Super64. As soon as she does, a caption appears stating her name. She complains to The Narrator that this is redundant, and she and The Narrator start arguing.
  • A College Humor parody skit of Sesame Street had the cookie monster replaced by a "pot cookie monster". By the end of the video the drug's effects cause him to realize that he's just a puppet.
  • Split panel fun at Cracked.com.
    • Also, this Cracked column, in which the characters in a noir-style story realize they're fictional characters. They immediately start asking "Who Writes This Crap??!" and arguing with the author. At one point, one character's dialogue links to the author's previous noir columns to prove that he's "already sort of done the whole noir thing. Once or twice." The author is... not pleased.
  • Name an Abridged Series. Any Abridged Series.
  • In Kickassia they can read Nostalgia Chick's subtitles. She instructs them to when they keep commenting on the fact they can't understand her.
  • Doctor Horrible's Commentary! The Musical! has several songs about the song. Most notably "Ten dollar solo."
  • In the musical episode of The Legend of Neil the fairy, when asked to sing with him by another fairy comments "I don't like online musicals
  • "You see how they condescend to us with their subtitles!"
  • The Monkey King has godlike powers in the Whateley Universe, and this is apparently one of them. In the only story in which he narrates, he not only demonstrates medium awareness, he stops and makes comments at a couple regular posters on the website forums.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Cro: An episode involving a weird-looking machine invented by some mammoth named "Bucky" is chock-full of No Fourth Wall flirting with lines like "What, another plot complication?", "I thought we were in a Flash Back already" (the show's main story-lines are told as flashbacks) and "This not a good place to end, how about nice rescue scene?" - at the end of the flashback portion of the ep, three of the show's characters are hanging from Bucky's machine, which has been shoved over a cliff in a literal Cliff Hanger.
  • Kim Possible plays with this a lot, including things like messing with the credits of the show. Most notably at the end of "Grande Size Me" when Ron gives a fourth wall breaking Space Whale Aesop speech about the dangers of mutating your DNA while the other characters gather behind him, confusedly wonder who he's talking to.
  • Squidward in SpongeBob SquarePants makes frequent references to things lasting eleven minutes, the approximate length of a short.
  • As do Timmy, Cosmo and Wanda on The Fairly OddParents.

Timmy: Where were you ten and a half minutes ago when I needed you?!

