Icon of Rebellion


"The Champion's name became a rallying cry, a reminder the mighty templars could be defied."
Varric, Dragon Age II

Whenever a revolution is taking place, when people rebel against an authority, certain motifs often come to be associated with the uprisings. This can take the form of many things such as gestures, songs, objects, figureheads, phrases or even landmarks. Basically anything that can be used to symbolize a societal/political upheaval. The nature of the Icon of Rebellion means that it frequently becomes memetic among supporters of the rebellion.

Certain icons, hand gestures being the most common, tend to be reused across media and history alike. The "V" gesture (Index and middle fingers pointing upwards with the rest of the hand held in a fist and facing away from the user) is a symbol in the V miniseries, was used to represent the anti-war movement of The '60s, and also stood for the Victory of the Allies in World War II.

Because the Icon of Rebellion is usually something that is fairly innocuous, it can be displayed openly amongst rebels as a subversive sort of "Screw you" to the people in power. Only in the most Orwellian of societies is this ever punished.


Anime and Manga

Comic Books
  • V for Vendetta has wearing Guy Fawkes masks, and the "V" in general. V himself is both rebellion and icon.

Film - Live Action
  • Star Wars: the Rebel Alliance's emblem.
    • In the prequels, Count Dooku serves as the figurehead of the rebel Separatists.
    • According to The Force Unleashed video game, the emblem belongs to the House of Marek and adopted by the Rebels after Galen Marek (AKA Starkiller) gives his life to save them from the Emperor and Darth Vader.
  • The Hunger Games: The mockingjay pin, and eventually Katniss Everdeen herself.

  • Bas-Lag Cycle
    • Jack-half-a-prayer from Perdido Street Station.
    • The Perpetual Train in Iron Council.
      • Benjamin Flex from the same book.
      • Spiral Jacobs, the vagabond, roams around the city of New Crobuzon and spends his days vandalizing the city with drawings of spirals. This occurs during a time of political unrest, and the masses of New Crobuzon adopt it as a symbol of the rebellion, wearing it on their clothing and making the marks themselves. Subverted in that Jacobs is actually the ambassador of an enemy city and the spirals are part of an extremely powerful and intricate magic that would completely destroy the New Crobuzon, sending ripples of destruction backwards through time.
  • In Magicians of Gor Tarl and his friend Marcus start a rebellion in Ar by claiming to have heard of the "Delta Brigade" (named after the events in a previous book where the forces of Ar were defeated in a delta) and scratch deltas everywhere. There later becomes an actual Delta Brigade which they have nothing to do with It's like al-Qaeda - no one group has any interaction with any other group, they just call themselves that and engage in uncivil disobedience.
  • The mockingjay in The Hunger Games (or Katniss putting a bunch of flowers on the recently slain Rue).
    • Likewise, District 12's three-finger salute along with Rue's four note whistle - originally District 11's whistle to indicate the day's labor is over.
  • In the second Inkheart book, the face of the commoners' uprising was the fabricated folk-hero, The Blue-Jay. He was known by his fairness, thieving, and mask rather than his face, but the songs of the Blue-Jay stirred public favor for the uprising without a face.
  • In Les Misérables, two of them: the flag Mabeuf dies waving, and Mabeuf's bullet-ridden coat afterwards.
  • From Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress:
    • Rebels against the Lunar Authority wore red caps called Liberty Caps. Heinlein got the idea from the French Revolution example in Real Life below.
    • The "Simon Jester" symbol, which was used with anti-Lunar Authority graffiti.
    A matchstick drawing of a little horned devil with big grin and forked tail. Sometimes he was stabbing a fat man with a pitchfork. Sometimes just his face would appear, big grin and horns, until shortly even horns and grin meant "Simon was here".
    • Discworld
    • The Lilac flowers in Night Watch.
    • The sign of the turtle in 'Small Gods'', symbolising the rejection of the Omnian dogma that the world is spherical.
  • In the Daughter of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce, the symbol for the cultural uprising of an ethnic group enslaved and kept on the bottom rung of society was a crude broken manacle: three small circles as a chain attached to a larger broken circle. This tiny sign of the underground rebellion could be seen anywhere—vegetable stands, scratched into the corners of glass windows.
  • In the prequel Legends of Dune novels, Serena Butler's infant son Manion becomes the symbol of what becomes known as the Butlerian Jihad against the tyranical Thinking Machines, after he is thrown from a balcony by the robot Erasmus. He becomes the first martyr in the fight as Manion the Innocent. "Saint" Serena herself joins the ranks of martyrs after she lets herself be taken and killed by the machines to invigorate the masses.
    • Serena's grand-niece Rayna Butler is this for the Butlerian movement during and after the Jihad. She herself becomes yet another martyr when she is publicly assassinated by someone opposing her radical anti-technology views. Rayna's Number Two Manford Torondo, who lost his legs from a bomb, becomes another strong symbol for the movement, although it's less about rebellion now and more about (in their twisted minds) keeping the Imperium from becoming dependent on technology again. Manford's followers (especially his loyal Swordmaster Anari Idaho, who always carries him on her back) see him as nothing less than a living saint.
  • Boko Berikuka in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe short story "Walkin' City Blues" is both a nickname for the walking city of the title, and a symbol of injustice for the city's working classes. It turns out that the city is Powered by a Forsaken Child, and Boko Berikuka was the name of that child.
  • The short story "Numismatics in the Reigns of Naranh and Viu" by Alex Dally McFarlane in The Mammoth Book of Steampunk is a steampunk-fantasy tale of rebellion against a tyrannical king. Largely, as the title suggests, from the perspective of the coins minted. The coins of the rebel faction are icons of the rebellion.
  • The Ralad symbol meaning "bird" or "freedom" is used by the Resistance in Deltora Quest to identify members.

