Lots of unequivocally stupid things have happened in 2016. This is the year, after all, that a shit load of white people decided to cover Beyonce’s “Formation”, leading to grown men with acoustic guitars saying, in all seriousness, “I got hot sauce in my bag…swag”. It's the year that some guy got a dick tattooed on his leg and replaced it with an even worse tattoo of Biggie’s face. See? Awful things happen on the regular. It's part of life.
But nothing—nothing at all—prepared me for what was to happen today, when I opened my Snapchat to see Kylie Jenner’s face, in blackface to look like Bob Marley in a Rasta hat, staring back at me in a cute selfie pose. Behold the Bob Marley Filter: essentially a digitalised way to look just like Bob Marley, just in time for 4/20.
You’d think that Snapchat, a $16 billion app targeted at youth and used by almost everyone on this earth, would be familiar with how problematic something like this would be. If you have a moral compass or have ever been on the internet, then it shouldn’t be that hard to grasp: Using blackface for the purpose of a joke is neither funny nor tolerable.
But it's not just clumsy racism that makes this filter the worst thing to happen since Dapper Laughs. It’s also the fact that Bob Marley, a man who was known for not just his music and art, but also for his endless work as an advocate for black people's rights, is once again having his entire legacy reduced down to a lazy universal image stereotype for weed.
It isn’t the first time Marley’s face has been used in ways that make your eyes roll so hard they plop out of their sockets. He has been plastered across lava lamps, weed grinders, mouse pads, socks and actual fake dreads. If you’re into any of this stuff, maybe ask yourself what Bob Marley asked us all long ago: “Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you're living?” Nope.
Snapchat have since released the following statement about the filter, which, as the Bob Marley logo in the top left suggests, was a partnership with the Marley Estate: "The lens we launched today 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. Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley’s music, and we respect his life and achievements."
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