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"We live in a world where even kings have vices. Well then we are the kings and we are your vice!"
Rocky Romero, Roppongi Vice
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While some fictional characters are only meant to represent themselves, others are meant to represent something larger than themselves in order to make a point. The author uses this character to represent X, whether X is "Women," "Christians," "Atheism," "Illegal Aliens," "The Bush Administration," or even "You." It's the difference between "Oh, Bob just tripped over the cat again; he is such an idiot" vs. "Bob just tripped over the cat again; men are such idiots."

Sometimes characters are created to be this. Other times, an existing character is (either temporarily or not) drafted into the role by being written as the voice/face/advocate of (topic) for an episode. This can even happen outside of the official canon; in fact, the more this is used outside of the original work, the stronger the case may be for the character being an effective symbol of X.

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Please note that the character in question may be a perfectly well-rounded and very much individualized character, but he is so closely linked to a certain concept, that he is often used allegorically as a way of talking about that concept (e.g. Superman and idealism).

If all of the characters in the work are written this way, then you might just have a full-blown Allegory on your hands.

When no extra meaning is intended by the creators, then it may be that you have Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory—although adherents to Death of the Author would point out that just because the allegory wasn't intended, doesn't mean it isn't there.

A form of Characters as Device. Compare Archetypal Character.


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Subtropes:

    Necessarily Allegorical 

    Often Allegorical 
  • Big Bad — This character often represents everything wrong with the world.
  • Big Good — This character often represents everything right in the world.
  • Blind Justice — This character represents unclouded moral righteousness.
  • The Cassandra — This character represents ignored truths.
    • Ignored Expert — This character represents ignored scientific truths.
  • Child Soldiers — These characters often represent the human cost of war.
  • The Conscience — This character represents someone else's inner moral voice.
  • Cousin Oliver — This character often represents the younger generation in a mostly older cast.
  • Damsel in Distress — This character represents everything the protagonist is fighting for.
  • Dark Lord on Life Support — This character often represents an empire in decline.
  • Founder of the Kingdom — This character often represents the ethos of the place they founded.
  • The Ghost — This unseen character often represents an external force of some sort.
  • Grande Dame — This character often represents a bygone era.
  • Greek Chorus — These pseudo-characters often represent the collective wisdom of a populace.
  • The Ingenue — This character often represents innocence and purity.
  • The Last DJ — This character represents a dying field or way of life.
  • Lead You Can Relate To — This character represents people like the presumed viewer.
  • Mysterious Waif — This young female character often represents a larger theme within the work.
  • Naïve Everygirl — This character represents that default young woman.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat — This character often represents a larger, obstructive system.
  • The Ophelia — This young, mad female character often represents societal decay and corrupted innocence.
  • The Pollyanna — This character often represents optimism and the never-give-up aesop.
  • Present Absence — This character, significantly absent for much of the narrative, often represents a similarly absent concept.
  • Save This Person, Save the World — Saving this character represents saving everything else. Often literal, but sometimes allegorical.
  • The Smurfette Principle — This character often represents women in general.
  • Token Black Friend — This character often represents Black people in general.
  • Tragic Monster — This character often represents some real-life emotional or physical problem.
  • What If God Was One of Us? — This human character represents the divine.

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Art 

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Game of Death: The characters in the pagoda are this in the original version. One could ask if they spend all of their lives in the pagoda waiting for some challenger, however, they represent the formalized system of martial arts that Bruce Lee wanted to prove wrong. They are all beaten with some ease, however Kareem-Abdul Jabbar has an unknown fighting style that represents the highest level of martial arts.
  • Godzilla himself started in Gojira as an allegorical character representing the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the destruction caused. His flesh was designed to resemble the keloid scarring of the hibakusha, and footsteps were deliberately made to sound like explosions.
  • The Three-headed Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail can be seen as a Take That! towards bureaucracy. The body of the knight can only act once all three heads agree. But by that time, new developments have taken place that render their previous agreement useless. In this case, Sir Robin appeared, causing the Three Headed Knight to argue how to deal with him. But after reaching an agreement, Robin already left. Likewise, a large company or institution might run into trouble adapting to new technological advancements or other societal developments. When the administration of said company or institution finally decided how to deal with said developments, other developments have already taken place.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • Across the First Class trilogy, Professor X represents empathy, and depending on the story, he can also be a figure of peace, hope or love. For X-Men: First Class, he's emblematic of serenity, and without his participation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the planet would've plunged into World War III (no Charles = no peace). For X-Men: Days of Future Past, his 1973 self must regain hope, otherwise by 2023, mutantkind is doomed to extinction (a hopeless past Xavier = a hopeless future for mutants). For X-Men: Apocalypse, his love is the only thing that can conquer fear (Jean Grey's trepidation over her Phoenix Force disappears when she senses the utmost trust the Professor has in her), hate and anger (the last two are felt by Magneto, but once he recalls how much he loves his old friend, he betrays Apocalypse); in this case, Charles = The Power of Love.
    • Furthermore, Xavier's emotional state is a metaphor for America's mindset during the time period these movies depict. In 1962, the character's optimism is an extension of the hopeful outlook President Kennedy's administration tended to exude, whereas Charles' melancholia in 1973 is not unlike the general malaise American citizens felt while under the shadow of The Vietnam War. Xavier's descent into despair began in 1963, which is the same year Kennedy was assassinated—the end of "Camelot"note  parallels the end of Professor X's school. At least in the Alternate Timeline, Charles starts to piece himself together again shortly after the Paris Peace Accords are signed. The '80s in the USA was an era of excess and materialism (both were regarded as not just acceptable, but desirable), so Xavier's vanity is at its peak in 1983, and we get to see much more of his lavish estate and everything he owns within its boundaries. The combination of his smug demeanour, dressing like he had just stepped off the set of Miami Vice, and driving around in a gorgeous, well-maintained vintage car announces to everyone that "I'm beautiful, I'm rich, and I love it."
  • The Thief: Toljan clearly symbolizes Josef Stalin. The Stalin tattoo on his chest is the most obvious sign. Katya and Sanya represent the Russian people, looking for a father figure/protector, meekly submitting and accepting his crimes as the Russian people submitted to Stalin.

