Friday March 22, 2013
Breaking the Fourth Wall
For the past few weeks, Patricia and I have been watching all 13 episodes of Netflix's new show, “House of Cards,” in which Kevin Spacey's character, Rep. Frank Underwood (D-SC), keeps breaking the fourth wall, a la Richard III, to tell us his inner thoughts and potential schemes and means to power. It's fun, and Spacey does it impeccably.
I mentioned this at work the other day and one of my colleagues brought up a new YouTube video that compiles great fourth-wall breakers, from, yes, Richard III, to† Alvy Singer to Superman:
Not sure why they began the way they began. With a literal breaking of a wall? The “Blazing Saddles” stuff is less fourth-wall-breaking and more self-referential, isn't it? The James Bond, too, is post-modern/meta. I would‘ve begun with Rob Gordon in “High Fidelity.” He gives you your structure.
Plus there’s a whole lot more Groucho they could‘ve done.
But the “Sweet Transvestite” numberóDr. Frankenfurter leading to Belushi to Damien to Norman Batesóis inspired.
Is fourth-wall breaking better for comedy and horror? To make us laugh or scare us? Seems to.
What’s your favorite example? How would you rank them? I might put Norman Bates No. 1: When the voyeur, being watched (by us), watches back; when he reclaims that power.
Missing scenes? Off the top of my head, and besides Groucho, I'd go with Eddie Murphy in “Trading Places”: “... pork bellies, which is used to make bacon, which you might find in a bacon and lettuce and tomato sandwich.” Then the look.