Inside the weird online world of 'punk editing,' where celebrities are photoshopped into pseudo-punk idols

Punk music has a storied cultural history, but thanks to a weird internet trend known as “punk editing,” going punk is as easy as Photoshopping a few tattoos and piercings onto your favourite celebrity. 

A quick search for “punk edit” on Twitter or Tumblr will yield thousands of colourful results. Morgan Freeman with green hair and a nose ring? Punk editors have got you covered. Kim Kardashian with a body covered in ink? Check. 

“Punk to me means kind of grunge,” 17-year-old punk-editing fan Courtney told Tech Insider via direct message on Twitter. “Tattoos, piercings, coloured hair, mean maybe. 
Kind of just like a badass person.”

21-year-old Rebecca Lambert runs a popular punk edit Twitter account, @PunkEdits_For_U, with her brother. They have over 28,000 followers.

To her, “punk means anarchy and bending the rules,” she said.

“A good example of a punk is the typical guy wearing red plaid skinny pants, who has a ton of tattoos,  piercings, and a mohawk,” she said. “He listens to bands like Green Day and The Clash.”

The Lamberts’ account is often so inundated with people clamoring for new edits, they frequently have to stop taking requests. 

Many of the requests are for members of popular boy bands. “Any members of One Direction or 5 Seconds of Summer” are frequent fliers on @PunkEdits_For_U Lambert told TI.

They create their punk icons using a website called Ribbet, which Lambert says is, “similar to Photoshop, but a much less complicated format.”

Here’s a clip from a punk edit YouTube tutorial, using a similar website, Pic Monkey

Inspired by online punk edits, YouTubers like Connor Franta and Joey Graceffa have even started sharing real life punk videos, where they apply temporary tattoos and spoof on punk edits.

Of course, when punk started, it was about much more than tattoos and piercings. It has its roots in the 1970s as a cultural movement with its own look, music, and mindset, with an emphasis on rebellion against capitalism and authority.

So, not exactly Taylor Swift with a fake sleeve tattoo.

In the past, punks have been united in one thing: hatred of all inauthentic, wannabe punks. This is evidenced by a famous scene from the 1998 movie “SLC Punk!”, where the main character rails against “posers.”

But the funny thing about the online “punk edit” movement is that it has no relationship to any kind of ethos at all. At least one person who’s dabbled in punk editing online has noticed the gap between what the word “punk” used to stand for and what it means in the punk-edit context.

“I can’t help but feel like this is slightly offensive to punks,” YouTuber Dan Howell said in his real life punk edit video. “Tattoos and piercings doesn’t make you a punk. There’s just something about clean cut boys buying accessories to dress up for entertainment, it’s like alternative cultural appropriation.”

But the people behind these punk edits don’t seem to care at all about how un-punk they’re being. And, in a weird way, isn’t that the most punk-rock way to be?

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