Bisexual Lighting: the Rise of Pink, Purple, and Blue

Bisexual Lighting: the Rise of Pink, Purple, and Blue


So a few months back this tweet by writer Hattie Soykan was making the rounds, and it had screencaps of these four movies in it. And I responded half jokingly with this: “Idea for a video essay: The Rise of Bi-Lighting” And… people seemed to like my joke tweet? So… Wanna talk about Bi Lighting? [Music: Gettin’ Bi from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend] ♪ So if you ask me how I’m doing, here is my reply ♪ I’m g-g-g-g-getting bi! I’m getting bi! ♪ Oh yeah I’m letting my bi flag fly! KYLE: First off, what is Bi Lighting? Well, any lighting that replicates the color scheme of the bisexual flag: that being pink, blue, with purple in between. The flag itself dates back to 1998, when an activist named Michael Page designed it to increase bi visibility within the LGBT community. [Music: Gettin’ Bi from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend] ♪ I don’t care if you wear high heels or a tie, ♪ You might just catch my eye because I’m definitely bi. Of course, it wasn’t the first time an artist set pink next to blue [clip sound: menacing laughing, thunder] And of course, neon pinks and blues define so much of what we consider the 80s look. [Music: Jem and the Holograms theme] ♪ Jem, Jem is excitement, ooooh Jem, Jem is a– [machine gun fire] Kyle: Especially in crime stories. Traditional Noir was monochrome. But Neo-Noir? Neon blues and pinks. But in the 21st century, the connection between the color scheme and bisexuality was cemented. Especially within certain fandoms. [Music: The Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga] Lady Gaga used a purple palette in this video, and last year, Charlize Theron’s explicitly bisexual character in Atomic Blonde was bathed in pinks and blues. [Music: Make Me Feel by Janelle Monáe] ♪ That’s just the way you make me feel Then Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer dropped and she came out as pansexual, which is different from bisexual, And I can devote an entire video to pieces color symbolism throughout all of Dirty Computer but I’d be getting off track. Then Pantone declared this shade of violet to be the color of the year for 2018. So… It’s officially a trend. So why is everyone throwing pinks and blues at everything? Fairy: Oh, now look what you’ve done! Kyle: There’s the obvious answer that it’s part of a larger social movement to increase visibility and acceptance of people who are attracted to two or more genders, but that seems a little too simple of an answer. Especially for me. And the show that I do. And isn’t all color symbolism kind of arbitrary anyway? I mean, how do we know that your blue, pink, and purple is the same as my pink, blue, and purple? Well… I did some research. [music: instrumental electronic with a nice beat] Now, I’m not a scientist, so if I botch this explanation, um, go easy on me? So light moves in waves, and the wavelength determines how that color appears to the human eye. Your eye can only pick up a small band of the complete electromagnetic spectrum. These are called Pure Colors or Spectral Colors. So how does the eye see color? With two types of photosensitive cells: rods, which detect brightness, and cones, which detect color. There are three types of cones, which detect different wavelengths of light: long, medium, short. Or: reddish, greenish, and bluish. All the colors you can see are combinations picked up by these three cells, which can be measured. Now if you graph these values in the 3D space and then calculate the values on each axis required to replicate every spectral color, You get this U-shape. If you compress this visually onto a 2D plane, then fill in the shape, you have a full representation of every color the human eye can detect, arranged as absolute values relative to each other. This graph is called the CIE Chromaticity Diagram. Commissioned by the International Commission on Illumination in 1931. CIE being the acronym for the French name of the group. And this is the ultimate authority on what colors are what. Everything on this line is a Pure Color, and this line, the space in between the reddest red and the violetest violet, is called the Line of Purple. These aren’t spectral colors, but combinations of short and long wavelengths of light. And that is where Bi-Lighting lives. Science! So where can we see Bi-Lighting in nature? Well, there’s a reason most sci-fi uses pinks, blues, and purples as a quick shorthand for… …alien. [music: The Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley] ♪ It was a one-eyed one-horned flyin’ purple people eater, ♪ one-eyed one-horned flyin’ purple people eater, [screaming] Most light sources you can think of are incandescent, meaning that they give off light because they’re also giving off… heat. There we go. So not only fire, but most light bulbs, the Sun, stars… Anything that burns, essentially. And all incandescent light gives off the same kind of white light the hotter the object is burning. And that white can be tracked on our diagram with this line, called the Planckian Locus after physicist Max Planck. So as something burns hotter, it’ll go from red-orange, to white, to light blue, the hotter it gets. Filmmakers know this phenomenon as Color Temperature, so if you ever shot something without white-balancing it first and it came out looking orange or bluish, that’s why. And it’s probably why every blockbuster in the last 10 years has defaulted to that blue-and-orange color palette: It’s flashy, without feeling unnatural. An aesthetic which eventually reached its zenith under Nicolas Winding Refn. And in Refn’s later work, he started exploring less naturalistic color schemes. Because these deep purples and pinks and magentas don’t appear in nature. [music: the opening chords of Purple Rain by Prince] They appear in the illusion created by blue and red light: the illusion of purple. I’m surprised I didn’t cut to him sooner. ♪ Purple rain, purple rain Kyle: Purple has always been an elusive color, rarely found in nature. And when it is, it’s usually a signal not meant for us, but rather for something with a wider range of vision. These flowers are purple not for us, but for their pollinators. Well, let’s put the science aside and use the simplest possible definition of purple: blue plus red. The symbolism of blue is, well, I did a whole video about