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October 28, 2012
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Lately there has been a HUGE increase of "breaking the fourth wall" jokes on most animated shows.
"The simpsons", "Family guy", "The Cleveland show", "American dad" etc. They all do it now, the question is ¿why?

a couple of years ago this was not only not something that was regularly used, but used briefly and with a justification. It was not just thrown there to fill in.

These days however, Cartoon shows seem to rely way too much on these types of jokes.
Almost as if it were the only thing that can keep the viewer interested on the "plot" of the episode.
They literally use these types of jokes about 3 to 5 times (yes, literally!).

It perhaps may be naive of me but I always prefered to think of these characters and the situations they go through (as ridiculous as they may be) and what they expirience in their regualr lives is what actually happens inside the crazy cartoon world the viewers love.

Seeing the characters talk to the viewer, make mistakes and have to re shot a scene and blatantly acknowledge that what they are saying is scripted and that everything that happens is fake, that they do not agree with what their character say, think or do just ruins it for me.

Perhaps Im immersing too deep into this.

But do you like this or do you also find it unappealing?
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:iconkaminamastersword12:
KaminaMasterSword12 Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012
They really havent been breaking the fourth wall much in American Dad, but there a certain amount of time when you break the fourth wall its just not funny, when you do it has to be clever and not really noticeable IMO
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:iconcartoonjoe2011:
cartoonjoe2011 Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012
Breaking the Fourth Wall has a long tradition, going all the way back to Ancient Greece, and such writers as Shakespear and Mark Twain utilized it in their stories, so its hardly a new phenomenon...it's just that the more recent practitioners have a tendency to run it into the ground.
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:iconanyauribe:
AnyaUribe Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012
:lmao:
Please re-read the beggining of the journal.
It says: "Lately there has been a HUGE increase of" :XD:

I never even implied there was any inovation in it.

Im merely questioning why it has gotten out of control and in such a terrible way as of lately.
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:iconcartoonjoe2011:
cartoonjoe2011 Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
I did. And you're right.
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:iconatomictiki:
AtomicTiki Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012
Because writers will go for the cheap laff every time.

It's also trendy

It's also boring :)
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:iconfcm-nilesnake:
FCM-NileSnake Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012
I don't think you're immersing too deep into this, Anya. Yeah, it was done all the time, by Animaniacs, Looney Tunes, etc, etc...

But now it's being used due to lack of ideas, of creativity! Back on those shows, breaking the fourth wall happened usually when it had a good reason, a good joke behind it. Now it happens all the time, because only happening is supposedly funny in these writers minds. It's a cheap trick now.

It CAN be used in a good way, they're just doing it wrongly and too much of it. And if it's being openly used on the Simpsons, it just shows how much The Simpsons sank. It's sad to see that one of the best american cartoons of all time (in my opinion at least) is now one of the unfunniest things I've seen. After seasons 6-7 the thing started to die, simply... (again, my opinion!)
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:icontoddntheshiningsword:
ToddNTheShiningSword Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
First, my brother was the only person who'd told me that the first SIX seasons of The Simpsons were the funniest thing ever. Now, I keep hearing it. And people aren't keeping it at a round figure by saying "The first 5". People keep saying first 6 (or sometimes 7, like you). It makes me want to rewatch lots of those episodes I've forgotten again, knowing it's not just me (and my brother). The Simpsons really did use to be a lot funnier in the beginning when it was more about the Simpsons family issues.

I write an action comedy comic book, and I think it can be a great idea to use a joke or theme over and over. The problem is, you can only do that if it works! You can break any rule or any wall you want to almost, IF you do it right... but breaking the 4th wall backfires so much. I don't think it's so much a cheap trick as it is a failure to properly handle a technique that needs special handling because it's proven to be prone to backfire with viewers. If you could get it perfect most of the time, you could get away with doing it a lot!
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:iconfcm-nilesnake:
FCM-NileSnake Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013
Whoops! Took me longer than it should to reply you... sorry about that. So:

Yes, some people think we're just nostalgic, but The Simpsons was a much funnier show, when it was about their family issues. The writers were definitely better.

