Color Symbolism & Drama

Color Spectrum

My manuscript The Symbolism of Place: The Hidden Context of Communication(published on the website argues for observing in more detail the distinction between content and context and suggesting context influences content in ways not foreseen for the digital, Internet age. Perhaps more of the old argument between psychology and sociology? Another version of the nature over nurture thesis?

The book was written in 1993 while I was working for a company in the Midwest. The manuscript was passed on to just a few people. One of these few was a friend named Stuart Sigman, a former professor of sociology at NY SUNY and then Dean of the Communications Department at Emerson College in Boston. Stuart gave the manuscript an intense editing and spoke highly of the ideas expressed in it. But I have never followed up on the intense notes that Stuart wrote to the manuscript. In other words, it has never been edited by others or by me. A first draft. I still have the manuscript with Stuart’s notes on them down in the basement.

Since that time in the early 90s, we’ve both gone different ways in life, but the manuscript remains in first draft form, the same first draft published on our website. Since that time, I’ve moved from Ohio to Sonoma, California and then back to Ohio and then out to Palm Desert and back to Ohio. And so it goes, as Vonnegut might say.

Color Wheel

But the ideas first expressed in Symbolism of Place never changed and later works such as Symbolism of Popular Culture, Media Nations(with Eric McLuhan) and the published Battle of Symbols(Daimon Verlag, Zurich 2003) only served to reinforce its main ideas and theories. Apart from chapters in the above books, many of my articles appeared on the website based around the ideas of Carl Jung, the Jung Site.

A number of articles also appeared in media and communications publications such as my article in 2001 on early Google and my suggestions that words are the modern symbols of the world and that a company like  Google – as the modern harvester of words – especially since these expressions of a symbol in a “word” search creates. Digital expressions of words would become the new mass media, replacing the old television networks. My long article “Electric Symbols” was published in First Monday, a leading peer-reviewed journal in the tech industry.

For years, I had been a believer in the media ideas of Marshall McLuhan. One of his main ideas is that the “medium is the message” stressing the context of communication over the content of communication. And, I had read much into the work of Carl Jung and had written many articles based on his works.

McLuhan’s idea of “medium” seemed to possess the symbolic correspondence to my current idea of this context of place I argued about in my book Symbolism of Place. In effect, McLuhan’s medium might really be that invisible context of my “place” symbolism. Jung presented an interesting idea about the movement of grand symbols in life. But he was never more effective at explaining his idea to the outside world as was his key disciple and student, Eric Neumann and particularly in his The Origins and History of Consciousness(HC).

Giving Movement to Symbols

The application of the brilliant ideas of Neumann in his works which give movement to Jung’s grand symbols, for the first time, in a forceful manner, for many to see. His work was always the study of the dynamics and movement of the Jungian system of symbols … the movement, or symbolism, of Jung’s symbols. There are symbols and there is symbolism. Two very different areas of study, and intelligence about the mass movements in popular culture.

Neumann’sHCis the foundation stone for seeing the dramatic movement of Carl Jung’s symbols and archetypes in moving-through-time. Seeing them in current cultural settings. The dramatics of his psychology. A starting point for filmmakers who want to create stories and films based on Jungian symbols?

* * *

There are many current stories about the s dynamic movement of symbols in culture and history. Any research on the matter will show that there are grand cycles of events and lesser cycles of events that play out in popular culture. These cycles of pop culture are many mini-cycles inside the grand cycles that hang over lives as the collective unconsciousness of entire generations. The voice of generations in expression, if you will.

The symbolism of popular culture is the symbolism we live through and experience each day. The grand symbolism of popular culture is contained in the symbolism of different generations. The baby boomers. The millennial generation. Generation X.

Generational symbolism is similar to genres in films. There are accepted symbols within the particular generation and one’s knowledge of these shows one’s membership or not in this generation. Usually, since a person’s life involves three thirty-year generations (the one in front and behind our generation) that plays out over a person’s life. These are the one’s we are able to see.

* * *

Yet there are other symbolic environments not related to generations as much as technology. Perhaps one of the greatest environments surrounding all of us these days is a surveillance environment. It is an environment that watches all of us and registers our digital actions.

