What’s in a Kiss?

Alright, alright, I know, I know…this video? Again?

If you are one of the over 50 million viewers of this video, then please bear with me. If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch.

Yes, the video was produced and edited for an obscure hipster clothing company. Yes, it  features an attractive cadre of ethnically, sexually oriented, and generationally diverse actors and musicians kissing one another for the first time. Yes, they are being serenaded by an overly drippy and emotionally manipulative song that was written and performed by one of the “strangers”. And yes, because of this it has been spoofed by everyone from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to Second City.

But how did it suddenly go from “beautiful” to a “bad first date” (as a writer for Time Magazine tags it)?

Maybe because we feel like we’ve been sold a manufactured experience.

So many of the nearly 50 million wanted to believe that some of the emotions they witnessed and sensed within the couples and themselves were real. Love, if such a thing exists, should be real and authentic. But because this video was somewhat fabricated by soft camera angles and black and white film, it must be anything but genuine. As an article in Slate labeled it, this video is “like the hipster Bachelor.”  And because we have already already been bruised, battered, and finally desensitized by the nonsense of Reality TV, is there such a thing as an authentic experience caught on film anymore?

If we revisit this tape (I’d advise watching it on mute), there are some slight gestures that ache with the intimacy and authenticity of real feelings – regardless if they are staged or not. Some of the initial awkwardness that is captured reveals a level of uncertainty and uneasiness that we can locate in our personal histories. Whether it is stealing a look at a new face before looking away, a forced laugh, a tender tucking of some strands of hair behind the ears, or breaking the tension with a compliment, we see the differing responses of interacting with a stranger.

But as quickly as we feel one of those real, raw emotions, we want to dismiss it – via spoofs or rag articles – because the source was not authentic. Why? Because we don’t want to be let down. Or worse yet, we don’t want to be hurt.  It’s sad how quickly we have become accustomed not to trust our feelings because they might not be real? Where does that leave us as a culture when we can’t believe in the magic of an experiences because someone will film it, package it, and then sell us a product. In fact, our BS filters have become so finely attuned at detecting this that we are starting to filter everything out – even the good stuff.

In a culture that supposedly cherishes authenticity, have we become so skeptical that such a thing no longer exists? What can we trust anymore? I’d like to think that this video exposes what our culture lacks the most: trust in the authenticity of own emotions, experiences, and narratives.  The challenge, then is not to discard our experiences when they are slightly tampered with by elements of inauthenticity. The challenge is how to own them, celebrate them, and live from them when we attempt to experience them all over again.

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Cover image: screen shot from the First Kiss video.

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