I've recently fallen in love with Katy Perry. It took me a while to "get" her music, but the other night I finally gave "Hot N Cold" a fair listen, and...wow. It's great. It's a fantastic pop song about a relatable romantic quandary--the fickle lover. It's catchy, danceable, and the best angry-female driving song since Kelly Clarkson so moved on.
Okay, so maybe the other reason it took me a while to warm up to Katy Perry is because of the whole homophobia argument. Yup, lots of bloggers (I'll link to one in a moment, but a quick Google search yields of hundreds of results) think Katy hates the gays, and therefore we should not enjoy her music. But I think the gay community is overreacting to the sting of Prop 8 and American society's prevalence for painfully slow tolerance of those who aren't "normal." For my part, I just don't see how the singer is homophobic, and let me explain why.
The video for "Hot N Cold" has received criticism for being homophobic, specifically in its depiction of a gay bridesmaid. But...what exactly about him is gay? So he's a dude in a wedding dress; it's not like we haven't seen that before. Is anyone calling Dennis Rodman gay? (Crazy, yes, but not gay.) Furthermore, the guy in Perry's video is holding a tiny dog, which is apparently a sign that he's a "gay joke." Um, what? Since when is clutching cute little pets stereotypically gay? Or is it just a feminine habit that, on a man, presumably becomes a gay joke, because feminine = gay? I'm not buying it. In fact, I think the assumption that the guy's dog is a sign of a gay joke reveals more about the stereotypical beliefs of the critic than Katy Perry's level of tolerance. It's only a gay joke if you're already offended and are looking for more evidence. Why is there a male bridesmaid, then? I don't know...because it's funny? Cute? Maybe the guy is a friend of Perry's and she simply wanted to include him in the shoot. The point is that we don't really know his story, but immediately jumping to the conclusion that it must be a gay joke because he's a guy in girl's clothing seems jump-the-gun-ish to me.
Okay, fine, maybe dude's just a cross-dresser. But Katy Perry hates gay people! She even has a song called "Ur So Gay" that's filled with all sorts of stereotypes. Gay-hater, right?
Well, have you ever said that one of your friends should come out of the closet? Have you ever gossiped with other people that so-and-so is totally gay and isn't fooling anyone? Odds are that you have. But unless the guy in question actually stuck his hand down your pants, you relied on stereotypes to reach the conclusion that he's gay. Because guess what? We all rely on stereotypes sometimes, be they about race, gender, or sexual orientation. In the song "Ur So Gay," Perry's upset that her boyfriend is more concerned with himself (and his Myspace) than with her, a legimitate reason to get angry. And call me a terrible person, but a super-skinny, pale, makeup-wearing, H&M-scarf-donning guy would seem pretty...gay to me. And he'd probablyseem gay to you too. Nowhere in the song does Perry criticize him for supposedly liking men (she admits that he probably doesn't); she's just frustrated that her man doesn't pay much attention to her, believing it would make more sense for him to be secretly homosexual than just a shitty boyfriend. "Ur So Gay" isn't a euphemism for "Ur So Stupid," nor is it an abbreviation for "Ur So Gay And That's A Legitimiate Reason For Me To Hate You." She's just using stereotypes--like we all do--as an outlet for her romantic frustration. Sue her.
And then there's that whole kising-a-girl business. A lot of gays got angry at these lines: "It's not what good girls do / Not how they should behave." But for the daughter of two pastors, kissing a girl isn't a "good" thing to do. It's an unfortunate truth in this country that many still view homosexuality as a sin and a sign of rebellion as opposed to a legitimate sexual orientation. I mean, we need Wanda fucking Sykes to tell us how to appropriately use the word "gay." Do you think we're a very tolerant nation? Katy Perry knows that we aren't, and she's reacting to that. She isn't doing it for attention, though she hopes her boyfriend doesn't get jealous (nowhere in the song does she mention a watching audience). And, in fact, she even says that homosexual desire is "just human nature." True, hearing a million close-minded suburban high schoolers giggle about how lesbianism is naughty isn't the most heartening sound to the LGBT community; hearing them sing that gay desire is human nature, however, sounds a lot better. Because it's true. And as ubiquitous as it has become, Perry wrote "I Kissed A Girl" from a personal place, and kudos to her for not changing her message--or her fantasy--to appease the Top-40 masses. Towards the end of the song she says the kiss is "no big deal," but it's funny how Perry's critics seem to overlook this lyric.
Katy Perry isn't homophobic. Some of her listeners probably are, yes, and view her music as a great outlet to make fun of gays. But it's not Perry's fault that certain intolerant listeneres have corrupted her vision; plus, I think most people understand that she isn't bashing homosexuals when she sings about kissing girls or dresses up her guy friends in wedding dresses. There are plenty of things to change about America's attitude towards gays, but Katy Perry's music isn't one of them, and condemning her work is just barking up the wrong tree.