Today is April 20, aka 4/20, which – for the uninitiated – is the day where people get to celebrate all things weed.
If you go on Twitter or Instagram today, you’re sure to see plenty #420 posts in your feed. And if you open Snapchat, you’ll be greeted with an official Bob Marley filter.
Taken aback? You should be.
While Snapchat hasn’t officially said the Bob Marley filter and 4/20 are connected, we’re all smart enough to recognize the company has taken the opportunity to capitalize on the social media-friendly holiday with both hands.
However, Snapchat might live to regret this one because people are truly insulted by the filter. Why? Firstly, it uses Marley as a symbol for cannabis, which is disrespectful to his actual achievements.
Snapchat has made a "Bob Marley" filter for 4/20? Lol don't reduce the brother's legacy to nothing more than a weed mascot for white hippies
— Jordan Rose (@ZER0DayVirus) April 20, 2016
Secondly, and perhaps most disrespectfully, it changes the color of your skin and your gender if you’re female. People are calling it the digital equivalent of blackface.
This Bob Marley filter on snapchat is getting someone fired today. Blackface because it's 420 and he smoked? Really?
— Pardeep Nainu (@PardeepNainu) April 20, 2016
As well as making your skin appear darker by blending Marley’s face with yours, it also adds dreadlocks and the musicians iconic rasta-style hat. This, for obvious reasons, is causing people to call out the company for the blackface association and cultural appropriation – something Snapchat should have seen coming.
April 20 is not Bob Marley’s birthday or the day he died. If Snapchat wanted to respectfully commemorate the musician, it could have held out a few weeks until May 11 – the 35th anniversary of his death – and done it in a more appropriate manner.
This Bob Marley snapchat filter today makes me uncomfortable
— B (@TweetsByBilal) April 20, 2016
The Bob Marley snapchat thing is disturbing😰😰
— Michael Saunders (@MSaundersUK) April 20, 2016
With cultural appropriation in the headlines so frequently, this was a pretty ill-judged move by the company. It should probably stick to face swaps and cat filters for now and spend a little longer at the drawing board if it wants to avoid insulting people next time it uses the image of a cultural icon like Marley.
A Snapchat spokesperson told TNW:
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.