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TikTok filter bold glamour

TikTok’s Bold Glamour filter: harmless fun or sign of our dystopian times?

We need to talk about the bold make-up filter that is going viral on TikTok

We’ve collectively got filter blindness, over the last few years, through the sheer exposure and normalisation of them. Every day a new beauty filter is trending, a filter that smooths the skin, sharpens the jaw, plumps up the lips. Names like pretty babe, warm tan and hazel eyes pop up on TikTok, manipulating our faces into the beauty standards of the moment without us even noticing. Some body and skin positive influencers have tried to get us to think before we apply them, but the pushback is just a drop in the ocean compared to the masses who use them as second nature. 

So it’s rare when a filter truly goes viral and even rarer that it receives backlash. But that’s exactly what happened this week with ‘Bold Glamour’, a heavy contour make-up filter that’s been used in 7.6 million videos over the space of a few days. While there’s no shortage of face changing, digital make-up filters on social media, this one felt different – more insidious than its counterparts, more technologically advanced – and the responses and backlash to it feels equally as different. 

‘Bold Glamour’ initially went viral when people began using it with captions like “this filter shows what u could look like if u could do make-up” and “this filter humbled me so quickly”. Quickly, though, the tides turned and frustration prevailed. The filter tag is now filled with comments saying it has gone too far, that the filter should be illegal, that it ruined their day and made them feel like shit. “So glad I grew up with the rainbow vomit and dog filter,” one user commented.

Joanna Kenny, an influencer who focuses on body confidence for the female gaze, told Dazed that she believes these filters should come with a trigger warning, although even that wouldn’t be enough. “I know when I’m creating these videos to raise awareness that I don’t really look like that. But when I remove the filter I feel instantly ‘less than,’” she says. “And it’s not just my own personal use of these filters that impacts my mental health and self-esteem. It’s the level of content I am exposed to on a daily basis that I can’t help compare myself to.” 

While some people argue that filters are no different to wearing a lot of make-up, Kenny says it is for her. “I would never be able to achieve this look with make-up. And why should I? For those people who can and choose to present themselves this way, that’s fine. My choice is that I no longer want to, but showing up unfiltered or without heavily contouring my face doesn’t feel like a choice I can make without judgement. This is an entirely new kind of pretty pressure.”

It’s clear by now that the constant viewing and consumption of unrealistic digital content is a mental health risk. Research by Dove found that 50 per cent of girls believe they don’t look good enough without photo editing and 60 per cent feel upset when their real appearance doesn’t match the digital version. ‘Bold Glamour’ is particularly misleading because even being able to do a full face of make-up ‘well’ will never fully achieve this look. No make-up product will remove the pores from your face, give you lip filler or make the whites of your eyes brighter. The seamlessness of the filter also makes it dangerous. Unlike previous generations of filters, nothing makes it falter – not waving your hand in front of your face, touching and moving your face, wearing glasses. Glitches are something that have always occurred with beauty filters, even the most advanced ones, which have provided an often-needed pinch of reality, until now. If the mask never drops, people will forget who is and isn’t wearing one.

@joannajkenny DON’T USE THIS FILTER ⚠️ This is the viral filter everyone is using rn. Tell me honestly, have you ever not shown up irl because of how you’ve misrepresented yourself on social media? If so, you’re not alone ❤️‍🩹 You deserve to live a full and happy life without worrying about how you look doing it 💅 #poresnotflaws #boldglamour #beautystandards #beautystandardsarefake #bodyimagemovement #bodyimagehealing #joannakenny #toxicbeautystandards #skinconfidence #skinconfident #nofilterchallenge #fyp2023 ♬ original sound - Joanna Kenny

In our new era of AI and digital make-up, no one can tell what’s real and what’s not anymore. TikToker @itshermeteor went viral recently because people thought she was CGI  – she is a real woman from Germany, who has alopecia. It was only a matter of time until a real woman was mistaken for an AI, given that we now have CGI influencers like Lil Miquela reaching almost 3 million followers. Within the context of rising AI and non-consensual deepfake porn, realistic filters like ‘Bold Glamour’ that promote said beauty ideals are terrifying. As of 2019, 96 per cent of deepfakes on the internet were pornography and almost all of these deepfakes depicted women. 

Recently, Twitter was alight with debate about whether certain AI porn images were ‘realistic’ or not (note to reader: they were not). It seemed only to be men who couldn’t tell the difference. This is no surprise, given that technology and social media have made it possible for women to look a way that is impossible to achieve in real life. All of this feeds into misogyny and patriarchy: in a society that already views women as second-class, filters like this one could be adding to how dehumanised women are. 

So does the backlash to ‘Bold Glamour’ suggest people are finally waking up to how negative filters can be? It feels trite to say, because most of us know this to be true, but we contribute to the problem regardless. When the ‘Paris’ filter first launched on Instagram, I was going through a particularly bad bout of psoriasis and I felt a lot of shame around my skin. This magic filter smoothed my chronic illness away in one swipe and I thought I’d hit the jackpot. Until, that is, I had to leave the house and face my friends, who had been messaging me about how happy they were that my skin was clearing. 

@chloegracelaws Showing the difference of this filter to me with zero makeup because I keep seeing people in full beat saying it doesn’t make them look that different. Filters like this are terrifying because we forget how we actually look. Because beauty ideals have gone so far, that men can’t tell the difference between AI women and actual women. Because every reality tv star on instagram is overlaying this face on their photos and they don’t even have to sign post it. ENOUGH. #boldmakeup #boldmakeupfilter #filter #filtertransition #dropthefilter #feminism #patriarchy #beautyideals #beautystandards #fyp #fypシ ♬ original sound - Chloe grace laws

Now I try to only use ones that only change colours or graininess and I feel passionately that filters are contributing to unrealistic, eurocentric and patriarchal beauty ideals. But, like a lot of things (say, capitalism or sustainability), it’s hard to create change when you’re just another cog in the system, and it can feel fruitless: so, why not join them? If everyone else is smoothing their skin, why should I be the only one showing my pores and pimples?

One TikTok user joked that they were glad this filter didn’t exist before their prefrontal cortex developed and isn’t that a scary thought? In my early twenties (I’m now 28) filters were more rudimentary, and they were fun. People knew they weren’t real, because they weren’t supposed to be. That’s all changed. Filters, now, are primarily about looking a certain way – digital make-up was once garish, and now it’s a subtle eyelash or a slightly bronzed cheek. The point of them is to go unnoticed, and to create an illusion. This illusion is one society has collectively bought into; that it’s normal (and achievable) for women to homogeneously look a certain (poreless, snatched, youthful) way. And we’ve internalised it.

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