Thursday, August 14, 2008

Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" & the male gaze


Katy Perry's song "I Kissed A Girl" has spent an impressive seven weeks in a row at number one this summer. Of course, similar feats have been accomplished by decidedly catchy but unimpressive songs like "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain (which spent 10 weeks at #1) and the infamous "Macarena" which spent a shocking 14 weeks at #1.

This song is incredibly catchy, that part is undeniable. It has just the right amount of computer-enhanced vocals to make it a hit, but just enough of Katy's voice to make her credible. I like the song well enough. Katy herself seems to be a mix of cute and tough, and she seemed likeable in her performance and hurried interview on The View recently. The small amount of controversy the song has generated probably has only added to its popularity (see Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus for example). But listening to it for the hundredth time today got me thinking:

Would this song be anywhere near as popular if it was a man singing about another man?

I believe the answer is no. The song comes off as sort of a bi-curious ode that fits in well with the Tila Tequila/MTV culture of 2008. But what if Tila Tequila were a guy? Would MTV's show have attracted the ratings it did and been brought back for a second (and possibly third) season? Would men and women have found the show so addicting as they did?

My point is: being lesbian seems to be more widely accepted than being gay. Katy Perry (an attractive girl) singing about kissing another girl "just to try it" helps fuel the ever-present male fantasy that two of their female friends might just start making out in the corner of the next grungy bar during one of those "heart-to-hearts" women always seem to be having. If a similar song called "I Kissed A Boy" about two men came on the radio, most men would cringe, as if to assert their hetero-status (in case you missed it the first time).

Jill Sobule (mostly known for the song "Supermodel" off the Clueless Soundtrack) had a mild hit in 1995 with a song called "I Kissed A Girl" (no similarity in music or lyrics to the Katy Perry song). The interesting thing is that both songs romanticize relationships with a female for their difference from relationships with men. Both songs emphasize the soft lips and skin of a woman, and the forbidden yet oh-so-right feeling of kissing a woman. Yet while dismissing and almost badmouthing men, these songs play into male fantasy....so who wins in the end?

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