Hollywood symbolism in literature and films holds a deeply layered artistic design that conveys deeper meanings and ideas. The symbols include the red carpet to represent fame, the spotlight to symbolize recognition, and the broken glass as a symbol of broken illusions. These symbols are used to explore themes of ambition, identity, and the duality of the film industry. Hence, through Hollywood symbolism, a light can be shed on the contradiction between fantasy and reality. Hollywood symbolism also acts as a mirror reflecting societal values, celebrity cults, and the human condition covered under the glittering world of entertainment. The word Hollywood is inspired by the name Land Of The Holly Bush from the modern English language. It was thought up by real estate developer H. J. Whitley who combined the words Holly and wood. As ‘holly’ brings good luck.
The Red Carpet
In China, the red carpet symbolizes royalty. Ancient Greeks believed the red carpet was a symbol of prestige and royalty. In 1902 red carpet was famously used by the New York Central Railroad for great entry, and wealthy passengers boarded a luxury train between New York to Chicago.
The Walk of Fame
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is laid out through the Chamber of Commerce, selects celebrities, and embeds their name on five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars. So far, around 2700 celebrity names are embedded on the Walk of Fame. The Walk of Fame star is a symbol of a person’s contribution and legacy within the world of Hollywood. The Walk of Fame also symbolizes recognition and achievement in Hollywood.
The Golden Statue (Oscar)
The Golden Statue symbolizes the importance of success and achievements in Hollywood. The Golden Statue Oscar has been given to the greatest filmmakers, actors, and crew since 1992.
The Director’s Chair
The Director’s chair symbolizes authority and creativity. In Hollywood, a director’s chair also represents a cultural shift due to the world of cinema. People from the Hollywood industry, as well as every filmmaker, believe the director’s chair is responsible for guiding the artist with their genius thoughts. Hence, no one not allowed to sit easily on the director’s chair in order to establish that the director is making crucial decisions for the entire cast and crew.
In every film, the shooting of each scene starts with a clapperboard. The clapperboard is also an essential symbol for filmmaking to mark the start of production as well as the shot. The clapperboard is also called a sound maker, slate, or cue board. The clapperboard was the innovation of the Australian studio head F.W. Thring. The clapperboard also symbolizes the coordination between departments and serves as an indicator for adapting audio and visual elements during the shooting.
The Film Reel
The film reel symbolizes the storytelling and the illusion of the movies. Film reels carry the film stocks shot on the cameras. At the beginning of the invention, a film reel was one of the main things to film, which was shown in a sequence of images of moving objects photographed by the camera. Thus, the film reel gives the illusion of continuous movement on the screen.
In Hollywood, masks are often used as symbolism of hidden identities, secrecy, deception, and transformation. Among the famous Hollywood films, V for Vendetta, a political action thriller, alludes to Guy Fawkes. Guy Fawkes was considered a rogue and a hero who fought against the British Government. Hence the mask in the film symbolizes courage for doing the right thing by breaking the rules. The mask also symbolizes anonymity, which was shown in the films based on the historical figure Man in the Iron Mask, who was an unidentified prisoner under King Louis XIV. In the film Silence of the Lambs, the mask worn by Hannibal represents creepiness and fear. In the film, The Mask, Jim Carrey wears a magical mask that represents mischief and the spotlight. A few more examples of films in Hollywood with distinct masks are Halloween, The Strangers, Batman films, etc.
Most Hollywood films use the Mirrors as a symbol of inner thoughts, self-reflection, dual identities, self-discovery, illusion, and exploration. In the film, The Haunted Mirror, Googie Withers buys an antique mirror, which symbolizes the reflection.
In Hollywood, the spotlight symbolizes attention, visibility, recognition, desire, and fame. In Hollywood, the spotlight is used for scenes in movies that symbolize fame and dramatic attention, such as The Visitor and The Station Agent. Additionally, No one killed Jessica, one of the Hollywood films used the spotlight to find the victims. Here the spotlight symbolizes the protagonist’s attention. The pursuit is also shown through the spotlight symbolizing authority and search. The film Mama Mia uses the spotlight on characters such as the best mother to show uplifting nature. Finally, spotlights symbolize the great love and the fame of a successful business.
