Bisexual lighting is the simultaneous use of pink, purple, and blue lighting to represent bisexual characters. It has been used in studio lighting for film and television, as has been observed in the cinematography of various films. Whether the technique exists as a general phenomenon in filmmaking is disputed.
George Pierpoint of BBC News writes that some social media users claim bisexual lighting has been used as an "empowering visual device" which counteracts perceived under-representation of bisexuality in the visual media. The colors may be a direct reference to the bisexual pride flag. The trend gained traction in the LGBT community in 2017 particularly on social media sites Twitter, Reddit, and Pinterest. Sasha Geffen wrote at Vulture.com that it had become "solid in its meaning", while Nicky Idika of PopBuzz wrote that it has now "become an established part of bisexual storytelling in media". And while The Daily Dot questioned whether "the aesthetic or the cultural significance [came] first", it too concluded that the idea "has stuck". Pantone selected "Ultra Violet" as the color of 2018 in a move the BBC says reflected the growing use of the scheme.
Amelia Perrin has criticized the trend of using such lighting when bisexual characters appear in television and music videos, arguing in Cosmopolitan that this visual image "perpetuates bisexual stereotypes". Perrin argues that this kind of lighting is usually produced by neon lights, which suggest "clubs and dancefloors" to the viewer, and this implies that "bisexual hook-ups and relationships are merely 'experiments', and something that only happens when you’re drunk on a night out."
According to Jessica Mason of The Mary Sue, the color purple—being a combination of multiple pure, spectral colors—has historically been used to represent "royalty and the divine," as well as "magic, aliens and the unknown." Living as a bisexual person is often portrayed in media as being an "othering" experience, which over time helped forge a link between bisexual lighting and queer representation in media.
Use in popular media
According to Pierpoint, the visual aesthetic may have been used as early as 2014 in the television series Sherlock, referencing the speculated hidden interests of Dr. Watson. The lighting has been used in numerous television and film media, typically in scenes featuring bisexual characters. The Hollywood films The Neon Demon, Atomic Blonde, and Black Panther all feature the use of blue, pink, and purple lighting. Similarly, the award-winning Black Mirror episode "San Junipero" made use of the visual aesthetic. Later, the television series Riverdale and The Owl House, as well as the 2020 film Birds of Prey were also stated to be using it. The third episode of Loki features this lighting in a scene where the title character discloses his bisexuality.
Bisexual lighting also features in the music videos of Janelle Monáe's "bi anthem" "Make Me Feel" and Demi Lovato's "Cool for the Summer". Showing continued use, the term was used to describe some of the visuals in Lil Nas X's "Panini" in September 2019, and the presence of the lighting was proposed by Cosmopolitan as evidence to further fan theories of a bisexual reading of Taylor Swift's Lover first based on ambiguous lyrics.
Lara Thompson, a lecturer of film at Middlesex University, has argued that bisexual lighting is not well-known, stating: "I would have to see more examples before I see bisexual lighting as a wholly convincing phenomenon". According to Lillian Hochwender writing in Polygon, "Bi lighting often feels ubiquitous, even when there isn’t a hint of bisexuality in sight... These are the colors of magic in fantasy, alien landscapes in sci-fi, and the neon lighting of cyberpunk settings and nightclubs. Thus, while Twitter users and media critics have noted bi lighting in John Wick 3, Blade Runner 2049, 2019’s Color Out of Space, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, there’s often a less gay logic for doing so."
The use of bisexual lighting became a popular meme in 2018, with multiple Twitter threads showcasing instances of the lighting scheme going viral, as well as photographs of animals in bisexual lighting being shared widely on social media. In 2022, bisexual lighting was noticed in Netflix's Heartstopper and HBO's Euphoria TV series.
The vaporwave aesthetic has also been used in comic books.
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- Pierpoint, George (2018-04-22). "Is 'bisexual lighting' a new cinematic phenomenon?". BBC News. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
- Hochwender, Lillian (2022-02-01). "The bisexual movie canon reaches beyond the obvious". Polygon. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
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- David, Sara (23 February 2018). "Fortify Yourself with the Beauty of Bisexual Lighting". Vice. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
- Geffen, Sasha (23 February 2018). "Janelle Monáe Steps Into Her Bisexual Lighting". Vulture.com. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
- Idika, Nicky (26 February 2018). "You Definitely Never Noticed The Bisexual Lighting Aesthetic...Until Now". PopBuzz. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
- "'Bisexual lighting' is a having a big moment right now". The Daily Dot. 2018-02-28. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
- "Let's Chat About 'Bisexual Lighting'". The Mary Sue. 2019-11-27. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
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- Team, Editorial (2019-09-22). "One from the vaults: Bisexual lighting and why it's definitely a thing". DIVA. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
- "How The Bisexual Lighting Meme Made Me Feel Seen | MTV UK". Retrieved 2018-11-26.
- Fleenor, S. E. (2020-06-18). "Birds of Prey is pure bisexual disaster energy". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
- Taylor. "The Owl House Highlights its Magic with Bisexual Pride - The Fandomentals". Retrieved 2021-03-04.
- Herron, Kate. "From the moment I joined @LokiOfficial it was very important to me, and my goal, to acknowledge Loki was bisexual". Retrieved 2021-06-23.
- "Lil Nas X's Panini video is here". i-D. 5 September 2019. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
- Gilmour, Paisley (2019-08-23). "Fans think these lyrics on Taylor Swift's 'Lover' are proof she dated Karlie Kloss". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
- "Fortify Yourself with the Beauty of Bisexual Lighting". www.vice.com. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
- "Wait, so it turns out the lighting and colours in Heartstopper have a deeper meaning". The Tab. 2022-05-05. Retrieved 2022-05-09.
- Herman, Alison (2022-01-10). "'Euphoria' Doesn't Need Shock Value Anymore to Make Us Keep Watching". The Ringer. Retrieved 2022-05-09.
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- Media related to Bisexual lighting at Wikimedia Commons