October 27, 2021
In 2015, Taco Bell spearheaded advocacy for a taco emoji, creating a Change.org petition that garnered tens of thousands of signatures. In the petition, they wrote: “Why do pizza and hamburger lovers get an emoji but taco lovers don’t? Here’s a better question: why do we need four different types of mailboxes? Or 25 different types of clocks?” By the end of that year, the Unicode Consortium — the governing body that oversees emoji standardization — had added the taco emoji (🌮) to Unicode version 8.0. Other companies, sensing the powerful marketing opportunity afforded by emojis’ cultural cache, followed suit, including Butterball petitioning as-of-yet unsuccessfully for a Thanksgiving turkey emoji.
Today, Change.org is rife with pleas for new or revised emojis, created by brands, non-profits, and mostly just regular emoji users, ranging from the frivolous to the politically charged: a Shrek emoji (with tens of thousands of signatures), a happier lion emoji (the present version looks sad: 🦁), a sad yeehaw emoji (to express a certain ambivalent sentiment), the flag of Kurdistan (not currently included due to Kurdistan’s lack of international recognition as a sovereign nation), a guillotine emoji (users created the petition in June 2020, during a wave of anti-capitalist sentiment), interracial couple emojis (sponsored by Tinder).
To Taco Bell’s point, the gratuitous overrepresentation of particular objects and cultures makes the underrepresentation of others even more obvious. And for many South Asians, it’s difficult to understand why it has taken so long to get a sari or diya emoji, and why there isn’t any pictorial representation of some of the foods and cultural objects they hold dear.