The Broken Glass
Hollywood films use broken glass to symbolize shattered illusions, disruption, or a departure from reality. The film Night of Broken Glass is a symbol of denunciation and humiliation. Additionally, the films with broken glass themes are Die Hard, Spider-Man, The Lost World, Jurassic Park, Home Alone, and Goldfinger to represent the reality and nature of brokenness in people’s lives.
Examples of Hollywood as Symbolism in Literature
Hollywood Boulevard by Don Blanding
Hollywood Boulevard… Hollywood Boulevard
Quite unbelievable, gay-wild-and-woolyvard.
Overgrown Main Street, slightly inane street,
Frivolous, drivelous, frothy and vain street.
Not quite as bawdy and gaudy as Broadway
But far better known than that publicized Fraud-Way.
Simple, in some ways, as any small village street
And yet it’s as hardboiled as New York’s big thrillage street.
Diamonds and dungarees, barefoot and wedges,
Satin brocade that is frayed at the edges,
A funny fantasia, frantic and furious,
Blending of genuine, phony and spurious.
Hollywood’s Super-Colossal production
Of pathos and beauty, of sin and seduction.
In this poem, Hollywood is shown in a negative light due to the cultural shift and influence. Here Hollywood is a symbol of vanity and corruption.
The Toll of the Sea By Sally Wen Mao
The first Technicolor feature in Hollywood, a retelling of Madame Butterfly, starring Anna May Wong
green means go, so run — now —
green the color of the siren sea, whose favors are a mortgage upon the soul
red means stop, before the cliffs jag downward
red the color of the shore that welcomes
white the color of the man washed ashore, from his shirt to his pants to his brittle shoes
white the color of the screen before Technicolor
white the color of the master narrative
green the color of the ocean, so kind, not leaving a stain on the white shirt
green the color of the girl, so kind — but why?
The poem talks about the first transformation in Hollywood from Black & White film screens to the colored version. Here Hollywood is a symbol of transformation and growth.
Everything’s a Fake By Fanny Howe
Coyote scruff in canyons off Mulholland Drive. Fragrance of sage and rosemary, now it’s spring. At night the mockingbirds ring their warnings of cats coming across the neighborhoods. Like castanets in the palms of a dancer, the palm trees clack. The HOLLYWOOD sign has a white skin of fog across it where erotic canyons hump, moisten, slide, dry up, swell, and shift. They appear impatient—to make such powerful contact with pleasure that they will toss back the entire cover of earth.
Hollywood By Charles Bukowski
I lapsed into my pathetic cut-off period. Often with humans, both good and bad, my senses simply shut off, they get tired, I give up. I am polite. I nod. I pretend to understand because I don’t want anybody to be hurt. That is the one weakness that has lead me into the most trouble. Trying to be kind to others I often get my soul shredded into a kind of spiritual pasta.
No matter. My brain shuts off. I listen. I respond. And they are too dumb to know that I am not there.
In this example, the author highlights the fatal attraction in Hollywood. Here Hollywood is a symbol of distraction.
Quote By Johnny Carson
In Hollywood if you don’t have a shrink, people think you’re crazy.
According to this example, Hollywood is a symbolism for craziness and spectacle.
The Mirror Cracked By Nadie Lake
For most of us a broken mirror means seven years of bad luck. For Anna Callainte, a young actress with a big break and a career as bright as the new director she signed with an old, decrepit broken mirror was just an ugly prop for the film – until she gazed into its myriad of splinters.
In this example, the author uses one of the symbolisms of Hollywood, a broken mirror. Here the broken mirror represents bad omen and deception.
New York to Los Angeles Roadtrip By Oliver Markus Malloy
Most of the Hollywood stars are pretty old and I never even heard of their names. Makes you think. These people were super famous back in the day. They were adored by millions of fans at one point. But nowadays nobody remembers who they were or what they did. Pretty sad. When even past superstars don’t leave much of an impression on history, what chance do we regular folks have of being remembered after we die? None.
According to this example, Hollywood is a symbol of oblivion, loneliness, and deception.
Tajrish By Soroosh Shahrivar
It had been too good to be true. Stories like theirs only come in fairytales and Hollywood’s crude depiction of promise and hope. The poor girl never ends up with the prince. She remained silent without breaking eye contact.
In this example, the author compares the difference between films and real life. Here Hollywood is a symbolism for distraction and deception.