When we look at symbols, and as a artist I look at them a lot, there are some that pop up in today's meme world that throw me off. Actually this one has been more than a meme for me, its been a verbal reference for years used by all sorts of people. At first, because the symbolism doesn't resonate with me I was confused then after realizing their point I let it go thinking they had it wrong but nbd. I found that in fact everyone uses this symbol in a way I would never and although I love to use symbols in my language I would never use this one.
My contention here is with the onion, it's all layers, so the meme, or assumption, is that "to get to the core we must peel back the layers." Although it is true we must peal back our own layers to find our true nature, our core, I would argue that the onion is the worst item to compare this to.
Different cultures see things differently so I accept it when others say "it's like an onion" meaning that things are getting more complex or deeper as the layers get unveiled. For myself the symbolism the onion holds is shallowness, as you peel back that layers of the onion there is no change the next layer will be what the last layer was and there is no core, only the smallest little layer. This is why The Onion is called The Onion, although news and politics are rife with information there is nothing there, no content no purpose, it is there to add complexity to lives by offering shallowness, layers that do not differ.
When the onion became a symbol for complexity and depth we inadvertently sided with shallowness and subconsciously accept shallow distracting layers as opposed to meaningful substance.