The New Pope

The television show The New Pope, released in January of 2020, encompasses a modern, scandalous, and humorous take on the battle of who is the rightful Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. The opening title sequence for the show is an extremely accurate representation of what the mood of the show is, and gives a glimpse into the storyline. While the opening is quite simple at first watch, as it takes place in one room, slowly zooming in on slightly moving characters, every factor that went into the design is well-thought out and essential to getting every viewer’s attention. 

When first viewing the opening sequence for The New Pope, the most eye catching element in my opinion was the use of colorful, changing lighting. As the opening takes place, the camera is slowly moving in on the only light source: a bright, color changing cross. The cross changes between orange, green, red, blue, green, and purple. These colors shining from the cross are distinct and are clearly not a normal ability of a cross in a church. This idea of a different take on religion goes along with the plot of the show, as the Pope is far from the type of person we think of in reality as having that position. The show is essentially a satirical viewpoint of Roman Catholicism, and all of the dirty behind the scenes secrets of the people in charge. There is also a great emphasis on the orante, colorful, and very expensive design elements that are all throughout the show, which can also be alluded to in the opening sequence. The lights bring a different feel to how the church is portrayed in the show, and that it is more controversial than religious. The show’s main focus is not that of religion, it is more based on power struggles between characters and who is rightfully deserving of the Pope position. 

Going hand-in-hand with the lights is the addition of the music/theme song for the opening sequence of the show. Not only are the lights changing colors, but they are changing to the rhythm of the song. SOFI TUKKER featuring Charlie Barker sings “Good Time Girl” in the introduction. First digging deeper into the song, the underlying meaning implies people being rebellious, sexual, and party-animals. The song gives light to the man who now has the role of Pope being non-traditional and having a bad side to him. Some of the lyrics that directly linked to the plot of the show in my eyes were “But I’m in my prime/Don’t want the throne/When I’m doing just fine/Just so long as I’m having a real good time.” In addition to the distinct song choice, the lights also move to the beat of the song, adding a more dramatic effect. The rhythmic feel that these two factors combine to make gives the seemingly simple opening a lot of dimension. This also shows how important the lights and song really are to the opening and that the viewers should be focusing their attention on them. 

Throughout the opening for The New Pope, the cast and crew are mentioned in a specific font that cannot but help to be noticed. While the font is not overbearing or over-the-top at all, it did catch my eye. Gothic type fonts instantly came to my mind. The font has distinct serifs that give the gothic vibe, without actually being a gothic font. In addition, the text seems to be italicized, which adds even more of a dramatic effect. One element that made the text really fit in well to the sequence was the fact that it changed color as the cross changed color as well. I feel as though the matching of the two was a logical idea, and made the names not appear too gaudy and overbearing in relation to the simple introduction.   

Another key design element shown in the The New Pope opening sequence is the use of slow motion, centered movement. The entire opening consists of the camera slowly moving in on a group of scandalous dancing nuns that are also being filmed in slow motion. This certain effect adds drama, while also giving a certain aesthetic to the opening. If, per say, slow motion was not used, the sequence would be a lot more chaotic in combination with the lights, music, and nuns dancing. By slowing down the movements of the entire introduction, the viewers are able to focus more on exactly what is happening and where their eyes should be focused. The theatrical effect that is given by the slow movement is a key addition, and makes the dancing more noticeable.

At first glance, the opening sequence for The New Pope does not seem to be that significant. Once digging deeper into the design elements though, I found that every single choice the designers made was significant. The colors, sound, typography, and movement all mesh together to make for a perfect look into what the show beholds. Being that the show is a satirical view of the role of the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church, the opening title sequence fits perfectly. Having the perfect mixture of being sexual yet realistic is what the designers were going for, and they hit the nail right on the head.