The opposite of grimdark is hopepunk. Pass it on.
So the essence of grimdark is that everyone’s inherently sort of a bad person and does bad things, and that’s awful and disheartening and cynical. It’s looking at human nature and going, “The glass is half empty.”
Hopepunk says, “No, I don’t accept that. Go fuck yourself: The glass is half-full.” YEAH, we’re all a messy mix of good and bad, flaws and virtues. We’ve all been mean and petty and cruel, but (and here’s the important part) we’ve also been soft and forgiving and KIND. Hopepunk says that kindness and softness doesn’t equal weakness, and that in this world of brutal cynicism and nihilism, being kind is a political act. An act of rebellion.
Hopepunk says that genuinely and sincerely caring about something, anything, requires bravery and strength. Hopepunk isn’t ever about submission or acceptance: It’s about standing up and fighting for what you believe in. It’s about standing up for other people. It’s about DEMANDING a better, kinder world, and truly believing that we can get there if we care about each other as hard as we possibly can, with every drop of power in our little hearts.
Going to political protests is hopepunk. Calling your senators is hopepunk. But crying is also hopepunk, because crying means you still have feelings, and feelings are how you know you’re alive. The 1% doesn’t want you to have feelings, they just want you to feel resigned. Feeling resigned is not hopepunk.
Examples! THE HANDMAID’S TALE is arguably hopepunk. It’s scary and dark, and at first glance it looks like grimdark because it’s a dystopia… but goddammit she keeps fighting. That’s the key, right there. She fights every single day, because she won’t let them take away meaning from her life. She survives stubbornly in the hope that one day she can live again. “Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” is one of the core tenets of hopepunk, along with, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Jesus and Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Robin Hood and John Lennon were hopepunk. (Remember: Hopepunk isn’t about moral perfection. It’s not about being as pure and innocent as the new-fallen snow. You get grubby when you fight. You make mistakes. You’re sometimes a little bit of an asshole. Maybe you’re as much as 50% an asshole. But the glass is half full, not half empty. You get up, and you keep fighting, and caring, and trying to make the world a little better for the people around you. You get to make mistakes. It’s a process. You get to ask for and earn forgiveness. And you love, and love, and love.)
And THIS, this is hopepunk: