WARNING: This contains a spoiler from Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Kingsman: The Golden Circle hit screens this weekend after receiving mixed reviews from critics. The sequel to the 2014 action-packed spy movie, based on Mark Millar's comic book series, has only a 51% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes compared to the original's 74% fresh rating. Critics have provided many reasons for their dislike of Kingsman 2, including the presence of fewer fight scenes and repetitive spy tropes, but there is one scene in particular, set during Glastonbury Music Festival, that has caused some contention.
Having teamed up with the Statesman, Eggy (Taron Egerton) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) head to the famous festival in Somerset to track down the girlfriend of one of the film's main antagonists, Charlie (Ed Holcroft), who Kingsman fans will remember from the first movie. Arriving in Glastonbury, at a VIP camping area, they approach Clara (Poppy Delevingne) with the intention of planting a tracker on her so they can locate her boyfriend when they next meet up. This is where it gets controversial though as the tracker needs to be placed inside Clara's body for it to work, which means shoving it up her nose or in her more private area downstairs.
Eggsy understands the ramifications of carrying out this mission but seems to feel more guilty about the idea of cheating on his girlfriend - Princess Tilde from the first Kingsman - than putting a foreign object up a woman's vagina. Tilde obviously isn't happy about him performing a sexual act, even if it's part of a plan to save the world, and he almost backs out but then after seeing she is very much a part of Poppy's crime ring he loses any misgivings and goes ahead and dons the special rubber finger to insert the tracker into Clara in rather graphic circumstances.
Many critics have called out this Glastonbury scene, arguing that it crosses the line into morally ambiguous territory. Robbie Collin, film critic at The Telegraph, called it "a bit of lip-licking, GCSE-level smut which the film presents as a piece of fearless taboo-smashing worthy of Sacha Baron Cohen at his wildest," while Jeremy Aspinall of The Radio Times says the "excursion to Glastonbury so Eggsy can put a bug 'in' an adversary’s girlfriend is unnecessary for all sorts of reasons."
It's not the first time director and co-writer Matthew Vaughn has pushed the boundaries in his presentation of sexual intercourse in the film franchise. The final scene of Kingsman sees a bum shot of the Swedish princess after she promises Eggsy anal sex if he saves the world. Vaughn and the cast have always maintained that they were parodying James Bond tropes in an explicit way to highlight how misogynistic the famous British spy actually is. That's what Taron argued to Screen Rant when asked about the controversial scene. “It’s what Matthew [Vaughn] does, it’s his signature thing. He likes to do something that shocks," the Welsh actor said. "And, you know, it’s not to everyone’s tastes, but it certainly gets people talking. All it is is explicitly showing what Bond alludes to and says in a double entendre kind of way."
Even though the filmmakers were trying to shock with these sex scenes they obviously were aware of what the implications would be if Clara was a more passive character. Jane Goldman and Vaughn wrote her as being rather sexually aggressive who actually makes the moves on Eggsy more than he does on her: she invites him back to her tent, strips off her clothes and makes her sexual intentions very clear. If Eggsy was the aggressor than the whole scene would be far more uncomfortable so it's arguably not as bad as critics have suggested, and, it's certainly refreshing to see a female character who embraces her sexuality and isn't pining after the man she's just slept with like is often depicted in Bond films.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is certainly not the first film to venture into taboo territory when portraying a sex scene. Both Crash movies, which share the same name but totally different storyline, feature controversial scenes where a woman is "violated" but they were both critically acclaimed upon release. James Spader's character in David Cronenberg's 1997 thriller has sex with a woman's vagina-shaped leg wound while Matt Dillon's racist police officer, in the 2004 Crash, molests Thandie Newton's character right in front of her husband. These filmmakers get away with depicting these highly shocking scenes because the movies are presenting a gritty and dark reality while the Kingsman franchise offers s a far more fantastical narrative. This is probably why the Glastonbury scene comes across as so jarring because there is a lightness and humor to the film that doesn't fit with the idea of a woman unknowingly being sexually assaulted. Yes, she's a willing participant in the sex but not in having a foreign object placed inside of her.
It's a tough scene to gauge, and Taron is certainly right when he told us it has got people talking. But while it is crass and uncomfortable to watch like any scene of this nature should be, it's arguably not as disgusting an addition to Kingsman: The Golden Circle as some critics have suggested.