Deadpool, Metal Gear, Shakespeare and the 4h wall
Deadpool is wordlwide known for, among other great things, continuously be breaking the fourth wall. Let’s face it, it sounds great. But not everybody knows what it means.
Breaking the fourth wall is a kind of action that some characters have the ability to recreate, but I have to be clear about this: this doesn’t only happen on comics nor only in our time. Breaking the fourth wall has happened on storytelling since…well, since always.
Using technical speech, breaking the fourth wall is a situation that takes place during the development of a scene and when a character does something that implies the audience directly: this character speaks, shows or interacts in any way with the people attending to that representation (theatre, prose/poetry, films, or videogames). This action does not include a response from the audience, although it is supposed to happen (answering, laughing, etc.). The broken wall is usually included inside the metafiction statement, which is a branch of philology/Literature that studies the inclusion of outside elements inside a story (this is idea is kind of difficult to explain on just one sentence, but I can make a whole article about metafiction if you wish 🙂 ).
Who breaks the 4th wall
Breaking the fourth wall can nowadays be found on any storytelling platform. For example, Deadpool speaks to the reader on his comics, as well as the Joker. They always try to include the audience on their… contexts.
Tyler Durden LOVES talking to the spectator through his moments on Fight Club. Do you remember that scene when he starts talking about penises on the screen? That is the breaking point (like,…literally). Of course, the film is full with other situations like that one, similar to what happens on the film Amélie.
Some ‘false documentaries’/TV series tend to follow this method as well, and we can easily find examples on The Office and Modern Family. They always speak to the camera and make jokes that involve the audience.
Videogames love doing that trick as well, because there is some type of bound created between the player and the game doing so. Have you ever played Metal Gear 2? You have to. I mean, YOU HAVE TO. It’s just… Oh God, it’s brilliant. Here, the 4th wall just explodes.
De facto, breaking the fourth wall is also used in real life, as AlwaysActingUp points out on his blog: people with Asperger’s syndrome and other Autistic Spectrum Disorders usually have to break their own fourth wall to interact with the world that is around them, not only inside them (if you want to read more about this very interesting theory, please CLICK ON HERE).
However, my favourite discipline doing so is Theatre by far. And not only because the broken wall happens on stage, literally and live, but also because the genius that created this trend was THE genius of Theatre: William Shakespeare.
Yes, you are right, he did it.
Shakespeare loved breaking walls and blowing minds. His characters were always talking to the public, and not by doing soliloquies or aside (which are not considered on our main topic). Also, he had the fault (in a way) of naming this action “breaking the fourth wall”, and I’ll tell you why: the stage on a theatre has 3 walls and the fourth wall is invisible because it is facing the audience. This audience is attending to a play, so they are watching some story being played inside a box, looking through a cristal. That fourth wall separates them from the play, and if one character wants to talk to the audience, he/she has to break that invisible wall.
But, and now you are thinking, what do all these have to do with Deadpool? The past is always important for the present… and well, Shakespeare and Deadpool are both such trolls and I love them. Try to remember when you discovered the ability Deadpool has and how you felt with him talking to you. And now, move yourself towards the 15th century and imagine those people being trolled by Shakespeare in the same way.
Awesome, isn’t it?
Most of the time breaking the fourth wall is used to give more information to the reader or the audience about what is happening in the story. However, Shakespeare and Deadpool use it for making fun of someone, something or some situation. Their humour is dark and ironic, more appropiate for this sneaky action. It is used for making any horrible situation less important and for introducing some humour in the darkest of the moments (even though it is also dark humour).
You may think I am crazy because of my comparison between Shakespeare and Deadpool, but, hey, I am just breaking my own fourth wall right now 😉