I agree with you there, breaking the 4th wall must be done very well, it backfires a LOT indeed! If it's well done, it can be done over and over again, the problem is doing it badly, like it mostly is, wether with The Simpsons or other cartoons.
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:icontoddntheshiningsword:
ToddNTheShiningSword Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I break the fourth wall so much in my comics that I needed someone to point it out to me! :XD:
Fortunately, it was working because people were used to it, hehe
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:iconmjbedi:
MJBedi Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, I think it's because these shows (or the writers, at least) are out of ideas. The Simpsons stopped being funny after season 9, Family Guy after season 4, Cleveland was never funny, and American Dad is only sometimes funny. Personally I don't mind if they break the fourth wall, but it has to be justified by a really, really good joke. Overusing it will kill it and then it goes from funny to monotonous. Since I haven't watched Simpsons, Family Guy, or Cleveland in over a year, I couldn't say if they way they're using it is bad, but from your description, it sounds terrible.
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:icontwinsnake-coatl:
Twinsnake-Coatl Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012
Pues últimamente casi no veo televisión, así que no sabría si esto se está utilizando con demasiada frecuencia o no.
Recuerdo que los Looney Tunes rompían la 4ta barrera con cierta frecuencia, pero como mencionaste, lo hacían bien. Lo hacían de manera que la audiencia participara en el chiste.
Al igual que muchos, yo creo que el problema de muchos de estos programa es que ya pasó su hora. Debieron haber sido cancelados hace años para que sus creadores piensen en algo nuevo.
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:iconredfoxagent:
redfoxagent Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sometimes I find it okay. It usually doesn't bug me when I see characters pointing out the absurdity in a given plot. He'll it's the whole damn premise for my own little series. Granted it not a tv show but if it were that would be an endless running gag
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:iconbarehandmaster:
BarehandMaster Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Como cualquier broma, hay que saber hacerla con gracia... cualquier abuso es malo, y peor si se hace con poca gracia o se fuerza la broma.

Como dice Hector Suarez cuando da clases de comedia: hay quien dice "caca" y te hace reir, hay quien dice "caca" y hasta la hueles...

Siguiendo tal ejemplo, con los Simpsons te ries... con los programas de "humor" nacionales la hueles...
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:icongotzendammerung:
Gotzendammerung Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
If it's good, like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, then it works :)

If it's crappy like most of those cartoon shows, then it is a cheap technique to stand in for its lack of wit or humor.

Ironic self-awareness, by becoming more prevalent, also degenerates to a mere patch to hide its own mediocrity.
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:iconhbrika:
hbrika Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
Monty Python broke the fourth wall, heck Shakespeare broke the fourth wall.
Most kid shows break the fourth wall all the time. If done right it’s great if not it’s not.
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:iconsheikthegeek:
SheikTheGeek Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
They could be running out of ideas, its kinda a fad now to break the fourth wall.
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:iconlysandros:
lysandros Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
People got smarter and makers began to be a little more aware. If you ask me, it presents a means for all to just laugh at themselves and acknowledge the inherent ridiculousness of the animated world.
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:iconmemorypalace:
memorypalace Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
It's not that new, Bugs Bunny did it all the time :D
I agree though, I generally prefer the characters to exist in their own world and are not playing roles in a tv show, I find the story much more interesting that way :)
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:iconanyauribe:
AnyaUribe Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
I know its not, that why my journal started with "Lately there has been a HUGE increase of.." :lmao:
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:iconleviadragon99:
leviadragon99 Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
Huh... well any joke can be overused or done badly, and fourth-wall breaks are no exception, I haven't really been watching those shows of late though so I can't really speak for them, the simpsons doesn't make it over to Australia anymore, and those Seth Mcfarlane shows were never something I liked/watched to begin with.
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:iconbeautifulrainboweyes:
beautifulrainboweyes Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012  Professional General Artist
This is why I tend to stick to 1. cartoons from other countries (e.g. Anime, though not exclusively) and 2. classic or 'old' cartoons (e.g. something published 10-20 years ago like anything Rankin and Bass or original 2D Disney). The occasional outtakes reel, like that found during the credits of most Pixar films, is funny, but not during the continuity of the movie or show itself. I think that ruins it except in cases like Pinkie Pie, who in and of herself is a meta-charater designed to break all laws of physics just by being herself. But I don't think that all shows should incorporate a character like her. Pinkie is endearing for me because she is unique and as such can do the things she does because of simply being herself, which is the message of the show MLP: FIM anyway. So, to have a character like her in the context of that world the breaking of the fourth wall fits.

