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Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty

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"He meditated resentfully on the physical texture of life. Had it always been like this? Had food always tasted like this? He looked round the canteen. A low-ceilinged, crowded room, its walls grimy from the contact of innumerable bodies; battered metal tables and chairs, placed so close together that you sat with elbows touching; bent spoons, dented trays, coarse white mugs; all surfaces greasy, grime in every crack; and a sourish, composite smell of bad gin and bad coffee and metallic stew and dirty clothes..."

The setting, costumes, lighting, and sound of a production are critical in setting its tone and mood. One of the most fundamental stylistic choices is where to position these production values on the sliding scale of shiny vs gritty.

Stereotypically "shiny" elements include reflective plastic, chrome, stainless steel, precious metals, gems, glass, light, fine woods, fine fabrics, bright colors, pastels, pop music, Classical Music, and ballads (power, or otherwise).

"Gritty" elements include dirt, rust, dust, blood, iron, broken glass, darkness, rough plywood, concrete, Abandoned Areas, burlap, items that are scratched, pockmarked or damaged, scrapyards, deliberate monochrome, sepia, hard rock, punk rock, and heavy metal. But context is everything. Many choices fall somewhere in between the gritty and shiny extremes; hence, the "sliding scale". Indeed, some works may blend shiny and gritty aesthetics.

This is one of those scales where productions tend to be uniform throughout rather than varying from scene to scene. Furthermore, there is a tendency for a work to head toward one end of the scale or the other to take advantage of the evocative power of shiny or gritty. The occasional contrasting scene is used just to highlight the overall tone. A contrasting tone may be used to emphasize a position on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. Some Shoujo Manga have immaculate settings inhabited by The Beautiful Elite but are very cynical.

Gritty tones are in general easier and cheaper to produce in live-action than shiny ones, so low-budget or quickly-made films are more often in a gritty style. Examples include low-budget horror films, action shows, and dystopian series. A dystopian sci-fi series set in a post-apocalyptic US may be less expensive to produce than a Space Opera set in a distant planet's royal court, because the dystopian series can be set in an Abandoned Area where the survivors have erected crude structures from scrap. In contrast, the Space Opera will need costly sets for the Blue Blood character's gleaming spaceship interiors, royal halls, and lavish ballrooms.

Big budget films, especially escapist films about beautiful people (Millionaire Playboy, Socialite) in Big Fancy Houses with luxury cars, who have huge designer wardrobes and seem to travel internationally to exotic locations every week tend to go for shiny as it makes for beautiful "eye candy" visuals.

Gritty Animation and Video Games tend to be high-budget, since that's a lot of detail to draw and render. This is one reason Real Is Brown. Less "realistic" games and ones for less powerful systems tend to be either mid-scale or shiny; people who like shiny often like games that are retro or Retraux.

Compare with Slobs Versus Snobs.

Related Tropes:





Note: Try to post the examples in the shininess and grittiness order, not at the bottom of each category.

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Shiny End

    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon Fusion is very idealistic, very optimistic, and — in the later half especially — everything gleams as though polished for hours.

