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  • Writer's pictureSarah Royal

Feeling Magenta: Why Magenta is a Fake Color, & What It Has to Do With Your Feelings

Picture it:

Blanche and Dorothy from The Golden Girls, sitting on their wicker couch, talking about “feeling magenta.”

So, what does “feeling magenta” mean, exactly? Watch this video to hear how Blanche defines it:

Dorothy: And I was feeling jealous and Ionely and... God knows what else.

Blanche: Magenta.

Dorothy: Excuse me?

Blanche: Magenta. That's what I call it when I get that way. All kinds of feelings tumbling all over themselves. Well, you know, you're not quite blue because you're not really sad and although you're a little jealous, you wouldn't say you're green with envy and every now and then you realize you're kinda scared but you'd hardly call yourself yellow. I hate that feeling. I just hate it. And I hate the color magenta. That's why I named it that. Magenta. No way to really explain it but, fortunately, between friends, you don't have to.

It turns out that magenta is actually the perfect color to use for a made-up feeling, since the color magenta technically doesn’t exist.

The Science Behind the Color Magenta, Golden Girls Style

What the hell am I talking about?

Let me explain. Don’t worry — you don’t need to be in MENSA or GIRLSA to get the gist.

There’s light that we can see, which is (technically speaking) “white light”. If you break it down through a prism into the spectrum, it becomes colorful — just like you’re supposed to be when you’re old:

the visible spectrum

Violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red all look great on any outfit with shoulder pads

But you might notice in the image above that the color magenta anything resembling pink, really — is curiously absent.

All of the colors, from violet all the way to red, represent wavelengths of light. Violet happens to be the shortest wavelength, red is the longest, and all of the other colors are somewhere in between. “Seeing” a color is really just our brain’s way of interpreting the wavelengths of light that hit our eyeballs.

So how does the interpretation get from our eyeballs to our brain? Well, we have these things called “cones” in the back of our eyes. Not like monkey traffic cones, but specifically these three types of cones:

  • Cones to detect long wavelengths of light like red

  • Cones to detect medium wavelengths of light like green

  • Cones to detect short wavelengths of light like blue

Obviously, there are more than these three colors, so to see a color like yellow, for example, which lies between red and green on the spectrum, both the red and green cones “fire” and tell your brain that it’s looking at yellow. Makes sense — it splits the difference.

rose nylund as a cat - the golden girls

Red cones and green cones firing to create a method-acting cat

The cone “firing” representation is embedded in the RGB color scale, used in everything from big TVs like Tanya to the pixels on the internet you’re viewing right now. You may have also seen colors expressed in three numbers on a scale from 0 to 255, like yellow written as (255, 255, 0), with maximum values in the red and green color space.

But here’s a problem.

What if only your red and blue cones — those on the opposite end of the spectrum — fire?

If you look at the visual representation below, you can clearly see that green right in the middle, but remember — your green codes aren’t firing. You won't see green. So what happens?

Your brain completely makes up a color.

That’s right, your brain invents magenta, which doesn’t actually exist.

There is no wavelength of light to describe it.

isn't it amazing that magenta can be so fake and yet look so good?

It is truly a bizarre occurrence. (Unsurprisingly, writing magenta out on the RGB color scale looks like (255, 0, 255), loading up on the red and blue.)

The truth is, no color actually exists outside of our brain's perception of it. But if you want to be technically scientific about it, magenta is not a spectral color, or you could simply say “magenta is not in the rainbow.” She’s not represented by Mr. Roy G. Biv.

For all intents and purposes, magenta is a made up color, just like it’s a made up feeling.

So, How Should the Color Magenta Make You Feel, Anyway?

We all know how Blanche feels about the color magenta, and what it represents for her. But let's explore some more science: the science of color psychology.

It may seem crazy, but colors do make you feel things. Marketers and brands know this very well. There’s a reason most fast food joints use red in their logos -- which stimulates the body and mind and gets your attention -- and hospitals use blue -- which elicits a feeling of calm and trust.

The jury is still out on how ‘puce’ should make you feel

Magenta, it seems, is said to bring a warm, friendly, creative, and non-confrontational feeling. So, a far cry from a blend of sadness, envy, and fear. But it’s also said that magenta is “an instrument of change and transformation; it helps to release old emotional patterns that prevent personal and spiritual development and aids us in moving forward.” Sounds a hell of a lot like the catharsis of talking over your confusing feelings with a good friend.

All throughout the seven seasons of The Golden Girls, the instance of “feeling an emotion that helps break patterns that prevent us from growth” happens a lot. Blanche feels the sting of jealousy when Dorothy proves to be a better singer than her, and she’s able to admit that to Dorothy. Rose worries about eating life when she ends up in the hospital, overreacts, and moves out -- only to realize how much she truly had all along. Dorothy, in addition to the magenta she felt about Blanche going out with Stan, realizes how blind she had been about her new friendship with Barbara Thorndyke completely alienating her best friends. And Sophia sometimes has to hear her own sage words from her daughter to do the right thing, like returning unearned social security checks.

But in a more literal sense, it’s really Blanche who nails the damn color over and over, ironically.

So Blanche hates the color magenta, huh?

Like many things in life, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense sometimes.

Fortunately, between good friends, you don’t have to explain it.



This stellar science explainer video:

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