Someone at Snapchat probably should have spoken up during their brainstorming sessions.
Today is the stoner’s holiday, but despite its cultural ubiquity it’s been a bit of a “no fly zone” for brands because of its illegal nature. However, Snapchat decided it was too cool to fear backlash for promoting marijuana use. To celebrate 4/20, they’ve create a Bob Marley filter, and inadvertently created a very different (and much worse) kind of PR nightmare.
Log into Snapchat, and you’ll find a new filter that gives you a signature Rastafarian hat and dreads and plays short clips of Bob Marley songs in the background. If Snapchat had stopped there, they probably would have escaped the day with just a few social side eyes. Alas, they didn’t, creating a weird mask that makes your face look like Bob Marley’s, including his skin color. Unsurprisingly social media users came out in droves, calling the filter “digital blackface,” “misguided” and “kinda racist,” among other things.
Gawker reached out to Snapchat for comment, and their response doesn’t address any of the concerns. Instead, they reveal the filter “was created in partnership with the Bob Marley Estate, and gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music.”
While it's nice they checked with the Bob Marley Estate first, it only shows the Marley Estate is just as capable of poor judgement as Snapchat’s brainiacs. On top of the racial issues, people have also pointed out that this belittles Bob Marley’s work as an activist, reducing him to just a guy who sang about love and smoking weed (despite the fact that his weed smoking was religiously-based).
As of right now, the filter is still available. If you'd rather celebrate in a less culturally-insensitive way, just listen to our 4/20 playlist.
Snapchat has a "Bob Marley" filter now, which gives you darker skin and dreadlocks. Is this.... kinda racist? pic.twitter.com/X0rYlhWbqG— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) April 20, 2016
This Bob Marley Snapchat filter seems misguided pic.twitter.com/aPRoEdjdwf— Elle Hunt (@mlle_elle) April 20, 2016