  • Idealism is an artistic aesthetic featured in Academic Art, and therefore in Alexandre Cabanel's paintings. As its name indicates, it's about idealizing reality to a standard of perfection and beauty that can only be found inside one's imagination. This means the artworks depicted no blood or dirt even when the scene would have required them and the textures were clean, smooth, and even outright shiny sometimes (in the case of metal surfaces and skin). One such example is The Fallen Angel, where a naked, muscly Lucifer sports soft, unspoiled skin despite having just kicked from Heaven after a vicious divine war. Moreover, the color palette has vibrant hues that are neither excessive nor clash with one another.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Disney princesses.
    • Snow White has the least gritty mine and miners ever, at least for the purposes of illustration.
  • Most Pixar movies, until the first half of WALL•E, tended towards the clean end (it helps that "clean" is generally easier to do in CG).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Star Wars prequels:
    • The point of this being to show the "good old days" preceding the Dark Times of the Empire. This goes back to Star Wars' fantasy roots. Star Wars is, ultimately, Space Opera. The fantasy end of Science Fiction.
    • Leia's ship that gets captured at the beginning of A New Hope is also a good example. While the hallway is very smooth and shiny, the utility corridor she hides in with R2 is much more gritty. Also the insides of Star Destroyers, parts of Death Star II, Home One, and at times, Darth Vader's suit.
      • Mostly, it's a divide on socio-economic status. Civilized worlds like Naboo, Kamino, and the upper levels of Coruscant are bright and pristine, while Wretched Hives and out-of-the-way places like Tattooine, Hoth, and Coruscant's lower levels are gritty and used.
    • When Lucas first produced A New Hope, he was very conscious that he wanted things to look a bit gritty to make them seem used and realistic. Supposedly a shiny new prop would be delivered, and he'd instruct the prop guy to bang on it with a hammer for a while to put some dents in it and make it look real.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The female singer in The Cat Piano
  • Picture comes from the first act of the Roger Corman anthology film Tales of Terror, where a girl visits the home of her father, who let most of the place get this way after his wife died.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The various Star Trek series. Even Deep Space Nine mostly had sets that looked neat and tidy. Perhaps that's just an unspoken credo of the Federation.
    • Star Trek (2009), on the other hand, has some very, very shiny parts (where all the iPod-esque walls and screens appear to be scrubbed by red shirts armed with with Federation-issue general-purpose cleaning solution every hour on the hour) contrasted with some grittier parts (grittier for the series, anyhow; busier, messier crowd scenes than anything previously seen in Trek, the outsides of the ships are clearly not scrubbed with the same rigor as the insides, child Kirk speeds in a jalopy whose only really shiny parts are the electronics, industrial-grade rails and plastic curtains abound, and Vulcan is made of dust storms even before it gets turned to dust entirely).
    • This end was the only end they could have reasonably used for the Federation given that the Star Trek universe is not only set in the future, but in an optimistic and (usually) idealistic version of it. Since conflict is necessary for a story, there are more problematic aspects to other races the Federation encounters, and those sometimes lead Federation actions into gray areas. However, if one imagines civilian life on Earth during peacetime, it would be close to utopia (though that part is hardly shown as it would make for boring TV).
  • American soap operas in general are very, very shiny (e.g., The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives)
  • Any and all children's sitcoms on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon.
    • Andi Mack tries to look realer than a typical Disnick Kid Com with almost everything done outdoors or on location, but it's still a well-scrubbed, bright look with a new school inhabited by stylishly-dressed kids, a picture-perfect house and street, and even the funky urban spaces the kids and younger adults inhabit by choice exhibit a very...Utah Mormon version of a hipster aesthetic, further cleaned up by Disney (the show has earned a reputation for leaving locations cleaner than they found them).
  • Ugly Betty, as it takes place in the fashion industry.
  • Desperate Housewives, which takes place in an idealized (but still rather troubled) version of suburbia populated by imperfect Stepford smilers.
  • CSI: Miami; in addition to the exotic, fashionable city its set in, the actors have said it takes place in "a comic book world."
  • Pushing Daisies, which takes place in a fifties Retro Universe.
  • Mad Men: The Sterling Cooper offices are elegant examples of the International Style, the brand-new SCDP offices—particularly Roger's office—are enthusiastically Mid-Century Modern (i.e. That Style You See And Immediately Think "Sixties" No Not Hippie Stuff The Other Thing, Yes, Like JFK Airport), the Draper house is well-furnished (though not expensively so), even Peggy's small Brooklyn apartment is well-kept (well-worn, but hardly "gritty"...unless you would describe a well-maintained kitchen as "gritty"...), and the hotels and restaurants we see are mostly top-hole. Plus the Gorgeous Period Dress. The series follows ad executives in the early Sixties (i.e. the era of the Three Martini Lunch and other such examples of excess), and additionally borrows heavily from the "visual vocabulary" of the era, so it's hardly surprising that despite the lean towards cynicism, the show is on the shiny end. The occasional bit of dirt shows up, but it's not terribly common.
  • Word of God intentionally aimed for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power to look glorious and vibrant in contrast to how the cinematic trilogies depicted the Third Age as a period of decay. Numenor, Eregion, Lindon and Khazad-dum, which are all completely destroyed by the Third Age, are magnificent examples of Shining Cities, Crystal Spires and Togas and Costume Porn.

  • Silverball Mania hammers the needle deep into the "Shiny" end of the spectrum.

  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto takes place in Renaissance Italy, a Crapsack World, but a very shiny one. Even its obligatory beggars scene is full of beautiful, though dark, music. One theme of the play is that beautiful art is a necessary refuge for the soul.


    Video Games 
  • Robot Unicorn Attack. Now this one is getting a bit too far, unless you are playing the Heavy Metal version.
  • LocoRoco is very bright with lots of pastel colors mixed with bright colors. Seems that everything has a life of their own.
  • The Super Mario Bros. franchise as a whole.
  • Kirby series. Very bright colors, except when it gets to some of the final stages.
  • Mirror's Edge is very high on the shiny scale, with lots of clean white and bright sunlight, yet it feels also very oppressive and gloomy.
  • Umineko: When They Cry juxtaposes a very shiny wealthy family and very shiny inhuman witches with horrific, gritty murders full of Gorn. However, the shiny aspects definitely win out for the overall production.
  • Final Fantasy VIII, for the most part. There are places like Winhill and the Horizon Bridge that are (or were) wrecked up, but other locations in the game and generally kept up and shiny (and in Esthar, Crystal Spires and Togas is in full effect.)
  • Space Channel 5 series. In fact one level is so colourful, an Epilepsy Warning had to be put in it!

  • Goblins stays on the Shiny end nearly all the time, especially for characters wearing metal armor. It only moves towards Gritty when blood is involved.

    Western Animation 
  • Steven Universe has lots of light colors and shininess, especially since much of the cast are gems. Homeworld takes it to another level.

