The Katy Perry Problem

Having loved myself a little Jill Sobule back in the 90s, after homosexuality was titillating but before it was decriminalized in several states, I was a little miffed when Katy Perry (née Katy Hudson, former-next-superstar-of-Contemporary-Christian-Rock) appeared on the scene with her thumping, Benataresque tribute to lesbian tourism "I Kissed a Girl." I found the video to be overly lubed with hyperfeminine stereotypes of straight-man-fantasty lipstick lesbians (or, in this case, Chapstik lesbians) and, well, kind of offensive, considering precisely how much trauma is actually wrapped up in many gays' "applications for permanent visas" in gayland. (Where our mail goes.)

I poked around on iTunes and saw one of the songs on her album One of the Boys is called "Ur So Gay," so I read the lyrics, which go a little something like this:

"You’re so sad maybe you should buy a happy meal
You’re so skinny you should really Super Size the deal
Secretly you’re so amused
That nobody understands you
I’m so mean cause I cannot get you outta your head
I’m so angry cause you’d rather MySpace instead
I can’t believe I fell in love with someone that wears more makeup than…

You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like boys"

I got more offended. The song relies entirely on some silly stereotypes that belong, in my opinion, more in the hipster realm than in gayland. After working at the Gap for a while, I can tell you I helped more straight guys into skinny girl jeans than gay guys. Not that the gays were asking for my help anyway.

So: moral of the story at this point is, Katy Perry, you are lame and a hatemonger.

But then "Hot N Cold" came out, and it's a fun song, and it's a little funny, and I started to listen to her, and then I downloaded her album. The rest of the songs aren't as offensive, and I even came to love the joy-in-transgression of "I Kissed a Girl." Although the video does draw questions about who "wins" when Perry kisses a girl (and who gets to watch the slumber party), I think the song itself is steeped more in experimentation--lesbian tourism--than in offense. Although Perry quickly follows up her admission with a reminder that she is, after all, in a straight relationship, there's something to be said for allowing ourselves to encourage everyone to ride someone else's bike for a while to see if maybe it's right for them.

If, as a gay culture, we enforce a "you break it, you bought it" approach to sexual experimentation, we're going to alienate people who are simply too afraid to try before they bi. And honestly, isn't a return policy the core value of all American interactions?

I still struggle to accept "Ur So Gay," even though I like the rest of the album (especially "I'm Still Breathing," "Self-Inflicted," and "Mannequin"). I will say I'm glad that in this context, "gay" means "homosexual" as opposed to "stupid, lame, or undesirable," because that's my second linguistic pet peeve (the first being confusing "anxious" and "eager," as in "I'm anxious to go home").

The tipping point for me was this article in Blender magazine, in which Perry essentially claims she is 60% drag queen and in love with every homosexual she meets. It might be clever damage control, but it's not like Blender really has a huge queer following. If she'd had this interview with The Advocate, I'd be smelling publicist on her breath in a second.

What do my gays think?


  1. I think she's a bland, opportunist. Can't fucking stand her.

  2. she'll be over in 5 years tops

    i like the hot n cold song, but that i kissed a girl song is 1) stupid and 2) a rip off of the 90s one just like it as u mentioned

  3. Haven't heard the others, but I've always disliked "I Kissed a Girl" for the quick follow-up of "Hope my boyfriend don't mind it." Not only reinforces the singer's heterosexuality a little too quickly, also reminds us that boyfriends pretty much never mind it, because what two girls do together isn't a "threat," etc. You couldn't sing "I kissed another boy just to try it/hope my boyfriend don't mind it." Etc. Agree on Collin's call of "opportunist."

    What's interesting is that my kids felt sure I'd LOVE this song. I supposed that's how starved we are.

  4. Yeah, the interview doesn't change my mind in the slightest - she has a whole 'I'm crazy, me! Up for anything!' vibe that doesn't mean much. Plus, the article is from 2004, which I believe predates New, Improved Katy Perry.

    As has been pointed out above, she's not experimenting on her way to a proper understanding of her sexuality - there's no suggestion (unlike Jill Sobule's song) that this is anything more than an attention-seeking device, in the way that straight girls have been snogging to get more attention in pubs for many a year now.

    She even explicitly states it's drinking is what led to it, that it doesn't mean anything (she doesn't even care about who the other girl is), that it's an experiment. If anything, it comes off as a standard rebellion against a strict upbringing, a 'Girls Gone Wild' view of lesbianism.

    The video really doesn't help, either.

    As for Ur So Gay, you shouldn't have to struggle to like it; and part of the problem for me (besides the obvious) is that she does seem to be conflating gay as homosexual and gay as lame in how she's singing. After all, she's insulting him and how he lives as gay.

    And don't even get me started on the idea of sexuality tourism and how welcoming/accepting the gay community should or should not be towards it - but just to say, tourists get all the best bits when they venture forth, but the natives have to live there around the clock, and can get tired of being treated as a temporary gawking at the natives rather than any form of reality.

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  6. well gee, i like her...but then again i listen to everything. a duet with marilyn manson would kick ass. found blog via faithsalutes.

    2:18 PM

  7. Whatever "gay" means in her song, she still uses it as an insult. Which is all too common. Yawn.