As you probably know, there are two different and well-known songs called "I Kissed a Girl." One is by upstart 24-year-old pop singer Katy Perry and became a huge hit in the summer of 2008; the other is by veteran singer-songwriter Jill Sobule and was a hit in 1995. Which "I Kissed a Girl" is better? Some of today's keenest intellects — writer Christopher Hitchens, physicist Stephen Hawking, activist Gloria Steinem, and Fall Out Boy bassist-vocalist Pete Wentz — recently engaged in a roundtable discussion of the topic on PBS' Charlie Rose Show. Here's a partial transcript:
Charlie Rose: Chris Hitchens — Katy or Jill?
Christopher Hitchens: Well, Charlie, as you know, I am an avowed atheist and authored the book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. And as you also undoubtedly know, Katy Perry is the daughter of two evangelical Christian pastors and plied her nascent singing trade as a Christian performer under her given name, Katy Hudson . . .
Marquee Theatre in Tempe
Katy Perry is scheduled to perform Tuesday, February 3.
Rose: So, no on Katy, then?
Hitchens: Oh, no no no, my dear Charlie, quite the opposite. With "I Kissed a Girl," Ms. Perry seems to have repudiated all of her religious brainwashing. So for that I applaud her, and whatever the merits of Ms. Sobule's catchy little song, Ms. Perry's song is indubitably a far more important statement.
Rose: Professor Hawking?
Stephen Hawking: Taking into account the acceleration of cosmic strings, the various theories of negative energy density, and the presence of vacuum fluctuations, I analyzed the soundwaves and innate structural composition of both songs and came to the incontrovertible scientific conclusion that Jill Sobule's "I Kissed a Girl" is a better-formed piece of matter.
Pete Wentz: Whoa, who put on OK Computer? "Fitter, happier, more productive . . ." Oh wait, I know: "Shall we play a game? Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess?!"
Hawking: You really are a douchebag.
Wentz: Settle down, Mr. Shrivel. Dude, it's all about Katy. Have you seen those fuckin' cans? Damn, that chick is smokin'! She's single now, too.
Rose: Is that kind of language really necessary, Mr. Wentz?
Gloria Steinem: Charlie, let me interject here. Jill Sobule's "I Kissed a Girl" is clearly a very sweet, honest, modest, and yet empowering portrayal of a sexual situation. Just look at Jill's lyrics: "I kissed a girl/Won't change the world/But I'm so glad I kissed a girl." But look at Katy's lyrics: "I kissed a girl just to try it/I hope my boyfriend don't mind it" and "It's not what good girls do/Not how they should behave."
Charlie, this is reprehensible! It suggests that kissing girls is wrong or, even worse, that it's only all right if men give their approval. Yet the song is wrapped in the guise of empowerment and some weird, warped take on feminism. It's exploitive, and absolutely the worst kind of message to put out there, and Ms. Perry should be ashamed.
Wentz: Lady, are you fucking nuts? Jill Sobule is totally butt and Katy Perry is hot! She can kiss all the girls she wants. She can kiss Ashlee if she wants to. I would totally watch.
Steinem: Oh, God.
Hitchens: Dammit, there is no God!!
Hawking: Albert Einstein said he believed in Spinoza's God, who . . .
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Wentz: Spin-whatta? Dude, you're giving me a headache.
Rose: I'm afraid that's all the time we have for tonight. Thank you for joining us.
Wentz: Katy, you're hot! Call me.