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The TV show Family Guy very often, usually multiple times per episode, will cut away from the main plot to show a weird flashback or just a miniature story that is completely unrelated to the main plot even when it's framed as having been a flashback. Family Guy isn't the only show/movie that does things like this it just seems to be the one that does it the most often.

Now, I don't know where I picked the term up from, but for the longest time, I've been referring to these asides as mise-en-scenes. But I'd just recently looked up a bunch of different definitions for that word, and it doesn't seem to quite fit. (edit: it seems this section is confusing people. I'm not asking what mise-en-scene means, I'm asking what the word for the thing I've described in the first paragraph is)

But then, what is the proper term for these?

  • These are neither non-sequitur nor mis-en-scene. They might be danglers, subplots, stories within a story, red herrings, metareferences... - it really depends on what is going on and whether it is really unrelated or possibly related in some subtle way etc. – msam Apr 12 '18 at 15:01
  • @msam "These are neither non-sequitur" I'm specifically asking about the non-sequiturs. "nor mis-en-scene" Yeah, that's why I'm asking the question, because I realized I'd been using the wrong term. – Shufflepants Apr 12 '18 at 15:05
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    Mise-en-scène is way more general than you're using it. You're talking about one particular technique of storytelling, and mise en scene is about the whole mechanics of putting a story into a theater or film production. It comes from the french meaning of 'director of a theater/film production'. I think what you are looking for is a word that encompasses flashbacks, asides, irrelevant vignettes, etc. Mise en scene is for the whole directorial enterprise, not for this one little story telling technique. – Mitch Apr 12 '18 at 15:15
  • @Mitch Yeah, that's why I've asked the question... Sorry, was it confusing for me to mention my motivating reason for asking? – Shufflepants Apr 12 '18 at 15:16
  • This may actually end up being irrelevant, but here's a wiki list of terms used in movies. More relevant would be a list of story-telling techniques. – Mitch Apr 12 '18 at 15:21
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You already gave the answer. The show itself, when it's being self-referential, calls these

"cutaways".

The term is more general than that, though, according to the article on it in Wikipedia:

"... a cutaway scene is the interruption of a scene with the insertion of another scene, generally unrelated or only peripherally related to the original scene."

That article mentions Family Guy and its "cutaway gags".

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    Nice! Sometimes there's not a word for the thing you want. But it is so satisfying when there is. – Mitch Apr 12 '18 at 15:30
  • They are ironic cutaways. – AmI Apr 12 '18 at 19:45

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