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Graffiti of the Resistance

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"What you're doing is a waste of spray paint. We live in a fascist police state disguised as democracy. You think you're gonna shatter that illusion by celebrating your own meaningless identities?"
Buzzkill, Community, "G.I. Jeff"

Crapsack worlds, especially Dystopian ones, tend to attract resistance movements, and sometimes they have to resort to crude methods to get the word out. Graffiti is one of those methods: it's easy to do, usually you can avoid getting caught doing it, and it's anonymous. Frequently uses the Icon of Rebellion.

Frequently Truth in Television.


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    Comic Books 
  • The Smurfs comic book version of "King Smurf" has the rebel Smurfs painting graffiti all over the walls of Smurf houses that defame and denounce King Smurf, which irritates the title character to no end. It even goes so far as someone somehow putting a "Down with King Smurf" note on the back of his cape.
  • V for Vendetta: The A-in-a-circle sign is used, along with the V.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The rebellion in the Sangtee Empire adopts Wondy's layered =W=s as their symbol when she kickstarts the thing by leading a slave revolt, and then sticks around to continue leading her group against the empire. The symbol is even stated to have been tagged on buildings in the capitol.
  • "Who Watches The Watchmen?" is written on the walls all over New York, most seemingly painted during the Police strike.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Mars Needs Moms, Ki rebels against Mars' society by spray-painting colorful murals over the skyscrapers.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 12 Monkeys: The Army of the Twelve Monkeys is a terrorist organization blamed for spreading a deadly super-virus that caused the destruction of most of humanity. When James Cole is sent back in time for intelligence and attempts to stop them against orders, he uses the Army's graffiti depicting twelve monkeys in a ring to locate them. In the end this trope gets subverted, since the Army is actually just an animal rights group that had nothing to do with the virus.
  • "The Uprising" is written on many walls at Bexhill in Children of Men, referring to the fermenting rebellion among the imprisoned population. A "Project Humanity Lives" stencil is seen earlier, referring to the unseen scientific group trying to engineer a cure for the infertility plague.
  • In Demolition Man, the Underground had automatic sprayers for painting the walls in seconds. The government had paint vaporizing devices which could undo the work just as fast.
  • In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Katniss sees her mockingjay pin symbol graffited on the inside of a train tunnel.
  • In King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, King Vortigern is so oppressive that the populace readily embraces the resistance fighters' tales of a Born King who will rise up to save them from Vortigern's rule. Graffiti depicting a sword in a stone begin to pop up indicating the town support the Resistance and believed in the Born King. Naturally, such graffiti was harshly punished and could result in death and entire villages and towns being burned to the ground to discourage such sentiment from spreading.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian with graffiti against the Roman occupation("Romanes eunt domus" for "Romans go home"); one Roman soldier is more disturbed by the bad grammar ("People called Romanes, they go the house?") than the content of the message and makes him write the correct version ("Romani ite domum") 100 times over the city walls.
  • The Wolverines from Red Dawn (1984) usually leave graffiti behind at the scenes of their ambushes. They also spray-painted the names of their dead on the side of a cliff (resistance Rock) as a memorial.
  • Shows up briefly in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, where the picture Caesar drew on his wall in the animal shelter to represent his window at home is seen spray-painted on a road sign following the apes' revolt.
  • Stake Land: Resistance is a loose word but Mister and his companions pass plenty of stuff in move theater windows or painted in bridges giving directions to New Eden or asking for Mister’s help.
  • In They Live!, Nada finds graffiti reading 'They Live, We Sleep', referring to the Resistance's knowledge of Aliens that rule over humanity.
  • Total Recall (1990): The phrase "Kuato Lives" graffitied around Mars, as a sign that the mysterious leader of La Résistance is still alive despite Cohaagen's attempts to kill him.
  • In the film Turk 182 the eponymous graffiti artist writes "Zimmerman Flew, Tyler Knew" plus his name all over town, in order to stir up trouble because his brother, a firefighter, got injured while assisting with a fire rescue while he was intoxicated and the department won't cover his medical bills. (He had been off-duty, but rushed to help anyway when he heard about a fire nearby.) Zimmerman was a Public Works Commissioner who had fled the city for an unspecified crime, and it is believed by some that Mayor Tyler knew about his crimes. Zimmerman doesn't actually have anything to do with Turk's grievance; it was already a graffiti meme when he started.
  • The circled V in V for Vendetta. The Fingermen shooting a young girl who paints one becomes the Spark of the Rebellion.