    Literature 
  • Bruno in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is meant to represent a naive Germany unaware of the actions of Nazis.
  • The Garden of Eden atop Dante's Purgatorio is littered with people who represent moral and religious concepts, some falling under Anthropomorphic Personification and some being too weird to fall under a specific sub-trope:
    • The twenty-four elders with wreaths on their head represent the books of the Old Testament of The Bible.
    • The four green animals with six wings each and many eyes represent The Four Gospels.
    • Two elders appear in together, one being a doctor to represent Luke's Acts of the Apostles and the other a swordbearer to represent Saint Paul's letters.
    • Four humble men who follow without comment represent the writers of the lesser epistles.
    • At the end of the parade, an old man who looked as if he was asleep advances, representing the Book of Revelation.
  • Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo has characters portraying the status of the Philippines and its people during its colonial era.
  • Atlantis in the dialogues of Plato, Timaeus and Critias. Atlantis was an empire that embodied everything Plato saw as flaws that an ideal nation state should avoid. This is why despite all of Atlantis' power it still ultimately is unable to overcome Athens and sinks beneath the seas.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Magic: The Gathering the ancient sphinx Azor represents colonialism, specifically the conceit that it's done to benefit the colonized — he travels between planes remaking their governance into what he considers to be perfect, orderly systems, and when chaos and suffering result because of his interventions he blames the people for failing to live up to his designs.
    Azor: I fixed this plane—
    Vraska: This plane was never broken!

