Main Page

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1450 xkcd comics, and only 32 (2%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

Background Screens
No way, we gotta rewind and cross-reference this map with the list of coordinates we saw on the other screen. This Greenland thing could be big.
Title text: No way, we gotta rewind and cross-reference this map with the list of coordinates we saw on the other screen. This Greenland thing could be big.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Discuss title text, Greenland, related memes

Plot and characters are generally considered the major reasons for watching a movie. Cueball, however, pays particular attention to what's on the computer screens shown briefly in the background. Generally speaking, these screens are shown the audience for such a short period of time, and at such a low-level of detail, that the contents of the screen don't match what is said in the dialog or otherwise put in the movie. Also, they sometimes contain irrelevant data or jokes. It's unlikely that important information would be communicated in such a way.

Background screens typically only serve to provide a "high-tech feel" to the movie, with endless columns of data flashing by in an eyeblink, and crosshairs zipping across maps. They are designed by artists who may not even be aware of the details of the plot, and as a result, their content (where it is intelligible, such as in a map) has little to no connection to the dialog or other story events going on in front of them.

Greenland, the Earth's largest island, is 80% covered in ice up to several kilometers in depth, and has a population of less than 100,000 people. An unlikely place for aliens to land, especially movie aliens, who generally prefer more action-laden locations.

Unless, of course, they are planning something devious. In the title text, Cueball suggests that they should investigate how a list of coordinates from another background screen relates to the location of the alien craft in Greenland, laying the groundwork for a conspiracy theory connecting the movie's story to the "real" world.


[Cueball and a friend are watching a movie, Cueball sitting on the floor and pointing the remote at the TV.]

[A pie chart shows what Cueball pays attention to in movies:

  • Plot, characters: 5%
  • Computer screens shown briefly in the background: 95%]

Cueball: Hang on – that blurry map behind the General shows one of the alien ships is in Greenland! Why Greenland?!

Friend: [quietly] Can we please just watch the movie?

Is this out of date? Clicking here will fix that.

New here?

Last 7 days (Top 10)

Lots of people contribute to make this wiki a success. Many of the recent contributors, listed above, have just joined. You can do it too! Create your account here.

You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
  • We sell advertising space to pay for our server costs. To learn more, go here.


Don't be a jerk.

There are a lot of comics that don't have set in stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.

If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.

Please only submit material directly related to (and helping everyone better understand) xkcd... and of course only submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited). Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.

If you need assistance from an admin, post a message to the Admin requests board.

Personal tools


It seems you are using noscript, which is stopping our project wonderful ads from working. Explain xkcd uses ads to pay for bandwidth, and we manually approve all our advertisers, and our ads are restricted to unobtrusive images and slow animated GIFs. If you found this site helpful, please consider whitelisting us.

Want to advertise with us, or donate to us with Paypal or Bitcoin?