Why Movies and TV Should Take Mindy Kaling's Advice on Kissing—Sort of

What Women Really Think
May 21 2013 5:19 PM

Why Movies and TV Should Take Mindy Kaling's Advice on Kissing—Sort of

168692061
Take Mindy Kaling's advice on kissing

Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

In a piece for the May 20 issue of The New Yorker, The Mindy Project creator and The Office veteran Mindy Kaling writes about one of her favorite parts of her job as an actress, particularly in a role where her character is dating a lot. She gets to kiss people, particularly those who might be otherwise unavailable for smooching because they are married. She says:

The problem is, kissing is no longer appreciated as a satisfying end in itself, as an inviting pair of lips and, possibly, a tongue, to interact with for a delightful moment. No. Kissing has now been cheapened into the nominal gateway gesture to sex. Kissing is to sexual intercourse as the phrase “Can I talk to you for a second?” is to a full-blown screaming fight.

She argues that we should take kissing less seriously so we can enjoy it more. “The fact of the matter is, marriage is a serious business and kissing is not. Just because I want to kiss someone doesn’t mean I want to love that person, share a bed with him, remind him to take his Lipitor, tell him not to use so much salt, or share one AOL e-mail account,” she explains. But her point about kissing as an act independent of sex actually argues for taking lip-locking more seriously in pop culture.

Advertisement

Sex is an awfully hard thing to choreograph in film and television. Some of the challenge comes from the simple limits of what you can show, whether you're trying to make sure your movie falls under a certain ratings threshold, or because you need your episode to get past network Standards and Practices. (Red Widow creator Melissa Rosenberg once told me that ABC wouldn't allow any thrusting during heterosexual sex scenes.) And some of the problem is that we all like different things during sex. It can be hard to pick an act, position, or choreography that gets everyone in your audience hot.

But you can show all of a kiss. More so than a hug, which can be platonic, or the taking of a hand, which can fizzle, a kiss is a gateway that can lead to disappointment, sex, or even just more kissing. No matter how old you get, in a new relationship, a first kiss is a ritual of excitement and anxiety. This isn't to say that sex doesn't elicit all of these same emotions, or open up similar questions about compatibility, trust, and emotional longevity. But kisses are where it all begins. So maybe it's time to take Kaling's advice to appreciate kissing for what it is. And whether a kiss is scot-free or the start of a life-long commitment, pop culture could get sexier and more romantic by focusing on what it can display—rather than bemoaning what has to stay off-screen.

Alyssa Rosenberg writes about culture and television for Slate’s “XX Factor” blog. She also contributes to ThinkProgress and theatlantic.com.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your children is perfectly legal. 

Ken Burns on Why Teddy Roosevelt Would Never Get Elected in 2014

Cops Briefly Detain Django Unchained Actress Because They Thought She Was a Prostitute

Minimalist Cocktail Posters Make Mixing Drinks a Cinch

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest of jewels.

Books

Rainbow Parties and Sex Bracelets

Where teenage sex rumors come from—and why they’re bad for parents and kids.

Books

You Had to Be There

What we can learn from things that used to be funny.

Legendary Critic Greil Marcus Measures and Maps Rock History Through 10 Unlikely Songs

Catfish Creator Nev Schulman’s Book Is Just Like Him: Self-Deluded and Completely Infectious

Behold
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 14 2014 7:10 PM Watch Michael Winslow Perform Every Part of “Whole Lotta Love” With Just His Voice
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?