Men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.
Any scene location where the villains do their plotting is invariably dark. This includes, but is not limited to, starship command centers, unethical laboratories, and throne rooms. A more personal effect is when the villain seems to absorb the light around him, presenting dramatic shadows that you could have sworn weren't there moments before the heroes arrived.
In some circumstances, it's obvious. The villains don't want to meet on the street, either to conspire or with a victim of Blackmail
, or travel with their ill-gotten and conspicuous goods, or go into their stronghold when it's broad daylight; people will see
them. Night is necessary to hide. Also, they may not want the characters they are talking to to be able to recognize them, and gloom helps there.
But they don't turn on the lights once they're inside the stronghold and everyone knows them.
Interestingly enough, it has been produced in a lab: people are more likely to be dishonest/commit moral transgressions in a dark environment.
Perhaps it is revealing What You Are in the Dark
Often the setting for the Omniscient Council of Vagueness
. Glowy orange or purple colors are optional. Compare Empathic Environment
, Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty
, and Face Framed in Shadow
. See also Dark Is Evil
and Darkness Equals Death
for why this trope is employed, and Chiaroscuro
(and the page image) for another reason why. Compare AND
contrast Daylight Horror
and Light Is Not Good
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Anime & Manga
- All evil plotting in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle takes place in almost complete darkness.
- Alucard's room in Hellsing is particularly dark, although it could be said that not much of Hellsing could be considered bright.
- Possibly justified because Alucard is a vampire, and vampires are typically nocturnal.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is interesting in that as the plot gets darker, so does the environment. Go on, see for yourself.
- Father from Fullmetal Alchemist plays it straight with his dark subterranean throne room.
- The Seven Stars from Shikabane Hime.
- The senators in Eureka 7. (Points for a dramatic green light in the center of the room.)
- Akatsuki in Naruto were initially shown to meet in a really dark cave with only their outlines being (barely) visible.
- This is eventually explainable as security protocol. When all they're doing is meeting, they pick a place nobody (including them) has ever physically gone near to minimize the chances of spies already present, and use telepresence to minimize the chance of being followed. Once their meetings start requiring physical supplies on hand, those include lights.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has Precia and most of the areas in her Garden of Time.
- In Death Note, Light Yagami's room, where he does most of his evil planning in the earlier part of the anime, is always dark.
- Played with in The Flash, where the Rogues typically do their plotting in a diner or bar and once met in a movie theater.
- Sin City is dark almost everywhere you go, but then again, it's a bad place.
Films — Animation
- Common in the Disney Animated Canon; villains almost always get a scene or two with low lighting.
- The Mansions of the Gods: Caesar's palace is huge and gloomy, with the regularly placed lamps barely providing any illumination.
- Strange Magic: The Bog King is introduced shrouded in shadows in his castle. After the time skip, it seems he's had a skylight installed signaling his more complicated portrayal post time skip.
Films — Live-Action
- Star Trek:
- Star Wars:
- Before becoming the Emperor, Palpatine always appeared as Darth Sidious, hidden in shadow to conceal his identity.
- Averted with the Empire. The Death Star and Star Destroyers are all pristine clean and extremely well lit. Except for Palpatine's throne room. Clearly, he's got a taste for it.
- The evil owner of the baseball team from The Natural kept his office unlit. That led to a humorous scene when the hero turned on the light on his way out, and the team owner completely overreacted. (Roger Ebert complained about the opposite device in his review, saying that Robert Redford and Glenn Close were frequently lit like angelic beings, just in case you didn't know who to root for.)
- In The Truth, the evil conspiracy has their dimly lit room described so that it matches the trope well and points out a potential advantage of using it: if the room is badly lit but for one bright light, it's hard to make out anyone's face and learn his identity.
- Lord Voldemort, aka the Dark Lord, is very fond of this trope. His favorite scenes for evil showdowns include an old graveyard (at midnight) and a vast chamber filled with snake statues built far underground. Also, Slytherin house, which has a far greater ratio of mean students to nice ones, has a common room that is noticeably darker compared to the common rooms of the other houses.
- Lampshaded by Dumbledore, who believes Voldemort is using the darkness and the death motifs to scare his enemies. From what we heard of Slytherin, he wasn't a very pleasant person, and the students who are enrolled in his house are usually very much like him, so it's somewhat justified.
- Specifically averted The Short Victorious War, in which the future Committee of Public Safety, who have not yet carried out their coup, meet in a tennis court in an abandoned high-rise—but while the windows are thoroughly blacked out, the inside is well lit.
- In Robert E. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon, Conan the Barbarian is taken to such a place.
Whether it was day or night the king could not tell. The palace of King Tarascus seemed a shadowy, nighted place, that shunned natural illumination. The spirit of darkness and shadow hovered over it, and that spirit, Conan felt, was embodied in the stranger Xaltotun.
