How cinema went from bright hues to an 'intangible sludge'

Why are today’s TV shows and movies so GRAY? How productions such as Dexter and Gossip Girl went from bright hues to ‘sludgebecause directors think moody darkness makes them look higher quality

  • TV shows and movies of recent years have been dimly lit with viewers complaining about them being too dark
  • Dexter first aired in 2006 and set in Miami, the colouring of the show reflected bright, vibrant Florida
  • But it’s 2021 reboot Dexter: New Blood was much darker and bluer with a much lower saturation
  • Critics have branded the phenomenon ‘Intangible Sludge’ – referring to the greyness seen in many shows
  • Other examples are Gossip Girl, Sabrina, Veronica Mars, Speletjie van trone, Jurassic Park and West Side Story
  • From gritty serial killer thriller Dexter to soapy teen drama Gossip Girl, many shows popular in the nineties and noughties have been remade in recent years.

    But with more modern storylines also come much darker scenes – letterlik, according to some savvy fans.

    Many shows of the last five years have been dimly litwith viewers complaining about not being able to see what is happening. Popular targets for these complaints include Speletjie van trone en Netflix‘s Ozark.

    And the hue-change is even more stark when comparing TV shows and films that have been remade.

    Dexter, a crime thriller starring Michael C Hall as a serial killer who kills serial killers, first aired in 2006. Set in Miami, the colouring of the show reflected bright, vibrant Floridawith the characters often in light and spirited clothing despite the show’s gritty themes.

    But the reboot, Dexter: New Blood, a miniseries released in 2021 is much darker and poorer lit.

    A comparison of the two showsset and filmed 15 jare uitmekaar – was shared to Twitter by film enthusiast Katie Stebbins, who called it the phenomenon ‘Intangible Sludge’ – referring to the greyness seen in modern visual media.

    Katie has shared dozens of examples of it, and it can be seen across all genres of film and TV.

    When Gossip Girl premiered in 2007, it showed millions of fans the fantastic lives of the super rich living on the Upper East Side of New York.

    Brightly lit with slight autumnal hues, the characters radiated screens with their designer fashion.

    The show returned in 2021, with the same elitism showing the scandalous lives of New York’s richest. But again, it was much darker. Side by side shots from the 2007 series showing Blake Lively’s Serena Van Der Woodesen next to a very similarly dressed Bianca Breer (Katherine Reis) shows the reboot is much less bright.

    Dexter, a crime thriller starring Michael C Hall as a serial killer who kills serial killers, first aired in 2006. Set in Miami, the colouring of the show reflected bright, vibrant Florida - with the characters often in light and spirited clothing despite the show's gritty themes.

    But the reboot, Dexter: New Blood, a miniseries released in 2021 is much darker and poorer lit.

    Dexter, a crime thriller starring Michael C Hall as a serial killer who kills serial killers, first aired in 2006 (links). Set in Miami, the colouring of the show reflected bright, vibrant Floridawith the characters often in light and spirited clothing despite the show’s gritty themes. But the reboot, Dexter: New Blood, a miniseries released in 2021 is much darker and poorer lit (reg)

    When Gossip Girl premiered in 2007, it showed millions of fans the fantastic lives of the super rich living on the Upper East Side of New York. Brightly lit with slight autumnal hues, the characters radiated screens with their designer fashion.

    Side by side shots from the 2007 series showing Blake Lively's Serena Van Der Woodesen next to a very similarly dressed Bianca Breer (Katherine Reis, op die foto)  shows the reboot is much less bright.

    When Gossip Girl premiered in 2007 (links) it showed millions of fans the fantastic lives of the super rich living on the Upper East Side of New York. Brightly lit with slight autumnal hues, the characters radiated screens with their designer fashion. The show returned in 2021, with the same elitism showing the scandalous lives of New York’s richest. But again, it was much darker. Side by side shots from the 2007 series showing Blake Lively’s Serena Van Der Woodesen next to a very similarly dressed Bianca Breer (Katherine Reis) shows the reboot is much less bright.

