Follow TV Tropes


Stock Visual Metaphors
aka: Visual Metaphor

Go To

A visual metaphor uses an image to represent something else entirely. Some have become standard through use and re-use — some even to the point of having standard parodies or subversions.

For internal emotions and sensations, visual metaphors mostly serve the Rule of Perception. For external actions and events, they can serve as unusual euphemisms for sex and violence.

See also Briffits and Squeans.




  • Drama:
  • Excrement:
  • Getting clocked:
  • Penis:
    • Banana
    • Hot dog (the fact that it's sometimes called a "wiener" helps)
    • Elephant (in Japanese things) - also eggplant (traditional phallic symbol) and turtle's heads (pun on a slang term for foreskin).
    • The ♂ symbol may also be used, with the arrow portion representing the penis itself.
    • A gun or a knife
    • Hose (especially to imply a man urinating)
  • Sex:
    • Large rocket lifting off
    • Train entering a tunnel
    • Jackhammering
  • Deflorationnote 
    • A single falling flower petal, or a falling rosebud
  • Orgasm:
    • Geyser spouting
    • Fireworks
    • Champagne cork popping, followed by a frothy overflow
    • Screen awashes in white light
      • Parodied in a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch, where a couple are revealed to be watching a home movie of these visual metaphors instead of having sex.
      • The Benny Hill Show did the same thing.
      • Also parodied in a Simpsons scene, where Homer and Marge are having sex while the kids are at a Stock Footage Festival, with no idea what their parents are doing. Also during a romantic scene, Homer and Marge use the metaphor while looking lustfully at each other, right before they begin launching literal fireworks.
    • Something Else Also Rises - visual metaphors for erections and/or orgasms.
  • Phlegmings uses saliva or phlegm to suggest fear and fright.
  • Power Glows uses glowing to show the presence of energy.
  • Time-Compression Montage uses cuts to imply that a large amount of time has passed without showing the time directly.
  • Audible Sharpness is sometimes accompanied by the blade twinkling or shining as it makes the noise.
  • Big Ball of Violence uses a big cloud of smoke / dust to imply an intense fight going on.
  • The Flame Of Life: Fire is used to represent life.
  • Floating Clocks big, spectral clocks to let you know you're traveling through time
  • Death:
    • X's on the eyes (can sometimes simply mean the person is unconscious).
    • A cut to a small animal dying.
    • Flatlines are sometimes used symbolically but can be used literally.
    • An item belonging to the dead/dying person lying discarded.
    • A character turning into an angel.
    • Dying Candle
  • If fireworks or champagne corks aren't meant to symbolise an orgasm, they're often used to symbolise happiness, excitement, American patriotism (in the case of fireworks), or celebration.

Alternative Title(s): Stock Visual Metaphor


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: