- Posted by Giaco Furino
- On February 10, 2016
- 0 Comments
- Animal Man, deadpool, Gremlins 2, Spaceballs, The Neverending Story, Wayne’s World
You know those moments in comics when a character addresses the reader? Or those times in a movie when the main character steps out of the action and begins to narrate to the audience? Those are what we call “breaking the fourth wall” moments. The term grew out of theater, where three walls of a set are seen, and the “fourth wall” is invisible… open to the audience to watch the action. When characters in some way break the natural, narrative flow of a piece of fiction they are “breaking” that invisible fourth wall. The practice is so common in film, television, and comics these days that it may not seem all that shocking to modern audiences, but it’s always a special thrill when it happens. I’m taking a look at some of my favorite fourth wall-breaking moments… check it out, reader… yeah, you, at your computer, with the brown t-shirt on… yeah, you there…
We have to start this list off with the king of breaking the fourth wall. Deadpool, the Marvel superhero soon to star in his own feature film, is constantly addressing the audience, addressing the fact that he’s in his own comic, and helping the reader understand complicated plot points. He’s sharp and witty like Spider-Man, but where Spidey talks to himself, Deadpool talks to us! Even in the trailer for his new movie, the red-and-black smack talker looks right at the camera and quips!
While there are plenty of moments in Wayne’s World where the characters break the fourth, my all-time favorite is this little moment where they comment on product placement. How brilliant; to squeeze in product placement for Pizza Hut, Doritos, Nuprin, Rebook, and Pepsi while Wayne goes on a tirade against product placement.
A lot of Mel Brooks movies include breaking the fourth wall, but my favorite moment comes in Spaceballs, where they actually stop the forward moving action of the movie to watch Spaceballs. What? I know this is a classic moment in the film, one you may have seen dozens of times, but stop and think about this. Really think about how damn bizarre this is! Moments like this are some of the best use of breaking the fourth wall, because they’re so clever and weird.
The Neverending Story
“He doesn’t even realize he’s already a part of the neverending story.” So says the Childlike Empress when Atreyu finally reaches her at the end of his adventure. While Bastian’s been reading along this whole time in the attic of his school, it’s finally revealed that he, too, has a part to play in this grand fantasy tale. I remember seeing this as a little child and having my mind completely blown… I bet this was the first time many of us experienced a breaking of the fourth wall. And it’s forever left an impression on me. Want to get an even trippier fourth wall breaking experience? Read the book of The Neverending Story that the film was based on!
Gremlins 2 is, by all accounts, a totally bizarre movie. Much lighter and more slapstick-oriented than the first film, Gremlins 2 is a charming exercise in stretching the limits of a franchise. It also has one of the best moments in fourth wall breaking, when Hulk Hogan gives the Gremlins a piece of his mind about their screwing with the film. In the home video release of Gremlins 2, we get a different sequence, with the little buggers effectively changing the channel on the TV over and over again.
It’s Garry Shandling’s Show
For hardcore fans of comedy, you can do no better than Garry Shandling. From The Larry Sanders Show to the completely anarchistic It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, he’s always been a comedian for diehards. Just look at the title of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show—even that breaks the fourth wall! And the way he speaks to the audience, and the theme music… it’s all perfectly crazy.
Animal Man #26
I’ve saved what is, in my opinion, the most extreme example of breaking the fourth wall for this final entry. In the final comic of Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man, the author invites Animal Man to his home to explain to him the nature of his own existence. You heard that right, the author of the comic invites his creation over to explain that he’s a comic book character. That’s about as meta and fourth-wall-destroying as you can get. The strangest thing about this book? This was a major DC Comics release!