The Short Film, Yellow Fever

Here’s an extra credit opportunity. Please view this short film, read the Huffington Post article and share your thoughts. Again, please incorporate the readings from Dr. Manatu’s book, discussions from the class and any of the stereotypes you see represented or discussed in the film.
Powerful Short Film Challenges Beauty Ideals That Govern Skin Color


8 thoughts on “The Short Film, Yellow Fever

  1. The short film seen here is very powerful and very realistic. The film is done by a women named Ng’endo Mukii titled “Yellow Fever”. I feel that the film did an excellent job of explaining colorism as well as showing what goes on in a child’s mind who feels uncomfortable in her own skin. The film is showing animated conversations between her mother and her niece, and even herself. The film starts by showing the audience two young girls getting their hair braided. The younger one is sleeping while the older girl cannot fall asleep as the pain is too much. The younger child is referred to as chocolate whereas the older child is referred to as toffee. The women who is braiding the older child’s hair has her hands and face bleached from creams that have chemicals in them. Women at this time were trying to bleach themselves to get rid of their true ebony roots and keep them from showing. The five year old niece says that if she was American she would be a white American with white hair and a white face. When asked why she want to be white she answers because she doesn’t like the way she looks in the mirror she feels uncomfortable.
    Within the article you receive a back ground into the short film and why it was created. The reasoning for that is to show what the media is doing to children and adults around the world. It is showing them that one specific look or skin color is the only one and the only way a person can look and that is wrong and doesn’t make any sense. The media is starting a horrible trend and society is just following it blind.
    From the book and class discussions we talked about colorism. Colorism can be defined as being a prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. It is the difference between being dark skinned and light skinned, the difference between appearing as dangerous or non-dangerous, and the difference between being intelligent an unintelligent.
    I really overall like the film and the article and really do feel it did a great job with portraying colorism as it did here.


    • Alex, you did a good overview of the film but the goal is to look at this issue, connect it to the film, the readings as well as the discussions. I’m glad you were able to make connections to the film, colorism and the social implications of these images. You made note of the niece in the film and how she internalized colorism. In chapter 4, Manatu states “The metamessages that are communicated by the heavy presence of white girls and women in media ( tv, mags, film) is that white women are important and they are the women to seek.” Quotes like this helps to connect the readings to not only the film or the blog but helps us to be critical about these images in the media. As we can see , its having a real impact on women of color, especially in how they view themselves and how the world views them.


  2. The Yellow Fever Short film has alot to do what with what we discussed in class and thats, colorism and the idea of beauty. Media has alot to do with why women and people in general think the way they do. The media and just watching tv for an hour can really mess up ones idea of beauty. All you see is light skinned women through out the commercials and in every day tv shows. Norma Manatu discusses in her book that white skin color is equivalent to femininity.
    “Conversely, within the family of black women, light-skinned skinned black women are also often depicted as more feminine and less sexual than are dark-skinned black women. So that when a light-skinned black female appears opposite a dark-skinned female, the latter is typically cally depicted in more sexually explicit ways-raw and gritty-than the former, as in films such as The Bodyguard (1992), New Jack City, Coming to America, Boomerang, and others. The implication is that the darker the woman, the less virtuous she is; the whiter the woman, the more virtuous ous she must be. Situations involving women who possess a middle range of light-skin color are fluid; thus, such women are allowed to move up and down the ladder of on-screen virtuousness, scenario depending. This is because white skin color, especially, is equivalent to femininity and virtue, whereas dark skin color is tantamount to lack of femininity and lack of sexual virtue”
    This quote shows that in our culture we believe that white equals power and any person who does not meet this criteria can not move up in life. Black women especially little girls see this in everyday life and feel that they are not good enough or won’t fit into society. Alot of black women seek bleaching creams to make their skins lighter so that they can try to fit society’s idea of beauty. It’s really sad that people would result to bleaching their skins just because the media says the whiter your skin the more beautiful you are.
    “It can legitimately be argued that, generally, other “women of color” are likely not to experience the kinds of debilitating oppression dark-skinned black women do, in part, because the skin color and facial features of other “women of color” generally come closest to the white ideal of beauty (Hall, 1995; Wade, 1996). Like white skin, light skin color tends to confer fer upon women some degree of inherent “goodness” not attributed to dark-skin women. Light-skinned women may, in fact, be perceived as just a bit more “feminine”; a tad more pure, delicate, and virginal (Wilson & Russell, 1997), and thus deserving of less hardship. Research by Keith & Herring (1991) reveals a relationship between skin-color bias and racial stratification. The authors conclude that “the effects of skin color are not only historical curiosities from a legacy of slavery and racism, but present-day sent-day mechanisms that influence who gets what in America” (p. 777).”
    This next quote i chose is similar to what was discussed in the previous quote but with this one, Manatu basically implies throughout the whole book that white women get more of what they want in life vs. a black women pursuing the same goals. Starting from young, black women are shun from certain oppurtunites or yet they think they are, so this is why they go towards the path of bleaching their skins and trying to be like the dominant group because they feel that they will be more beautiful.
    The Huffington Post article made me noticed the part in the video where they show a body and on the body is a projected image of a field and the sky. My opinion is that it represents the pyramid of life. The darker are at the bottom and the whites are at the top. In the image projected its dark colors at the bottom and towards the top it gets lighter. That was a very interesting way to portray how society is and without reading the huffington post i would of never even noticed that when watching the video alone.


