Narrating the Obvious

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Scott McCloud uses comic panels to illustrate the trope.
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One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in "It's a nice day", or "You're very tall", or "Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you alright?"
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Any line in a movie or show that tells us what it was we just saw. "He got away!" "It's a trap!" "They are shooting at us!"

Distinct from As You Know in that everyone in the audience and the cast do, in fact, know this.

This is also seen in Reality Shows, when participant monologues are interspliced with clips of the events they are talking about:

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"He started yelling at me." (shot of person yelling)

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Possibly a holdover from the days of radio, where it was necessary for characters to describe the action for the audience. The radio play (and subsequent versions) of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy played with (and Lampshaded) this by using Arthur's tendency for this kind of talk to demonstrate the primitiveness of the human mind.

Perhaps writers do this because they assume that Viewers Are Goldfish.

See also Captain Obvious, Luckily, My Powers Will Protect Me. Contrast Unreliable Voiceover.

Examples of Narrating the Obvious include:


Anime & Manga


Comics

  • Frequently occurs in Golden Age comic books. A caption will say, "Captain Whizbang overtakes the locomotive!", while in the same panel Captain Whizbang says or thinks, "Got to--overtake--the locomotive!", and the art shows Captain Whizbang—guess what?--overtaking the locomotive.
  • The trope carried over into the Silver Age as well. Since the Bronze Age, this has become a Discredited Trope, and a likely contributing factor to the Decompressed Comic.
  • Sometimes comics seem to invoke this as a result of unease to show panels without text.
  • The works of Amar Chitra Katha, an Indian publisher of educational/religious children's comics, are full of this.
  • Over the top parodied in Pyton! magazine's "Stuporman" comic: One frame shows Lex Luthor in a mech, announcing that he's going to "Take over the world!", while a fleeing bystander screams "Aiee! Lex Luthor is taking over the world!" while the protagonist looks on and muses that Lex Luthor seems to be trying to take over the world. The narrator points out that Lex Luthor, the villain, is often trying to take over the world, while an arrow box pointing at at Lex clarifies that he is trying to take over the world. The next frame shows the comic's editor, asking the artist if they've made the point clear enough, since their readers are very, very stupid.
  • All the time in older Archie Sonic The Hedgehog comics. The writers and layout artists apparently suffered from the unfortunate delusion that every panel had to have dialog in it; they don't really lose this particular delusion, but at least they learn to make the dialog semi-meaningful instead of this trope.


Film

  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi spends a few good minutes setting up the Emperor's plan, complete with the delightful reactions of the pilots as they stumble right into it... and then Admiral Akbar declares, "It's a trap!"
  • A semi-famous line in the movie Independence Day:
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"They're chasing us!"
"Oh, really, you think?"

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Jane: He has a gun.
Frank: I... can see that.

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  • Dogville can be found guilty of this, with the narrator filling us in on every single development and telling the viewer everything that is happening. Then there is this part towards the end"
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Grace: That's Moses!
Narrator: "That's Moses!" she said, jumping out of the car.

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  • The helpful narrator of The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford tells us that Jesse James was missing one of his fingers. At the same time, the camera zooms in on one of Jesse James's hands and shows us—yes, there's a finger missing. Thanks, Narrator!
  • Many DVD Commentaries fall prey to this trope, with filmmakers sometimes offering little more than obvious descriptions of what's happening on screen. For example, William Friedkin's commentary on The Exorcist has been described as "The Exorcist for the visually impaired".


Literature

  • The Twilight series is notorious for this. Bella is the most unobservant narrator ever, so half the time she doesn't notice what should be completely obvious even to a blind, brain-damaged puppy. She also spends an inordinate amount of time stating what is so blitheringly obvious that one wonders why she states it. And half the time she gets it wrong! Some suspect that Stephanie Meyer, the author, does this so that she can explain things that the aforementioned puppy would understand without explanation.
    • '"Yes," I agreed.'
  • The first few books in The Dresden Files have a pretty bad case of this when it comes to character descriptions. Harry always tells us that he is a wizard, even though it's mentioned on the blurb. He tells us who Murphy is, even though we've known that for more than four books. He repeatedly tells us how he's tall and lanky. And so on.
    • Obviously, many long running book series are guilty of this. They obviously write it that way so that if someone obviously starts reading the series without reading book one, they will obviously not be totally lost. Obviously, this entry and the one above fall under this trope. Obviously.


