Future Tense

Staff at Emoji HQ Are Going to Battle Over a “Frowning Pile of Poo”

Maybe this boy would be smiling if someone told him about the frowning pile of poo.


The Unicode Consortium, the organization charged with selecting and overseeing emojis, is having a shit fit. According to a new report from BuzzFeed, the group has erupted into a civil war over “frowning pile of poo,” a potential new variation on the symbol more commonly known as the poop emoji. The frowny-face poop emoji is among the emojis being considered for introduction in June 2018. (Also under consideration is a flat shoe emoji, as Cleo Levin recently discussed in an ode to the stiletto emoji.*) Other emojis, like the stiletto, are on the chopping block.) This would add a sullen counterpart to the already existing poop emoji, which most consumer-facing companies currently render as a swirl of poop with a happy face.

But critics argue that adding a frowning poop would degrade the proud lineage of emojis and that in fact poop never should have had facial features in the first place. BuzzFeed quoted an Oct. 22 memo in which those who oppose anthropomorphized poop called the notion of a frowny-face poop emoji “damaging” and predicted it could further stain the Unicode Consortium’s reputation:

Organic waste isn’t cute … It is bad enough that the [Emoji Subcommittee] came up with it, but it beggars belief that the [Unicode Technical Committee] actually approved it … The idea that our 5 committees would sanction further cute graphic characters based on this should embarrass absolutely everyone who votes yes on such an excrescence. Will we have a CRYING PILE OF POO next? PILE OF POO WITH TONGUE STICKING OUT? PILE OF POO WITH QUESTION MARKS FOR EYES? PILE OF POO WITH KARAOKE MIC?

These critics blame Apple and the companies that followed its lead for the original sin of introducing a smiling poop emoji: “It is a pity that Apple followed Softbank rather than KDDI in its reference glyph, since a coil of dog dirt with stink lines and flies is surely the only proper semantic,” one wrote in the memo. This bloc is calling for increased scrutiny and transparency in the emoji-introduction process.

Are they right? Should Apple and its ilk never have dared to give poop a face in the first place? Imagine a world where the poop emoji is just poop, and not a curiously friendly little turd. Is it a better place? Happier, with less littering and cleaner public bathrooms? Is Trump not president there?

Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in, and we can’t go back in time to a prelapsarian moment before Apple-style emojis conquered the world. What’s done is done, and now when you picture emojis, more likely than not, your mind conjures up Apple’s. And that means a poop with a smiling face. There may be arguments to be made that we don’t need a frowning poop emoji—would it render the default smiling poop emoji useless?—but there’s no going back to a blank slate. Despite the rise of literalism in emojis, all future emojis will be cute and, where possible, include smiley faces. Any arguments that assume otherwise deserve to be flushed down the toilet.

*Correction, Nov. 2, 2017: Due to an editing error, this piece misstated that the stiletto emoji is “on the chopping block” as the Unicode Consortium prepares to update emoji offerings. The stiletto emoji is not at risk of being removed, though there has been discussion about the stiletto’s place in the emoji universe with the proposed addition of a flat-shoe symbol. The post also misspelled Slate’s Cleo Levin’s name.