ByRicky Derisz, writer at Creators.co
Staff Writer at MP. "Holy cow, Rick! I didn't know hanging out with you was making me smarter!" Twitter: @RDerisz.
Ricky Derisz

When released in 2014, Kingman: The Secret Service was an unexpected triumph. Matthew Vaughn's comic book adaptation provided a fresh spin on the spy genre in a manner that was ultra-violent, ultra-stylish, completely over the top and endlessly enjoyable. For all of its positives though, a controversial sex scene dominated discussion surrounding the movie.

Its sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, clearly revelled in provoking an even greater reaction. Vaughn genetically enhances the DNA that made up the structure of its predecessor in an explosion of violence and unrestrained excess that, again, contains a controversial and unnecessary sex scene. This time around, the particular scene has sparked outrage due to its gratuitous and explicit nature. But is it as bad as the indignation suggests? No. It's worse.

Spoilers for Kingsman: The Golden Circle from now on. The scene in question features sharp-suited secret agent Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), a member of the newly introduced spy agency, Statesman. After former trainee Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft) starts working with super-villain Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), Eggsy and Whiskey are tasked with planting a tracking device on Charlie's ex-girlfriend, Clara Von Gluckfberg (Poppy Delevingne.)

But this is no normal tracking device — it's attached to a condom-like contraption that is designed to fit over a finger. To be activated, it needs to be placed inside of the human body (you can see where this is going). With the device in hand, Whiskey and Eggsy take a trip to Glastonbury musical festival after intelligence tells them Clara is attending. Eventually, they find her in the VIP area and begin their mission to seduce her. After Whiskey's charm fails, Eggsy steps in. He wins Clara's attention and the pair leave the public space to go to her private tent.

An Explicit Sex Scene With No Purpose

This is when the controversy begins. After they arrive, Eggsy dashes to the toilet and video calls Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström), his now-girlfriend following the pair's questionable courting at the end of The Secret Service. After telling her, "I'm really sorry, babe, but I've got to sleep with the target," they argue, and Eggsy appears to have a change of heart. Returning to the bedroom, Eggsy tells a half-naked Clara he can't go through with it.

As Clara turns her back to put her clothes on, Eggsy spots a golden tattoo, a symbol for Polly's crime organization, the Golden Circle. Changing his mind, he tells Clara he wants her, while placing the tracking device on his finger. As they kiss on the bed, the camera pans down, following Eggsy's finger along her body in a POV shot that ends up literally inside of her vagina. As the tracking device is planted, the Kingsman theme tune marks the sign of mission accomplished.

Unsurprisingly, the graphic nature of the scene has gained a lot of attention. Egerton has defended the decision to include the scene, claiming that "it's what Matthew [Vaughn] does," before reasoning it's instead a clever play on female representation in spy movies," explicitly showing what Bond alludes to and says in a double entendre kind of way." The trouble is, regardless of the intent, such topics need to be handled sensitively — or not at all.

Mishandling such scenes only serves to perpetuate the issue, and does more harm than good. There are statements to be made and ways to provoke audiences in a way that sends an important message. Like the anal sex gag in The Secret Service, the intimate scene is lewd and juvenile, and isn't smart enough, or funny enough, to validate its inclusion. Though by itself a joke made in bad taste doesn't always deserve outrage, looking at the bigger picture highlights the seriousness of this storyline.

'The Golden Circle' Carelessly Perpetuates Rape Culture

Let's skip back to when Whiskey and Eggsy first arrive at Glastonbury. As the pair enter the festival, Whiskey makes a two-fingered gesture as he hints at where the tracking device needs to be placed. The camera then focuses on Clara, alone at the bar. From the classic perspective of the male gaze, we see her bare legs, before the camera slowly pans up her body. As this is going on, the two spies standing behind her are openly discussing strategy on how to plant the device inside of her vagina — way before considering the issue of consent.

Responding aghast to this is not sensationalism. Chip away at the comedy facade, the jovial banter and the exaggerated set-up, and here are two men discussing the possible sexual assault of a woman they've never met, standing meters away, alone at a bar. Normalizing this kind of behavior for cheap-laughs isn't only lazy writing, it's incredibly damaging and only adds fuel to Hollywood's depiction of rape culture.

Clara and Whiskey talk in 'The Golden Circle' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Clara and Whiskey talk in 'The Golden Circle' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]

Looking at the real-life context adds an even more sinister twist. Sexual assaults at music festivals are on the rise. One of Sweden's biggest music festivals, Bravalla, has been cancelled next year following 11 sexual assaults and one rape in 2017. On May 8, 28 UK festivals held a synchronized 24-hour website blackout to increase awareness of sexual violence at festivals, with each of those involved signing a pledge to make festival sites safer for women.

This isn't to say the scene in The Golden Circle was included despite knowledge of these facts, or that it is intended to imply a non-consensual act. But complacency is just as bad, and highlights how rape culture expands to all areas of Hollywood production. This explains how no one — from the earliest stages (note: Vaughn partnered with female co-writer Jane Goldman on the script) to the final edit —called this out. There's no excuse, the reason why the scene is destructive is widely accessible online — all it takes is a quick Google search.

Here's a simple amendment that would play on the spy movie trope of female representation, send a message, and remain sensitive: When Whiskey tells Eggsy what he needs to do, he looks at him in disgust and tells him to "fuck off," something he doesn't struggle to do throughout the film, before adding: "Who do you think I am, James Bond?" He then thinks of a genuinely humorous, well thought-out and respectful way of planting the device. There, it's that simple.

Finding a sensitive way to handle these issues is Hollywood's responsibility. The storyline involving Clara treads into uncomfortable territory, which is sinister at worst, painfully ignorant at best. But ignorance isn't an excuse. Banter isn't excuse. Parody isn't an excuse. These attitudes arise from a place of privilege, a place where ignorance and insensitivity is an option.

Now is an apt time to remember Harry Hart's motto: Manners Maketh Man.

Trending

Latest from our Creators