Live-Action TV

  • This was a common staple of classic Doctor Who, since it was essentially recorded live, "as is". If there's a Special Effects Failure, at least the companion screaming "It's gestating!" will get the point across to the audience. It also provides a handy cue to the video technician to start playing the filmed inserts.
    • During "The Chase" (classic season 2) the protagonists are chased through time by a group of Daleks in their own time machine and make a brief stop on a sailing ship, and when the Daleks show up they fight and kill the crew before resuming the chase. The camera then pan over the now deserted ship before stopping on the name plate, which reads "Mary Celeste". That's kinda funny, right? Cut to inside the TARDIS, where Ian tells Barbara that the ship was, in fact, the Mary Celeste. Maybe the writers were afraid the audience looked away at the wrong moment.
  • Played with in one scene on The Young Ones:
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Vyvyan: Look, here comes the postman.
Mike: Vyvyan, why do you keep telling us what's just about to happen next?
Vyvyan: Because it's a studio set, Michael, and they can't afford any long shots.

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  • A staple of incompetent documentarian Roy Mallard on People Like Us. Sometimes his narration uses exactly the same words that his interview subjects use seconds later (though of course the narration was added long after the people spoke those words.)
  • Parodied to death in That Mitchell and Webb Look with "The Gift Shop Sketch".


Radio

  • Every single Radio Drama, as required by the medium. Tends to make the actors sound really hammy to listeners used to visual media.


Theater

  • Explicitly called for in the stage directions to Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: one act opens with the title characters waking up in darkness to the very obvious sounds of the ocean, sailors shouting, ropes and timbers creaking, etc. Only when "the point has been well made, and then some" does Guildenstern helpfully declare, "We're on a boat!"


Video Games

  • One of the main criticisms of Metroid: Other M. For example, in the beginning, Samus has a dream of the ending events of Super Metroid and later wakes up telling the viewers that she had said dream.


Web Animation

  • Parodied in Red vs. Blue when the Red team find an odd computer underground.
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Sarge: Huh, what's all this business?
Simmons: It looks like a bunch of computer equipment, sir.
Sarge: Excellent analysis, Simmons.
Donut: And it's attached to some kind of TV thing.
Sarge: So it is. Astute deduction, Donut.
Grif: It shows all different parts of the canyon. Look, there's our base!
Sarge: Ah yes, another incredible observation from the stating the obvious department! Thanks for nothing, numbnuts!

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Web Original

  • Let's Play videos of particularly poor quality are prone to this as the players feel a need to keep talking throughout the video, even if they have nothing informative to say beyond what is happening on the screen.
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Western Animation

  • When The Simpsons visited Itchy & Scratchy Land and were attacked by murderous robots, Lisa pointed out to Homer that the camera flash scrambled the robots' circuits immediately after said event. Homer reacted: "What are you, the narrator?"
  • The Incredibles: "The remote controls the robot!" We got that, Violet.
  • The recut versions of The Thief and the Cobbler, in particular the Miramax cut, decided to make a few mute characters non-mute. How, you ask? By making them narrate their thoughts. However, the original director had already made sure that the audience would know what they were thinking. As a result, you get lines such as:
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"As Zigzag's guards were taking me inside the royal palace, I gazed upon the princess for the first time."
"Finally, I was free."

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  • The 1960s era Adventures of Superman had the narrator state everything that was happening on screen as you were watching it, leading to such helpful narration such as "Superman hurls the rock into the volcano!" as you watch Superman hurl the rock into the volcano.



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