The Significance of Red Opposing Blue

red-v-blue-1People in my position, or anyone laboring through an MFA thesis paper, are often asked to write at length about influences into the work they produce. When pushed into directions that I do not find helpful I usually descend back into lowbrow influences and indulge in what I can enjoy without over complicating the material. Therefore, I have been pushed back into the pool of gaming and geek culture where I have no regrets. While on this hiatus away from critical thought, I cannot help but notice trends within the material I am viewing.

It seems for many years there has been a unique phenomena occurring in popular culture, i.e. video games, movies, and novels. This focus being on the distinction between two opposing sides, or three if you want to get picky. We can generally agree that two opposing sides are Good vs. Evil. However, the sides I am focused on are specifically concerned with the color of teams. There are many variations with colors current;y however they typically are a variation on what seems to be on the two primary colors; red and blue. I will not hesitate that the web series Red vs. Blue from Rooster Teeth reinvested my interested in this topic after getting their RVBX box set. This show has a literal title that distinguishes the sides against each other in a Machinima series of the Halo series.

I want to quickly spoil the history of the rise of color distinction in popular culture so I can concentrate more on the history behind the influences. For me, the reference is so obvious I feel stupid to have to point it out.

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The mood lighting helps with the mise en scene.

Although this connection to what is occurring today is pretty clear, there are particular elements that I need to point out. The entire Star Wars series, no matter how you feel about the prequels or Episode VII, essentially pairs good against evil. The Jedi, often paired with blue or green, and the Sith, commonly associated with red, square off for the control of the galaxy. However, I must point out the Jedi would never want to control the galaxy, but set up a system more like guidelines. To draw a quick conclusion so you don’t have to reread what many of you know, red equals bad and blue means good.

Star Wars however draws the line between what side the audience should be empathetic towards. Red should clearly belong to the aggressor in any dispute. However this brings me to leap forward a couple of decades to a groundbreaking PC game called Warcraft. The opposition of sides couldn’t be more clear as humanity itself is threatened.

Today these two would jump into a WWE ring and settle the score.

Today these two would jump into a WWE ring and settle the score.

I was lucky and was turning 7 at the time of its release, and just like any kid I was playing games I shouldn’t have. Blue often identifies the Humans as red represents the Orcs. Clearing being a human myself easily allows me to sympathize with my brothers in this game. The Orcs, which invade the Human world from Draenor, are vile and take no mercy in order to achieve conquest.  This should clearly paint the picture with red representing bad dudes with axes and the Dark Side. However the game developer behind Warcraft, Blizzard, throws a curveball and allows you to be the Orcs. Why does this matter you ask? To simply put it, colors no longer represent a good or bad side. They might be indicators of what you should feel about them, but we cannot expect to think someone is evil if they are fire-truck red.

Ultimately this brings me back to Red vs. Blue. I must admit that any game, movie, or novel that indicates distinction through colors, I am always drawn to whoever is wearing blue. This might be why I would also want to be in Ravenclaw, but let’s not think about that at the moment. Therefore when I see Blue Team in RVB I instantly am drawn into the war against the Reds. However I become in conflict with myself as I also enjoy the characters on the Red Team such as Grif and Simmons.Grif_and_Simmons_on_cliff

These teams easily dispute each other, but in the end they do seem to work out their differences. Why this show is so successful and transcending is the fact that the creators realized that colors and sides no longer matter. By forcing good or bad motivation towards a side, there is little room to navigate outside of that expectation. Halo can also take credit for part of this as they built the color based teams that RVB uses. I give most credit however to RVB for opening up the possibilities of alignment to any color and removing the tropes of identification.

In the end, the significance of red against blue is the way in which we have been trained to empathize with a color. Identifying a side with color is an easy method to develop a villain through red or our hero through blue, but this becomes to easy and not interesting as many films continue it. From that, I just encourage you to go watch Red vs. Blue and see what I am talking about.