Snapchat, the social media messaging app, offers filters that users can overlay on top of their own photos, to alter their appearance. While many of these filters are marketed as humorous, several have been accused of being culturally insensitive and racist. On April 20, 2016, a day also known as ‘420,’ a number associated with marijuana use, Snapchat offered a one-day Bob Marley filter. The filter made users’ skin darker, gave them dreadlocks, and a Bob Marley style cap. A number of users complained that the filter was in effect ‘digital blackface’ and insulting as it trivialized Marley as a ‘stoner.’ Snapchat defended the filter saying it was done as a tribute to Bob Marley’s music with the permission of his estate. Just a few months later in August 2016, Snapchat released another filter that gave users slit eyes and contorted facial features. This filter was quickly accused of digital yellowface. After many complained, Snapchat removed the filter, which it said was ‘anime-inspired.’ Snapchat has also been criticized for its ‘beauty’ filter which makes eyes bigger, but noses and faces slimmer. Many say it reinforces Western standards of beauty.
Produced in 2010, this clip from the major film studio Pixar takes a public stance as a part of the “It Gets Better” Campaign in support of gay rights. It features a number of its LGBT employees, and asserts that LGBT individuals are an important part of the Pixar community whose lifestyles are supported by the company.
Launched on March 1, 2014, “I, Too, Am Harvard” (#itooamharvard) is an online photo and hashtag campaign that features portraits of over 50 black and mixed race students at Harvard College holding up dry-erase boards with handwritten examples of racist comments, microaggressions, talk-back messages and quotes, or other difficult interpersonal and institutional interactions they’ve experienced as students. Touching on issues of tokenism, assumption of lack of intelligence, the myth of meritocracy, color blindness, devalued and dismissed perspectives, stereotypical exchanges, and other kinds of problematic interactions, the visually impactful campaign resonated with many people and rapidly spread across the Internet. It further inspired minority students on other campuses to create and share similar projects through their own locally-situated social media campaigns.
This T-shirt was sold by J.C Penney, a mid-range American retailer, on its website in 2011. The text on the shirt reads “My best subjects” with a checklist including boys, shopping, music and dancing. There was some public backlash against the shirt, as critics argued it suggests that girls are more interested in and more successful at frivolous social activities as opposed to traditional academic subjects. However, the shirt it continues to be available for sale. By contrast, another J.C. Penney shirt -- “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me” -- was pulled by the retailer after a negative public response.
This T-shirt was sold by J.C Penney, a mid-range American retailer, on its website in 2011. The text on the shirt reads, “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me”. Following complaints from concerned parents and negative publicity from mainstream media outlets, the shirt was pulled from the website after only two hours. The controversy over the shirt has been compared to that of the Teen Talk Barbie doll. Released in 1992 and pulled from shelves after a few months, Barbie was programmed to say “Math class is tough.”