'Smash or Pass' and the Eternal Appeal of Online Thirst

Why have I found myself squandering two to three minutes just to find out which Disney characters a complete stranger would – hypothetically – fuck?

If you’ve spent any time trawling the hallowed halls of TikTok lately, you’d be familiar with the recent “smash or pass” boom. The game has been trending on the app in various forms for some time and it’s a consistent hit. Anyone can participate, it’s mysteriously entertaining and the game - as far as I can tell - still hasn’t gotten old.

The TikTok machine chews up and spits out trends faster than you can say “insane algorithm”, so it’s bizarre to see such a simple frame as “would you hit or nah?” evoke such longevity. 

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What is the appeal of smash or pass? Why is it trending, now, of all times? And why have I found myself patiently squandering two to three minutes just to find out which Disney characters a complete stranger would – hypothetically – fuck?


Smash or pass has mysterious origins. It’s probably a derivative of other horny, childish and gossipy games - the kind you’d play at lunchtime, or at sleepovers, away from the watchful eye of adults. Marry, fuck, kill (or its British counterpart, “snog, marry, avoid”), spin the bottle, would you rather, truth or dare. There are many of these iconic games in the canon of puberty.

But the real beauty of smash or pass is in its simplicity. The crassness of the game’s concept is overridden by its humble premise. All it asks from the player is: “Given the chance, would you smash?”

Unlike its other “silly game” counterparts, smash or pass is uniquely positioned to thrive online. It works best as user-generated content: anonymised polling on Instagram stories, the bizarre repurposing of a “which Marvel superhero are you” TikTok filter, and snatched up by Youtubers for an instant viral win. It’s an easy hit for engagement, splashed across digital media – boredom mongering for office workers and kids delighted by the magic of the internet. 

In the past, I have found myself haplessly drawn to these quizzes. One of them promised to tell me “how old I was” based on who I would smash and who I would pass. After gleefully hitting that “smash” button on Hilary Swank, Uma Thurman, Courtney Love and more, my result was, “You’re over 40 years old! You’re a young 40 and that’s the truth!”

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What did it mean?


The popularity of smash or pass online is comparatively recent, with Google Trends data showing little worldwide interest in the search term up until about 2016.

Google Trends data showing search interest over time for "smash or pass", 2004 to present.

A small peak in 2011 could be due to reports of a Facebook game around that time involving teenagers posting actual nude photos of themselves in public groups. While the groups may have existed, the reports seemed to all stem from one parenting organisation, “Digital Shepherds”. The name should really give it away: Are teens doing scary, terrifying things on Facebook? Or are parenting watchdogs just uninformed and overzealous in their fear of the “what if”. 

Regardless, it’s perhaps the most clear-cut example of the way the game can be, and has been, misused in harmful ways. After all, how different is “smash or pass” to Zuckerberg’s own game of rating female students at Harvard, all part of Facebook’s shameful origin story? 

In 2016, the game really took off on Youtube. It prompted the trend’s transformation into annoying fodder for Youtubers in their prime. Even prince of the edgelords Pewdiepie jumped onboard, in a chaotic 2017 video which now sits at 13 million views.

The idea of smash or pass was established among the internet generation on Youtube. But it’s with TikTok that it was able to properly take off.


Like Instagram, TikTok allows users to create and upload their own augmented reality filters. Some filters change your face shape, others put you in different places, and some offer a rapid carousel of images that float on screen, tethered to your head, stopping at random. It’s a vastly appealing Wheel of Fortune experience that forms the basis of many users’ quick-hit content. Filters like “what’s my red flag?” or “who are my celebrity parents” land on a random choice, but often offer uncannily accurate results, cementing their widespread draw. 

It’s impossible to say who first had the unhinged thought of using TikTok’s character filters for smash or pass, but it’s safe to assume the idea came from a perverse, idiosyncratic mind. 

The trend began surfacing as early as January 2022, when a slew of videos flooded the app with people using the “Which MCU character are you” filter for a game of smash or pass. The top video amassed an incomprehensible 2 million likes and 7.1 million views, and many users saw it as an easy opportunity to go viral. The recipe was simple: hilariously horny smash choices paired with humorous commentary on how the game was “so wrong”. With so many people jumping on the trend it should have, under normal circumstances, died off quickly. But then the other filters came. 

There was the “DC Universe”, the “cartoon moms”, the “cartoon dads” and, the crowd favourite, “Disney characters”. People were playing smash or pass with water bottle brands, random household items, and “cartoon female badasses”. 

Every day, there seemed to be another filter popping up. “I swear they know what we’re using these filters for,” opened one video. 

The most popular filter for smash or pass is the “Disney characters” filter, made by digital creator Yisus Saavedra. He told VICE that one of the first filters he’d made had been Disney princes and princesses, which randomly assigned characters to the user with the intent to answer “which prince or princess are you?” 

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“In many cases it coincided well with the physical features of the user, so they came to think the filter was scanning their face,” Saavedra said.

“People began to comment that I should do the same with all the Disney characters, so I made that effect. The main objective was for the effect to randomly choose which Disney character you are, but nevertheless, some people gave it other uses, like the famous ‘smash or pass’.”

When asked what he thought about people using his filter to play the game, Saavedra said he found it “quite strange”.

“I can’t deny it - I found it quite strange. Mainly because most of the characters are animals, objects, cars etc. So, it’s not very normal for people to want to do ‘smash or pass’ with them. But it seems that people found it quite funny to do so.”

Outside of fandoms, the physical attractiveness of some cartoon characters has been discussed at length on TikTok. Crowd favourites include Kim Possible’s Shego, Scar from the Lion King, and the whole cast of Atlantis. 

After all, there isn’t very much about TikTok, or the internet at large, that would be considered “normal”.


Now, the trend’s latest iteration is slightly different: Stitching someone’s video, giving a blunt answer to their usually appallingly “deep” take and proceeding to play smash or pass for one round. It’s a frame which has been yielded against toxic masculinity thirst-trap types, news reporters and fake-deep relationship proselytisers,

It’s possibly the purest comedic use of the “stitch” function, combining the element of surprise with a trending game, while taking on some of the app’s more aggravating creators. And so the game of our times, “smash or pass”, has manifested itself in yet another form.

There are videos on TikTok titled “everyone in history class”, with a photo of a young Stalin, and others referencing “scrolling through social media on fathers’ day”. Several revolve around the topic “when your bestie sends you her nudes for approval before sending them to her boyfriend”. 

All of this points to the universal experience of being quietly attracted to someone you maybe shouldn’t. And perhaps that is the grand appeal of it: finding connection and community on something so basic, primal, and natural as sexual attraction. 

Smash or pass asks us a very simple question: would you hit? 

And, in trying times like the 21st century, I think that’s a truly beautiful thing.

Follow Arielle on TikTok and Instagram.

Read more from VICE Australia.

Tagged:

Sex, Australia, Internet, marvel, disney, Australia/NZ, Game, online thirst, TikTok

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