The arrival of the #MeToo movement in 2017 accelerated that critical shift. In the succeeding years, the role of intimacy co-ordinators – hired to ensure that actors are comfortable in sex scenes – increased on film and TV sets. Ita O’Brien, who performed that task on Normal People, had been making the case for years. “Everything shifted on the dime, and everything that I was calling for then was welcomed,” she said about the #MeToo aftermath.
O’Brien’s work with directors Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald on the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel helped create sex scenes charged with emotion, awkwardness and excitement. Far from constraining creativity, the new arrangements, by providing discernible limits, free film-makers from moral and creative tensions. They can feel more confident in depicting explicit acts. They no longer need to show fingernails digging suggestively into satin pillow cases. Fewer edits are required of trains powering into tunnels. No longer need anybody close the relevant scene with a montage of gushing oil wells.
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