BUT THEN WE HAVE KATY PERRY. AND I HATE HER SO MUCH MORE THAN EITHER OF THOSE WOMEN, YOU GUYS, I DON’T KNOW HER BUT I JUST CANNOT STAND HER PUBLIC PERSONA OR MUSIC, MY DISLIKE IS SO EXTREME.
Because the Taylor Swift act is an act. The Ke$ha act is an act. We know these women to be actresses, each playing to a specific archetype of womanhood, with some major collaboration by the media which wants to construe them as one or the other ANYWAY.
But right here, not even in the middle but somehow bilocating herself to both ends of the spectrum while occupying neither, we have Katy Fucking Perry AND I CAN’T STAND IT. She is trying to occupy BOTH of these FUCKING AWFUL AND REGRESSIVE ARCHETYPES [virgin/whore]. She shows up talking about your cock and shooting whipped cream out of her tits, and then she talks about how marriage is super-important to her and she “tamed” her husband out of non-monogamy. She kissed a girl, and she liked it, but ultimately it’s very important that her boyfriend don’t mind it, because he has veto power on her sexuality. She wants to see your cock, but not really, cocks are for heterosexual monogamous marriage and she has one of those. She wants to be a bad girl who’s also a good girl, a Whore who’s also a Madonna, and it’s not about complexity, DON’T SAY IT’S ABOUT COMPLEXITY, it’s the exact same thing sex-positive AND older-school feminists have been complaining about FOREVER.
Yeah. That thing where we tell girls to be “sexy, but not sexual?” That thing where we frame female sexuality EXPLICITLY as a performance for men, not an experience within your own body that you get to define? That thing where we codify performing for men as “rebellion,” which strangely makes your “rebellion” (HA) (UGH) dependent on how much you please men, and once more divorces you from your own complex human sexuality in favor of making it an externally-defined show which you have to create in order to please as many men as possible? But you can’t ACTUALLY be having a lot of non-monogamous sex, so you have to be as constantly, overtly, “rebelliously” sexy as possible WHILE ALSO FINDING A HUSBAND AND “TAMING” HIM TO RESPECT THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE WHICH IS SOOOOOOOO IMPORTANT TO YOU???????
THAT IS KATY PERRY.
STOP SAYING NICE THINGS ABOUT HER.
SHE IS AN EXAMPLE OF EVERYTHING WRONG ABOUT THE PRESSURES ON WOMEN IN THIS OUR CURRENT ERA.
SHE JUST IS.
I don’t have immense fondness for Katy Perry; her material is frequently awful (“Peacock”), occasionally dull (“I Kissed a Girl”) and every now and then amazing (I could compile a top notch EP from her oeuvre thus far). I do notice, however, that as far as criticism of her goes, her appreciators are much more interesting than her detractors. Folks who don’t like Perry — their rhetoric tends to be fulminating and furious, in much the way Sady Doyle’s is above — are all agreed on one thing: she’s a bad woman. Whether it’s because she has too much sex, or not enough, or has sex wrong, what she does is definitely a Bad Thing for a woman to be doing.
By comparison, the folks who like what Perry does are discovering far more interesting things in her music:
Try Clem Bastow:
Perry’s ouevre is nasty, sticky and a little bit stupid; it’s a kind of Hello Kitty-themed update on Carry On; fruit-scented lube on a rather imposing black dildo. It works perfectly because the American ideal of the teenager - wholesome and optimistic - is of course at odds with its reality of unprotected sex and casual drug use.
Teenage Dream takes American Graffiti and drives it through the front window of Toys R Us. In an age where we wring our hands about sexualising teens/tweens, this former Christian Contemporary artist’s fetishising (remember, she’s marrying a noted sexaholic) of teenagerdom, the great American invention, is arguably more subversive than any of Lady Gaga’s meat dresses.
Or Nitsuh Abebe:
That’s the side of the party Ke$ha’s main counterpart, Katy Perry, seems to come from. Everything about Perry seems to hark back to some golden age of American triumph; she looks and dresses like she should be painted on the nose of a World War Two bomber, or an extra in an early-sixties beach movie, or framed as a piece of Pop Art. Her singles dominated much of this past summer, and the album that followed, Teenage Dream, made being young, drunk, and starry-eyed sound incredibly wholesome — as if Girls Gone Wild videos long ago joined baseball, apple pie, water parks, and early Mellencamp in the canon of Americana.
These are interesting things about Perry! They’re poking at her persona and exploring how it works and the place she occupies in pop culture. And while both are positive, neither is entirely; both Bastow and Abebe couch their enthusiasm in some decidedly negative images. By contrast, complaints that Perry is a bad woman — whether from a family friendly or feminist perspective — seem rote, and exhibit a stale unwillingness to engage with the material. Katy Perry is far from perfect, and usually not even good. The world needs better quality disdain for her.
What haven’t I read? Suggestions anyone?