In the wake of the #MeToo Movement, Hollywood has changed. It saw the downfall of many powerful men in the entertainment industry such as Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, along with their long-hidden abuses finally being exposed to the world. It helped to push the idea of diversity, inclusion, and equity both on-camera and off-camera. Most relevant to this article, the movement saw the rise in prominence of intimacy coordinators.
What is an intimacy coordinator? An intimacy coordinator helps to facilitate the creation of scenes that feature nudity and simulated sex. They work on-set in film and television productions, as well as in live and theatre productions (where they are called intimacy directors instead).
Not too dissimilar to a stunt coordinator with stunt scenes, an intimacy coordinator choreographs sex scenes between the actors. They come with modesty garments and barriers for the actors to use in those scenes such as pads, strapless thongs, and pouches. They plan on what types of intimate touchings will happen in intimate scenes. They work not only with the actors but with the directors and writers to execute their vision while respecting the bodily autonomy of the actors. Above all else, an intimacy coordinator ensures the safety of actors as they take part in intimate scenes. They are advocates for the actors participating in these scenes and address the concerns of those actors.
Edited by Shawn
Despite the good of intimacy coordinators, they have been criticized by many in the industry. Among those who have taken issue with the place of intimacy coordinators was Game of Thrones actor Sean Bean. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Bean addressed his concerns about intimacy coordinators. One of them was that they ‘spoil the spontaneity’ of shooting an intimate scene. He implied that intimacy coordinators could negatively impact performances as he said: “I think the natural way lovers behave would be ruined by someone bringing it right down to a technical exercise." Bean then added, "It would inhibit me more because it’s drawing attention to things.” In this interview, he brought up actress Lena Hall and an intimate scene they did together for the television show Snowpiercer. Bean said that Hall was up for anything due to her background in cabaret.
His words received critical responses from several actresses, including Hall. West Side Story (2021) actress Rachel Zegler tweeted about how intimacy coordinators create a safe environment and said, “Spontaneity in intimate scenes can be unsafe. wake up.” She-Hulk star Jameela Jamil contested Bean's technical argument on Twitter with, "It should only be technical." She added, "Our job as actors is to make it not look technical. Nobody wants an impromptu grope." Hall's Twitter response to Bean's interview had her correct him for saying that her background in cabaret meant she was 'up for anything.' Hall also spoke in favor of intimacy coordinators and having them if needed.
A more recent example of intimacy coordinators being under attack from within the entertainment industry would be the premiere episode of HBO's The Idol. The Idol is co-created, co-produced, and directed by Sam Levinson-who is famous for manning HBO's raunchy teen series Euphoria. Levinson has become known and very infamous for his works featuring a lot of graphic sex and nudity. Many have criticized him for this and say that the amount of sexual content in his content seems gratuitous. Many Twitter audiences have made comments about Levinson needing to be on a watchlist and how Levinson likes to put his fetishes in his work.
In the context of all this and Levinson's sexually explicit work, it makes many raise an eyebrow at The Idol's negative portrayal of intimacy coordinators. Said portrayal features a timorous and maladjusted intimacy coordinator (meant to be as seen as annoying) getting locked in the bathroom after trying to stop the main character and pop star Jocelyn (played by Lily-Rose Depp) from showing her nipples for a photoshoot. The portrayal garnered the show a lot of criticism, especially from actual intimacy coordinators.
If this scene does paint Levinson’s true feelings about intimacy coordinators, it doesn't seem to consider how his actresses feel. Euphoria actress Sydney Sweeney has spoken positively of intimacy coordinators. In Euphoria, Sweeney plays Cassie Howard, who has an active sex life that the show spends a lot of time showing alongside showcasing her figure in all its nude glory. Her character has Sweeney perform many intimate and nude scenes. In multiple interviews, she has said that Euphoria's intimacy coordinator helped her to feel comfortable and safe.
Intimacy coordinators are still a relatively new thing in Hollywood. Admittedly, the profession is still working out all the kinks. But due to the context of the long history of women being sexually exploited in Hollywood, perhaps it is better to have intimacy coordinators and endure the hiccups that may arise rather than not having them at all and having actresses find themselves in difficult situations.
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