Filters

Filters is a short film about Kira, a woman whose insecurities are increasingly exacerbated by image filters.

Kira has years of work experience in admin, but struggles to find a job. Doing interviews over Zoom, she notes a distinct drop-off in interest when potential employers see she has Down Syndrome. Her friend suggests she use a filter, something which will alter her appearance to be more within society’s ideals. (Don’t worry, I’ll kick off about it in a minute, let me tell you the rest of the story).

As, depressingly, the filter trick works, Kira becomes evermore obsessed with her appearance, and starts to weigh herself, and look critically at her body in the mirror. She eventually messages her favourite Insta star, asking for weight loss advice, and how she can be more like her.

The Insta star sees how fucked up this is, and makes an announcement saying she will be removing her profile, as all the photos are manipulated through filters, and it is effectively a persona account and none of the content is ‘real’. She apologises to anyone hurt by her actions.

As a result of this, Kira gains the confidence to reveal her true appearance to her new employer, and is relieved when they offer her the contract regardless.

Right. Let’s start with the rage-inducing elements. Kira’s fears about her employment prospects are, unfortunately, very well founded. Disabled people are much more likely to face discrimination in the job market, and have higher unemployment rates. What can be obscured by even these dismal stats is the difference between people with a visible or invisible disability. Visible disabilities carry a whole host of their own challenges, and are more easily subject to bigotry. While some might point out laws protecting against employment discrimination, it can be really difficult to quantify the cooling of someone’s attitude towards you, once they clock your disability. To Kira and the audience, it’s obvious, but it would be really hard to capture it in writing.

The intersection between gender and disability here is an aggravating factor. Much more than men, women are judged on their appearance. Women face employment inequality challenges all their own. So as a disabled women, Kira is in a double-bind.

The solution of the filter is fucked up. While all women are forced to compete as objects, certain criteria like disability, race, or fatness can permanently exclude you. For some women, societal objectification might come at the cost of some make-up and uncomfortable shoes, but for those whose physicality immediately discounts them, the costs can be far more damaging, in the form of skin-lightening creams, unnecessary surgeries, and denying and hiding your stigmatised self.

Kira initially bristles at the suggestion, and states, “I’m not ashamed”. She doesn’t have a problem with her disability, its the employers that have the problem. But when the filter works, and she gets a job, she starts to internalise the message it sends. It’s one thing to suspect that if you didn’t have your disability, your life would be easier and you would be treated better, it’s another thing entirely to experience it. It’s like glimpsing a world where, ironically, with the use of the filter, people can actually see her for who she is. That’s something very tempting to chase, and that is why she internalises such a damaging lesson.

Then it starts to infect everything. It doesn’t stop at the job, and she starts weighing and critiquing herself. She goes from having no shame and confidence in herself, if a bit knocked, to actively seeking out strangers for guidance on how to change her appearance in real life.

The lassie who runs the instagram profile, I feel she is unfairly scapegoated. It’s sometimes simply fun to play with your appearance in photos. Adding dog-ears or looking like a chipmunk doesn’t mean you are feeding into patriarchy. The problem’s not looking different in your photos, the problem is how a set margin of appearances are unduly favoured and valued in our society, and those are ableist, racist, fatphobic, queerphobic, and misogynistic standards. The lassie takes down her profile, like that’s gonna change the world. Like that’s gonna make Kira’s employment prospects any better, or remove the pressure all women are under. She also apologises, as though this is a situation of her own creating. She identifies her behaviour as harmful, but is her behaviour harmful? She’s not turning anyone down from jobs, or stopping them from being on tv or models, or just normalised within the course of representation. If anything, she’s just doing what Kira’s doing, and she’s just as much a victim as Kira.

Regardless, I understand what her action is supposed to mean, a rejection of bullshit objectification and an embracing of being your true self. It’s a healing message, and an attempt at solidarity. Overall, I like it.

A good wee film focusing on the harder parts of intersectional oppression and its new manifestations and challenges in the technological sphere.