Somewhere in the Middle

    Eastern European Animation 
  • Investigation Held by Kolobki is somewhere in the middle - it's bright and sunny, but very detailed, diaplidated to an extent with things like broken statues and cracked stucco on buildings, and has wavy object/character outlines along with sort of a film grain effect over the scenes.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Disney Animated Canon usually is clean without being too obvious about it, but does fall into the shiny end when the princesses are involved.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The James Bond films can tend towards either end of the scale.
  • The films of Harry Potter: Magic is sparkly; ancient castles are not; the vague Steampunk vibe is somewhere in the middle. Although the 6th film is very washed out and bleak. The scene where Harry uses sectumsempra on Malfoy is so desaturated it is practically in black and white save for Malfoy's blood.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Australian and New Zealand soaps (e.g., Neighbours, Shortland Street)
  • Indian soaps
  • CSI and CSI: NY, though the latter was much grittier in the beginning: their original workplace was a 100-year-old stone building, complete with arched ceilings and a palpable element of despair (it premiered not long after 9/11)
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation is more gritty than most teen dramas, but it can still be pretty shiny at times.
  • JAG
  • Law & Order

    Video Games 
  • Resident Evil 4's famous art direction included a huge amount of detail in how the places looked, including the decaying village and military base, contrasted with the ornate castle.
  • World of Goo has elements common in both ends.


Gritty End

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blade Runner was gritty for the most part, especially in contrast to the tacked-on happy ending.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail, although plenty of historical films at the time were made in reaction to Gorgeous Period Dress.
  • The movie Se7en
  • La Reine Margot made even the gorgeous period dresses look gritty.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four, especially the 1984 (yes!) film version.
    • Though the Ministry of Love ("the place where there is no darkness") is considerably cleaner and better kept-up. The Party knows where to spend its money.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera, where we learn that the future is Goth and cities are little spots of grime surrounded by graveyards. And seas full of dead bodies. Then again, there was that pesky organ failure epidemic...
  • District 9
  • Most films and games that heavily feature zombies fall into this category.
  • Children of Men, which is set in a decaying world where no child has been born in many years.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean, very much so.
  • Pacific Rim, saturated with the rainy-atmosphere battle on the ocean, though some high-tech Jaegers such as Striker Eureka are possibly the few shiny exception.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Irish soaps (eg Fair City, Ros na Run)
  • British soaps are the absolute champions of gritty (e.g., Coronation Street, Eastenders, Emmerdale, Shameless (UK).)
  • The Wire was intentionally shot to maximize the run-down aspects of Baltimore. The studio executives were uncertain about this decision at first, but in the end went along with it — to great effect.
  • Supernatural, especially in the earlier seasons, when our heroes are a pair of unemployed flannel-wearing drifters who squat in abandoned buildings and hustle pool to keep themselves fed.
  • Falling Skies starts out World War II gritty and gets worse, so that by the middle of the second season you wonder if anyone on the show can even remember what soap and running water look like. The obligatory "it was all a dream" episode is confusing because everyone is so clean they're largely unrecognisable.
  • House of the Dragon has even grittier and duller colors than Game of thrones because it lacks most of the fantasy elements of its parent show. Everything looks so brown as if the entire show was shot using sepia filter.

  • Nine Inch Nails is gritty in both sound and artwork. The music videos have a lot of gritty imagery too.

    Video Games 
  • Machinarium: Game takes place in a mechanical city made largely out of decaying buildings made out of cracking stone and rusty metal. This world is completely devoid of living animals although there is some plant life present.
  • Half-Life 2 is gritty everywhere except in Combine buildings.
  • Gish. First 3 worlds are very gritty, taking place in sewers, caves and hell. Last two are shinier though since they take place in sandstone-colored Egyptian level and church.
  • Most, if not all, games that take place in a historical wartime setting (Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, etc.) take many pains to make things as gritty as the systems of the day can handle.
  • Most First-Person Shooter games in the modern day fall pretty deep into the gritty end of the scale.
  • Fallout series is very gritty in some places, especially considering that it takes place in post-apocalyptic environment.
  • Final Fantasy VII. Any town that wasn't razed to the ground during the course of the game or Crisis Core is choked with dust, crime, urban decay, and rusting technology.
  • Gears of War is not so much "gritty" as it is "soaked in dirt, blood, grime, and waste, beaten repeatedly against the wall and left to dry in the middle of a sandstorm, then set on fire and burnt to smoldering cinders."
  • The Diablo games are gritty in the extreme, depicting a world invaded by demons who decorate with blood, limbs, impaled corpses and tortured souls.


    Anime and Manga 
  • Battle Angel Alita contrasts the dirty, chaotic world of the Scrapyard with the sleek and clean Tiphares.
  • Berserk, taking place in The Dung Ages and having mercenaries as the primary characters, is predominantly gritty, though the scenes taking place in Midland's royal court involved a good amount of Gorgeous Period Dress. Later episodes of the manga push the shiny end to a whole new level, though, as Griffith has just pulled a shiny new capital straight from the ground using Ganishka as a power source.
  • Code Geass, most notably how the shiny Imperial Enclave of Tokyo and the run-down Shinjuku ghetto, practically opposites on the scale, are separated only by a railway.
  • Masamune Shirow tends to make the major cities in his works so shiny that they're reflective. However, there's always lots of grit outside the cities or just below the surface (introduce a bit of firepower into the mix and it becomes a moot point). The only exception is Dominion Tank Police, where everything was gritty.
  • Ergo Proxy has the painstaking cleanliness and sleekness of the City of Romdeau... And then there's the outside world...
  • Kaiba is filled with bright, colorful artwork that represents an extremely dark (not with respect to lighting) world. It occasionally slips into very dark tones, as well.
  • Wolf's Rain has the dirt-covered, dilapidated human cities that sharply contrast with the glittery, self indulgent decadence of the Nobles' flying ships.
    • The contrast shows up in the natural world as well, with the many desolate, eerie, washed-out landscapes traversed by the heroes contrasting the occasional scene of gorgeous flowers, lush meadows, and crystal blue lakes.
  • Knights of Sidonia: Sidonia has a clean white aesthetic. But hundreds of years in space have left their toll, and you don't even have to go to the shantytowns to see the wear and tear. The clearest example is the countless micrometeorite craters on the octagon cylinder-shaped outer hull.