However, Family Guy and shows like it have a very VERY bad habit of taking jokes and running gags and driving them into the ground. I mean, just take the 'Stewie Kill Lois', 'OMG They Killed Kenny' or 'Fry is Stupid' type gags. It was funny but after a while I sit and wonder if that's the only thing the writers can come up with. Are they simply so tapped out that all they can do is recycle the same pun or punchline or gag reel that they used last week? If so, I think that's a hint to either stop producing the show, or find new writers.

Sorry to rant, but that's just how I feel about it. Of course, I have a fairly high standard for my animated comedy. I grew up on Robin Williams' Genie, Danny DeVito's Phil, and Nathan Lane's Timon. So, my opinion of cartoon comedy is somewhat biased.
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:iconburningresurrection:
BurningResurrection Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
I don't mind
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:iconmrbigal:
MrBIGAL Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It's a fad. Everyone is getting meta-textual an genre savvy nowadays. It will pass after a while.
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:iconsportslunatic:
SportsLunatic Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
Never really bothered me all that much. :D
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:iconquentinlars:
quentinlars Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
seems as though the writers are becoming disinterested in what they are doing.... either that or it's a half ass attempt at making a vague political statement
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:iconmichiganj24:
michiganj24 Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
To me its lazyness. Rarely does it add something as a matter of fact the last time I really enjoyed it was during Saved By the Bell
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:icondmajorboss:
DMajorBoss Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012  Professional Writer
If done right, the breaking of the fourth wall can be entertaining. The problem with the shows that you listed is that they have been on for a while and are running out of decent material. Instead of spending money on new writers or better jokes, they use what they see as an "easy out" for entertainment.

At the same time, maybe it's a way to get back at the fans? Given fandoms and what they write, draw, and do, maybe they feel that they're not appreciated the way they want to be and will instead rely on something easy as a means of "payback." There are times in which we, as creators, like something that others hate and vice versa; how would you feel if your hard work was ignored or insulted while your crappy work was praised? Might you be upset and want to take it out on others?

That, or maybe it's the whole rise of Deadpool. Deadpool at least does it well and has a good enough reason for doing it.

I hope this helps some, my dear.
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:iconsarialinde:
Sarialinde Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
Animaniacs did it the best "Good night everybody!!" XD
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:iconskillustrate:
skillustrate Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
:heart:
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:iconanyauribe:
AnyaUribe Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
:nod:
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:iconjacobmendura:
JacobMendura Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, three of the four shows you listed are practically by the same people. I'm sure another one that you'd list would be Ultimate Spider-man, or as it is often called "the superhero Family Guy." Even then, I wouldn't say that a majority of cartoons really use that kind of joke.

Breaking the fourth wall is actually not a new thing, and it's not even something that hasn't been used that much in the past. Looney Tunes did it often, so did Hanna Barbara. It really boils down to who's using it better.
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:iconanyauribe:
AnyaUribe Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
If you read the beggining of the journal you would have noticed I said "Lately there has been a HUGE increase of.."
Ive seen the other examples of it on Animaniacs, Looney tunes and even on my little pony but none of those use it (or over use it) the way the examples on the journal do.

