A TikTok effect is under fire for allegedly promoting fat-shaming on the popular platform. Parentology first reported in September 2020 that the effect had been accidentally released in the United Kingdom. Now, it seems, interest in this filter is making a comeback in 2021.
The effect, called the “Chubby Face” filter, fills out a user’s cheeks. On TikTok, people are using the effect to imagine what they’d look like if they were to gain weight — something many are claiming is fatphobic.
In the controversial trend, one uses the filter in their TikTok and then turns it off. Most often, users are relieved when they appear thinner than they did with the filter on. Typically, videos participating in the trend are set to Sista_Prod’s “Eyes Blue Like the Atlantic.”
now normal me looks weird♬ 오리지널 사운드 – 해솔
“Chubby Face” Filter Under Fire on TikTok
For those at a higher weight or with naturally rounder features, however, users boasting a confidence boost from the filter is offensive. One TikToker, Moira Bryson (@mannequindude), told Buzzfeed News, “It hurts to see your features be made fun of.”
Bryson uploaded a TikTok set to the trend’s audio, capturing herself in tears. She wrote, “I hate this trend so much…Why are you so afraid to have a face like mine?” The video got so much feedback — both positive and negative — that it’s since been made private.
Another user, Izzi (@messylibra), agreed that the trend was fatphobic. Izzi uploaded several videos to explain why the filter was offensive and responded to those questioning what made the filter problematic in comparison to other face-altering filters.
She used multiple filters to describe the difference. One filter, commonly used in comedy-centric TikToks, distorts one’s face to make it look cartoonish — an enlarged nose, stretched out face, widened mouth, and minimized eyes. Izzi said the filter clearly created an unrealistic face, so it wasn’t meant to shame those with larger features because its effects were so bizarre.
Then, she tried out the “Chubby Face” filter to show the difference. The filter was less dramatic to the previous one and said its effect created features you could see on a real person. She described people being thankful they didn’t actually look the way they do with the “chubby face” filter as a “kick in the balls.”
Reply to @4ellokitty ##oneliners♬ original sound – messylibra
TikTok’s Response to Controversy
A TikTok spokesperson told Buzzfeed News the effect was intended for specific markets, such as East, West, and South Africa. It was accidentally made available to the UK and eventually removed, but not before sparking controversy.
“Healthy, filled-out cheeks are perceived differently in different cultures and markets,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “We have a review process in place wherein our global team reviews filters and effects that we think would be popular and appropriate in specific markets/local regions.”