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Lampshade Hanging

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Sir Toby Belch: Is't possible?

Fabian: If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.
Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act 3, Scene IV

Lampshade Hanging is the writers' trick of dealing with any element of the story that threatens the audience's Willing Suspension of Disbelief -- whether a very implausible plot development, or a particularly blatant use of a Trope -- by calling attention to it... and then moving on.

In simple terms - the author points out the improbable subject through some medium (character, passerby, narration, etc.) and says it exists regardless of logic.

The reason for this counter-intuitive strategy is two-fold. First, it assures the audience that the author is aware of the implausible plot development that just happened, and that they aren't trying to slip something past the audience. Second, it assures the audience that the world of the story is like Real Life: what's implausible for you or me is just as implausible for these characters, and just as likely to provoke an incredulous response.

The creators are using the tactic of self-deprecatingly pointing out their own flaws themselves, thus depriving critics and opponents of their ammunition. The Turkey City Lexicon refers to this flavor of Lampshade Hanging as a "Signal from Fred", and reminds the author that if your characters are complaining about how stupid the latest plot development is, maybe your subconscious is trying to tell you something.

On the other hand, Lampshade Hanging done well can make for an entertaining piece of Medium Awareness or momentary lack of Genre Blindness. It can also be used to take care of Fridge Logic, without having to actually do anything.

Lampshade Hanging doesn't just apply to implausible plots: it's also one of the many ways of Playing with a Trope. After all, for Genre Savvy viewers the realization that they've seen this particular plot device in five other movies can pull them out of the story faster than any Fridge Logic. Considering this wiki's focus, most of the references to Lampshade Hanging throughout the wiki will involve this specific use of the term.

This practice is also known as "hanging a clock on it", "hanging a lantern on it", or "spotlighting it". In the film industry it's sometimes called "hanging a red flag" on something, after the screenwriting adage, "To hang a red flag on something takes the curse off of it," meaning that to lampshade something decreases the negative effects it might otherwise have. We went with our title because it's the one used in the Mutant Enemy bullpen.

Can also be combined with a Hand Wave, sometimes invoking an unreveal, to make explaining a plot inconsistency unnecessary. Can also be combined with an active attempt to avoid the Trope, in which case the Lampshade Hanging turns into a Defied Trope.

Commonly seen in the self-aware shows that make up the Deconstructor Fleet. If large numbers of lampshades are hung, then the writers believe lampshades are Better Than a Bare Bulb, this Trope's Logical Extreme.

Hypocrisy Nod and Inspiration Nod are specific types of this. Meta Guy is the fellow who does this all the time. Sometimes takes the form of This Is the Part Where. Compare Discussed Trope, Post Modernism and Playing with a Trope. No Fourth Wall happens when characters not only discuss tropes, but the writers as well.

Do not confuse with Lampshade-Wearing.

Please note: lampshade hanging does not refer to any time a character refers to, points out, mentions, hints at or namechecks a trope or anything that can be classified as a trope. The act of hanging a lampshade has a specific purpose detailed above. Please consider before saying that something is "lampshaded" if that's truly what's happening. This trope is often misused.

Examples of Lampshade Hanging include:


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