  • The Dire Saga has Dire seeing her despotic future self arrest a youth spraying such graffiti. It's a staged loop to fool the time traveler who brought her there.
  • Discworld:
    • In Reaper Man, zombie Reg Shoe paints pro-undead-rights graffiti (like "DEAD YES, GONE NO!") on any handy wall in Ankh-Morpork. Subverted in that La Résistance, in this case, consists of one overenthusiastic zombie who's only a heroic resistance leader in his own mind, and a few friends and neighbors who try to humor him.
    • In Night Watch, Vimes reflects that even when he was still alive, Reg wrote on walls in the name of The People, even though The People would give him a clip round the ear if they caught him doing it.
  • Gor: In Magicians of Gor, Tarl and Marcus scratch deltas in public places to make it look like there's a "Delta Brigade" going around causing trouble, in reference to a recent military loss in a delta. Then they start to find deltas scratched where they didn't do it...
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Neville Longbottom, who is leading Dumbledore's Army, write on Hogwart's walls slogans such as "Dumbledore's Army, still recruiting" to oppose the Death-Eaters running the school.
  • Jennifer Government: Hack Nike ends up joining an anti-corporate group that deface billboards with subversive messages, although Hack is frustrated by one member who keeps adding Anvilicious slogans.
  • In Little Brother, this is done particularly in the Mission, with the "Don't Trust Anyone Over 25" slogan.
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. The "Simon Jester" symbol (a matchstick drawing of a little horned devil with big grin and forked tail) was used in anti-Lunar Authority graffiti.
  • Olga Dies Dreaming: Congressman "Prieto" Acevedo visits Puerto Rico to render aid after Hurricane Maria. He learns about a radical organization called "Los Pañuelos Negros" who have provided assistance to parts of the island left to fend for themselves. When he gets to see their spray-painted symbol, a woman in a beret and a bandana hiding her face, he recognizes his mother's eyes and realizes what she has been doing.
  • Tortall Universe: In Trickster's Queen, there are sightings of the freedom movement's Icon of Rebellion various places in the city: wall graffiti, carved into shop windows, implied by the arrangement of merchandise in street stalls, etc. About halfway through, the protagonist notices that somebody has carved a pattern of the symbol into the belt of the Statue of Our Founder in the center of the city. Near the end of the book, just before the final clash between the freedom movement and the occupying rulers, it's mentioned that the pattern has grown to cover the entire statue.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 has the phrase "Free Byron", referring the leader of the Telepath Resistance. After his death, it becomes "Byron Lives".
  • The Barrier: The opening credits consist of various shots of the walls surrounding a dystopian version of Madrid. In each of the shots, a localized highlight effect pans over the scene, making colorful murals containing a message from La Résistance appear on the walls and making the sky look bluer than on the non-highlighted parts.
  • Derry Girls: a piece reading "Up the Rebels" is painted on the side the family home, but everyone is confused about the badly drawn machine guns under the text, thinking they are spatulas. In the first episode, we also see two youths painting over the "London" part of the "Londonderry" sign outside town.
  • Mayans M.C.: Los Olvidados, a resistance army consisting of children orphaned by cartel violence, tag walls and buildings with the phrase "Mata al diablo, resuscita Mexico" (Kill the Devil, Resurrect Mexico) encouraging the citizenry to resist cartel control.
  • An extremely cynical use of it shows up in Rome. The conspiracy against Caesar is looking to recruit Brutus to their cause, but he has resisted any efforts they make. Eventually they begin a graffiti campaign supposedly done by the people pleading for Brutus to end the tyranny of Caesar, much as Brutus' ancestor overthrew the ancient king/tyrant of Rome. Brutus does his best to ignore the graffiti, but it makes Caesar paranoid and wary of Brutus, and he basically asks Brutus to voluntarily exile himself from Rome. That and the fallout from the rest of their confrontation, drives Brutus to join the conspiracy and seals Caesar's fate.
    Caesar: Be reasonable! You're on every wall with a knife at my throat! It would be foolish to ignore it.
    Brutus: Only tyrants need worry about tyrant killers! And you are no tyrant! Haven't you told me that so many times?
  • An example of this being used in a non-dystopian setting; the xenophobic Circle in the Season Two opening three-parter of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine express their distrust of the Federation and Provisional Government by tagging the station with a symbol based on the Bajoran crest.
  • V (1983): In the original miniseries, the graffiti "V" stood for Victory for the resistance. The first part ends with a survivor of WW2 teaching some youths the symbol, when he catches them vandalising a Visitor propaganda poster.
  • V (2009): In the remake it was inverted: instead used by pro-visitor youth groups as a form of propaganda, undermining the resistance. Instead "John May Lives" was scrawled as graffiti by the Fifth Column resistance.

