Rashomon effect  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Rashomon effect is the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it. A useful demonstration of this principle in scientific understanding can be found in an article by that name authored by Karl G. Heider.

It is named for Akira Kurosawa's film Rashomon, in which a crime witnessed by four individuals is described in four mutually contradictory ways. The film is based on two short stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, "Rashōmon" (for the setting) and "Yabu no naka", otherwise known as "In a Grove" (for the story line).

Use in Movies

Film Comments
Andha Naal The Tamil film was inspired by the 1950 Akira Kurosawa film Rashômon. However, in contrast to Rashômon, the film's climax provides a solution to the murder using an Indian proverb as a vital clue
Ghost Dog Louie and Ghost Dog have different accounts of the circumstances of their meeting, and the book Rashomon is featured in the film.
The Woman in Question Five people give different accounts of some of the same incidents before a murder. Though a perfect Rashomon Effect is not achieved, the film tries to depict how the narration by one person can entirely window-dress facts, revealed only by another's narration.
Hero The film relates the different accounts of how the protagonist, the Nameless swordsman, killed three of the Qin emperor's assassins and is allowed to dine close to him as a reward. The story then reveals the three assassins' deaths as apparent sacrifices to let the Nameless swordsman, who is also intending to kill the emperor, to get within striking range of the emperor.
Hoodwinked! The film is a re-telling of the classic "Little Red Riding Hood" story. In this story everyone from the Wolf to the Woodsman tells their view of what "REALLY" happened in regards to the events in question.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil Based on their preconceptions toward a couple of "hillbillies", a group of judgmental college kids continue to feel they are under attack by the pair as unfortunate events in the film take place. The "hillbillies" are blind to how the kids are seeing the events and see the kids reactions as some crazy unexplainable actions of their own. The film displays a humorously clear example of the rashomon effect for the viewer.
Vantage Point An attempted assassination of the President of the United States is shown through the experiences of eight strangers who witnessed the events.

Use in popular culture

TV Show Episode Comments
All in the Family "Everybody Tells the Truth" Archie Bunker and Mike Stivic give conflicting accounts of an incident involving a refrigerator repairman and a black apprentice repairman.
Alvin and the Chipmunks "Every Chipmunk Tells a Story" Alvin, Simon and Theodore each give similar but different accounts as to how David Seville's piano got destroyed and filled with pudding.
Batman: The Animated Series "P.O.V." A botched police operation results in the suspension of those involved: Officer Wilkes, Officer Montoya and Detective Harvey Bullock. Confronted by their superiors, each of them is forced to tell their tale of what happened that night.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation "Rashomama" The episode required the CSIs, deprived of any of the usual forensic evidence, to rely on the eye witness accounts of guests at a wedding to solve the case.
Drake and Josh "Foam Finger" Drake and Josh are in a big fight over a foam finger that they both wanted when they were both 8 years old. Drake thinks that Josh started the fight and vice versa, each of their flashbacks with different circumstances.
Ed, Edd n Eddy "Once Upon an Ed" Jonny and Plank are ready for bed, but then find out that the Eds are somehow trapped in Jonny's wall. The Eds have three different stories to tell, none of which agree.
Fame Under a theater marquee, two characters huddle to wait out a rainstorm. Only after the entire story has unfolded in flashback does the camera pan back enough to disclose that the theater marquee announces "A Kurosawa Festival".
Farscape "The Ugly Truth" After a Plokavian ship is destroyed by Talyn with Crichton, Aeryn, D'Argo, Zhaan, and Stark on board, they are put on trial by the Plokavians. During their testimony, the story of their meeting with Talyn and Crais is told from a number of perspectives.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air "Will Goes a Courtin" When Will defies his uncle's orders by having his friends over by the pool after he refuses to pay his rent to Philip unless Philip repairs the air conditioner in Will's guest house, Phil sues -- and the two stubborn men plead their cases in court before Judge Reynolds. Uncle Phil, and Will and Carlton respectively, paint very different pictures before the judge.
Grey's Anatomy "I Saw What I Saw" A patient dies because of a mistake and Chief Webber interviews Owen, Cristina, Bailey, Alex, Lexie, Jackson, Reed and April and recounts what transpired that night to determine who made the mistake.
Happy Days "Fonzie Gets Shot" Fonzie is shot on a weekend camping lodge trip with Potsie, Chachi, and Roger. At the hospital, they all offer different versions of how he was shot, each of which is changed to make the speaker look better.
How I Met Your Mother
Due to the whole sitcom's concept being that Ted Mosby is recounting his own younger life to his children, there are many examples of differing perspectives between characters when Future Ted is narrating what he has since heard other character's perspectives were of an event.
"Oh, Honey" While main character Ted's best friend Marshall is staying with family in Minnesota, the other characters in New York (where the show is set) phone him and recount when they first meet 'Honey', an airhead cousin of recurring character Zoey. In various recountings of the tale, Marshall learns: Honey is into Ted but rejected when he realises he is in love with Zoey, who is married; Honey is into Ted's friend Barney from the get-go yet still rejected by Ted; that the story stretches further when Ted calls off his friendship with Zoe but does not admit to her why; the story stretches even further when it's revealed Ted told her Marshall's wife, Lily, hates her, but that Lily also told her that 'actually', Robin hates her; that Robin told Zoey that Marshall hates her; and finally Ted claims he hates Zoey. After a final call with 'Honey' herself, Marshall pieces the events together to realise that Zoey is going through a divorce because she is in love with Ted and calls the pair to reveal the whole, true, omniscient story, at which they finally kiss.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia "Who Got Dee Pregnant?" The male members of The Gang try to recall the events of a drunken Halloween party after being told that one of them is the father of Dee's unborn child.
The Jackson 5ive (TV series) "Rasho-Jackson" In an eerie precognition of future events, "Rasho-Jackson" depicts the Jackson brothers becoming alienated after an argument by their stalled car and refusing to perform with each other ever again, all becoming "The Jackson Ones." Intended to be a parody of the Japanese artistic film Rashomon, each brother tells his own version of events, all the while trying to depict himself as the self-sacrificing hero who saves the day. Ironically, the episode sort of predicts how the Jackson phenomenon would end in twenty years. Berry Gordy is depicted bringing the brothers back together again.

