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Faux Symbolism
aka: What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic

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"It's just an object. It doesn't mean what you think."
River Tam, Firefly

Sometimes, the curtains are just blue.

There are times when works rely a lot on symbolism, taking note of things that have occurred in history, religious texts or other such things. Symbols can add a considerable amount of depth to a story, leaving the audience coming back for more to further analyze a work that they love. This also creates opportunities for the audience to see how said symbol relates to the plot or themes of the story. Several famous works have used religious symbolism successfully, garnering praise.

Because of this, less experienced creators may try and slip some symbolism into a story, when in reality the event in question has nothing to do with the symbol, in hopes that people will look at it more seriously. That is where this trope comes in: when a creator just decides to throw a historical, religious or random reference into a scene just for the heck of it. Perhaps the creator misinterpreted the message that the symbol stood for, the creator wanted their work to be taken seriously as True Art, or the creator just wanted the scene to look cool.

This is especially problematic when in addition to faux symbolism, the author throws in symbolism that is meaningful and well thought-out. If such a piece of fiction happens to become popular, this usually results in a polarized fanbase where a large number of people either over-analyze it (try to find a meaning to both the faux symbolism and actually-meaningful-symbolism) or under-analyze it (assume that because some of the symbolism happens to be pointless, that it's all pointless).

Not all such references are arbitrary; this trope specifically applies only when someone has added random symbolism as an afterthought to add (illusory) depth and meaning to an otherwise-standard story. Comparing your main character to the Devil or Jesus seems popular; the latter can be easily done by giving him the initials "JC."

This technique is particularly popular in anime, because the Japanese generally only have a passing familiarity with Christianity (making its symbolism recognizable but still exotic), and will often use names or apocrypha without regard for their actual significance. And of course the corollary being that Western productions likewise only have a passing familiarity with Eastern philosophies (for example, Karma, or Yin and Yang, which is frequently confused with Good and Evil). If Faux Symbolism is used purely in naming people or things, it's Squat's in a Name, a subtrope of this.

Be wary though that this trope is often used not to point out use of fake symbolism, but to shut down discussion of what may actually be legitimate observation; remember, just because you may not personally understand or like a piece of symbolism doesn't change whether or not it is.

Long story short, anything can be considered symbolic in the right frame of mind. There are actual academic essays and papers about the symbolism of pieces of art where none actually exists or was intended (see The Lord of the Rings and World War II) and some artists will even claim their piece has symbolism when they didn't put any actual thought into it (they may or may not actually believe it themselves). If you are at all unsure if the "symbolism" has any actual intended meaning, please try to look into it or bring it up in discussion.

Compare Crystal Dragon Jesus, Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory, and Mundane Made Awesome.

Contrast Rule of Symbolism, when something actually is symbolic. It is also not to be confused with a symbolic Easter Egg hunt where the writer, director and production design team purposefully insert numerous small but meaningful elements, the understanding of which are not necessary to appreciate the plot, theme or character development but create fan discussion and add to rewatch value.

Tropes often employed for Faux Symbolism:


