Black Cloaks

Plain black cloaks, typically associated with antagonists in a storyline, have been known to add a sense of mystery, death, danger, and darkness. People tend to build first impressions very quickly and how someone appears adds a lot to that first impression. Showing a character dressed in all black builds the impression that they are there to harm or cause stress on the protagonist. Black cloaks also suggest forces of darkness, supernatural beings, or being part of a secret evil cult. In the examples, I will explain how each antagonist character defines their role due to their attire and approach in regards to the main character.

Example One: The witch in Snow White – Movie Animation. Disney, 1938

This character was designed as the “message man” for the queen, to deliver the apple that would poison Snow White. When the witch was first introduced, it was peculiar that she was wearing an all-black outfit when the weather was sunny and seemingly beautiful. It also caught Snow White and the animals off guard when the witch showed up at the window. Her personality towards Snow White was perceived as sweet and innocent but there was definitely an uncomfortable tension between the two. It was evident that Snow White was not quite sure if she should trust the old lady. Once Snow White took a bite of the apple, after the witch insisted that it would make Snow White’s dreams come true, the witch cheered and laughed maliciously as lightning struck in the background. Snow White collapsed and it was moments until the witch ran off into the woods to escape. The black cloak added to the devious plan the witch had in store for Snow White, it made it more obvious what the intentions were, and emphasized the contrast between settings before Snow White took a bite versus afterward.


Example Two: Voldemort in Harry Potter – Movie Live Action. J.K. Rowling, 2001-2011

Throughout the Harry Potter series, Voldemort was visually a noticeably different looking wizard. With the pale, thin skin, the flat nose, dark eyes, and small teeth he stood out from both those who practiced light and dark magic. The constant tension between Harry Potter and Voldemort only grew as the series continued. Each time they had an encounter, Voldemort held the same eerie appearance within the dark cloak while Harry Potter was wearing basic clothings (button up shirt, jacket, and khakis). Each encounter threatened Harry Potter with danger, darkness, and death. The nicknames Voldemort receives in the series is important to take note of: He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named, the Dark Lord, and You-Know-Who. The nicknames He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named and You-Know-Who emphasize the mystery behind him and the dark magic he uses. The characters do not want to give Voldemort the power of owning a name. The use of the long cloak also allows for exaggera0in regards to his powers. In the final fighting scene between him and Harry Potter, his cloak is moving very rapidly while it only Harry Potter’s hair that holds the same rapid movement.


Example Three: The Grim Reaper from the Cartoon Network TV show “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy” 2003-2007

The Grim Reaper is an example of how the connotation behind a black cloak is destroyed. The character does allow the show an opening for discussing inappropriate, unusual, and creepy topics on a children’s tv show. Although the Grim Reaper is used as a comical character and is not considered an antagonist, he still holds the mysterious and deathly qualifications. In the tv series, the audience automatically relates to other main characters first (such as Billy and Mandy) due to the visual similarities while the skeletal figure is more difficult to understand- adding to the mysterious state. However, the show purposely diminishes this mysterious aspect over time by showing flashbacks to the Grim Reaper’s childhood. These flashbacks show scenes with the Grim Reaper and his parents interacting in a familiar way that children today interact with their family. The deathly qualifications are more straightforward due to him being the Grim Reaper, a fictional character that is imagined to cause people’s death or is designed to collect an individual once they pass away. In the tv series, the Grim Reaper is instead treated like the two children’s servant and best friend. It is ironic how the Grim Reaper in imagined terms, is meant to guide people after they die but in the tv show, the Grim Reaper is used to keep the children alive.


The first two examples show how antagonists are defining the connotation behind the use of a black cloak while the third example purposely creates a protagonist to defy those connotations. The witch in Snow White and Voldemort in Harry Potter both aim to kill the protagonist while the prime example of a character wearing a black cloak, the Grim Reaper, aims to help save the children in the show.