Welcome to Symbolism Saturday! For anyone new to Symbolism Saturday, this is a bi-monthly Saturday special that I originally started sharing on Instagram and Twitter. In these posts, I highlight an example of symbolism in pop culture in a bite-sized exploration. Today, we’re taking a look at a symbol from the game Overwatch.
What is Symbolism, You Ask?
In a nutshell, symbolism is a literary device where the author of a creative work (like books, video games, and cartoons) uses an object (like a bird, necklace, color, or, occasionally, person) to represent a complex or abstract feeling or idea (like peace, loneliness, death, or, occasionally, a person). If you want to know more, I have a post taking an in-depth look at symbolism and Over the Garden Wall.
In general, glasses often symbolize clarity of vision and intelligence. Like all symbols, however, their meaning can change from text to text or even from character to character.
At first, Winston’s glasses seem to just be used as a symbol to enhance his character concept. Using the common symbolic meaning of intelligence, the glasses give audience members a visual cue that the raging gorilla on their screen is intelligent. Being a scientist, Winston also has clarity of sight.
The release of the animated short “Recall” expands on their symbolism. In this short, fans meet an irresistibly adorable baby Winston playing with a pair of glasses. He uses the glasses to look out the window in a new way. They’re clearly the ones he wears as an adult, but it turns out that the glasses don’t belong to the baby gorilla. As it turns out, these glasses belong to his scientist handler (and namesake), Dr. Winston.
In the end of the short, Dr. Winston gives baby Winston the glasses, telling him to “never accept the world as it appears to be. Dare to see it for what it could be.” The phrase becomes attached to the glasses, drastically morphing them from being a mere visual representation of a character trait to being a symbol for the potential in the world. Knowing this makes it all the more crushing when Reaper crushes the glasses under his heavy boot.
If you enjoyed this Symbolism Saturday post, be sure to stop by for a new one every other Saturday. Do you have a favorite example of symbolism in pop culture? Be sure to share it in the comments! You can also connect on Twitter at @Popliterary, or send a message on the “contact me” page.
And as always, if you have a literary device you want to know more about, or a game, comic, show, or movie that you want to see make an appearance on the blog, leave a shout-out in the comments!