Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And They Liked It

So Lindsay Lohan and Sam Ronson are together.

I could put up a lot more links to that, but I won't yet. And yes, I really am going to talk about this.

Even in my moving-away-from-Chicago-and-watching-only-TV-on-DVD state, I had managed to become peripherally aware of Sam Ronson, in the "ooh-Lindsay-Lohan-is-spending-a-lot-of-time-with-her" way. Somehow that was news—TMZ sort of news, but news nonetheless. Then I heard nothing until my fourteen-year-old French friend, Max, pointed the photograph of them out to me in OK! Magazine. The fanfare's been minimal, all things considered.

There are two ways of looking at that. The first is, of course, the indisputable fact that same-sex relationships have gained much more mainstream acceptance even in the last five years. As my friend Silvana points out, one of the most important aspects of the fight for gay rights is that as more and more people come out, exponentially more therefore know someone who is gay and have a personal stake in the debate, whereas in earlier incarnations of the fight (say, Stonewall's aftermath) much of it remained very abstracted for the mainstream. Since we fear the different, the ability to recognize gay as something we know ("we" here being "the mainstream") will make a huge political difference. It already is. Say what you will about same-sex marriage, which for obvious reasons I'm a proponent of—in the world of human rights, it is a battle that requires the assumption of the comfort of the Western lifestyle. For marriage rights to be a debate at all, you need to have the idea of the people who could marry in the mainstream.

And one thing you can say for Ms. Lohan is, girl is MAINSTREAM. She kicks the ass of any other possible figure, from Lance Bass to Ellen DeGeneres, on the mainstream front.

But then there's the other side, namely that many of Ms. Lohan's most interested devotees have also propelled Katy Perry to the Billboard No. 1 slot. And we could have a few more problems under the influence of "I Kissed a Girl."

This was never the way I planned
Not my intention
I got so brave, drink in hand
Lost my discretion
It's not what I'm used to
Just wanna try you on
I'm curious for you
Caught my attention

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it
I liked it

No, I don't even know your name
It doesn't matter
You're my experimental game
Just human nature
It's not what good girls do
Not how they should behave
My head gets so confused
Hard to obey

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it
I liked it

Us girls we are so magical
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable
Hard to resist so touchable
Too good to deny it
Ain't no big deal, it's innocent

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it
I liked it


My friend V and I have come to know this as "the Party Lesbian Song."

Apparently a few right-wing Christian mothers are concerned about Ms. Perry's work. Christian mothers, you do not have anything to worry about. Young lesbians, however, do.

Obviously I'm by no means the first person to say this, but Katy Perry is certainly making things ever more uncomfortable for young lesbians or bisexuals—an adolescent audience particularly—who might actually want to kiss girls for reasons other than "experimental games." Yes, to a certain degree everything sexual you do in high school is "experimental" bla bla bla bla, but only on the level that, as my wise friend Maddy once said and which I have never forgotten, "everything in your life is practice for everything else." But to have a straight-identified girl (a safe jump from the boyfriend in combination with the quick "don't mean I'm in love tonight" and the notion that it "ain't no big deal, it's innocent") say to another girl "You're my experimental game" is getting into dangerous territory. A straight girl with a boyfriend is free to use another girl, a girl about whom the song tells us nothing, for anything she likes. It's not something you have to take seriously; it certainly doesn't mean you're gay or anything.

(Not to claim that every girl who kisses a girl is gay, or that I frown on teenage experimentation. I'd be one ass of a bisexual woman if I meant that. But I am uncomfortable with the pains Perry's song takes to clarify that its speaker is, indeed, straight, and that this kiss should not be taken as meaningful, it's just that girls are so pretty.)

Yes, I'm glad that Sam Ronson and Lindsay Lohan can be (fairly) comfortably out as a couple. Yes, I am glad that content including two girls kissing does not keep a song from becoming a #1 hit. But the reason that so little real notice was taken of Lohan and Ronson earlier, and the reason that a song that treats the interaction as casually as Katy Perry's does can go so far, is that we live in a society still incapable of taking female sexuality seriously. Two teenage boys holding hands and kissing a little, one a celebrity (of any level of notoriety), would not have been taken nearly so casually. That is not because lesbians are more accepted, but because romantic love between two women does not *matter* to the mainstream. There's no reason Katy Perry's narrator shouldn't kiss a girl, because what does it matter? It don't mean she's in love tonight.

I emphasize, again, that I don't mind casual hookups among any combination of sexes, and I don't mind songs about them. But I think the culture of Party Lesbians and public bi-curious hookups, of which Katy Perry's song is certainly a product, have led to a culture of hiding lesbians and actual bisexuals in plain sight. It's not the direct homophobia we've grown accustomed to protesting and fighting, and yet it seems to me even more insidious. We can't hide it anymore, so quick! Say it doesn't even matter. And it feels to me like an awful lot of people are listening when you say that. Teenagers interested in the same gender, and girls in particular, can feel that their feelings, and by extension they themselves, are not real. On that I speak from experience. It doesn't help much if the general public is taught not to think you're real either.

Perhaps, though, the bottom line really is simple sometimes—that Lindsay Lohan and Sam Ronson kissed a girl, and they liked it, and therefore posted it on MySpace. More power to 'em, then, I guess. I certainly wish them the best.

1 Comments:

At 12:32 AM, Blogger Lawrence said...

you know... i feel like all in all... i wouldn't give the song too much worry... you're up against the funhouse mirror of pop culture that turns everything into a joke when it doesn't know what else to do with it... and some of the lyrics of the song, from over here, totally sound like we're supposed to (ironically, of course) make fun of the singer anyway, for not realizing the obvious. of course, that all depends on the prosody, of which i'm ignorant, i pretty much ran away from the song as soon as i heard it (probably for not being a cover of that other "i kissed a girl" song).

well, all this is definitely enough for me to not like the song, though if this is really a #1 single then i have to say that being a #1 single doesn't mean a quarter of what it used to, (probably) what with fragmentation/personalization/dispersion of the music market and all that. like, for one, i'm still seeing pretty much nothing out there in the wider world about Katy Perry, and for two, i simply can't believe that a song that seems as psychologically tortured as this, without the psychological torment being the point of the song that is, can be any kind of real representative of any era or generation. (actually, it kinda seems weirdly akin to the Scopes monkey trial, in which Scopes basically volunteered himself as the defendant. i don't see why the right-wing Christian mothers *shouldn't* worry. not necessarily at the *results* of the song, ultimately writ on water as it may be, that is, but at least at their own recognition of the rising tide that gave rise to it. i'd say actually that plenty of political foreshadowings look like they've got conservative messages if you interpret them literally... heck, even Scopes was convicted initially. isn't "Hair" like this, too? i barely remember.)

what i'd certainly like to see, of course, if only so that the movement's eventual victory (and i really do have little doubt) isn't made disheartenedly Pyrrhic by years in the pop belly funhouse, is plenty more cross-gender covers -- with the lyrics of course kept exactly the same. you should *hear* the convolutions Cassandra Wilson (decides she) has to put herself through in order to sing "Shelter from the Storm". no, seriously.

 

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