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10 November 2010, 1:09 pm 13 Comments

Zack's Ramblings: If Katy Perry Crapped in a Pizza Box, Would You Eat It?

This post was submitted by Zack Rosen

Tomorrow I will be attempting to launch a column called “New Gay Icons” that I’ve been brewing for a while. The reason is that I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the spate of contemporary pop stars that crop up out of nowhere, declare themselves to be “gay icons,” throw a couple rainbows or dudes kissing into their videos then dust off their hands and move on.

Lady Gaga, as much as the annoys the holy living doodies out of me, has at least been a very visible and very vocal ally for us. I’d be happy if I didn’t have to read or type her name for a year or 30, but thats another issue. Right now, most of my “fake gay icons” ire is being directed toward Katy Perry.

When she first hit the scene a couple years ago, I found her to be an incredibly offensive figure. If you recall, her first big hit was “Ur So Gay,” a paean to stereotypes and gay suicide. The song is about a boy that Katy dated who dared be sensitive and well-groomed, and so she assumed he was a big fag. She asked that he “hang himself with his H&M scarf,” for one, and generally acted as if “gay” was the ultimate, be-all, end-all put down to someone that treated her wrong.

Then she followed it up with “I Kissed a Girl,” which panders to my least favorite cliche ever, that of the straight girls who make out at frat parties to turn on frat boys. The same frat boys, mind you, who would probably barf if they saw the actual, gorgeous, butch/faux hawk/anything else kind of lesbians that populate much of the real queer world. When I got the chance to interview Katy in 2008, she not only admitted that she had never kissed a girl (thus relegating her song to queersploitation, not cathartic story-telling) but also referred to her diary as her “Anne Frank.” Thanks, Katy! All the members of my family who died during WWII really appreciate that one.

Flash forward two years and Katy has more or less decided that she is a gay icon. Which, cool, it’s a career move and it makes sense for someone who wants to be a celebrity. But why, please god in heaven why, has the gay world seemed to buy it? First off you couldn’t blow a 19 year-old this summer without running into that stupid “California Gays” video parody. Gay websites covered it with the feverish, breathless devotion of an Orthodox Brooklynite’s first trip to the Wailing Wall. And now the worst has happened. And that worst is the video for “Fireworks.”

For someone who put out the (I believe) two worst mainstream queer depictions of the last decade, and consistently reflects the values of her hyper-religious upbringing, I can’t really buy the “be yourself! Kiss that boy and be great!” message of the video. It would be like Jesse Jackson getting bar mitzvah’d after he called New York City “Hymie town.” It feels wrong at best, and is glaringly offensive at worst.

So my question here is this: Why do so many gay men buy into this? I guess they might just like the music, and see her covered in all the gay blogs and played at all the gay bars and not realize how disingenuous it all is. Our primary mission in starting TNG was to help queer folks create their own culture, not prescribe to the one made for us. And that leads me back to the question I ask in my headline: If Katy Perry presented you with a Domino’s box of her own steaming pea-cacas and said to you “I made this for you. Why don’t you eat it?” how many of you out there would chow down?

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  • Eliot said:

    Agreed. She is a fraud (besides being a talentless, attention-hungry assclown with a voice that sounds like pots and pans covered in doody), and has hopped on the train that so many ignorant gay men follow, thinking they’re being lead to the promised land.

    Just turn on Robyn and call it a day.

  • jude said:

    The bigger question is:
    How do we take her down?

  • Levi said:

    Not to mention there was that transphobic twitter incident that Katy Perry had…

    She’s no friend to any of us. We need to figure out how to get her off our airwaves.

  • Raphael said:

    Though I agree with your sentiments, I think your efforts are better directed towards real enemies, like the folks who are going to run Congress.

    Katy Perry has much undeserved love from the gay community, but that doesn’t make her a threat.

  • queer dude said:

    Raphael, are you sure about that? She’s telling the next generation of voters, civic leaders and elected officials that it’s okay to use the word “gay” as an insult and pander to gays for profit w/o actually liking them. If the mainstream portrayal of gays is one informed by her music, then it’ll be hard to find candidates with queer friendly constituencies, no?

  • Jeremy Gloff said:

    I’d like to throw in my two cents and say I’m not buying either. For what it’s worth, when any of these faux-gay icon’s songs come on in the club, I step off the dance floor. They aren’t deserving of my mind, time, or my feet.

  • Raphael said:

    Queer Dude: Yes, I’m sure of that. Katy Perry is no Sarah Palin, or Jim DeMint, or Antonin Scalia.

