It may have been inspired by animé — often a special interest of the same young demographic that is now crazy over ephemeral messaging apps. But Snapchat's "yellowface" filter has come under attack for its racist approach.
The camera lens superimposes stereotypical (exaggerated) Asian features, such as small, slanted eyes, on the photo subject, thereby making a caricature of people's ethnicity.
But angry netizens have since vented their wrath in Twitterverse, forcing the company to take down the new filter.
Yellowface Filter Inspired By Animé, Says Snapchat
Snapchat has apologized, saying the filter only aimed to be "playful" since it took inspiration from the highly popular animé culture. Only that the messaging app's take on the idea of animé seems limiting of Asians.
In April, Snapchat also took the heat for its "Bob Marley" lens, which superimposed a "blackface" and dread locks on subjects, supposedly to celebrate 4/20, otherwise known as "Weed Day." While the filter reportedly had the blessing of Marley's estate, one would wonder about the real need to play around with a person's color and ethnicity.
But for Snapchat, the camera lens "gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music."
A month later, the company again received backlash over the use of filters that, this time, whitewashed users' faces, with cartoony features that make them look fairer than they naturally are.
The Yellowface Backlash In Mainstream Media
The yellowface controversy doesn't just involve messaging apps. Hollywood's portrayal of Asian characters by Caucasian actors has also led to the heavy use of makeup and digital enhancements. The yellowface technique aims to pass the actors off as another race when, critics says, it would have made more sense to hire actors of Asian descent.
Take, for example, the case of Scarlett Johansson in the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, whose producers reportedly commissioned visual effects experts to "tweak [the actor's] ethnicity post-production" and, sources say, make her look more "Asian."
As Tech Times pointed out, not only was the yellowfacing of Johansson derogatory to Asians — it was equally insulting to Johansson herself who was cast only to be later on "modified" for not looking the part convincingly enough.
Of course, there have been many other cases of yellowfacing in Tinseltown, from Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's to Matt Damon in the upcoming movie The Great Wall. All of which contribute to how easily accepted racism is in the mainstream media and now, in the case of Snapchat, our social media feeds as well.
— k #STUCK (@engravedhearts) August 9, 2016
Dear @Snapchat , thanks for the overly-racist new filter...when can we expect Blackface? pic.twitter.com/vKZn18NDYM — Brian (@bkisnah) August 9, 2016