Saturday, August 14, 2010

Katy Perry's Teenage Dream: Not Mine

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I'm not a fan of Katy Perry as an artist. A month or so ago, I found myself turning to Facebook for help making sense of her video for "California Gurls," a degrading confection of lollipop licking, naked cloud laying, and low production value. Her songs are Frankensteins of lyrical clich├ęs, grafted together with infectious pop beats. Along with her conventionally adorable appearance, these catchy beats are probably what make her songs a perpetual fixture in every retail store I've been in in the past month, and I'm shopping for freshman year at college, so that's a lot of stores.

Issues aside, I can't get enough of Perry's music, and I resent myself for it. In my defense, her songs are what can only be described as, "so fucking catchy." I find myself listening to them in my bedroom at least daily. I don't, however, listen to them in the car, in fear of a passersby hearing her voice through my open window and catching Perry fever. Honestly, I wish her music didn't exist. I imagine that the bulk of her listeners are teenage girls, an audience that really doesn't need more media enforcing the idea that women are merely sex objects and appearance reigns king. I'm not saying we can't take it, I'm just saying that we probably don't need it. Her music, however, does exist, and I am still listening to it. Lucky for me, her new video for "Teenage Dream" is a cesspool of misrepresentations of adolescence, so I finally have the chance to redeem myself somewhat in pointing how it goes wrong in capturing the true "teenage dream"....
The song begins with the lines, "You think I'm pretty/without any makeup on." At this point, I'm bobbing my head and telling Katy, "Yeah girl! Reject those societal conceptions of beauty!" But then she's all, "You think I'm funny/when I tell the punchline wrong," and suddenly I'm like, "Nooo Katy you don't have to be dumb to be funny." Then this guy is introduced, who is clearly not a teenager. He is the only thing in the video that is likely to ever make a cameo in any actual teenage dreams. Probably in this state of dress too.
Next they drive around and wave to their ultra-hip, also non-teen friends. One of these friends wears a Native American headdress for no apparent reason. Nobody wears their seatbelt. Chiseled Perry boyfriend speeds. Katy sings some generic lyrics about love and being ready to totally do It with him.
They go to a motel and have sex. It is appropriately PG-13 to ensure that people will blog about it.
At the end of the video, Perry says, "Let you put your hands on me/in my skin tight jeans/be your teenage dream tonight." I don't know how much thought was actually put into the meaning of these lyrics when they were being written, or if it was just a matter of a convenient rhyme, but I am somewhat bothered by the use of let. Ultimately, I don't think sex should just be one personal finally relenting and letting the other person do them, but a matter of mutual desire and consent between both parties. This sort of, "fine...we can fuck" attitude isn't the best to promote as a component of the teenage dream in my opinion.

In fact, the entire video seems more like a teenage reality than a teenage dream. Teens drink. They party. They drive around in cars. Hopefully not in that order. Teenagers have sex with each other. Dreams are supposed to be aspirational. Teens I know dream of careers, college, and great loves that do not reach their pinnacle with motel sex. Perry's teenage dream seems like something more nostalgic, thought up by a team of people way past their teenage years, dreaming of what it was like in their youth. Part of me is sad, though, that these are the conventions of adolescence they come up with, especially when the people listening to the song are only likely to have just begun their teenage experience.