****CAUTION: This blog may contain spoilers, so read at your own risk!!! *******
AMC’s hit show Breaking Bad is a thrilling TV series about a bland chemistry teacher who becomes a entangled in the world of drugs, crime, and the production of Crystal Meth. Throughout the show, creator Vince Gilligan has paid close attention to how color was used. Each color has a meaning, each character has a color, and they all tie together to communicate mood, theme, and meaning on the show.
Each character’s wardrobe is picked specifically to help portray the character. What makes it so effective is how the colors change with the character, showing their growth and emotions. Below is a short clip on the costumes used
One of the most obvious uses of color in the show is Marie and her obsession with purple.
All she wears is purple, her house’s furniture; also purple. Anything associated with Marie really, is purple. So when she isn’t wearing purple, you feel a little uneasy. Why isn’t she wearing it? She’s worn it for the last three seasons why is it yellow now? Well, it means something big is going to happen. So you better watch out.
Marie’s character is the most static in the show. She hardly changes, so when she does it is noticeable. Below is an overview of Marie’s wardrobe for the first 5 seasons, and shows what events happen when there is a shift in the hue of her clothes.
Here is a short podcast on how color makes the show more dynamic.
An example of how color is used to show characters relationships, we can look at Marie and Jesse. Jesse Pinkman is often associated with the color yellow, which is also the color that represents meth, danger, and fear. Marie’s color, purple, symbolizes safety, royalty, and the opposition of anything meth related. On the color wheel, they are complementary, meaning on opposite ends. The characters contrast each other, which makes the scenes between them dramatic.
WHAT DOES EACH COLOR MEAN?
Yellow: danger, meth/drugs,caution, something is going to happen (Jesse Pinkman)
Orange: neutral, caution (Saul)
Red: death, blood, violence, anger, aggression (Hank)
Blue: loyalty, pure, safety, sadness (Skyler)
Purple: safety, non-drugs, royalty (Marie)
Green: envy, money, greed, wealth (Walter)
White: pure, innocent, loyalty, light (Holly)
Black: darkness, power, death, deception (Heisenberg)
The main character, Walter White, goes through a shift from white to black, and every color in between. He starts as a very average dude, cooking meth with Jesse in a trailer. He wears only his white underwear and a green apron. The white shows his innocence and how he isn’t involved in the drug business yet, and the green shows he’s doing it for the money. His character goes through a lot of changes which mirror his wardrobe, as seen in the chart below
He starts with lots of greens and neutral colors, but changes to the dramatic yellows and reds as the show’s plot gets more intense. Over the course of the show, he transforms into Heisenberg, the black clad meth cook with all of the power.
The color used in Breaking Bad was deliberate and apparent to enforce the symbolism, characters, relationships, and themes. Each color worked to bring out emotions to enhance the experience of the viewer. Although not always apparent, the colors played a big part in connecting the characters and creating a dynamic show that was a thrill to watch, with new details to be discovered with every episode.