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  • Ads for TV series with a sufficient ensemble cast occasionally riff on Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper". To name just two examples, the final seasons of Lost and Battlestar Galactica shall be mentioned.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Lots of this in the Washizu arc of Akagi. In the manga there's a lot of drawings from classic works that depict Dante's Inferno which could be relevant by illustrating that the death-match between Akagi and Washizu is like a trip down into hell. In the anime though, the religious scenes (see picture above) are kind of out of place. The only relevance to the imagery of the crucifixion is superficially that Akagi will be sacrificed if he loses.
  • Brave Raideen: Princess Lemuria was sealed into a ship for her own safety and allowed the waters to carry her to a different land, and in the Grand Finale she parts the sea.
  • In Deadman Wonderland, the power wielded by the protagonist and his opponents is called Branches of Sin. The main enemy is called The Retched (sic) Egg, and it is explained that the serpent in the Garden of Eden was referred to as an egg.
  • The religious motifs within Neon Genesis Evangelion are this according to a popular statement from assistant director Kazuya Tsurumaki. Hideaki Anno's statement that he chose the name "Evangelion" because "it sounds complicated" doesn't really help.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Many of the characters and monsters in the ancient Egyptian Memory World are named after figures from Egyptian mythology (Isis, Set, Osiris, Ra) and have absolutely nothing in common with their namesakes or their stories (though it makes great inspiration for Fanfic writers and Shippers).
    • Noah's duel with Kaiba parallels the creation of Earth in the Bible, taking exactly 7 turns to play out. They start out in a field of lava, and Noah uses various demi-human monsters before using "Giant Flood" to wipe out everything on the field. They move on to a jungle where Noah uses a dinosaur monster, then uses "Deepest Impact" to against destroy everything with a meteor, switching to the ice age where he summons a woolly mammoth. After that he switches to modern times and starts using spaceships outfitted with lasers. When he merges with his deck master "Shinato King of a Higher Plane" Kaiba loses, and Yugi steps in. Noah then uses Spirit monsters associated with the afterlife.
      • No to mention his deck master "Shinato's Ark," onto which all destroyed monsters are sent.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has three demon monsters and their fusions named for Judeo-Abrahamic angels, and the name of the organization pursuing them are the "Seven Stars" in the original version, a reference to the Book of Revelation.
    • During the Pegasus arc, Yugi has a vision in which he sees the cards that have trapped the souls of his grandfather, Seto Kaiba, and Kaiba's little brother. Each flies onto its own huge cross for no obvious reason. 4Kids painted over the crosses.
  • For all the philosophical rambling and half-symbolism in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex they mostly avoid religious imagery. But the last episode of 2nd Gig lays it on thick as Motoko offers Kuze an apple while Batou grabs a cross beam and holds it over his shoulder before using it to free them from teh rubble they're trapped under, (judge for yourself if this is supposed to be symbolic) and the Tachikomas' self sacrifice at that same moment.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 3 introduced Stands, spiritual entities named after tarot cards. Few of them have anything in common with their namesakes, the author's handwaves notwithstanding. For example, Tower of Gray is a superfast fly, so named because it brings calamity; Death 13 is a dream-controlling Stand named only because it looks like The Grim Reaper (while the actual card, ironically, does not), The Emperor is a handgun, and The Empress is a sentient wart which grows on its victim. About the only Stand that was really accurate was The Sun, a miniature sun. But, there weren't enough Tarot cards to have all the requisite enemy Stand users, so the author started naming them after similarly unrelated Egyptian gods. See Horus, an ice Stand named after the sun god. When the author ran out of those he decided to just name them after bands, and has continued to do so throughout parts 4, 5, 6, and 7, though even those can be sort of wonky at times, such as Super Fly, the tower Stand.
  • Death Note contains several religious allusions. Some notable examples are Michelangelo Buonarroti's "Creation of Adam" with Ryuk and Light and ''Pietá; '' (Ray Penbar and Naomi Misora) in the first opening credits, as well as the washing of Light's feet by L. And the symbolism of the apples Ryuk is always chomping on. This was actually the result of a mistake on the part of the manga artist, as it was a suggestion from the author who just thought it'd look cool.
    • Light tests the power of the Death Note to control people's actions by making one man draw a pentagram in his own blood before dying.
    • There's a huge number of objects in the series that just "happen" to look like crosses:
      • While L washes Light's feet, it cuts to a shot of a catwalk arranged like a cross.
      • In the final scenes of Episode 37, an oil refinery tower looks suspiciously like a cross.
      • The "Wammy House" is just littered with crosses. Well, it was previously a church.
      • Ryuk's notebook holder looks like a cross.
      • In the manga, crosses occasionally appear on Mello's clothes (on the knees of his pants, for example). He also wears a rosary necklacenote , and a matching bracelet, and has a cross charm on his gun. In any other manga series, Mello would be a Church Militant.
    • When Mikami gets his deathnote light shines from the sky in one panel of the manga. And he's indoors.
    • Ironically, the use of the apple can be interpreted as an accidental reference to Daniel Quinn's speculation (in The Story of B) as to the nature of the "original sin": the power to decide who lives and who dies, and the decision to use it.
    • In the live-action drama, Near and Mellonote  are often sitting under a painting of the Archangel Michael. Mello's real name Mihael appears to be a reference to this as well. In the original series, they are often standing in front of stained-glass windows, even when they're not at the aforementioned Wammy's House.
    • On a manga cover, Mello's vest this time displays an image of the Virgin Mary, and he's standing protectively behind Near (despite actually hating the latter's guts), in the pose that many statues of Mary depict. (Except Mello, being who he is, is holding two guns.)
    • Matt being shot multiple times, in an act of Heroic Sacrifice may be a Shout-Out to the story of St. Sebastian
  • Most of Hellsing's religious symbolism was put there simply because Kouhta Hirano was aiming to make a manga that "looked cool".
    • One example is the pentagram Alucard sports. What's written inside changes all the time, sometimes with pop culture reference (Berserk, CSI Miami, etc). Only the Animated adaptations bothered to make it consistent, using what Hirano wrote once upon a time in the cover of volume 2.
    • However, it's a vampire manga, so some of the religious symbolism is plot-relevant on that basis alone.
  • In Haruhi-chan, Haruhi (with Kyon's aid) ties Mikuru to a cross and decorates her with balloons. This is an obvious reference to Haruhi's nature as God, and thus the Crucifixion of Mikuru shows Her love for the world in that she would sacrifice her favourite chew-toy for... no, I am just making it up here. It certainly means something, though. As far as Kyon and Haruhi knew Mikuru was dead before she was tied to the cross (despite the fact that she was begging them to take her down the entire time), so it doesn't involve her being a sacrifice of any sort.
  • Mercurymon from Digimon Frontier stages a huge Church Shootout against Takuya, complete with Ominous Pipe Organ (physical and musical) and a Crucified Hero Shot. The grand finale even involves stuffing him in a coffin. They are fighting inside Sefirotmon, which is a living cabbalistic figure.
  • In the DVD extras for Eureka Seven, voice actor Crispin Freeman discusses how the names of the main Humongous Mecha and its associated Applied Phlebotinum are derived from Buddhism, as well as the series' references to The Golden Bough.
    • The Buddhist elements actually are central to the plot from the very beginning, however.
  • The Big O has giant kaiju-like artificial constructs named for the Biblical Leviathan and Behemoth—in addition, it's theorized that Big O corresponds to Behemoth, Big Fau to Leviathan, and Big Duo to the Ziz, rounding out the trio. Sure enough, pamphlet copies of William Blake's painting of Behemoth and Leviathan are mysteriously dropped onto the city at one point.
  • Fafner in the Azure: Dead Aggressor doubles down on pointless references, with heroes sporting a Germanic/Nore flavor (see: Fafner), and vague Egyptian-ness for the villains.
  • Trigun goes for the subversion; Nicholas D. Wolfwood carries around a cross that's actually a machine gun, rocket launcher, and holster for several handguns. The grip is shaped like a skull. However, his religious beliefs turn out to be very important to the story.
  • Sailor Moon: The manga had a fair amount of symbolism in it, the 90s anime added plenty more, especially the R and S seasons which were directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. There's a Crucified Hero Shot of the Inners in R (when they're captured by Rubeus), and there's a lot of Catholic imagery in general.
    • There's a part in the Sailor Moon S opening where all of the Guardians are arranged in a circle like the signs of the Zodiac with Sailor Moon in the middle. It's a cool image, but don't waste time trying to analyze it.
    • Hotaru reads from William Butler Yeats' "The Second Coming" to foreshadow Saturn's return during the fourth arc of the manga.
  • In the Downer Ending of episode five of Mnemosyne, Big Bad Apos rapes Rin's sidekick Mimi while she is chained and nailed to a stone lamp post as Ominous Latin Chanting and Ominous Pipe Organ plays in the background. This is only one in at least three incidents of horror in the last five minutes before the end credits roll.
  • In the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, Mibu Kyoshiro calls himself the son of God and goes around healing wounded childrennote . In a spectacular mix-up of biblical stories, he also kills his own brother, which leads to his leaving the Mibu landsnote .
  • Naruto's Pain manipulates six People Puppets named after Buddhism's Six Paths of Rebirth: Hell Realm could summon the Judge of the dead that could revive the other bodies if they were too damaged, resurrect everyone killed within certain limitations plus kill someone if they lied or refuse to answer your question; Hungry Ghost Realm absorbs chakra (the power source for 90% of the attacks in the series); Animal Realm summons giant animals; Human Realm reads your mind and can rip out your soul; Demon Realm is a friggin Shape Shifter Weapon-styled cyborg armed to the teeth with Schizo Tech hidden in his body and God Realm had all kinds of weird shit with gravity and junk.
    • It eventually turns out that the statue Akatsuki uses is something Nagato summoned to kill Hanzo and Danzo's men in revenge which is called "Gedo Mazo". "Gedo" means "outer path", referencing the term in Buddhism for a false path to enlightenment (as opposed to the inner path, which is the correct one).
      • The statue resembles a sokushinbutsu (which were Japanese Buddhist priests that self-mummified themselves. Those that did successfully were immediately seen as Buddhas).
    • On top of that, Konan reveals that Nagato himself is another "path" of Pain called the "Outer Realm" and can also revive the recently deceased.
    • The Mangekyou Sharingan techniques which Itachi is normally seen employing (Amaterasu, Tsukuyomi, and Susanno'o) are named for three of the principle Shinto gods. Itachi is often linked with divinity throughout the course of the manga; he frequently performs jutsu which involve crows in some capacity. The Yatagarasu (the-three legged crow which is messenger of the Gods, the creature which stopped a demon from swallowing the sun, and which led Emperor Jimmu to Japan) could be linked. Just as the Gods used the Yatagarasu to carry out their will, so too does Itachi. And then there's the battle between Itachi and Orochimaru which seems to echo the Shinto tale about the eight-headed snake, Yamata no Orochi, which was destroyed by the God Susanno'o. Kishimoto apparently once said that he'd created Itachi with the premise that he was exploring what a God would be like as a human.
    • The attack the First Hokage used on Madara and the Susanno'o-cloaked Kurama in chapter 621 looks like an image of the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara.
  • Utena lives off weird symbolism and the fandom goes crazy, what with the extreme wackiness that is Ikuhara. Miki's stopwatch holding the secrets to the universe is not believed, Ikuni-sama. And all the scenes in Akio's car.
  • And on the subject of Ikuhara, the symbolism in his followup series, Penguindrum, is so dense that it's impossible to tell whether certain scenes are even real. For example, there's a place called the Child Broiler where unwanted children (depicted as silhouettes like you see on bathroom signs) are put on a conveyor belt and ground up into glass.
  • In Zone of the Enders Dolores, I, the story of Radium Lavans is highly similar with the story of Sekhmet, Goddes of War and Destruction who get turned into Goddess of Love and Childbirth, Hathor. Guess the name of Radium's frame.
  • In GaoGaiGar, the leader of Green Planet was named Cain, while the leader of Red Planet was Abel. Interestingly enough, Abel was apparently female.
  • The demise of Colin Mcleod's dead love interest Moya in the OVA Highlander Path Of Vengeance, put up on a cross and forced to see her people getting wiped out by the Romans. Partly justified trope, due to that part of the movie set in Roman times, but still...
  • Gundam is known for weird names in the UC era, but Gundam 00 takes symbolism to the far end. The Innovators is an example—Ribons Devine Almark Hilling Care Regene Revive Tieria Erde, Bring Anew Stability which when you look at it in one way: Reborn Divine Angel's Healing Care Regenerates and Revives the Green Earth, Bringing Anew Stability. Some of the names of the mecha themselves: Seraphim, Throne, Cherubim, Virtue, etc.
  • In addition to more explainable symbolism (a stray dog as the main character's self, paired bullet casings for the two killers, puppet strings, masks), the first couple episodes of Phantom~Requiem for the Phantom has random crosses or shadows in the shapes of crosses cropping up around the two young assassins, Ein and Zwei.
  • Chrono Crusade teeters back and forth on the "significant/insignificant" line. The series is about a nun that hunts demons, so a lot of the religious symbolism is justified. Yet some moments push it, particularly in the anime. For example, after Chrono is badly injured in a battle and caught up in an explosion, Father Remington finds him buried in rubble marked by two steel beams welded together in the shape of a cross.
  • The main characters of Haibane Renmei are humans with grey wings and golden halos. Word of God states that this is not supposed to be symbolic, but was instead chosen because it looked nice. It's hard to agree with that though, since the entire story seems to be a metaphor for Purgatory.
    • It's perhaps worth noting that the entire series first originated from a gag doujinshi which revolved around the practical problems that cute Moe girls could get from having halos and wings, like being unable to put on a bra, or getting the halo stuck between subway train's doors. The setting and the symbolism came in later. The Japanese are incidentally not necessarily inclined to read the story's metaphor from the Christian perspective that the Western fans do.
  • The main trio of leads in NEEDLESS are named Adam, Eve and Cruz ("Cross"). These elements seem to be almost purely decorative, considering the sheer wacky and over-the-top nature of the series.
  • Bloody Monday has this in ♠ spades, which isn't unusual considering the antagonists are an evil cult bent on killing millions of people to rebuild Japan. Off the top of my head, when the cult's imprisoned long-haired leader Simon is busted out he somehow manages to change into Jesus-like robes inside an Absurdly Spacious Sewer. He dubs his most trusted operatives Michael, Judas (who does what you'd expect him to do), Cain and Abel (even though that applies better to another pair of siblings) Eventually Simon is killed by a faithless operative (not Judas); the child of Simon who takes his place because they planned all this is also killed (by Judas, but because he felt the new leader was faithless and completely psychotic). On top of all that the cultists use the Babylonian calender for no reason other then Rule of Cool.
  • This tends to be all over the place in the Riki-Oh manga (Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is regarding the pre-symbolism part).
  • All of the homunculi in Fullmetal Alchemist are named after the seven deadly sins.
    • It doesn't end there: The manga version's Greed is more or less a walking example of this. Like every homunculi he was born from a single parent, (Father) he was later hunted down and ended up crucified on Father's orders. Father then killed him on the cross and absorbed his Philosopher's Stone back into his body. Then later on he is returned to life by Father. Sound similar to anything? Rather impressive for a world in which Christianity does not exist.
    • Also in the second anime, there's a scene where Edward is pulled into the Gate which closes after him, then he punches it open for a moment from the other side. It just so happens that his fist parts the Gate right where "Adonai" is engraved.
    • Then again it is averted by constantly referring to medieval alchemy, which based on ancient Greek Hermetics (which one can summarize up with Izumi's Training from Hell lesson: All is one and one is all.). True, Arakawa took liberty to make it suit her story but the main principle is kept.
    • Also it is absolutely subverted by marking the homunculi with the Ouroboros symbol. (that thing itself is 1st: symbol for the alchemical process and the circle of life and death, process and product, etc. etc... Thus, a symbol for the Philosopher's stone. 'Specially mean towards Envy. Who in the first movie ended up being a friggin big snake/dragon forced to lie in a circle, nose at his tail. Mean.
    • The false god of Lior, Leto. Right. Leto was the Greek titanness who gave birth to Apollo and Artemis. Apollo later supplanted Helios as god of the sun, but Leto was never male, nor was she ever associated with the sun or light. Since her name could possibly mean "hidden one", that wouldn't make sense at all.
  • Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life has some of this, mainly because Arceus is supposed to be God.
  • The short story 'Lucifer Rising', found in the scifi manga 2001 Nights, is MADE of this. A giant anti-matter planet named Lucifer, orbitted by the moons Brutus, Cassius, and Judas, whose creation is described with quotes from Paradise Lost and images from religious art, and a Villainous Breakdown being preceded by Satan's famous quote "As good to me is dead, Evil, be thou my good!" The final page has the famous image of God and Adam drifting apart to represent man's leaving the solar system for deep space. That symbolic enough for you?
  • Director Akiyuki Shinbo fills all of his shows with images of the Virgin Mary, stained glass windows, crucifixions, and impalings, but since he uses those in everything from dark action shows to light, fluffy comedies (and a few pornographic OVAs), it probably means a whole lot of nothing.
  • Invoked in-universe in One Piece. Following the Paramount War, Luffy returns to Marineford and performs what is normally a ceremony that declares the ending of one era and the start of another. This act is photographed and reported, and everyone becomes so focused on what Luffy was doing it for that nobody catches the hidden message written on Luffy's arm except for the other Straw Hat pirates. The only one who was shown getting close was ex-Straw Hat Vivi, who figured out there was a message, and simply lacked the reference necessary to decode it.
    • Sodom and Gomorrah are both names in the Bible. It's told there that they died by the wrath of God. Their submission in Enies Lobby could be interpreted as a reference to that. Word of God denies it all, though.
      Oda: Err... One Piece isn't THAT deep of a story, but yeah, that's where I got their names from.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, there are various theories that says Simon's name is based on the Apostle Simon Peter and that Kamina was based on Jesus, but it is because Simon means in Japanese "below" or "fingerprint" (which are spiral shaped), while Kamina means "above".
  • Fairy Tail: Jellal, especially in the Nirvana arc. Crucifix? Yep, his coffin's shaped like one. He gets revived from the "dead", and in addition uses Heavenly Body Magic.

