A few nights ago and all yesterday, a viral video kept showing up in my Facebook feed, with people sharing this supposedly “poignant” and “touching” video, called “First Kiss,” by director Tatia Pilieva, that showed up on Gizmodo and a handful of other sites. Pilieva, the story went, had gotten 20 strangers to pair up and then make out for the first time on camera. People went on and on about how beautiful they thought it was, to see people hesitant at first but then “lose themselves in the moment” or whatever. Personally, I couldn’t really get behind it, because the people felt like actors who were hamming it up for the camera, and because I have a chunk of turd-stained asphalt in the place where a heart should be.
Well it turns out, it wasn’t so much a “short film” as it was “a commercial for clothes.” I don’t know if that makes me happy to be proven right or sad to confirm that there’s no wonder left in the world.
Actually, it’s an advertisement for clothes, and most of these strangers are professional performers who are experienced in acting out love, sex, and intimacy for crowds. The cast includes models Natalia Bonifacci, Ingrid Schram, and Langley Fox (daughter of actress Mariel Hemingway and sister of model Dree); musicians Z Berg of The Like, Damian Kulash of OK Go, Justin Kennedy of Army Navy, singer Nicole Simone, and singer-actress Soko (who also performed the melancholy indie music that accompanies the short); and actors Karim Saleh, Matthew Carey, Jill Larson, Corby Griesenbeck, Elisabetta Tedla, Luke Cook, and Marianna Palka. [Slate]
So, less like a group of strangers and more like an extended circle of theater kids who got together to make out and act melodramatic, which is what I always assumed they did anyway (/jealous). I mean did you really think we were witnessing an honest moment from a guy in a v-neck and a slouch beanie?
If you can still enjoy this knowing it’s an ad, hey, cool. But this is kind of the reason I’ve always hated viral/guerrilla marketing and all those improv everywhere-type pranks. They can be cute, but it also feels like we’re gradually inoculating ourselves from ever feeling wonder or true spontaneity without having to ask who’s trying to sell us something. It feels gross and manipulative, which I guess is sort of the point of all advertising, even if a lot of advertisers have gotten so good that they’ve forgotten that part themselves. But nothing beats a transcendent moment that someone else didn’t plan, that’s what makes it transcendent.
Anyway, if I’m going to watch a group of strangers hook up for the first time, I’d just as soon see the dongs going in. What’s that called again? Oh right, porno.