In visual media, the shortcut to let the audience know that a character has a big crush on someone is to apply the Crush Filter. It's a very specific sort of Imagine Spot, sometimes augmented by the environment.
The viewer/audience sees the object of affection as they are in their normal appearance, even if they're not perfectly cleaned up, tidy, neat, or groomed.
The shot then changes to the crush's point of view, and the person they're crushing on is suddenly highlighted to romanticized perfection. The Hot Wind may come out of nowhere to tousle their hair fetchingly. If they're sweating, it's glistening and sparkling like magical dewdrops so they look pretty and rain-kissed rather than gross and sweaty. If they're not wearing makeup, it's suddenly there and absolutely perfect. The entire world has dropped into Slow Motion for them.
The light may suddenly become all soft and filtered, or full of inexplicable sparkles or bubbles. Red and/or pink hearts may float around the person being filtered. Fireworks may go off, or other aspects of the environment may fall into place as if by magic.
If their gait is normally purposeful or unflinching, it is now, thanks to the magic of a crush, a slinky, sexy sway. The air may fill with the sound of singing angels, or some other appropriate romantic Mood Motif. How detailed and/or sexualized the fantasy vision is will vary by how family-friendly the medium is.
The shot then returns to the object of the crush. If we get another look at the one with the crush, they may be displaying the Crush Blush.
There are innumerable combinations for the effects that show off the gorgeousness of someone affected by the crush filter — limited only by the imagination of the character (and the creative team).
Sometimes, in a story the narrator will launch into Purple Prose whenever the object of the crush is mentioned.
The Crush Filter may also be part of a montage in which the besotted imagines meeting, courting, marrying, raising children with, growing old with, and finally dying happily beside the person they thus envision.
The person being viewed through the crush filter is not Always Female, but frequently is.
Sub-Trope to Imagine Spot. Related to Bishie Sparkle, Gaussian Girl, Holy Backlight, Hot Wind, Mood Motif, Heart Symbol, Everything's Better with Sparkles, Pretty Butterflies, Love Bubbles and Empathic Environment.
- In a 2014 Taco Bell ad, two random strangers — both eating Taco Bell items — sit down on a park bench and make eye contact with one another; the man takes a look at the woman and sees her in a series of Imagine Spots, from her being his new girlfriend in a boat on the lake with him, to being his bride on their wedding day, to being his wife and raising a family together. It becomes inverted for the woman, who rather than seeing the man as a potential boyfriend and husband, she's instead more interested in what he's eating, and her Imagine Spot takes place in the same boat, only her grabbing his food and pushing him into the water.
- In My Wife Is Wagatsumasan, Komatsu Masao and Yoshiko Tanaka share a moment of mutual crush filtering, only for it to abruptly become extremely onesided.
- In One Piece, Boa Hancock once fantasized about Luffy being a total bishonen. In reality, he's... not so pretty (though not ugly either).
- Bleach: At the beginning of the Soul Society when Ichigo is willing to protect the guy he just defeated and insist Orihime take a break from healing him, Orihime imagines Ichigo wearing Prince Charming clothing. During the Lost Agent Arc, when Orihime visits Ichigo, he invites her in as he normally does, but she imagines him opening the door in a nice suit, smiling sensually and inviting her upstairs in a flirtatious way.
- Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: When Brief first lays his eyes on Panty in Episode 2, he sees in her Art Shift form.
- In Kotoura-san, Manabe frequently imagines Kotoura in a more idealized state (which she can unfortunately witness). As Kotoura is already cute, though, her face isn't changed all that much in his fantasies... her body, though, gets a significant upgrade.
- Aggretsuko: When Retsuko starts crushing on Resasuke, she sees him as having a handsome face rather than his usual perpetually-blank expression. She starts seeing his regular face again when she realizes their relationship isn't working out.
- In the Tamagotchi TV show, Himespetchi has a huge crush on Mametchi, and as such she sees him as a much more handsome version of himself with a more detailed face, longer arms and legs, a deeper voice, and a Bishie Sparkle surrounding him.
- Known as the Steph-o-scope in No Game No Life. Steph constantly sees Sora under this filter after he forces her to fall in love with him.
- Kaguya-sama: Love is War: In hindsight, this was clearly being used when Osaragi was watching Ishigami as he takes a water break during Cheer Team practice in Chapter 85. It just wasn't noticeable at the time since the onlooker's crush wouldn't be revealed for another 107 chapters.
- In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Happy, Happy, Bang! Bang! episode 27, as Wilie gives Angelalily his scarf to replace the one he ruined by accident and asks if she can be friends with him, she imagines him with more detailed eyes and a bunch of roses surrounding him, as well as a Bishie Sparkle. Text appears next to the handsome Wilie saying "Angelalily's hallucination" as this happens.
