While most metaphors lean towards subtlety building to a slow realization, there are times when the use of social and culture images can startle an audience into looking at the familiar from a new approach. Most often the iconic type metaphors are used as shortcuts to set a theme or atmosphere, such as a John Wayne style western set or a New York cityscape. We enter the story with certain expectations. However—what if they don’t mean what they used to?
The movie Larry Crowne adds an extra layer of vocabulary through its use of social Americana metaphors spread throughout the visual setting. The scooter posse rides motorcycle style through the streets hitting their various stops. On one street they then pass by a ‘traditional’ motorcycle gang who waves to them. Larry’s neighbor operates a yard sale that covers almost his entire property and runs on a daily basis. A junior college class only requires ten students in attendance to remain in the schedule. And then shows the disparity between one class in one small room, barely functioning, and another auditorium size packed with probably four hundred students.
None of these experiences are examined or explained. Different generations may look at each view or circumstance from an entirely different perspective: some humor, or sarcasm, or sadness, or confusion.
Nothing is as expected and what is expected is turned around.
Although movies have an advantage by silently sharing cultural metaphors, choosing particular details in setting and description can still add another layer to our novels when appropriate.
Mentally drive down a key route in your story world. What public icons do you see? What are the advertisements? What kinds of shops or houses or buildings are there?
If one or two could have a connection to your character’s personal journey, then magnify it a little and see if it adds an extra perspective.