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In general, a reference is something that refers to or designates something else, or acts as a connection or a link between two things. The objects it links may be concrete, such as books or locations, or abstract, such as data, thoughts, or memories. The object which is named by a reference, or to which the reference points, is the referent. The term reference is used with different specialized meanings in a variety of fields. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reference [Jul 2006]
Meta-reference describes a situation in a form of media whereby fictional characters display an awareness that they are in a film, television show or book. Sometimes it may even just be a form of editing or film-making technique that comments on the programme/film/book itself.
The Simpsons features meta-references quite frequently, and the Usenet group alt.tv.simpsons features a Meta reference watch for each episode. A classic example is when Homer Simpson - in the style of a Road Runner cartoon - gets stuck in a hole in the ground of a narrow ledge jutting from the edge of a tall cliff. Homer declares "If this were a cartoon, this cliff would break off now." Sure enough, it does.
Other examples include:
--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta-reference [Dec 2004]
- In the South Park episode The Quest For Ratings, the main characters run an amateur news show as a school project, but when ratings drop they decide to make news stories up. During a brainstorming session, Eric Cartman suggests a storyline feature 'Crab People'. This is immediately derided as a ludicrous and implausable idea for a television show. 'Crab People' were themselves featured in a previous South Park episode.
- In weekly children's comic, The Beano, the characters sometimes actually read The Beano. Some even turn to their own strip and comment how funny they are that week.
- In Natural Born Killers, whilst editing a programme, television presenter Wayne Gale argues that it is okay to have segments repeated within the same show, claiming "Repetition works!" The piece of dialogue is immediately looped, so we hear him say "Repetition works!" a few seconds later.
- In Robert Anton Wilson's surreal novel Schrödinger's Cat trilogy, a character named Dr. Dashwood tries to explain to someone that humans are primates, but none of us consciously realize this. He argues "If I were to write a novel...and mentioned on every one of the first hundred pages that all of us are primates, we would find it funny or satirical. Even stranger, if I stopped mentioning it for about two hundred pages, the readers would all forget it quickly, and be startled if I mentioned it again on page 515." In the first hundred pages of the novel humans are constantly referred to as 'primates', and Dr. Dashwood's above quote is indeed on page 515.
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