Songs: "One More Chance", "I Found That Girl"

King of the Hill "A Firefighting We Will Go" The main characters recount the events that led to a fire station burning down while acting as volunteer firefighters. Each character's story make themselves out to be heroic while the others are bumbling.
Leverage "The Rashomon Job" Team members recount contradictory stories about a night five years earlier, when it turns out they each unwittingly tried to steal the same artifact at the same time.
Magnum, P.I. "I Witness" During a robbery at the King Kamehameha Club, the three main supporting characters of the series (Higgins, Rick, and T.C.) are victimized and relate widely-varying, self-serving statements to investigator Tanaka.
Mama's Family "Rashomama" Eunice, Ellen, and Naomi tell overly exaggerated versions of how Mama got hit in the head with the pot while making gooseberry jam.
Maude "The Case of the Broken Punch Bowl" Maude's priceless crystal punch bowl is shattered at a party given by the Harmons, at which Carol and Mrs. Naugatuck were both present - but separating the truth from Arthur's, Vivian's, and Mrs. Naugatuck's perception of the truth proves a challenge.
NewsRadio "Catherine Moves On" Catherine announces she is leaving WNYX. The rest of the staff offer Mr. James their versions of how Catherine quit and why, colored by their own perceptions.
Perfect Strangers "Eyewitless Report" On a company trip to the Big Piney National Forest, Larry, Balki, and Sam Gorpley all offer different accounts of an encounter with an escaped killer.
The Powerpuff Girls "The Bare Facts" After Mojo Jojo kidnaps and blindfolds him, the Mayor has to rely on the Girls' very different individual accounts of the crime to figure out exactly what happened.
Rugrats "The Trial" After someone mysteriously smashes Tommy’s favorite lamp, he demands to know who is responsible. All of the kids tell similar, yet different, stories of what happened.
Skunk Fu! "The Art of Storytelling" Skunk, Rabbit and Fox have different stories about how Panda got abducted by Babboon.
Small Wonder "The Rip-Off" A burglar is repelled and Jamie, Harriet, Brandon tell different stories, each claiming to be the hero. Vicki can't talk, but recorded a video of the whole event.
South Park "Fishstick" Eric Cartman distorts his recollection of the past to think that he had a part in creating the "fishstick" joke.
SpongeBob SquarePants "Friend or Foe" Mr. Krabs says that he was friends with Plankton and tells the story of their friendship, which is not entirely true. Plankton then tells his side of the story, which is false as well. The formula is seen and revealed in this episode when Karen gives the real story, saying that Plankton accidentally knocked several jars into their burger recipe, and that is the Krabby Patty formula.
Star Trek: The Next Generation "A Matter of Perspective" A character is accused of murdering a scientist because of an alleged interest in the scientist's wife. Several similar but contradictory scenarios based on the testimony of the people involved are played out on the holodeck.
The Simpsons "Thirty Minutes over Tokyo" Marge: Come on, Homer. Japan will be fun! You liked Rashomon.

Homer: That's not how I remember it!

The X-Files "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" Mulder and Scully investigate a reported alien abduction in which each witness provides a different version of the story. While they investigate, a thriller novelist, Jose Chung, seeks information for a book he is writing on the incident.
"Bad Blood" Mulder and Scully report on their most recent case to their superior, with each agent's account of what happened tainted by each's own bias, in the perception of the paranormal, of the secondary characters involved, and of each other.
Power Rangers S.P.D. "Perspective With S.P.D.'s surveillance system down, an account of their latest altercation is needed and each Rangers tells a highly self-engrandizing version of what happened. Fortunately, the surveillance system comes back on-line to show what really transpired. Not only do they see what the actual events were but how the fight truly ended, which all of them changed.

See also





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Rashomon effect" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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