L ast Tuesday, the video “First Kiss” went viral with more than 10 million views in its first two days online. I found out about it on my newsfeed, the seemingly fastest way to know about events and news these days.
Many of my friends felt disgusted, uncomfortable and disturbed by it, but I could not help but agree with the people who found it beautiful and endearing in a way. I stand by my view mainly because I can’t help but advocate for genuine human contact and exchange - think long looks everyone has given in any public space here.
The short film, which is just under three and a half minutes long, is a commercial for the Los Angeles-based women’s clothing’s company Wren . The simple concept grouped 20 people, ranging from models, actors and singers - including Soko , a renowned songwriter - into pairs and asked each pair to kiss in front of a camera. No “action” was said to keep the reality of the moment. The couples were paired by instinct and in young, old, biracial, lesbian, gay and straight matches. The video was criticized for having chosen people seen in forms of entertainment, but none of them were paid.
Not so surprisingly to many, the interactions did not end when the director, Tatia Pilieva, asked to wrap up the scene. Some interactions continued off-camera as pairs ate or walked together after the shoot. For some, it was a result of the passion that ensued; for others, simply because a connection was created in that moment. The website Vice created a video, saying, “We paid twenty strangers, who definitely aren’t ... hot American models - to kiss for the first time,” but the video showed the same connection in the end.
Soko explained that while she wanted to kiss more, she also could not let go of the will to know her partner in the sense that once a connection is made, it is hard to let go of. This is one of the most beautiful things to take away from that video. As College sophomore Alexandra Lotz explains, “The idea is that passion is easy to have if you let yourself fall in love with strangers. You can be drawn to the possibilities in someone who’s unknown to you rather than things you already know.
“Making out with a stranger gives you a real, passionate moment because of the fact that you don’t know them, you don’t know where they live or how much money they earn or how educated they are.”
This video is also important in its own way because we often forget to reach out. We all have someone in our class we have exchanged looks with for an entire semester without saying a word to each other. We have all been introduced to someone without waving at or acknowledging each other afterward because no words were exchanged and the awkwardness of unreciprocated attention is inescapable. We all have someone we have talked to for a bit because we were in the same room or group, but never even learned each other’s names - unless alcohol and overconfidence were present - because we felt like it was too late to ask.
I have been in all these situations, but I also try to always continue an exchange because I believe we can learn something from one another in any context and form. I met one of my good friends on a bus on my way from Providence to New York and will never stop being glad that we exchanged names because I see her whenever we are in the same place.
I am not part of the group of people disturbed by this video because I am an advocate of human exchange. If I shared a moment with you and enjoyed it, I will not stop talking to you because of other obligations and societal rules making it confusing and out of the norm.
Diane Bayeux is a College freshman from Paris. Her email address is email@example.com.