5 Hidden Messages In Movie Costumes
From Marty McFly's red vest to Cruella de Vil's fur coat to Batman's urine-filled rubber singlet, movie costumes are often as iconic as the characters themselves. Sometimes, though, those seemingly random pieces of clothing can offer subtle hints to larger themes. We're not saying that Beetlejuice's pants solve the Kennedy assassination (we're not not saying that either, mind), but we found some other examples of cinematic garments hiding movie-changing, symbolically deep, or just plain cool secret messages.
The Last Jedi -- Luke's Robes Hint That He's Suicidal
At the end of The Force Awakens, our hero Rey finally finds Luke Skywalker. Weirdly, the savior of the Galaxy is solemnly loitering by a cliff, presumably pining for that trip to Tosche Station which fate robbed him of.
At the beginning of The Last Jedi, we finally see the resolution of the scene: Luke tosses aside his lightsaber before storming off to his room, presumably to sulk and listen to whatever the Star Wars equivalent of Morrissey records are. Bizarrely, once he's alone, like Mariah Carey between songs, he changes outfits, wistfully stroking his Jedi gear as he packs it all away.
Luke then spends most of the movie dressed in the tattered rags of a college art professor ...
... which raises the question of why he was in his Jedi robes at all. Isn't he pretty anti-Jedi at this point? A potential clue comes later on when we see Luke don his robes again, this time before he goes to go burn down the Jedi library. Though to be fair, housing your collection of priceless books inside a goddamn tree seems destined for catastrophe regardless of what you do.
This is Luke's lowest moment in the movie, after Rey has discovered the truth that he once considered bumping off his nephew. Why dress up for such an occasion? Luke tells Yoda, "I'm ending all of this." Which doesn't sound like he's only going to torch a tree. It sounds downright suicidal.
If Luke put on his robes as part of some kind of ceremonial goodbye, that could also explain why he was wearing them earlier, and why he was lurking at the edge of a giant cliff. Meaning that at the end of The Force Awakens, Rey inadvertently saved Luke's life.
It's not such a stretch. Luke tells Rey that he came to the island "to die," and Mark Hamill once referred to this version of Luke as " a suicidal, cranky old man." When Luke actually dies, he is, again, wearing his robes.
The official reason for all this, found in the movie's official novelization, is that the robes are the "ceremonial attire" for burning the magic tree down -- which doesn't really make sense. It seems more like the author concocted a sanitized version of the film's true subtext so that it didn't read like a Star Wars-y version of The Bell Jar. (The Bell Jar-Jar?)
Jurassic Park -- The Main Characters Are Color-Coded After Biblical Figures
Since most of the cast are fully nude (if you include the dinosaurs), Jurassic Park isn't exactly known for its costuming. Sure, there's Nedry and his Goonies -themed wardrobe, and Muldoon with his khaki shorts that leave nothing to the imagination, but that's it, right? Nope, the other costumes tie into a larger theme -- and like most unsolicited visitors to your front door, it has to do with the Bible.
The costumes of Jurassic Park turn everything into a loose creation allegory, with the island as a sort of Eden, albeit a cooler one with dinosaurs. As pointed out by lecturer Mike Hill, Hammond is the "archetypal" God figure, dressed all in white with a white beard. His whole deal is not only creation, but also containing that creation. And you know that if God exists, then he's bragging all the time about how expensive the Universe was.
Ian Malcolm, the Jeff Goldblum character turned internet meme, is the visual opposite of Hammond, dressed entirely in black, meaning he's either a Devil figure or a huge Johnny Cash fan. Not unlike the Satan of Genesis (the book, not the band), Malcolm's whole deal is chaos. Everything he believes in opposes the containment of this paradise.
That means Dr. Sattler and Dr. Grant are sort of the Adam and Eve of this allegory. Their gendered roles are underscored by the fact that they're dressed in pink and blue:
Like Satan in his snake-y form and Eve, Malcolm tries to tempt Ellie with the knowledge of chaos theory. The leather jacket and confident swagger probably help the whole "using experimental mathematics as a pickup line" bit.
As was the case with Eden, the whole paradise thing doesn't exactly go according to plan, because the dinosaurs are secretly doing it -- not through the Biblical route of performing self-surgery and deciding one of your bones should be a woman, but thanks to frog DNA. If only Hammond had spared no expense and stocked the park with Apple computers instead off-brand PCs, the symbolism would be perfect.
Zootopia -- Nick And Judy's Clothes Reference Disney's Racist Past
Few Disney cartoons have ventured to address race relations in America, which is why Woody and Buzz never left the comfort of Andy's room to teach high school in underserved communities. For some reason, though, Zootopia aimed to tackle institutional racism head-on. And this wasn't the first time Disney made a movie about race relations, though their earlier effort was a tad more, uh, unashamedly bigoted. Of course, we're talking about 1946's Song Of The South, in which cheerful black plantation worker Uncle Remus (who may or may not be a slave) sings songs and tells amusing stories for a pair of monstrous children to enjoy. Perhaps as atonement for this problematic history, Zootopia references Song Of The South.
