Tropes in Media: The Rainbow Color Scheme

Since the late 1970s, an image of a rainbow or a rainbow color scheme has been near synonymous with the LGBTQ+ community. Due to the incorporation of the rainbow on the Pride Flag which is often used to represent the community, the rainbow color scheme is a trope often used in media to indicate LGTBQ+ nuances to the audience. The trope has been used in a multitude of ways within the media, whether it be to relay positive sentiment about LGBTQ+ ideals or to satirize them.


Rainbow Color Scheme Trope #1

The first trope is a magazine cover entitled “Battle of the Bathrooms” by Oliver Munday in 2016. It displays an array of colored toilet paper arranged in the scheme of a rainbow. In this instance, the trope signifies the involvement of LGBTQ+ matters in the issues of bathroom restrictions and usage. Though the understanding of the cover naturally decreases as time progresses and the particular concern passes into history, the trope is easy to interpret. The subjects of the image (the colored toilet paper) are invariably associated with the bathroom as the rainbow color scheme is with the LGBTQ+ community. Thus, in using and arranging the toilet paper rolls in the colors and presentation of a rainbow, Munday created a strong relationship between the separate meanings of ‘bathroom’ and ‘LGBTQ+’ that is, therefore, representative of the issues of gender concerning access to bathrooms that the magazine discusses.


Rainbow Color Scheme Trope #2

The trope above is a political cartoon by Andy Marlette in 2015 which depicts Uncle Sam taking down the Confederate flag and raising the Pride Flag. Numerous tropes are present in this cartoon, however, the rainbow is particularly prevalent. Uncle Sam, who is commonly indicative of the United States, is taking down the Confederate flag (a symbol of traditional conservative American values) and raising the Pride Flag (a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community) in its stead. Therefore, the image tells the viewer that the United States is proud of its LGBTQ+ and will let go of its past conservative values. Even if a long period passes since the cartoon’s creation or an audience member fails to observe the symbolism of the other subjects, the raising of the rainbow Pride Flag is still demonstrative enough to relay the base meaning of the cartoon’s message: LGBTQ+ ideals prevail. This particular trope displays an abundance of pride about what the rainbow flag represents through the depiction of the flag flying. Through these means, the cartoon is clear in its message supporting the LGBTQ+ in the United States.


Rainbow Color Scheme Trope #3

This trope is a poster titled “Love Wins” by Brice Duet in 2022. Through its display of a pair of hands forming a heart over a rainbow motif, the audience can interpret the poster to support LGBTQ+ relationships. Due to the simplicity of its message, the trope achieves a timeless quality regarding the communication of its message. Given the long-standing status of hearts in media as a symbol of love, the poster is a simple statement that champions same-sex relationships among others that are represented by the LGBTQ+ community. With the addition of the phrase “Love Wins” on the poster, a sense of justice and triumph is achieved through the connotations of ‘wins’. Those sentiments are, in turn, associated with the rainbow motif and form notions of righteousness and legitimacy regarding the poster’s message.



Duet, Brice. “Love Wins.” Etsy, 2022, Accessed 8 Feb. 2022.

Marlette, Andy. “Uncle Sam Raises the Pride Flag.” Ilgrandecolibri, 2015, Accessed 8 Feb. 2022.

Munday. “Time Magazine: Battle of the Bathroom.” Time, Time, 19 May 2016, Accessed 8 February 2022

Discussion — One Response

  • Lily Palmer 02/22/2022 on 1:19 PM

    Hi Emily!

    I love that you chose this trope, as it is such an important one to be represented in the media for advocacy and awareness. Your post made me wonder about the origins behind the rainbow/rainbow flag becoming a symbol for LGBTQ+ pride. From this Britannica article, I discovered that it originated in 1978, when openly-gay drag queen and artist Gilbert Baker designed the first rainbow flag, as he was “urged by Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S., to create a symbol of pride for the gay community.” Baker knew that the flag itself was one of the most powerful symbols of national pride across all cultures; the rainbow flag was a way for the LGBTQ+ community to proclaim their visibility and pride. Baker correlated the rainbow as “a natural flag from the sky,” including eight colors for its stripes: “hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit.” Because of production issues, the flag got altered to the six colors that it is today (excluding hot pink and turquoise), the most common variant of the flag.

    Knowing the meaning behind the original colors of the first rainbow flag, it brings even more meaning to the examples of the trope that you provided. Not only does it represent the pride of the LGBTQ+ community, but it also communicates what the community stands for in society in general. Valuing aspects such as nature, art, healing, and spirit shows their push for free expression, creativity, and acceptance. As Uncle Sam raises this flag in your second example, the individualistic ideals of American culture are being replaced by a collectivist movement and a group of individuals that value harmony. The ridding of stars that represent individual nations from the confederate flag and replacing it with colors that symbolize a wide range of uplifting principles, the pride flag calls attention to unity in values rather than separation in people and their morals. This, the Time magazine cover, and the Love Wins poster all further demonstrate “pride” in the LGBTQ+ community and work to rectify old values of the nation that were less inclusive and called out the strength in the “good old boys club” instead of appreciating the strength in diversity.

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