1387: Clumsy Foreshadowing

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Clumsy Foreshadowing
'... hosts were unexpectedly fired from ABC's 'The View' today. ABC will likely announce new...'
Title text: '... hosts were unexpectedly fired from ABC's 'The View' today. ABC will likely announce new...'


Many action/thriller movies, during the first few minutes, have a background news report that foreshadows the onset of some kind of danger, such as shark attacks, nuclear warfare etc.

Randall suggests taking the same approach to random news stories from real life, in order to make them more ominous.

In this case we see three random headings from news stories, which could all be made even more interesting if the setting is correct.

The first of the three stories mentioned above the frame North Korea threatens U.S. over upcoming movie comes from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency who a few days before this comic was released threatened the US with war over the Seth Rogen movie The Interview, promising "stern" and "merciless" retaliation if the film is released. The threat generated some hype for the at-the-time unreleased movie. No one, however, really took North Korea's threat seriously, but if you put this into such a news report at the beginning of a film, this could be a film about a film leading to a new war with North Korea. (Note: In late 2014 North Korea was accused of carrying out a devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio responsible for the film. These accusations were widely believed initially, though independent analysists have since cast doubt. This news report would likely have been seen in a film about the real life attack or film that features a similar fictional attack for its plot. This is an example of an xkcd comic coming true.)

The second one is about Shark populations booming off east coast. The news in the link is from a week before this comic was released, and is about the preservation of the Great white sharks. Not that terrifying, especially since sharks are way less dangerous than people tend to fear, in part due to movies like Jaws. However, if you put this headline into a news report running in the background, as when Cueball leaves the house with a bathing towel in the main frame of the comic, as if he was going to the beach, then it suddenly becomes a very ominous story, that will not bode well for Cueball and his friends.

The last of the three stories is about SpaceX to attempt new rocket launch today. SpaceX is a space transport services company and on March 13, 2014 they reported a launch date for their first OG2 mission containing 6 satellites on a dedicated Falcon 9 rocket. This date was April 30, 2014 as can be read at the bottom of the news link, which is the news list for this OG2 mission. The launch continued to be postponed several times, and the last date given before this comic was released was June the 24th, three days before this comic was released. This launch was canceled on the 23rd and the day before this comic was released it was yet again postponed, this time until July 14 (almost three weeks, after the previous four proposed launch dates had been 20, 21, 22 and 24 June). So at this point in time, any news regarding SpaceX attempting to launch a rocket, will not generate much fuss, as they are most likely postponing again, but if you put the news bite into the start of a movie, then the launch would probably stay on schedule - but would then go horribly wrong, setting the action packed story in progress. Just over a year later on June 28, 2015 SpaceX mission CRS-7 exploded just after launch. The preliminary findings of the investigation however point to a failure of a steel strut, which would be hard to turn into a good story.

The title text news hosts were unexpectedly fired from ABC's 'The View' today references ABC's The View where two of the co-hosts, Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy, were simultaneously reporting leaving the program (fired or resigned? - sources vary), the day before this comic appeared. Sherri after seven years, Jenny after less than one year as co-host. According to the news link above there were "no word on who will be replacing the hosts, but the network says they will have a team together when the show launches its new season this fall." Again a not very interesting news story. The title text though continues the news by saying: ABC will likely announce new... The humorous suggestion is that the news about The View will go on to foreshadow some looming disaster, a comically unlikely premise for an action/thriller movie. Alternatively, it could be used as a plot device if the character will be hired as a replacement—or the character is listed as a potential replacement and tries to dig up dirt on the competition or otherwise compete for the position.


[Heading and text above the panel:]
Today's News
North Korea threatens U.S. over upcoming movie
Shark populations booming off east coast
SpaceX to attempt new rocket launch today
[Arrow pointing down towards the comics only panel.]
[Cueball, holding a towel, walks past a TV with a news report shown on-screen.]
Cueball: Bye! See you tonight!
Offscreen person: Have a good day!
TV: Researchers are reporting record numbers of sharks...
[Caption below the panel:]
To make news stories seem way more ominous, imagine you're hearing them from a background TV in a movie as the main character leaves.

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There is a trope for this kind of thing. --Koveras (talk) 08:11, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

I think the news tropes [1] and [2] are more specific to this scenario. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I almost made the following edit: "that foreshadows the onset of some kind of danger, such as shark attacks, tornadoes, shark-tornadoes" with the last part linking to the Sharknado article on Wikipedia. Is explainxkcd allowed to be this silly? I think we should be this silly. 09:21, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

Why not? It is a legitimate movie. Also, that towel might be a "Hitchhiker's Guide..." reference, if it is indeed a towel and Cueball is the main character. But it might be a cape or something else. 11:51, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

No, the towel signals that he is going swimming, as the background TV predicts shark attacks. Rtanenbaum (talk) 12:53, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

What does the stuff with The View have to do with foreshadowing? Unless it's implying that Ms. McCarthy is going to try to drown herself in shark infested waters while our protagonist tries to save her... --Andyd273 (talk) 13:48, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

It doesn't. The explanation needs to be changed to read 'the title text' instead of 'the title' in the paragraph talking about The View. I'll fix it. --Dangerkeith3000 (talk) 15:04, 27 June 2014 (UTC)
"Unless ... Ms. McCarthy is going to try to drown herself in shark infested waters" We should be so lucky. 16:15, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

Is there a Jaws reference here? Or does Randall just really love sharks? 19:06, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

por_que_no_los_dos.jpg? 18:20, 28 June 2014 (UTC)

Why does the movie reference have to be action/thriller? The 'news report in the background' has been used for all types of movies to foreshadow something that will happen later in the film. It's also used in other media, though it probably is most popular in movies. --Ima420r (talk) 03:36, 2 July 2014 (UTC)

My first guess after reading the comic was that all the news stories appeared related. North Korea threatening the USA, possibly by attacking them with a shark invasion. Then a rocket to take out the sharks. Tharkon (talk) 22:17, 10 December 2014 (UTC)

Should we be ruining people's lives like that? 12:44, 18 November 2015 (UTC)