The MTV Movie Awards’ Best Kiss category has always been a little weird. (Remember when Species won for an inter-species kiss that blasted out the back of a man’s head?) But it’s never been weirder than on Tuesday, when Tess’ “kiss” from HBO’s The Last of Us was nominated for the award.
[Ed. note: This story contains spoilers for The Last of Us, episode 2.]
For those unfamiliar, the “kiss” in question is between Anna Torv, the actress who plays Tess, and Philip Prajoux, the actor who plays the infected Cordycep zombie that kills her by linking his weird tendril-y mouth mushrooms with her face. It’s a weird, decidedly disgusting moment on the show, and almost completely out of step with the rest of the series and its tone.
According to series creator Craig Mazin, the team wanted to explore what would happen if someone got infected peacefully.
“What does it look like if you just stand perfectly still and let them do this to you?” Mazin asked in an interview with Variety. “Then we landed on this nightmare fuel. It’s disturbing and it’s violative. I think it’s very primal in the way it invades your own body.”
Though the scene may not have had the “primal” effect Mazin intended, it did come across as violative, just not in a particularly provocative way. Instead, it feels leering, and bizarrely objectifying, to have the otherwise bold, confident Tess passively stand by as her death approaches. The moment sexualizes her in the creepiest, most voyeuristic way possible, without giving her much of a perspective or anything to say.
And that’s the kiss that MTV wants to memorialize forever. In the past, the award has mostly been connected to memorably romantic kisses, like the running catch-and-kiss from The Notebook, or the upside-down-in-the-rain kiss from Spider-Man.
The nominees this horror-movie moment is up against this year are Harry Styles and David Dawson from My Policeman, Madison Bailey and Rudy Pankow from Outer Banks, Riley Keough and Sam Claflin from Daisy Jones and the Six, and Selena Gomez and Cara Delevingne from Only Murders in the Building.