Pink or Blue pairs spoken word poetry with powerful gendered imagery to challenge gender barriers and predetermined gender identity.
Though not following a narrative arc per se, Pink or Blue has a clear thematic focus, exploring gender binaries in the modern world. The film was commissioned for the Cannes festival. When viewed without any filter, it features a split screen, meant to represent gender binaries; uniquely, it harnesses 3-D technology so when viewed through a particular set of glasses, the viewer is shown only one side of the film or the other. Each side shows contrasting images, with one side often showing traditional male expectations and the other showing female expectations, for example a pink flower placed next to a blue squirt gun; alternatively, the film will contrast an image consistent with gender expectations—for example a women obeying traditional beauty standards—with one subverting them—such as a woman with a shaved head and piercings.
A striking feature of Pink or Blue is its economical use of words and images—even the simple dichotomy of the colors pink and blue resonate deeply in terms of gender identity and predetermined barriers. The film forces the viewer to confront stark gender stereotypes—i.e. guns for boys, dolls for girls, etc. A particularly potent image features a girl wearing lipstick on one side while a boy on the other side is shown wiping lipstick off. The images are emblematic of the narrow corridors in which society allows children to exist. Each image could even be said to contain a little story within in it: the life of the person not conforming to gendered expectations—the wiping of the lipstick—contains a sadness and the viewer feels this boy hiding his true impulses because of a societal misconception that how he feels is wrong. The verbal pairings with the images are also succinct and powerful, i.e. “little pink picks a daisy chain—great. Little blue picks a daisy chain—gay.” In such a simple statement, notions of hypermasculinity and femininity are quickly encapsulated along with the hurtful effects of such unbending barriers and expectations.
The visuals in Pink or Blue go beyond the poetry that accompanies it by not just pointing out gender strictures but actually visually subverting them—i.e. one side of a boy being stoic while the other side shows him crying and a man dancing in a tutu. The visuals allow the viewer to see not just the barriers to gender expression but also an alternative way of being that allows more fluidity and freedom. Further, the images celebrate the beauty in this freedom. Perhaps the cleverest and most compelling recurring image of the film is of two babies in diapers. Most interesting is that the diapers allow for their genders to be undisclosed; while at the beginning of the film, one is introduced as male while the other is female, the two often switch which side of the frame they occupy and what kinds of objects (blue or pink) surround them. At the end of the film, their diapers are removed, revealing their gender, the opposite of what was originally introduced. The progression is essential to Pink or Blue’s message in that it literally trains the audience to put aside their internalized expectations of gender by visually demonstrating how fluid it truly is.
Pink or Blue deftly demonstrates that gender should be a spectrum rather than a preordained societal construct and lends voice to those who feel they do not fit with societally or biologically demanded norms.