  • The Dingees: The cover art of the album The Crucial Conspiracy features a propaganda poster in the Soviet style. Inside the liner notes, the poster is shown again defaced by anti-government slogans, and with a skull painted over the worker's face.
  • The music video for "Born Free" by M.I.A. portrays a dystopia where redheads are targets of state violence. A mural depicting redheaded soldiers and the text "Our Day Will Come" is seen on a wall.
  • In the music video for Nine Inch Nails' "Survivalism" from Year Zero, one of the surveillance monitors shows a group of rebels spray-painting the "Art Is Resistance" logo on walls.
  • Styx mentions "rock code" in the liner notes to Kilroy Was Here and in the 10-minute movie from the accompanying Caught In The Act tour.
  • The Wall: The projected graphics from Roger Waters' most recent Wall tours are designed with this in mind, e.g. stencils of the slogan "FEAR BUILDS WALLS" with spray-paint blots.
  • the video for "FDT" by YG and Nipsey Hussle shows people painting the three letter tag, standing for "Fuck Donald Trump" on walls.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Isaac Asimov's Robots: The walls of the subway car that Det. Baley rides on to get to Spacertown has layers of graffiti. Two visible statements are "Rust off robots!" and "Terminate robots", reflecting Earther hatred of the mechanical men.
  • Renegade Legion: The Renegades use a spray-painted red R (a line and a zig-zag) as their symbol. The Renegade Legions have adopted it in solidarity.