    Comic Books 
  • In Huntress: Year One #4, the Huntress essentially crucifies Stephen Mandragora, but even though Huntress is all about the Catholic imagery, she only does it to restrain him, and presumably because impaling someone through the palmar radial nerve is one of the most excruciatingly painful injuries one can inflict on someone. Lampshaded when Mandragora points out to her, with his dying breath "You honor me, with...with the stigmata... I knew... I'd be a saint someday."
  • The trope is parodied in Preacher when someone pointed out that Jesse Custer's name has "J.C." for initials and Jesse says it's a ridiculous idea.
  • The X-Men went through a phase in the Dark Age when a lot of new characters had Biblical or religious names, sometimes appropriately (Apocalypse and his Horsemen), vaguely appropriately (Babel spires), or for no particular reason at all (Bishop, Gideonnote ). Ahab would count, except that he's an obvious reference to Moby-Dick.
    • Other examples would be the Acolytes, Exodus and Josephnote . But this type of thing had been going on since the 1960s when you had Professor Charles Xavier (the name of a Catholic saint, made even more blatant when they added the middle name Francis), the original X-Man Angel (the name "Beast" presumably is only coincidentally reminiscent of the Book of Revelation), and villains Juggernaut (who gets a Hindu-Judaeo-Christian trifecta as his civilian name is Cain and he is Professor X's step-brother) and Lucifer. In the 1970s and 1980s there would also be two characters called Ariel, Jubilee, two Thunderbirds (of Amerindian fame), Karma, Nimrod, Rachel, and Legion. And names from Graeco-Roman mythology like Cyclops, Proteus and Callisto.
      • And to really drive it home, in his original origin story, Xavier was crippled by an alien called Lucifer.
  • At the beginning of Detective Comics Issue #64 "The Joker Walks the Last Mile", The Joker discusses his master plan of putting his Joker Immunity to the test with his mooks to have them make sure they follow his instructions, exclaiming that "The Joker shall die so that he may live again!" Afterwards, being kind of Crazy-Prepared, he plays a villainous version of the Sacrificial Lion by turning himself in to the police and confessing to a long list of crimes (including robbery and murder), resulting in him being given a death sentence and in his execution by the electric chair at the midnight hour. Right after he is declared dead, his mooks quickly retrieve his body from the prison morgue and carry him to a nearby ambulance where they bring him Back from the Dead with some life serum; once he is revived, he becomes a free man and can no longer die for his same crimes. This is kind of similar to the same plot concerning Jesus' passion and resurrection, except that he had God the Father and his angels at his side in his moments of death.
  • Wonder Woman: It's fairly noticeable when you're looking for it, and those expounding on the idea on the internet abound, but there was supposedly no intended symbolism or deeper meaning behind DC trying to change the feminist hero's signature item from her gynic lasso to a phallic sword while they were making her Darker and Edgier from the '80s on.
  • Batman (Grant Morrison) has an odd example. Some fan turned the cover of Batman and Robin #3 upside-down and noticed that it looks like a face, and in particular, resembles a famous image of The Joker Laughing Mad in The Killing Joke. Word of God says that this was not intentional, but that it fit weirdly well, especially since the early issues were filled with little references to the Joker to make it feel like he was "haunting" the book.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): The stories written by Ken Penders are pretty bad about this. His Knuckles spin-off series has had gratuitous Christ allegory and imagery, forced Nazi comparisons, and Holocaust quotes. Yes, in a Sonic comic. The Holocaust poem quotes in particular were so unrelated to the story that they were presented as off-panel lines in the intro pages and notably didn't match what was shown in the actual story.
  • Astro City: According to Word of God, Beautie, the superpowered life-size Barbie Expy who lives upstairs from a gay bar and mostly interacts with the patrons but is not quite accepted by them, has trouble finding meaningful relationships because the people who are interested are either put off by her body or looking to indulge a fetish, was rejected by her creator and whose appearance is feminine-coded but subtly... off, was in no way intended to be a metaphor for trans people, but the creator also readily admits that the parallells are far too strong to write off.
  • Galaxy The Prettiest Star: The alien=trans metaphor isn't really consistent, leading some readers to be confused about whether the prejudice was meant to be transphobia, or a combination between transphobia and racism. All of the transphobic remarks are implied to be happening because Taylor is an alien, which would be closer to racism.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Code Geass continuation In the End Lelouch wakes up from his first death in a stable, after a Bethlehem-like sequence with C.C as Mary.
  • From the Deva Series, we have the Circles calling Device-using students "Fallen Angels" and the anti-Device spell "Judgment of the Fallen". That totally does not mean anything.
  • Discussed in En Tempus Veritas; when Clark mentions Chloe's recommendation that he attend Lex and Lana's wedding to show that he's moved on from Lana, Lois observes that while the idea behind the suggestion is healthy, it doesn't mean anything if Clark isn't ready to move on himself, and when he is ready he won't need any kind of gesture to prove it.
  • From ToyHammer, we have Batel; her name means 'Daughter of God', and she's also a Chaos Cultist.
  • In Ace Combat: The Equestrian War, the Mirage squadron's unit number is 2nd Air Division, 179th Tactical Pegasus Squadron. These numbers refer to September 17, 2011, when the second season of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic begun airing.
    • There is also Talisman's cutie mark - a pair of angelic wings.
  • Whispers: The statues of Celestia and Luna (the former a pure white shade with black eyes, the latter the inverse) and the satirical idea of a blue and orange yin-yang. Neither of these appear to be anything more than a Stealth Pun.
  • Lampshaded in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. The four nickname the new civilians New Tirin, or N.T.s for short. When they're in a position to learn the whereabouts of the real tirin, they promptly nickname them Original Tirin, or O.T.s, “to be properly biblical for no reason at all,” according to John.

    Films — Animated 
  • The ending of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is a big fat wad of this. Cloud is temporarily killed by Loz and Yazoo, vanishes in a blur of light, and reappears in a CHURCH that has been flooded with magical healing water. As if it isn't blatant enough, he wakes up surrounded by kids suffering from geostigma, whom he heals by cupping water in his hands and "baptizing" them on top of the head.
  • Toy Story 2: In Woody's nightmare, the cards surrounding him are all the ace of spades, the card used to represent death in fortune telling.
  • At a Q&A session, the writer/director of We Are the Strange admitted to viewers that the crosses were put in just as an afterthought or because he thought it'd look cool.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The ending of Law Abiding Citizen can be seen like this. Just a moment before Clyde's death, the flames from the bomb surround him in a manner similar to him being in hell.
  • Applied in the fictional universe itself, Jules Winnfield's recitation of "Ezekiel 25:17" in Pulp Fiction, which couldn't be any more off to anyone who's read the actual excerpt. Winnfield himself openly admits that he never actually gave the verse much thought, he's just always thought of it simply as some cold-blooded shit to say to a mother fucker before popping a cap in their ass. The verse is deliberately built out of a patchwork of indistinct Bible references in order to emphasize that Jules wants to sound Biblical, rather than caring about his quotations and is actually taken from The Bodyguard starring Sonny Chiba. Then he gets a reason to sit and think about what he has been saying all these years and it turns out to be moderately applicable.
  • The Doom Generation was so full of this it was tripping over itself. The main characters' surnames are Redd, White and Blue. The female lead smokes Death brand cigarettes, and has a skull-shaped lighter. Every numerical value listed is some variation on 666. The penultimate scene involves "The Star-Spangled Banner" playing behind a scene probably better not described. This Faux Symbolism is thrown around like holy water across what is still unmistakably just a road movie.
  • I Know Who Killed Me, which with its strange "symbols" (persistent use of the colors blue and red, an animated heart tattoo, an owl on a tree branch) made the already ridiculous premise even more insane and inane. Also, a lot of these motifs had already been done before, and better.
  • The final shootout of John Woo's The Killer (1989) has this in spades. The shootout itself takes place in a church, the Killer's last place of peace and refuge, with doves flying everywhere at key points in the battle. At one point, the Killer gets shot, and his arms are outstretched in a Crucified Hero Shot. And just to drive home the point that the church is no longer a sanctuary for him and his blinded love interest, one of the bad guys blows up the church's centerpiece, a statue of Mary, at which point the Handel's Messiah Overture starts playing.
  • 28 Days Later: Are all the statues of Laocoon in the manor house supposed to mean something? How about the Infected priest? How about the running horses? How about the "hell"/"hello" sign at the very end? Well, how about it?
  • Blade Runner has the Replicant Roy Batty attempting to kill Deckard before his body dies. His arm begins to stiffen and numb, and so he drives a nail through the palm. He and Deckard fight on the roof — Deckard is soon driven off the edge and dangles for his life, weakening. Roy grabs him and pulls him up onto the roof just as Deckard's hands slip, the nail through his hand in full view, and sits there, cradling a white pigeon in his hands, before finally dying. At least he had the decency not to splay his hands out in a crucifix pose.
  • One draft of The Spy Who Loved Me would have Bond hide out in a church during a shootout, and hide behind the crucifix, arms spread and all.
  • Westworld is a secular relative of this, with symbols both representing its Lost Aesop (the rebellion of the Roman slave-bots, for instance) and seemingly being thrown in for kicks (the Dark Knight on the throne).
    • The use of a robotic snake to herald imminent disaster is also rather suggestive.
  • In Equilibrium, the enforcers of Libria are the Grammaton Clerics, shortened from "Tetragrammaton", the Clerics' organization. The Tetragrammaton is a Greek term for the four-letter name of God in Hebrewnote . Utterly meaningless in the context of the film, but it sounds cool, right?
  • All of Lars Von Trier's Antichrist: The protagonist couple, known only as He and She, retreat to their cabin in the woods called "Eden" where they torture each other (He psychologically, She physically, with garden tools) following the untimely death of their child.
  • The film Gigantic has several scenes in which the main character is attacked by a seemingly invulnerable homeless man for no apparent reason; near the end of the movie, the main character stabs his assailant with a knife, who then disappears without a trace. No explanation for this is ever given in the film itself; the writer/director said in an interview that the assailant is was a metaphor for the main character's subconscious demons.
  • Dear God Rob Zombie's Halloween II (2009). What was the deal with the white horse? Who fucking knows?! Why were Michael and Laurie having the exact same hallucinations? Who knows? Why was Mrs. Meyers in all white? Who the hell knows? Why was Michael just now having Jason Voorhees syndrome and seeing mommy? No clue.
    • The endings for both the theatrical and director's cut imply that it's In the Blood for Laurie. As for Michael, it's possibly Fridge Brilliance, as such imagery would only make sense to him.
      • A rumor has it that Rob Zombie originally wanted Laurie to be the killer all along, having developed a second personality based on Michael she would slip into.
      • That would actually be a reallife possibility.
  • In Spider-Man 2, After Peter stops the train, his webs have him hanging as if crucified. The citizens lifting him over their heads and laying him down just before he wakes up works as an allusion to Christ's resurrection.
  • In Darkman, the titular character has his hand shot by a rivet gun. Think about it.
  • Superman Returns throws many, many shots of Superman in Christ-like poses (or Atlas-like in the case of Supes catching the Daily Planet) as well as recycling supposedly-meaningful phrases from the first film. This is merely pretentious when it comes to Superman doing standard Superman stuff, but becomes a Broken Aesop when this "Christ figure" finds out he left a bun in Lois' oven.
  • The DC Extended Universe is guilty of heavy-handed attempts to associate Superman with Jesus. Man of Steel has Superman ending up in Crucified Hero Shots and framed with Jesus in a church's stained glass window. The Jesus symbolism continues in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice like how crosses appear in aftermath of the Doomsday fight, as well as the use of Pietà Plagiarism after Superman dies. What makes the Jesus symbolism seem rather incongruous is that Superman is portrayed here as an aloof Destructive Savior, who Jesus absolutely isn't. Furthermore, director Zack Snyder tries to simultaneously depict Superman as objectivist hero who should care about his own self interests and not capitulate to the masses, similar to the heroes in the works of author Ayn Rand. Problem is Rand is a staunch atheist and whose arguments for selfishness run counter to the altruism of Jesus. As such, many saw the Christ-like motifs as little more than awkward attempts to make Snyder's Superman seem cool and awe-inspiring.
  • Several Mexican crosses actually show up through out the film William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet.
  • The first Violent Shit is ripe with this, featuring gratuitous church shots (occasionally in blood red lighting) and a random scene where Karl finds Jesus crucified in the forest, cuts him open, and crawls inside the gaping wound.
  • The 9/11 footage in Murder-Set-Pieces.
  • At the climax of The Graduate, Benjamin is banging on the stained glass wall of the church in a crucifixion pose, something that all the critics noted. Word of God says that the glass wall was an important gift to the location owner, and that pose was the only way to assure him that the glass would not break from all the pounding.
  • Zardoz is packed to the brim with faux symbolism. For instance, some of the exterminators are seen wearing helmets with faces on each side. Evocative of the two-faced Roman god Janus? Who knows...Granted, the movie is such a Mind Screw even that was probably lost on people still trying to work out what the gun-spewing stone head shouting about evil penises was all about. Both of those examples were ultimately caused in-universe by a madman who just liked screwing with people; the stuff the movie intends you to take seriously makes them seem normal.
  • The boar hunt in Akira Kurosawa's Ran.
  • In The Wolfman (2010), Did Gwen really visit Lawrence in the asylum? Or did Sir John for that matter? Is there some hidden symbolism behind the razor and all the candles everywhere?! Plus all the symbolism and foreshadowing in the hallucination sequences. Perhaps Lawrence just imagined the whole movie!
  • The Big Lebowski subverts this for laughs. One of the first scenes in the film, where The Dude overhears George H. W. Bush commenting on the then-current Gulf War, hints that the story will parallel or serve as an allegory for the war. Ultimately, no such parallel emerges and, like so much else in the film, the whole Gulf War backdrop turns out to be completely irrelevant.
  • In Elysium the titular space station where the rich and powerful take residence after abondoning the destitue Earth, has a shape of a wheel with five equidistant spokes. So every time it or it's outline is shown on screen, it's positioned to look like an inverted pentagram. Subtle. It's also named after the paradisical afterlife realm from Greek mythology. Looks like someone mixed up Hades with Satan again—poor guy just can't catch a break.
  • Mission: Impossible II: Ethan is so awesome that he rock climbs in Monument Valley without rope, slips and ends hanging from the rock in a Crucified Hero Shot. Lots of white doves fly in slow motion through the movie... and that's it. What does it all mean? Is Ethan such a good spy because he is of divine origin or something? Then why was nothing of that in the first movie?
  • The scene in Sense and Sensibility where Colonel Brandon gives Marianne a knife when she's trying to gather reeds. Emma Thompson praises it on the commentary track while cheerfully admitting she has no idea what it's supposed to actually mean. It's just nice symbolism.
  • Pearl Harbor's criticism centers around its Romantic Plot Tumor and general beating of World War II history, so it is easy to miss it, but this is also present:
    • The brief shot of Japanese Zero startling a housewife as she is hanging up clothes (invented for the film, as the attack happened at 7:00 AM). There are three posts, and the largest one to her left (but not the others) looks exactly like a Christian cross. The woman kneels before it.
    • After crashing in China, Danny is immediately captured by the Japanese and tied to a yoke. He is "crucified" like this when he dies saving Rafe's life.
  • The four helium-3 harvesters in Moon are named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. The screenwriter said that he just needed four names and those were the ones that came to mind; he could've just as easily called them John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
  • The locusts in Exorcist II: The Heretic. They are summoned by Pazuzu and used as his symbol of choice... or something. They are some kind of commentary on mankind's evil as implied by James Earl Jones' scene. And... that's it. Maybe. Linda Blair claims that she has no idea what the locusts mean to this day.
    • For that matter, who is "the Heretic" from the title, and why.

