Why So Blue?

Written by: admin

Have you ever wondered why so many characters in television and film are blue? Not blue as in sad, but blue as in color. From The Smurfs to Avatar, blue is the popular choice for an alternative skin color. As it turns out, there is a way for human skin to turn blue!

A condition caused by high exposure to chemical forms of silver, known an argyria, can change the color of skin from a normal color to a blue or bluish-grey color! If you inhale or ingest enough silver, the element accumulates in the body over time. When exposed to sunlight, the particles under the skin darken, which turns the skin a bluish hue. Argyria is not life-threatening, but still, you probably do not want to ingest that much silver. A man in California gradually turned blue after drinking gallons of colloidal silver per week for years – that’s commitment. 

So, are the Smurfs ingesting silver? Who knows? The reasons behind blue characters are rarely discussed. Skeeter from Doug, Beast from X-Men, and even Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen are all portrayed in shades of blue without any explanation. But it still might leave you wondering, “Why blue?” Well, in the case of Dr. Manhattan, there might be an answer. James Kakalios, a physics professor at the University of Minnesota and author of The Physics of Superheroes, theorized a scientifically plausible answer for why Dr. Manhattan is blue:

Could be because of an electromagnetic shock front which gives off energy in the ultraviolet or the blue portion of the spectrum. He has to reassemble himself on the removal of his intrinsic field. He is constantly generating, pulling up stray electrons out of the ground to keep his atomic balance right. Some of these electrons are leaking off creating drain off radiation. By adjusting how fast they’re going he can adjust the hue and intensity of his glow.

Interesting. But, as much as we want a scientific reason behind it, the blue colors of so many popular characters might be a coincidence. Blue is a popular color in general, so maybe it’s just an artist picking the shade they admire most. Or maybe these characters are drinking gallons of silver each day…

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.