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"Ah, another one of the puzzles which the Freeman is most famous for solving. I eagerly await the Freeman's solution."
—Vortigaunt, Half-Life: Episode 2
The role a character takes when questioning the unlikely trappings of their own show, especially if this becomes their recurring trait. Often falls to a new character who happens to be Genre Savvy. Occasionally this allows another character to lampshade the answer to the question with an even more roundabout explanation.
There are two types of Meta Guy: a bumbling idiot who has no idea of what they're saying (or at least, not the deeper implications), or a Genre Savvy Deadpan Snarker who goes out of his way to point out flaws in each plan. While a Type A Meta Guy (typically wearing already blood-colored attire) would say something like, "I don't get this plan! It looks like I'd get mutilated/executed/a nasty paper cut" etc., a Type B in a similar situation might say, "Are you sure this is a good idea? I don't get out much", alluding not only to their situation but the fact that they've actually considered not coming back.
This is often the gag involved in a Boke and Tsukkomi Routine, where the tsukkomi plays Meta Guy. The key to being a subtle Meta Guy seems to be skepticism built on natural cynicism, rather than actually being aware of the Fourth Wall. The latter takes the character one step further to become a Fourth Wall Observer.
Anime and Manga
- Kyon from Suzumiya Haruhi.
- Chisame the computer geek in Mahou Sensei Negima. Ironic since she herself is just as weird as any of the other characters, and getting weirder- the more she struggles to stay normal, the more bizarre stuff happens. Up to the point she becomes a semi-Magical Girl, whereupon she
gets bored with realitygives up on the reality she knew and dives headfirst into the abnormal, and gives up the Meta Guy thing except in extreme cases. Such as Jack Rakan.
- Kanako in Love Hina, one major reason she didn't make friends easily. She has her harsh but rather genre-blind opinions on Keitaro's bizarre relationships with girls, made calculated awkward moments to entice him, and had a complete dislike of Naru's hot-and-cold personality.
- Being the straight man in Haré+ Guu, Haré assumes this role frequently.
- A few characters played Meta Guy in Best Student Council whenever the characters seemed to remember they had no idea how Pucchan and Lance Bean (who were puppets) could think and speak of their own accord.
- Beauty fulfills this role in Bobobobo Bobobo. At first, Gasser also performed this role, but in later episodes he seems to slip into bouts of Not So Above It All.
- Gasser's case is strange in that at times, he plays this trope so straight as to loop right back in the series' weirdness. His reactions are usually so far over the top that they play a role similar to the rest of the antics.
- Nagisa from Futari wa Pretty Cure often questions the things she has to do as a Magical Girl, especially the speech.
- Strangely enough, Suzaku Kururugi becomes the Meta Guy in the Code Geass side materials, especially those related to the second season, sometimes going as far as Breaking the Fourth Wall and acting out of character at the whim of the Rule of Funny.
- And Lampshade Hanging. For example, remarking to himself that he gets more attention in side materials than in the main story, and refusing to go along with Milly's orders because he knows that her smiling is a great big warning sign (compare to the show, where he does whatever she asks because it's "President's Orders").
- Kallen sometimes fills this role in the main series, mainly due to having a better sense of morality than most others in the main cast.
- Carol and Gustav St. Germain serve this role in Baccano!. Conversation topics include: where is the story supposed to start, who exactly is the main character of the series and whether or not the loose thread about Dallas's missing body is a blatant sequel hook.
- In the dubbed version of Yu-Gi-Oh GX, Amon Garam (Adrian Gecko) takes this role in several episodes. It's around this point that the writers were getting more self-aware (or just fed up) - see also Dub Text and Who Writes This Crap?. "The sooner I beat you, the less bad dialogue I have to hear!"
- In Death Note, Ryuk frequently questions the implausibilities in Light's plans, and is in many ways an audience surrogate. In fact, he's the one that started off the entire plot, and only hangs around Light for as long as he is entertaining.
- A few different characters in Ouran High School Host Club. Renge is probably the most overt example.
- Rebuild of Evangelion combines this with Wham! Line at the end of the second film: Kaworu remembers the events of the original series.
- Shinpachi in Gintama, as the token tsukkomi of the series, being meta is primarily his role of the series.
- Brainy Smurf from the The Smurfs. Unsurprisingly, this often made him the most unpopular smurf in his village.
- Oh hey. Nice to see you here. It's me, Deadpool. Ever since I was told by Loki that I was a comic book character, I do this, sometimes bashing the in until it doesn't exist anymore. Everbody thinks I'm insane in-universe, though, so no one takes me seriously.
- Sometimes, particularly when John Byrne is writing, the She Hulk will take this role.
- As will Squirrel Girl (once claiming that it was okay to break the fourth wall in recap pages, another time actually being interrupted during a recap) and her two squirrel partners, Monkey Joe and Tippy Toe.
