This is going to be one of those posts where I suddenly realise that as I get older, I’m becoming more and more of a curmudgeon. So, before we begin in earnest, let’s see if we have the appropriate set of accoutrements… Kids on lawn: check. Nearby cloud to yell at: check. Boots I used to wear to go to school, which was uphill, both ways, in the snow: check. Actually scratch that last one, we couldn’t afford boots.
All over reddit, and all over instagram, I see a bunch of people posting selfies where the image has been automatically modified to make someone look prettier. It’s almost always obvious. Eyes a little wider than you’d expect, eye makeup a little darker and more-defined than is necessary. Hair that is clearly just pasted on. Blurring and smoothing of the skin to such insane levels that you might think something truly terrible has happened. Faces: over-contrasted, teeth: demon-white.
I would love to say that “those filters are obvious to anyone with half a brain”, and yet it seems like there are a lot of people out there with presumably-whole-brains who are just eating up this shit. Can they really not tell, or are they, too, buying into the plastic fantasy?
I think the thing that bothers me the most is that when you put the filter on, the image that comes out isn’t something you’re going to see in a mirror, and it’s not something other people are going to see when you’re dressed up, walking down the street, or at the movies or whatever. That’s not you. It’s a fictional representation of you that, I suspect, is only going to set expectations that you can’t live up to.
It also seems like cheating – it takes time and effort to figure out makeup, figure out what looks good, and figure out how to even apply it. Throwing a filter on takes a fraction of a second and, boom, suddenly you have a blurry lady-face that gives you a cheap and unearned hit of dopamine.
With all these naysaying thoughts in my head, I thought it would be fun to try an experiment to show how bad these filters were, so when I dressed up the other day (as with any other time I dress up) I took a million pictures.
No filter: I ain’t mad. It’s not perfect, and potentially a bit of a rush job, but I think I look cute.
And now, here’s one with a filter:
Ah shit, I’m cute as fuck. Fuckballs, this is not helping my narrative. Let’s try another one.
Nope, still cute as fuck. Fuck. Uh..
LOOK AT ME! I’M A CUTIE WITH LIGHT BEAMS AHHH PEW PEW
I literally can’t even with this one. That’s some motherfucking cute shit right there. Goddamn, I look cute. I should’ve done some of that kawaii-weeb-two-finger-tongue-out shit. Damn.
I’d been planning this whole “ra ra girl filters are stuuuupid and let me explain why” post for what feels like forever, and I was 100% bought-in until I actually tried using one, and the hit of dopamine that came with seeing some of my imperfections automagically airbrushed away definitely didn’t feel cheap. It felt good.
My above arguments around “it’s fake”… well, makeup is fake. You can’t argue the pros and cons of reality when you’re slapping on a wig and some fake titties.
Maybe people don’t have time to get dolled up. Maybe they don’t have the money. Hell, maybe they don’t have the freedom to buy those things because they live with people who would throw them the fuck out if they thought their child was one of them <insert favourite homophobic slur>.
Maybe they’re still figuring things out. But a little digital excursion into femininity isn’t going to hurt anyone, and it’s an easy way to test the waters. Dipping a toe into the girl-pool-whirlpool and seeing if the nail-polish sticks.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m probably not going to foray into the girl-filter world again. My goal is to get dressed up and get out (whenever the fuck that’s possible again) of the house, and to look as natural and as realistic a woman as possible. But that’s not everyone’s goal, I shouldn’t hold people up to that. I still believe that setting unrealistic expectations for yourself is a bad idea, but it’s certainly not mine or anyone else’s place to judge how you try and be happy. This whole thing, I feel, really falls into this category:
I was definitely wrong.
So go nuts. Girl it up. I’m not gonna stop you.