And Ive only seen little of Ultimate spiderman, to be quite honest so I cant really comment on that.
I didnt like what I saw so far :giggle:
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:iconjacobmendura:
JacobMendura Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I read your journal. I still don't see too much of it, though the shows that use it do so abundantly. For the most part, comedy animated shows use it, and not even most of them do. And an even smaller percentage use it to the point of abusing it, or even more than a few times.

Still, there are shows that use it way too much. That much I can agree with.
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:icondeaddog2007:
DeadDog2007 Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
bugs bunny,daffy and foghorn did it all the time wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy back when, as did mighty mouse,animaniacs,spongebob.....hell...it's been there the whole time. i love it if used well. and in comics too...she hulk,deadpool it still good if done right.
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:iconanyauribe:
AnyaUribe Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
Im aware DD, Ive seen those.
Im also aware it is not uncommon.
However those shows you mentioned never displayed it the way the ones I mentione do so oftenly now.

Watch any episode of the later seasons of any of the Seth Mcfarline shows and youll see what I mean.
And now the simpsons are beggining to use it too :S
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:icondeaddog2007:
DeadDog2007 Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
oh,ok. haven't watched the last 2 seasons of either shows, but i do own em as DVD boxsets.
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:icontherealjohnnycanuck:
theRealJohnnyCanuck Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
Fourth Wall needs to be used sparingly in cartoons. Also it rarely works in comics. John Byrne did okay with it in She-hulk years ago but still it's a fine balance often better left alone.
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:iconcartoonjoe2011:
cartoonjoe2011 Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012
Actually, the very "first" comic strip, "The Yellow Kid" had its lead character address the readers all the time. And such superhero titles like "Superman", the original "Captain Marvel" and even "Spider-Man" have done this.
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:iconfotohunter:
Fotohunter Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012  Student Writer
Like everything there is an art to break the fourth wall, is not something anyone can do since it requires to be part of the flow of the idea. For me the four shows you mention suffer now from problems of abusing landmarks of comedy or plain insulting what they don't like, thus making them a lot more ideological, the easiest way to cover that is trying to make fourth wall joke in order to give the feeling that they are "smart" about it.
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:iconvest:
vest Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
Making a joke out of breaking the fourth wall is indeed difficult to pull off effectively, as it has to be done in a manner that doesn't detract from the flow of a TV show. It also has to be done subtly, as to not break the viewer's immersion. If a character was to spend a long time conversing WITH the audience (hate to use this example as a point of contemplative exploration, but Dora the Explorer does this all the time) the audience no longer feels like they're a part of the show's world. It pulls them right out of it, like they weren't even supposed to be in there, and they'll remain guarded against any future attempts at diving in.

So when Family Guy does it, they're lowering themselves to the humor quality of Dora the Explorer.

Not to say it is all bad. Family Guy actually has a fantastic example of breaking the fourth wall properly in last year's premiere episode, Road to the Pilot. The whole experience is one giant fourth wall break, but there's a scene where they time travel five TV seasons in the future. They find themselves in a crappy CG animated world, complete with awful animation, terrifying modeling, and by far the worst lighting and camera work that only a masochistic genius could conjure up. Stewie and Brian watch in subtle horror seeing that the future is incredibly bleak, Stewie even remarking to future Peter's joke something like "I dunno, it feels like I want to laugh but I just can't."

That moment was a wall break done right. It's Family Guy not directly addressing the audience, but showing that it is fully conscious of audience perception and even admitting that they are not getting funnier with each season; it's quite the opposite. It's very strange, then, that the funniest recent joke from Family Guy is admittance that it's running very thin on material and is devolving in quality.

