Yellow Filter: Hollywood's Hidden Racial Bias

Have you ever noticed Hollywood’s hidden racial bias? Have you noticed how they use a distinct, yellow-ish tone for countries outside America? You have, haven’t you?


Well, lucky for you, I’m here to tell you that there’s a name for this strange tone – it’s called yellow filter.


Yellow filter is specifically used to depict places such as the Middle East, South Asia and Mexico - in order to showcase their warm and dry climate (yeah right!).


However, the yellow filter has recently come off as a racially biased cinematic tool which often makes countries appear more dirty and dangerous than they actually are.


In fact, yellow filter is used as a deliberate and manipulative tool used to signal to the audience that countries such as India, Pakistan and Mexico are primitive and poverty-stricken and that the West is an aspirational landscape one should compare the whole world to.




I very recently took an issue with this stereotype, because I began noticing its presence almost every Hollywood film set in a foreign location. For example, in the Netflix series “Delhi Crime,” a Canadian director (with extremely distant roots to India) has chosen to depict many scenes on the streets of Delhi in a yellow-ish hue. Many critics, and locals alike, have voiced concern that this is a clever tactic used to inject a sense of eerie danger to the country and culture itself. Instead of focusing on the ill nature of the perpetrator, the director has chosen to blame the city instead with its criminalizing “sepia-toned” filters.


This filter is also used in award-winning movies such as Zero Dark Thirty, Slumdog Millionaire and the Netflix show “Narcos.”


The reason why this filter is so problematic is that it goes hand-in-hand with how Westerners embed racist values, and how they go on to perceive these places and people without ever visiting them.


Particularly disheartening is how these incredibly vibrant and colorful locations are reduced to grimy and violent places all due to the use of a yellow filter.


Hence, the purpose of my piece was to shed light on this unique aspect of racial bias which lingers only in the backdrops and editing rooms of movies - and not in their casting rooms for a change.





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