    Comic Books 
  • Metropolis and Gotham are often compared in the DCU, with the former being the shinier (at one point, Catwoman wonders if they ever turn off the lights at night) while the latter is normally very bleak. (In The DCAU, the writers admitted to being freaked out by Gotham during a clear sunny day whenever they drew it, and only did so once due to the alternate universe setting it was being presented in.) Considering the types of heroes who operate in this city, it seems the city adapted to them instead of the other way around.
    • Metropolis adapted to Superman, Gotham made Batman.
    • This divide can even be seen with their supervillains: Metropolis has an nice sleek Evil MegaCorp, highly illegal, dangerous lab projects financed by said MegaCorp, power-grabbing conspiracies involving said MegaCorp, flashy massive disasters caused by the machinations of said MegaCorp, a gang weaponized by Apokalips, alien invasions, rampages by giant robots, sentient computer viruses, time-traveling neo-nazis with jetpacks, and random military attacks from rich, supervillain third-world dictators. Gotham on the other hand, has filthy, slum-level street crime, mafia bosses, drug trafficking, warring organized crime rings comprised of supervillains, senseless mass murder, police corruption, and loads and loads of clinically-insane psychopaths and freaks trying to make a name for themselves.
  • The comic book Baker Street started out very shiny and and a bit cartoony, but became steadily more gritty and realistically-rendered as the viewpoint character became more depressed by the horrible things that were happening on the way to the Downer Ending.

    Films — Animated 
  • WALL•E consciously hits both extremes: it has a very dirty setting (the ruins of Earth) and a very clean setting (the spaceship). WALL•E himself is filthy and made up of spare parts, and EVE is shiny, sleek and streamlined.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 28 Days Later takes a somewhat unorthodox approach to mixing the two. The look of the film overall is gritty (they shot it on digital camcorders for this reason), but a lot of the locations are of typically shiny and clean places (hospitals, a castle, convenience store etc). The look of the film and the locations eventually converge as the story progresses.
  • Most adaptations of Dune: Caladan is natural and shiny, Giedi Prime is dark and dirty.
  • Elysium gets the shiny, Earth gets the sh- I mean gritty.
  • The film versions of Henry V. Olivier's version was very shiny, especially considering that the film was a piece of propaganda to rally the English people during WWII. Branagh's version is much grittier. Olivier's Battle of Agincourt is most memorable for the charge of the French cavalry on a nice, sunny day with shiny armor and colorful pennants. Branagh's Battle of Agincourt is most memorable for the mud.
    • Olivier's priest talking about Salic law and such speaks pompously and tosses aside cartoonishly-large pieces of paper; Branagh's mumbles through the lines quickly. When Olivier's says "It's as clear as the day!", it's still buffoonish; when Branagh's says it, he says it sarcastically with a wry smile, which is greeted with a few muffled snickers (the joke in either case is that it isn't clear at all).
  • Used to great effect in The Dark Knight Trilogy. Batman Begins contrasts the shining Gotham of Bruce Wayne's childhood with the derelict, crime and poverty ridden Hellhole in the aftermath of an economic depression - almost entirely controlled by the mob, and their mysterious backers. Look no further than the Wayne Industries-built elevated rail lines' state of disrepair, for a sense of how far things have come since the time of Thomas and Martha Wayne.
    • The Dark Knight opts for a shiner aesthetic, now that Batman has turned the tables on organized crime - putting the police and municipal officials back in control of a city no longer bogged down by the Mob's fear and misery. Gotham's transformation after just a year of order is stunning. As a cinematographic design choice, the film opts for cooler colors over the first film's desolate dirt toanes.
    • The Dark Knight Rises brings Gotham full circle - at first shiny like the second film, turned gritty again after Bane and company rise up and place the city under siege.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) manages to hit every point in the spectrum. Arthur even points it out. "Well, it's a whole lot better than that dingy Vogon crate! This is my idea of a spaceship, all gleaming metal, flashing lights, everything."
  • The Matrix has a decidedly gritty real world, but the titular simulated world ranges from average to shiny.
  • Quantum of Solace is James Bond-movie shiny, until James Bond begins to run out of money. The poorer he gets, the grittier everything gets, until the third act gets shiny again.
  • The Pirates of the Caribbean movies, contrasting the orderly life of Elizabeth and Will with the chaotic life of Jack and Barbossa, or the Lawful Evil East India Trade Co. with the Chaotic Neutral (mostly) pirates.
  • The BBC vs. 2005 movie versions of Pride and Prejudice come to mind. In the BBC version, everything is shiny, more than it would be in the English countryside. In the movie, the Bennets' home is more dirty.
    • Except not particularly 'realistically'... there seems to be some misunderstanding about what the book means when the Bennets are described as 'poor'. There's no reason to suppose from the text that they don't still have a team of servants to clean the house for them- that would be a remarkable circumstance for people of their caste- servants were cheap. (A genteel Regency-era home shouldn't be obviously more dirty than most modern ones- though it would be a lot harder to keep clean, thanks to soot and lack of modern appliances like vacuum cleaners- it would be a full-time job for at least 2 maids, but said maids could be employed for nothing but their meals and a cubby-hole to sleep in.) On the other hand, the film does at least show the levels of lighting feasible from candles realistically in the evening scenes.
  • RoboCop takes place in gritty Old Detroit, but the evil and shiny OCP corporation plans to develop a cleaner and shinier Delta City "where Old Detroit now stands".
  • Slumdog Millionaire is gritty for the majority of the flashbacks depicting Jamal's childhood in the slums, which starkly contrasts with the sleek, stylized look of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
  • Stalker (1979) starts in a town low-lit in a grungy sepia, with peeling paint, flaking bricks, and warped, weathered, wet wood. The rim of the Zone is even grittier: collapsing, waterlogged factories. You don't get grittier without war or zombies. The Zone, though, is lushly green and shot in full color, though filled with broken buildings, leaning telephone poles, and rotting hulks of vehicles.
  • The original Star Wars included both dirty Used Future farms, towns, and junk traders (and the Rebel base and its equipment) and the pristine corridors of Leia's ship and of the Death Star. The blockade runner even combined the two on the same ship: the engine compartments and life pod bays have a Used Future look to them, too.
    • Compare and contrast the prequel series in the Shiny section.
  • The Terminator series is mostly gritty, but the T-1000s from Judgment Day and Genisys and T-X from Rise of the Machines are quite shiny.
  • Underworld (2003) contrasts the shiny vampires and their shiny mansion and their shiny clothes with the gritty, concrete-plywood-and-brown-leather existence of the Lycans.
  • The Host (2013) (based on the Stephenie Meyer novel, not the Korean monster movie): the body-snatching but ultimately placid alien souls have coldly-lit shiny cities, sleek fashion, high technology, and Creative Sterility (they dislike conflict so their TV shows are free of drama); the human resistance have warmly-lit dusty desert hideouts and whatever scraps of clothing and junk they can scrape together, but they make do.
  • Jurassic World has a brand-new, futuristic visitors' center (concept art here) while the original, earthier Jurassic Park building is being reclaimed by nature.

  • Played up in The Hunger Games where a very gritty, dystopian Real World in the satellite states, where most people are starving/worked to death and are forced to fight to the death for the amusement of the people living in the shiny city in the centre. And it is really very shiny. Think random tech that doesn't even exist in real life and fashion obsessions.
  • Wicked Lovely contrasts a Red Light District known as Huntsdale (presumed to be in Pennsylvania) with the harsh beauty of the fey world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Andromeda the titular ship is very shiny (and the remnant of a shinier age) while everything else is gritty.
  • Babylon 5 does this a fair amount. Most areas on the station are crowded, but nice enough; the command staff quarters are nice, if sometimes a bit Spartan; the ambassadorial wing is VERY shiny (or its equivalent; it's implied that for Narns, at least, "shiny" still involves furniture of rough-hewn stone); and Downbelow is just a hell-hole.
  • Orphan Black portrays a number of clones with vastly different lifestyles. Former criminal Sarah Manning and religious fundamentalist serial killer Helena fall on the gritty end of the scale, whereas wealthy suburban Alison Hendrix and corporate mogul Rachel Duncan are shiny. Beth's life is sort of in the middle, as her lifestyle is more or less upper middle class (shiny) but she's also often shown in her job as a detective (gritty). Cosima's is neither, and Krystal's would be shiny if she appeared more often in the show.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): the eponymous ship is rather grubby and unglamorous even before the Cylons start shooting at it: it's 50 years old and obsolete when the Cylons wipe out the Colonies, and looks even more beaten-up after soaking up everything the Cylons have thrown at it during the course of the show. It's beginning to fall apart, and its useful days are numbered. Contrast with the Cylon basestars, which are immaculate and extremely shiny both inside and out. Even the battlestar Pegasus, which shows up half-way through Season 2, is rather clean and shiny - but then, it is a much more modern battlestar design.
    • The grittiness of the series is highlighted every time the "modern", shiny city of Caprica is shown in flashback, and the Caprica highlights that further, showing futuristic technology from fifty years ago that no one uses in Galactica, such as electronic touch screen paper and holograms.
      • 50 years previous would have been some time before the first war with the Cylons, and given those things capacity at electronic warfare, is it any wonder that a lot of mod-cons have been traded in for something a bit less vulnerable (in the hacking sense)?
  • The TARDIS interior from Doctor Who, compare the sterile and minimalist console room from the old series with Ninth and Tenth's dilapidated techno-organic console, or Eleventh's cobbled-together steampunk decor.
  • Firefly varies quite a bit. By dint of being a western in space, it often lands on the gritty end of things, but episodes set in the Core worlds, with all the shiny spiffiness, tend to be much cleaner and pretty. This is deliberately contrasted in many parts of the series and movie.
  • In Good Omens (2019), Heaven is depicted as pristine to the point of Creepy Cleanliness — the polar opposite of Hell's grimy Scenery Gorn. This visual contrast highlights the Order Versus Chaos struggle at the heart of the conflict between the angels and demons.
  • Life on Mars (2006): 2006 is portrayed as a dull, sterile environment, while 1973 is more gritty but shot in warmer tones.
  • CSI: NY's Very Special Episode "Indelible" aired on Sept 23, 2011 as a 10th anniversary tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The present-day scenes are filmed as usual, whereas the many flashbacks to that fateful day are shown in dark, gritty hues, complete with all the dust and debris that were everywhere in reality. Writers and crewmembers who were living in NYC at the time described the end product as eerily real; writer John Dove, who had been an NYPD officer then, even said "too real."

