The People Deserve a Guillotine Emoji

For World Emoji Day on July 17, Lisbon-based artist Carrozo is trying to convince the Unicode Consortium to make a guillotine emoji happen.
July 17, 2020, 6:00am
A guillotine emoji.
Image credit: Carrozo

When you want to express your complete rage at the incompetence of leadership over text, in a way that says "I would like to see their heads removed at the neck with a large falling blade and rolled into little baskets" but less literal and more succinct, an emoji would help a lot.

Sadly, there is no guillotine emoji, despite "guillotine them" being the ruling sentiment of the pissed-off proletariat for the last... well, probably many years, but more lately, as tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in protests around the world.

Lisbon-based artist Carrozo is lobbying the Unicode Consortium to include a guillotine in its next emoji update, and has sent an application outlining why the people need the 18th century execution machine in their emoji lexicon.

A Change.org petition started more than a month ago promised to make a Unicode application for a guillotine emoji when it hit 10,000 supporters, but has only gathered around 300 so far.

"I guess like a lot of people I wake up every day and am one doomscroll away from finding some fresh hell that will unleash my inner Howard Beale," Carrozo told Motherboard. "I thought it would be interesting to use one of the most core, backbone systems of our global digital communications networks to remind those in charge they are on a shorter leash than they've been acting."

The full application, which is thorough and worth a read, can be viewed on Carrozo's website.

“In a time of global unrest and revolt against rising inequality and authoritarianism, the Guillotine Emoji would serve as a reminder to states and elites to not take for granted the Hobbesian monopoly on violence they have been entrusted with by their peoples," the application states. “It is time for our global visual language to leverage the representation of this historic object in the global digital commons, before it is too late and real guillotines are erected in our public squares.”

Carrozo proposes that the guillotine land somewhere among the dagger (🗡) and crossed swords (⚔) emoji.

"There are currently many emojis that could be used in conjunction with the proposed guillotine emoji, including every disembodied head emoji (😉)," he wrote. "Indeed, one might wonder how these heads became disembodied in the first place. We need wonder no more with the inclusion of the Guillotine Emoji."

When there are protesters in Puerto Rico marching life-size guillotines to the governor's mansion, it's probably time for an emoji. After all, the Unicode Consortium solved gender way back in 2016 with little emoji femmes doing STEM jobs and finally approved—after four years of applying—a trans pride flag emoji in January. Maybe they're open to the guillotine now?

People are already making DIY guillotine emojis ad-hoc on platforms that let you add and customize emoji, like Slack. The custom guillotine even featured in some of the reporting of the turmoil at the New York Times, when staff reacted to former opinion editor James Bennet's departure with guillotine slackmojis.

"Although I followed the strict guidelines provided by Unicode, I very much doubt it will be approved," Carrozo said. "But if it were, I imagine it would be a nice halfway point between peaceful protests (which don't seem to achieve much, or even get on the news anymore) and violent ones (which seems to result in often monumental reforms)."