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Marissa Moss

Marissa Moss

Posted: July 14, 2008 02:06 PM

I Kissed a Girl


Ok, so maybe I haven't. But Katy Perry didn't either, and she's still singing about it. Go figure.

Setting: afternoon on a Thursday. Hollywood , California. A teal couch, a window looking up to Runyon Canyon, a girl, a coffee. And TRL.

"I want my MTV," I thought to myself. TRL would have to do -- it'd been probably seven years since I'd seen a video on the channel. But it was 4th of July weekend, and I was feeling nostalgic. The show progressed much as I remembered -- two second clips of bad videos, even worse VJ's, downright nauseating editing. In other words, I must have gotten too old for it.

I was actually looking forward to seeing the number one video -- Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl." I'd heard about this song -- it's almost impossible not to -- as it's currently topping about every US chart including the Billboard 100. Annoyingly polished yet somewhat catchy in that girls-sweating-to-it-in-a-spinning-class sort of way. Like Peaches, minus the smut, sweat, cigarettes and chains. Essentially, all the good parts.

I was especially curious since I'd been here before -- Jill Sobule did the first "I Kissed a Girl" in 1995 (no relation to Perry's except in title). I was still in high school, and her sweet, almost fairy tale-like jingle about a dabble in lesbianism was the talk of the time. Of course, Sobule didn't actually kiss a girl in the video, an omission that was noticeably absent yet not surprising for the mid-nineties. Having heard about Madonna's public swooning over Perry (in the praise way, not the A-Rod way), I guessed that this 2008 version is going to be some clever revisitation of the topic at a time where gay marriage is currently legal in California, where we now have many openly lesbian public figures (who knew Ms. Lohan would become a pseudo role-model?), at a time where, hopefully, a singer can just as easily write a song about her love for a woman than I could for love of a man.

Wrong. Granted, this isn't a song about love. It's not even a song about lesbianism -- Perry is basically assuming the position of drunk sorority girl #1, kissing drunk sorority girl #2 for shock value and/or to catch the attention of her boyfriend. "Got so brave / Drink in hand / Lost my discretion" she sings, prancing about in an Pussycat Dolls-esque bustier. I give it to the end of the video: there's got to be something provocative in here, something honest, right?

Wrong again. Apparently, the only place you can see a girl kissing another girl on MTV nowadays is on "The Real World" after six tequila shots in the hot tub. Certainly not in the video called, um, "I Kissed a Girl."

It's unsettling that while a song about kissing a girl can go to the top of the charts, we're still too sterile to actually show the act in a video by a person whom is supposed to be a vision of edge and counterculture in Lolita shades. Turns out, Perry (born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson) was actually a former gospel singer who was, more recently, a vocalist for the record production evil genius music mastermind set The Matrix. Thus she's no stranger to clever packaging that turns heads and sells records but has little substance or authenticity behind the veil of Oz.

Now, many a musician have grown up and grown away from early spiritual roots -- it's a rite of passage, and nothing to fault her for. But in the video, she looks exactly what she is: a good Southern California gal appearing slightly lost and somewhat clueless as a bunch of frizzy-haired implied (?) lesbians dance around her. Sobule's video at least showed some leg-touching action. Perry's is a vision of forced yet still vacant sexuality that is more insulting than anything else. There's not even the requisite "Britney-Madonna"-esque make out session to grab cheap buzz. There's a bigger point though: why is a lesbian kiss still the subject of shock value and cheesy Girls-Gone-Wild dreams?

In some ways, we are culturally regressing, filing certain images and sexual preferences into a pop-motivated catalogue that bites and breathes on youth culture in the same way that slap bracelets and Lisa Loeb motivated my early years. It's girl kiss, check, ipod, check, Facebook, check! Rather than accepting it, we've turned the image of the female kiss into a trendy motif that could be tossed aside like a Louis Vuitton bag in Heidi Montag's beamer -- when we should be showing this image as one of unification, of acceptance. Especially since those singing about it can't even find the gusto to show a positive (and by positive I still mean in the "rock and roll" kinda sense, since that's what self-authenticity is all about) image, or even show one at all. Perhaps we've had too many years of the Bush administration to be able to think clearly, culturally.

All I know is that the next time I hear about girls kissing, I hope it's after "I do" - not a convoluted techno beat.