- In Robert E. Howard's Kull/Bran Mak Morn story "Kings of the Night", where the Religion of Evil performs its Human Sacrifice:
The Druids of his own isle of Erin had strange dark rites of worship, but nothing like this. Dark trees shut in this grim scene, lit by a single torch. Through the branches moaned an eerie night-wind. Cormac was alone among men of a strange race and he had just seen the heart of a man ripped from his still pulsing body
- Averted, sort of, in The Man Who Was Thursday, when the Supreme Council of Anarchy meets over breakfast in broad daylight in a very public location. Of course, as with just about any other event in the novel, there's more going on than meets the eye. For starters, none of the Council members are actually evil.
- The Mediochre Q Seth Series: The Organisation Which I Represent is seen in one of their meetings at the start of The Good The Bad And The Mediochre. It's in a darkened room lit only by a single candle, which provides enough light for the various members to just about make out where they are, but prevents them from identifying each other.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: Federation starships are definitely better lit than Romulan, Borg, or Klingon ships (even after Klingons became good guys).
- Stargate Verse: averted with the Goa'uld, the Ori, and the Asurans, as all of them had pretty well lit ships. Played straight with Replicators and the Wraith. Seemingly inverted in Stargate Universe, as the Destiny (and presumably the other very old Ancient ships) was darker than the hostile alien ships were so far.
- iCarly: Nevel's blackmail of Carly takes place in the dark dingy alley behind her and Freddie's apartment building.
- This happens in Asfour, when Itzik is taken to meet Saragousti. Justified, as Saragousti has suffered very severe brain damage several years prior, barely moves if at all, and does not speak. Kobi uses him as a dummy boss quite literally; in that scene, he keeps Saragousti seated on a revolving chair with his back to the unwitting Itzik, who is very nervous about the scene.
- In The X-Files, the conspirators often meet to confer in dimly-lit, smoky rooms.
- In Studio C's "Evil Asides," the creepy old lady has dark green lighting and an ominous hum whenever she makes an aside about killing the lost campers who are following her.
- In one episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, the title character steps into such a lair, looks around, and says that just once, he'd like to meet a villain who demands fresh air and sunshine.
- Towards the end of Breaking Bad, the Whites' home is commonly shown in darkness with lots of shadows, creating an uncomfortable atmosphere as Walter and Skyler descend further into the underworld. This is contrasted with the Schraders' house, which is always bright, well-lit, and roomy.
- The Wyatt Family live in a dark shack in a dank swamp. When they enter the arena, the lights go out, the only light being a lantern carried by Bray Wyatt.
- The Undertaker is famous for putting out the lights just by showing up. One of his trademarks is to slowly raise his arms, causing the lights to come back on.
- Subverted in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures : Dan finds the Dark Pegasus plotting in a dimly-lit room, but it's not because he's evil - the power went out due to reckless damage caused by Dan's allies.
- Kyran from Emergency Exit likes this, despite complaints about its impracticality.
- Played straight, lampshaded and then subverted in this strip.
- Sluggy Freelance both plays straight and lampshades this one with sinister corporation Hereti-Corp, whose "Evil Room" is kept dark. Lampshaded in its initial appearance and again when the company is dismantled and its leaders take over a fast-food franchise from the bottom up. The rebuilt corporation of later years plays it straight.
- Bob and George here and here
- Lampshaded via a Running Gag in Pebble Version is the (presumably) Big Bad's search for adequate lighting in his office. When he did get a lamp, it was blindingly bright.
- In Far from Home, lampshaded when the prisoners ask why and the captain answers it's for effect.
- The Order of the Stick
- There's the deep dark Dungeon of Dorukan in the first mention of plot. Interestingly it doesn't seem to be that dark inside; the PCs aren't even carrying torches.
- Subverted with the Monster in the Darkness, which is always shadowed by magical darkness. He is not really evil, and wants more than everything get out of the darkness. The problem is that he is the secret weapon of the villains who don't want to reveal him until the dramatically appropriate moment.
- Spoofed in Exterminatus Now, when just prior to The Reveal, The Mole calls his employer, a sinister face in a green glowing darkness... who turns out the be The Mole's poker buddy who was sleeping in bed with a digital alarm clock with a green display, and The Mole appologizes for calling the wrong number. Then we get the Big Bad from a previous arc, cheerfully answering the phone in a brightly lit kitchen, cooking dinner and wearing a "Kiss the Cult Leader" apron.
- In El Goonish Shive, Lord Tedd is shown to be in a dark room in two out of three of his appearances. The third appearance is in well lit rooms. He seems far more evil in the dark room than in the well lit rooms to the point of seeming to be a different person entirely (which is not out of the question given the multiversal setting).