Mugshot Challenge Causes Controversy

As a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, social isolation around the world has led to an increase in the number of emerging trends on social media platforms. From the “until tomorrow” Instagram challenge to the #FlipTheSwitch Challenge on Tik Tok, influencers and users alike continue to use their time at home to channel their creativity. However, while many of these challenges have gained popularity, a recent challenge faced backlash.

The #MugshotChallenge, which originated on Tik Tok, received criticism for its controversial depiction of staged mugshots. The hashtag has over 300 million views on Tik Tok. In these images, the creator uses makeup to illustrate various levels of dishevelment in a pretend police lineup. In some cases, the person may just sport smudged makeup, but in more extreme instances, the influencer illustrates themselves as beaten up with black eyes, busted lips and bruises.

Alison Bennett, a 19 year-old microbiology freshman on the pre-med track, said, “Yes, I do [know what the Mugshot Challenge is]. It’s where you dress up as a person recently arrested, use a sad look with smudged makeup, and then take flash pictures against a wall. I haven’t heard of any backlash specifically, but I know most trends on Tik Tok come with people who grow angry.” 

Angry responses to this trend soon emerged, claiming that the challenge played a role in the glamorization of violence. Specifically, users took issue with the role in how the #MugshotChallenge portrays domestic violence. Comments expressed the impact the trend has on victims of domestic abuse, stating that the images and videos serve as triggers. 

In particular, beauty influencer James Charles received criticism for his participation in the challenge. Charles shared his “mugshot” to Instagram before deleting it after causing controversy. Other influencers, such as Corinna Kopf and Avani Gregg, were also criticized for their participation in the trend. 

In a tweet, Charles said, “Despite the fact that hundreds of other influencers and artists have done something similar, I deleted the mugshot trend because it was never my intention to trigger anyone, and it’s a waste of time trying to have an open discussion with people who hate me regardless.” 

Alexa Portnoy, an 18-year-old sustainability and the built environment freshman, expressed her views on the Mugshot Challenge. 

Portnoy said, “To an extent, the Mugshot Challenge does glamorize violence. It involves people pretending as if they have gone through situations that are extreme that they haven’t been through. However, the people who participate in the challenge are not doing it with this intention in mind; it is just meant to be a fun challenge.” 

Many comments made a point to also state that the violence depicted in the challenge is similar in nature to what is shown in movies, TV shows and album covers. Several users vocalized their view that the Mugshot Challenge was simply another form of art and special effects.

Despite the controversy surrounding the challenge, videos have continued to be made under the hashtag.