Detectives Beyond Borders, Photographe à Dublin pondered a question that I believe has been preoccupying her a bit, namely, since when does something have to be gritty to be realistic? This led me wonder when 'gritty' came into the lingo to mean, not 'full of grit', but a dark and unflinching look at harsh reality. I don't know if I can find the answer to this one, but it seemed like a nice one to attempt.
Well, in a way I wasn't too successful. I was somewhat surprised that the Online Etymology Dictionary has it that the sense of 'gritty' passed from describing the physical quality of grit to meaning unpleasantness in general as early as 1882, derived from the sensation of eating gritty bread apparently. But this still didn't tell me a lot about the genre. And in fact there was dearth of etymological explanations, though quite a large fascination with 'nitty-gritty' and it's possible beginnings. That's a bit far afield for this post, though.
In the end though, I was richly rewarded by finding the word defined in the Urban Dictionary. Sure, you've got the link, but since many won't bother to click on it, I'll just post it here in its entirety. You really should just go on and read all three definitions:
A type of realism, usually invoked by films and documentary. Strangely
enough, "gritty realism" is only perceptible to media and film critics and the term is hardly ever used by anyone else. In fact no-one but film and tv critics ever use the term.
Film Critic: " X is a film depicting the gritty realism of life in the New York suburbs"
"the gritty realism of this documentary is in stark contrast to his other work"
A middle-to-upper class term to describe the living conditions of the majority of the human populace as seen through indie movies.
"The film 'x' was a gritty depiction of life on the streets of NY."
There was one other consolation prize, although this time of bittersweet nature. I discovered the blog of Michael J. Sheehan, which is called Wordmall. Sheehan is a retired English teacher of the City Colleges of Chicago, and he has been running a pretty fine etymology et cetera blog for a few years. It's kind of like this blog, except that he actually knows what he is doing.
Check it out, and do feel free to defect.