  • In City of Heavenly Fire, Sebastian leans over and kisses Jace on the cheek. Later on Jace explains that Judas did the same to Jesus to identify to the Roman solders who Jesus was. However the situation in the book has literally no parallels to the situation with Judas and Jesus.
  • The Confidence-Man is considered by some to be the first Postmoderist book, written by Herman Melville in the 1800's. Mostly it was a social satire, but his own views on morality, religion, and the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism were in there through ridiculous amounts of religious symbolism. The Gainax Ending makes it so open to interpretation that scholars have been mulling over the meaning since it was first published. Just from one introduction, about the book's symbolism, most authorities trace the origin of All Fools' Day to a Hindu vernal celebration, a masquerade called Huli... The avatars of the Confidence man are avatara, that is, successive incarnations of the Hindu god of salvation, Vishnu. The first major avatar of Vishnu is as a fish who recovers the lost sacred books; the first avatar of the Confidence man is an "Odd fish!" who brings to the world injuctions from The Bible. The second avatar is a tortoise who upholds the world; the second avatar of the Confidence man is a "grotesque" man who slowly stumps around, lives "all 'long shore" and holds his symbolic "coal-sifter of a tambourine" high above his head. After this comes eight other major avatars and innumerable minor ones; the Guinea avatar lists eight other men and innumerable minor ones... The teachings of Buddha aimed for nirvana, which means the extinguishing of a flame or lamp. According to Hindus, Buddha was Vishnu incarnate as a deceiver, leading his enemies into spiritual darkness. The last avatar of the Confidence man, the Cosmpolitan, finally extinguishes the solar lamp and leads man into ensuing darkness.
  • Dennis Lehane's Darkness, Take My Hand features a trio of serial killers who've modeled themselves after the Holy Trinity. It even includes a guy with shock-induced white hair as "The Holy Ghost".
  • This trope is often mocked in the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett, in which it is not uncommon to have an ancient tradition whose origins and/or meanings are lost in time described as "very symbolic - not actually of anything, just generally symbolic" or words to that effect.
  • Done deliberately in Ender's Game with the mind game imagery. While much of it is drawn from various sources, and much of it makes sense in itself, taken as a whole it's incoherent. Word of God explains:
    Second, I did not want to create a "plotted" mind game ... When I caught myself having a plan, I subverted it.
  • Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves is chock-full of symbolism, some of it seemingly irrelevant. The most obvious allusions are to the Greek myth of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur because of the nature of the house, but other mythologies and religions have their place. For instance, Will Navidson's injuries mirror similar injuries sustained by figures in Norse mythology: Odin lost an eye, Tyr lost a hand, and Heimdall lost his hearing, which are similar to the one blind eye, the frostbitten (and rendered useless) hand, and the lost ear he ends up with. The house is located on Ash Tree Lane, and the world-tree Yggdrasil is said to have been a giant ash tree. Danielewski doesn't stop at Greek and Norse mythology, but to list them all here would take up too much space.
    • The book also contains numerous examples parodying this tendency. Most of the book is taken up by a critical examination of the Fictional Document The Navidson Record, a film which in the universe of the novel has already been given extensive critical analysis of the Epileptic Trees, Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory nature. For example, two of the characters in the film are brothers, and based on this evidence alone, numerous critics surmise that they are meant to symbolically represent the Biblical characters Jacob and Esau. One review of the novel went so far as to describe as "a satire on the business of criticism".
  • Parodied in Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire. This is actually Charles Kinbote's favorite technique when he's doing the footnotes to John Shade's poem "Pale Fire". He keeps relating very minor lines of the poem with some epic romance about a homosexual king fleeing a country in the grips of socialist revolution. Obviously John Shade was so subtle a poet that any mention or imagery of the color gray in "Pale Fire" alluded to the name of the assassin hired by an Omniscient Council of Vagueness to track the forementioned king down.
    • Ironically, Kinbote actually recounts a conversation with Shade in which Shade talks about how much he hates this trope, stating that, after "not having read the required book," "looking for symbols" and more generally "having read [the book] like an idiot" are the worst crimes an interpreter can commit.
    • It should be noted that, in general, Nabokov's works very strongly averted this trope, to the point where you could write theses on Laughter In The Dark alone, which is one of his juvenilia, and certainly not his most polished work. (And let's not even get started on Lolita).
  • Stephenie Meyer tries to insert Biblical symbolism into The Twilight Saga with references to the Forbidden Fruit and the Lion and the Lamb, with little regard to what those references actually mean. note 
    • In the second book, she makes ham-handed attempts to compare Edward and Bella to Romeo and Juliet. Worse, she doesn't even seem to realize that Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, not a love story.
  • The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign's backstory can be summed up as follows: there was a boy and girl living peacefully in a garden until...something...went wrong and they were thrust into a world of conflict.
  • A Conversed Trope in Dante's La Vita Nuova. After defending his use of personified emotions, Dante makes it clear that using such symbolic devices without any deeper meaning is a shameful thing and that his friends know plenty of poets who write in such a "stupid manner."

