Jun 262014
 

strangers kiss video stillsRemember the Strangers Kissing (“First Kiss”) video that went viral a couple months ago?

It was beautifully shot (in black and white), full of beautiful people (models), with a beautiful concept (capturing the spontaneous intimacy of strangers kissing for the first time). In the short film, pairs of good looking strangers make awkward small talk, nervously approach each other, and kiss… and that’s when the magic happens.

Once the strangers lock lips, “they suddenly appear intimate, sexy, even compassionate toward each other.”[1] The film peddles the idea that intimacy, romance, and beauty can spontaneously arise from something random.

Within a day or two, people realized the “random” beautiful strangers weren’t random at all — they were models and actors hand selected by Wren Studios to sell clothing. “First Kiss” won a Grand Clio award for “the most viewed branded fashion video of all time”[2] with over 85 million views on YouTube.

Casting had no impact on my response — I didn’t love it. I dislike romantic idealism and emotional manipulation that comes courtesy of black and white film backed by a moving musical track.

To me, the video had all the intimacy of two beautiful strangers being asked to smoosh their faces together (on film) in the hopes of making something (a film) perceived as beautiful. I interpreted it as neither ‘authentic’ intimacy nor faux intimacy, but rather, as a kind of temporal intimacy that comes from doing something familiar with someone who isn’t.

Kissing is familiar — we know the ‘acceptable’ purposes for kisses and the feelings that (should) underpin them. Superimposing a familiar, intimate act on top of non-intimate actors feels more bloodless than beautiful.

strangers kiss video stills“The Slap,” on the other hand, is bloody brilliant (& beautiful).

Filmmaker Max Landis gathered his friends and acquaintances, paired them randomly, and asked them to slap each other across the face. While I have no doubt that many of the participants are actors or models (Haley Joel Osment is among them), to me, the difference isn’t the intimacy of the act — arguably, both kissing and violence are intimate — but the familiarity of the action.

The film shows unfamiliar actors carrying out unfamiliar actions. Even if the action (slapping) is somewhat familiar, the context isn’t (slapping a stranger outside of a hostile situation).

Landis explains that “The Slap” isn’t a parody of “First Kiss.” Instead, it’s intended to ask questions about the nature of violence, consent, trust, intimacy, logic, and fun.[3]

The theory was: A slap, robbed of its violating context, is more intimate than a kiss.
My theory, as it turned out, was right, which was fun, and gratifying. But intellectual gratification is, to me, secondary to the visceral feeling that came from hitting, being hit, and better yet, watching everybody hit each other. I saw the strangest mutations of intimacy, and trust, in that empty void.

Even for masochists who engage in BDSM as part of their sexual and intimate expressions, slapping doesn’t always or immediately come easily. It’s counter-intuitive, awkward, and requires consent, trust, and desire. In my experience, all of that makes for mind-bending vulnerability — both for the active and the passive partner — and that’s what makes BDSM so satisfyingly intimate.

If you haven’t yet seen “The Slap,” you should. It’s unexpectedly funny and inexplicably charming.


[2] “About.” Wren Studios. [back to text]
[3] “The Slap – Point of Impact,” by Max Landis. YouTube. June 23, 2014. [back to text]

  12 Responses to “the slap: violence as intimacy”

  1. I think efforts like this, and a certain percent of the viewers, will increase the amount of fetishists around the world. :)

  2. I can’t love that slapping video hard enough. I suppose I could count slapping as a fetish of mine, but I really only like it when it’s my Dominant doing it. It symbolizes a particular kind of love and trust to me. Watching strangers/friends slapping each other felt liberating somehow although I’m not certain where that feeling stems from. Perhaps it was because it felt more authentic to me than the kissing ad. At any rate, thanks for this, D!

    • I can’t love that slapping video hard enough. [. . .] I really only like it when it’s my Dominant doing it. It symbolizes a particular kind of love and trust to me.

      I know, right? It’s oddly heartwarming and funny. I know what you mean about the love and trust. Face-slapping was the first BDSM type thing I did with J. After a few months (and many other “experiments”) I didn’t do it as much… which led J to ask if I wasn’t as attracted to or interested in him as I was before: “Why don’t you slap my face anymore…?”

      It was kinda adorable. :)

  3. I predict more of these coming soon.Think about all the different sorts of “tests” that could be set up with strangers/models approaching one another and doing, saying, things while the camera rolls. Mind-boggling.

    • Think about all the different sorts of “tests” that could be set up with strangers/models approaching one another and doing, saying, things while the camera rolls.

      I know there was a series of “tests” where they documented people’s reactions to being asked to donate money to some cause — the different actors they chose to play the solicitors were of varying degrees of “attractiveness” (whatever that means).

      But, yes. Probably… there were tons of parody videos of “Strangers Kissing,” but this was the first I saw that did a similar “experiment” — I suspect you’re right… there will be more soon.

  4. 5 million views of ‘violence without aggression.’ Loved it – absolutely fascinating and fun to watch. And so many interesting reactions before during and after. I enjoyed the related video ‘the slap – point of impact’ as well.

    Maybe it should be an early part of dating rituals, instead of a first awkward kiss at the door. :)

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. That is incredibly beautiful! Definitely more intimate than the kissing and it obviously creates a closer bond between the participants. Of course the two spanking shots got me the most ;)

    • Definitely more intimate than the kissing and it obviously creates a closer bond between the participants.

      I felt the same way, and thought the same thing — violence (or the perception of it?) does seem to create quicker and more intense bonds (or intimacy) than kissing. Interesting stuff!

  6. That was a very amazing video! I found it most amazing that most of the total strangers seemed to really have fun both slapping *and being slapped*. The one time I was unexpectedly slapped in the face by a friend, my immediate reaction was something akin to “I am going to punch your fucking lights out you fucking cunt!” And if she hadn’t been a good friend of mine, she’d have been on the floor. That’s a whole lot coming from me since I usually flatly refuse to hit someone unless they are consenting to it! And even then, we’d need to be in an intimate relationship. Lol. So, to say I have a visceral reaction to slapping would be an understatement.

    • I found it most amazing that most of the total strangers seemed to really have fun both slapping *and being slapped*.

      I know, weird, right? It did look like they were having a good time though — I guess social experiments can be fun. :)

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