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • Porky from EarthBound is according to Shigesato Itoi a symbol of humanity's flaws.
  • Any characters that exist solely in the mental worlds of Psychonauts. They embody a wide range of things to boot; your mental defenses, your temper, your inner critic, etc.
  • All of the megastars of No Straight Roadsnote  represent a dark aspect of the music industry:
    • DJ Subatomic Supernova represents a star's ego getting too big and thinking they're superior, as shown when he calls Mayday and Zuke irrelevant and doesn't even care what happens to his own company. For all his "enlightenment speeches", he's nothing but a sell-out and the embodiment of Small Name, Big Ego. According to the developers, his last phase of being a black hole represents him being eaten by his own ego.
    • Sayu is literally a virtual idol, controlled by a team of people who animate and program her. The last phase of her fight has the real Sayu and the rest of her team have a breakdown and mess-up while trying to evolve again, causing the idol's appearance to glitch out and turn into a reverse mermaid. Though capable of some great programming and music feats, they're also all impressionable nerds implied to be college kids who are being used by NSR to have the idol Sayu be a figurehead for their products.
    • Yinu is just a child, and her giant, violent Stage Mom (literally) pulls the strings of her performance. As the fight rages on, the mother gets more and more involved, and in the last phase, fights you all by herself with Yinu's presence minimal at best. Tellingly, you don't harm Yinu directly at all during the entire fight, with your attacks targeted at her instead severing the literal puppet strings connecting her to her mother.
    • 1010 satirizes over-produced boy bands as identical, synchronized, autotuned androids only superficially distinguished by color and hairstyle. Neon J. can also replace any of the band members that fall in combat with a machine, making them a literal manufactured band. This is all reflected in their military aesthetic, making it clear they're nothing more than replaceable foot soldiers whose music is all regimented and curated.
    • Eve represents "tortured genius" artists who are ultimately taken advantage of for their genuine talent, while little to no attention is given to any underlying issues the artist might be dealing with (in Eve's case, her crippling insecurity regarding her unique worldview).
    • Kliff represents musical elitists and toxic fans as a whole. The aftermath of the Tatiana fight reveals he's nothing but a Loony Fan who only saw the stage persona of Kul Fyra and not the person underneath, and only ever cared about proving rock's superiority over EDM. He believes that he's entitled to a performer's time of day, and when he doesn't get it...tries to drop a satellite into the middle of a populated city.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • The Homestuck Epilogues: Fitting the fanfiction metaphor, the narrators for both timelines represent the kind of authors that write it:
    • Ultimate Dirk is the fan that writes Darker and Edgier and canon-compliant fics, mixing Fanon Discontinuity with Start My Own when the work they like heads in a direction they don't agree with.
    • Muse Calliope is the fan that enjoys writing fluff, AU, and shipping fics, even if the results are out of character. Despite being in control of a universe they "know" isn't the real deal, they still see it as just as living as the true universe.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, the Lich's origin, use of plutonium, Walking Wasteland status, affinity for sickly glowing green colors, long half-life, and goal of total annihilation all make him seem like the personification of nuclear war at first glance. However, given that it's later revealed that his prior "life" was one of the Catalyst Comet that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, he's more like an allegorical character for the concept of mass extinction.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: The Copycats act as personifications of plagiarism. To be more specific, they're living parodies of the show Miracle Star, a real-life Mockbuster of Gumball.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Fire Lord Sozin represents how a well-intentioned ruler can turn their nation into an imperialistic, war-mongering empire. He started off as a caring best friend to Avatar Roku and a someone wanted to spread prosperity of the Fire Nation to the rest of the world. But over time, such well-intentioned goals devolved into a need to conquer and control as Sozin had a fallout with Roku and eventually betrayed him to make imperialistic dreams come true. His fear of the Avatar's return eventually morphed into a fear of an ethnic group, namely the Airbenders, whom the Fire Nation wiped out under his orders.
    • Fire Lord Ozai is less of a character and more of a personification of the Fire Nation's corruption since the start of the Hundred Year War. He was raised during wartime and thus gained a warped sense of the world where Might Makes Right and the weak should perish. Under his regime, the Fire Nation is at its most destructive, culminating into a war of annihilation against a nation for the audacity of resisting at the series' climax. Additionally, Ozai serves as a personification of gaslighting and parental abuse, raising his children to be weapons and not caring about their well-being (especially with Zuko) because it was seen as "normal" in a corrupt society (since it's implied that his own father was abusive to him).
  • DuckTales (2017): General Lunaris, the Big Bad of Season 2, is meant to represent the two worst possible qualities that any leader can have: paranoia and imperialism. Lunaris sees the Earth only as a mass of potential enemies, and is obsessed with proving himself and his people as being superior to Earthlings. He eagerly inspires fear and anger in the Moonlanders, leads them into a pointless war, and would sooner sacrifice all his loyal followers than admit defeat.
  • In Over the Garden Wall, the Beast can be read as a representation for depression and/or suicide. When people either pass the Despair Event Horizon or are close to death, he turns them into trees, which he then burns in his magic lantern. This makes more sense when you realize that the show borrows heavily from The Divine Comedy, where suicides are punished in Hell by turning into trees.
  • Rick and Morty: The Story Lord from Season 4 is a meta two-fold of this, in which his desire to farm Rick and Morty's "endless storytelling potential" and refusal to accept that there's a limit to them (Rick even says they'll burn out before he gets what he wants) is representative of executives that want to make the series their Cash Cow Franchise, while his desire to make the episodic show into an epic reflects fans that want that direction to the show despite the creators saying that is not the direction they're taking.
  • South Park:
    • The show's version of Mickey Mouse represents Disney as an amoral soulless corporation willing to do anything for the sake of personal profit, ranging from exploitation of their artists and franchises to cooperating with a Totalitarian regime.
    • ManBearPig is one for global warming and climate change. It was first introduced as an imaginary danger that Al Gore was obsessed with, due to the show's creators seeing him as just an attention-seeking alarmist. Year later, it's revealed that ManBearPig was very much real, the product of older generations making a deal to allow them to enjoy the benefits of their time in return for letting it wreak havoc on later generations (with the kids being forced to personally apologize to Gore). By the end of the episodes when they try to make another deal with MBP they found themselves unable to make the sacrifices needed (soy sauce and Red Dead Redemption 2) and instead choose to let him wreak havoc years later.
  • In Steven Universe, Steven and Connie's fusion Stevonnie serves both as an allegory for a first relationship and entering puberty.
    Rebecca Sugar: [Stevonnie] serves as a metaphor for all the terrifying firsts in a first relationship, and what it feels like to hit puberty and suddenly find yourself with the body of an adult, how quickly that happens, how it feels to have a new power over people, or to suddenly find yourself objectified, all for seemingly no reason since you’re still just you...
  • The Butt Witch in Twelve Forever is an allegory for the fear of adulthood. She has a full feminine figure she shows an excessive amount of pride in, seems incapable of moving without looking like she's modeling for the cover of a magazine and has a deep male voice representing a child's voice changing. Everything she does is destructive and disruptive towards Endless's child wonderland, as Reggie sees adults as existing for little more than to ruin her fun, and she serves as a constant reminder even in her escape to Endless that Twelve will one day have to grow up.
  • Lord Dominator in Wander over Yonder is an allegory for comparitively more serious cartoons compared to purely comedic and episodic series. Dominator is big, has more resources than the heroes will ever get, and even to the last episode can crush them with ease, similar to more serious cartoons having well liked narratives and bigger budgets. Wander and co.'s struggle against Dominator is taken as a plea that comedic cartoons do have a place on television— and in the end, Wander doesn't even hate Dominator at all.

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