Toronto
2 min

Exciting the prudes

Madonna's lesbian kiss is only shocking for the fogies

Credit: Xtra files

It’s pretty easy to react with a collective yawn to Madonna’s kissing fest with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera on this month’s MTV music video awards. Lesbian kisses in popular culture are just so yesterday. Even daytime television beat her to the punch.



The drag-inspired performance was an homage to Madonna herself, with Britney coming out of a wedding cake, Christina from a wedding chapel, both adorned in the same wedding dress Madonna wore when she sang “Like A Virgin” on the MTV video awards 20 years ago. They each take their turn singing her song, all the while doing their best Madonna imitations – writhing around the stage.



Madonna makes her out-of-the-cake appearance, adorned in a black dominatrix-come-groom outfit, complete with top hat. She breaks into song (“Hollywood”) and marches down the aisle with Britney and Christina on each arm.



Then comes the part that made the news: the kisses. She plants a wet one on Britney, tongue and all, and a little one on Christina (though she did touch Christina’s garter).



Missy Elliot, the reigning queen of hip hop, then joins the ménage on stage, adorned in black tails and backward Kangol hat. A few lines of her song “Work It” added a little hip hop currency (Madonna proving she really is cool) and an extra arm to the parade of brides and grooms.



Insufferable self promotion? Un-doubtedly. Totally dated? Depends on who’s watching.



While the lesbian kiss is so over, the polyamorous kiss remains not completely assimilated into pop culture. While Madonna has tried it before in her 1992 book Sex and in her video for “Justify My Love,” the marriage twist added a special twist, just as gay nuptial anxieties are hitting a new apoplectic high (turn to pages 7 and 12).



In the mass of liberal media coverage, there’s been an effort to depict respectable couples. Gay and lesbian relationships have been sapped of all X-rated, even R-rated content. The classic nuptial kiss itself has been drained of lust, formerly the guiding principle of all things gay.



So just as the politics of marriage threaten to take all the fun out of homosexuality, Madonna puts the sex back into lesbian weddings.



Madonna’s message – brash enough to shock, but not too brash to keep the pictures out of the newspapers – charges at the sanctity of monogamous coupledom. Playing to rightwing cultural anxieties that same-sex marriage is the thin edge of the end of Western civilization, with polygamy, incest, bestiality and paedophilia sure to follow, Madonna delivers a same-sex, polyamorous, intergenerational, interracial wedding drag fest.



True to form, the social conservatives went wild, de-nouncing the public vulgarity, demanding apologies from newspapers that published the filth and condemning Madonna as an unfit mother.



Yet one can’t wonder if they were secretly pleased with Madonna enacting their own worst nightmare scenario. If you allow same-sex marriage, look what’s going to happen. Predatory sluts will ravage young girls. Polygamy and promiscuity will prevail.



Has Madonna’s seal of approval consigned same-sex marriage to the been-there-done-done trend pile, something that’s not edgy anymore?



For her target audience, yes. The approval rating for gay marriage is off the charts for the under-35 set. Of course, these young folks don’t yet run the world, and often don’t vote. And they don’t run the major newspapers. (If they did, they might well have picked a very different image from the MTV awards to put on the front pages – like someone actually winning an award.)



Until they do run the world (and they will), Madonna’s career as camp provocateur is safe. We have lots of right-wingers prepared to be outraged.



In the meanwhile, I can’t help but hum along to “Hollywood,” smiling at the fact that even Britney and Christina – the straightest girls imaginable, considering their stints with the Mouseketeers – have to follow lesbian trends just to stay hip.



* Brenda Cossman is a member of the board of directors of Pink Triangle Press.