Remember 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.” 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” 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.
“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.
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.
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.