Where does Smash or Pass come from?
Humans have been issuing sexual judgments since the savannah, but games like Truth or Dare have been haunting middle-school sleepovers since at least the 1930s and Fuck, Marry, Kill have been causing spousal squabbles at dinner parties since at least the 2000s.
Related to the similar but less aggressive Date or Pass internet game, Smash or Pass emerged on the scene in summer 2010 when Smash or Pass threads began appearing on a variety of internet forums. These threads started with the original poster posting an image of a celebrity or random person, then asking for others to chime in with whether they would smash or pass on the person. The posts could be serious or funny, centering around photoshoots of conventionally attractive celebrities as well as unflattering images of some funky-looking folks. Urban Dictionary published the first entry for Smash or Pass in late 2010, corresponding to when Google searches for the term saw a modest spike.
The game slowly picked up speed online throughout the 2010s before exploding in popularity when YouTube personalities such as PewDiePie got involved beginning in December 2016. By January and February 2017, Google lookups for smash or pass had hit their all-time high.
Who uses Smash or Pass?
Smash or Pass is truly the sleepover game of the internet age, with an endless supply of photos and videos of strangers, friends, and celebrities to choose from.
Smash or Pass videos, in which a few commentators flip through galleries of images and discuss whether they would Smash or Pass, are plastered all over YouTube. Some videos are broad-ranging, while others focus on particular subjects, such as popular YouTube creators, A-list celebrities, or professional athletes.
Sometimes users post their own images and ask their social-media followers to Smash or Pass them, much like tbh, rate, and date or lms (like my status). Most often, though, Smash or Pass videos feature the judges instead of the contestants. In fact, many of the subjects of Smash or Pass challenges are unaware or non-consenting.
Don't think Smash or Pass is all about sex, though. As the game's popularity expanded, so did its range of subject matter. From food to cartoon characters, anything can be metaphorically smashed or passed with varying levels of seriousness.
y’all smash or pass pic.twitter.com/L5ssvPWZ3J
— squancy is real (@Quackyjack) October 22, 2017
Nothing, it seems, is sacred.
Outside the realms of YouTube challenge videos and social media thirst traps, the phrase Smash or Pass has branched out from its overt sexual connotations. For example, music news articles may instruct festivalgoers to attend or skip certain acts in the lineup by telling them which to smash and which to pass while children may smash or pass lunch items in their school cafeterias.
Capitalism, of course, has reared its head in the Smash or Pass world. Myriad websites and mobile apps have gotten in on the fun, offering Smash or Pass quizzes and galleries users can use to play the game with their friends.
I made banana bread with no recipe. it's vegan and loaded with honey and cinnamon and fucking delicious. #midnightsnack #bananabread #norecipe #thelittlethings #woo #smashorpass
@jennsafiend, Instragram, June, 2018
ASKING GIRLS IF THEY WOULD SMASH😍 OR PASS ME 👎🏾 ON THE MONKEY APP WATCH THE WHOLE VIDEO THIS GIRL ACTUALLY VIOLATED ME🤦🏽♂️ LINK IN THE BIO ⚡ @blackcharcoal ⚡ ⚡ #youtube #smashorpass #challenges #clicklinkinbio #youtubers #trizzyfunny #monkey #monkeyapp #girls #sexygirls #funny #funnyvideos #funnymemes
@trizzyfunny, Instagram, June, 2018
There I was: standing on the beach in Oahu, wearing shorts, a bikini top and a cardigan. I loved that photo ― it was a reminder of a day spent hiking and swimming with my family during our first vacation together in years. I posted it on Facebook last April...I was stunned as I stared at it almost a year later, along with my full name, literally hundreds of comments and a caption that read: “This is going to be a hard one guys. Huffington Post reporter, smash or pass?”
Jesselyn Cook, HuffPost, April, 2018