The fourth wall is nothing new. It exists in cinema, movies, TV, comic books, novels, video games, and more and is a rudimental convention of the stage and screen. The fundamentals behind it describe how the action is contained within a set three walls and an invisible fourth wall separating the actors on stage from the audience.
The convention is often associated with philosopher Denis Diderot, and is an established convention of modern theatre. However, whenever a character decides to address the fact that they are within a play/movie/comic book etc, they remove an illusion and disrupt our sense of disbelieve, usually in an effort to convey an element of comedy to the performance. Hence the term "breaking the fourth wall."
With Ryan Reynolds bringing Deadpool to the big screen and a renewed interest in the character, who is famous for breaking the fourth wall, let's look at some other characters who ignored convention.
This list is, naturally, not exhaustive, but highlights how often that darned fourth wall is broken.
A recent addition to Marvel Comics, Gwen Poole A.K.A Gwenpool is a non-fictional fictional character living in the comics. That is to say, she somehow managed to become a part of the comic books from the "real world," and with it, brought an extensive knowledge of villain's weaknesses, heroes' strengths, and comic book secrets other characters don't realise. And yes, she is a rip-off of Deadpool.
#9, Mr Swackhammer
Warner Bros.' Space Jam was one of the best outings for the Looney Toons in the 90s (so much so that a sequel is still in the works) and introduced Bugs Bunny now-canonical girlfriend, Lola Bunny, along with the Monstars. Leading the alien basketball players was the team's manager, Mr Swackhammer, who broke the fourth wall by declaring "I didn't know Dan Aykroyd was in this picture!" as Bill Murray enters the court. Murray and Aykroyd worked together on the Ghostbusters movies and during Saturday Night Live.
#8, Zack Morris
An influential and manipulative teen, Zack Morris was one of Bayside's most popular students who also seemed to have a plan up his sleeve. Aside from his schemes, Zack was also famous for breaking the fourth wall, usually as a direct look of acknowledgement to the camera, or during his signature "Time Out" moments where he would literally stop time around him to voice an opinion, plot a new scheme, or avoid a confrontation.
#7, 'The Animaniacs'
One of Warner Bros. series of 1990 cartoon characters, the Animaniacs (Yakko, Wakko, and Dot) would cause all sorts of mischief and mayhem in and around the WB Studio lot. One of their most famous wall-breaking shenanigans (of which there are too many to list here) involves Yakko acting as a detective to solve a mystery. He asks his sister, Dot, to find some prints. Dot then holds up the artist Prince, thinking he said: "Find Prince."
Yakko then says, "No, no, FINGER prints."
Dot, still mishearing, looks at Prince and says, "I don't think so." "Goodnight Everybody!"
Much like the Animaniacs, Freakazoid was another of Warner Bros.' cartoon characters during their cartoon renaissance of the 90s. And, much like the Animaniacs, Freakazoid would often break down the fourth wall during his crazy antics and shenanigans. It wasn't out of the ordinary for Freakazoid to make note that his adventures were contained within a 30-minute programme and would be coming to an end within ten minutes or so. The 90s were a weird time really.
#5, Psycho Mantis
Breaking the fourth wall isn't exclusive to cartoon characters as this entry proves. One of video-games' most notorious villains, Psycho Mantis made his debut in 1998's Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation 1 and really shook gamers. Whilst not a physically imposing character, Psycho Mantis did have something over his contemporaries; the eerie ability to read your read! Psycho Mantis would ask players to place their controllers on the ground and, through the power of his mind, would force the controller to vibrate uncontrollably and make it unusable. Added to that, he would also tap into your memory card and read what other games were saved on the card as well as noting how many times you had saved the girl during Metal Gear Solid. Spooky stuff.
#4, 'Futurama the Game' (Fry, Bender, Leela, Professor Farnsworth)
Another video game entry into this list, and one based on a show that already references popular culture like it's going out of fashion. Futurama the Game makes obvious references to it being a video game, even going as far as to have an obnoxious tutorial section that teases you for doing as the instructions say. Spoiler alert, Futurama the Game does not like you following instructions.
#3, Ferris Bueller
It means a lot when somebody famous for breaking the fourth wall directly references/parodies you for doing the same thing, but this is what Ryan Reynolds did as Deadpool during the movie's credits scene. Deadpool is seen talking to the camera, directly addressing the audience, all whilst wearing a red and white bathrobe. This is a direct reference to Ferris Bueller at the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, where Ferris tells the audience to go, amongst other things.
Heck, it's even set in what looks to be the exact same hallway! And this isn't even the only time Matthew Broderick broke the fourth wall as Ferris, as the young actor spent more time looking into the camera than he did acting in front of it. Broderick even confessed how he simply didn't get the movie or any of its monologues to camera. Thankfully, despite his apprehension, he still went through with it and as a result, we got one of Broderick's best performances to date.
#2, Rick Sanchez
The cult of Rick and Morty has gone from fanatical to obsessive within a very short space of time. There's no denying that the show is one of the (if not, the) best [Adult Swim] properties out there. The show itself is very self-referencing and keeps a sense of continuity going that many other series would just flat out ignore or forget.
At the centre of all of this success is Rick Sanchez, the smartest man in the universe, and also one of the galaxy's most wanted terrorists. Rick's nihilistic attitude and self-loathing strangely make him an endearing character, but that's probably got more to do with his zany antics than his worldview. Whilst burping and drunkenly making his way through the cosmos, Rick has made numerous references to everything from Presidential elections to 'The Matrix' to Star Wars to X-Factor.
And, on top of all of that, he even managed to make McDonald's bring back an extremely limited and controlled amount of Szechuan sauce in 2017. How many other fictional characters can say that they actually affected a real world, multi-million dollar company? Yes, the lunatics within the fandom took things out of hand and made life miserable for everyone, but if it weren't for Rick Sanchez, many people would have completely forgotten about that sweet, sweet Szechuan sauce.
#1, Sonic the Hedgehog's Twitter Account
Out of everyone who breaks the fourth wall and self-references, the official Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter account wins some sort of prize!
Aside from being completely self-aware, the Twitter account has made references to all things Sonic, both canonical and fan-fiction. Taking great pleasure in making sure everything from Sonic Adventure's Big the Cat and making that into a list of possible future video games (Big's Big Fishing Adventure 3) to fully embracing memes, such as the recent Ugandan Knuckles, the Sonic Twitter account breaks down every conceivable notion of a fourth wall.
There are a lot of funny Twitter accounts out there, but for fans of one of gaming's most enduring and popular icons, this is the mecca of the Twitter-sphere.