Why One Stranger Things Kissing Scene Was So Controversial

A first kiss. For many, there's nothing more exciting or terrifying. In the imagination, first kisses can play out all types of ways, but there are typically two things that are universal: the kiss is organic and ideally your parents are not there to witness it. Unfortunately for "Stranger Things" stars Sadie Sink and Caleb McLaughlin, both of these universal rules were broken when the pair were made to kiss in the final episode of season 2 at the Snow Ball dance.

As kisses are concerned, the lip-locking is very tame, but fans of the show expressed concern when news broke that the kiss was never part of a longterm plan for Lucas and Max's future. Instead, it was written into the scene at the last minute. While "Stranger Things" is no stranger (ahaha!) to romance (Mike and El also share a kiss in this episode as well), it does feature a fairly young cast, especially at the time of filming season 2. So throwing a surprise kiss into the mix is bound to get the nerves going, especially if you've never been kissed before, on screen or otherwise. But the improvised nature of the kiss does bring up some complex issues about consent and the intricacies of working with actors who are minors.     

The kiss

Season 2 of "Stranger Things" saw the introduction of Maxine "Max" Mayfield, a spunky skateboarder with seriously dope skills on the "Dig Dug" arcade game. The "Stranger Things" boys instantly take a liking to her and before you know it, Max is effortlessly incorporated into the group. Eventually, her and Lucas develop feelings for one another, and their mutual affections are solidified at the Snow Ball dance.

The Snow Ball is one of the show's rarer, more tender moments where we get to see the kids just being kids sans telekinesis and flesh-eating monsters, and the Duffer brothers perfectly capture the excitement and awkwardness of what it's like when a slow song comes on and everyone starts pairing up. As Max and Lucas dance to The Police, it is Max who makes the first move and hurriedly leans in and kisses Lucas. It's a sweet moment that serves to both solidify Max and Lucas as an item, as well as show that gone are the days of playing Dungeons & Dragons in Mike Wheeler's basement. The boys are growing up, and with growing up comes first love. The only problem is that when Sadie Sink opened up about the kiss on an episode of "Beyond Stranger Things," she let on that the kiss was maybe not as consensual as it seemed on screen.

The controversy

In episode two of "Beyond Stranger Things," host Jim Rash ("Community") asks Sink to talk about her kiss with costar Caleb McLaughlin. She playfully chides the Duffer brothers as she animatedly tells the table that the lip locking was unplanned. "The kiss was not written in the script," she says cheekily. She goes on to say that Ross Duffer jokingly asked her if she "was ready for the kiss" during the first day of filming the Snow Ball, a comment which caused her a lot of stress throughout the day. 

Ross Duffer tells Sink, "You reacted so strongly to this [idea]. I was just joking." He goes on to say, "You were so freaked out that I was like, 'Well I gotta make her do it now!'" On the second day of filming, the kiss was written into the script and Sink and McLaughlin had to experience their first kisses on screen. "It didn't help that our first kiss was in front of like 200 extras, and their parents, and the crew, and my mom," says Sink. Which, yeah. That does sound pretty nerve-wracking, girl.  

Viewers of this episode were quick to point out that forcing a child actor into kissing her costar with little to no preparation seemed pretty inappropriate, especially since it seemed very clear that Sink was uncomfortable about the entire situation. The conversation brought up all kinds of discussions about consent and the things Hollywood is willing to force young actors to do in order to make a show, and while all of these concerns are completely valid, Sink herself has cleared the air about her feelings about The Kiss. 

It's cool, everyone

In an interview for The Wrap, Sink explained that she was never fiercely against the kiss. "I mean, of course I was nervous because it's a first kiss, right?" she explains, "But I never objected to [it] or felt pushed into anything." 

However, interviewers were not entirely convinced, and they pushed the topic, asking Sink "if anyone had prepped her on what to say about the kiss." Her publicist shut this line of questioning down (obviously), but Sink did explain that she "always felt comfortable," reassuring everyone by saying, "If I felt uncomfortable with anything, I wouldn't have done it." If she's anything like her character Max, I think we can take her word for it.