It’s the environment that Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff has labeledThe Surveillance Economy (2018) in her best-selling book. No one has yet come up with a better metaphor than “surveillance” related to the economy than professor Zuboff. Nor a better argument against this monster we have created.

The Surveillance Economy

I’d like to steer back to the topic of the dynamics of symbols and the study of their movement. Hollywood has always been interested in symbols but hardly ever in the movement of symbols. Might the key symbols of pop culture be opposition symbols. These provide the greatest drama to popular culture.

In this sense, the greatest stories of popular culture of a particular time relates to an understanding of the dynamics of the two grand opposition symbols to the point of time the story takes place. Is there a grand symbol movement in our story? Is there a number of steps in this movement?

The idea of color symbolism seems part of an esoteric area called phenomenology. In our book Symbolism of Place,I identify the key elements of a place phenomenology. It offers up a particular narrative view of the scene (space, time) that might serve as tricks of distraction by a master magician. The modern path suggested was distraction rather than the attraction into new, unexplored, territories.

* * *

One of the major elements of place, perhaps the greatest element, is light and color. The basic symbolism of light is consciousness and the masculine symbolism of freedom. And, the basic symbolism of darkness and unconsciousness, the feminine symbol of equality and connectedness into the world. Darkness and light, unconsciousness and consciousness, feminine and masculine.

Hollywood has been involved in color symbolism for years. Yet, it has always focused on the objects (content) of a scene rather than the container (context) of the scene. We propose creating stories where scenes are created by the context of symbols in their movement between oppositions. This is the greatest drama: the movement between opposition symbols.

The Drama of Color Symbolism 

The greatest opposition of these symbols of light in drama is of course between darkness and light. This is the starting point for any story based on the dynamics of color symbolism. Really, the starting point for any story.

As of this date, no color system employs the dynamics of color in creating stories.

To further explore this area and read the section on color symbolism from my manuscript Symbolism of Place, click Color Symbolism (from SP).

After this, you’re on your own in putting the colors of a story together in the dramatic way they were always intended to be put together.

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______________________ Comments ______________________

Symbolism of Place: The Hidden Context of Communication

A well thought out piece tracing the importance and potency that place symbolism has in communications. What is detailed in an academic fashion herein Hollywood became aware of in the late 40s or earlier when they closed down their studios and realized that they must turn the whole countryside into their studio. This is a fine exploration and examination. A most interesting piece of work.

Nelson Thall, Director of Research
Marshall McLuhan Center for Global Communications

John Fraim is an engaging writer, with genuinely important insights into modern life and culture. Symbolism of Place is sure to be a major publishing event.

Mel Faber
Professor of English Literature Emeritus
University of British Columbia

John Fraim’s Symbolism of Place succeeds in fulfilling a very ambitious vision – to understand the psychological, dramatic, and cultural significance of place in the stories we tell and the stories we watch closely in film, television, and advertising. He establishes highly original uses of analytic psychology and unique research methods that permit him to monitor cultural changes, and he offers his insights with fine narrative skill. The book is truly excellent.

Donald Williams
Training Analyst, Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts
Founding Editor of The Jung Page

John Fraim’s book about the vocabulary and syntax of ‘place,’ and how these are used by the popular media, comes on the heels of several other works concerned with the communication value of place, space and territorial borders. It is curious, but not serendipitous, that such works are appearing just as our rootedness in physical places and communities is being eroded by the mass media and emerging digital technologies. So Fraim offers readers a powerful reminder of the symbolism of place – that communication invariably takes place in context, and that physical context takes on powerful semiotic features across communication media and genres. Fraim masterfully blends Jungian psychology, semiotics, and popular culture studies to make his argument, offering readers – those of us on the receiving end of mass messages, and related messages – a path out of cynicism and conventional media criticism, to informed analysis and insight.”

Stuart J. Sigman, Ph.D. Dean
School of Communication, Management & Public Policy, Emerson College
Consulting Editor, The GreatHouse Company

John Fraim’s Symbolism of Place is a veritable feast for the mind and heart! A must-read for all storytellers for the screen, page or crackling campfire!”

Lew Hunter, Former Chairman
UCLA Screenwriting Department





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