Tags: emoji | gun | skin tone | unicode | rifle | harambe

Emoji Surprisingly Politicized These Days

Emoji Surprisingly Politicized These Days

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Wednesday, 09 November 2016 03:47 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Sometime during the last decade, our rudimentary punctuation emoji have turned into actual cartoon images. Gone is the colon-dash-paren smiley, replaced with a big, cheery yellow “have a nice day” (or, depending on your bent, Watchmen) smiley face image. These tiny graphical representations of emotions and common objects have crept into our everyday communication through a wide array of media.

Even Facebook has had a part in this change, turning the simple textual “Like” into a series of graphical emoji representing a thumbs up for “like”, a heart for “love”, and surprised, sad, amused, and angry little faces. All with yellow skin.

What you probably don’t realize is that behind the scenes there’s an international organization called Unicode that is standardizing and determining which images are added to the list and which are rejected. And their work is surprisingly political.

For example, Apple used to have a black pistol emoji mixed into its hundreds of tiny graphical symbols. No more; it was replaced by a bright green water pistol. As well, the Unicode group wanted to add an Olympics-inspired rifle to its latest batch of emoji, but companies like Microsoft and Apple opposed it. Result: no rifle emoji.

It’s political correctness writ small. Very small.

The release of Apple’s iOS 8.3 brought the complexity of emoji in our modern, hypersensitive world into sharp focus: that was the firmware update for iPhones and iPads that added changes in emoji skin tone. In fact, all emoji that portray a human of any sort can be assigned any of six skin tones, ranging from a pale pink to a dark brown. Added in the name of racial inclusion, it’s predictably backfired, leading to complaints about racism simply because race had become a characteristic of the emoji and angst-filled essays about whether it’s okay for white people to use (gasp!) white emoji, or whether white people should avoid white emoji out of collective racial guilt.

Of course, sometimes skin tone choices might be made based on their legibility against a white screen background, but there are plenty of other examples of the PC challenge of emoji. Remember Harambe, the gorilla who was killed because a young child climbed into his habitat at the zoo and was at risk of being mauled? In the next batch of emoji coming for the iPhone, there’s now a Harambe.

The website AV Club assures us that Harambe is a good addition, however: a “happy ending of sorts for the millions of people who had been forced to communicate about the deceased gorilla using only (a) Apple’s preexisting emoji of monkeys, or (b) English.”

And this isn’t just an Apple thing. With the release of Windows 10 Anniversary Edition, Microsoft announced that it added over 52,000 new emoji, including NinjaCat and emoji representing single parent families, interracial families and couples with a baby. In fact, Unicode shows how Apple, Google, Twitter, Windows, Facebook Messenger, DoCoMo, Samsung, and others have their own variations on standardized emoji. Samsung thinks Mrs. Clause is Caucasian, for example, while all the other vendors have a base yellow tint for her skin.

But as Paige Tutt wrote in The Washington Post: “Apple’s mistake was in ever introducing the concept of race to emoji in the first place.” Actually, the real problem is that we just take everything—even tiny little emoji—far too seriously these days. So calm down, PC warriors. Emoji are merely tiny pictures meant as fun additions to our existing communications. That’s it. Not a testament about race, about our treatment of animals, or about gun control. Just cute little pictures.

Know what I mean? 🙂

This article first appeared on Acculturated.com.

Dave Taylor is a long-time media commentator and writer, with a focus on consumer electronics and technology. He holds a Masters degree in Education and an MBA and has published over twenty books. A single father to two teens and a tween, he also moonlights as a film and media critic and calls Boulder, Colorado, home. Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.

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Apple used to have a black pistol emoji mixed into its hundreds of tiny graphical symbols. No more; it was replaced by a bright green water pistol.
emoji, gun, skin tone, unicode, rifle, harambe
674
2016-47-09
Wednesday, 09 November 2016 03:47 PM
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