  • Many modern sports, like boxing, rugby, and even association football. Filled with drama, fouls, and controversial calls... all held in perfectly manicured, shiny stadia.
    • American football, and specially the Super Bowl. Shiny pre-game and halftime shows, loaded with cheerleading, celebrities... in stark contrast with the gritty roughness of the game.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 runs the entire spectrum, with the Eldar at the shiny end, Chaos at the gritty end & everybody else somewhere in the middle.
  • In a related hobby, a perennial source of debate among military modellers concerns exactly how far the artist should go in representing wear and tear and everyday attrition on their completed model. Warhammer 40K fans don't seem to go in for this very much and leave their tanks and kit pristine; WW2 purists, especially in tanks and vehicles, tend to go for the really battered look. See here.

  • The musical Wicked manages to combine both aspects with Shiz and the Emerald City being fairly shiny, but the Witchunters and Kiamo Ko being pretty gritty.

    Video Games 
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Adult Zelda is shown wearing a much more elaborate dress than her younger counterpart is, even though by that point she had no home, no possessions, her kingdom is in ruins, and she has been on the run for seven years, posing as a Sheikah.
  • Portal is shiny in the test chambers of the game's first half (and there are broken parts) and gritty after the Wham Level partway through. The sequel varies even more, starting in deteriorating and reclaimed chambers, getting shinier as GLaDOS repairs the facility, going back to gritty after Wheatley takes control and drops you into the now-ancient original test chambers of the 50's, and finally strikes a balance back in the modern chambers, which are shiny, but being torn apart and smashed back together.
  • Chrono Trigger: Compare the Crystal Spires and Togas kingdom of Zeal to the run-down, After the End scenario of 2300 A.D.
  • Halo - The Covenant is all shiny purple, and everything is sleek and rounded. UNSC equipment is blocky and gray/tan/dull green. The Forerunner creations are shiny metallic silver-gray, and everything is angular and/or ornately segmented.
  • Eversion - Visits the both ends of the scale and everything in between, though it's more like the Sliding Scale of Sweet Dreams Fuel and Nightmare Fuel. And that is some sliding scale.
  • BioShock is an interesting example: Rapture was once very shiny, but it was made gritty by a civil war, and even afterwards there's still a few vaguely-glitzy areas. Places like the blood-streaked Medical Pavilion, the run-down docklands area of Port Poseidon and Hephaestus' grimy geothermal power-plant are ultimately contrasted with places like Fort Frolic, Rapture's neon-lit entertainment district - which is actually still pretty ritzy despite the disrepair.
    • BioShock 2 continues this, with a major influence on gritty: as it's set at least eight years after the events of the first game, it's in a much greater state of disrepair than before, and most of the game takes place in abandoned facilities or slums. Over the course of the story, you visit a ruined luxury resort, a defunct train station, a shantytown on the Wrong Side of the Tracks, a Red Light District, a sunken art gallery, a secret lab overgrown with sea life, and a penal colony dangling over the edge of an undersea trench. At first, it seems like the old Fontaine Futuristics building is the only place that looks even vaguely shiny, given that it still sports some of the old corporate glitz... and then you get to see what Rapture looks like through the eyes of a Little Sister. Crapsaccharine World doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog CD has this as its theme. The present day levels for the most part are usually in the middle when it is bright and shiny. The past levels are the same way, just more primitive. If you're playing the good future levels, they are really bright and shiny. Though if you're playing in the bad future (the one ruled by Dr. Robotnik/Eggman), it is total hell. Everything's got a dark brown, rusty and muddy look, the skies have a crimson/purple look, the oceans are polluted, and so on. Those futures are so bad that even the Doc's robots are miserable and broken down. Yes it's just that bad.
  • StarCraft features a war between the shiny Protoss, the gritty Terrans, and the meaty Zerg.
  • Deus Ex aggregates nice and tidy accommodations of Versalife corporation and UNATCO headquarters and the rather unpleasant urban neighborhoods (barring Paris that will look gorgeous even the world comes rolling to the doors of Hell).
  • Ditto for Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. The LaCroix Tower explicitly stands out of the generally bleak and tarnished surroundings. As a matter of fact, the Downtown LA map where the Tower is situated features this in spades: the western half of the map features an Abandoned Hospital, an awful lot of dingy-looking buildings and houses, a crackhouse, the Last Round bar, a derelict warehouse, and an underpass used by the local vagrants as shelter. The eastern half of the map, while still somewhat gritty, features the Confession Club (which used to be a cathedral), the Skyline Apartment Building, and the decidedly upmarket Empire Hotel.
  • In one extent or another this is case in most of the strategy games, with the "good" fraction having shiny, or at least well-structured and regularly-shapped buildings while those of the "bad" one tend to be gritty, ominous-looking and/or battered or even cobbled together. The biggest offenders are Orcs (in Dawn of War they DO cobble their buildings together from junk), GDI/NOD are more into the Ordinary vs Ominous territory, and in Dark Reign 2 the contrast was laid out with the subtlety of a battering ram: JDA, the global law-enforcers, have silvery high-tech premises and their enemies Sprawlers huddle in rusty and angular dwellings.
  • EVE Online has shiny Amarr ships versus "flying junkyard" Minmatar ships. Conversely, Gallente ships have shiny, smooth, almost organic curves while Caldari ships are angular and much more utilitarian.
  • Fallout contrasts the shininess of the Vaults and Brotherhood of Steel-related locations with the ultra-gritty Wasteland. In the first game it is worth noting that the shinier a location, the more likely it was to be ultimately evil, while the gritter-looking places and people were usually mostly harmless. Fallout 2 is much shinier than the original, with far more built-up cities and far more slick gangsters in the form of mafia-style families and a porn cinema, while Fallout 3 is more gritty, like the first game. Fallout 4 mostly maintains a level of grittiness slightly lower than that of Fallout 3, but the Institute is so far on the shiny end that it makes the Brotherhood of Steel and the Vaults look dirty in comparison.