  • Mighty Max: Villain Of The Week Dr. Zygote uses a machine to "evolve towards the infinite", complete with Theme Music Power-Up. During the process he drones "Yes...I...can hear...the music!"
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures Christmas Episode, which parodied It's a Wonderful Life, Buster's guardian angel says he has to wait before granting Buster's wish to return to the normal reality, as they have to wait through the commercials.
  • Johnny Bravo did this in an early episode. Whenever the villain's plot was described, an ominous tune would cause the characters to look around in surprise and confusion until finally, one of them wonders aloud, "Who keeps playing that music?"
  • On Yogi's Treasure Hunt, in the episode "Follow the Yellow Brick Gold", Yogi and his friends are caught in a watery Death Trap just before a commercial break. After the break, the treasure hunters have escaped and are sitting on the roof. Huckleberry Hound says to the viewer, "If it hadn't been for that commercial break, you would have seen quite an escape!"
    • Another such joke occurred in the episode "The Search for the Moaning Lisa". Right before the commercial break, Dick Dastardly cut the cords on the elevator that the gang was using, causing it to fall. Right at the start of the next act, the elevator's still falling, prompting Huckleberry to remark, "We've been fallin' for the whole commercial break!"
      • Yet another has Quick Draw McGraw as El Kabong testifying in court about his excessive use of his guitar (or "ka-bonger"). He turns to the camera as says "Gee, kids, we're only trying to make you laugh. But don't try this at home!"
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle did this all the time. In one episode, Boris and Natasha overlook an important visual detail, but hear the Narrator announcing that they missed it. The Narrator won't tell them what it was, so they rewind the tape and watch the scene again.
    • Or the episode where Dragnet-like agents are trying to keep Rocky and Bullwinkle from spilling the beans, and so they gag our heroes. Then, when the off-screen narrator starts the episode wrap-up, the agents hear it and gag the narrator too. The rest of the episode has nothing but "mmm mmmp mmmn" sounds from the gagged narrator.
  • The Animated Adaptation of Beetlejuice used this trope at least once every other episode. In their The Wizard of Oz homage episode, they replaced the line "There's no place like home" with "Ripple-dissolve to scene 36".
  • A vast number of Ed, Edd n Eddy episodes have had the Eds or some other character demonstrate medium awareness:
    • In "Key to My Ed", after finding that a napping Johnny is still asleep, Eddy wonders "Does this guy sleep through the whole show?"
    • In "Momma's Little Ed", Eddy apologizes to Edd for an earlier outburst, blaming it on Kevin, and Edd replies "But Kevin wasn't in this show, Eddy."
    • In "An Ed in the Bush", Ed cues the end of the episode's first act with the line "End of first sequence and fade to black."
    • In "For Your Ed Only", Eddy's use of "Hasta la vista" and Edd's use of "C'est la vie" inspires Kevin to remark "This show needs subtitles."
    • In "Cry Ed", Edd remarks after chasing Eddy around "I think I've lost about ten pounds this season!"
    • At the end of "Here's Mud In Your Ed", Edd remarks "An iris in would be appropriate, don't you think?" As the cartoon ends with an iris to black, Edd can be heard saying "Thank you."
    • In "Boom Boom Out Goes the Ed", when Ed thinks that Edd has vanished without a trace, Eddy protests "But it's the end of the show, Ed!"
    • In "Big Picture Show", there's a glass case in Eddy's brother's room with the words "In case of movie, break glass." At the end of the movie, Johnny tries to get even with the kids for an earlier slight, only to be told by Plank that the movie's over and it's too late for revenge.
  • The PBS computer animated series Word World follows this. All of the characters can not only hear the Narrator, but they even call him Mr. Narrator when they talk to him. None of them seem to be aware that they are characters in a television show though, and to be fair not much else about their world is exactly normal.
  • In the 1985 Pound Puppies special, Violet starts telling Cooler what happened to her, only to stop, confused, when the scene starts to dissolve. Cooler blithely tells her that it's just a flashback and she continues her story.
  • Subverted in the South Park episode "Starvin' Marvin In Space". Starvin' Marvin finds a flying saucer, and he climbs in, turns it on, and starts flying it, with the theme music from The Greatest American Hero playing in the background. Later in the episode, Cartman gets in the ship, and complains "Where is that awful music coming from?" at which point someone presses a button and the music turns off.
    • In another episode the Jackovasaurs get their own sitcom with canned audience laughter, when Cartman goes on the show he says "What was that?, who's laughing at me?"
    • In "I'm A Little Bit Country", Cartman makes numerous attempts to initiate a flashback so he can complete his history assignment. One such method includes repeating the last words of a sentence with an echo effect.
    • In "It Hits the Fan", the guys in the bar are apparently aware of when their words get bleeped by the censor.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Voyage to the Bottom of Buford", the eponymous characters have already got a submarine built and ready to use, prompting this conversation:

Phineas: I can't believe how quickly we put this sub together!
Ferb: Yes, it usually takes us at least a montage.

    • "Mom! Phineas and Ferb are making a title sequence!"
      • "... a Christmas special/a public service announcement/a DVD menu"
    • In "Summer Belongs to You", a layover ad taking up half the screen is called out by Phineas for ruining a visual gag. Later, he also mentions there being about eleven minutes until sundown, the approximate remainder of the episode.
    • In "Phineas and Ferb's Hawaiian Vacation," a slight rift of background music plays whenever Candace puts on the supposedly-cursed Tiki necklace, which she repeatedly is shown to hear.

"Hmm, comes with its own theme music!"