Live-Action TV
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In a story arc, Bajor is threaten by a nationalistic group called the Circle. These extremists would spray paint their symbol as vandalism or in their headquarters. When a beloved war hero from the resistance returns to Bajor, the Circle makes sure to keep him isolated and out of the political scene, lest he become an Icon of Unity as they try to destabilize the existing government in the lead up to their coup-d'etat.
  • V: the Miniseries: The "V" hand gesture, and as spray-painted graffiti.

  • The main character in the Green Day song "She's A Rebel" actually calls the subject of the song this:
    "She's a symbol of resistance and she's holding on my heart like a hand grenade."

  • The red flag in the musical version of Les Misérables, having its basis in real life revolutions also using the red flag.

  • G.I. Joe: COBRA, naturally enough, has a red cobra's head with its hood open.

Video Games
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series: The scorpion tail of the Brotherhood of Nod. In addition to their emblem (a scorpion's tail) , the motif includes tank names, their Obelisk's of Light shaped like a Scorpion's tail, and their Temples designed to look like a scorpion. In addition, Kane himself is just a ubiquitous icon for Nod.
  • The Wild Rose of the Wild Rose Rebellion from Final Fantasy II. It can be seen on the rebels' Badass Capes and the phrase itself is used as a password.
  • Half-Life 2 has Gordon Freeman, who certainly becomes a Messiah-type figure to the ragtag human rebellion in City 17, and the Lambda symbol itself becomes a common symbol to denote rebels and the caches they hide around the city and surrounding countryside.
  • The Raynor's Raiders insignia from StarCraft II.
  • In Dragon Age II, due to their actions at the Gallows, Hawke's name becomes a rallying cry for oppressed Mages to rise up, ultimately leading to the Mage-Templar War engulfing Thedas. This is despite Hawke having very little to do with the actual reason for those events having occured, ultimately simply being the Right Man in the Wrong Place, who was forced to use all of their badassery to ride out the wave.
    • There is also the Kirkwall Rebel Symbol, which appears throughout the city. It is basically a crude figure of a dragon scrawled upon walls.

Web Original
  • Le Diamant ("The Diamond") and L'Épurateur ("The Purifier"), two famous figures of the alternate French Revolution in Look to the West. While Le Diamant was a figure with well known beliefs that went on to influence radical thought for years after his death, L'Épurateur was an unknown soldier who posed dramatically atop the Bastille with a bloodied, upside-down flag and the decapitated head of a reactionary leader. They inspired a stylised diamond symbol and a red flag with an upside-down fleur-de-lys respectively.

Western Animation
  • Some continuities of Transformers have the Autobot symbol be their slave brand until they threw off their shackles and turned it into a badge of honor.