However, if you want a character who consistently breaks the fourth wall and does it right, Deadpool or Pinkie Pie. Deadpool is exceptionally clever at utilizing his superpowers, all of which stems down to his inner knowledge that he is in fact a character in a comic book and can therefore manipulate the book as he wants. Pinkie Pie does it by never even facing the audience, and doesn't at all break the flow of narrative in the process (as a plus, she's the only character whom the writers allow to do this).
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:iconanyauribe:
AnyaUribe Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
You are very right about the methods and style used on Dora.
I just could not help but crack a little when you mentioned it :D

Indeed that was a very decent and entertaining Family Guy episode :nod:
Seeing them in all these different styles was very refreshing, to a point where one could wish they stayed there for a little longer. See where it takes them.

Another example would be (or perhaps not, depending on how the viewers takes it) Jokers moment with the audience before the commercial break back in Batmans Holiday special based on the Annual special.

And regarding Comicbooks. Deadpool is the prime example of this, but if you read a random book from any publisher you can think of, you will see that most of the time the main character (or characters) are guiding you through what is happening and what they think as if they were having tea with you.
That is not only greatly helpfull in understanding what moves these characters but it also immerses you deeper into the book, almost making a bond with the character.
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:iconkuraitenshi89:
KuraiTenshi89 Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Recently?? Looney Tunes make it a lot before it was cool!!!! :iconhipsterarielplz:
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:iconanyauribe:
AnyaUribe Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
The Journal started with "Lately there has been a HUGE increase of..." :D

I never said "Omg! shows have come up with this new and never used before revolutionary type of humor!!" :lmao:

5 times on the same episode is waaaaay too much :nod:
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:iconrudeboy308:
rudeboy308 Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
It's a good joke which has been overused by those shows to the point where those jokes are not as funny anymore, and where watching those shows has become a chore. The writers for those shows are trying too hard to be hip and edgy. I quit watching the Simpsons years ago, and I have virtually boycotted those other shows you mentioned.
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:iconssjthug:
ssjthug Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
well, u gonna supect show like the simpson, family guy and any show from any fox. and what list shows(nowaday) u say have been following this tend that u been noticing? cuz i havent seen new cartoons do tho kinda joke. and yeah, u kinda going way too deep into this, especailly these are cartoons we talking about. but hey, that just me. :\
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:iconosprey-hawk:
Osprey-Hawk Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
That's because The Simpsons, Family Guy, Cleaveland Show, and American Dad are running out of gags. And they've most likely have seen the burst of popularity from MLP and the fandom's worship of Fourth-Wall-breaking Pinkie Pie.
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:icondarkknightstrikes:
darkknightstrikes Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
A los Simpsons y a Family Guy y sus series hermanas les tolero ese tipo de cosas. Donde si no tolero lo de romper la cuarta pared es en Ultimate Spider-Man. Es simplemente intolerable y un abuso de ese recurso.
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:iconbluchevalier:
bluchevalier Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
Once in a while it's ok, but it gets terrible with overuse. Though I feel the shows you mentioned got worse with age. Maybe you feel they jumped the shark and need to get by with this.
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:iconaderes-devorah:
Aderes-Devorah Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012   Photographer
I do agree with you. I much prefer the "suspension of belief" staying in place, and when it is sacrificed - all be it briefly - for a little cheap irony.

Take Peter Griffin and the chicken that he keeps getting into fights with. Peter is in his mad Family Guy world, and then the chicken comes along and all manner of crap happens that doesn't involve any of the other characters. So Peter and the chicken go off into a kind of mad world in a mad world (of FG), which is totally cool and very funny. The Peter/Chicken reality is a reality even further beyond the usual FG world, and that makes me laugh. But when the writers go the other way and start to make direct references to their creative processes it always feels like somebody is building a bridge between actual reality and the fantasy worlds, and that you really wish they were not building it.

If they give birth to a wonderful fantasy baby, yes I'll probably love it, but please cut the umbilical cord of your imagination and let it be free.
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:iconfan2000:
fan2000 Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012   Writer
I agree with your dislike of the overabundance of breaking the fourth wall. I don't dislike all "breaking the fourth wall" situations, especially if done cleverly. That's why I like South Park over the animated shows you listed.
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