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Eye Motifs

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Jellyfish Eyes by Takashi Murakami

The eyes are the window to the soul, or so we're often told. It's probably not surprising, then, that eyes are one of the most common Body Motifs. When eyes turn up in a symbolic role, they are normally linked to themes of perception, vigilance, and, occasionally, psychic powers. On a more ominous level, eyes can be linked to deception, illusion, secret societies holding forbidden eye-opening knowledge, and/or being under constant surveillance. They are also linked to appearances — both the superficial and the ability to see something's true nature.

As with all motifs, the motif can take the form of an actual eye, or simply a symbol of one: for example, a tattoo, a piece of jewellery or other MacGuffin, or a sign on a wall. It's also worth remembering that eyes are extremely vulnerable, so the motif might be the absence of an eye. In such circumstances, the theme may become blindness (both literal and metaphorical) and compromised perception.


Compare Third Eye, where an extra eye gives supernatural powers due to symbolism (and thus, motif) regarding the eyes.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Each Millennium Item except for the Millennium Key in Yu-Gi-Oh! has an eye on it somewhere.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion and Rebuild features several including: SEELE's logo, Asuka's Eye Scream of EoE (and it's reference to it in Rebuild), Sahaquiel and several more if one looks for them.
  • In Soul Eater Asura the Kishin has a symbol which consists of three eyes turned on their sides. Pretty relevant since his "thing" is madness (distorted perception) born from paranoia (hence the extra eye). People who're going insane frequently hallucinate faces (their own and others) being replaced with one with the symbol in place of its eyes.
  • Pride in Fullmetal Alchemist. Most of his attacks involve shadows, which are depicted as covered in eyes.
  • The Jagan Eye in YuYu Hakusho is one of Hiei's major themes - it gives him several mental powers, as well as glowing when he uses Dark Flame techniques.
  • Serial Experiments Lain uses the size of the characters pupils to indicate there verying states of mind as The Wired becomes more and more connected to the real world.
  • Hellsing uses several Eye Motifs.
    • Alucard is able to summon a black mass with thousands eyes in it. As stated later each eye represents a life (human or non-human) that Alucard absorbed at some point in his unlife. It is later implied, that he is no longer himself by adapting parts of the others personalities. After Alucard absorbs Schrödinger's life, he has to perceive himself in order to exist, which is no longer possible since his life is one of three million in himself. Right before Alucard stops existing the eyes close.
    • Whenever Seras uses her vampire powers her eyes turn from blue to red. After accepting her vampire-self and sucking Pip Bernadotte's blood, her eyes turn red permanently. However this can also be a case of Red Eyes, Take Warning.
    • Every vampire has a Third Eye that can aim perfectly over several miles though darkness and see through any kind of illusion.
  • The mysterious entity in Shamanic Princess known as the Throne of Yord can take the form of anything it wants, but if it has a true form, it would be an eye. There are numerous stylized eye images used represent it, from a giant, multi-colored, eye-shaped stained glass window to a primitive stone carving.
  • Eyes in Noragami are heavily focused on. Corrupted shinki develop eyes over their bodies and it is the symbol of the masked phantoms controlled by Yato's father. In the anime opening, eyes are one of the few things given color; the rest are mostly monochrome.
  • In the anime version of Sengoku Basara, Kojuro is frequently referred to as the "Dragon's Right Eye", since he is The Lancer to Masamune and helps the half-blind Masamune "see" beyond the fighting and battles.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blade Runner:
    • The use of a "shining eyes" technique is deliberately used by the film directors to denote replicants (Androids) and man-made animals giving the aesthetics view of a lens' flare.
    • The film opens with the futuristic landscape reflected in the close-up of an eye. When the Tyrell building comes into view, it evokes the image of the pyramid with the all-seeing eye above it. Replicants can be recognized by an eye exam. Photographs (the eye of the camera) are important to Replicants. Pris' makeup is all white, except for a strip of red across her eyes. The Replicants locate Tyrell via the man who made their eyes. When Batty finally meets Tyrell, he gouges his eyes out. When Batty dies, he tells Decker of the wonders his eyes have seen.
  • In 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL communicates via the red eye of its camera, and we see the lightshow of the stargate reflected in Bowman's eye.
  • Eyes are a motif in Minority Report. Among them:
    • The pre-cogs "see" crimes before they happen in their mind's eye.
    • People's eyes are constantly scanned at checkpoints for identity verification.
    • Anderton has his eyes replaced to hide his identity from scanners and the spiders.
    • In the opening sequence, the "pre-criminal" Howard Marks returns home for his glasses ("You know how blind I am without them"), only to find his wife in bed with another man.
      • Earlier his son plunges a pair of scissors through the eyes of a cardboard picture of Abraham Lincoln, the same instrument Howard later attempts to drive into his unfaithful wife's eyes.
    • The drug dealer who sells Anderton his narcotics has no eyes so he cannot be identified.
    • Agatha asks Anderton several times throughout the film, "Can you see?", a physical as well as metaphysical question.
    • "The eyes of the nation are upon us," Director Burgess tells Anderton in warning him about the upcoming vote on the Pre-Crime Unit.
    • Whenever the cops see Anderton (or any other pre-criminal), they say, "We have eyes on him."
  • In Coraline, the titular character discovers an alternate, seemingly perfect version of her own world in which everyone's nicer, the food's better, and everyone has buttons for eyes. She's given the chance to stay forever if she sews buttons into her own eyes. A recurring motif throughout the film isn't a human eye, but rather a doll's eye- a round, black, button with four holes in the middle.

  • In The Outsiders, all of the Greasers have descriptions early on in the book. This book also likens the colors green and gold. Ponyboy, Darry, and Cherry all have green(ish) eyes and are therefore "gold"
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the symbol for VFD is "VFD" written in a font that makes it look like an eye.
  • The Eye of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. Sauron probably isn't a literal giant, flaming eyeball as in the film adaptations, but the red eye is nonetheless the symbol his Mooks use.
  • The Top God on the Discworld is Blind Io, who has no eyes in his own head but has hundreds of disembodied ones which float about at his will, gathering information throughout the world. As such, his symbol is an eye or flock of eyes.
  • In Illuminatus!, the eye in the pyramid is the symbol of the Illuminati.
  • Eyes appear as a motif in The Great Gatsby, especially those of a billboard.
  • In Harry Potter, the titular character has his mother's Green Eyes. This probably reflects his "deepest nature" being more like his mother than his father, despite his outward appearance mostly resembling James.
  • In The Bluest Eye, the main character longs to have blue eyes. Eyes also appear symbolically in the story in the form of a flashlight and film projector.
  • Eyes have become a symbol of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  • In Dune, a side effect of using the drug Melange is that your eyes turn blue.
  • In Horus Heresy, the Eye of Horus becomes the symbol of Luna Wolves upon their renaming into Sons of Horus, is worn by namy SoH officers upon their breastplates even before renaming, and is Sigil Spammed into everything connected to Horus. On a more meta note, it's also the official symbol of the series.
  • In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the Secret Police of The Republic of Gilead are named The Eyes of God.

    Live-Action TV 

  • One of the recurrincg motifs in Ronnie James Dio's music is eyes.
  • K-Pop Girl Group LOONA has a subunit called ODD EYE CIRCLE - no guesses as to what visual motif keeps popping up in their music videos. What makes the eye "odd" is the glowing halo rimmed around their pupil.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Argus Panoptes from Greek mythology; the giant with many eyes (different account give him from 4 to 100 eyes), who was the watcher of Io.
  • The Eye of Providence is an eye symbol usually combined with a pyramid or triangle, which was originally used by the Horus cult of ancient Egypt. It was adopted by gnostic Christianity, and has since become representative of The Illuminati and later Freemasonry. It is part of the Great Seal of the United States of America. The idea of the eye as symbolic of omniscience or mystical intelligence probably originates from this.
  • The ancient Egyptian Eye of Horus was a symbol of protection. It morphed into the physician's "Rx" logo, at least according to some theories.

  • Eyes are arguably the most prominent motif inOedipus the King and, to a lesser extent, the whole trilogy. The most famous example of this is Oedipus ripping his own eyes out of his head.
  • In the 2013 musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka's songs and dialogue are rife with references to sight and eyes, reflecting his gift for imagining amazing things and making them manifest in the real world (that is to say, he's a visionary). This motif is most prominent in his first song, the Act One closer "It Must Be Believed to Be Seen".

    Video Games 
  • The Reaverbots of Mega Man Legends are usually associated with their round red eye, with Reaverbot bosses having the eye shown in their health bars. Eden at the end of the first game also has a large eye symbol on its underside.
    • These Reaverbot eyes also show up in Hyleg Ourobockle's and Burble Hekelot's stages in Mega Man Zero 2.
  • In The Legend of Zelda series, Ganondorf, Agahnim, and the Sheikah Tribe tend to have a recurring eye motif. Vaati, however, takes the cake, with most of his One-Winged Angel forms being based around an eye. In The Minish Cap, when he takes over Hyrule Castle, he even decorates the place with eye markings.
  • Many Kirby enemies and bosses have prominent eye motifs; ex. Kracko, Waddle Doo, Wheelie, etc. They are especially prominent in a number of final boss One-Winged Angel forms; ex. Drawcia Soul, Magolor Soul, Zero, and Dark Nebula.
  • In the Diablo franchise, the seal of the Horadrim order includes what could be a pair of very stylised eyes, dripping, within a triangle.
  • In The Talos Principle, the Milton Library Assistant, a "helpful" computer program, takes the form of an ASCII representation of an eye when it has something to say.
  • Throughout Environmental Station Alpha, the design of various characters, their attacks, and the environment itself have a reccuring single eye motif.

    Web Comics 
  • In Drowtales, the Val'Kyorl'solenurn clan's symbol is the eye of an aware. It's embroidered onto the front lower panel of clothing and battle flags, as well as tattooed onto the forehead.
    • The symbol of the imperial family is nine gemstones shaped like eyes.
  • In Charby the Vampirate King Roderick and his retinue wear cloaks with clasps that look like red eyes with slit pupils.

    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls: Throughout the series there are eye motifs and drawings all over the place. Later, the main antagonist is revealed to be basically a triangle with only one huge eye in its face. Turns out its an all-seeing dream demon that is probably watching you right now.
    • The way to tell if someone is possessed by said demon is too look into their eyes, as their color changes to a faint yellow and the pupils turn to slits.
    • The Society of the Blind Eye has this not only in its name but its symbol is that of a crossed-out eye.

    Real Life 
  • CBS's corporate logo is a simplified eye. Sometimes played with in CBS Sports CGI, where the outer circle becomes a basketball, the cornea a football, and the iris a baseball or soccer ball.
  • The Pinkerton National Detective Agency, the first private detective agency in America, used an all-seeing eye as its logo.