Article by Christina Crasto | esPResso Staff Writer
On Wednesday, April 20, the social media app Snapchat released a filter of reggae music legend Bob Marley’s face to celebrate the unofficial holiday of “National Weed Day”.
In an effort to the celebrate the day 4/20, Snapchat created a digital lens that superimposed Bob’s Marley’s face over a user’s selfie, including Marley’s signature dreadlocks and crocheted beanie hat with a dark skin tone. The intention of this digital lens or filter was to honor the deceased reggae star; however, as displayed by the negative feedback on Twitter, not all Snapchat consumers thought this message was translated. Some users went as far as to demand Snapchat remove the filter after attempting to reduce Bob Marley to just a marijuana smoker, discounting his other accomplishments.
Comments and tweets also centered on why a social media company was unprepared for users to take offense to the creation of a digital blackface. Although Snapchat users, such as the most viewed person on Snapchat, Kylie Jenner appreciated the filter, other users found the use of imposing a black skin on a person’s selfie was insensitive, offensive and ignorant. The use of blackface or cultural appropriation has been a continued debate in society, as attempts to use another person’s race, culture or ethnicity as a costume is widely viewed as offensive.
Snapchat responded to media and consumer criticisms with a statement describing the company’s partnership with the Bob Marley Estate, explaining its objective to share their appreciation of the reggae legend in a new way. Snapchat also added the company and its millions of Snapchatters wish to respect and celebrate the life and achievements of Bob Marley. As of midday on 4/20, the name Marley was a top trending topic on Twitter with nearly 90,000 mentions. By proactively responding to criticisms, Snapchat was able to defend itself, by explaining its motivation and rationale behind the creation of the filter.