Maybe the folks at Bitmoji have been taking to heart my “smacks of low effort” criticisms over the past 6 weeks, or maybe they unrelatedly happen to have hired a new creative director. But this latest set of 6 newmojis seems to indicate a bold new direction for the company—one that is willing to take more chances and even step on a few toes in its attempted march toward greatness. Let’s have a look!
Hang in There!
Wow. OK! Harsh, but kinda funny too, in a gallows humor sort of way. While some Christians may bristle at the sight of anyone other than their lord and savior depicted on a cross, the use of crucifixion dates back to at least 479 BC when the Athenians executed a general from the army of Xerxes during the second Persian invasion of Greece. Other examples include Alexander the Great crucifying 2,000 survivors of the Siege of Tyre in 322 BC; Rome crucifying 6,000 followers of Spartacus to deter further slave revolts; and the Jewish king Alexander Jannaeus having 800 of his Pharisee enemies crucified a hundred years before the time of Christ. At least here we’re treated to a relatively gore-free depiction of the ghastly and cruel punishment that had many variants, as Seneca the Younger, a Roman contemporary of Jesus, recounts: “I see crosses there, not just of one kind but made in many different ways: some have their victims with head down to the ground; some impale their private parts; others stretch out their arms on the gibbet.” One universal, despite the presence of the loin cloth here and usually depicted on the Christian messiah as well, is that people were crucified butt nekked to maximize humiliation.
October 2018 saw the nationwide legalization of marijuana in the Bitmoji corporation’s home country of Canada. The overwhelming popularity of ending 95 years of prohibition led within weeks to a nationwide pot shortage crisis. While it’s all well and good to celebrate drug policy reform, and while I’m delighted to see cannabis make its debut in the Bitmojiverse—where the far more dangerous recreational drug alcohol has already been featured 30(!) times at latest count—none of this particularly excuses this rather crass stereotype of a Rasta. Sometimes refered to as Rastafarianism, this modern religious movement began in 1930 when Jamaican-born black nationalist Marcus Garvey’s 1920 prediction “Look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand” was interpreted by his followers a religious prophecy fulfilled 10 years later by a man who traced his ancestry to back to the Biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Though neither he nor Garvey subscribed to Rasta beliefs, millions of Jamaicans and others began to regard Selassie as an incarnation of God on Earth and the second coming of Jesus Christ. But the use of cannabis by Rastas is commonly mischaracterized. Recreational drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine (as well as harder drugs like cocaine or heroin) are shunned as defilers of the body, while communal use of marijuana is seen as a sacrament and a meditative tool to aid in self-realization and mystical experiences, emphasizing a sense of community and connection with the divine. Plus, this bitmoji looks like they just hastily stuck some pot-themed clip art on and around the blissed-out avatar.
Blood Coming Out of His… Wherever
With the exception of the bitmojis urging people to vote in 2016 and 2018, and the two now-retired Kanye 2020 bitmojis from August 2015, the Bitmoji corporation has steered cleared of politics, choosing not to alienate large segments of its users with partisan sentiments. Apparently that ends today with this not-exactly-timely release of a newmoji featuring the avatar holding the bloody severed head of US president Donald Trump in the manner of comedian Kathy Griffin’s notorious May 2017 Twitter post video, whose fallout included the loss of her position as marketing spokeswoman for Squatty Potty. I had mixed feelings about that piece of performance art and have similarly mixed feelings about its becoming a bitmoji. I’d have been horrified by a depiction of, say, a conservative comedian holding the severed head of Barack Obama, just as I was when rightwing nut Ted Nugent threatened to assassinate him in 2007, and later when Trump obliquely suggested gun nuts kill Hillary Clinton if elected in 2016. But is there a real equivalency here or is it comparing apples to oranges (so to speak)? Flawed as they might be, there has never been much reason to question the basic human decency of Obama or Clinton, whereas Donald Trump has provided no evidence that he is anything other than an amoral megalomaniac pathological liar who thinks nothing of using graft, bigotry, concentration camps for children, incitements to rightwing vigilante mass killings, and conspiritorial treason in his attempts to turn America into his own dictatorship. Sic sempre tyrannis, you dig? Or as Thomas Jefferson famously declared: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Look at Me
Bitmoji has never shied away from scatalogical humor or fecal matters in general, and they have a significant history of making “Avatar face in a ________ with stick figure arms and legs” variants, so I suppose we all should have seen this coming. But now that it’s here, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. Celebrate? To be honest, I’m loathe to even acknowledge the existence of this new nadir in taste and decorum in bitmojidom, but I am nothing if not your loyal and committed bitmoji rater and reviewer, and so I must what I must do. As if anticipating the desire to pay it as little heed as humanly possible, this horrible bitmoji’s glittery brown dripping font beckons you to look at it, demanding your attention. No, you fetid crapulous mass, I will not give you what you want. I am moving on with my life right this very instant.
Dang, in for a penny in for a pound, I guess. It was one thing for Bitmoji to ride the wave of marijuana legalization sweeping the civilized world, but quite another to make an unmistakable reference to being under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug like LSD, DMT, ayahuasca or psilocybin mushrooms—substances that, though far, far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, remain so preposterously criminalized in most countries that, in the United States for example, you can be fined millions of dollars and sent to prison for 40 years for a first time possession charge or face life imprisonment for a second “offense”. I hope I live long enough to see such inanely cruel punishments abolished, especially with recent studies showing the near-miraculous healing properties of such drugs on terrible and difficult-to-treat diseases like major depression and PTSD that cripple the lives of millions. Though “Trippin’ Balls” may have been intended as a silly joke, I applaud it as a small step toward bringing discussion of the positive effects of hallucinogens out of the darkness and into the light of public consideration.
I Will Cut You
Another not-so-timely reference, the origin of this phrase—or at least the popularization of it, so far as anyone can tell—is a 2007 skit on Mad TV with comedian Anjelah Johnson as King Burger employee Bon Qui Qui, who works there as part of the Outta tha Hood program (as her manager is forced to explain to a customer), and incidentally also features Keegan-Michael Key of later Key & Peele fame. While I’m not a huge fan of threats of violence becoming bitmojis, I’ve always had a soft spot for this phrase since its use is generally by women in a “srsly stop fucking with me” way that is defensive rather than representative of the aggressive male violence that permeates our world in the form of domestic abuse, rape, honor killings, gang killings, countless wars, and genocide. Decent, if basic, art and fontwork add up to a BotW contender which would have taken the prestigious honor were it not for the “Hang In There!” bitmoji it was up against.
NOTE: While the 10-rating, 5-rating, and 1-rating are actual official bitmojis, the rest of the ratings (0, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9) are unofficial custom creations, so you don’t expect to find them in the Bitmoji app or The Bitmoji Museum Archives. Names applied to particular bitmojis are entirely unofficial and used only for convenience.