- The iteration of Batgirl that began with a new team as of issue 36 (2014) has little red hearts appear next to the person crushing after showing a panel of the person they're crushing on, though not so much with the idealized visualization.
- In Zits, Jeremy's crush on his guidance counsellor manifests this way, with him imagining her in a leopard skin bikini, draping herself across her desk, etc.
- In the Dragon Age: Inquisition fanfic Walking in Circles, when they first meet, Solas comments that Evelyn, while looking delicate and balanced in features, isn't that standout from others. After he falls in love with her, though, he often calls her beautiful, and generally can't resist her even when she definitely isn't (like being emaciated and extremely pale, or looking very hazardous from fighting and running). At one point, he even scoffs at a noble in Halamshiral who calls her plain.
- Sword Art Online Abridged uses this in its fourth episode after Kirito rescues Silica from some monsters, complete with Bishie Sparkle and roses.
- In the animated adaptation of Persepolis, Marjane's Austrian boyfriend appears to be handsome when they're dating, but then suddenly becomes hideous after they break up.
- Rio has multiple examples:
- Spoofed: Blu wakes in the environment where he's supposed to mate with Jewel. "Say you, Say me" is playing to set the mood thanks to Tulio. Jewel flies toward him looking like a radiant angel, and Blu looks stunned but hopeful; but the moment Tulio tried to set up is ruined because Jewel is offended at captivity and attacks Blu.
- Played straight: Blu sees Jewel surrounded in diffuse glowing backlight in an otherwise darkened area during a bird rave, for the real crush filter.
- The trope is played with to make for a mutual crush filter. Tulio and Linda each have one on seeing the other in their Blue Macaw costumes. Tulio's first look at Linda has her walking out of Holy Backlight to go from silhouette to visible. Linda's first look at Tulio has fireworks going off behind him in multiple colors — this is not entirely her imagination, as it's the beginning of Carnivale, and there are actually fireworks going off. The intro riff to "Say You, Say Me" begins to play before they lean in for a kiss — and fail to complete it because their costume beaks get in the way.
- In Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness, when Hudson becomes attracted to Ridley, the camera zooms in, the lighting changes, and she seems to shake her hair.
- While Wyldstyle is explaining the different territories and Lord Business's obsession with segregating them to Emmet in The LEGO Movie, her words fall on deaf ears. Emmet, enraptured, hears only "Proper name, place name, backstory stuff. I'm so pretty. I like you, but I'm mad at you for some reason." Emmet only alienates himself further when he asks to hear the whole lesson again because he wasn't listening.
- In SCOOB!, Fred who has been heretofore established as loving the Mystery Machine, gets one when a hot blonde cop pulls them over for speeding. It crashes abruptly when revealed to be a disguise.
- Speed Racer: Speed Racer and Trixie have a Love at First Sight mutual crush filter.
- In Sky High (2005), whenever Will Stronghold looks at Gwen, she gets backlit, soft focus, a cover version of Spandau Ballet's 'True' starts playing.
- In Dasepo Sonyo, the first two times we see Anthony, it's from Poor Girl's perspective, and because she has a crush on him, he appears to be radiant. He's still good-looking without the crush filter on, but it's also clear that he's a smug, self-absorbed jerk. Anthony himself has a crush filter when he first sees Double Eyes, but it's quickly dispelled by the Unsettling Gender Reveal.
- Whenever Garth sees his Dream Girl in Wayne's World the air fills with sparkles and the song "Dream Weaver" plays.
- Independence Day: Resurgence: Charlie lays eyes on Rain Lao for the first time. She's simply standing up in her cockpit removing her helmet in the airlocked hangar. But the Wind of Sexy blows through and makes her hair flow.
- Epic Movie: When we first see Mystique in the film, it's from Peter's view, and he imagines her much sexier, with her flipping her hair back, squeezing her boobs, and dancing seductively for him. Subverted much later in the film, as when he actually makes her look like his preferred woman, she's a fat flabby cross-eyed grandma.
- M*A*S*H. In "Germ Warfare," Hawkeye joins Dish for coffee in the Mess Tent, where he visualizes her out of uniform (literally), and also wearing her hair down (she had it in a bun); she's aware of his daydreaming.
Dish: Is this a new one, or are you undressing me with your eyes again?
Hawkeye: [snaps out of it] Well, if I did it with my hands, I'd get killed, right?
- In "The Reverse Peephole," when Jerry's naked Girl of the Week finally starts wearing clothes again, Jerry keeps visualizing her in the nude, including imagining her brushing out her long blonde locks. It then becomes inverted for the girl, who she visualizes Jerry naked, scratching himself like a gorilla.
