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Hancock - Hidden motifs and symbolism in movies

Updated on April 9, 2012

The movie Hancock, is a super hero movie with a difference, with an apparently unique theme, but I discovered that it had many motifs borrowed from fairy tales and myths. To say that is not to belittle the story, as it is impossible for any story to be absolutely original. The motifs in our fairy-tales came from mythology, and myths evolved along with human evolution.

Ashoka the Great
Ashoka the Great

The basic thread of the story is how an outcast becomes the favorite. The ugly duckling theme, that is. Will Smith transforms from an undesirable, inefficient super hero to the darling of all. A bit of the beauty and the beast theme, too. He is a Fallen Angel, and also a Prince in Exile, the theme I had explored many hubs ago. But there is another interesting parallel, this time in history.

King Ashoka the Great, India's greatest emperor, ruled from 273 B.C. to 232 B.C.

In the beginning, he was a bloodthirsty usurper of kingdoms, and was known as Ashoka the Cruel. He turned over a new leaf after the Great War of Kalinga. He lived and planned for the welfare of his subjects, and his reign became known as the Golden Age. He was called Lokapriya and Priyadarsi. In Sanskrit, one name means one who loves everyone, and the other means one who is loved by all.

The message is that if you love the world, the world will love you. Hancock loves no one and is loved by no one in the beginning of the movie. In the end, he loves all, and everybody loves him.

The Fairy Godmother

Ray Embrey, a P.R. agent, is the fairy godmother to Hancock's Cinderella. He is the guru who succeeds in creating not only a terrific public image for the charmless super hero, but also empowers him and boosts his self image. And just like the fairy godmother gifts Cinderella a beautiful ball gown, Ray gives Hancock his costume.

The Declaration of Independence

And of course, the name Hancock cannot escape its inherent symbolism: John Hancock's signature is one of the most prominent ones in the Declaration of Independence. So much so, that "John Hancock" is slang for signature. The super hero wants his independence, but forgets his responsibility. When the founders of America declared independence, they affixed their signatures understanding their responsibility.

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    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      8 years ago from Chennai

      me too, Joyce :)

    • joyceann0129 profile image

      joyceann0129 

      8 years ago from philippines

      like this movie^^

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you for that insight, rrw :)

    • profile image

      rrw 

      9 years ago

      what of the symbolism of the eagle that constantly shows up during the movie? Also when his mate appatently dies on the bed in the hospital her mortal husband and son are there. remember this man lost his first wife during childbirth. and when he stands there looking at her the rebirth begins. hancock moves away from them all realising what he must do to save her and in the same breath accepting his new role in the world. she then comes back from death and in essence a rebirth has taken place for all of them.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Could be, Mackenzie. Most likely.

      What we have to tell ourselves when we interpret a work of art - a book, movie, song, painting, sculpture - is that we are one-third of the experience, the other two being the artist and the piece itself. So our interpretation or imaginings are also important, as it is one-third of our experience.

      So that the dino in jail symbolizes that extinction of the likes of the hero is as important as what the makers intended. :)

    • profile image

      Mackenzie 

      9 years ago

      im not sure if anyone put this, but i think when erin gives hancock the dinosaur in jail it symbolizes that his kind is almost extinct. Or i may just be imagining things :P

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      9 years ago

      *dangles around giggling with delight*

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      *floats high up in the air*

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      9 years ago

      O.O haha, I'm in for the ride! *attaches string*

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Aw, thank you, Iðunn! You make my head swell up like a balloon. :)

    • profile image

      Iðunn 

      9 years ago

      intriguing synopsis. you always bring such a unique and in depth vision even to things that on first glance might be ordinary.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, 49er, you think like me. :)

    • 49er profile image

      49er 

      9 years ago from USA

      I thought Hancock was a very good movie, despite getting many mediocre reviews from some. It is very interesting to look at Hancock from this perspective.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Jared! Delighted that you agree :)

    • profile image

      newcapo 

      9 years ago

      This was an entertaining film.

      The are parallels you drew from history are very intriguing- I can't help but agree- thanks for the great hub, Jared

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Shalini. I'm a Will Smith fan, too.

      Have fun, Amanda, and thank you.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      9 years ago from UK

      I still haven't seen this although it's on my 'must see' list. I think it's out on DVD now, so I'll probably catch up with it over the Christmas holidays. The trailers for it looked promising when I saw them at the cinema, and it's the kind of comedy drama with special effects and a good moral, that I usually enjoy! Thanks for posting this review.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      9 years ago from India

      Kenny - some great analogy there - loved the movie - am a great Will Smith fan and loved the way you've gone behind the scenes here :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Sigh! I wish I were something like that. Thank you for that compliment, Mike!

    • profile image

      mikeq107 

      9 years ago

      Great Hub...You could be an advisor on the Shrek set LOL!!!

      Mike ;0)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      No, no, G-Ma! I will never want to make you like me! It's enough for you to love me, hehe!

      We want you as you are, exactly the way you are now, which is perfect!

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      9 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      What do you say???awww... maybe you can show me how to try??? to be more like you...what do ya say???  you "rascal"...G-Ma :o) hugs

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you for coming here and telling this stupid chap that he's neglecting his friends! I quickly went to your hub and replied! I felt so good after reading it, and shall read it again and again whenever I feel low! :) Big hugs!

