A love/hate relationship

I have been struck in my investigation of the color purple by its polarizing effect on those who view it. Our readings noted that people tend to either love purple or hate it. Its use in religion, then, is not surprising, as religion is often a polarizing topic. But, because our presentation focuses on religion, I decided to do a little outside investigating and see what other things the color purple connotes.

Our readings also list the following feelings as being associated with purple: mourning, death, nausua, conceit, pomposity. Other sources echo these reflections and also note that purple can be used to reflect old age, waning seasons or cycles and other sorts of endings. At the same time, some groups have appropriated and subverted this very connotation — the Red Hat Society wears purple in defiance of old age. The color is so powerful that women under 50 are allowed only to wear lavender (and pink, rather than red). I suspect this group may also wear purple in part because of its well-established connection to royalty. (And royalty historically have aspired to immortality, creating an interesting contradiction with the old-age connection.)

I found that purple also has the shortest wavelength visible to the human eye, after which colors pass into the (tellingly named) ultraviolet spectrum. This makes me wonder if purple’s ambivalent nature might actually have something to do with its “physical” properties. There are certainly enough web sites (though none I deemed entirely credible) that speculate about the mysteries properties of purple.

My favorite anecdote about purple is related to religion, and it made it into our final presentation. EuroDisney used lots of the color purple in its signs, but this caused viewers in “Catholic Europe” to view the signs as morbid, since they combined cartoons with the crucifixion of Christ.  The Color Matters website draws the conclusion that “Personal preference and ‘avant-garde’ tactics frequently cause color disasters.” Furthermore, the site notes, “When the wrong color is used on a web site, the damage extends to a global audience.” The few web sites I have come across that boast a purple layout are primarily sites dealing with spirituality of some sort — hardly a surprise.

Unfortunately, due to time and space limitations, most of the fascinating tidbits about the color purple simply can’t be included in the “Purple in Christianity” presentation that Stephanie and I have developed. Nevertheless, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the color — and about colors in general — during this module. (Allow me to end here before I am accused of “purple prose!”)

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