Thursday, April 6, 2017

Tropes I Don't Like (Part 3)— Symbol/Object Confusion

Yes, it's Tropes I Don't Like: Another One! In which I whine about media tropes I'm just not a fan of.

Today's trope is symbol/object confusion, or the assumption that a symbol representing an object contains some essence or link to the thing it represents.

I was a little bit hesitant to do a TIDL for this trope because it's everywhere. Speak of the devil. Poke a voodoo doll. I know your true name. Large swaths of sympathetic magic appear in so many places, including urban legends and pseudoscience that IRL people believe in.

Basically, anytime you treat a word, metaphor, simulation, depiction, or other way of referring to or describing a thing as actually being the thing (or at least having some connection to the thing), you are engaging in symbol/object confusion.

Frankly, I hate the idea of symbols having power for much the same reason I hate the idea of emotions having power; using symbols to understand and describe the world is how we work and treating the symbols as connected to, part of, or even identical to the objects is basically imposing our own heads on the world; "that's how I understand the universe, therefore, that's how the universe is!" Our minds link and cross-reference symbols, so we assume the universe cross-references itself as if the entire thing were in our heads. That level of anthropocentric thought borders on the solipsistic, and I won't have any of it in my writing.

René Magritte won't tolerate your symbol/object confusion either.

No comments:

Post a Comment