How ‘Moonlight’ Is The Epitome Of The Pantone Color Of The Year

The 2020 Pantone color of the year is “Classic Blue,” and what an important color it is. To quote Pantone’s description of the color:

A timeless and enduring blue hue, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue is elegant in its simplicity. Suggestive of the sky at dusk, the reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue highlight our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.

Imprinted in our psyches as a restful color, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge. Aiding concentration and bringing laser like clarity, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue re-centers our thoughts. A reflective blue tone, Classic Blue fosters resilience.

The executive director of The Pantone Color Institute, Leatrice Eiseman, talked more about the color on the Pantone website, stating:

“We are living in a time that requires trust and faith. It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on. Imbued with a deep resonance, Classic Blue provides an anchoring foundation. A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky, Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking; challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective and open the flow of communication.”

This time of meditation and reassurance seems to be paramount in the 2016 hit Moonlight, which extensively used a color palette of dark blues and purples. Moonlight director Barry Jenkins seems to utilize a sense of meditation in his work, and that sense of meditative discovery is what makes Moonlight such a haunting, human work. Let’s take a further look at how the color blue influences the character of Chiron over the course of his life.

Little Chiron stands on the beach at a blue dusk and looks out at the water.
Photo credit: David Bornfriend

Chiron’s childhood is dominated by the ocean. Of course, the ocean itself is blue, but its color is used as the basis for the film’s palette. Little Chiron (played by Alex Hibbert) grew up in Miami, and as someone who was born in South Florida and lived in Miami for an extended amount of time, I’ve always loved looking at the ocean and experiencing life on the beach. The calmness that the ocean provides is what the color blue represents in Moonlight, and for Chiron, that calmness and emotional stability keeps him grounded at his core, despite the egoic sides of him going off in different directions as he grows up. Whether he’s a bullied teenager or an adult gangbanger, the calmness of the ocean–the calmness of his childhood–seems draw him back and keep him more centered than even he realizes.

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It’s important to note that the ocean is also symbolized through Mahershala Ali’s Juan. Juan commits criminal activity, but instead of acting like a stereotype, he acts as a soothing father figure for Chiron. He’s the one that teaches Chiron how to swim, essentially baptizing him in the blue ocean that will serve as Chiron’s emotional point of reference throughout his life.

Teenage Chiron is at school, where a blue door symbolizes a door between his childhood and his adulthood.
Photo credit: A24

This point of reference gets shaken up a bit though as Chiron goes through adolescence. Like the turbulent waters before a storm, Chiron (played this time by Ashton Sanders) realizes that he is different from some of the boys around him. His confusion over his sexuality becomes even greater when he tries to come to grips with his emotions for Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). Kevin initially shows interest in him, represented by the night they shared on the beach, bathed in blue. But back at school, where blue is presented as a painted door standing out amid florescent lighting, the calmness is fractured by stark reality. There is no calming presence here. Instead, there is peer pressure and internalized homophobia. Here, Kevin is forced to try to prove his manhood by beating up Chiron instead of being true to himself. Chiron’s relationship with his childhood self is broken in this moment, and he seems to forget that calming, stable presence that the ocean afforded him.

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Adult Chiron washes his face in a bathroom bathed in teal-blue light.
Photo credit: A24

But, his connection to the ocean and to the color blue is stronger than he realizes, since we see the color follow him into adulthood (played by Trevante Rhodes), where he’s far away from Florida, living in a landlocked apartment. However, his child self calls him back home. Not only to reconnect with a now more stable Kevin (André Holland), but with his mother (Naomie Harris) and his memories of Juan, baptizing him in a swimming lesson in the ocean. The ocean and its peaceful blueness reside within Chiron, as if it’s a part of his DNA. He cannot escape the ocean’s call, which means he always has a calming place to reside within himself, where he is at peace with himself. It’s no mistake that the last shot we see of Chiron isn’t as an adult; it’s as a child, being at one with the ocean waves.

Moonlight came out years before Classic Blue was designated as a color of the year. Interestingly enough, “Serenity,” a powder blue, was one of two colors for 2016, with a similar meaning as Classic Blue—“Serenity is weightless and airy, like the expanse of the blue sky above us, bringing feelings of respite and relaxation even in turbulent times.” Moonlight served as a fantastic film to represent this theme in 2016, and it’s a great film to reflect the deep feelings of Classic Blue today. The film is rooted in the calmness and peacefulness Classic Blue evokes, and that type of calmness and peacefulness is something we need going into the new year. Similar to how Chiron went back home to reconnect with the disparate parts of himself, let’s hope we can use 2020 to acquire the inner peace to face all parts of our being.