- Sometimes, particularly when John Byrne is writing, the She Hulk will take this role.
- Matthew the Raven, from The Sandman, was noted by the author as serving as a sort of mouthpiece for the audience, frequently questioning the actions of other characters who went outside the bounds of real-world common sense.
- Batman's nemesis The Joker has played this role to an extent some times. One issue even had him directly addressing the audience at the start while recapping the events of the previous issue. It is apparently a canon fact that the Joker is so batshit crazy that he's actually aware of practically everything having to do with the DCU, including events of stories that haven't happened anymore and, conceivably, the fact that it's all just comic books.
- It's described on multiple occasions as "supersanity." The disturbing part is that this could explain the Joker's behavior in the first place; it's possible that he's a psychotic killer because he knows his actions don't matter. Nobody he hurts is real. He's beyond solipsism...and he's right.
- Spider-Man is a more "classical" type, as he often comments on the unlikely events of the plot, how his actions go against rationality, and makes pop culture references, but he's still completely unaware of the Fourth Wall.
- Empowered regularly breaks the fourth wall when she appears in the title pages of stories; Ninjette and ThugBoy lampshade this when they appear and have no idea who she's talking to.
- Animal Man is an example of this trope being played mostly for drama. He was less than happy when he realized that he was a fictional character and side characters made the same realization with worse reactions.
- Mr. Mxyzptlk often gets portrayed this way in the modern era.
- You can get a similar effect from being in a Groundhog Day Loop: in the fanfiction Dr. Strangelove or how I learned to stop worrying and love the N bomb, Shinji Ikari is trapped in one of those that allows him to retry the events of the series from the telephone scene up until the End, unless he dies. After thousands of iterations in which he gleefully murdered Gendou in the very Eva bay by prog knife, by stabbing, by squirting, by drowning... etc. etc. etc. and many many other things, by the time the fic bothers to tell us the latest iteration in detail Shinji Ikari has become tougher and meaner than Duke Nukem and Johnny Montana, simply through sheer brazenness brought by lots of accumulated experience and the knowledge that he doesn't have to worry about the consequences of his actions.
- Kyon of course, remains the Only Sane Man within The Emiya Clan, and by extension, he takes the role of questioning the plausibility of every wacky adventure or absurdly random event that happens within the massive Multiverse the fic belongs to. He then proceeds to display knowledge of the various laws of narrative causality, and begins predicting exactly what's going to come next in the story, with stunning accuracy.
- Chisame, to a lesser extent, serves as this as well. However, she can only lampshade the events, not plot the storytelling.
- In the Austin Powers movies, Dr. Evil's son, Scott, is the Meta Guy. He's the source of the trope name Why Don't You Just Shoot Him??
- In Top Secret there wasn't a character consistently the Meta Guy--which was exceedingly odd giving some of the surrealistic jokes (such as Nick and his girlfriend making out while parachuting and the camera panning to...a parachuting fireplace, which itself is a callback to an earlier gag where the camera pans away to a fireplace, and then has to pan away again to a second fireplace because Nick and his girlfriend roll back into frame). However, at one point Nick sarcastically summarizes his girlfriend's life as he knows it as being a little too weird even for a one-man pastiche of Elvis, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys. This leads into a fourth wall gag.
- In the Scream movies, Randy was a horror movie buff pointing out various horror movie tropes, including going over the rules for surviving a horror movie — never have sex, never drink or use drugs, and never say "I'll be right back." Naturally, the characters break all three in record time. He expands the rules to sequels and trilogies in the second and third films. Given the 4th film is an assassin "remaking" the original, two Suspiciously Similar Substitutes to Randy deliver the rules of remakes/reboots. One of them is part of the Big Bad Duumvirate.
- Riley in National Treasure.
"Our evil plan is working."
- The title character in Rango.
- There's Nothing Out There is all ABOUT this trope, which is personified by its main character.
- Han Solo tends to fill this trope in the original Star Wars trilogy. Some critics have complained that one of the weaknesses of the prequels is the lack of a similar character to act as the audience proxy.
- Leggy Starlitz in the Bruce Sterling novel Zeitgeist is so genre savvy he uses narrative to change reality.
- The antagonist Greek Mafiya Magnificent Bastard, Mehmet Ozbey, discovers this power, and goes on to use Bond-style Action Hero tropes for his own nefarious purposes.
- Leggy's young daughter Zenobia is particularly adept. At one point she's dancing on the ceiling, saying "Look Dad! I'm being impossible!"
- Dr. Arzt, a minor character on the show Lost who appeared near the end of the first season, was taken along with some of the main characters to find explosives, and comments on fan theories, such as why Hurley never gets thinner, or why only the main characters get to go on expeditions without consulting anyone else. Shortly afterwards, he is blown up while assuring the main characters of their safety...while holding a stick of dynamite.
