Third-Person Flashback

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Sometimes as a person recalls an event, we get to see what happened then... but wait, why is this person's memory showing the person who remembered it? For example, if Bob remembered a date with Alice, and we see in his memories: Alice at table, waiting... then Bob appears late and in such a messy state! If it's Bob's memory, we should be seeing it though his eyes...or at least, we certainly shouldn't see anything from before the point when he showed up.

Usually an acceptable break from reality as it's usually hard to convey events through someone's viewpoint, and sometimes because the stage cannot be recreated with the remembering character's viewpoint if it was filmed much earlier.

Another reason this could be an acceptable break from reality is for some nice visual cues or adding a Rewatch Bonus into the Third-Person Flashback. A Third-Person Flashback could be perfect for placing a Chekhov's Gun of some kind, a Brick Joke, Funny Background Event, or a bit of Foreshadowing.

Anything transmitted through an Exposition Beam is likely to be this. A sign of an Unreliable Narrator.

As this is very common, only list examples that is a subversion or averted. Some of some very odd examples may be added like Farscape example.


Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In an episode of the anime School Rumble, Yakumo has a flashback/dream to when she was a little kid that is from the first person perspective. Up to and including when the camera shakes up and down to indicate her nodding her head.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series lampshades this trope occasionally, even making fun of how Tèa was somehow able to remember something when she was unconscious.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Possible aversion: In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, we see the movie as a 3rd person memory of the protagonists dreams. In real life he has no memory of his romantic rival's face because he didn't see it, so even though we see it in 3rd person, no matter how he moves the guy he's always The Blank.
  • Pulp Fiction's flashback to when Butch is given his father's watch, with Christopher Walken telling him the story, starts in first-person but then goes third.
  • In Flash Gordon, as Doctor Klytus and General Kala are draining Hans Zarkov's mind, historical events are seen in third person (things Zarkov watched on television, for example), but his personal memories (like when he was fired from the university, or meeting and marrying his wife) are all shot from first person.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • This is one function of a Pensieve Flashback in Harry Potter. The most obvious example is in book five, when Harry sneaks a look at one of Snape's school memories and spends more time following his teenaged father than Snape himself. He does worry that if they get too far apart he won't be able to keep following James, but it never happens.

Interview question: So there are things in there that you haven’t noticed personally, but you can go and see yourself?
Rowling: Yes, and that’s the magic of the Pensieve, that’s what brings it alive. (…) Otherwise it really would just be like a diary, wouldn’t it? Confined to what you remember. But the Pensieve recreates a moment for you, so you could go into your own memory and relive things that you didn’t notice the time. It’s somewhere in your head, which I’m sure it is, in all of our brains. I’m sure if you could access it, things that you don’t know you remember are all in there somewhere.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Averted in all flashbacks in Silent Hill Homecoming as flashbacks are in first person.
  • Justified in Chrono Trigger. During the trial, all the flashbacks of what you did are in third-person..because they were actually coming from somebody else's descriptions.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Lampshaded on Invader Zim. Zim remembers escaping from Frycourtia, and Sizz-Lor coming in and swearing to recapture him. Back in the present, Sizz-lor asks how he can remember that last part if he already left. Zim doesn't have an answer.

Real Life[edit | hide]