  • Assassin's Creed series varies its locales quite a bit, from elaborately modeled palaces, churches, mosques and temples all the way to the run-down and dirty districts of the poor. In the second game, the protagonist can lift the town of Monteriggioni from The Dung Ages by investing in renovations and art. However, the shiniest and prettiest parts are invariably the "temples" and vaults of Those Who Came Before.
  • Final Fantasy VI. Oddly, the towns are just as shiny after the Apocalypse as before. Except for Tzen and Mobliz.
  • Taken to extremes in Dystopia where Cyberspace lies on the extreme end of shiny, and meatspace is on the medium-high part of gritty. This is especially noticeable in areas where cyberspace is shaped the same as meatspace. Punk architecture is usually more gritty than Corp architecture.
  • Administrative and scientific areas in Doom 3 are usually of a silvery tone, and polished metal prevails. Rust-orange colors and rougher materials are characteristic of maintenance sections.
  • Most of The Journeyman Project is shiny, except for the Underwater Base, Sinclair's lab, and the underground part of the Mars colony.
  • The settings in World of Warcraft run the gamut of shininess, ranging from the vibrant Eversong Woods to the gray and gritty Blackwing Lair. Some places combine both, like Deepholm and the recovering Western Plaguelands.
  • Mass Effect, being an extremely developed 'verse, has both ends of the spectrum. The Normandy, Ilium, Noveria and rich, developed worlds tend toward the shiny, while Tuchanka, Feros, Omega and poorer colonies get pretty gritty. The Citadel itself is fairly shiny as a rule, but it has its share of contrast between the uber-shiny Presidium and the grittier Wards.
  • The Simcity expansion Cities of Tomorrow allows the player to develop cities according to either an optimistic or pessimistic view of the future, or some combination of the two. The optimistic structures are sleek, curvy and white, while the pessimistic ones are dirty, rectangular and prone to emit pollution.
  • The Secret World demonstrates quite a lot of this, particularly when it comes to the faction hubs: London has the polished marble halls and richly-decorated offices of Temple Hall deliberately contrasted by the dingy pubs and shops of Eldwyck and the monster-infested markets of Darkside; Brooklyn is predominantly gritty, with gloomy streets, filthy laundromats, sewer labyrinths and a Back-Alley Doctor's shop situated in an abandoned abattoir, and even the Illuminati HQ's concourse looks pretty grungy - all contrasted with the gleaming Illuminati command center and Kirsten Geary's modern-art office; Seoul starts you off in the shiny, chintzy Kumiho Hotel, before sending you into the dark, rainy streets to the Dragon's HQ.
    • More of this crops up once you head out into the field, where the giant biotech World Tree and vivid golden light of Agartha form a contrast to literally all the areas it allows you to visit: a New England fishing village beset by a Zombie Apocalypse and Lovecraftian Fish Men; a dusty Egyptian hamlet and the nearby Atenist ruins, all overrun by corpse-burning cultists and putrid ghouls; a stretch of Transylvanian countryside polluted by wrecked cars, giant fungi, dilapidated serial-killer homesteads, and the war machines of the invading vampire army; and of course, Kaidan District Tokyo, which is currently infested by the Filth.
  • The Elder Scrolls series tends to switch between the two from game to game, and even between expansions/DLCs within the same game. To note:
    • Morrowind:
      • Morrowind falls on the Gritty end of the scale. It takes place in the most backwater district (Vvardenfell) of the most backwater province (Morrowind) in the Empire, which is also the province with the least direct Imperial oversight as part of the terms of its Voluntary Vassal status. A good 2/3 of the island is covered by dark, ashy lava scathes which emanate from Red Mountain, the island's central volcano, which has been enveloped for centuries in a constant blight storm. Vvardenfell is also dotted with ancient Daedric ruins, bronzy Steampunk Dwemer ruins, Chimeri strongholds, and Dunmeri ancestral tombs. Until about 20 years before the game takes place, Vvardenfell was a Tribunal Temple preserve, open only to Temple servants and pilgrims. It remains sparsely populated and even it's largest cities feel small in comparison to those found in the rest of the series. The "alienness" of the setting also gives the game a very New Weird feel.
      • The Tribunal expansion is set in Mournhold, the mainland capital city of Morrowind, which is also known as the "city of light, city of magic". It shifts toward the "Shiny" end of the spectrum, with grander buildings, more greenery, and a greater color palette in general. That is, at least on the surface... Beneath the city are the ruins of "Old Mournhold" which serve as the new city's sewers, and, as discovered part way through the expansion's main quest, a massive Dwemer city with numerous "gritty" secrets within...
      • The Bloodmoon expansion takes place on the snowy and grim island of Solstheim, populated by numerous types of deadly critter, the Noble Savage Skaal people, and little else. It shifts back toward the Gritty end of the spectrum.
    • Oblivion:
      • Oblivion falls very much into the Shiny spectrum of this trope, with its vibrant High Fantasy setting. Both the architecture and fashion suggest this game takes place at the heart of a mighty empire not yet in decline.
      • The Shivering Isles expansion takes place in the Daedric realm of the Mad God Sheogorath. It intentionally invokes this trope. This realm is split into two major areas, named Mania and Dementia, who fall into the Shiny and Gritty ends of this trope, respectively. Mania is filled with vibrant colors and nice weather, while the architecture and fashion is really neat and inviting. Dementia is filled with subdued earthly colors, has a very dreary climate and it's settlements more or less look like slums. This is done to represent the dual nature of Sheogorath's madness.
    • Skyrim:
      • Skyrim generally falls on the Gritty end spectrum. This is in no small part due to the fact that half of Skyrim is a frigid, barren wasteland and the primary culture resembling that of Horny Vikings. The game taking place 35 years after the highly destructive Great War and during a Civil War also plays a big part.
      • The Dragonborn DLC returns to the aforementioned island of Solstheim, which has managed to get even grittier. The eruption of Red Mountain has blasted the southern coast of the island with ash, while its small settlements have been flooded with Dunmer refugees eking out an existence in the wake of the Red Year and subsequent Argonian invasion of Morrowind.
  • Orre in Pokémon Colosseum is a Desert Punk world, where Phenac City, the Shadow Pokémon Lab, and Realgam Tower are shiny, while everywhere else is very gritty. Its somewhat Lighter and Softer sequel Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness adds more shiny areas like the Pokémon HQ Lab and Gateon Port, and replaces the Abandoned Warehouse used by Miror B. in Colosseum with the shiny new ONBS news station headquarters.

