Singing Celestial Strumpets

Perhaps the most compelling question of our time has nothing to do with terrorists, civil liberties, or the economy. What we all secretly wonder is whether teen pop divas Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera are really virgins or sluts, right?

The singers' image-makers do their best to confuse us. Britney advocates the virtues of abstinence with her cute little boyfriend, 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake. Then she writhes among a sweaty orgy of nubile sexpots while singing about slavery in a recent video. Prancing around in lingerie in the "Lady Marmalade" video, Christina gives us crotch shots, but when rumors began circulating that she had made a porn flick, she virulently defended her honor.

Virgin, slut, schoolgirl, she-devil: It doesn't matter to many a pizza-faced teen who would say the two are heavenly bodies. Now you too can ponder the mystery of the virgin/sluts under the stars -- sort of -- at Miami Museum of Science and Space Transit Planetarium's Britney Spears/Christina Aguilera Laser Light Show. That's right, you can, er, trip the light fantastic to the grooving beat of Britney's hits like "Stronger" and "Lucky" and Christina's mind-blowing million-sellers such as "Genie in a Bottle."

The planetarium's stable of house-produced laser shows featuring Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Doors, and Pink Floyd has attracted many a hopped-up teen and crusty burnout over the years. The Britney/Christina extravaganza is a decidedly different offering. "It's a departure from our usual," admits resident astronomer extraordinaire Jack Horkheimer, once known, perhaps appropriately in this case, as the Star Hustler. "It's the first time we've gone with something using this kind of pop."

Inventive as they are, the planetarium laser-show makers did not create the Britney/Christina fete. The museum bought it from a company that produces and distributes the programs. Local laser makers are too busy perfecting yet another new Led Zeppelin production. (Plans are to present a laser spectacle from a different Zeppelin album on a monthly basis.)

Small groups of small fans and their parents have been getting their fix of bouncing bubbles and precious hearts morphing and squirming on the planetarium dome. Listening to the pop tarts without the video distractions of gyrating hips, steamy lips, and bopping booty can be a revelation. Reclining and viewing the world through laser specs, one begins to contemplate the songs' real meanings. For example discovering a suggestive message contained in "Genie in a Bottle": "If you want to play with me/You gotta rub me the right way." Or unveiling the existential angst in Britney's anthem "Stronger": "I'm stronger than yesterday/Life is nothin' but a heartache/My loneliness is killing me no more." Who knows? Enough time spent in the dark just might provide the answer to that other eternal query: "What a Girl Wants."