Toward the end of the film, Nick, the conman fox (confox), sports his trademark green shirt, but his rabbit partner Judy Hopps changes into a pink shirt and jeans. Together, the pair now resemble B'rer Fox and B'rer Rabbit, two characters from Uncle Remus' stories.
Yup, presumably in an attempt to solve racism forever, Zootopia takes two enemies from Disney's most infamous movie and recast them as Riggs-and-Murtaugh-like crime-fighting buddies.
There are other even subtler callbacks to Song Of The South. When we first meet B'rer Fox, his plan is to trap B'rer Rabbit using a (sigh) "tar baby." When we first meet Nick, he is also running a scam using a fake baby.
Plus, the movie's exciting conclusion calls to mind the end of Uncle Remus' story. B'rer Rabbit gets tossed into the wild brier patch, while Nick and Judy get tossed into a museum replica of the wild:
B'rer Fox thinks the Rabbit is dead, while Zootopia's villain sees Nick kill Judy ...
... only to have it be revealed that they pulled one over on the villain and are secretly alive.
While Disney hides Song Of The South like you would a Nickelback tattoo at a job interview, there still are relics of the characters in Disneyland's Splash Mountain, which takes riders through an animatronic-filled version of the movie that conveniently omits the part about human beings being sold as property.
Get Out -- Everybody's Clothing Is Subliminal AF
Great horror movies often have great costumes, from Freddy Krueger's filthy Christmas sweater to Jason's hockey mask to The Shining's off-brand blowjob-giving Teddy Ruxpin. As we've mentioned before, the Oscar-winning horror hit Get Out is crammed full of tiny but significant details. Well, the costumes were no exception.
Take Chris and Rose, the happy couple who (spoiler!) hit a bumpy patch when it turns out Rose is only interested in him for his body (as a receptacle for a white cultist's brain). But before all that, the filmmakers wanted us to see them as a perfect American couple, subtly conveyed by the fact that their combined outfits form an American flag:
For the scene wherein Chris is first being hypnotized by Rose's mom, conditioning his mind to submit to a white one, his clothes are gray -- as in, the shade between black and white.
And the twist that the world's creepiest support staff are secretly Rose's grandparents is foreshadowed by their antiquated clothes. The maid's uniform is straight out of the 1950s ...
... while the groundskeeper is wearing vintage sneakers ...
It's a hint that he's the family's former Olympian, and not, say, a hipster with money to burn on eBay.
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade -- The Villain's Suit Reveals How The Movie Is A Mirror Image Of Itself
Before he fell into a coma offscreen and started dreaming about aliens, Indiana Jones had one final big adventure: The Last Crusade. Costumes are very integral to the third entry, which even reveals that Indy's iconic ensemble was originally cribbed from some greasy henchmen who almost murdered him as a child.
One costume choice, though, hints at one of the movie's subtler themes. In the climax, the villainous Walter Donovan (an American businessman who gets chummy with the Nazis) changes into a leisure suit. Notably, it's a light suit on top of a dark shirt and tie, which brings to mind the baddie from the movie's opening.
To further the connection between the two, both wear something on their lapel -- a rose for Panama Hat, and a Nazi pin for Donovan. They even foreshadow Donovan's secret malevolence by having him similarly wear a red rose in the very first time we meet him.
The Last Crusade is all about conquering unresolved childhood issues, which is why Donovan is meant to evoke Indy's first-ever evil adversary. The movie also reinforces this theme structurally, by having the final act play out like a mirror image of the prologue. Both begin with Indy venturing into a cave along with his bumbling sidekicks.
To get his hands on the Holy Grail, Indy has to go through three booby-trapped tests. Similarly, as young Indy escapes the looters who are after the also Jesus-y Cross of Coronado, he goes through three train cars. Each Grail test and train car share some kind of connection. In one, Indy has to do a somersault:
As a kid, Indy comes face to face with a lion. As an adult, he faces the "Leap From the Lion's Head," featuring a statue of a ... lion's head.
And when adult Indy can't spell "Jehovah," he falls through the floor ...
... which matches wee Indy falling through the floor of the train, in the false bottom of a magician's trunk.
Plus, the magician's trunk is (oddly) decorated with a goat's head and a pentagram, which are usually associated with paganism. So in both cases, it's a symbolic lack of piety that leads to Indiana Jones' fall.
Young Indy runs home and finds his dad reading a book about a knight ...
... while adult Indy finds a knight reading a book.
This all paves the way for Indiana Jones to save his father and patch up their relationship, thus sparing himself years of plundering ancient knick-knacks just to pay for the inevitable therapy bills.
Ever thought about getting a sewing machine and making some of your own costumes, even just as a cosplay? Could be fun.
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