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the seventh episode of the sixth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the movie, Bloodlust, is mostly a The Most Dangerous Game ripoff. However, at the end, after the bad guy is killed by the lackey he betrayed, said lackey pushes his hands through a pair of metal spikes, giving an obvious crucifixion image.
    Tom Servo: So why this symbolism? Did Christ hunt people on deserted islands?
  • The Ultra Series franchise is prone to this. Possibly a subversion as the franchise creator Eiji Tsuburaya is actually a Japanese Christian.
    • Crosses are often used in attacks and story plots. Supposedly, the iconic "+"-shaped Finishing Move was based on a Christian Cross; and just look at all the examples of Crucified Hero Shot on that trope's page.
    • Other allusions to the Bible appear a fair bit. One very notable example is in episode 7 of the original Ultraman "The Blue Stone of Barraj", where Science Patrol goes to the Middle East, and at the title city, they spot Mt. Ararat (the mountain Noah's Ark landed after the flood) in the background and learn that the people of Barraj worship Noah, who is represented with a statue of Ultraman. Whether this means Ultraman is the biblical Noah, or that Noah was a human host for Ultraman is never explained.
    • Many of the villains and monsters use Biblical names, such as the popular kaiju Gomora (after Gomorrah, the sinful city smited by God), Satanic Archetype Ultraman Belial, and the alien Mephilas (as in Mephistopheles).
  • Lost liberally employs this trope in-universe. The characters interpret the signs and phenomena happening to them in different ways, and it's never clear whether the symbolism actually means anything or if a character is just interpreting it a particular way to satisfy their deep-seated psychological needs (often to the benefit of con men both mortal and immortal). This trope also extends to the audience, as the show contains numerous allusions to world religions, scientific concepts, and philosophical figuresnote  that can be applied to the proceedings any number of ways. In the end, the show concedes that interpretation is a deeply personal matter, and avoids definitively endorsing any one particular viewpoint. The fans who didn't pick up the perspectivist subtext, however, were not amused.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The 1967 story "The Abominable Snowmen" uses most of its Buddhist symbolism reasonably considering it's set in a Buddhist monastery - like paralleling the Doctor's use of time travel to the monks' understanding of astral projection, or how the Doctor teaches Victoria to chant 'om mani padme hum' to resist Brainwashing. Not all of it joins up, though - significantly, the main antagonist (actually just a puppet of the Intelligence) is named Padmasambhava, after the writer of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, a book famed at the time due to its appropriation by Timothy Leary for his writings about LSD - making it random drugs symbolism as well as random Buddhist symbolism. It's very unlikely that they would have had a character called Padmasambhava in the story if it wasn't necessary to the story they were trying to tell, yet neither the drugs nor the religious allusion seem to have any significance.
    • "Planet of the Spiders" was written by a practicing Buddhist as an allegory about reincarnation, which makes it bizarre when the villains use "om mani padme hum" as Ominous Latin Chanting to summon evil space spiders.
    • "The Ark in Space" has continual references to the Bible: an Ark led by a man referred to as "Noah", the Doctor talking about how the Human Popsicle passengers are "the entire human race awaiting the trumpet blast" and obliquely referencing Doomsday prophet Nostradamus, lots of white outfits and coffins, the Doctor subtly namechecking the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in his Patrick Stewart Speech, and a dash of Messianic Archetype symbolism in that the Doctor is bringing chosen people back to life. It may mean something, or may also just be a story about parasitic space wasps.
    • Several Dalek stories from the mid-70s onwards use terms from Christianity in the title: "Genesis of the Daleks", "Resurrection of the Daleks", "Revelation of the Daleks" and "Remembrance of the Daleks". Whether any of these mean anything symbolic is debatable and at least one doesn't even have a literal example of the word in its title in it ("Revelation").
    • "Genesis of the Daleks" is full of this. The title is a reference to a book in the Bible. The Time Lords were originally scripted to appear to the Doctor in a beautiful garden and then cast him out into Skaro (but this was abandoned for budget and Darker and Edgier reasons). There are strong themes of temptation, sacrifice and trial. Davros says destroying the universe would 'set him up above the gods' while the Doctor won't save it because he feels he does not have the right to wield that power. Davros is trying to create a race of creatures but prevent them from having knowledge of good and evil; Nyder's Meaningful Name is a play on 'neidr', Welsh for 'snake'. An obvious scene is the sequence where the Doctor tortures Davros, which is done with the Doctor kneeling at Davros's feet and holding his hand (as Davros's hand is the only part of his body he can move) while gazing up at him in a painting-of-a-disciple-like fashion. None of this appears to really mean anything.
    • In Season 14 the Doctor redecorates his TARDIS to look like a Catholic church, destroys a temple cult, gets strung up by the wrists and tortured for sins committed by other people, is dunked underwater in a river and emerges in a white shift with a beatific expression on his face, comes across a Cargo Cult society where he is considered a physical incarnation of a god, and takes a girl from that society with him as a disciple, who uses thorns as a weapon (from the Janis bush - Janus?). Changing the pronunciation of the thorns' name from "Janiss" to "Jaynus" was a Tom Baker addition, as was his decision to pronounce the name of the Doctor's home planet (Gallifrey) as "Gallifree", adding an allusion to "Galilee" (especially with the slightly rolled rs that Baker uses for the Doctor's accent). Tom Baker was a former monk and has repeatedly stated he felt the Doctor to be a Jesus analogue.
    • The main villain in "City of Death" was originally called Sephiroth, with other characters named after the individual Sephiroth also appearing and representing aspects of him. None of this has anything to do with the plot, which was probably why those characters were excised and the character was renamed Scaroth in the final version.
    • "Meglos" features a Dodecahedron, a reference to the Platonic solid that formed the basis for quintessence or ether (the perfect element from which Aristotle suggested the stars were made from). Nothing else in the plot has anything to do with this, though.
    • "Logopolis". Programmers who use code to hold the universe together are portrayed as chanting monks in a monastery, the Doctor is followed by an apparition who seems like both a revenant and a guardian angel. There is a distinctly Tarotic vibe with a Tower, a Hanged Man, a Judgement and arguably a King of Wands. The constellation Cassiopeia, named for a monarch turned upside down for vanity, is significant in the climax in which the Doctor dies and is resurrected in an inverted and diminished form. There are whole books dedicated to puzzling out what the symbolism in this one means, such as Elizabeth Sandifer's Recursive Occlusion (an explicitly occultist reading).
    • There's also a ton of meaningless Buddhism allusions in "Kinda" and "Snakedance". The monster is called the Mara and encountered on a planet called Deva where it takes over Tegan through the sound of wind chimes (used in Buddhist meditation). The names of its victims (Dukkha, Panna, Karuna, Anatta, Anicca and Tanha) all derive from Buddhist concepts and the Doctor uses meditation in order to work out how to defeat the thing.
    • In The TV Movie, the regeneration-transfer-machine the Master straps the Doctor into looks an awful lot like a crucifix and crown of thorns. His companion is called "Grace" and the Master takes the form of a snake. The Doctor comes back from the dead barefoot, wrapped in a white robe with long hair flowing over his shoulders. His TARDIS looks like a cathedral. None of it is subtle. Word of God says the crown was not designed to be a symbol, nor was the Doctor's regeneration intended to be symbolic.
    • Accusations of the Doctor as Messiah abound regarding the new series. Tinkerbell Jesus rankles the most, though the series doesn't follow through on any but the basic level; that instance, for example, is the inverse of Jesus once you get past the pose and the shiny lights (humanity saving him, and through that action, saving themselves, and not the other way around).
    • Also of note is the scene in the Christmas special "Voyage of the Damned" with the Doctor being carried upwards by the "hosts" which are designed to look like biblical angels. This scene has been openly criticized by some religious authorities, but there are also people encouraging teachers to use it as an example of resurrection imagery in Religious Studies classes.
    • Rather nice moment in "Smith and Jones". Barefoot Doctor just been resurrected, carrying Martha Jones in his arms through a hospital as it starts raining. That must mean something, but sodomy non sapiens.
    • In-universe example in "Let's Kill Hitler":
      Rory: Okay, I'm trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I'm really trying not to see this as a metaphor.
  • Lampshaded by Stewart Lee in his Comedy Vehicle series. when asked by Chris Morris what he meant by a line in his standup routine, that the £200 million London skyscraper which melted a £50,000 Jaguar was a 'superb' piece of 'heavy-handed satire'. Lee admitted that he didn't know what he meant by it and he only said it because it sounded clever, then going on to say that those who laughed at the line done so 'in an attempt to pass themselves off as "clever"'.
  • In the Korean Series "You Are Beautiful", the main female lead is a runaway nun, the pop band's name is A.N.Jell, the Fangirl contingent wear wings, the Mother Superior shows up in Min Neyo's mind when she needs advice, pipe organ music at odd get the idea.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Cromartie is killed guns akimbo, arms outstretched, in a church, right in front of a crucifix in an incredibly awesome scene. This symbolism becomes not so faux when you realize that Cromartie's endoskeleton is "resurrected" to become the body of John Henry, who was meant to aid in the destruction of Skynet, thereby becoming humanity's salvation.
  • The guy with the cheese slices in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Restless". When asked about what he represented, Joss Whedon said he was inserted specifically to be a meaningless element of a densely symbolic episode.
    Buffy: "Well, at least you all didn't dream about that guy with the cheese. I don't know where the hell that came from."
  • The first Combining Mecha from Chouriki Sentai Ohranger is apparently based on Ezekiel's descriptions of Angels in The Bible. It's formed from a bird, a lion, a bull & two chariots. The Cherubim are said to have the faces of a man, an eagle a bull & a lion (although in Ohranger Robo's case the bird's face is folded inside the body when combined to make way for the robot's head) & Thrones are said to resemble chariot wheels.
  • Ashes to Ashes (2008) has always had fun alluding to Gene Hunt as Jesus and/or God (the connection to Aslan—i.e. the nickname "Manc Lion", how he can walk through falling glass and fire and bullets without getting hurt).
    • He does, however, turn out to be a Psychopomp. Who gets to punch out Satan.
  • An early episode of House involved a nun with stigmata who claimed to have Jesus inside her. It turned out to be the result of metal allergy worsened by a faulty IUD implanta copper cross.
  • In Mad Men, Betty Draper's stultifying suburban existence is set in Ossining, New York, most famously home to Sing Sing Prison.
  • In The Sopranos, the Film Within a Show Cleaver invokes this trope; for no real reason the movie closes on a close-up shot of a crucifix and a cornicello (a Southern Italian talisman in the shape of a little horn), to (in the words of Little Carmine) "juxtapose the sacred and the propane [sic]". Why Cleaver, a Mob movie meets paranormal flick meets revenge film, might need this is anybody's guess.
  • Brought up and discussed in Parks and Recreation. Ron's favorite book is Moby Dick, expressly because he believes that it's not filled with pointless metaphors and faux symbolism, simply being the tale of a man who really hates a whale. When it's later proposed to him that the whale might be a metaphor for something like the pointlessness of revenge, he gets extremely annoyed at the notion before rejecting it completely.
  • The first series of True Detective was praised for its elegant use of Lovecraftian allusions and Gothic Horror references. The second, with its use of Greek myth allusions, was roundly criticised for using them shallowly and meaninglessly in comparison (the main female character whose father was involved in a cult is named "Antigone", her schizophrenic sister is named "Athena"...)
  • In Supernatural, the Winchesters realize that an alleged "Hell House" was staged when they see that the occult symbolism scrawled on its walls includes a Blue Öyster Cult logo. Unfortunately for the pranksters who did it, one sigil was authentic enough to start generating a Tulpa anyway...
  • Parodied in Malcolm in the Middle when Francis's buddies steal a totem pole while drunk and Francis becomes obsessed with uncovering the complex Native American symbology and spiritual meaning behind the pole. Cue the angry owner of the pole showing up and complaining about them stealing his wheelstop from his garage; the totem pole is just some kitschy, meaningless decoration he made with his kids while camping. He doesn't even follow any sort of Native religion, being a proud Baptist.

