David Knight - 15th Feb 2017

Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston's video for Brendan Maclean, is a tribute to Hal Fischer's 1970s study of gay semiotics, taxonomies and sexual behaviours, and features highly explicit scenes of unsimulated penetrative gay sex. And then it keeps on going. 

Brian and Karl and Maclean follow Kirsten Fischer's observations into the world of extreme fetish behaviour and a final shot which, well, once you've seen it, you can't really ever unsee it. It involves a bottom having a poo and Maclean's head. 

There you go. Should've written Spoiler Alert at the start of this piece, I guess. But it looks like a lot of people have already seen this anyway. Including, before it was inevitably removed, a viewing figure on YouTube almost as mind-boggling as the video itself. 

The inevitable furore it's caused has also led to pieces by Hollywood Reporter and Huffington Post, and of course plenty of online reaction - even death threats. Brendan Maclean has also himself written about the experience of making the video, and below Brian & Karl explain their thinking in making this highly explicit and controversial music video.


"When Brendan initially approached us to make this video he brought along with him a copy of Hal Fischer's 1977 photo essay 'Gay Semiotics'. Fischer's book is a study of the gay identities and hanky-codes which emerged in San Francisco in the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS era, and we were immediately taken with how deadpan the photo essay is and the nonchalance with which he describes these sex acts. 

"We saw straight away how we could turn Brendan's reference into a video and the project as a whole seemed like an opportunity to push pop video boundaries in a way that was light-hearted but also counteracted the increasingly straight-washed version of gay life being pushed by the mainstream. We wanted to hook the audience in with safe gay cliches, and then subvert the familiar with an unabashed depiction of gay sex. So we assembled a cast of adult actors and performance artists, got a great production company on board, with a brilliant DP and stylist, and took the plunge.

"Ultimately the spectrum of responses proved to us why this video was necessary" - Brian & Karl (above)

"We knew this video would get a reaction, but we never expected the scale of the response we got - a million views in about ten days, our email account got spammed with Christian newsletters and we even got death threats. The lab which processed the film refused to scan the negative and some sections of the LGBT community even made arguments against the video from the standpoint of respectability politics. It somehow lasted on YouTube for a week, but was eventually pulled after a reaction video from the now infamous PewDiePie brought it a bit too much attention. 

"Ultimately the spectrum of responses proved to us why this video was necessary: it showed us just how conditional the acceptance of gay identity can be. Effrontery isn't a word most people would associate with music videos, but it's felt like a good time to make this. Music video is a format for us that can challenge the way people think they can also speak to the times. With the way things are right now, that seems more important than ever."

From COMPULSORY on the video and censoring:

"When Brian and Karl approached us about the premise of the video, it was always going to be a difficult project to work on and the extreme nature was not something present in early development discussions. Regardless, COMPULSORY has always tried to support the directors we work with in realising their visions, so censoring or making in effect a judgement on the content on our part was never something we were comfortable in doing when servicing a project. Although removed from us, the final video stands as a facilitation of their ideas and regardless of it's explicit content, an act in support of the creative potential Brian and Karl intended on executing."

Watch 'Brian and Karl on their controversial take on 1970s gay culture for Brendan Maclean' here

PRO Credits


DirectorBrian and Karl
ProducerAlex Paterakis
Production CompanyCOMPULSORY
Art DirectorVincente Ben
Make-upTom Fraser
EditorBrian Fairbarn

David Knight - 15th Feb 2017

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