Snapchat, an image messaging and multimedia mobile app that offers a curious mix of private messaging and public content, with the former being accessed more than the latter, is back under the spotlight with their latest filter release which is said to be racially insensitive. This new filter has touched its fair share of raw nerves, resulting in a backlash from its users. What is all the ruckus concerning the latest Snapchat filter?
Well, it seems that the latest Snapchat filter is one that seemingly channels racial stereotypes. This has led to a user backlash that should not, and cannot be ignored, where Snapchat’s new filter was accused of trafficking in digital yellowface. The latest filter made its bow a couple of days ago, where users’ faces would end up with contorted facial features and slit eyes, and if you were to compare it with the face on the left in the image above, it does lead one to think that you are being pointed in the direction of an Asian descent.
Response from Snapchat has been fast to say the least, by removing the new filter already as of early this morning, meaning it has been up for less than 48 hours. This has not stopped many users from venting their anger at the filter for being approved in the first place though, and rightfully so.
Snapchat commented in its defense, "This anime-inspired lens has already expired, and won't be put back into circulation. Lenses are meant to be playful and never to offend." Of course, such a carefully worded sentence had not a single iota of apology to it, which most probably means that Snapchat did not see that they did anything wrong with the availability of the now-defunct filter, but rather removed it from sheer negative user backlash.
America does have a history of yellowface, and just in case you are trying to wrap your head around the term yellowface, it is a word that is normally attached to non-Asian actors playing stereotyped or caricatured versions of Asian people in an onscreen persona. For instance, a good example that should still be fresh in many people's minds would be 2015's Aloha, where Emma Stone was cast as a woman of Chinese-Hawaiian-Swedish descent. However, this particular yellowface phenomenon has been around in Hollywood for quite some time already, and an oldie but goldie would be the portrayal of Mr. I.Y. Yunioshi by Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany's.
This is not the first racial controversy that Snapchat has wandered into, as there was another Bob Marley filter that was released earlier in honor of the late singer. The backlash involved back then was been hailed as a "digital blackface," and some of the points put forward include turning him into "a prolific political figure" or simply reducing the great man into "a stoner." Perhaps there is one filter that Snapchat might want to consider which should gain worldwide approval, right across the age, gender, and religious divides. This would be a Pokemon filter, making everyone look like a Pokemon of sorts. Now that'd be a winner!