When you try to imagine the happening international destination for the next wave of pop music, the odds are strong you won't be thinking of...Russia. For decades, teenagers the world over have taken their fashion and musical cues from mop-topped Brits or satiny Swedes, but in the dour, lifeless world of the Soviet Union, rebellious youths were probably defined as those destined for the concentration camps.
But that is changing with the growing pop-music phenomenon known as "Tatu" - an acronym in Russian for "This girl loves that girl." A pair of Russian girls who like to kiss everywhere they perform, usually dressed in skimpy schoolgirl outfits, Tatu is the culture's corrupting flavor of the month. Their new hit "All the Things She Said" includes lesbian lyrics, like: "When they stop and stare don't worry me/ 'Cause I'm feeling for her what she's feeling for me." The song went to the number one in Britain, and is now climbing up America's top 20.
The girls, Yulia Vulkrova and Lena Katina, just turned 18, but were first "discovered" at 14 and 15 by pop guru Ivan Shapovalov, who quickly went to work creating a titillating act. In Britain, where the duo made it big before becoming legal adults, advocates against child sexual abuse condemned the group for playing up to pedophiles' sexual fantasies. Michele Elliott, director of the child- protection charity Kidscape, said they were "pandering to dirty old men's images of young girls in school uniforms being sexual."
But old pedophiles aren't the target of this sales job. Young men in general are.
Outside of the millions of men who are so uncool that they look unfavorably on sexual sin, it's a mass-culture staple that men are uncomfortable with male expressions of homosexuality, but they love to watch the lesbians - as long as they're young and "hot" and don't look like fullbacks, like the out-and-proud Rosie O'Donnell. On his nationally syndicated daily radio countdown show, Carson Daly joked something to this effect about Tatu: "they've got loads of talent, not to mention the hot girl-on-girl action."
MTV - that centralized location for perverse teen culture - shows the video to the Tatu smash, a melange of images of the girls making out with each other in the rain. MTV.com boasted that parents who dislike the overt sexuality of today's teen-pop "might have a cerebral hemorrhage when they see the video." (Another video - perhaps the second stab at a hit - shows Lena's face as she apparently masturbates.) MTV first started promoting the band on MTV Russia in late 2000, when one girl was 15 and the other was 16. The song and video "I've Lost My Mind" told of a teenage-lesbian love affair, and with MTV Russia playing it 35 times a week, home-country success was swift. Now MTV's promoting the band in the big time in America, including a performance on their afternoon request show "Total Request Live."
Remember MTV is part of the Viacom empire that also owns CBS.
Tatu also appeared on NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," but their kissing in the instrumental breaks was edited out, much to the outrage of gay activists. "The kiss is as much a part of their song as the lyrics are, being that the song concerns the very homosexual image that Lena and Yulia promote," read one gay man's letter on a fan Web site. And he's right. The lyrics also promote same-sex love, but people constantly miss the lyrics. They can't miss the kissing, which is why the gay community wants it shown. England's gays were scandalized when the hit show "Tops of the Pops" replaced the gay-kissing break with a straight couple kissing in the audience at the same time.
That's how far we're sinking: gays are now scandalized by overt heterosexuality.
To be sure, so far, the Tatu girls have not been the subject of great promotion and pride from America's gay cultural commissars, which might be due to the rumors that the homosexuality is all just a marketing ploy. While their managers have eagerly released titillating details to the press - such as how the girls insist on a double bed in their hotel rooms - they won't confirm the girls are genuine lesbians. Katina claims: "Everybody thinks we are lesbians. But we just love each other."
But doesn't that say something about the shamelessly sexualized teen culture we're stuck with - that homosexuality is so attractive that non-gays should fake it to advance their careers? And yet no one, and I mean no one, dares ask: Is this right?