Death to the Faux-Lesbian Pop-Star Kiss

Beth Greenfield, Shine Staff

Memo to Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and the music industry at large: That planned fake-lesbian pop-star kiss thing? Totally over. Like, OVER. At least it needs to be. Because not only is it really not shocking anymore, it’s just a cheap and tired ol’ publicity stunt — one that empowers no one, while exploiting many.

It wasn’t always this way, of course.

More than a decade before Cyrus and Perry locked lips at the edge of the stage during Cyrus’s concert Saturday, Madonna, as everyone on Earth knows, famously made out with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera during the 2003 Video Music Awards. And that make-out session? It was fierce and radical and totally hot — and it actually meant something. As Ann Powers so perfectly summed up for NPR: “The trio couldn't have devised a more blatant metaphor for the transmission of an inheritance: here was the madam of pop's brothel going in lips first, to show her protégés the ropes. The number began with Madonna's inheritors playing dress up in versions of the gown she'd worn on the same program nearly 20 years before; entering in equestrian duds, Madge seemed as much dominatrix as doyenne.”

Plus, these heart-stopping smooches happened the same year that the revolutionary “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” premiered on Bravo — and the same year that the Supreme Court legalized gay sex on a national level with its sweeping strike-down of Texas’s anti-sodomy law. So they went beyond securing a place in the pop-music narrative to also play out a major LGBT moment — and the result was thrilling.

It was a moment that had been surely building, to go back even further, since “I Kissed a Girl” — the 1995 version, by one-hit-wonder Jill Sobule, who caused a minor controversy with its release. (Said a gracious Sobule in 2008, when Perry’s hit of the same name got even more attention, “I don’t feel precious about the title, but I’ve gotten tons of e-mails from annoyed fans. Some think it’s more of a ‘Girls Gone Wild’ thing than anything shocking or empowering to true gay feelings.” She then confessed: “Katy Perry’s song is a kind of catchy party song, although I will admit that I do smile when a critic mentions my version in a more favorable light. Is that wrong?”)

Fast-forward to now, with gay marriage legal in 17 states and counting, and Ellen the reigning Oprah of mainstream America, and Cara Delevingne happily making out with Michelle Rodriguez all over creation, and, well … you can begin to see why staged girl-on-girl pop-star kisses are pointless and insulting. (Take note, Shakira and Rihanna. PLEASE.)

Perhaps the best proof of that point, though, comes not from Cyrus and Perry, but Sochi. That’s where throwback faux-lesbian pop duo t.a.T.u. (talk about history) actually took the stage, holding hands, as part of the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony — you know, in the country whose homophobic “gay propaganda” law doused this year’s games with a painful level of controversy? But the girls were there! And they sang “Not Gonna Get Us!” And did I mention they held hands? And, just like with Cyrus and Perry, it meant nothing. So let's kill it already. ’K?