What is it about?
Of course light is important in light -- without it, we wouldn't see anything. But light and dark are also often used metaphorically (some scholars would say: symbolically). In mainstream films, good people or creatures are often shown bathing in light, and also may wear white, or bright, clothes; by contrast, bad people or creatures are often shown in the shady, and in dressed in darker clothes. But this cliché does not always hold. For one thing, a director may mislead film viewers by reversing the LIGHT/DARK meaning. And light and dark are not only linked to goodness versus darkness, but also, for instance, to knowing versus not-knowing.
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Why is it important?
Lightness and darkness are phenomena that are highly significant to people. It is unsurprising that light is associated with good things, as light enables us to see, and thus to know things. If it is dark, we cannot see dangers, and we therefore feel unsafe. The associations we have with light and dark are thus rooted in biological survival mechanisms. The LIGHT/DARK metaphors may therefore be universal. It is important that we do not only analyse meaning that is governed by culture, but also meanings that are triggered by natural instincts.
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This page is a summary of: The GOOD IS LIGHT and BAD IS DARK metaphor in feature films, Metaphor and the Social World, December 2013, John Benjamins, DOI: 10.1075/msw.3.2.03for.
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"Gandalf meets Saruman" sequence in “The Fellowship of the Ring” (Jackson, USA 2001)
In this sequence Gandalf visits his old master Saruman, who is dressed in white and initially bathes in light -- suggesting he is "good." But fairly quickly it turns out that Saruman is not to be trusted. This is revealed by his actions, but also by the change in lighting. Note that Gandalf is dressed in grey -- neither white, nor grey. This suggests he is neither completely good nor completely bad.
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