- In "The Junk Mail," Elaine meets a guy at the coffee shop, and although he appears to be just your average joe, from her perspective, his eyes appear piercing (usually with special lighting brightening them), a handsome smile, all accompanied by a harp stringer.
- How I Met Your Mother: James Van Der Beek plays an old boyfriend of Robin's. When we see him objectively he's fat, balding, and has bad skin & teeth. When we see him from Robin's perspective he looks like...James van der Beek.
- The Brady Bunch: Marsha develops a crush on her dentist, Dr. Vogel, and sees him through the crush filter.
- One episode of Salute Your Shorts started with Budnick seeing Deena, who he normally can't stand, wearing a white dress, with a Holy Backlight, when in reality she's wearing black and sneezing from hayfever. The rest of the episode and the next one deals with him and his sudden crush on her.
- A Bait-and-Switch Running Gag in an episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide involves Ned seeing Moze engulfed in a bright light accompanied by an angelic chorus; it turns out to be Gordy shining a bright spotlight while Mr. Combover conducted his chorus (due to Gordy blowing out the electricity in the music room earlier in the episode). At the end of the episode, Ned tells Gordy to knock it off, only to find out that he fixed the lights and that the chorus is back in the music room, meaning this time...
- One episode of That's So Raven had Corey's band looking for a new singer. One of the applicants was a girl that Corey had a crush on. The only problem was she couldn't sing, but due to the crush filter Corey thinks she sings really well, and she's picked, to the surprise of his bandmates. He doesn't actually learn the truth until the band actually records her singing and plays it back for him to overcome the filter.
- The Partridge Family: When Keith watches a pretty but tone-deaf teenage girl mangle "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," he sees her as a Gaussian Girl with a beautiful voice, accompanied by violins and a choir instead of just Laurie's piano.
- The Carpenters' song "Close To You" seems to be a crush-filtered person describing the phenomenon:
Why do birds suddenly appear
Every time you are near?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you
Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you
On the day that you were born the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair
Golden starlight in your eyes of blue
- In Cthulhu Saves the World, after Umi sees Cthulhu saving her from two Gooezes, she immediately falls in love with him. After that, the narrator explains how she saw Cthulhu, showing the player a picture of him triumphally standing on Gooez's corpse, raising his sword akin to Knight in Shining Armor, with him being surrounded by hearts. The narrator even states that image displayed may not reflect reality.
- Breadwinners: Sway Sway sees Jenny Quackles, the "loaf of his life", this way.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Spike sees Rarity this way. She's aware of it and has no problem taking advantage of it.
- In "The Best Night Ever", Rarity sees Prince Blueblood in Crush Vision, with sparkles around him.
- "Simple Ways": Rarity has a crush on writer Trenderhoof and sees him this way. Trenderhoof actually has a crush on Applejack and sees her this way, even with sweat, dirt, and apple mush all over her face.
- In "A Friend Indeed", Cranky Doodle may or may not have envisioned Matilda through the crush filter. His first look at her has her through diffused sunlight with butterflies fluttering around. That could just be a nice day in Ponyville.
- The Amazing World of Gumball:
- "The Party": Gumball sees Penny this way when Darwin asks him for her to be his date for Rachel's house party, only for Gumball to remark he sees her as just a friend, although that is clearly a lie judging by his lovesick expression.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends:
- "Good Wilt Hunting": The nerd boys who discovered Coco see Frankie this way. Her pointy wild ponytail becomes curled. Her face suddenly becomes made up like you'd see in a magazine, and she has curves that she lacks in reality. The edges of the screen blur into soft focus around her. Butterflies also flutter around her (which may be part of the filter or just imaginary friends, given the environment).
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- "The Fortuneteller". Katara poses and asks how she looks. Aang takes a look and sees her through his Crush filter: soft focus and sparkles.
- "The Beach". Zuko flings off his robe. Doves soar skyward in the background. And a bunch of girls on the beach giggle and coo in admiration.
- Phineas and Ferb:
- For Isabella, the crush filter goes Up to Eleven. Isabella doesn't just see Phineas in an ultra-idealized fashion. Her fantasy filter turns him into a long-haired romantic hero from a novel, or a pegasus-centaur. Hers is so intense that it distracts her completely from whatever is going on, and she calls it "Phineas Land".
- Ferb's Love at First Sight reaction to seeing Vanessa generates flowers and rainbows behind her, the Hot Wind, and a music change. But Ferb's outward reaction gives nothing away.
- "Love at First Byte" has Norm the robot seeing Chloe the robot for the first time. We get a POV shot of her through his eyes. It is tinted bright red because he's overheating from the sight of her.
- Kick Buttowski:
- Played with. Kick develops the crush, but is so used to denying crushes that he doesn't get the vision change. He just started spending more time with the stunt-girl for his sister's favorite show.