    • Good analysis and use of quotes. I can’t say the media is totally to blame for how women of color but its certainly has had a great deal of influence in how we see ourselves and how the world sees us. One of the goals of the class is to hopefully provide students with the tools to critically analyze the media and change the power dynamics. Hopefully, it has provided you with some insight and you will provide some wisdom to someone younger or less knowledge than you!


  3. In the short film Yellow Fever by Ng’endo Mukii, black people were not comfortable in their skin. Mukii was portrayed by the girl in the hair salon with the yellow shirt who was getting her hair done by a woman whose hands and face were pale. Mukii stated in the film that the woman who was doing her hair looked paled because she used a “beauty cream” to make her look white. Skin bleaching has become a phenomenon because of several factors that it’s believed that it can lead to a happier, healthier, and better life style. It is also believed that skin bleaching can help someone become much more successful in life. The factors were several of the reasons why people were bleaching their skin Ng’endo Mukii stated in the short film Yellow Fever. In the film, people used these “beauty cream” to erase their true self and their identity as African Americans. In the film, Mukii’s five-year-old niece had said while she was watching a white pop star on TV “If I were American, I would be white, white, white, white and I’d love being white.” The little girl does not know better than to say how she feels because of the things that are being displayed in the media. According to the article Powerful Short Film Challenges Beauty Ideals That Govern Skin Color, Mukii states “Since our media perpetuates Western ideals to our girls and women, and we consume this information continuously from a young age, how can we fault anyone who is susceptible to these ideals (men included)…” The media brainwashes people just like it brainwashed Mukii’s niece and the woman who was doing her hair in believing that a lighter skin complexion equals a happy life style. This film incorporates a discussion we had in class about colorism, the differential treatment and form of discrimination based on the shade of a person’s skin complexion. Mukii played both the roles of ethnographer and the ethnographic, who was telling the conflict point of views (POV) of the person seeing these things being done, POV of the person it’s being done to, and the POV of what others see in the person it’s being done to.


    • Juan, you made some good points but you are still, giving an overview of the film instead of a straight anaylsis of the issues. You did a good job at looking at colorism from the niece’s eyes. I would have liked for you to share your thoughts around colorism and how it relates to women of color or even yourself. You pulled a great quote from the article but no quotes from the reading. You could of as well connected the film, Yellow Fever or article to one of the films we watched in class as well. Overall, you did a good job, just always remember the readings!


  4. Ng’endo Mukii’s Yellow Fever is a very powerful short-film that discusses colorism. Comparing this short to Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry’s Dark Girls, Mukii’s film was more effective in communicating the prevalence of colorism. Her decision to investigate this topic through personal narrative made the heavy subject matter more relatable and more complex. For example, both documentaries employed the use of testimonies from little girls. In Dark Girls, a young girl talks about her hate of her skin color whilst in the presence of her mother. As the young girl speaks, the disappointment from her mother hangs heavily in the atmosphere. In this moment, we, the viewers, must fight the impulse to blame the young girl’s mother for not teaching her child to love herself. In contrast, Yellow Fever utilizes illustration for her young niece’s testimony. While her niece discusses her wish to be white, a television, on the side, plays skin-lightening cream advertisements and videos of white American pop stars. This illustration allows us to understand internalized colorism as a product of multiple, confounding influences. In combination with the imagery of projectioned global maps on Black bodies, this girl’s testimony does not leave us with the impulse to blame the young girl’s parents but rather to understand colorism in a systemic paradigm. As Manatu notes in our textbook, the constant bombardment of images associating femininity and beauty with lighter skin tones is what allows colorism to pervade Black female viewers sense of self. Through personal narratives, Mukii’s illustrates Manatu’s conception of media as a mass socializing force. Yellow Fever reveals a circular relationship in colorism: a large media industry invested in colorism and people socialized to believe in colorism.


  5. Great job, I like you connection to Bill Duke’s Dark Girl. Light Girl would have worked as well or in addition to Dark Girl. The challenges that women of color who are preceived as special or better because they are light skinned has been damaging as well and would have been a nice counter balance to Yellow Fever. Good use of the reading, a direct quote is more effective but your summarizing works as well.


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