  • morphE is a horror story which contrasts between the terror of the dark caverns the seedlings escaped from and the rich, plush manor that they become captive within.

    Western Animation 
  • Insektors is about a war between Gritty and Shiny.
  • Motorcity has the very shiny Detroit Deluxe versus the very gritty Motorcity (which is below the former).
  • Adventure Time takes place After the End, but it also has a location literally called the Candy Kingdom.

    Real Life 
  • This is most definitely Truth in Television. The more concentrated the wealth and power, the shinier, newer, and better maintained the buildings, clothes, and people will be.
    • The Big Applesauce in Real Life. Everything more than ten feet above the ground is shiny. Everything less than ten feet above the ground is gritty.
    • Japan, or at least the major cities, is mostly shiny in the center with some dilapidated areas being dingy.
    • Las Vegas is very shiny on the surface, but quickly becomes gritty the farther you get from The Strip, or if you just go around the wrong corner.
    • Like New Orleans; it seems such a shiny happy place that people mistake it for a theme park, and mistake all the inhabitants for tour guides. That annoys many who actually live there. And it's so patchy that there isn't a 'good' and 'bad' side, but anyone without common sense, strolling through like the whole place is a theme park, is likely to get robbed at best or killed and rolled at worst.
      • Well, minus the shiny. While folks do tend to mistake us for an adult theme park, it's still pretty clear that we're one of the older cities in America, and a rough blue-collar one at that. The nicer areas tend to be more genteel than shiny, if you follow me.
    • Palm Beach County, Florida. It's best known for the town of Palm Beach proper, home to Donald Trump's mansion, the five-star Breakers resort, and the upscale Worth Avenue shopping district. Delray Beach and the downtown area of West Palm Beach are known for their trendy restaurants and bars, and Boca Raton for its suburban affluence. But the county also contains the extremely impoverished rural towns of Belle Glade and Pahokee, and has very high crime rates in parts of Lake Worth, Riviera Beach, and some areas of West Palm. It's estimated the county is home to over a hundred gangs.
    • Mexico tends to be shiny near the beaches in the tourist cities, but very rapidly becomes gritty as one moves away from the resorts.
    • Dubai. The world's biggest tower with "migrant worker areas" at its feet.
    • London and Paris, on the other hand, while they have areas at the end of both scales, the most famous parts tend to be both magnificent and filthy at the same time.
  • Unlike other natural disasters, tornadoes can cut a path through a town while leaving the surrounding area untouched. This leads to something that looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland next to a perfectly normal area.
  • Rio de Janeiro is perhaps the poster city for this trope. Very shiny waterfront and tourist attractions, often a block away from the Favelas (slums).
  • Buenos Aires too. Once is amazing, but if you go to Liniers, and moreso, near the Train station, er...

Alternative Title(s): Shiny Vs Gritty