It’s no secret that most Hollywood movies don’t quite represent reality. From polished actors to happy endings only, we’ve learned to take it with a grain of salt.
This time, we’re dealing with another big screen misdemeanor. It turns out, the American film industry does little to care about accurately portraying other countries. The meme below suggests that all it takes to portray Mexico, Japan, Africa, and India is some editing and a custom filter. Hence, the Mexican street is drenched in sepia, Japan is shouting neon, and Eastern Europe looks grey and shabby. Too many stereotypes and too little imagination have got us wondering how come it’s still okay.
After you’re done with this one, here’s our previous article on why Mexico in American movies always looks the same and what it tells us about how the West (mis)represents other cultures.
Hollywood has been dousing non-Western countries in yellow tints on and off for years now. For example, the Netflix movie “Extraction,” which is partly set in Bangladesh, has raised the question of why Dhaka is so yellow. The Daily Star suggests that such a shade of yellow depicting Dhaka is to increase discomfort and heighten tension. The Breaking Bad scenes shot in Mexico are also doused in yellow.
People started editing their own versions in response to the meme
The filmmaker Diego Noriega Mendoza, in response to a Quora question “Why do films and TV shows use a yellowish tint to depict countries like India or Mexico?” gave a similar explanation. “When used in film, yellow has a very distinct psychological effect: it portrays extremes, contrasts, and density.” He also claims that “our brains cannot handle yellow for a very long time.”
The color filters are also used to establish a sense of different location. Diego suggests that this tendency goes back to the first Westerns shot in color, where the desert was always portrayed as yellow. “And the heroes of these movies had to thrive in the desert: the heat, the scarcity, the outlaws. It stood to reason that it had to be yellower.”