Aesthetics Exploration – Grimdark

There is a light and dark from the many perspectives of the world, whether its story telling, imagery or even music. There is some sense of a high and low, a yang and yang, In this repetitive duality, Grimdark came into fruition in the genre of fantasy as a counter-balance the the high-fantastical aesthetic . True to it’s connotation, Grimdark takes a more opposite approach to the typical fairy tale world. Said approach is stretched to all aspects in the fantasy realm; the architecture, environment, and even the characters themselves are conveyed in darker circumstances than their high-fantasy counterparts. Recent productions of the grimdark aesthetic in media include George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, the modern expressions to DC’s Batman, Frank Herbert’s Dune or Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Dark Souls Franchise.

Contrary to what would be popular belief, original depictions of the fairy-tale were always Grimdark, It’s most popular association, the grimdark aesthetic in the fairy-tale realm come hand-in-hand. Popularized in the modern world by the Grimm Brothers, who travelled across numerous towns and people in Germany, who collected stories told by the inhabitants. Stories such as Hans my hedgehog, snow white and Hansel and Gretel. But to the studious fan of this genre, they would point out the violent and dark expression that is often told in these original tales. Including torture, murder, starvation, cannibalism and many more dark events. These tales were often told as warnings and lesson to children. Though based in a world not of reality, fairytales were originally displayed in a dark and “realistic-outcome” oriented stories. Grimdark, was supposedly the original aesthetic of the fairy-tale fantasy genre.  

This Aesthic emphasizes on the dystopian perspective of the media’s genre, where there is no obvious hope to the beholder. Instead of the knightly hero who will slay the dragon simply to save the kingdom, there is a anti-hero who will consider slaying a dragon for a pretty penny. This tonal shift is best exemplified by the recent Dark Knight trilogy, were the campy super-hero comic aesthetic is replaced by a realistic approach of Gotham. The city itself is changed from the futuristic Art-Deco metropolis to a more modern-style city, Nolan expressing this by shooting the film in the city of Chicago. Batman’s own gadgets are switched from the campy style of baterangs (a boomerang but shaped like a bat), or boatmobiles, two devices that will return to batman after hitting a henchman or a car with batwings on its sides. Nolan’s grim dark approach chaned the baterangs to bat-shuriken’s and the bat-mobile to a heavily armored car that just simply painted the color black and no other representation to being “bat-like” as a classic Batman comic would depict. 

The Grimdark aesthetic can be argued as an outlook that has been with cultures for much of human history, being a reflective projection of the human experience living and surviving on this earth. Where style is approached with a more cold-hearted and realistic approach to what is to be expected of the world.


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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Sammie Duran
    March 15, 2024 4:16 pm

    Hi Benjamin. I really enjoyed your blog post exploring the Grimdark Aesthetic. I think it was quite interesting how you mentioned that “Contrary to what would be popular belief, original depictions of the fairy-tale were always Grimdark…” because the mainstream connotation of fairy tales has always been unrealistic happy endings, which in turn, has induced this sense of grand expectations on an average person’s life in the modern world. As a result of this unrealistic, overly optimistic approach to the events that occur within one’s life, I feel as though it further engrains in the human mind that what we currently have and experience in our own unique lives is still, not enough and will never be enough. As a result, we will continue to try and convince you to buy meaningless products, that will help you get closer to living your “fake fantasy life,” because your current life will never be enough. Though this may seem like an extreme approach, this is just one of the many ways to analyze and observe how the U.S. government/mainstream media regularly brainwashes us to continue living in a vicious cycle of consumerism in the modern world. Do you feel if Grimdark fairytales were told the way they truly are to us in our childhood, we would have a more realistic, balanced grasp on our reality and self-identity, without always needing to compare ourselves to these unrealistic “fantasies”?

  • Hi Benjamin, I really enjoyed your post on the grimdark aesthetic! I liked your initial definition about how there will always be a dark to every light and I really like the way you told a story through fairytales and the dark night series throughout the post. Why do you think fairytales shifted away from grimdark to happy and light? Furthermore, do you think that is negatively effecting our society or does it have no effect in your opinion? In terms of rubric stuff, there were a few spelling and grammatical errors and a lack of references.


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