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


12 thoughts on “The Short Film, Yellow Fever

  1. 11/02/2015

    The short film “Yellow Fever” created by Ng’endo Mukii talks about black women and their desire to be white. In her film, Mukii makes the characters with unhappy expressions on their faces which shows how uncomfortable the characters feel about their skin color. There is a powerful scene where a kid is watching TV and fantasizing with being white. Throughout the film we can see white people on the TV, posters showing black women, and white toys.

    In the article “Powerful Short Film Challenges Beauty Ideals that Govern Skin Color” by the Huffington Post, Mukii says “they are only products of our society, as are we all”. I agree with her. I cannot blame most black women and kids for wanting to be white if that is what they are seeing since they are born. Commercials showing white people, products for “black people” and white toys is all we used to watch back in the days. That created the thoughts that being white “was better” and having the hair like white people do, is better, which is obviously wrong. We cannot blame black people for that but we can certainly blame those people who make these ridiculous advertisements.

    The expression on the character’s’ face is something that really caught my attention when I watched the film. There are posters showing white women smiling but the black people in the film look sad and mad. They look miserable. The good thing is that more black people now a days are changing. Less black people want to be white and I think education has something to do with that and the way the media is portrayed today. Now we can see more black people on television, we have more black artists…black people are all over the media now.


    • Raifis, I do agree with your sentiment that media has done a job on people of color in terms of how they view themselves. Which is something that has been happening for decades through several generations but I would have also like to hear your thoughts on how people of color are trying to combat and challenge those images. As always incorporating the reading helps because it can give context to your response and the film as well.


  2. The short film, “Yellow Fever” by Ng’endo Mukii displays how people of color unfortunately view themselves through the lens of a westernized, white society. we first see a cartoon of the narrator and her sister, having their hair braided by a woman who bleached her skin with “beauty creams”, but was only able to bleach her face and hands. We later hear a little girl who says that she wishes she was white, with white hair and how sometimes looking in the mirror makes her feel a little bit uncomfortable. The narrator also displays dancers of color with images of Africa, and history of slavery across their bodies as they dance. That is one of the things I particularly enjoyed about the film, how the images of Africa and history were displayed across the dancers bodies to show strength, and the history people of color have had- it is more than just a skin color. I also felt bad for the narrator’s mother who says she felt like she was doing the right thing, and sort of tries to justify her actions by saying their hair would be easier to manage by straightening and braiding it. I can personally relate because being from the Dominican Republic, you also hear that a lot. Hair is a huge thing with the Dominican culture, particularly having long, straight, full hair.
    The Huffington Post article describes what went on in the short film, and how damaging it can be for girls of color to have “the hierarchy of globalized beauty imposed on impressionable minds and bodies” (Frank, 2015). I also never thought about hating one’s own skin color and relating it to an eating disorder as Mukii states in the article “Why is there no acknowledgement of the pressure that exists to push Kenyan (and other) women to willingly poison their skin and bodies with various chemicals (mercury included) in an attempt to have a paler complexion? Why is this not some form of body dysmorphia related to the skin? Why should any normal girl feel that she will be more beautiful and lead a happier life if she loses weight? Why should any normal Kenyan girl feel the same, but in relation to being paler? Why do we live in societies that agree to either of these ideas?” (Mukii, 2015). Overall, the film made me pretty sad and made me reflect on my own experiences being from the Dominican Republic and hearing similar comments made.


    • Keibett, although I think you made some good points you put too much energy into summarizing the film and the article. The post is an opportunity to present an argument/analysis based on the readings and your thoughts about the film or a particular topic. You did raise some important issues as it relates to your experience as a Latina from DR which made your postings unique to you. As always, please incorporate quotes from the readings. Good job!


  3. In the mini film “Yellow Fever” Ng’endo Mukii it states how black individuals have this desire of being white. The film demonstrates how this young girl is watching the TV and its staring at this white women in a advertisement and she is contemplating being white just like the women in the television.

