Tangerine Title Meaning, Explained

‘Tangerine,’ Sean Baker’s 2015 film set in Los Angeles, particularly the dicey part of the Hollywood neighborhood, delves into the worldview of a trans sex worker who embarks on a quest for revenge. Freshly out of prison, Sin-Dee learns that her boyfriend has been unfaithful in her absence. As such, the woman travels around town, fervently looking for Chester and his mistress, looping others into her mess. Even though her best friend, Alexandra, wants no part of the ensuing drama, she ends up embroiled in it. The film presents a realistic account of the two women’s journey ripe with friendship and acceptance as the lessons at the end of the line. Therefore, viewers might be confused about the film’s title and its relevance to the story’s themes and narratives.

Tangerine: A Representation of The Characters’ Disposition

At first watch, ‘Tangerine’ seems to harvest its name from the vibrancy of the world that Sin-dee and Alexandra’s narrative creates. As the story takes the two women around the Hollywood neighborhood, their perspectives include different colorful and gaudy elements in the story. Components like various strip mall business signs, shady motels, or zealous car wash— end up creating the world of ‘Tangerine,’ imbuing it with a distinct visual personality. The film’s visuals mirror the same, similarly sporting an oversaturated color grade that overlays the entire story with an orange tint.

Furthermore, the decision remains a conscious effort on the filmmaker’s part— with Baker swapping out his original grimy visual concept for the colorful saturation. “It didn’t feel honest because these women’s [Sin-Dee and Alexandra] personalities were so colorful,” Baker said in a conversation with The Guardian. “So when we went the other direction and pumped saturation through the roof, it felt much more like the world we’d spent eight months in.” For the same reasons, one naturally arrives at the conclusion that the film’s title must be connected to the same.

However, while that explanation remains thematically relevant, it wasn’t the explicit reason behind the film’s name. Although Baker has stated the film’s title can be open to interpretation, the filmmaker has a specific explanation of his own. ‘Tangerine,’ the title is a reference to the setting of Sin-Dee and Alexandra’s one-day-long odyssey. In an interview with The Wrap, Baker elaborated on the same. He said, “We had a bunch of titles, and that was one that everybody kept coming back to. It resonated with everybody, and everyone has their own interpretation. It doesn’t really stem from the dominant hue of the film— but there’s something about the title that reminds me of Christmas. [I think] I used to get tangerines in my stocking on Christmas, so there was a personal link for me.”

Upon deliberation, the relevance of the story’s setting on December 24— the day before Christmas Eve— enforces the significance of a title that references the holiday. Traditionally, Christmas is spent among one’s family and loved ones. However, within the context of Sin-Dee and Alexandra— two trans women of color, coming from poverty without any evident close family— Christmas presents a different image. Ultimately, the two women end up by each other’s side after experiencing interpersonal complications on the day before Christmas.

Consequently, the addition of visual references to the festive season highlights the themes of found family and self-acceptance while also scrutinizing socially relevant issues within the trans community. Baker affirmed the same sentiment and said, “It’s [The Christmas setting] extremely important because the film wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t taking place on that night.” Therefore, the film’s title retains a tangible connection to its near-Christmas setting.

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