Snapchat is currently being criticized for launching a new selfie lens for April 20th that maps Bob Marley's face onto the user. Critics are saying the move reduces Marley's legacy to a stereotype by allowing users to share snaps of themselves wearing digital blackface.
According to a statement sent to The Verge, Snapchat worked with the Marley Estate to release the lens:
"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."Those who came across the filter shared images on Twitter to voice their dismay:
According to The Guardian, celebrity users like Kylie Jenner are already being called out for the filter.
To be clear, and despite the best intentions of Snapchat and the Marley Estate, using Bob Marley as an icon for observing 4/20 and weed culture is of course problematic. Marley certainly used marijuana as a sacrament, but he also happens to be one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, helping make reggae a cultural force. While the selfie lens isn't quite the same as putting black paint on you face, it's tantamount to putting on a Bob Marley mask to celebrate getting high, effectively reducing Marley's impact to a stereotype.