    Watching this film made me realize that there are some black individuals who don’t feel comfortable in the skin which they are in. It made me think about my childhood, like when i was in middle school. I attended a all black middle school which was divided in to three different programs. One of the programs where all Hispanics, the other one was all white and the other one was all black. I was in the all Black program, where only 10 percent of us was Hispanics. Mostly all of the girls there were these type of girls that would talk about my hair. Telling me how nice it was because it was naturally curly some times and other times it would be super straight and flat. There was this particular girl who was my closest friend who was black and was always criticized at home because of her nappy hair. She always told me that her mom would always talk about her hair, saying that why couldn’t she have good hair like the girl she took care for. Her mom was a nanny for a white girl. She always used to brag about how the girl’s hair was super shinny and soft. My friend always had an argument with her mom because her mom used to always fight about how knotted her hair was and how thick and bad it was. This particular story reminds me of the article, “Black Filmmakers Depictions of the Black Female’s Nonsexual Roles.” in the article it states a point on how many individuals are influenced in their household by their family. It can be either something positive of negative. In this case, my friend was influenced in a negative way because she was being “bullied” by her mom due to her nappy hair.

    This films just gives me the idea that many black individuals, including women are being influenced by white individuals in the television. Black women sometimes don’t feel beautiful because we have learned by media that beautiful is just white skin complexion, good hair and skinny bodies. This is the reason why many black girls grow up finding their selves ugly because the way they look is not considered “Beautiful.”


  4. Maria, excellent job! You seem to really take time to respond to this post. I appreciate the personal story, it shows you really thought about your response. In addition and just as important, you thought about how you comments connect to the reading. Although, it wasnt a direct quote from the reading its close, its important that you refer to the readings. Keep this in mind for future postings and your final presentation.


  5. The short film, “Yellow Fever” by Ng’endo Mukii displays the popular representation of western culture and beauty and how that has impacted the mindset of Black people.The short film represents the power of media. How if a certain image is presented and idealized all the time, it creates the image of what is beauty and what is not beauty. I believe this short film is speaking about the conception of beauty and how young black girls (or just black individuals) do not think they are beautiful due to the color of their skin not being idealized on television, movies, ads, magazines, stories, drawings and pictures.

    Watching this film, in a way, related to my life. As a dark skinned individual, I can say that I haven’t really cared for other people’s perception of beauty but my own. I understand that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and skin tones not just one; not just blonde, tall, blue eyes and white. I understand and I believe it’s because I have been given an valuable education through understanding Black history, literature, and beauty. However, I can relate to this because there were times (now that I think about this) I did buy into the western beauty model ideology. The scene were the girl was saying that she wanted to be white while looking at the white actress on her television screen, reminded me of a study we went over in class. The study was the Doll Project, where a husband and wife got together and commenced a study on children using dolls. Majority of the children wanted the White dolls basically and disregarded the Black dolls. The obvious answer is that they didn’t view the Black dolls as beautiful and it’s honestly sad because it’s revealing how they feel about themselves. This I could relate to because I remember when I was young there was a television show called totally spies. About three females spies saving the day. My sister and I would always act out games and shows, so this show was no difference. But my sister and I would always fight about who would be Sam (the white, long haired red head). We would literally fight and argue and sometimes not play at all. We finally came to this compromise where we would alternate between Sam and Clover (the white, blonde short haired girl). During this process, we never played Alex (the short haired black girl). We would always force our brother to play her and we went our way. So I could relate in this case, the idea of western beauty always being advertised to us. Not saying this show in particular advertised this, but I can say our actions (of fighting over being the white girl due us valuing her beauty more) enforced the idea. So I guess this relates to the Black girl in the film saying she wants to be white, because in a sense (through my actions of constantly choosing Sam/ Clover over Alex) I was saying I wanted to be White and not Black.

    Another scene I felt related to me personally, was the scene where the girl asked her mother “what was the reason you straightened/ permed our hair.” I swear, when I say I asked my mother this question… I got the same response. I went natural about a year now, so I asked my mom why did she perm our hair (my sister and I). She said she wanted us to look “better” and “it was easier to manage.” I feel that there is a perception in the Black community on what’s good skin and good hair. I feel that even though it’s not blatantly stated, it is implied. According to Manatu, lighter skin Black women are viewed as better love choices/ partners than a darker skin Black women in the eyes of Black men. This is due to the over presentation of western beauty pushed to the sight of Black men at an early age (Can’t find the reading but I have this paraphrased quote written down in my class notes).

