Jason Tseng

I Kissed a Girl... and other observations

Filed By Jason Tseng | August 13, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Brittany Spears, celebrity lesbians, Christina Aguilera, David Hyde Pierce, Eric McCormack, gay for pay, Gus Van Sant, Harvey Milk, Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, James Franco, Jennifer Beals, Katy Perry, Keanu Reeves, Lance Bass, lindsay lohan, Lucy Liu, Madonna, Neil Patrick Harris, pop culture, River Pheonix, Sean Penn, T.R. Knight

Katy Perry's obnoxiously catchy chart-topping new tune, I Kissed a Girl about lesbian posturing and heteroflexible experimentation has the Entertainment biz buzzing with newfound love for our sometimes Sapphic sisters. Perry is far from the first or the only sultry siren to embrace newfound lesbianism to lubricate the publicity machine.

Madonna, Brittany Spears, and Christina Aguilera all locked lips in displays of faux-lesbianism. More recently, Perry is joined by the oft ridiculed and perpetually scrutinized Lindsay Lohan, who has made tabloid and gossip rag covers over her recent alleged relationship with Samantha Ronson.

Now, I will be the first to be critical of Perry's brazen capitalization of queer women's identities and lives for her own personal gain, and without getting truly lumped with any of those pesky social disadvantages to actually being queer, like homophobia and discrimination. Perry carefully navigates the subtle line between queer transgression and pandering to heterosexual male voyeurism which I have always found oddly aroused by gratuitous displays of lesbianism. However, for all her vices, could Perry's one-hit-lesbo-wonder be a benchmark in queer inclusion in popular culture?

The rise in the acceptability or, as some have begun to view, inevitability of heteroflexibility and same-sex experimentation in women has long been a trend easily tracked through the landscape of America's popular culture. From Sex and the City, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ally McBeal, The L Word, and The Cashmere Mafia, women-on-women action has become more and more commonplace.

Granted, the majority of these women tend to be feminine, attractive, young and white (Lucy Liu and Jennifer Beals being obvious exceptions). But with all this acceptance of female heteroflexibility, the examples of bi or heteroflexible male characters is incredibly sparse.

The lone character I can come up with is potentially Bree Van de Camp's son from Desperate Housewives. And that is quite a stretch, considering how he spent a good deal of time being a sociopathic teen nut job (not that kind of nut job). When venturing into the real world (or as real as the "real world" of entertainment can be) the field becomes much more sparse.

Certain headway has definitely been made by the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger, god rest his soul (whose circumstances were eerily preceded by Keanu Reeves and River Pheonix in Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho) for some queering of the straight Hollywood actor.

We're seeing more male actors stepping up and playing gay roles, not because the roles are gay or to be sensational. But simply because they are good roles. Van Sant's new film, Milk, a biopic of the legendary first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk, stars Sean Penn and James Franco as lovers. As expected the usual obnoxious press circuit questions probing on how gross it must have been to kiss another guy are abundant, but Franco, at least, seems none too shy about discussing his involvement with the work.

In addition to the gay-for-pay actors (i.e. Eric McCormack of Will & Grace) a veritable menagerie of straight-for-pay actors seem to be coming out of the woodwork (i.e. T.R. Knight, Neil Patrick Harris, David Hyde Pierce, and... even Lance Bass). But even with all this headway, we still have yet to see a cultural movement to match the heteroflexible female's general liberation.

And this brings us back to Lindsay Lohan. Many will be quick to criticize or doubt the validity of any kind of romantic or sexual relationship she might have with Ronson. But I say live and let live. While Lohan is a bit of a hot mess and is fond of stirring the controversy pot, I am glad to see the media's generally benevolent treatment of their relationship. I'd much rather her swap spit with a girl for publicity than snort coke.

EDIT: From the comments, I've decided to add an embedded player with the Jil Sobule song of the same name:


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Intersting post, Jason! I agree about Lohan- I'd rather see her in a stable relationship than crashing her car into a tree.

As for the Katy Perry song- I'm still on the fence about it. I know I should be horribly offended by it, but I don't really find myself bothered by it.

That song is way too catchy for its own good. Although I have little doubt that Katy Perry, the author of the song if it was not her, her publicity people, and anyone else officially involved with "I Kissed a Girl," are jumping on the heteroflexible female band wagon (and the music video doesn't even feature any kissing!), within the context of the lyrics alone...methinks the lady doth protest too much. I think it's possible to queer the song.

I would feel better about this song if there were similar ones from male artists. I think increasing sexual freedom is a good thing; experimentation shouldn't necessarily be denigrated. Yes, it overlooks all of the discrimination that self-identified GLB people face in the "real world" when nominally straight people can celebrate fooling around with the same sex without repercussion. But maybe if society's proposed boundaries weren't so strict, neither neither straight nor queer communities would feel the need to be gender and sexuality police and some of that tension would be alleviated.

/yawn @ Kate Perry

Viva La Jill Sobule!

I expected it to be a remake, Avshalon.

Thank you!

Jill Sobule's version is much better =)

Hey Avshalon,

I've put Jill's song at the end of the post. Thanks for keeping us in the know!

Lizzie (greeneyed fem) | August 13, 2008 5:52 PM

(Hi Jason! I worked with you at GPAC -- nice to see you out in the cyberworld.)

Feministe had a great post/discussion about this song and the video a little bit ago: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/06/30/katy-perry-plays-make-believe/

LOTS o' bisexual and queer women had something to say to Ms. Perry -- and, yeah, what they said, basically.

Her interviews decided me that she sucks. In discussing a promise ring her boyfriend got her in Us Magazine, she says, “Travis is definitely a ladies’ man, so it is a big deal for him to be like, 'This one is mine.'"

Ugh. How . . . progressive.

Hey! I kissed a girl and I really, really liked it. (And so did she.)

I'm just gonna say... I hate that song!

I'm kind of disappointed that I can't view the video in my country - I mean, I don't expect anything great, but purely for investigative purposes, y'know? Anyway, I decided to search for video responses to it, and I found this one, by Good Asian Drivers. Which makes EVERYTHING better.