The Fourth Wall Crumbles

In theater and film and pretty much anything involving story there is a term called “the fourth wall.”  It refers to a theoretical space between the story and its audience.  Essentially, the story cannot acknowledge it has an audience, or the fourth wall crumbles.

I am rewatching The Office for the third time.  It’s funny and always makes me giggle (which these days is a good thing), but the third time through makes me a little bit more objective, and my RTVF brain kicks in and I start noticing different things.  This time I’ve been analyzing the use of the fourth wall in the series, how sometimes the characters acknowledge the presence of a camera, and other times they don’t seem to know it’s there.  It’s completely fascinating to me, but I’m pretty sure it would bore you, so I’ll save it for an academic paper.

However, all of this has got me thinking about the fourth wall in all of our lives.  You know, we’re all just kind of observers in each others’ lives, watching everything play out, unless that fourth wall comes down.  Unless we acknowledge the presence of other people and involve them in our stories, we’re really just putting on a show – letting people see what we want them to see, our carefully edited stories.  Sure, our stories may allude to obstacles and risk and we may welcome people to watch, but we rarely involve them in the story.

There is a form of film called cinema verite – literally means film truth. The idea behind it was to just film what was, no editing, no letting people see only what we want them to see. It’s not packaged in this neat little narrative structure, it’s more like real life.  It is so different from reality TV, because it’s not manufactured drama; in fact, it can get a bit boring and tedious.  In a real cinema verite work, the fourth wall is absent – the subjects are there interacting with each other and the camera.  Not acting for the camera or because the camera is there, but acknowledging and involving the camera, and thus the audience.

I am burdened so much by integrity.  I don’t want to be one person for you, and another person behind the scenes.   I want to involve you in my story, my real story.   That’s why I’m honest and I talk about things most people consider private.  I make no distinction from the person I am privately and the person I am publicly.  (This might not need to be said, but if it involves someone else’s privacy, I do keep things confidential – anyone else’s fourth wall is their own business).  I am learning that it’s not enough to tell people about what I’m going through, I have to involve them in it as well.

I am processing a lot at the moment and trying to understand who needs to be involved in my life and its manifold issues and struggles and to what extent.  I want to be open and honest, but contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think everybody needs to know everything.  I also don’t want to put myself out there (online or anywhere else) as being someone I’m not.

I can’t entirely dismiss the fourth wall on this blog (where I’ve never met most of my readers), but I’ll take a little bit down for you right now. I don’t have it all together and I’m not optimistic about my prospects in life.  I wish I could keep on telling you that things are coming together and I’m going great places to do great things, but that’s not reality.

As to my readers who DO know me, the wall is down.  I am trying to acknowledge you and involve you in my life by bringing down the wall and let you see the unedited version of me.  I know it’s a lot to handle and its messy and well, ugly.  I know sometimes its tedious and boring.  I know there are people who don’t want to be involved, and that is okay with me.  I know there are many people who have so much love and counsel to offer when I break down this wall.  This one is for them.


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4 thoughts on “The Fourth Wall Crumbles

  1. cavegirlmba says:

    Kevin Spacey breaks the fourth wall to a fantastic effect in “House of Cards”. He also explains how he likes to do it here in this interview with Letterman, you might find it interesting:

    • Lydia Thomas says:

      Very interesting. I haven’t watched “House of Cards”, but I’ve been meaning too. Will have to check it out. Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing the Letterman interview. 🙂

  2. sourgirlohio says:

    “I make no distinction from the person I am privately and the person I am publicly.” I’m the exact opposite. You’re brave:) I enjoyed your post.

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