Monday, November 7, 2016

Canvas 11.7.16

Costumes and Colors

Though this is not Currently Watching, I want to take a moment to highlight an aspect of many television shows, staged performances, and films, that I really have grown a fond appreciation of over the years. Costume design is an incredibly important part of the media we consume, providing another layer of depth to the characters that appeals to our unconscious mind. Rarely do we notice the finer details of certain costumes (unless we're actively searching for them) but they still have a large impact on how we perceive the character(s) and the world they live in.

In HBO's  Game of Thrones, Tywin Lannister is a stern, cold, and calculating nobleman who's very concerned with the legacy of his family. Michelle Clapton, who was the Head Costume Designer for Game of Thrones (Season 1-Season 5), reflects Tywin and his family through their unique costume choices.

Tywin and his family, of the House of Lannister, are often associated with lion iconography and a distinct color palette of red and gold. However, Tywin is rarely dressed in the stereotypical fashion of his family name (despite his strong ties towards maintaining it). Beneath is an example of the kind of clothing Clapton frequently presented Tywin in. There is a distinct lack of red in Tywin's attire which doesn't act as a rejection of his family ties, as much as it represents his character's nature. Tywin would do whatever it takes to maintain the political power of House Lannister and that requires setting aside the bloody crimson and adorning a more oppressive, mute, and callous black wardrobe. Note that on the interior of the black, rests the golden lion, indicating that the true heart of Tywin Lannister lies in his family's name and legacy.

One of the few instances where Clapton adorns Tywin in clothing of the typical Lannister color scheme is at the wedding of his grandson in Season 4. Tywin's grandson, Joffrey Baratheon, is the underaged reigning king of the Seven Kingdoms so it is safe to assume that the wedding of such a figure would require a spectacle to match. Tywin's character is presented in his Lannister reds for one of the few times at this wedding. Clapton presents Tywin as setting aside his political role as adviser to the king and cold-hearted politician for a more familial depiction of Tywin as the grandfather and Lord of House Lannister that he would undoubtedly be expected to represent at the union of two powerful families.

*Disclaimer: Season 3 & 4 Spoilers*

Even better, to adorn Tywin in the colors of his house reminiscent of blood at the wedding of his grandson carries great impact as well. The young king Joffrey is poisoned at his wedding feast, his throat closing up and blood pouring from his eyes and ears as his face turns a deep purple. Fans un-affectionally refer to this wedding as The Purple Wedding as a play on the purple-color Joffrey's face turns as he chokes to death. It also is a parallel to The Red Wedding, an event in the third-season of the show where Tywin Lannister orchestrates the murder of his enemies at a wedding feast (breaking guest rite and long-standing cultural moors within the universe). 

In the Season 4 Blu-ray commentary, Michelle Clapton highlighted that around 700 costumes are used in a single episode of Game of Thrones. The world crafted by George R.R. Martin has been brought forward by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss which has allowed for an entirely new way of approaching the fantasy series to evolve. The world itself is brought to life not only through the characters and the acting but by the spirit of culture represented in the distinct outfits and costumes. 

Clapton herself has stated that, "I love to try and indicate the emotional state of the characters through their costumes, and also to indicate their influence over other characters and courts. Sometimes this says so much more than words" (1). Though Clapton was not brought on for Season 6 of Game of Thrones, she was enlisted to create and style the only daughter of Tywin Lannister for what I will only describe as her most prominent scene of that season.

Cersei Lannister who forever lived in her father's shadow ends Season 6 of Game of Thrones representing the same grim and harsh visage that Tywin Lannister was imbued with throughout the series. Her costume is fierce, menacing, and reminiscent of a warrior, all the traits that a noblewoman like Cersei has been denied her entire life. 

Regardless of the character, their costumes and outfits are highly capable of transmitting new meaning into the story that sometimes cannot occur simply by reading the text. As a viewer, we don't realize the kinds of color palettes associated with certain characters until they are challenged with a striking contrast - very much represented in the cyclical use of red and black within the Lannister family in Game of Thrones.

- Christopher L. 

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