There’s very little that’s realistic about Hollywood sex scenes—the passionate kisses in the rain, the way everyone wakes up perfectly covered by an L-shaped sheet, etc. But there’s one increasingly frequent sex scene cliché that especially gets on my nerves. It’s when, moments after the couple starts kissing and it’s evident that things are going to take a naked turn, the man picks up the woman.
My pet peeve isn’t about the move itself: I’m annoyed about the sudden overuse of said move (I can’t think of a single sex scene as of late that hasn’t resulted in a lift). And let’s just say that it isn’t always done gracefully.
Let’s start with a classic movie lift (or five): The Notebook knew what it was doing. First of all, the size of the actors helped its case. Ryan Gosling had about six inches on Rachel McAdams—so while picking her up wasn’t always necessary, it also made sense. The movie also used the lift in fun and reasonable ways. There was the time that McAdams ran and jumped up on Gosling out of excitement (cute!), and when he picked her up in the rain, making it easier to transport her into the house and upstairs (practical!). Also, let’s face it: It was always, always hot.
But Gosling and McAdams are the gold standard. Not every passionate makeout in the history of television and film needs to involve a man picking up a woman, because when it isn’t done well, it ruins pretty much everything.
There are many ways a lift can throw off a scene, and not all of them involve dropping the woman. (That would never actually make it to screen, except maybe in a blooper reel.) For example: In the Chicago P.D. season one finale, will-they-won’t-they couple Burgess and Ruzek finally slept together. After he showed up at her apartment, she opened the door to hear his confession of “like,” and as soon as they started kissing, she very oddly jumped up on him.
They’re pretty close in height; Burgess easily could have pulled him in, shut the door, and led the way to the bedroom. After all, it was her apartment. Keep in mind that Ruzek wasn’t lifting her up onto a counter or anything—he was just picking her up because lifts are supposed to be sexy. By the time they got to the bedroom, her feet were back on solid ground. What was even the point of the lift?
Also, while it might look easy, performing a proper lift isn’t always simple, no matter how many takes you’ve got. The Vampire Diaries gave us the perfect example of this when Jeremy and Bonnie finally slept together in season 5:
The lift was not only incredibly awkward (look at the way she holds her legs), but also unnecessary. Jeremy literally turned around and set Bonnie down on the bed. Was she incapable of getting there herself? The show could’ve saved us all from cringing had it not tried to over-complicate the scene.
The bottom line in this: Sex scenes should be sexy. Can lifts help with that? Of course. But they’re not a necessity, and more than that, shows and movies need to realize when they’re not needed and/or poorly executed. Sometimes, having four feet on the ground is the sexiest thing in the entire world.