Some people think it was Big Love that made America seriously think about polygamy in a big way. But those of us with slightly longer memories know it was really the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, which went down in history for a wedding scene between Madonna, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. No actual vows were swapped between this terrible threesome, of course...just spit.
Can it really have been a whole decade since the country lost its collective innocence about girl-on-material-girl-on-dirrty-girl action? The three stars weren't the only ones with their mouths wide open, as millions of viewers' jaws dropped in unison.
The opening production number of the August 28, 2003 VMAs would have been newsworthy enough if it had just been a duet between Britney and Christina, as it initially appeared to be. These two sexpots had been rivals since their "Mickey Mouse Club" days, so when they teamed up to pay tribute to Madonna by donning her famous bridal gear for a duet of "Like a Virgin," her-story was being made. But that newsworthy detente was overshadowed when Madonna herself emerged, in some equivalent of groom's wear. In an instant, it was clear who still wore the pants in the diva world.
If you forgot that Aguilera was even in on this, you're not the only one. After Madonna got smoochy with Spears, the cameras cut away to the latter's ex-boyfriend, Justin Timberlake, in the audience. By the time Madge moved on to Aguilera seconds later, the Christina kiss had already been rendered anticlimactic.
But little did we know that neither of the young acolytes were even MTV's first choice to play Madonna's fellow lipstick lesbian. "They weren’t necessarily the first couple of people who were on the hit list," MTV Music Group president Van Toffler told EW last year. "Originally J.Lo was in the mix. That didn’t happen." (Obviously — we'd remember.) "And the thing about Britney and Madonna was they had [bad] history, so it was not easy to get them together on the stage. Both Britney and Christina obviously respected Madonna, so only she could pull that off.”
Bringing irreconcilable divas together for an important cause truly established MTV as the United Stations of fake lesbianism.
Little remembered is the fact that Missy Elliott was also onstage for this medley, shunted off to the side for the most important moment. Even less remembered is that Elliott won Video of the Year that night. You notice how much her status as a pop star has fallen since then? There may be a lesson for everyone here: No tongue, no tenure.
In 2011, MTV indulged in cat torture by forcing three kitties to dress up in bridal wear for a feline reenactment of the famous kiss. Having once invited the wrath of the American Family Association, MTV seemed now to be rage-baiting the SPCA.
Madonna appears to have mixed feelings about being so well remembered for her sapphic-superstar moment. Asked by "Nightline" in January 2012 if she'd do it again, she answered, "No, I already did it. I don't like to repeat myself." But maybe she was feeling lustier by April of last year, since she tweeted to Spears, "Please come onstage and kiss me again. I miss you!!"
There was no mention of inviting poor Christina back, you'll notice. Woe unto those who have to settle for sloppy seconds.