By Abigail Carrillo
The recent wave of comedy seems to be moving more and more toward the breaking of the fourth wall. The fourth wall is an imaginary barrier between a film or television show and the audience. This barrier separates the real world from the fictional world. When characters break the fourth wall they are acknowledging that they are in a movie by interacting directly with the audience. This creates intimacy between the main character and the audience.
When a character breaks down the fourth wall, the audience is much more connected to the character and has a very personal interaction, elevating the subject matter. This really takes the audience into the character’s psyche. At the same time, it can also evoke deeper emotions and reactions from the viewer.
Breaking the fourth wall is more often seen in film rather than television. Blockbuster movies such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Fight Club,” and “Deadpool” are some popular films that have incorporated this method. However, most of the protagonists breaking down the fourth wall in these popular films are men.
Although breaking down the fourth wall is not new, screenwriters and directors are experimenting with new interpretations of the concept.
Hulu’s “High Fidelity” opens on Zoe Kravitz’s character “Rob” going through a monologue of her “top five most memorable heartbreaks,” which then jump cuts to an obviously distressed Rob pleading with her boyfriend to not leave her. Throughout the show, Rob shapes her story by revisiting past relationships, with comedic relief from her friends, along with fleshing out the harsh realities that come with being a modern woman.
In Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag,” which surrounds an unapologetic woman navigating love and life amongst tragedy, when the title character interacts with the viewers, she uses humor in order to diverge from the reality of life. The show was highly praised and ultimately won “Best Music or Comedy TV Series” and “Actress in a Musical or Comedy TV Series” at the 2019 Golden Globe Awards.
One of the reasons women in comedy are making such leaps in the field are due to breaking down the fourth wall, especially in the television medium.
In both “Fleabag” and “High Fidelity,” both front women are highly and controversially liberated. Throughout the two television shows, the characters go through progressive development that are narrated by the characters themselves. As the plot thickens, the characters grasp for closure in their lives. Rob and Fleabag both create a connection with the audience with humor that reveals the relatability that comes with dealing with relationships, tragedies, and life in general. Viewers relate to this because these are women telling their stories literally to the audience.
“I write from the point of view of what I’d like to watch. I’m always satisfying my own appetite. So I guess that means transgressive women, friendships, pain. I love pain,” Waller-Bridge said to The Guardian.
With the usage of breaking down the fourth wall, female storytelling is becoming much more prevalent. This proves that women are able to take control of their own narrative and what is released out into the world. These artists aim to show that whatever conception that one might have about them, they might have to rethink everything when it comes down to unveiling a woman’s truth.