It's good to see you again. Come on in, I'm just working on this article about breaking the fourth wall. It's that trope you see in TV and movies where the characters are self-aware and realize that they exist within a work of fiction. It goes back years- basically as long as the theater itself- and was used frequently by Shakespeare.
Breaking the fourth wall can be used for many reasons. It can be done to unsettle the audience. Bertolt Brecht and other playwrights used it to help comment on the medium of theater itself. Nowadays, it's most commonly seen in comedies.
When a character breaks the fourth wall, they bring themselves in on the joke along with the audience. Whether it's a narrator inserting themselves more forcefully in the story, or just a brief sly glance by a character showing that they're not quite the dimwit that others think, breaking the fourth wall always adds an extra layer of comic effect.
15. High Fidelity
Rob Gordon (John Cusack), the audiophile owner of Championship Vinyl, is a miserable jerk who loves to wallow in the misery of his own making. And while this could easily have been written in a way to make the audience loathe him, Rob's first-person narration directed towards the audience helps create a sense of sympathy. He even begins the movie by asking the viewer a question: "What came first, the music or the misery?"
By directly engaging with the audience, Rob goes from an unlikable prick to the type of prick that's fun to hang out with, talk about records and go to a show or two with. The audience gets a better look into his psyche and emotional hang-ups than even his best friends and girlfriend do.
But instead of hating him, Rob continually breaking the fourth wall throughout his narration helps the viewer sympathize with him and find humor in his pain.
Nick hosts the TV Tropes podcast On The Tropes.