I'm developing a website for classifying content more appropriately and insodoimg came across a question about perspective.

I understand the three perspectives as described here: https://study.com/academy/lesson/point-of-view-first-second-third-person.html

I also understand these are used in the context of everyday English as well as in entertainment.

That said, I believe there needs to be (or I need help finding how to accurately describe) exactly how it should be that we describe, from an actor in real life's perspective the role they've played in an entertainment.

That was a mouthful, so here's an example of what I'm asking:

Actor: Matt Damon

Character he is acting as: Bob Smith

Line in movie: "I had a great day yesterday."

It is obviously true Bob Smith is speaking in first person but in what perspective would we say Matt Damon is speaking in? It's not Matt Damons thoughts or ideas first hand that he is espousing, so in my opinion, calling that first perspective would be innacurate.

Does anyone know of any currently existing ways to describe this dilemma more truly to the English language?

EDIT: Just came across this quote and term and reminded me of this question. It isn’t the answer but it lives close to the answer...

“ ONE OF THE STRIKING CHARACTERISTICS of the new mass media-radio, television, and the movies-is that they give the illusion of face-to-face relation ship with the performer. The conditions of response to the performer are analogous to those in a primary group. The most remote and illustrious men are met as if they were in the circle of one's peers; the same is true of a character in a story who comes to life in these media in an especially vivid and arresting way. We propose to call this seeming face-to-face relationship between spectator and performer a para-social relationship.”

  • 1
    I want to say there is a word for this, but I can't recall it at this moment. In literature, we can say a narrator is omniscient or limited, but that doesn't apply here, I think. Also, nicely worded and researched question!
    – miltonaut
    Dec 1, 2018 at 17:53
  • Thank you very much! I actually proof read this one as my questions normally make sense in my head and then once I type things out, well, not so much anymore. Side note, how do we “invent” an appropriate term if none exists? Dec 1, 2018 at 22:34
  • Bit of a dunce moment. Just posted an answer.
    – miltonaut
    Dec 1, 2018 at 22:59
  • 1
    I wouldn't call that dunce at all. I like to think of any degree of complex thought (or recall) as trying to examine a snowflake on a hot frying pan or perhaps looking into the sun. The closer you look, the harder it is to discover more detail. We just have to let these things return to us; and they generally do in time. Dec 3, 2018 at 15:22
  • This is not about English, or any other natural language, but some odd kind of logic. Please be clear: real people with relevant experience no not think that way. If you want to speak about the character, then the character said (blah lah). If you want to speak about the actor, then acting as (character), (actor) said (blah lah). I suggest this is difficult only for people with no relevant experience. Dec 13, 2018 at 21:11

2 Answers 2


When we discuss kinds of narrative perspective (first, second, third person; limited, omniscient, and other aspects), we would be discussing how that perspective is portrayed within a narrative context. So much of the answer depends on the context in which we're reading or viewing the narrative. What perspective do we take?

  1. If the narrative is the actual film, then the perspective is most likely third person, since in film the perspective of the audience is from outside the perspective of the character. Exceptions include films with voice over narration, which invite the perception that a character is narrating the story. That technique incorporates a first-person perspective into the film. (See Stand By Me.)
  2. If the narrative context is strictly defined as what the character is saying, then Bob Smith is speaking in first person.
  3. If the narrative context is defined as Matt Damon portraying how a character would speak, then it's still first person perspective: Matt Damon is speaking as the character.
  4. If the narrative context is defined as the film or character but Matt Damon speaks as himself commenting on the context, then we have a metaleptic moment, which means that the boundaries between narrative levels are being transgressed. That doesn't sound like what you mean though, since metalepsis usually draws attention to itself, whereas you describe Matt Damon saying the line as the character.

The last two examples also distinguish two kinds of acting. In presentational acting (closer to example 4), the actor represents their awareness of the audience: they may wink, nod, and speak to the audience. In representational acting (closer to example 3), the actor represents a character fully within a narrative. The fourth wall is solid. This suggests a further distinction in perspective: mimetic perspective imitates or represents a character, whereas diegetic perspective tells an event from the outside. Storytellers are usually diegetic, and actors are usually mimetic.

So in short, it sounds like you're trying to describe the actor's perspective. Matt Damon (and most actors) play a mimetic role, imitating and representing the role they are portraying. This perspective is outside of the film's story in most cases, but close to the character they play.


Limited Omniscient Viewpoint

Limited omniscient basically means that while you have a God-like perspective of the story, you limit yourself to being in one character’s head at a time. It allows you to switch characters as many times as necessary, even within a scene.

Think about true omniscient POV as having a camera panning throughout the room at a party scene, dipping into anyone’s head and perhaps more than one person at a time, by taking on the collective group perspective. Then you can think about limited omniscient more like passing a camera around the room with each person filming their own POV of the story.

Also, with limited omniscient viewpoint, the head hopping is made easier on the reader by anchoring us firmly in one head;then show the transfer of POV by physical contact. So you might start the scene in Joe’s viewpoint as he speaks with Rick and Sally. When you want to switch over to Sally’s thoughts in the conversation, you might have Joe place his hand on her shoulder or direct a comment to her and use that opportunity to lead into her viewpoint.

For most movies and TV shows, the actors will be given or have access to a full script. This would give them a nearly omniscient perspective since they would know the plot and dialogue. However, it's not limited since they can't know what's going on inside their fellow actors's heads.

(And possibly more limited in cases where they are only given their scenes, such as when the studio is attempting to maintain some secrecy.)

If the actor is speaking in character and making "I" statements, that would give the actor a Limited Omniscient First Person viewpoint.

An alternative:

Nosism is the practice of referring to oneself in the plural ("the royal we"). As stated in the article, it's sometimes used when the speaker has a dual nature: monarchs as individuals and as the State, Jesus as both human and divine. I am unable to think of or find a singular version of this or an inverse. So you might could call an actor speaking as their character a dramatic nosism, an inverted nosism, or a singular nosism.

  • Sorry but that's pure nonsense. The author, director or producer might have your LOV. No actor could have any such thing, except due to incompetence. Any actor's raison d'etre is to lose any viewpoint, and immerse himself in the character. Dec 11, 2018 at 0:13
  • Limited omniscient viewpoint is limited to third person, since part of it being omniscient is that the perspective-holder is not a direct participant in the story. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narration#Third-person,_omniscient Jan 1, 2019 at 3:03

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