The Overuse of Gritty

For some reason everyone now seems to be obsessed with the word gritty. Whenever a movie isn’t happy and bright, people like to default to saying that a movie or game or book is gritty. The word seems to have taken on this new meaning that doesn’t really gel with what it originally sent. In fact, gritty gets thrown around so often and frequently that it has lost much of it’s meaning if it even had any in the first place. It’s rather unfortunate that the word has been overused to this point that saying gritty really no longer has any meaning. Recently, the word has been tossed around in association of the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, something I’m not sure will play out quite as it is being described. But Fantastic Four is far from the only film that has used the gritty word as a part of its description that is supposed to tell the audience it all and draw them in.

Gritty’s Definition

cheap thrillsGritty has 3 main definitions. 1. containing very small pieces of sand or stone : containing grit. This is generally not the definition that people are using. Though this could potentially describe the way film may look. 2. having or showing a lot of courage and determination. Most characters aren’t described as gritty in this way. Instead people tend to use words like persistent or stubborn. 3. harsh and unpleasant. This is the closest definition that seems to fit with the way it is now commonly used in media.

How Media Uses Gritty

The media seems to have jumped on the idea hat gritty either means dark or realistic. Those two potential meanings are part of the reason why the term gritty is losing it’s meaning as it’s bandied about for half the movies that are out there. People often think of gritty as the addition of darkness or perversion that is supposed to make the world being depicted come across as more realistic. This tends to translate to a darker visual style or a sense of harshness and brutality when it comes to novels. Based on the definition that fits best, that it means harsh an unpleasant, this is often far from the truth in some of the movies that utilize this description.

The Issue

Gale Hawthorne

Gale is whipped

Gritty is a term that could be a very effective description, at least it was until it became a buzzword and then was used to describe anything that vaguely resembled the term. By using the word so loosely it has lost meaning. Thus now when someone describes something as gritty, I’m prompted for further description because I’m not sure what they mean. Do they mean that it feels realistic? Is it a dark look at the world? Is it grounded in what people would believe is possible? Tell me because gritty no longer cuts it like it used to.

Examples of it’s use

The constant misuse of gritty is enough to drive a person mad who uses words with the intention of them having meaning. However, there are films that do get associated with the term that deserve it’s use. There are a bunch of movies that fall under the label one of the biggest films to be gritty is the Hunger Games, which takes the child murder games a bit more seriously than the very similar Battle Royale which was dark and violent, but not quite gritty (the violence of Battle Royale came off as more spectacle and shock than a harsh reality). The Hunger Games displayed the nastiness of people who could care little of teenagers fighting to the death for the sake of entertainment and oppression. That is unpleasant and shows the harsh world in which Panem was. One of the biggest offenders of the misuse of gritty comes in the form of Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. While, the trilogy is absolutely fantastic and brought Batman closer to reality than any of the previous iterations of the character, it never came off as gritty. I’m sure there would be plenty of people who would like to argue it. But it comes down to the portrayal of the character. Batman felt more realistic, the harsh world of Gotham felt more tangible and less cartoonish. However, there was still a lightness to the series that shined through the dark sheen that was plastered onto the series. Thus I will give it that Gotham was a gritty depiction of the city. But the story was not. Equally Man of Steel was grounded, but it was not gritty. Being grounded and being gritty are two different things.

Do you think gritty is overused?

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