The colour purple (not the 1985 film The Colour Purple, which merits its own article) carries with it a number of symbolic associations. It can denote royalty, conjure mystery or evoke spirituality. But of all the common associations the colour purple carries, there is one that is regularly overlooked on the Crystal Healing Colour Symbolism blogs I’ve come across while researching this article; its association with queerness.
Purple is a recurring colour throughout recent queer history. The rainbow flag, originally designed by San Francisco gay activist Gilbert Baker in 1978, uses a Violet stripe to denote ‘Spirit’ - referring to the enduring spirit of the queer community to remain resilient and proud in a hostile world. Nowadays, Spirit Day and Wear It Purple Day both utilise a purple theme as a way of wearing your pride to honour and empower the LGBTQI+ community.
Similarly the Bi Pride flag, designed by Michael Page in 1998, uses a pink stripe to represent same-sex attraction, a blue stripe to represent attraction to other sexes and a streak of lavender to highlight how those two colours can co-exist as their own individual colour and identity.
“Lavender lads” was a term used to refer to homosexual men in the '50s, and the “Lavender Scare” was the name given to a mass witch-hunt for queer people in US government departments during the height of broader “Red Scare” anti-communist paranoia at the time.
Whether used by our aggressors or reappropriated for our own interior design, it’s hard to deny that purple - in all its shades - is pretty queer.
It follows, then, that anything purple is inherently queer, including (but not limited to); Purple Majesty potatoes, Cadbury Chocolate wrappers, and the soap I’m currently using. Well, I mean, that’s probably not the case… But as the Babadook’s designation of “gay icon” shows, queers love to make anything and everything queer for queer’s sake, evidence and logic be damned.
While an article of me listing inane purple objects as queer is mildly entertaining (e.g. a Nintendo Gamecube, the Professor Plum token from a second-hand box of Cluedo my dad gave me), it is Halloween and there really should be a spooktacular element to this article.
There is a nice overlap in this sense. Halloween is often called Queer Christmas for how it lends itself to camp sensibility, drag, dress ups, and fun - essentially making it the purple of holidays. However, outside of queerness, purple is often used in a spooky fashion anyway. I mean, it is the designated colour for Ghost-type Pokemon.
So why let the Babadook have all the fun as a spooky queer icon, when there are countless purple (i.e. queer) ghouls and monsters waiting to be recognised in all their fabulous glory. For instance:
Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid (1989)
With a lavender-grey complexion and vibrant purple tentacles, Ursula is without doubt a queer icon! Also, Disney partly based her character design on literal queer icon and drag queen Divine, so my math actually checks out.
The Count from Sesame Street
Speaking of math, this numerically-inclined fashionista - Count von Count from Sesame Street.The cape? The collar? The monocle, honey?! And most of all, that soft purple complexion... Read between the lines! If this number-lover started counting up the Kinsey scale you better believe he’s not stopping at a 0!
Randall from Monsters Inc. (2001)
Nevermind that 99% of this movie is set in the closet, scaly purple monster Randall Boggs (voiced by Steve Buscemi) offers a more in-depth look at some of the harder parts about being queer. With the ability to camouflage in with his surroundings and be unseen, it’s an obvious metaphorical look into treading the line between visibility and invisibility.
The Devil Emoji
What devil is purple? It should be red, right? The colour design of the emoji devil truly makes no sense - until you realise that their skin tone matches the eggplant emoji. A clear sign we’re meant to read Emoji Devil as sexually liberated, the use of purple clearly intends to skewer ideas regarding “sins of the flesh” coming from more evangelical iPhone users.
This list does not even begin to touch on icons like Po from Teletubbies, Evil Minions from Despicable Me 2 or Grimace from the extended McDonalds Playground Universe (MPU). Purple appears throughout pop culture countless times, during Halloween and throughout the year. So next time you see anything or anyone purple, know this - it’s queer.
Alistair Baldwin is a writer, comedian and “critic” based in Melbourne but loyal only to Perth.