This week, I decided to research Ms. Perry, one of the new breed of hyper-sexualized female pop stars. Whereas the others are intoxicated and/or categorically insane, Ms. Perry occupies a different set of standards. She is the manic-pixie-stick-dream-girl, the smiling sugar woman with sex toys tucked away in the closet.
The new breed of pop is all about image, and really you have two options. You could be the young and innocent teenager (think Taylor Swift) or the hyper-sexualized harlot (think Ke$ha). Ms. Perry desperately wants to be the Frankenstein’s monster in this scenario. Or more succinctly, the pigeon-rat of modern music.
So how do I defend a pigeon-rat? I look up fansites, of course.
One blogger writes against my categorization of pop stars. In fact, she lambasts it as a modern attack against femininity. Apparently I’m being a chauvinist pig, or a far-lefty feminist. Knowing me, it’s probably a little of both.
On quietgirlriot.wordpress.com, she writes, “I hate writing about ‘femininity’ because I only ever seem to find negative accounts of it in the media, and particularly from feminists. I thought feminism was about celebrating, supporting, championing women. But all I can find, over and over again, is feminists hating on women. For being the wrong kind of women.”
She posits that Katy Perry is a unique type of woman, so feminists attack her. I guess I can understand that. Feminists can be terribly confusing, much like this photo.
However, I have more issue with another facet of the Perry illusion. I look at her image and only see illusion.
If pop culture females are being true to themselves and their beliefs, I have little difficulty supporting them. I respect Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga because they speak to what they believe.
Katy Perry is so light that there seems to be no substance. The only controversy she suffered was vague homophobia concerning her early singles, “I Kissed a Girl” and “Ur So Gay,” and even that was largely a non-issue. However, at the same time, she wants to be taken as a serious artist writing about her experience with ex-boyfriends and believing in herself. She wants to have cake, be cake, eat the cake and save some cake for later.
Now I respect that she holds some things sacred. She was raised in a very religious family (think Pat Robertson on steroids… on second thought, don’t), and refuses to use religious imagery in her videos. However, that almost seems incongruous with her bad girl image. You can’t be a dolled-up sex dream and hold good-girl status at the same time. It makes you question who Katy Perry really is.
Now that I’m done with those qualms, I also think her music is largely forgettable. I have little else of say on that subject. I can’t always be snarky.
So I’ve raised about three issues. I question her lack of substance, her seeming dichotomy of ideals and the validity of her music. Luckily, the solutions to all three are surprisingly simple.
For the last of those, it’s a matter of personal taste. I think this entry from The A.V. Club is pretty telling. Let’s just say part of the title is “Katy Perry is now as good as Michael Jackson…”
“There are two ways to deal with the cultural inevitability of Katy Perry-,” they write. “Resist it, or sigh deeply and grudgingly surrender. Clearly, the world has chosen the latter strategy, as Perry has become the first female artist and only the second artist overall (Jackson being the first) to score five No. 1 singles from a single album.”
So yeah, “Thriller” and “Teenage Dream” are equal in the eyes of culture. Personal taste indeed.
The other two qualms can be solved too, and the reason comes with why this entry is timely. It’s deceptively simple: I need to see “Katy Perry: Part of Me.” After that, I will be in a better place to judge. Maybe she is more substantive than I can say, and maybe she can be a real person. I would love to be surprised.
I guess I need to remind myself that beneath the neon pastels and peppermint bras, Katy Perry is playing a character, and that character is popular and culturally valid. Katy Perry is, after all, a real person. Well, at least as real as celebrities get.