Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No Doubt: Katy Perry Makes Gay-Bashing Music


There are a lot of songs that have the possibility of being the "song of the summer" every year. All debates aside, the unfortunate song of the summer is "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry. A former gospel singer-turned pop star, she's hit pop radio with Miley Cyrus type manufactured pop for the college crowd.

However, whereas most of these summer songs (barring "Crazy" - that was a piece of genius) are simply throwaway entertainment, Perry's music is actually culturally damaging. Perry has had two big hits with "I Kissed a Girl" and "UR So Gay" - both songs dealing with sexuality. The former is (obviously) about a girl that kisses another girl and "likes it," doesn't apologize for it, and wonders if her boyfriend will "mind it." The latter in an insult song, where Perry demoralizes a skinny white boyfriend who dresses effeminitely and tries really hard to be "indie."

The problems with these songs are pretty obvious. First off, they hammer home the already ingrained stereotype that girls kissing girls is compeltely okay, but guys even being slightly gay is completely shunned. Second, Perry uses the word "gay" in the exact way that makes it a complete insult, the very same usage the gay community has been fighting against for years. The line "you're so gay and you don't even like boys" makes the word an insult, and that usage in a mainstream song that has become a hit is frightening. It's the sexuality equivalent to saying "you're such a (n-word) and you aren't even black" or "you're such a (k-word) and you aren't even Jewish." They'd take offense to that, and so should the gay community. Third, the inculsion of irony in her songs is irrelevant. She doesn't sound like she's using the words or themes ironically at all, the inflection isn't there in her voice. She's a pop singer, not Radiohead.

UPDATE: I'm going to go ahead and clarify that analogy. Radiohead makes Hail To The Theif with a bunch of song titles and lyrics that seem like the dystopian future 1984, and pretty much everyone knows they're talking about how our situation now has become a lot like that. "Sit Down, Stand Up" is basically corporate subliminal messaging trying to control everyone's actions - only in song. However, we all understand that Radiohead uses these messages to show us how wrong they are and how wrong the world is. This isn't the case with Perry. There is no understanding that she is saying something deeper and make commentary, trying to say something about the usage of the word "gay." She simply uses it to mean "stupid" and tries to be funny, and the only people laughing are those who don't see the idiocy of it.

Some reviewers of her tracks have said that she's using the word allegorically, I guess somehow in the same way Stephen Colbert adopts a Republican character for his show and is really mocking Republican viewpoints and media figures, but I don't buy it.

There's no wink to Perry's performance, no suggestion that she may be kidding. It's very straightforward, easy-to-digest bubblegum pop, but with a terrible side effect of enforcing gay and lesbian stereotypes.

I'm honestly still surprised this music is still on the airwarves unchecked, and even more surprised someone in this day and age would conceive of a song so idiotic as "UR So Gay." I sincerely hope that the popularity of these songs don't lead her to making more music like this, because it's really just sad. It's offensive to the LGBT community, and it's really the first time I've been angry about something like this in a while. Perry's music isn't innocuous summer pop, it actually could do some harm.


kimberly Selling said...

are you suggesting that if radiohead threw in some ironic homosexual-suggestive humor, it would be more okay? not everyone needs cultural leeway to put out semi-offensive music. i think you're giving her too much credit by being so offended.

esreverniuoy said...

I think it's a little unclear what I meant. I'm saying that other, smarter bands are clear about when they're employing irony. take radiohead's hail to the theif. There are songs titles ripped straight out of 1984 and they're applying the commanding lyrics to modern times...but its clear they're using those words to say that kinda shit isn't okay. with perry that isn't the case. there's no sign that she is using bashing language to tell others that it isn't okay, she's simply enforcing the idea that calling someone "gay" to mean "stupid" is okay, which is what I have a problem with.

Michael said...

Seriously, that "I Kissed A Girl" song is terrible. I haven't heard this other one, but it wouldn't surprise me...

Anonymous said...

this is some of the worst music i have ever heard, not only is she a disgusting person her music makes me want to puke and i wouldnt take her cd if someone gave it to me i'd burn it first.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know when the homosexual community got to own the right to the word "gay".
Lyrics are a form of expression. What freedom would an artist have if he was only allowed to paint in blue?
"Don't use yellow, some people might get offended!"

Markus said...

* Thanks to K.M. for an insightful, important commentary.
* Note to “Anonymous" (Nov.11-'08) regarding “ownership” of the word “gay” – Your anger overwhelms an otherwise common and legitimate question. The answer you seek is not simple – words and their meanings are constantly evolving – but anyone with an ordinary intellect can easily discover it with just a few moments’ online study. May I suggest that your anger would be relieved and your time better spent in such study than in public displays of ignorance.