It's fun, it's ridiculous, and like the influx of edited selfies out there, it shouldn't be taken too seriously.
This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
I have no doubt that future historians will one day study memes to understand our silly society. I wonder what they'll think when they excavate accounts like YassifyBot, whose mighty reign defined what could be the meme of the era — "yassification." I used to travel for culture; now I scroll Instagram. When the world feels like it's falling apart, you can always count on the internet to respond in memes and shitposts. It's oddly comforting.
How exactly do you 'yassify' yourself?
To yassify a subject is to run it through an excessive form of digital beautification, usually using FaceApp, an artificial intelligence face-editing app. Think Kardashian-like contour, heavy eye makeup and the over-pumped lips of your average IG baddie — then turn it up about eleven notches.
It's a look that's born out of an almost-normalized form of digital manipulation across social media: filters, skin smoothening, eye whitening, lip plumping, nose slimming and various other editing methods of a racially ambiguous yet decidedly Eurocentric ideal of perfection. It's signature Kardashian, and even though most of us know it's not real, we glorify it nonetheless.
The impact of yassification on popular culture
Yassification takes what we already know is happening behind the scenes of our favourite selfies and turns it into something intentionally ridiculous.
The meme hit its stride around the tail end of last year, when social feeds were overrun with unsuspecting yassified victims — from celebrities to historical figures. Eminem, The Weeknd, even a forensic reconstruction of a Bronze Age man. There's no scientific equation as to why a meme becomes a success or not, but the yassify meme hits a sweet spot between classic Gen Z absurdity and an undercut of cultural commentary. It makes us question our impossible beauty standards by exaggerating them and making them the butt of a joke.
We may never know the intentions of the creators of the first yassifications, one of which is said to be an iconic before and after of Toni Collette in "Hereditary," captioned "when the yasss pill hits" — but the meme puts into perspective just how widespread and easy digital beautification is. When I first saw Collette post-yasss pill looking like a slaying queen, it struck me that I had seen that same face about a thousand times before, copy and pasted on innumerable IG models. There was something about seeing a character from a horror movie — or the Jonas Brothers or the Grinch — being yassified that gave me a rare sense of relief. It was like the internet was finally sick of its own oversaturated worship of photoshop.
Why yassification has become a thing
It often feels like we live in a paradox of both a rise in body positivity and rampant overuse of Facetune. Stretch marks, unconventional body types and textured skin are making their way into more and more beauty campaigns; in the same vein, a UK study in 2021 found that 90 percent of young women edit their selfies.
Yassification came to us in a time when society is more fixated on the face than ever before. COVID forced us to retreat into the confines of Zoom calls, where the pixels of our own reflections constantly glared back at us. Our relationship to the selfie, which has dominated social media since 2013, has only become more distorted with the introduction of eerily realistic filters that "perfect" the face. Filters that expertly smoothen skin, plump lips, slim down noses and even alter face shapes.
Some of these changes can be drastic, verging on ridiculous, as if the filter itself were in on the joke. But some are more subtle, making those changes feel all the more attainable. Oh, I would look 10 percent hotter if I just got some lip fillers. It's an insidious thought process that seems to eat its own tail.
The American Society of Plastic Surgery reported that the top three most common cosmetic surgical procedures in 2020 were focused on the face: nose reshaping, eyelid surgery and facelifts. And more clients are walking into plastic surgery consultations with edited photos of themselves as references, opening the conversation to a new type of filter-induced body dysmorphia. To see these pressure points, often the source of deep-rooted insecurity in young people, being made fun of through a meme is particularly freeing.
Like most things in life, somehow the Kardashians are to blame
What do you get when you yassify a Kardashian? A Kardashian.
I'm sick of hearing about the Kardashians, but you can't have a conversation about the current climate of beauty without mentioning the family guilty of perpetuating impossible standards — even though they deny that guilt.
When yassification first spread across my IG feed, I couldn't help but feel it was a direct response to the rampant Facetuning performed by Kim and her sisters, which also veers on the edge of ridiculousness. Does the yassification trend mean the Kardashians will finally stop editing their photos? Most likely not. But at the very least, it sheds light on how easy it is to digitally beautify ourselves and how drastic that beautification can be. Yassification has the ability to turn these toxic beauty standards into a game.
A game that challenges us to see how extremely we can transform, say, Mark Zuckerberg, into a yass queen. It's fun, it's ridiculous, and like the influx of edited selfies out there, it shouldn't be taken too seriously.
Face It: Technology Is Destroying Your Body ImageTechnality | YouTube