A few years ago I didn’t know what meta meant. Meta means going beyond or above, an abstraction from another concept, but how it is used as a cultural reference is slightly different, mostly about being self-refrential within a story. I guess I understood the concept, but I called it breaking the fourth wall. I love when it happened on one of my favorite shows of the 80’s, Moonlighting. In the middle of a scene, Bruce Willis would look right at the camera and make a comment to the audience.
There’s more subtle ways to be meta than actually breaking the fourth wall, you can put references to other things within a show or movie, like anachronisms on Xena or Firefly references on Castle.
Then there’s extremely meta – as in the case of the episode “The French Mistake” in Supernatural. In this episode, the characters are thrown into an alternate dimension where they are actors playing as their characters on a tv-show called Supernatural. The title, “French Mistake”, refers to a scene in the movie Blazing Saddles where the movie breaks free of its set and interrupts another filming in progress. I made a video bringing the two back together.