Real Life
  • Guy Fawkes masks were worn by members of the anti-Scientology movement, Project Chanology. The masks have become more heavily associated with Internet vigilante/hacker group Anonymous, though. This was inspired by the film/comic book, V for Vendetta. Alan Moore himself is quite proud of this, but is slightly disappointed that the inspiration likely comes more from the film than the comic.
  • Older Than Feudalism: the Ichthys was a symbol for the persecuted Christians in Roman times. Written in Greek, the initials of "Jesus Christ God's son Savior" spelled Ichthys, the Greek word for fish.
  • The inverted cross is often used as a symbol of rebellion. Generally, however, people forget it is actually the symbol of St Peter (who, it is said, asked to be crucified upside-down out of respect for his Rabbi, and/or as a "screw you" to the romans, with his request one-uping them in power), and as such is often used by the Catholic Church as a specific symbol representing him and the Pope.
  • World War II
    • The Dutch would wear Orange in defiance to the Nazis. Orange was the symbol of the Dutch ruling family - The House of Orange.
    • The V for Victory sign - not exactly an icon of rebellion in Britain, where it originated, but certainly in occupied Europe.
    • The audio equivalent of the V for Victory sign was the "da-da-da daaa" opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, which form the Morse Code symbol for the letter "V", three dots followed by a dash.
    • In occupied Denmark people took to wearing knitted red, white and blue caps; it took a while for the Germans to recognize that their design was based on the roundels of the Royal Air Force.
    • the Croix de Lorraine (Cross of Lorraine) of the Free French forces, also painted onto walls in occupied France, often in combination with the V pour Victoire. French resistants liked to sing the Chant des partisans.
    • For anti-fascist Italian partisans the song Bella Ciao.
  • During the French Revolution, wearing the bonnet rouge (red Phrygian cap) was a symbol of Revolutionary sympathies that later became a national symbol.
    • Also the red, white and blue cockade, originally a combination of the red and blue cockade worn by the National Guard of Paris and the white cockade of the Bourbon monarchy.
    • Also the planting of "liberty trees".
    • Songs like Ca ira, the Carmagnole, the Chant du départ and the Marseillaise.
      • There is an Urban Legend about when they announced at the Mexico City Theater that France had invaded Mexico at 1839, the audience, out of Patriotic Fervor, stand out to sing La Marseillaise. At that time, Mexico still didn’t have a National Anthem, and the mexican audience felt La Marseillaise was a song about heroes fighting for Liberty, and they felt the song represented them better than The Empire France was at that time. It's also important to note that "La Marseillaise" was suppressed at the time by the French government. Authoritarian French governments saw that song as too revolutionary for a national anthem and it would take years before they embraced it.
    • The red cap had a forerunner in the red and blue caps worn by the supporters of Etienne Marcel's uprising in Paris during The Hundred Years War. The colours are taken from the coat of arms of the city of Paris.
  • For royalist rebels against the French Revolution the white cockade and the "sacred heart" (a heart with a cross on top).
  • Later revolutions also used the red flag (e.g. 1848).
  • The Libyan rebels' flag
  • During the Jewish Revolts, the Jews would mint their own money and mark it with nationalistic/religious references as a sign of loyalty to the cause.
  • Revival of Hebrew as a colloquial language was an icon of the Zionist cause. That wasn't exactly rebellion as they were as often allies of The British Empire as enemies.
    • A similar phenomenon can be observed with the revival of Irish Gaelic.
  • The song "Yankee Doodle" for The American Revolution.
    • Also the "Don't tread on me" snake flag and the forerunners of the Stars and Stripes.
  • Symbols of anarchism, including but not limited to: the Black Flag, the Red/Black Flag (used in Europa Universalis III, even!), the A within a circle and the Black Cat.
  • Communists have the red star and the hammer and sickle, originating in Soviet iconography. However, the color red as a symbol of revolution and/or socialism is much older than Marxist-Leninism.
  • The popular song Le temps des cérises (The Season of Cherries) for the supporters of the Paris Commune of 1870/71.
  • During the Japanese Colonization, Koreans used the flag TaeGeukgi(now South Korea's national flag) as the symbol of resistance. One of the most notable event was March First Movement of the 1919, when approximately two million people protested against the Japanese rule, all waving Taegeukgis and shouting "Long live Korean Independence!".
    • Apparently Taegeukgis also became associated with democracy and freedom as well; they were used in countless South Korean democracy movements against its totalitarian governments(which, ironically enough, made bowing to Taegeukgi mandatory for all Koreans).
  • Keffiyeh for Palestinian, and the Palestine solidarity movements. The Other Wiki has a long and comprehensive history of how it came to be an icon, which might be useful to clear some confusion in regards of its image in the west.
  • The black, red and gold tricolor of Germany goes back to the barricade fighters of the revolution of 1848.
  • The Polish national anthem, originally written for a Polish legion serving in exile for the French Republic.
  • The "L" sign used in the uprising that brought down the Marcos régime in the Philippines.
  • Sea-green was the colour of the radicals in England in the 17th century. Not to be confused with the emerald green used by Irish rebels against British rule.
  • Easter Lillies are worn in Ireland every Easter to commemorate the Easter Rising and the following revolution against the British government. In Stroke Country, the phoenix is also used as a symbol of revolution against British rule.
  • Che Guevara's face has been made the the symbol of rebellious communists, ironically however its has been utilized as icon to sell products by capitalism, to which Che opposes.
  • Ayatollah Khomeini's posters during the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
  • The Clenched Fist Salute is still a popular symbol of rebellion. It has socialist/communist connotations - it was used, for example, by Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. In America, it is also associated with the Civil Rights Movement.