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Yellow Is the Color of Virality

Is yellow clothing the secret to a good meme?

This morning, a video of a BBC interview of Professor Robert E. Kelly discussing geopolitics in South Korea was the only thing worth clicking on online. It wasn’t good because of Professor Kelly’s insight — which was, I’m sure, penetrating — but because Kelly’s kids – a toddler in a yellow sweater and a baby in a walker – who burst through the door and interrupted the interview, only to have their mom also bust onto the scene to hurry them out of the room and the frame.

It’s not at all surprising how popular this video is. It’s got all the telltale signs of a good viral hit. A low-tech camera, two adorable children, and two parents who — to varying degrees — can’t control said adorable children. There’s also the structure of the video: The BBC anchors can see the kids the whole time, while Kelly only gets clued in once his daughter is an arm’s length away from him. You can’t manufacture that kind of suspense. The rise and fall of the action — the daughter sauntering in, chased by the baby, and then chased out by their mother — is excellent. But all of this neglects the most important aspect of the video, and possibly the key reason you’ve already read several hundred words about it: the little girl’s yellow sweater.

The sweater grabs you the moment she throws open the office door and strolls into the room. It hums with life against the grainy, colorless surroundings; it calls your eye to it almost supernaturally. Plus, yellow is just a good and funny color. Big Bird! Rubber ducks! Bananas! Wallpaper! All funny (except, uh, the last one). All yellow.

But you don’t need my analysis. In case you’re not already thoroughly convinced, Kelly’s daughter isn’t the first little girl to go viral sporting a yellow top.

Back in September, a little girl named Beatrix found her 15 minutes of web fame, thanks to a clip of her in the stands with a wild expression and a her face stained a cotton-candy blue. She was sporting a yellow raincoat, the perfect foil to her blue face. A kid covered in cotton candy at a baseball game: Fine. Funny even. A kid covered in cotton candy at a baseball game wearing a bright-yellow raincoat: Meme.

Of course, we wouldn’t even be talking about this meme-trope if it weren’t for the great forefather (er, foremother? We’re talking about actual children, so this feels odd either way) of yellow-clothing virality. Back in 2009, a picture of an unnamed girl running with a plastic tube of bubbles in her hand made its first appearance on 4chan. To know bubbles girl — or “Chubbles,” as she is sometimes called — is to know her yellow coat. And to know her yellow coat is to love it. You can dress your family in corduroy and denim all you like, but if you want your kids to go viral, you should probably just dress them in yellow.

Yellow Is the Color of Virality