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      9 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Kenny...As always an enlightening hub and haven't seen this yet either but will be more interesting now...and how are you? haven't heard from you in ages and did you ever read my "Angel in India" Hub? It was about you...hummm ...and how is the family? and the children? and YOU and of course the wife? My Hugs to all..and Have missed you a lot...G-Ma :o) hugs

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Oh, ok, you didn't like it. One man's meat is another's poison and all that. :)

    • ulises profile image

      ulises 

      9 years ago

      I saw the movie, but i really didn't like it, the story was, weird. i was expecting something got something else, but it was not as good of a surprise, like a roofie in my coffee.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Princessa! Tell us what you think after you watch it. :)

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      9 years ago from France

      I haven't seen this film yet, but now I will know what to look for -apart from looking open mouthed at Will Smith!

      Thanks for the insight :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thanks for that personal review, Adjust.

    • Adjust profile image

      Adjust 

      10 years ago from Earth

      I didn't even know what this was about because the name made it sound like something else entirely. It's a different type of movie then Will normally does but he did it well. It's about time we had a new super hero movie that wasn't based off some comic or something. I really enjoyed this movie and the plot was well thought out but developed a little too fast and I wish it had been longer. I would say this was a good family movie but there are some bad words to be noted if you are considering letting little ones watch it. Still it was great to watch.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Dayzee, you are another angel come to bless my hub. :)

      You're right. Absolutely. Anger comes from a lack of love.

      The movie's biggest challenge must have been to say all these things with the risk of being dismissed as 'corny.'

      Thank you. :)

    • dayzeebee profile image

      dayzeebee 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      hahaha, i see michelle has revealed our "teary" moments during the movie. yes thank you kenny for making this hub, else we may not be interested on this seemingly violent-filled action movie. it was a good surprise to find that beneath all that violence is the need for love and purpose. i used to tell my children's theater trainers to be sensitive to the needs of their students for behind those angry shouts may be a cry for help, a need for love.

      i guess the movie targets the audience that needs this message the most in this seemingly violent world -- give yourself a chance, give others a chance, give love a chance.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      A demonstration of love brings tears to the eyes of those who feel love. Your testimony is moving, too. It also proves the theory that, when a story is told, half the upliftment is due to the reader's or viewer's own experience.

      I am grateful to you, Michelle, for returning to share your experience and insight.

      Thank you. :)

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Kenny, dayzee and I watched the show yesterday. I now understand what you meant about the superhero and the turning around from ugly duckling into a swan or the beast into the prince that he was. I got teary eyed when I saw how one person's belief made all the difference to another. That is the gift of love - to see beyond the imperfection and to see the good inside. So beautiful. Thank you for this review and the hidden motifs and symbolism...that made us watch the movie. :) It was truly nice.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Delighted, Isabella! :)

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 

      10 years ago

      Interesting, Kenny! I haven't seen this yet, but now I want to!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Elegant? Why, thank you, Patty! :)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I have not been able to see th emovie yet, but I appreciate your explaing the symbolism behind it. Elegantly done, as always. Best wishes!!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Surely you will see more, Dayzee! I shall await your insights. And Michelle's. :)

    • dayzeebee profile image

      dayzeebee 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      the depth of knowledge and wisdom in your hubs never fail to captivate my spirit. will look for a dvd of this film, watch it with ripplemaker and "see" that which you have seen and maybe more!:)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Impress them in the Intermission, Compu-Smart! I love Will Smith, too!

      Thank you, and happy to add to your already terrific smarts!

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 

      10 years ago from London UK

      Kenny,

      I have seen this film advertised on TV, and i have just watched the trailror and it looks like a brilliant film that has to be watched! and im now armed with your observations which i will look out for and impress who ever is sitting next to me while viewing!

      I am also a big Will Smith fan!;)

      Thanks again Kenny, for sharing!;)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      That's the life, Zsuzsy Bee. I was in the countryside last week, breathing in the good air.

      Watch the movie and give us your insights, too. :)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      I've yet to see the movie as I'm still in the 'wilderness' roughing it (camping in an RV is really tough...) with my sidekicks. My friends and I are going to the movies next weekend to see Hancock. I'm really curious about the movie now.

      This time I'll be watching for your extra symbolisms

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you for the kind comment, Frank. I feel so proud!Dear Shyam, thank you for asking that. The relevance is that the hero grows from just wanting to be free to somebody who understands his responsibility. My point is that even names carry some symbolism.Not coincidence, Michelle, I saw the movie only last week. Yes I saw that hub, (after you told me,)and it made my day! Thank you, O Kind Angel!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hancock is on the movies right now...coincidence? LOL hmmm this is quite interesting kenny.

      By the way, speaking of 'you'...check this hub out. https://hubpages.com/community/They-HUB-Among-Us

      Thanks

    • shyamchat profile image

      shyamchat 

      10 years ago from Calcutta

      I do not know the story of 'Hancock'.

      Is there really any relevance of this 'slang for signature' in the story or that is your

      .....what shall I say.... your viewpoint ?

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 

      10 years ago from Sydney

      Up to standard and exceeding all expectations.

      Thank you

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Then I should probably see meanings in that, and also explore the symbolism of popcorn! :) Thanks, Funnebone!

    • funnebone profile image

      funnebone 

      10 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      And yet another insight...I am too busy trying to quietly open my licorice to read into movies this well.

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