FRIDAY, AUGUST 01, 2014 |
Posted by: Peter Dolan
Katy Perry's personal brand of gaudy, ham-handed, racist maximalism is at this point well-established. There was her performance at last year's AMAs, when she appeared dressed as a "geisha", accompanied by a cadre of backup dancers in yellowface. In February, she released the video for "Dark Horse (ft. Juicy J)", set in a particularly minstrel show-y Ancient Egypt. And her response to the inevitable call-out backlash has been a uniformly stunned, doe-eyed "what?"
On the criticism directed at her, Perry had this bit of defensive self-pity to share: "I guess I'll just stick to baseball and hot dogs, and that's it. I know that's a quote that's gonna come back to fuck me in the ass, but can't you appreciate a culture? I guess, like, everybody has to stay in their lane? I don't know."
I don't doubt that Katy Perry admires the cultures she ends up mocking. It's a dehumanizing, myopic admiration, but I don't doubt that she has it, nor that she feels it's innocuous, appreciative. But if there was any uncertainty about her utter cluelessness at the implications of that cluelessness, it's out the window — Perry has gone full Iggy Azealia with the new video for her single "This Is How We Do."
The video, which features Perry eating watermelon and singing about getting her "nails done all Japanese-y", complete with the platitude of black back-up dancers, makes its greatest offense when her standard-fare look does its most nauseating impression of FKA Twigs — complete with the British-Jamaican singer's Josephine Baker curls and ox-horns.
Katy Perry's always kind of puzzled me. Her music is pastiche, unremarkable even as it strains to be derivative of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, everyone else. Her looks bore, even when they're overloaded with color — even (especially) when they're racist. Racism aside, this latest video, with its pseudo pop art visuals, manages to leech even Andy Warhol's purposefully opaque genre of any significance. Nevertheless, people love her. Which makes this contribution to the recent trend of white pop singers lifting from PoC cultures all the more unsettling.
The video's perhaps best summed up by the song's refrain: "It's no big deal." Which is exactly how Perry feels about her own racism — unapologetic and a little amused.