it. Narration: Blue stretches, yawns, and is awake. Kyle: And red is often used as blue’s contrast, and so purple represents the unity of opposites. Blue and red, united. And so for many cultures, purple is the connection between Heaven and Earth, between God and humanity. Which is what people mean when they say purple is a royal color. So if it’s so uncommon in nature, why is it becoming so common in movies? Well, I have a theory, And it has to do with the screen that you’re looking at right now. [music: upbeat and electronic] Odds are you’re watching this video on some electronic device: desktop, laptop, phone, tablet, whatever. Which means that you’re looking at light created by electroluminescence. Luminescence meaning light not created by heat, electro meaning… …forgettable supervillain. Electro: Don’t you know? I’m Electro. Computer imagery, like your eye, also measures color as a mix of three different values. Each pixel of this screen is made of a red, green, and blue light, and the brightness of those lights determine the color displayed on the screen. So if we map that over our chromaticity diagram, the brightest red, the brightest green, the brightest blue, you get this. Depending on the intensity of your screen’s LEDs, it can display any color inside of this triangle. The area inside this triangle is called The Gamut. As in “running the gamut.” This is fundamentally different from how film has traditionally been shown. Instead of shining a light behind a filmstrip and watching the resulting shadows, the entire screen is a light source. So while we lose the deep shadows of Film Noir, we gain a fuller color palette. Meaning you can make any color you want: you can run the gamut of color. Wheeee, look at all the colors, wheeee. This opens up an interesting new way to display color, But it can also pose a problem when shooting digitally. Most cameras set their gamut so high that even saturated colors can look greyish before color correction, And it also means that it’s harder to shoot digitally in low-light. if a digital camera sees something whiter than white or black or than black, no amount of color correction will bring back those fine details So when modern filmmakers tell stories about people who live in shadows, we simply light the shadows. Digital filmmaking has given us a new way to show darkness. [music] ♪ There, in the dark Kyle: You ever notice how John wick seems more vulnerable when he’s in oranges and yellows, but put him in blues and pinks and, well [gunshots] Character: Good evening Mr. Wick. How may I be of service? John Wick: Is the doctor in? So, it’s aesthetically liberating and also politically liberating. [music: ominous strings] There’s a great Mic interview with cinematographer Ava Berkofsky where she describes her process with lighting Black actors for HBO’s Insecure. She was taught conventional Hollywood wisdom that to light Black actors, make sure they’re in a bright setting. Which works fine, if you’re doing a sitcom. [music: upbeat drumming] But if you’re working with HBO to make something look cinematic, it’s a problem. Even more so if you’re telling the story of a late-twenty-something Black woman who spends a lot of time in dimly-lit nightclubs. It’s long been a problem for People of Color on film because film has a history of being racist. Not just the film industry, mind you: film itself has a history of being racist. For most of movie history film stock was manufactured with white subjects in mind. Which is fine if you’re lighting Humphrey Bogart, but poor Dooley Wilson looks under-lit. Directors of Color have long challenged this history by showing how darker skin tones can look beautiful, even in low lighting. Ava DuVernay: With Selma it was just so deeply embedded in our, you know, love of our people, then also just, we really were always playing with the idea of the Black body. There’s a whole scene where there’s two dark men: David Oyelowo and Colman Domingo, sitting in a dark jail cell. That was our first day of shooting. so that was the first day, was to go to the studio and they were like… [audience laughing] That, that image, just the image of two dark-skinned people sitting in a dark space was so startling and rare, Interviewer: -Yeah. DuVernay: That it needed extra dailies colorists. Like, just to see if, is there information there, they call it “information.” Like if we want to turn it up, can we? Kyle: And of course, it’s long been an industry secret that bluer lights are kinder to darker skin: Consider Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, which was turned into a feature film you might have heard of. So if we’re going to get serious about getting a wider range of skin tones cinematic representation, this is a great way to do it. It quite literally makes the darkness brighter, and gives us a better look at people who’ve been pushed to the shadows. Or maybe we just like watching scenes set in nightclubs. [club sounds: music, talking, laughing] But then again, why do clubs use it? [music: nostalgic-sounding Hammond Organ-esque keyboard] From film’s beginning, lighting has been used to flatter and fetishize. By wrapping the face in a light reminiscent of the Dutch masters, like Rembrandt or Vermeer, natural lighting is truth. Is beauty. But usually only for widely accepted definitions of beauty. For the marginalized, unnatural lighting is freedom. Person: It’s like crossing into the looking-glass. Wonderland. You go in there and you feel, you feel a hundred percent right. Being– being gay. Interviewer: And that’s not what it’s like in the world. Same person: It’s not what it’s like in the world. That’s not what it’s like in the world. You know, it should be like that in the world. Kyle: The one thing that makes Bi-Lighting Bi-Lighting is the lack of incandescent light: it happens in environments without sunlight, without candlelight. In artificial spaces. Nighttime, or indoors. Usually in private. Ultimately, movies use these lighting schemes for the same reason clubs use it: by letting you feel that you look great, that you’re surrounded by people who can love you, who want the same things that you do, It gives you the feeling that you are in– dare I utter the phrase– a safe space. And most importantly, it looks awesome. And like all great visual motifs, it lets the image say something that you might otherwise have trouble saying out loud. [music: happy saxophone with a good drum beat]