- Hurley has been described as "the voice of the audience" by the show's producers, and often gets these lines. Some of his comments have included "X and Y are together... who didn't see that happening?" "He's my friend, but he also has this weird other life where he does super ninja moves," various direct questions addressing plot points and, in the Season 5 premiere, a long ridiculous summary of the show's events up to that point.
- In Doctor Who, the writers seem to be fitting Donna out for this role for the Doctor, being a brash, gobby thirtysomething woman. She comments on how fantastic things like a "translation circuit" are, calls the Doctor out on his Technical Pacifist traits and knew the best place to find him was where there was anything weird going on.
- To be fair, anyone who spends any amount of time with the Doctor knows that last bit.
- Professor River Song. Pretty much everything she says is a meta reference to TV or fandom in general. Spoilers anyone?
- Denny Crane of Boston Legal. He once commented about a new character, "If he was important, he'd have been in the season premiere."
- Although Denny is by far the most frequent offender, everyone in Boston Legal does this from time to time. A recent episode opened with several characters worrying about whether the show had started yet.
- Alan Shore is definitely the most overt Meta Guy on Boston Legal. For a relatively minor example, he wants to be on cable.
- Wash from Firefly, who is the Audience Surrogate and often questions the flaws in the other characters' plans.
- In Heroes, this is (or used to be) done by, appropriately, Hiro.
- Martin Loyd from the anniversary episodes of Stargate SG-1. His story is that he's an alien writing a TV series (and later a movie) based on the SGC. This allows plenty of room for parodying their own mistakes.
- Stargate Command (wisely) lets him continue his work, so if anybody else discovers the secret they'll be dismissed as some kook who watched the TV show.
- This seems to be Jack O'Neill's job, as he does this at every opportunity.
- Cameron Mitchell is stated to have read the case files of every single mission the team had ever been on before joining. This reflects Ben Browder watching all the episodes on DVD before joining the show. He hangs several lampshades on common plot devices early on.
- Media-saturated Abed on Community to the point where he's almost a Fourth Wall Observer.
Jeff: Abed! Stop being meta, why do you always have to take whatever happens to us and shove it up it’s own ass?
- Ziggy from Power Rangers RPM, with Flynn running a close second. 'Ranger Blue' opens with the entire team quizzing Doctor K on things like why their Zords have 'big, googly anime eyes', why they need to yell "RPM, get in gear!" whenever they morph, and how come things tend to spontaneously explode behind them when they do.
- Chuck from Supernatural, a prophet who wrote a series of books based on Sam and Dean's adventures without knowing they were real until they found his books and investigated. At first, he thinks he might have actually been causing all these things, and apologises for some of the less popular episodes.
- Jac Naylor from Holby City is the Ur Example of this trope, but now Chantelle has fell into this trap too.
- Little Sally from Urinetown. Between her and Lemony Narrator Officer Lockstock, nothing in the show escapes Lampshade Hanging.
- Triple H and Shawn Michaels occasionally fall into this role under their D-Generation X gimmick. They will very often reference long-forgotten storylines or things outside of Kayfabe. In their most recent incarnation they have made reference to the Katie Vick disaster, Jeremy Piven's "Summerfest" flub, Kofi Kingston's gimmick change, and Shawn Michaels' real name. And talking about what segment of the script they were in, and that the villian of the week needed to hurry up and interrupt them so they could have their confrontation and get to commercial break.
- Snake, one of Super Smash Bros Brawl's third-party characters, plays this trope fully. His mission briefings usually consist of his complete boggling of how incredibly strange the Nintendo universe actually is. Given that he's the only character whose home franchise is remotely grounded in reality (and then it's borderline No Fourth Wall), it fits him quite well.
- Likewise, Slippy Toad fills this role during Fox and Falco's transmissions in the Lylat Cruse stage, noting how the characters can survive in deep space without oxygen or space suits. Peppy Hare immediately scolds him, breaking the fourth wall in the process.
- 'Director' Hotti from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney : Justice For All, may also have 'supersanity' - he's a mental patient who is able to somehow cut into Phoenix's Inner Monologue and who is aware of the fact that the game uses static backgrounds - when you choose to examine a hospital patient on crutches, he points out that the patient hasn't moved since the last time Phoenix was there, and says 'doesn't it make you wonder if any treatment is really going on in this place?'
- Kefka in Dissidia Final Fantasy. He's apparently the only character in the franchise who knows he's in a video game. Among other things, he looks directly at the player at one point of the story (making the other character present look confused), hums the Victory Fanfare upon beating a higher-level opponent and mocks Sephiroth for being "just another" Omnicidal Maniac with A God Am I tendencies.
