Snapchat’s ‘anime’ lens: a show of poor judgment

September 14, 2016 — by Eleanor Goh

Since the time of the lens release, Snapchat has been under fire not once but twice for creating racially insensitive filters.


Since the addition of “lenses” last year to Snapchat, users have been able to turn their faces into dogs, tomatoes, bread slices and more.

Aside from being entertaining, the app’s ability to drastically change a person’s facial features presents an interesting test of the company’s taste in humor and sense — one that Snapchat has failed multiple times. Since the time of the lens release, the company has been under fire not once but twice for creating racially insensitive filters.

Strike one: In honor of April 20, also known as “Weed Day,” Snapchat released a lens celebrating Bob Marley, a Jamaican reggae artist who sold over 20 million records in the course of his career. The filter, which gave users a cap, dreadlocks and darkened skin, received fierce backlash, with users accusing Snapchat of creating “blackface” and reducing Marley to a stoner.

Strike two: Just last month, the company released a lens that gave people slanted, squinty eyes, a nonexistent nose bridge and buck teeth, an insensitive and exaggerated caricature of East Asian features. Users immediately took to Twitter to complain; some even went as far as calling it “yellowface,” a practice in the film industry where non-Asian actors use makeup to appear Asian.

Snapchat clearly neglected and failed to address complaints from the “blackface” incident, as it has moved on to now include “yellowface” on its list.

Though the company discarded the “yellowface” lens and explained that they were inspired by anime and were not meant to offend,  anyone who has seen even the slightest bit of anime would know that Snapchat’s “anime” filter was horribly inaccurate.

Anime characters are known for having V-shaped faces, unnaturally wide eyes and small mouths — characteristics that were not only absent, but completely opposite of what Snapchat depicted in the filter. If Snapchat’s lens had stayed true to the visual attributes of anime, there would be no issue, as anime is an art form and not a portrayal of a race.

The company either has a distorted understanding of anime, or, more likely, used anime as a defense for its questionable portrayal of Asians.

Although deeming Snapchat to be racist would be a bit of a stretch, it is safe to say that the “anime” and Bob Marley lenses both exhibited the company’s poor judgment.

Snapchat, next time, just stick to the dog. As they say: strike three, you’re out.

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