  • Jonathan said:

    I see your points, but I’m afraid I can’t resist loving her songs. (Which I suppose puts me in one of the nasty categories you mention). Political correctness of her lyrics and actions aside, her songs are light and bubbly and some are just plain fun to dance to. And from this week’s episode of Glee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cn8IkrxLOfY (A Katy Perry hit sung by another gay high school student Kurt meets).

    Sometimes it’s just nice to let loose, forget the politics, stop being so angsty and in the words of another “mainstream” gay icon, just dance.

  • zack (author) said:

    Jonathan, no nasty categories for you. You seem to love her in spite of the problems, vs. just doing it blindly.

    Raphael, don’t wanna gang up on you but I really disagree with that line of thought. There are two main avenues for change: Politics and people. We could add every pro-LGBT law to the books tomorrow and it wouldnt kill homophobia and intolerance. Inverse of that, though, is that we go into the culture and try to change the way that we are represented in mass media. Katy Perry has become immensely popular and if people didn’t support her ‘queersploitation,” or if she had a better understanding of what the queer community actually was, she could be the engine of as much change as fifteen politicians combined.

  • mimi said:

    Love the article and I couldn’t agree more on how awful this woman is. But the bit about Lady Gaga got me thinking (and ocrrect me if I’m wrong, since I’ve come out into a more hipster-y culture). Why is it that all the gay icons are seen more as atright people with a certain style than anything else? Zack judges Lady Gaga on her style first and on her charity work second, without mentioning that she’s come out as bisexual. Maybe this is what’s wrong with this picture? Gay icons should be gay icons becasue they are role models, members of the community who made it big and are making an effort to bring out a positive development, like Gaga for example, or Ellen DeGeneres, or Elton John. But instead, we seem to be so eager to be accepted that any straight person who acts like a reasonable human being have to be rewarded with adoration. And the end result seems to be that a reasonable straight person is a better person than a reasonable gay person, to the point where a star’s attitude towards gay people is more important to the community than actually being a representative of the community itself.

    Sorry for the rambling, but I think what I’m trying to say is that the main problem may lie in some sort of inferiority complex that make us accept every crumb that mainstream throw at us. Maybe the solution would be to realise that we deserve more than this, and that gay celebrities need the support much more than the charity workers do.

  • Michael said:

    This is actually a topic that I have been mulling over as well. I’ve been getting more and more irritated by people referring to artificial personae created by record labels in an effort to appeal to a counter-culture currently achieving mainstream attention.

    “Now that they’re coming out of the closet, how can we capitalize on their pride?”

    To me, the gay icon of my generation isn’t a singer that may or may not be a member of our diverse community. It isn’t someone who represents a company that appeals to our community through misrepresentation or exploitation. It isn’t someone that can even take this label of “gay icon” and wear it with honor- because he’s dead.

    He’s Matthew Shepard. He is my gay icon.

    Let me explain.

    I was born in 1985 and growing up I didn’t really know much about the gay community as I didn’t know anyone who was gay, let alone my own natural attractions. For example, I always really enjoyed looking at my father’s George Michael LP without understanding why.

    Moving on.

    Around that time there wasn’t a lot of positive gay images out there, let alone any attention paid towards the protection of the community from harm. Conflicted and feeling very alone, along came the national mourning over the loss of Matthew Shepard, a guy just like me. It felt like there was a shift in the national dialogue for the protection of our community as well as the beginning of our demand for equal rights. His story, albeit lacking disposable/boring music, money, heavy marketing and publicity, speaks to me louder than any written statement or talking points made from these so called “gay icons”.

    Matthew Shepard could have been any one of us in this wonderful community, and it sadly has been in countless situations. I would want nothing more than for him and everyone else who has sadly lost their lives for being a part of our community to be brought back to life, but since I cannot I look to him as my modern martyr. My gay icon.

  • Todd R said:

    I agree with your comments Zack. Overzealous, media-minded politicians only get far because there is an audience for their venom. They are really few though when you consider the number of lawmakers in state and federal governments. What you are proposing is changing the mindset of the media audience and thereby their constituents. The flip side of that is many of the people who do not promote gay tolerance, or rather tolerance in general, are not even of the age to vote. Katy Perry has the power to reach millions of young impressionable minds. That is where the real battles can be fought and won for tolerance. As these old-fart, close-minded wing-nuts die out, we need to make sure there isn’t someone there to replace them.

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