“Who are you?” A question that bothered Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed) from the moment he met a feisty girl named Nimona (Chloe Grace Moetz) at his dark, gloomy, and, well, smelly laboratory. But Nimona is just Nimona; she is neither a girl, nor a shark, nor a fox, nor a kitten, nor a little boy or a little girl; she is none of those things but all of those things at the same time. The best part about Nimona, produced by Annapurna Pictures, is that it retains the essence of N.D. Stevenson’s celebrated gender-non-confirming character. Nimona is a celebration of queerness that addresses how ostracization often leads to radicalization. As fun, as Nimona is, she comes from a dark, lonely, and hurtful place. With identity as one of its major themes, Nimona can be reassuring as well as eye-opening for its young audience.
Gender Identity And Acceptance
The human tendency to dub anything that defies norms monstrous or evil is the crux of all problems in Nimona. While the film unfolds in a world that is futuristic but traditionally hierarchical, the themes are, of course, rooted in our mortal reality. Since Nimona could not be easily defined and refused to be labeled, humans considered her a threat to society. Her ability to shape-shift is a crucial part of her identity; Nimona defines her urge to transform as a sneeze that is impossible to hold. She goes on to add that she would lose her freedom if she chose not to transform (read: transition).
The moment we read Nimona as a gender-non-confirming character, the generational torture and hate can be interpreted as the struggle of queer individuals against heteronormativity. When Nimona comes across Ballister Boldheart, she feels there is a connection between them. He, too, was misunderstood by society and therefore ostracized, and she believed that together they could fight the world. Ballister was not born into privilege, but the Queen admired his determination and the strength that he exhibited. Ballister was the first commoner to receive a knighthood. He was on the verge of creating history and inspiring the upcoming generations to break free from age-old traditions. His reputation was destroyed to keep the regressive customs in place, and he eventually became a victim of the system. Nimona could not care less about Boldheart’s intentions. She was hiding from the world, and she assumed that she could now hide away with the one-armed knight. Loneliness haunted Nimona, yet it was her only constant companion. Becoming a sidekick meant she would always have someone to look up to and protect. Nimona was searching for a companion, and Ballister Boldheart saw Nimona for who she was. Ballister stopped caring about her appearance; he felt confident as long as Nimona was by his side. As someone who struggled with acceptance, Boldheart, in a way, resonated with Nimona.
When the entire world turned their backs on her, Nimona only needed one person to show trust in her, and in Ballister, she found the courage to continue living. As a trans individual, Nimona was desperately looking for a place of acceptance all her life, but since she could not fit into any particular box, she was rejected by every group. The only friend she made along the way left a deep scar, making it impossible for her to show her true self. Being a shapeshifter was not a choice for Nimona; it was her identity. As the entire world conspired to put her back into the shadows, her aura turned from cheerful coral pink to pitch black. Nimona’s outfit and her overall look emanate a punk vibe that complements her rebellious personality. Her anger is rooted in her frustration at being misunderstood, and over time, it has become her defense mechanism.
The Concept Of Good And Evil: Usage Of Color To Underline The Theme In ‘Nimona’
Visually, one of the most interesting aspects of Nimona is how it experiments with the characters’ color scheme. The film dissociates the historical connection between dark colors and evil. The heroes are often the ones draped in dark-colored clothes, while white and gold are used for the oppressors. The color palette used for Ballister Boldheart is consistently black and gray. The fact that he was a commoner, coupled with the color he is mostly seen wearing, resulted in the hatred that he experienced from childhood. The scar on Ballister’s face further adds to the familiar evil image (such as Scar from the Lion King).
Using visual cues, Nimona urges the audience to look beyond the stereotypical. In Nimona, the film, Ballister Boldheart (known as Ballister Blackheart in the comics) is rather reduced to a one-dimensional character to make the good vs. evil a tad bit more obvious. Ballister is an all-out good guy in the film whose heroic qualities are not deterred even when he is betrayed by the Institute. All Ballister cared about was proving his innocence to the Institute, particularly to his lover, Ambrosius. While the character is significantly changed in the film, the color scheme helps retain the idea that all that is dark is not necessarily evil. Sporting bright red hair, dark magenta, and gray clothes, Nimona appears colorful but not the brightly optimistic kind. Peach pink is Nimona’s color, and it signifies her bubbly, cheerful, and youthful nature. Nimona turns completely dark with fluorescent white eyes when she loses all hope—the lack of color explains her state of mind. Since black is an all-absorbing color, using it suggests that by the time she turns into her dark self, she has soaked up all the hatred and anger that she was subjected to. The dark self is not only her state of mind, but it also reflects the negative emotions that have been projected onto her. Therefore, by using a dark color palette for the hero and his sidekick, the concept of what visually looks villainous is questioned.
“Never judge a book by its cover” is the underlying theme here. Gloreth, the Institute director, and even Ambrosius are attired in white and gold. Instead of the serene, pure, and holy aura that the colors usually denote, they are used here for the oppressors. With its color scheme, Nimona breaks free from the Western (euro-centric) dichotomy of black and white (dark and light), where everything that appears dark is evil, and anything white is good. From wanting to become the sidekick of the number one villain to risking her life to protect human beings, Nimona’s transformation is significant in the context of good and evil. The only time Nimona shows her dark side is when she is accused of being a monster. The monster was not who she was but what the people around her created. Nimona started off as a villain, but she soon became dearly loved, not just by Ballister but by the entire human race.
While Nimona, the film, is rather straightforward, the themes explored are presented in an interesting way. Nimona, the shapeshifter, strikes a chord, and it is not just her goofy and adorable personality that makes her a favorite, but the complexity that is explored through her that makes her memorable.