- Played straight. Gunther develops a crush on Wacky Jackie and sees her with the filter, making her a radiant beauty and far less... wacky.
- Teen Titans Go!: In "Legs", Raven is seen without her cloak, which excites Beast Boy when he's able to see that She's Got Legs; a Running Gag throughout the rest of the episode involves Beast Boy ogling her legs, and in close-ups, her legs are drawn far more detailed and anatomically correct.
- Dexter's Laboratory: When Mandark first lays eyes on DeeDee, his vision of her is having sparkling, almond-shaped eyes with a captivating gaze; her blonde hair shining like actual gold; and leaving a trail of sparkling fairy dust in her wake as she gracefully passes him by.
- Littlest Pet Shop (2012):
- "Sweet Pepper": The first time Pepper and Captain Cuddles lay eyes on each other, there's a mutual rosy pink soft focus Crush Filter on each of them for the other.
- In "Helicopter Dad" Blythe's entire school backdrop falls away to be replaced by pink and floating hearts as she looks at her crush Josh Mankey. Josh himself is haloed by soft focus until her father mistakes her Crush Blush for coming down with a sickness.
- Fish Hooks:
- El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera: A played with example. Rodolfo, laying eyes on Maria as Plata Peligrosa for the first time in a while sees her with Holy Backlight and sparkles surrounding her. He has never stopped loving Maria, but this is her heroic crime-fighting alter-ego.
- Transformers: Rescue Bots: Grant has a crush on the new scientist in town, but is too shy and lacking in confidence to speak to her. Big brother Kade gives him a makeover which involves removing his glasses. The next time Grant sees her, the crush music plays and the girl walks slinky-sway toward him ... but entirely out of focus.
- Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero:
- In "that Purple Girl": Penn Lays eyes on the titular princess and imagines himself doing a Meadow Run toward her, then joining hands and spinning in a circle with her. Boone lays eyes on her and has the same Imagine Spot, except he removes Penn bodily to take his place.
- In "Lady Starblaster", when the titular villainess shows up, Rippen has one of the "whole lifetime" crush filter Imagine Spots. Starblaster recognizes the signs in his vacant expression and explains that this happens to her all the time.
- We Bare Bears: In "Panda's Date" Panda's crush on Lucy the produce girl is so profound that every time he looks at her, his brain goes to his Imagine Spot, where he performs a song called "Girl Be Sellin' Sunshine" and has imaginary versions of himself telling him to be cool.
- The Looney Tunes Show plays with the trope. In one episode, mid-sentence in telling Daffy he won't necessarily fall in love with the first female pig he sees, Porky turns and spots Petunia Pig across the crowded room. She literally lights up the room in his vision and he crosses the room to begin the Dance of Romance with her. Daffy then has the same reaction to the gift table since they're at a wedding.
- In the Valentine's Day Episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, after Jimmy ends up under the influence of his own Love Potion, he sees Cindy as a Hot Scientist. Under the influence of the same love potion, Sheen perceives Libby as an intergalactic warrior queen and Carl sees Judy Neutron as a life-size gingerbread cookie.
- Several times on Kaeloo when somebody sees the character they have a crush on, they see them in a pink, cloud-filled background.
- The Loud House:
- It's a Running Gag that Lincoln's best friend Clyde, who has an incurable crush on the oldest sister imagines Lori regularly running in slow motion across a beach, her hair bouncing.
- "Study Muffin". Hugh, Lincoln's British all-subject tutor is handsome and has an accent. Every single Loud sister sees him through the crush filter: an airbrushed pink background, Bishie Sparkles and a romantic music sting. They all develop Crush Blush and fight for time with him. Their father, who is a fanboy for all things English, gets into the act, speaking with the accent and chasing Hugh with British memorabilia. This frustrates Lincoln to no end until his sisters realize his own crush filter for his Spicy Latina substitute teacher is why he's failing and needed the tutor. Lincoln can pass as long as he's not looking at her...then she ends up subbing as gym teacher, and every boy in school succumbs to the effect.
- Batman: The Animated Series: In "Beware the Creeper", when the Creeper first meets Harley Quinn, he sees her through a heart-shaped iris against a lush tropical background.
- Bromwell High: In "Keisha's in Love", whenever Keisha looks at Spencer, she sees him floating on a golden cloud in heaven, complete with an angelic choir. Then she yells at him to "get off that cloud".
- Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race: When the Reality TV Pros share a cart with the Sisters in "Hawaiian Honeyruin'', Noah keeps staring at Emma due to his infatuation with her and doesn't hear her question regarding Owen. When Emma's trying to get Noah's attention, he sees her as if she's flirting with him.
- Miraculous Ladybug: Marinette sometimes gets a hazy pink background when daydreaming about her crush, Adrien.