- The Time Goddess from Half Minute Hero. Aside from her invocation of But Thou Must! when she first meets the main character in Hero 30, she also notes at the end of the "Beautiful Evil Lord" quest that the Evil Lord you just defeated/saved is noble/good-looking enough to possibly be a main character. Surely enough, the second scenario, Evil Lord 30, stars this same demon lord.
- The Executor and Tradgedian of Pathologic are "stage hands" (which ties into the game's overarching theme of theatre, mostly consisting of Mind Screws and vapourizing the fourth wall). Their dialogue is full of Leaning on the Fourth Wall as a result. However, despite this claim, they are surprisingly participant in the main story: if you see them standing outside of a building in their distinctive bird masks and robes, then you know bad stuff has happened.
- They're not all bad, though; they also form the game's Justified Tutorial.
- Cranky Kong is like this. In between hints, he'll complain about how overblown and overrated the game's graphics and story is.
- Embodied in the character Cherry Blossomfeather from the long-comatose comic RPG World. As the story continues, it turns out that she has a special magical skill which allows her to look beyond the boundaries of her world - which manifests in a painfully deadpan attitude and a trope spotted at least once a strip.
- Relatedly (sort of), Ardam in Adventurers does this all the time, with most other characters doing it once or twice. Eventually, he manages to turn this into a dramatic speech.
- A Fourth Wall-preserving example: In Gunnerkrigg Court, the utter silliness of Dr. Disaster's space battle simulation breaks Antimony's Willing Suspension of Disbelief like a twig, amplifying her latent snark until she's a lampshade-hanging killjoy. At Kat's insistence, she eventually takes the MST3K Mantra to heart and starts having fun, but this doesn't stop her from noticing plot holes and questioning the use of one liners.
- Everyone in Order of the Stick does this from time to time. The kobold oracle does it all the time. Elan is probably the most notable example within the order. Genre Savvy is his only form of useful intelligence, and after he takes a level in Dashing Swordsman, he derives his new powers from adventure tropes.
- The entire plot of 1/0 was characters debating their own existence with the author.
- Though Petitus seems the most like this.
- Torg of Sluggy Freelance is a fairly subtle case, always being the first one to realize when they're in stick figure filler strips and deducing the existence of the author for example. It's unclear whether this carries over to normal continuity but may be related to the fact that he's said to be unusually psychically sensitive.
- In Homestuck, uranian umbrage takes this roll on occasion, such as when he complains about the series use of Rainbow Speak Wall of Text chatlogs... in a Rainbow Speak Wall of Text chatlog.
- Practically everybody has been a Meta guy in Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series, but especially Yami, who's often incredulous that his evil opponents take a children's card game so damn seriously.
- Regular Yugi is just as bad. Take for example the episode about Mai and her celebrity stalker, where almost every single line of Yugi's in that episode is him moaning and groaning about how this has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the season and how absolutely useless it all is.
- Quincy Archer from Survival of the Fittest is the resident Meta Guy, writing a blog about the fake SOTF and the tropes it shows, and then commenting through out the stories on the actions of the various villains and heroes. He commits suicide, but if he hadn't, one of his personal favorite villains, JR Rizzolo, would have left him to burn.
- Everyone here.
- Phelous of That Guy With The Glasses, a notorious Deadpan Snarker who constantly lampshades everything. All of his reviews include a few jabs at the whole review show format, but it tends to be played up even more in crossovers.
- #21 and #24 from The Venture Bros. but many of the other characters are meta as well.
- Jeff Albertson (better known as Comic Book Guy) on The Simpsons is usually the character who does this, perfectly fitting with his persona of a nerd overanalyzing comic books & cartoons.
Homer: Does anybody care what this guy thinks?
- Cubert of Futurama was originally meant to fill this role, but this characteristic was dropped in later appearances after the writers realized how annoying it made him.
- It also helps that his early appearances mostly involved Professor Farnsworth trying to teach his son to accept the wonders of the world, mostly through science. Futurama has an odd relationship with Status Quo Is God, and Cubert's ability to actually retain the morals of stories from episode to episode fits right in.
- Craig takes on this role in the South Park "Pandemic" two-parter, with his constant cynical lampshading about the main cast's tendency to get into increasingly ridiculous situations based on a backfired plan or idea.
- It's rare, but Kyle also has played this role on occasion. Perhaps the best example of this is during the episode "Butt out" when he told the boys that they could save themselves a lot of trouble if they just admitted that they chose to smoke on their own and the tobacco company had no part in the decision. He even commented that everything was following a formula and correctly predicted that he would make a speech at the end of the episode about what he learned during the episode.
- Sokka ends up as a mix of this, Flat Earth Atheist, and Wrong Genre Savvy (he once thought it was odd that people in an Eastern Medieval Fantasy world weren't catching his oblique references to Sherlock Holmes).
- he starts off with the same as usual body every time