    Moving back to the hair aspect of the film, I feel that presentation of hair is very important to mention. Like skin tone, straight/ looser curl pattern hair is viewed as better than kinkier/ “nappy” hair pattern. This reminds me of this you-tuber that I came across: MyNaturalSistas. She was talking about how she got hired at this school as a teaching assistant. When she arrived, there was this girl who had kinky braided hair and she was crying. When the you-tuber asked the girl why was she crying. The girl told her that there is this boy who is constantly making fun of her hair. He called her hair “nappy” and “bad hair.” The you-tuber was of course very angry. However, she was really shocked when the girl said she wanted good hair like hers. The you-tuber didn’t know what to say and so the next day she decided to come in with her hair as a fro. Usually the you-tuber preferred hairstyle like wand curls (she manipulates her hair to mimic a looser curl pattern; however, she naturally has kinky hair). So she came in with her big fro and went to that same girl and said that they both had GOOD kind of hair. She also disciplined the boy who mocked the young girl; however, that’s not really the point. The greatest thing that came from teaching (the you-tuber embracing her natural hair) was that they next day, that same young girl rocked her hair in a giant fro. This act then encouraged a lot of kinky and curly haired girls to go natural.
    So when I see things like this, I feel that it’s important to encourage black people of their beauty.
    Like I have a big family (cousins, uncles, aunts, second aunts, uncle etc.) and I know that half of them use skin lighters and beauty creams just to achieve “better skin.” Some of my cousins and aunts who do use beauty creams and skin lighters weren’t initially my skin tone; they were brown skin and now they look to the point yellow and unrecognizable. So this brings up the question, how far will you go to achieve this form of beauty and what is the message you are sending to your kids and other family members.

    I feel that I can write on forever about this topic due to the fact that it is an issue of loving yourself and the skin you were born with (the relaxers vs natural hair thing is a topic I don’t want to get into; one side says manageability, the other says self hate) but these beauty creams are accessible and affordable, which in my opinion makes it easier for someone to permanently make that life changing decision without a proper understanding of how or why they are doing it.


  6. Fatoumata, I’m glad that this film has sparked so much thought and introspection. I hope you “pay it forward” by sharing your thoughts with others, especially someone younger than you so then dont have to struggle with the same issues. The media plays an interesting role in how we see ourselves, therefore its important that we all look at it with an open mind and critical eye. Its very easy to be seduced by the media especially when it preys on our insecurities. The popularity of Donald Trump is an example of how folks can be tricked into believing in something even when it goes against our best interest. Thank you for sharing your personal experience but as always incorporate the readings as well as other films/tv shows you have seen into your response.


  7. After watching the short film Yellow Fever, I thought that the title is accurate to the way the way women who view these images are feeling. When you think about Yellow fever, it’s when someone is viewing all of these images of something that conditions them to want lighter skin. If the images weren’t always constantly the same image, women or children that aren’t yellow wont feel as if the only way to be accepted is to have lighter skin and a better hair texture and smaller bodies. When I was younger, I had to deal with the issue of lighter skin and curly hair in my family household because I am the only biracial person in the house so it would always come up into conversations especially when my friends met my mother and sisters. There was always questions like, “Why are your sisters dark skin and they have different hair texture from you?, “Are you adopted?”, “I thought your mother was light skin” or “ What are you mixed with”, “ Your father is spanish right because you don’t look like your family”. After a while I started to tell people before they met my family because I felt like it was assaulting even if it wasn’t meant to be, people just made me feel like my home isn’t where I belong and I was more special in sometype of way.
    When I go into beauty supply stores now, I’m more aware of the lightening bleach cream that’s near the section with the magic gro’ and other types of hair products that shows you how much power these products really have over what’s beauty. In the article Mukii questions, “Why is there no acknowledgement of the pressure that exists to push Kenyan (and other) women to willingly poison their skin and bodies with various chemicals (mercury included) in an attempt to have a paler complexion?”. I believe if more faces of black and brown people were shown in the media it would lead to people feeling more comfortable and accepted in their skin.


    • Shaquarius, I think you are the first person to connect the title of the film to the issue of skin lighting and the beauty model. Good catch. I also appreciate the personal experience you relate in regards to the film. As you mentioned, I don’t think folks see how the issues with skin color and hair, especially as it relates to the media, gets played out in personal relationships. This film always makes me think of the line in the Little Wayne song about wanting a redbone woman despite the fact he is far from redbone or attractive. I would have liked you to connect the readings, especially on The Beauty Model and Colorism, to some of the points you made. Keep that in mind for future postings.


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