Why Ninjas don’t wear purple (but Catwoman should)

Turns out the advocate of the fan-loathed goggled Catwoman costume are not only underrating the true practicality of the purple, they’re also overrating the practicality of their chosen color. They imagine black is preferable to purple for cat burglars and ninjas because they think it’s harder to see. But it turns out, ninjas are depicted the way they are in pop culture because of Japanese theatre. There is no true camouflage and solid black would work against you staying hidden in the city. Blog Critics illustrates the point with Batman images from the movies, including Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and Tim Burton’s Batman.

On this one, we can at least follow their logic, flawed as it is.  Most people have never seen a real cat burglar, a French resistance fighter, or a ninja.  They draw their ideas from movies like… well, like Batman Begins, where these figures are always shown in head-to-toe black.  Solid black, we are left to conclude, is the way the most invisible assassins in history achieved their invisibility.

In reality, ninjas are depicted that way because of Japanese theatre.  Seriously.  The puppeteers in traditional Bunraku puppetry and the stagehands in Noh and Kabuki theatre all wore head-to-toe black.  The Japanese word for stagehand, “kuroko,” literally means “black clothes,” and in the case of Kabuki kuroku, they even wore the hood and mask we know as the signature costume of a ninja.  They weren’t camouflaged; the audience simply knew to ignore them.  That’s what the black signified.  They could stand on the stage and move around in plain sight, coming and going as needed, rearranging props and set pieces, and the audience tuned them out, they simply didn’t see them—just as we don’t see that stack of NetFlix DVDs on the top of the television when we’re watching our favorite program.

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