13 Ways In Which Movies Break The Fourth Wall

10) Good-Old-Fashioned Product Placement: Wayne’s World (1992)


Wayne’s World, which began as a sketch on SNL and went on to become the show’s highest grossing feature film (followed closely by The Blues Brothers) relies on there being very little fourth wall for the entire basis of the movie: Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) are the laid-back-to-the-point-of-horizontal but highly endearing hosts of a low budget, small time cable TV show (the epomymous Wayne’s World), the audience for which is mainly, well, the audience.

Wayne’s World would qualify for many of the fourth-wall-breaking categories on this list: Both Wayne and Garth speak at length into the camera (the camera actually tries to get away from Wayne at one point), they make every effort to draw the audience themselves in, there is some character-to-audience secrecy, and there is self-referential humour aplenty.

But there is one aspect of movie meta-humour that Wayne’s World covers better than any other, and for that reason it was chosen for this entry. This aspect is, of course, the product placement gag.

In order to fully appreciate the point of this particular fourth wall breach (and also because it’s pretty amusing in itself), it will help to have a quick look at the endless trend of in-movie product promotions. Here are just a few examples of some of the most flagrant but most entertaining ways in which various brands, names and trademarks have wangled their not so subtle ways into various films.

Not satisfied with turning Transformers into one long advertisement for Nokia, General Motors and Cadillac (which, let’s face it, was probably a vast improvement on what we might have had otherwise), Michael Bay also shoehorned Mountain Dew into the picture, by having the robot ‘Dispenser’ disguised as a Mountain Dew vending machine. Whatever else we might say about Michael Bay, the man has no shame.

Visa, Nikon, Pan Am and of course Martini have been making James Bond’s life easier for decades, as has his unlimited access to a vast array of Aston Martins (and, at one point, a Citreon 2CV.) During the 1990s, Phillips, Sony and IMB got involved, as did Landrover, BMW, Omega, Avon, Heineken…and basically anything else that stood still long enough for them to get it in the shot.

Cast Away

The British Royal Mail loses approximately a quarter of a million letters every week in the UK, but Fed Ex still managed to find its way to Tom Hanks, stranded on a minute desert island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in Cast Away.

Man of Steel is thought to have made $160 million from promotions alone, before a single ticket was sold – and eyewear company Warby Parker has now actually made Clark Kent’s glasses.

According to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Windex is an excellent spot treatment. Attaining the last box of Twinkies is essentially the life’s purpose of Woody Harrelson’s Tallahasse in Zombieland; Calvin Klein and the X-Box are held up as paradigms of the perfect life in The Island; Apple and Dell apparently have the monopoly on the world’s computer experience, and if you were visiting from a different planet, you would be perfectly excused for thinking that Coca-Cola is some kind of necessary elixir of life, without which the human race would die out.

And finally, for some unknown reason, the property master (yes, there’s an official term for the person who is in charge of gathering sponsored props) of Evolution decided to make Head and Shoulders shampoo the movie’s key sponsor. Unsure of quite how dandruff shampoo was going to feature in a movie about rapidly evolving extra-terrestrial life, the filmmakers got imaginative, and came up with a method of killing the creatures by fire-hosing a truck load of Head and Shoulders into their rectums….I genuinely cannot think of a sentence with which to summarisz that.

As ridiculous as all this sounds on paper, Wayne’s World manages to make it even more so with their own meta take on the inexhaustible product placement crusade.

Wayne’s World has just been bought by a local TV company, and as a result have to accept that their sponsor, Noah Vanderhoff, will want a spot on their show. Wayne declares that he sees things a little differently. “Contract or no,” he says, “I will not bow to any sponsors.” As he says this, he is lifting the lid on a Pizza Hut box.

When the producer insists that sponsorship is just the nature of the beast, the camera cuts back to Wayne: “I may be wrong on this one, but to me the beast doesn’t include selling out.” This time he is holding a bag of Doritos. Wayne appeals to Garth for support. The camera cuts to Garth, who is dressed head to toe in Reebok. “It’s like people will only do things if they get paid,” Garth says, in his good-natured way. “It makes me really sad.” In the rest of the sequence, the pair go on to showcase Nuprin and Pepsi, complete with the respective slogans.

wayne's world pepsi

The ironic thing is that these companies of course actually are receiving product promotion in Wayne’s World. But we would all need sense of humour bypasses to interpret it this way: The point is….

Sorry, the laptop ran out of charge. This would never have happened on a Macbook.