100 thoughts on “Bisexual Lighting: the Rise of Pink, Purple, and Blue

  1. Cool video, but purple isn’t considered a royal color because of what it symbolizes spiritually, but because for much of western history purple dye had to be made from seashells and was thus very expensive and usually could only be afforded by royals, who wore purple as a class symbol

  2. This is the loveliest video on my favorite type of lightning which certainly greatly effects my photography aesthetic I’m in loooooove 💕💜💗💙💖❤️💜💙

  3. Personal coming out as academic and artistic event!? Love it, love it, love it all ❤️😊🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗 congrats Kyle 🤗

  4. The ending made me go awww. Congrats on coming out and welcome to our cool bi community 😀
    Otherwise, great video.

  5. this video speaks to my bisexual soul. thank you so much for saying "two or more genders"…i'm so tired of people saying "bi just means men and women." bi pride 💖💜💙

    (this also really helped me understand how coloring in sony vegas works)

  6. That ending is the best pratical visual storytelling course on the internet! I've watched loads of color theory videos and none was so fun! THANKYOU!

  7. 7:54 No they don't they use it because it use to be rear and pigments were made using snails from the city of Tyre often it was restricted to Royalty until the mid 18 hundreds when it became easy to make! In Game of Thrones Daeneryses eyes are suppose to be purple and Tyrian! purple

    Tyre, Lebanon

  8. Ooh, Heavenly Creatures! I was obsessed with that movie when I was a teenager!
    That… that is a very queer thing to say, isn't it?

  9. watching this on national coming out day, my heart unexpectedly melted at the end hahahaha, that was an adorable coming out <3

  10. I love the colors of the 80s. I hope they’re not hijacked by the homosexual and transsexual communities like the wonderful rainbow was.

    Nothing is worse than looking at one of God’s greatest creations the rainbow and it’s been hijacked by homosexuals to the point where when you see it all you think about our dudes that poke each other in the butt.

    The last thing I want now is going to watch a movie from the 80s or a movie today that’s got pink and purple and blue lighting now I’m thinking about tranny’s. Good lord man.

  11. This is an awesome video, very interesting, and I always wondered why blue and red would always catch my eye more than any other color, I guess that was my mind telling me I'm bi, and purple is my favorite color! First time I seen the bi flag I just felt this rush of excitement for the aesthetics of each cplor together ❤💜💙

  12. Since you were already on about bi-lighting, when you started to cover the issue about black people being properly presented in lighting on any visual media I was immediately reminded of Lusine's music video, 'Just a Cloud.'

  13. Thank you so much for this video. I wanted to check you videos after seeing you in an Anime Abandon cameo, and I'm glad I subscribed.

  14. Great job dude!! I was talking to my partner about this and while looking for examples i found this video. Love your examples and honestly the 9:35 was mesmerizing to look at.

