Please Stop Using The 'Brown Country' Lens Filter
Do you notice anything unusual about this image?
That's a still from Breaking Bad and, after not having seen it on the air for a decade, you might notice that the sky, grass, and pretty much everything else is almost entirely yellow. It turns out that color isn't caused by the air in the filming location containing tiny yellow particles, but in fact, is a conscious choice by the filmmakers to add a yellow filter.
Breaking Bad used that filter to indicate every time their characters were in Mexico, possibly as a self-aware nod to how "yellow filter = Mexico" has become ubiquitous in American filmmaking, or possibly just because they themselves had grown accustomed to the association. It's so prevalent that it has become a meme. Mexico, however, is not the only country Americans slap a yellow filter on. Pretty much any place America feels is threatening or "Third World," like Bangladesh in Chris Hemsworth's new Netflix film Extraction, will get an extra dip in the yellow wash. It can get to be pretty insulting when you start to consider how the effect makes everyone living there look like Night of the Living Jaundiced.
You can make the argument that using a yellow filter is a tool for filmmakers to indicate a hot temperature, just as you'd use a blue filter to indicate you're in someplace cold, or a black and white filter on Instagram to indicate you're pretentious. Perhaps that's even how the prevalence of the yellow filter started. Still, we'd argue that whatever effectiveness a yellow filter conveys in displaying temperature is overshadowed by it's making whatever location you're in look like you're swimming in piss. Seriously, how integral to the plot do you think temperature is in this image here?
Damn, Palestine must be a tough place to live in, not because of the constant war or political strife, but because of how hot it is. The answer to peace in the Middle East must be air conditioners!
The problem with a yellow filter is that it causes audiences to buy more deeply into the "shithole countries" stereotypes rather than getting an honest representation of what they are viewing. If we looked at countries outside of our own as beautiful rather than as "yellow," perhaps we'd be more likely to develop a sense of empathy for them. Then again, that might make us feel bad when we see Chris Hemsworth explode the shit out of that bus.
Top Image: Extraction/ Netflix