  • Bob Dylan is notorious for misleading interviewers and fans as to the meanings of his songs (or as to whether they have meaning at all), often giving bizarre and contradictory explanations. As a result, many of his songs can be simultaneously interpreted to avert, lampshade, subvert and play straight this trope. When asked what his songs were about, to which he replied "Oh, some of them are about three minutes, some are five minutes, and some are even eleven minutes!"
  • John Lennon cited this fact as his inspiration for writing The Beatles' song "I Am the Walrus".
    • The line "The Walrus Was Paul" was included in "Glass Onion" for the sole purpose of screwing with the conspiracy theorists. The originators of the "Paul is Dead" phenomenon have come out and admitted that it was a hoax.
    • He was in the midst of writing "I Am The Walrus" when he learned one of his old primary school teachers was having his students analyze lyrics from Beatles' songs, and decided to vex them by adding a verse composed mostly of nonsense. Considering the song contains Word Salad Lyrics like "Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna / Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe", you'd think the whole song was dedicated to confusing people who over-analyze song lyrics. After they finished it, Lennon said "Let the fuckers work that one out."
  • Green Day's "East Jesus Nowhere" has a particularly incomprehensible example:
    Raise your hands now to testify
    Your confession will be crucified
    You're a sacrificial suicide
    Like a dog that's been sodomized
  • Rammstein's song "Laichzeit" has no meaning at all but sounds very symbolic or at least, depending on how you look at it, like a song about sex using metaphors. It may be that they just wanted to fuck with the minds of fans or critics who read too much in their songs.
  • Disturbed's "Stupify" video involves the psychologically broken character in a long crucified suspension shot, the screen frequently blinking between this and the lead singer David Draiman in the same pose. According to Draiman, the song was about the racism of his parents in not accepting a non-Jewish girlfriend he had.
  • Most of Nightwish's songs. Of particular interest is "Planet Hell", which conflates Greek mythology ("Save yourself a penny for the ferryman") and Christianity ("This world ain't ready for the Ark") in the chorus. Century Child is an allusion to the myth of Selene and Endymion.
  • Officially, Rush's "The Trees" is just about trees. Honest. According to drummer and songwriter Neil Peart, one night he was watching a cartoon about trees that walked and talked, which inspired him to write the song.
  • The Reflex by Duran Duran sure sounds like it must be symbolizing something, but they've admitted it's just Word Salad.
  • In a similar vein, The Riddle by Nik Kershaw. The lyrics were a temporary track laid down in expectation of writing something more coherent later, but in the end they released it as is under the title "The Riddle", which implied that the chosen-because-they-fit-the-melody words actually have some symbolic meaning. The band used to get letter after letter explaining what it all meant.
  • The song Bushy by lo-fi band Tiny Masters of Today is very clearly the opinion of some kids on George W. Bush. However, likely to avoid critical backlash for writing a song about something they don't fully understand, they often say that they actually wrote it about the bush in their front yard.
  • This is especially common in Goth music; particularly early pioneers like Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy. Many artists admit to choosing words purely for sound and rhythm. Others claim that their lyrics contain a deeper symbolic meaning (good luck figuring out what that is). Reaction among fans is equally mixed.
  • Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick and to some extent A Passion Play are stealth parodies of this.
  • Captain Beefheart: Don Van Vliet's Word Salad Lyrics were often claimed to be this trope by Vliet himself, and multiple band members. However, which lyrics were intended to be symbolic, and what, precisely, they symbolized, depended greatly on which band member was being interviewed, and when. Van Vliet himself was constantly changing his story, often appearing to be making it up as he went along, just to mess with peoples' heads.
  • Lady Gaga does have her moments where people don't follow her symbolism and it's because it is faux. Meat Dress and Alejandro fit this particularly.
  • Delta Goodrem, in her video for believe again the last 3 minutes don't really make much sense, first she's in a rock, dressed up like a mermaid, then she's outside the rock in a cat suit flying through the sky, then she's floating in the middle of nowhere, with her eyes closed with a circle around her.
  • Chevelle's music video for "Mia" is pretty rife with a mix between Christian imagery and a bit of squick.
  • In one edit of Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone" video (included on the HIStory on Film Volume 2 set), there are several meaningless shots of Jackson with angel wings.
  • Ministry's name seems like an ironic religious reference, especially with song titles like "Stigmata" and "Psalm 69," but the name is actually a reference to the movie Ministry of Fear.
  • P.D.Q. Bach's "My Bonnie Lass She Smelleth" has the line, "She's Guinevere and I'm Sir Lancelot." Professor Schickele tells us that much work was done to find the meaning of that line, ignoring the probability that it had absolutely no meaning.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Nobilis encourages merging this with Schrödinger's Gun to produce prophecies; just pick some random bits of symbolism, fire them at the players, and then run with the best explanation they come up with.
  • An in-universe example in Geist: The Sin-Eaters: the titular Sin-Eaters tend to cherry-pick symbols from religions, mythology, comics, movies and stuff they just flat-out make up for their fashion or rituals, with no regard whatsoever for their actual meaning.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Most of the Elshadoll are named after concepts in Judaism—heck, even the name "Elshadoll" is a play on El Shaddai, one of the names of God of Israel.
    • The Qliphoth (lit. "peels", "shells" or "husks") are the representation of evil or impure spiritual forces in Jewish mysticism. They are documented in some texts of Kabbalah, a set of teachings originated in Judaism.
  • It's played mostly for laughs in Warhammer 40,000. The Imperium uses a lot of real-world (mostly Catholic) symbolism for purely aesthetic reasons, with the application fitting their archetype in modern fiction but being complete nonsense if taken at their original meaning. The most blatant are that the Black Templars wear Templar crosses and Sisters of Battle love fleur-de-lys imagery for literally no reason beyond it being their heraldry. It doesn't help that there is legitimate symbolism mixed in, like Horus who is a Satanic Archetype (but has nothing whatsoever to do with the Egyptian god he's named after).
  • DIE has environments and monsters that are all symbolic of things in the player characters' "real world" lives, and it encourages using this trope when designing a Chimera for confusion's sake. Why does that beast have one character's mother's face? No reason, but the player will try to figure it out anyway.