  15. Rewatching this and after a bit of not watching it somehow the ending made me laugh and cry cause like me too what the f

  16. Lol plot twist at the end: kyle spent days on a 15 minute admission to being bisexual in an effort to rationalize and make himself feel comfortable with it. I relate to this on a crazy level of overthinking things this much.

  17. One of my friends enlightened me to the concept of "bi snaps", where if a bi person sees/hears something they like, they'll point at it with both hands and snap at the same time

    snapsnap

  18. Oh come on, you're overthinking this. Mixing blue and pink confers exoticism and eroticism, with cultural influences split between strip clubs (it hides the zits and stretch marks) and the 1980s with its bridge between the disco era and the club / rave scene.

    But yeah, thanks for the science padding.

  19. That was a great video essay and seeing the clip from From Beyond made me remember that Philip K Dick talked about receiving info from an external intelligence in the form of a beam of pink light. It helped him know something about his child's ailment or something. Also wasn't there alot of pink and purple skies in Top Gun?

  20. I just wanted to say thank you. From the bottom of my heart for this and your Watermelon Woman video. I had watched that one first when I was starting to question my sexuality as an Indian bisexual women. And just going though all that history seriously resonated with me, but also made me a little sad. To know that we had to work that hard for a black lesbian to direct a film, and to be scared at how long it would take for an Indian bisexual woman to be regarded in cinema. Let alone represented. Then this came out. And you came out. And I cried when this first released. I was sure that this was who I was, and the scientific and analytical way you discussed it all really set me at ease. I’ve only come out to a few people since then, including in this comment. So I just wanted to thank you Kyle, and Jourdain as well (your twitter thoughts and journal pieces are always the highlight of my day). Thank you for allowing me to come to terms with myself and to hope for a better future for people like me. 💖💜💙

  21. I always kick myself for not having notifications turned on because I miss your uploads for months but by the time I'm deeply in the rabbit hole I forget to click that God forsaken bell. Well the bell has been clicked. Thanks for the content and congratulations!

  22. Nic Refn has said that he uses the stark colors in his films because he's colorblind, and cant see midtones. Also, why do you seem to be so obsessed with racism, does it make you feel like you are making a difference/revolutionary or something?

  23. That. Was. Awesome! I loved the entire video from beginning to end. It's an honor to have you with us dude. If I may, are you seeing anyone currently? Because I would just love to take you out for dinner and a show sometime.

  24. Wonderful – Chapeau – Das hast du sehr gut gemacht!
    I had a feeling when I saw all your videos on blip and youtube all the years. And through all the years I ask me everytime, when will you be honest to you and your fans about your live? Because you have a special aura and all your previous videos show it.

    Now, you have found the best way to share your feelings to the world.

    I am very happy and proud of you!

    And think everytime about the words from Frank N Furter: "Don't dream it – be it!"

  25. Mme at the beginning: he's just playing.

    During video: Oh shat, it's really Bi. I saw it in Moonlight cover, never knew there was something behind it.

  26. I hate when someone says, "I'm not a scientist" and then explains something you don't need to be a scientist to know.

  27. Hey Kyle! Just wanted to let you know that not only have I sent this to several professors to show during class discussions, but it's also helping me write my essay about Moonlight (2016)! Thanks for the great video my dude

  28. I very rarely Subscribe to channels. And you didn't even end it with the comment/like/Subscribe beg. Plus, I'm impressed that you have Trivium/Quadrivium in the background. I have those books too; I'd be interested to see a video of your opinion of them since you seem well educated (I'm not). Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I commented, liked, and subscribed.

    Thank you for this video 🙂

  29. Just as I was scrolling down to the comments….so many thumbnails of pink and blue lighting. Mostly Philosophy Tube and Contrapoints.

  30. Me at 12pm: I was up particularly late last night, I should sleep.

    Me at 5:00am: watches a video essay on Bi lighting.

  31. I’m not gonna lots it’s become a cliche say this point but I’m still pleasing on using similar symbolism in one of my stories where one of the main protagonists is a bisexual man

  32. Cool video. One nit to pick thouh from an anal-retentive former printer regarding "gamut"
    There are several color gamuts based on different models. CieLAB, CMYK and expanded specialty ones like Hexachrome among them. A common example: A photo of a tomato using additive color RGB (like in a video or on a luminescent RGB screen) can be easily faithfully reproduced being well within the RGB gamut. But if you need to print it using ink, you no longer have the full RGB gamut but a smaller (subtractive) CMY gamut (k isn't a color technically) you simply cannot create that red (roughly Pantone 186c) with magenta and yellow because red is (technical term d'arte ) "out of gamut" referring to the CMY(k) gamut. Sorry for all the parentheticals.

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