    Another reboot fans have embraced in recent years is 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' which is gorier, more dramatic remake of the beloved 90s sitcom Sabrina: The Teenage Witch. Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina in the 90s

    Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina in 2021

    Another reboot fans have embraced in recent years is ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrinawhich is gorier, more dramatic remake of the beloved 90s sitcom Sabrina: The Teenage Witch. While the storylines are darker, it’s also physically darker tooso much so fans have taken to Reddit to lament it.

    Another reboot fans have embraced in recent years is ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrinawhich is gorier, more dramatic remake of the beloved 90s sitcom Sabrina: The Teenage Witch.

    While the storylines are darker, it’s also physically darker tooso much so fans have taken to Reddit to lament it.

    ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is sooooo dark!’ het een gesê,

    'N Ander het geskryf: ‘I was watching the last episode just last night and had to pause and crank up the brightness.

    'N Derde bygevoeg: ‘My brightness has to always be set to 100 per cent with this show.

    It’s also been across movies shows including Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, as well as the recent reboot of West Side Story.

    Even long-running shows, such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead saw their hues fade over the seasons.

    The reason for the desaturation isn’t clearwith experts disagreeing on as to why the blue-greyness of TV has become common.

    Some say it’s to do with realism, as shows hyper-colourful showssuch as Desperate Housewives, Jane the Virgin and Ugly Betty play with the constructs of reality.

    Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars in 2004

    Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars in 2021

    Veronica Mars is another show that was rebooted in 2021 – and was filmed with much darker ‘more serioushues. Kristen Bell is pictured as Veronica Mars in 2004 (links) en 2021 (reg)

    Even long-running shows, such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead saw their hues fade over the seasons. Emilia Clarke is pictured left as Daenerys Targaryen in 2011

    Emilia Clarke is pictured left as Daenerys Targaryen in 2019 - with a much darker screen

    Even long-running shows, such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead saw their hues fade over the seasons. Emilia Clarke is pictured left as Daenerys Targaryen in 2011 en reg in 2019

    Stephen King's IT has always been a dark tale, but Pennywise the Clown was much brighter in 1990 (

    Pennywise is seen in 2017

    Stephen King’s IT has always been a dark tale, but Pennywise the Clown was much brighter in 1990 (links) than in 2017 (reg)

    Others say since the success of The Sopranos, the massively successful TV shows about the New York Mafia, first aired in 1999, TV has been becoming more dark.

    The hit TV show, which aired until 2007, was inspired by Gordon Willisfamous low-light work on The Godfather.

    The Soprano’s also came at a time of ‘prestige television’ – the idea that television had become ‘elevateddue to highly-acclaimed cable television shows and less sitcoms.

    Culture expert Michael Lallo previously explained writing in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Compared to more recent shows, The Sopranos might not strike you as dimly-lit. Maar, inspired by its success, others tried to replicate its look. ‘Darkbecame synonymous with ‘quality– then everyone got carried away. Nou, we need to close the curtains and squint when we watch Hannibal, True Detective or Marvel’s Daredevil’.

    Jurassic Park (op die foto, Jurasssic Park 3 in 2001) is brightly lit

    ... but Jurassic World is much poorer lit (2018, Chris Pratt pictured)

    The phenomenon has crossed into movies tooJurassic Park (links, Jurasssic Park 3 in 2001) was much more brightly lit than Jurassic World (2018, reg)

    West Side Story became a critically-acclaimed hit in 1961

    The Romeo & Juliet retelling has been remade in 2021 but is much darker

    West Side Story became a critically-acclaimed hit in 1961 (links) the Romeo & Juliet retelling has been remade in 2021 but is much darker (reg)

    Gina Gonzalez, a co-producer heading up post-production on Station Eleven, vertel Vox that hyper saturation is also associated with advertsand ‘no movie wants to feel like a commercial’.

    Another possible reason is the rise of digital filmmaking meaning editors can use ‘one size fits allcolour-corrections which wasn’t possible when cinematography was made using film.

    When using film, colour correction is done physically by applying chemicals to negatives in a lab.

    Maar nou, many studios use a ‘look up table,’ Volgens Vox.

    This is a formula that nearly will manipulates the raw footage to match a version of the colour palette the studio has agreed tobut this can lead to dull and uniform grading.

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