    Video Games 
  • A little-known game called Adventures Of Darwin features a tribe of monkeys that have to evolve into humans in time to survive the coming apocalypse. They are led by a monkey named Darwin, a Shout-Out that would make the actual Charles Darwin spin in his grave. Where does the symbology come in? The final boss is God Himself. Well, okay, according to the bestiary, He is actually Zeus, but given the context, he's clearly meant to be a monotheistic God, not one of a pantheon.
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood in the trailer toward the middle. As Ezio approaches his target and other Assassins kill guards for him he walks (in slow motion) through a mass of cardinals, all wearing red, who get out of his way. "PART THE RED SEA!"
  • The game Baroque is littered with crosses and Gnostic imagery. If you explore the Outer World, you can find a graveyard of metal framework crosses in the background.
  • The Beginner's Guide: The narrator presents you with a series of short games that a friend of his has made, and sometimes makes changes to the code, to help demonstrate his theories on his friend's mental processes over the span of several years where said friend sinks into depression. Or not. None of it is actually true. This tendency to see symbolism where there was none has driven the two apart, and the friend has even left behind a message telling the narrator that, because of this habit of showing these games (which have been modified to fit the narrator's perceived symbolism) to other people, he can't enjoy making games anymore. This all goes over the narrator's head as he pleads the players to help him find his friend back, so he can feel the validation of demonstrating the games, and his theories on them, to the public again.
  • The Boktai series uses a lot of names and elements of Norse Mythology, but to no real effect. Basically it's like they had already written the entire story, then someone came along with a textbook and said "hey, there's a lot of cool names in here we could use!"
  • In Brain Dead 13, one of the resurrection scenes (in case Lance dies in haunted rooms) shows the "fires of rebirth" reform Lance's body and restore him to life. This is a bit strange, as it is kind of reminiscent of The Phoenix, which is an ancient and well known symbol of death and rebirth and portrayed as a magical bird made of living flames; the story says that when a Phoenix reaches the end of its life, it would make a cinnamon stick nest and self-immolate itself with fire, and from the ashes a new Phoenix is reborn. This could explain the "fiery" resurrection scene that Lance, like a Phoenix, can rise from the ashes of defeat and start over. Weird.
  • Averted in the Chzo Mythos. In 5 Days A Stranger, Jim at one point mentions he's been reading a copy of Treasure Island that he found in the library, but prefers Terry Pratchett. These references neither parallel the plot in any way, nor do they have any significant personal meaning to the characters (except perhaps the way a kid named Jim takes a shine to a shady character). In Quovak's Let's Play, Yahtzee admits that he was never even pretending there was any symbolism; at the time he wrote that scene, namedropping a couple of well-known authors for no particular reason seemed like a terribly clever thing to do, so he did it.
  • Devil May Cry has many references to various religions, literary works, legends, and mythologies. The Divine Comedy is a favorite: Dante was named after Dante Alighieri, after all, and Vergil was named after Publius Vergilius Maro.
    • Just look at the names of some of the weapons (and bosses): Cerberus, Lucifer, Gilgamesh, Pandora, Ifrit...
    • The whole third game is a reimagining of Dante's Inferno. For example, the third level has Dante fight Cerberus—and who guards the third circle of hell?
  • One part of Dragon Age: Origins traps your characters in an Eldritch Location called "The Fade", and you basically travel between various "areas" of the specific level that for some reason look like the Jewish Kabbalah.
  • In Drakengard, you have the Cult of the Watchers, which is a vague allusion to a concept in Judeo-Christian theology and some books of the Apocrypha. The book of Enoch, specifically. Monstrous children of the grigori, the Nephilim = those crazyass giant demon babies? Well, maybe?
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, this is Invoked by the Dunmeri Physical God Vivec in his Thirty-Six Lessons series. He uses oodles of biblical imagery to make sure that, if you take it seriously, there is NO WAY a person could see Vivec as anything less than the absolute god of The Elder Scrolls universe (which, of course, isn't necessarily true). Doubles with Breaking the Fourth Wall, Anvilicious, Tropes Are Not Bad, and a sprinkling of In-Joke.
  • EVE Online, wherein humanity discovers a wormhole (the titular EVE) which delivers mankind to the New Eden system in another galaxy; the wormhole's Milky Way entrance is in turn called ADAM. It's fitting symbolism in the game's 'present day', but at the time the wormhole's found it's just a path to unexplored space, and thus falls a bit flat the way colonists to the New World would give it grandioise names. It only gets better from this point onward, especially if you take the time to read the names of some of the systems and constellations.
  • The Tattered Spire in Fable II is, at its full height, a model of Hell from Dante's Inferno.
  • Final Fantasy: The Summons. Odin, Lakshmi, Quetzalcoatl and the like make sense in the context of being gods, but Eden? Ark?
    • Final Fantasy III: Two of the first towns are Canaan and Ur.
    • Final Fantasy VI: The final series of bosses is a giant throwback to The Divine Comedy. The first tier of enemies consists of a demon shown from the waist up, symbolizing Hell with Lucifer frozen up to his waist. The second tier is a jumbled mess of machinery, animals and people, representing Purgatory. The third tier, the formerly overcast and dark background has beams of light shining through the clouds, and the two enemies look like Jesus lying in Mary's lap, but with "Mary" as a disembodied head and "Jesus" looking like Kefka. The fourth tier, the heroes rise up from the overcast background to a sea of glowing white and gold clouds. The final part of The Divine Comedy has Dante meet God, who tells him the meaning of life. But here, Kefka descends from on high appearing as a Fallen Angel, and tells the heroes that life is meaningless.
    • Final Fantasy VII: The villain was named after the Kabbalist 'Sephiroth' and he is obsessed with becoming a god; also, a more correct translation of his One-Winged Angel form would be either "Sepher Sephiroth" or "Savior Sephiroth". Not to mention that the game has a sacrificed martyr character.
      • "Sepher Sephiroth" is Hebrew for "the book of Sephiroth"note . This name was likely picked because it had a mystical source and had "Sephiroth" in it, but it doesn't change the fact that one of the most infamous enemies in the game is named "Book".
    • In Crisis Core, the character Genesis comes from a town famous for its apple harvest, and is producing clones of himself in an abandoned apple factory. When attempting to incite Sephiroth into rebellion against the Shinra, he offers him an apple. The rest of the final dungeon had a large amount of Faux Symbolism, too, what with Dante's Inferno references and a statue that looked like the Virgin Mary (at least in Japan).
      • Speaking of apples, one can certainly slap some Faux Symbolism onto the burning apple when Tseng blows up Banora really, what could it mean? Especially its connection to not only Genesis but also Angeal... speaking of names and symbolism...
    • Final Fantasy VIII: SeeDs schools are called gardens and one of the GFs is called Eden. Also, Seifer's longcoat has the Cross of Saint James on the sleeves.
  • Fire Emblem games generally name characters and weapons after people and weapons in mythologies from everywhere in Europe. The names don't go any deeper than being names. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has a character named Tethys (a Greek Goddess), the sacred spear Siegmund (named after a Norse Hero) and the sacred sword Sieglinde (named after Siegmund's sister/lover Ironically, they're wielded exclusively by Lords who are twin brother and sister and have quite the twincestuous vibes). They just sound cooler than boring names, nothing more.
    • Also in Sacred Stones, there is a bow named "Nidhogg" which the game refers to as the "Serpent Bow". In Norse myth, Nidhogg is the name of the serpent that gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasill.
    • In Sword of Flames/Blazing Blade, Eliwood receives a sword named Durandal, said to have been wielded by the hero Roland. Both of these names are taken directly from a French legend.
      • Hector's ultimate weapon Armads/Almace, wielded by Archbishop Durbans/Turpin, also come from the same legend, referring to a compatriot of Roland and his weapon.
    • Marthnote . Uh, nevermind, I guess.
  • The Halo series is awash with Biblical and religious allusions (the Covenant, the Flood, the Ark, and the eponymous Halos, to name just the most obvious ones), most of which amount to little more than window dressing for a relatively straightforward "humans versus aliens" plot. Plus, the number 7 is hidden EVERYWHERE. That said, the Halos were built from the Ark, where the Forerunners also stored every single sentient species they could find. After they activated the Halos to kill all life left the galaxy, thus starving the Flood, they reseeded the galaxy with the life they had stored on the Ark, including humans and every Covenant species.
    • Allusions to Islam also exist to a lesser extent within their games. The design team for Halo 2 almost chose the name Dervish - an Arabic term for someone following the ascetic path of extreme poverty and austerity - instead of the Arbiter. They ultimately decided against the name considering the fact that they already had a character named "The Prophet Of Truth".
    • Halo 4 also introduces the Prometheans, who are being used by the Didact to... destroy humanity, and transfer control of the galaxy back to the Forerunners. This is odd because Prometheus stole fire from the gods, and gave it to humanity, so that humanity could flourish.
  • Parodied in Hatoful Boyfriend where the character Anghel Higure (his last name being spelled in the Japanese version with two kanji both meaning 'red') who screams all the time about being a Fallen Angel, the reincarnation of the Crimson Angel of Judecca and a Servant of God born whose destiny is to battle Demon Spores. He is actually the notorious school eccentric Akagi Yoshio, and he's a member of the Manga Club—and when the player enters his fantasy world, it's just a turn-based (and outrageously cheesy) JRPG, implying he's just a Daydream Believer who is into media containing Faux Symbolism rather than an actual believer in angels... although delving into the Latin he uses casts some doubt on this.
  • JESUS: Dreadful Bio Monster: After the rise of the internet made this Japan-only game known lots of Western people were tempted to play this visual novel because it looked like if it was going to give a new view on Christianity. When they finally got their hands on it it turned out to be a visual novel that talked about aliens invading a space station. The only reason it has JESUS in the title is because that is the name that they gave to the space station of the game.
  • In The King of Fighters, SNK Boss Goenitz is a priest, and in his waiting for turn animation, he is seen reading a book (presumibly a Bible). He serves and awaits the return of a powerful, supernatural entity who would bring The End of the World as We Know It, who ended reincarnating in a the body of a boy named Chris; and to top it, he would throw phrases like "pray to your god" before fighting. In addittion, the Spin-Off dating simulation games Days of Memories has him, Chris and Shermie wearing crucifixes. Also, Kyo wears a black shirt with a cross in the NESTS saga.
  • La-Mulana sure has a lot of maternal symbolism. One quest requires you to take a statue of a woman to an area where you can see sperm swimming around in the background, and then stand under a diagram of the uterus.
    • The final boss is all over this. Especially the third form, where she takes on a really creepy version of the Virgin Mary. Also, one of her attacks is raining crosses on you.
  • The Legend of Zelda. The first games in the series had a number of Christian elements and imagery, most of which were removed from localizations as a result of NoA's policy against the depiction of religious elements. According to Word of God the intent originally was to have Hyrule follow a form of Christianity, with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, officially marking the end of that by introducing a fictional mythology for the game following the Three Goddesses who created the land and left the Triforce in their wake.
    • The Legend of Zelda: There's a cross engraved on Link's shield, and the Book of Magic was called "Bible" in Japan (this is especially evident from looking at its official artwork)
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: Shields, gravestones and Wizard enemies have crosses on them, and there's even a cross item that the player can collect.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: In Japan, the Sanctuary was a Church, the sage there was a priest, Agahnim's deceit of the king involved claiming to be a priest sent by God (as opposed to a wizard), and there's this official artwork that depicts Link as a Christian praying in front of a crucifix. In addition, opening the entrance to the Desert Palace involves Link praying with church music in the background as he makes praying gestures with his hands.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time broke the trend by having Islamic elements instead. The Gerudo symbol depicted a crescent moon and star, very similar to the symbol of the Islamic faith. In addition, an Islamic prayer could be heard in the Fire Temple's background music. Both elements were removed from later versions of the game, which introduced a new Gerudo symbol being used. Said symbol was used by later games, effectively retconning the original symbol away.
  • Luminous Arc 2 has an interesting case with Mage Queen Elicia, whose witch title in Japanese is called "Holy Mother" and her outfit is very similar to her herself. Averted in English, which changed to Dark Queen instead.
  • In the old arcade game called MagMax, also made for the NES, you fight a three-headed cyborg dragon machine called Babylon, which is odd since the name "Babylon" is mentioned a few times in some Hebrew Bible readings and in the Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible's New Testament (even peculiar is that in Revelation, Babylon is a symbolic harlot who has a symbolic dragon-like beast with seven heads and ten horns; that beast may be like the mechanical dragon machine you see in the game).
  • Marathon had Durandal trying to become God of the next universe, and quoting the Bible and such.
  • Inverted entirely in Max Payne, when most people missed the oodles of valid and proper Norse symbolism. Done in-universe when a boss grabs entirely the wrong end of the stick and concludes he's literally Fenris in human form living in the first days of Ragnarok; he's not only Sadly Mythtaken in how he understands the mythology, he's somehow mixed in every god he's ever heard of up to and including Cthulhu.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Ac!d 2 names the Test Subjects (Golab, Harab Serap, Chagadiel) after the Kabbalist Qliphoth for no good reason, and names the Metal Gear Chaioth Ha Kadosh (host of angels) and gives it a choral piece as a Leitmotif.
    • The opening scene of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty shows Snake (who had at this point abandoned his dream of having a normal life in order to fight against Metal Gear proliferation, as his 'duty to the coming generations') throwing himself off a bridge with his legs together and his arms outstretched in a wide crucifix pose. He's in Active Camo at this point, so the effect is made even more extreme by the fact that all that's visible is the outline of his long-haired, nearly-naked silhouette. Oh, and an ethereal choral song plays as he does it. For a while during development, it would have been more extreme, with Snake wearing a brilliant white parachute that would spread out behind his body like a pair of angel wings. A lot of the symbolism is mollified, though, by the fact that when he lands on the surface of the Tanker there's a big Homage Shot to, of all things, Terminator.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is considered by many to be a major offender, with codenames like ADAM and EVA, Snake, and biblical comparisons in the ending monologue. Likewise with Part 3 of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, where a discussion of the events of MGS3 takes place in a church and adds a very symbolic apple to the mix. It a more meta-symbolic sense, there are many easy-to-miss references to the earlier games, to the point where at least one analysis speculated that the way certain eggs in a loading cutscene cook represents earlier characters and events.
  • In NieR: Automata, many machines are named after philosophers such as Marx, Engels, Pascal, and Jean-Paul [Sartre], but their names having nothing to do with their appearance or roles in the story.
  • In the first Sakura Wars game, there's a scene where villain Jade Setsuna has Maria tied to a cross, with the manga indicating that he was Mind Raping her.
  • The Shin Megami Tensei series in general loves to avert this trope. Players recruit demons, gods and spirits from a wide variety of world religions present and past; in the mainline series, you end up siding with God, Lucifer or neither. In between, there's about as much rampant religious imagery as you might imagine. Psychological symbolism and allusions are also tossed about willy-nilly in the Persona series (starting with the name). Despite the basis of the franchise being drawing from every religion, legend, and mythology imaginable, the symbolism is usually well thought out and relevant to the plot.
    • Digital Devil Saga is a rare example of a game that uses Aryan—no, not that Aryan—symbolism, with Hindu filling the gaps. From your ultimate goal being Nirvana, after you pass through Muladhara, Svadisthana, Manipura, Anahata, a few side dungeons, Ajna, and Sahasrara, to fighting Ravana, the Junkyard is practically made of (seemingly) random Hindu symbolism. And this being a Shin Megami Tensei game, you kill God, who happens to be Brahman in this reincarnation.
  • Silhouette Mirage contains notable examples, such as references like Megido, Zohar, and Metatron, not to mention the Seven Deadly Sins.
  • Silent Hill:
    • Silent Hill: Homecoming has a lot of sexually-related imagery. None of it seems to mean a damn thing, as sexual themes aren't part of the plot nor do they relate to any of the characters. Most fans will simply go by the fact that since Homecoming is a rehash of Silent Hill 2, it's most likely they were attempting to cash in on the franchise's best known and most popular aspects without understanding the symbolism behind the monsters. Hence why Alex encounters busty nurses and Pyramid Head without reason.
    • The entire series is filled with occult references that include Metatron, Samael, the Olympic spirits and tarot cards, and eventually grows to include a fictional mythology and pantheon featuring such names as Xuchilbara the "Red God" and Lobsel Vith the "Yellow God". Whether any of these references are truly relevant to the story, or if they're just there to emphasize the fact that we're dealing with crazy cultist villains, is still a matter of debate among fans.
    • Early on in Silent Hill 2 you find another James Sunderland dead in an armchair in front of a broken television. This sent the fans into a literal frenzy trying to figure out what it meant, until the developers admitted they simply reused James' model because they were lazy and didn't think anyone would notice. Of course, they have since shrugged it to be symbolic.
  • In SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos, you fight Super Boss Athena in a Fluffy Cloud Heaven and, after defeating her, an unnamed character who is a clear Captain Ersatz of God appears to sends you back to Earth. Akuma returns to challenge him, though.
    • Alternatively, you go to Makai, the Demon World, and face Red Arremer of Ghosts 'n Goblins fame. Arremer, despite only being something of an underling to recurring Big Bad Astaroth, is the closest thing this game has to Satan (despite the fact that said character already appears in the Ghost 'n Goblin series... as a lackey to Astaroth), being a cross between a devil and a gargoyle in appearance. Lose to him, and you're turned into a demon and then forced into servitude.
  • There's the Heaven/Hell imagery in Sonic Riders.
  • If you look carefully, you can find this sprinkled through Star Ocean: The Second Story. Krosse/Cross (although the continent is shaped like a plus rather than a crucifix), Salva/Salvation, Ell/El, etc. There probably isn't much to most of it, beyond Theme Naming with various other occult/mysticism elements in the series. Nede and the God's Ten Wise Men are a bit more germane; Nede is a major place of Precursors, and the Wise Men, named for the ethnarchs of the nine angelic choirs (plus Lucifer), were the collective Super Prototype of their latest way of maintaining control. It's worth noting that when you leave Lucifer out, you have the reverse of the actual pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy. There, Metatron ranked highest, and Gabriel ranked lowest; here, it's the other way around. Nonetheless, the milieu makes it clear that you're not expected to look that deeply.
  • A Star Ocean: Till the End of Time example. The layout for the second last room before the final boss is shaped like the Sephirot. Whether it has general meaning or is just randomness is left ambiguous. Considering that the last boss—named Lucifer, at that—has one very severe god complex with regard to his creation, it's probably yet another part of his claim to divinity over the Eternal Sphere.
  • Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike has Gill, who in the previous SF3 was little more than a Big Bad with a weird color scheme. In the Dreamcast version of Double Impact compilation, where he was playable, his ending gave a cryptic Bible-sounding verse predicting a future calamity, and in 3rd Strike he becomes a self-proclaimed savior who, in his ending in the console version, splits an ocean that leads to a paradise. We are all very impressed.
  • Being a parody of RPGs, Super Press Space to Win Action RPG 2009 does this. The final boss has a One-Winged Angel form that changes his colors to pink and gives him angelic wings, and the final fight occurs in what appears to be Fluffy Cloud Heaven. The game has no other religious themes whatsoever.
  • In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood, Morgan LeFlay betrays Guybrush and brings him to the Marquis De Singe in Flotsam Island. When she arrives the doctor pays her with 30 Thousand pieces of eight in silver.
  • Like some earlier examples, Tales of Symphonia uses a lot of symbolism, particularly in reference to Norse lore, for place-names and other things. Most of these references have little to do with their source. There are a couple of exceptions, though.
    • Tales of the Abyss carries it to a whole new extreme. Nearly all the towns' names, the "Qlipoth" underworld, and the title — all drawn directly from the Qabalah in ways that make it clear there was absolutely no understanding of the original material.
  • Lampshaded in Touhou Koumakyou ~ the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil with a pun.
    Marisa: So, why are you stretching your arms out?
    Rumia: Doesn't this look like it's saying "The saint was crucified"? (cross : 十字形)
    Marisa: It looks like "Humanity started using the decimal system." (ten : 十)
  • Joshua from The World Ends with You attacks with "Jesus Beams." It looks as though it symbolizes his being God or Jesus, but he's really just the Composer, which is a position that is supervised by the Producer. God wouldn't have a superviser.
  • The Xeno- meta-series of JRPGs by Monolith Soft are notorious among Video Games for being chock-full of religious symbolism, some of it more meaningful than others. Matters are complicated by a mix of translation issues obscuring some of the genuine Meaningful Names and references as well as the fact that the core story really is based around religious symbolism—Xenogears and the first Xenoblade Chronicles 1 in particular are heavily inspired by the Gnostic interpretation of Christianity. In some cases the creators have published writings that explain every symbol and layer of the story.
    • Xenogears generally good about having its religious references bear some kind of thematic connection either to their namesake or within the game. For example, the Elementals are named for four of the nine choirs of angels, with Cherubina (Kelvena), Throne (Tolone), Seraphita and Dominia. Mr. Inferiority Complex Ramsus has a phonetic Japanese spelling that makes his surname pronounced like Ramses (also known as Ozymandias, of Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair fame). And Miang's surname is a shout-out to Eve (Hawwa/Chavah). That said, some of the religious references can be fairly gratuitous. For example, several nations are inexplicably named after months of the Jewish calendar, while an infamous late-game scene involves the crucifixion of a bunch of robots and even the resident Ridiculously Cute Critter with no particular thematic reasoning behind it.
    • Xenosaga is much more guilty of this, tossing around heady religious, philosophical, scientific and literary references willy-nilly that serve little to no coherent symbolic purpose - e.g. the series of Super Robots named after the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Admittedly those same motifs appeared in a similar fashion in Xenogears, but with the added context of referring to particular genetic lineages that the The Omniscient Council of Vagueness were hoping to exploit, which Xenosaga lacks. Some of Xenosaga's symbolism can be understood if the gamer can significantly bend their understanding of some of the key concepts of Jungian psychology, quantum physics, and Judeo-Christian theology. If this isn't possible... then the whole thing is just a mess of orphaned references that are probably best left not understood, not helped by the series' admittedly chaotic development resulting in it being cut by half.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and Xenoblade Chronicles X have handfuls of Biblical symbolism here and there, usually meaningful, but Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is particularly full of it, with varying degrees of relevance. In Japanese, the Aegis is known as the Holy Grail, and Pyra's goal of reaching Elysium is explicitly referred to as Paradise. This is also lampshaded near the end of 2, when Malos finds out that the true names of the three Aegises were Logos, Ontos, and Pneuma (Greek for Mind, Body, and Soul). When Malos asks what those names mean, he is snarkily told that they mean the people who created them were pretentious fools.


    Web Original 
  • Cody Jenson's discovery of a motorcycle in Survival of the Fittest, a mundane occurrence tooled up with as much symbolism and imagery as was humanly possible. Oh, and he named it too.
  • A running gag on Bad Movie Beatdown is for Film Brain to throw his hands in the air and yell "SYMBOLISM!!!11!!OMGWTFGENIUS!!!" when he encounters examples of this trope.
  • Mocked by Chip Cheezum and GeneralIronicus while retsupuraeing "A Demon Tale".
  • Rational Wiki refers to examples of this as "Deepity". The term refers to statements that are at best true but completely irrelevant, at worst something that, while profound on the surface, is completely nonsensical (bonus points if said statement would be completely world shattering if true).
    • An example given is the phrase "gravity is just a theory"; yes that's true since a theory is a well-established scientific explanation, but it's trivial and obvious to anyone with a brain. And if gravity was nonexistent like the statement implies than the way life functions would be changed forever.
  • Broken Saints has a lot of symbolism. A lot a lot. Much of it is just there for style and to set the mood.

    Western Animation 
  • The opening of G.I. Joe: Renegades features Adam DeCobray (aka Cobra Commander) picking an apple off a tree and handing it to a young girl and boy.
  • Sent up fairly often in surreal anime parody Perfect Hair Forever. One episode has crucified clowns in the forest for no real reason. It's also lampshaded: I wish these hot dogs and cats were not symbolic of anything, and this was all just a dumb anime mind*EFF*
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Elements Of Harmony, when the Mane Six use the Elements of Harmony on Nightmare Moon, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie and (especially) Applejack are visible in a Crucified Hero Shot, while Rarity and Fluttershy look like they are praying.
  • This happens in-universe in the South Park episode "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs". The boys write a disgusting book for the sole purpose of getting it banned, but their parents mistake it for a profound work rife with symbolism and allegory, while still being so repulsed by it that they vomit uncrontrollably while reading it.

    Real Life 
  • Seventh Sanctum has the Symbolitron, whose purpose is to generate random symbolism to use in your own writings.
  • %C5%A0atan'>Miroslav Šatan.
  • Fashion in general is full of that, from having the Iron Cross, to the Prussian Flags, etc etc.
  • This is consciously averted in many places around the world when it comes time to build things. In the West, many buildings will lack a 13th floor by skipping it outright or labeling it 12B or 14A, while in East Asian countries it's not uncommon to lack a fourth floor. Sony consciously didn't make a D-4 digital videotape for just this reason, while places in France will employ a professional dinner guest known as a quatorzième ("fourteenth") whose job is to join a group of 13 guests so there aren't 13 people seated at a table. The list goes on and on.
  • At the conclusion of his final statement at the trial, the notorious serial killer, Ted Bundy spread his arms in a gesture that was universally interpreted as trying to gain the jury's sympathy by comparing himself to Jesus. This backfired as the religious jurors saw it as a mockery of their beliefs.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic


King Kong versus Slave Trade

The creator of the video essay "The Art of Overanalyzing Movies", discusses Quentin Tarantino seeing the King Kong story as an allegory to the Slave Trade which was not intended by the creators of that movie.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / FauxSymbolism

Media sources: