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The Fourth Wall is a term used to describe the line between reality and fiction. The fourth wall is usually referred to when a character “breaks” it; that is, the character has acknowledged their fictionality in some way. Breaking the fourth wall has become common in comedic works, although it is not exclusive to comedy.
Specific fictional characters known for breaking the fourth wall include Deadpool from Marvel Comics, Warner Bros’ Freakaziod, virtually every character in Animaniacs, and Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
While the fourth wall has always existed as an inherent element in fiction, the term was first coined by French writer and critic Dennis Diderot in the 1700s. Diderot noted that a room in a play always has only three walls; thus, he termed the imaginary boundary through which the audience sees the events of the play unfold “the fourth wall.” Since then, the meaning of the term has broadened to encompass all fiction, but its base meaning remains the same.
Breaking the fourth wall has existed practically as long as fiction itself. Even Shakespeare occasionally came close to breaking the wall – the character Fabian in Twelfth Night states that if the play’s events “were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.” Breaking the fourth wall has only become more widespread as time has passed, and has become particularly common in animation.
Characters/Series Known to Break the 4th Wall