    Video Games 
  • In an Evil Versus Evil example, in Bioshock 2 Lamb's followers write anti-Andrew Ryan (the Big Bad of the previous game) graffiti all over the place (including in UV ink on the posters which came with the collecter's edition of the game). Despite being his ideological opposite, Lamb isn't any better (indeed, in some ways she's worse given Ryan couldn't kill his own son even though he was a Laser Guided Tyke Bomb sent to kill him, while Lamb was willing to use her daughter as a test subject).
  • The main character of de Blob paints on buildings to restore color to the city he lives in, which have been drained to grayscale by the INKT Corporation.
  • In Fable III, after the party at Reaver's mansion where he and his guests are unmasked as balverines, the loading screen may show a "Reaver is Industry" propaganda poster with "industry" crossed out and replaced with "a deviant".
  • A variant is used in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Finding graffiti done by rival gangs and spraypainting the Grove Street logo over it is a good way to build the Grove's respect early in the game.
  • In Half-Life 2, the Lambda logo can be seen spray-painted near supply caches and outposts operated by Black Mesa East. There is a lot of other resistance graffiti seen throughout the game, besides the lambda symbol. Some of it is somewhat cryptic as to its meaning, but some of it references dystopian novels like Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, others parody the "March of Progress" by depicting a human-turned-combine as an evolutionary step backward.
  • Delsin in inFAMOUS: Second Son was a graffiti artist before getting his powers. He has a tagging mini-game that lets him screw with the DUP's propaganda by putting up his own art that usually depicts them in a less flattering light (usually something embarrassing in the heroic path and something violent in the infamous path). Sucker Punch art director Horia Dociu says the game's style was largely influenced by Banksy.
  • This is the premise in the Jet Set Radio games. Rokkaku and his corporation have bought practically all of Tokyo in the future; your player character is a gang leader who sticks his middle finger to Rokkaku by spraying graffiti all over the town.
  • The Last of Us: The symbol of the Fireflies and the phrase, "Look for the light" can be found graffitied around the game, even in the heavily military controlled Boston.
  • A gameplay element in Liberal Crime Squad. You can send your recruits to spray graffiti to get the Liberal message to the world, but doing so risk attracting the attention of the police, which can be avoided by a high enough skill in Street Sense in the potential candidate. Also, the Art skill dictates how effective this strategy is, and spraying graffiti increases Juice.
  • From the second act of Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure onwards, the plot is entirely about this.
  • The Runners and other anti-government activists in Mirror's Edge mark their caches with graffiti.
  • The 20 Minutes into the Future city-state of Laurentia in which most of the gameplay in Nexus Clash takes place was much too much of an orderly technocracy for graffiti to survive long, but the Absurdly-Spacious Sewer under the city is full of this trope, and there are even rewards for finding some of it.
  • Path of Exile: The third act of the game is set in Sarn, the capital of an empire that was overthrown shortly before the cataclysm that ruined Wraeclast. A lot of areas (especially places like the slums, the docks, and the warehouse district) have graffiti urging the workers to rise up against the emperor. It is implied that this was the work of Victario, a popular poet and member of the Purity Rebellion.
  • In Red Faction, "Eos Lives" can be seen spray-painted on walls throughout the game.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: The cinematic accompanying the completion of "Self-Aware Colony" secret project, includes two people fleeing through an empty city from a "We Must Dissent!" graffiti, while voices whisper the slogan in the background. The pair ends up locked in a passage, where something horrible is done to them. The almost finished writing of another tag — along with a pair of human-shaped burn marks — is then swiftly removed without a trace within seconds by automatic mechanisms. An Encyclopedia Exposita quote from one of the faction leaders serves as an Epigraph.
    Will we next create false gods to rule over us? How proud we have become, and how blind. — Sister Miriam Godwinson, "We Must Dissent"
  • In Spec Ops: The Line, anti-US graffiti covers the walls of Dubai, where the local residents come into bitter conflict with the American troops imposing a military regime upon the city.
  • In XCOM 2, this trope, on top of the Used Future look, is what distinguishes "slum" map types from ADVENT's clean, glowing city centers. Residents have put up artwork mocking Sectoids and the Speaker, or XCOM's inverted pentagon and three stars over an X. With the War of the Chosen expansion, you'll see plenty of XCOM propaganda posters as well.

  • Unsounded: On the day Duane was assassinated graffiti saying March On, for the Aldish rebel group the March, had to be washed off the wall around the gher he lived in.

    Western Animation 
  • Some of the Terran Resistance fighters in Exo Squad are often seen spraying graffiti onto walls, calling to resist the Neosapien rule.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: In "Dark Plaza", when Foxtail has P.O.I.N.T. take over Lakewood Plaza Turbo and start strip-mining the glorb tree hidden under Gar's Bodega, after a two-month time skip we see some guards walk past graffiti put up by resistance fighters, including anti-P.O.I.N.T. slogans and a logo consisting of three triangles.
  • In season 1's finale of ReBoot, two binomes tried to make a graffiti, mocking Megabyte. Unfortunately for them, the police pulled over and took them away.
  • Star Wars Rebels has Sabine Wren's signature "starbird" (phoenix), created as a personal tag and later evolving into the symbol of the Rebel Alliance.
  • TRON: Uprising: Mara joins the Resistance spearheaded by "The Renegade" (Beck) by placing self-replicating neon "Tron Lives" tags.

    Real Life 
  • The French Resistance in WW2 hit on the idea of using the single letter "V" (Victoire) as a defiant gesture against the German occupiers. Also the iconic four notes of Beethoven's Fifth spelt out "V" in morse code (three short notes, one long) and this was used as psychological warfare by both British and French.
    • Gaullists opposed to Admiral Darlan ruling Algeria in 1942 after the Operation Torch wrote on the walls slogans such as Darlan au poteauTranslation  or L'Amiral à la flotte.Translation 
  • Extremely common in Northern Ireland, with political slogans such as "Brits Out" and "End Internment" being a regular sight.
  • A very unpopular and paranoid eighteenth century Pope was plagued by the mysterious graffiti "I.S.S.S.V" appearing all over Rome. It stood for In Settembre Sera Seda Vacante. ("By September the throne will be empty") The paranoid pope became even more paranoid and started to develop symptoms of insomnia and disturbed eating patterns. Sure enough, by the following September he was dead...
  • The famous "Lennon Wall" in Prague, Czech Republic. Under Communism, western music was banned in Czechoslovakia, but was still often smuggled in. After John Lennon's death, a wall in Prague was covered with graffiti relating to John Lennon. The next day, the wall was whitewashed over. The next night, the wall was covered in graffiti again. This cycle continued many times, and today the graffiti-covered wall is a symbol of youth resistance.
  • Countless of circled A's used by anarchists. These were done during the 2008 riots in Greece. On Haymarket Memorial Plaque in Chicago. on The Haymarket memorial in Forest Park, Illinois. Berlin Wall on November 6, 1989.
  • The "may 68" French revolt: Mai 68 debut d'une lutte prolongee used as posters and stencil graffiti, and a number of slogans like "It is forbidden to forbid," "Cela nous concerne tous" ("This concerns everyone."), "Sous les pavés, la plage!" ("Under the cobblestones, the beach."), "Je suis Marxiste�tendance Groucho." ("I'm a Marxist�of the Groucho variety.")
  • During the Solidarity uprising in Poland, the AK anchor insignia was a popular graffiti.
  • George Orwell described doing this himself in the Spanish Civil War in Homage to Catalonia, writing "Visca P.O.U.M.!" on walls in Barcelona after the P.O.U.M.'s suppression.
  • In a half real life half video game example, Firaxis Games set up a booth at the E3 2015 to demonstrate XCOM2, a game where you play as La Résistance against Advent (the alien regime ruling the Vichy Earth in the game). This booth included a statue by the Advent demonstrating the cooperation between human and aliens. Naturally, someone defaced it by spraypainting the word "LIES" on it. The official twitter for XCOM2 rolled with it and the XCOM resistance movement claimed responsibility for the act of vandalism. Down with Advent! Long live XCOM!
  • Recently, graffiti on buildings have been found in North Korea, a novelty in this police state. The authorities have been trying to track down the perpetrators for months, but haven't found the ones responsible. Moreover, graffiti are now been found scribed in 5,000 KPW bills.
  • During the 2020 George Floyd uprisings around the US, the letters BLM and ACAB/FTP, and the phrase "Fuck 12" would be found painted far and wide, with Confederate monuments being a popular target.
  • As of 2022, pretty much every city street in Iran has at least one "Women, Life, Freedom" or "#Mahsa_Amini" or "Death to Khamenei" graffiti on it somewhere. The hyperinflation that drives the protests has been so bad that regularly painting over the graffiti is expensive even for the government that's hoarding all the money left in the country, so they just spray paint over the slogans in a way that you could still read the original thing.


Video Example(s):


Defacing Black's statue

The Color Underground's modus operandi is returning color to the world.

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