    • In "The Lizard Whisperer," Ferb says that they will not give up their search for Steve after "a mere eleven minutes," which is how long the episode lasts.
    • In "The Belly of the Beast", Perry the Platypus ambushes Doofenshmirtz after having been imprisoned and left behind. When Doofenshmirtz asks how he escaped, we Flash Back... but before anything happens, we return to the present, where Doofenshmirtz has gained the upper hand.

Doofenshmirtz: Ha ha, I grabbed you while you were flashing back to your escape!

Disembodied Reggae Space Voice: We don't have rocky road. It's not like we don't like it, we left the marshmallows at home. I blame Baljeet.
Baljeet: What do you mean you blame Baljeet?
DRSV: Well, it was clearly your responsibility to bring them.
Baljeet: Where are you getting your information from, Disembodied Reggae Space Voice?
DRSV: Hey, I have a name you know!
Baljeet: Oh yeah well what is it?
DRSV: Well, it's Disembodied Reggae Space Voice, but you didn't know that!
Baljeet: Look who is sensitive all of a sudden! Besides, Buford could have brought them!
Phineas: Baljeet, would you please stop arguing with the soundtrack?
Baljeet: He started it!

Peter: Connie's unconscious! I'd better lie on top of her to see if she's breathing! (looks at the viewer) Oh, shut up! IT'S A CARTOON!

    • In a "Road to" episode, Brian and Stewie go back in time to the series pilot. There's a point where they watch their former selves setting up a cutaway gag, then just waiting there, motionless, until the gag ends. Then Stewie comments how things evolved, and shows that today they engage in more "idle" activities during the gags, like texting, doing make-up and smoking.
    • In one episode, a (fake) network ad pops up while Peter's talking, and he stops and yells at it for interrupting him and distracting from the show.
  • Chowder has a paper-thin (technically glass) fourth wall, so it runs into this trope at times. One example ends with Gazpacho using window cleaner to fix a scribble on the screen. Chowder asks if he can also clean up "that other thing". He pokes the Cartoon Network logo and says "That? That doesn't come off. I've tried."
    • Now that the Cartoon Network logo has changed, its very noticeable during reruns.
    • There's also the time where they go on a shopping spree and spend all their money. Upon realizing this Mung exclaims that there's no more money for animation, at which point the scene switches to the four main voice actors trying to figure out how to fix this (long story short, they have a car wash).
  • Dave the Barbarian was very fond of these.

Fang: What makes you think this plan will work!
Dave: It's got to, we're at the end of the episode!

  • At the end of the first episode of the second season of the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes cartoon, Dr. Gangrene has achieved his goal of world conquest! Not only does he laugh gleefully over his victory, but he declares, "And this isn't a two part episode, IT'S A ONE-PARTER!" to which the heroes respond "You may have won this episode, but you'll never win the series!"
  • One of The Simpsons' couch gags had the Simpsons sit on their couch to watch TV when Homer noticed the TV station logo in the corner of the screen. (This was back when these logos were first starting to appear.) He lunged to his feet, ripped it apart and threw it on the floor where the rest of the family joined him in stomping it.
    • Another couch gag had Marge, after sitting down, finding Matt Groening's signature on the floor, to look to the viewer like a signed piece of artwork. Marge cleans it up, whereupon Groening himself appears and resigns the floor.
    • Another episode took place around when Joe Millionaire had rather annoying logos going at the bottom of the screen. One goes by and Homer proceeds to eat it commenting "Mmm, promos", and then spitting something out with a "Bleh, Fox!"
    • The beginning of one of the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes begins with Marge talking about something while banners for other shows (literally) run across the bottom of the screen. Being a Treehouse of Horror, Marge proceeds to kill them.
    • In The Simpsons Movie, the FOX banner pops up to advertise shows and says "that's right, we advertise in MOVIES now, too!", making this a very rare case of REVERSE Medium Awareness - the network advert is aware it's in the movie!
  • In an episode of the late 1980s animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 the plot of the episode literally dawdles for about 20 minutes without progressing towards any sort of resolution. With literally a couple minutes left to go in the episode, one of the Turtles (Leonardo?) says to his colleagues, "We'd better come up with something quick, or we're going to have our first two-part episode."
    • In the episode "The Great Baldini," a priceless artifact is stolen during a magic show, which the Turtles are watching. The police cordon off the spectators and begin searching everyone. Donatello nervously asks if this is going to be a strip search, and Raphael responds, "I hope not. This is a family show!"
    • Raphael does this constantly in the 80's cartoon. And it even carries over to the animated crossover movie, Turtles Forever. In a Running Gag, Hun (from the 2003 series) has no idea who he is talking to when he continuously breaks the fourth wall.
  • One episode of Disney's The Mighty Ducks had the heroes trapped with a deadline at the end of the first half. When the time got short something on the lines of "I knew we shouldn't have sat around doing nothing during the commercial break" was said. This was somewhat bizarre in the German version - animated series aimed at children are not interrupted by commercial breaks.
    • How are you supposed to know what toys to buy?
  • The Cow and Chicken two-part episode "The Ugliest Weenie" was bridged, as normal, by an episode of I Am Weasel. The Red Guy recaps the events of part 1...

Red Guy: "So get ready for Part 3 of The Ugliest Weenie!"
Voice: "Hey, what happened to Part 2? Was that Weasel thing Part 2?"
Red Guy: "Yes, that was Part 2 of our show! This is Part 3 of the show, which is Part 2 of The Ugliest Weenie!"

  • Frequently in Animaniacs - The Warners and Slappy were the most frequent to indulge in this, though it was hardly exclusive to them.
  • A particularly notable use of the subtitle variant of this trope is used in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy during a conversation in the episode "The Prank Call of Cthulhu".

Mandy: Ugh, this isn't working.
Grim: He said, 'If you're talking about the new interns, you can find them in the cafeteria.'
Mandy: You understood him?
Grim: No, but I'm pretty good at reading subtitles backwards.

  • In The Angry Beavers episode "Eurobeavers", Norbert proceeds to speak with such a heavy accent that subtitles appear on the bottom of the screen. Daggett can see them, and eventually grabs one to throw it offscreen, where it can be heard shattering.
  • The British series Danger Mouse is built on this trope: characters get into arguments with the Narrator, the hero knows what 'C.H.M.F.F.G.' stands for because "I read the script", a villain plans to cripple the heroes by depriving them of their ubiquitous background music, and so on.
  • Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy has the Scary Godmother commenting about dramatic music whenever it comes on.
  • In a lot of the old theatrical shorts it wasn't uncommon for the cartoon characters to interact with a silhouetted member of the audience, perhaps to ask them for help or tell them to be quiet. Bugs Bunny once pulled out a gun and shot an audience member who wouldn't stop coughing.
  • Naturally this happens all the time to Bugs Bunny and his fellow Looney Tunes characters. Example; in the cartoon Rabbit Punch, a lengthy bout between Bugs and a dimwitted boxer ends with the boxer tying Bugs to a railroad track. We see the train barrelling down on Bugs, then the image flickers, then the film breaks, leaving a white screen. Bugs then walks onto the screen and announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, due to circumstances beyond our control we are unable to finish this picture." Leaning toward the camera and holding up a pair of scissors, he whispers, "And, uh, confidentially, the film didn't exactly break."
    • Perhaps the ultimate Looney Toons example would be the famous short "Duck Amuck" in which Daffy has a continued conversation and interaction with his animator.
    • Tex Avery was quite fond of these types of gags. For example there's the old gag where the character will stop everything to pluck a hair that's apparently stuck in the projector. In one of Avery's shorts while the main characters are chasing their victim the screen suddenly goes from color to black and white; when they stop running and walk back they find a border between color and black and white with a sign which says "Technicolor ends here".
    • One Roadrunner cartoon ends with Wile Coyote falling and he holds up a sign that says "Could you please end this cartoon before I hit the ground?", as it begins to Iris Out he holds up a sign that says "thank you".
  • In an episode of The Ren and Stimpy Show, Ren is president of Stimpy's fan club and answers his fan mail, bitterly telling one child in a letter that Stimpy isn't real and he's just a cartoon.
  • KaBlam!'s Henry and June.
  • In an episode of Freakazoid!!, Cosgrove finds out that Freakazoid was right all along and Cosgrove's girlfriend really is a monster. She plans to drain Freakazoid's essence and use it to maintain her youth and power. When she offers to share it with Cosgrove, a tremulous choir starts up on the soundtrack, singing "What will Cosgrove do? What will Cosgrove do? What will Cosgrove doooo?" He turns, points to the camera, and says in typical deadpan manner, "Cut it out." They do.
    • Pretty well everyone in Freakazoid! knows about their cartoon status. One of the pitfalls of living in a '90s Warner Bros. show.
  • Disney's direct-to-DVD film Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers does this when Captain Pete finishes his Villain Song - as he sings the final triumphant note, the orchestral accompaniment disappears. He looks around bewildered and asks, "Why'd the music stop?"
    • Also, whenever he mentions the Opera where he plans to kidnap Princess Minnie and arrange for an impostor to abdicate the throne to him, an operatic fanfare is heard as the camera cuts to a poster of the opera. Pete seems to be aware of the fanfare, and says the third time, "That little ditty's starting to grow on me."
  • In The Perils of Penelope Pitstop both the titular heroine and the villain, The Hooded Claw, seem to be aware of the narrator most of the time. Though this begs the question of why the narrator never tells Penelope that The Hooded Claw is really her Uncle Sylvester Sneakly.
  • In Futurama episode "Fear of a Bot Planet", Leela comments "What a difficult decision, if only I had two or three minutes to think about it!" and then cuts to commercials.
  • In the stop-motion paper figure Adult Swim comedy Mary Shelley's Frankenhole, Jesus calls Dr Victor Frankenstein "Paperface".
  • In Rex the Runt, a claymation series, the fact that the characters are made of plasticine is regularly played with. An example is one episode where Rex gets accidentally put through a mincer, but survives the experience and is eventually squashed back together into one piece.
  • Several characters in My Gym Partner's a Monkey, most notably Principal Pixiefrog, seem to be aware that they are characters in a cartoon.
  • Interesting example in the Christmas Episode of Charlie and Lola, which is animated to match the books; the characters are childish drawings and the backgrounds are collages. Christmas grinds to a halt because Santa's elves have run out of paper to wrap the presents. As Charlie and Lola head home depressed, Lola notices that the starry sky is made of wrapping paper, and they tear it off and give it to the elves, thus Saving Christmas.
  • Though it's still Fan Wank at the moment, Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has shown signs that she aware of her status as a cartoon character. She is the only pony to utilize Offscreen Teleportation, Behind a Stick, pushing on an Iris Out, and other classic cartoon abilities. And during an Everypony Laughs Ending, she just looked straight at the screen and stared.
    • The last example, and a few other similar moments, have been officially dismissed as animation errors in which Pinkie was meant to be looking at another character rather than the camera. However, the above examples, others that can't be explained away as animation errors, and moments from later on in the show's production (for instance, this) still grant her a well-deserved spot on this page.
    • Spike takes on this role in the Season 2 episode "Lesson Zero" when he pushes or pops all of Twilight's Imagine Spots away.
  • The Powerpuff Girls episode "Simian Says" (as well as the comic book story "See You Later, Narrator") has Mojo kidnapping the narrator and replacing his script with one that has the Powerpuff Girls incapable of saving the day.
  • When Timmy Turner and Jimmy Neutron end up in each others' universes in the first Jimmy Timmy Power Hour, both are aware of the changes in animation style:

Jimmy: My arms! My legs! My depth!
Timmy: Why is everything so bulgy?

  • Team Rocket in Pokémon occasionaly broke it, usually while blasting off, and often by Meowth
  1. By way of example, in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, he can beat his opponent around the head with his own life bar
  2. It's also an in-joke about the set: those stairs don't actually lead anywhere.
  3. "Far distant eyes look through yours."