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If you have a character who has Medium Awareness or is capable of Breaking the Fourth Wall, it's quite common to observe his interactions with characters who don't know they're fictional. Any time our medium-aware friend will directly address the audience or mention some boundaries of the medium, everybody else will either ignore him or react surprised and find themselves unable to understand what he's talking about. Eventually the other person will think he either is joking or has a few screws loose. Usually, no matter what he will do, his efforts to make them realize they're all fictional characters will be meaningless - nobody will believe or even understand him.

Most of the time this trope is played in the same way medium awareness is in said work of fiction. If it's Played for Laughs, so is everybody's ignorance. If medium awareness is Played for Drama, this trope may add a little to it - our hero has to deal with being a fictional character and everybody else thinking he's crazy.

Contrast No Fourth Wall; compare Cassandra Truth, The Cuckoolander Was Right and This Is Reality.

Examples of Audience? What Audience? include:


Anime and Manga

  • In the last episode of FLCL, Kamon explains why manga-like scenes from the first episode didn't appear in later episodes ("It takes time and a lot of work") and why they reappeared in the last one (the creators were "accused of being lazy"). Naota has no idea what Kamon is talking about.
    • In the first episode they have a cut to a commentary track where Haruko mentions it's really hard to do slow motion scenes because you have to hold your breath while you do it.
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Naota: That was you?! I thought it was a special effect!

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Comic Books

  • This happens to Deadpool a lot. Every time he breaks the fourth wall or indicates he knows he's a comic book character in the presence of someone else, they have absolutely no idea what he means. Most commonly the other character will respond with a Flat What and an assumption that he's crazy. This being Deadpool, they're probably not that far off.
  • Played for Laughs in an issue of Damage Control where the characters met She Hulk, and showed what her Medium Awareness looked like from the outside.
  • One time when She Hulk guest starred in her cousin's book (or possibly vice versa), at the end she addressed the audience; Hulk (who was intelligent at the time) called her on it.
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Hulk: Who are you talking to?
She-Hulk: The people on the other side of the fourth wall.
Hulk: Uh, Jen? There's no wall there. (waves hand to demonstrate) Just air.

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-How iwonic! It could only be a wwiter's idea.
-Writer? Who is that?
-Oh, just an imaginawy figuwe.

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Film

  • The main character in Woody Allen's Whatever Works does this all the time, to everyone else's bewilderment.
  • Invoked in Wayne's World: "Only me and Garth get to talk to the camera!"
  • Played with in Pirates of the Great Salt Lake at the Narrator is either invisible or unremarkable to the characters. After one character is killed he can suddenly see the narrator, but not the audience the narrator is talking to.
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Kirk: I think he's talking to that grove of trees...

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  • In High Fidelity, protagonist Rob Gordon continually talks directly to the audience, telling his life story. Nobody seems to notice, until near the end, when he yells:
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Rob: "When is this gonna stop?!"
Laura (who just walked in): "When's what gonna stop?".
Rob: "Uhh, nothing."

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  • The Truman Show has an in-universe example, when Truman sees that his wife is presenting him food as if she was doing advertisement for it — which she's doing, actually.
  • This is the plot of Last Action Hero. The kid from reality has to convince the character that he's inside a movie.

Literature

  • Played for drama in Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely by David D. Levine.

Live Action TV

  • One episode of Just Shoot Me had Maya meeting an insane man who thought he was Woody Allen. Near the end, he breaks the fourth wall and starts talking to the camera, to Maya's great confusion.

Theater

  • In Spamalot, one of the quests King Arthur has been assigned (in addition to finding the Holy Grail) is to put on a Broadway musical. Later on in the show, The Lady of the Lake graciously points out to him that "but you ARE on Broadway!". King Arthur is rather surprised.

Video Games

  • Common in Super Paper Mario, where exposition dumps and tutorials will often make reference to the player sitting in front of the screen, much to the confusion of Mario and company.
    • This is also done in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, as there are a couple instances of a character talking to the player, leading your partner to ask what they mean by "you in front of the TV".
  • In Metal Gear Solid 2, Raiden will be utterly confused any time a character breaks the fourth wall.
  • In The Secret of Monkey Island, Herman Toothrot makes a number of snarky aside comments during Act 3. When Guybrush eventually asks "Who are you talking to?", Herman cheerily replies "The people watching at home!"

Web Comics

  • Page quote comes from El Goonish Shive where filler strips have No Fourth Wall, but story arcs do. When Matt and Rat, two discarded characters, tried to complain to Tedd about not being protagonists, he didn't knew what they meant. Matt quickly deducted that it means a story arc started, so Tedd is no longer aware he is in comics. And then he forced him to break the fourth wall so they could have an argument.
    • Said characters were subsequently treated for their shared psychosis and became productive members of society according to Word of God.
  • Every time Mind Mistress meets medium-aware characters, she tries to explain why it's impossible for them to be comics characters. It never works.
  • When the Doppleganger Gang confronts the Master Assassin - leader of the Character Assassins, a killer cult that believes they can break the fourth wall and enslave their creator by killing the "Alpha Character" - we can see how his breaking the fourth wall and addressing the reader looks from their perspective.
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Kid Apocalypse: And what's with the kooky asides? Who's he thinks he is talking to?
Syko Suki: Dunno.

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  • The sprite comic Kid Radd uses this trope - it's about video game characters being rescued from their games and living in the internet. Sometimes it takes a while for them to adjust.
  • In Drowtales, the first time Keil talks to the audience, a Guard asks who she's talking to. Inverted later on, when she's talking to Naal, who assumes she's talking to her imaginary friend and walks off.
  • 1/0 has this as a major plot point as characters start developing "personal Fourth Walls".

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In the Duck Dodgers episode parodying 1970s anime, Marvin the Martian explains his motives in villainous monologue directly to the viewers, and one of his robot minions ask who he's talking to. Marvin tries to explain but fails and the robots spend the rest of the episode laughing at him.
  • The Kim Possible episode Grand Size Me ended with Ron addressing the audience about genetic mutation. Nobody knew whom he was addressing and he was sent to the teacher's office.
  • In Turtles Forever, Hun eventually gets fed up with 80s Raphael making asides to the audience, and snaps "Why do you keep doing that? Who are you talking to?! THERE'S NO ONE THERE!"
  • From an episode of Brandy and Mr. Whiskers:
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Brandy: It works all the time in TV shows!
Lola: But Brandy, this isn't a TV show! This is real life!
Brandy: (Aside Glance) I haven't had the heart to tell her.

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  • The page image is from a fan comic for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, where the character Pinkie Pie is a noted fourth-wall-breaker.
    • In the episode "Putting Your Hoof Down", the minotaur Iron Will stares at the fourth wall while saying his catchphrase, then Pinkie Pie and Rarity look in the same direction with an expression of confusion.
  • In the South Park episode "It's A Jersey Thing", Sheila admits via a Jersey Shore-style Confession Cam that she's from Jersey. Which leads to this moment...
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Sharon: Um, Sheila, who are you talking to?
Sheila: You wouldn't understand. It's a Jersey thing.

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