Have you heard the analogy ‘throw it all against the wall and see what sticks’ as used to see what works from a bunch of ideas without using critical thinking? It is based on the cooking test for pasta – you throw a piece against the wall and if it sticks it is done. You see it all the time in entertainment – movies that try to appeal simultaneously to all demographics by dumping in elements they assume will appeal to those groups without considering the greater context.
That approach is fairly typical in music videos, where the goal is to not just please fans and get them to share the video, but also supply enough eye-candy to attract non-fans to watch. And we all know that Katy Perry is pretty much 100% eye-candy. Her latest music video ‘Last Friday Night TGIF’ tries to have broad appeal by bringing in cameos from across the ages and featuring a plot that makes the video more intriguing than the song itself. Featured in the video are cameos by Rebecca Black, Darren Criss, Kevin McHale, Hanson, Kenny G, Debbie Gibson and Corey Feldman!
Which brings us to the song and video – the song is supposedly based on a recent wild night Katy Perry had with friends including the song co-writer who was basically responsible for turning Perry’s story into an actual song. The events depicted obviously involve an abundance of alcohol – to the point of blacking out, wild sexual exploits, and loads more. This is the sort of thing that one could expect to hear about from someone in their early-twenties, when they would be legally consuming alcohol and during the cross-over period between youthful excess and adult responsibility. But even in the song there is an ‘oh well’ attitude regarding consequences and accountability – which is understandable for someone in Perry’s entitled position. Consequences are for other people.
The important thing to remember here is that the core group Katy Perry appeals to is not just too young to drink … they are too young to drive, or even work! But again, since that same group is bopping to Ke$ha ‘brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack’ … it is unfair to expect anything better elsewhere in the pop realm.
The song is one thing – but the video hits new lows in regard to responsibility. Rather than focusing on the actions of adults like the song, the music video is clearly populated by middle-school and early high-school teens alone at home having a massive alcohol fueled party with no adult supervision.
The video starts as Perry wakes up with a naked teen with washboard abs, and obviously revels in his appearance, exploring his body. She discovers pictures of herself online and knows that ‘she’s screwed’, which she tosses off with an ‘oh well’. There are mysterious bruises, she has no idea who or how the kid ended up in her bed, and then slowly she pieces together the events of the previous evening.
Also, it is worth noting that Perry is portraying the prototypical ‘ugly duckling’ with tied up hair, braces exaggerated with head gear, and over-sized glasses with a taped middle.
She hears music next door and heads to a party with Rebecca Black (whose name is dropped more than once to ensure you know who she is), at which point she ignores the nice friend who obviously adores her for the hot football player who ignores her. Black takes Perry upstairs and transforms her into … well, the Katy Perry we all know but with frizzier hair. Then of course she is the hit of the party and the football player is all over her.
Make no mistake – the message is clear that she was UGLY, and by association kids wearing glasses and braces are ugly. And that it is perfectly fine to alter your appearance to try to hook the kid who is treating you like crap. It is really a very sad message and reflects exactly why so many teens struggle with self-esteem. This isn’t ‘fun’, it is adults without any attachment to what this world is really like anymore making light of it.
The video itself is light and amiable, poking fun at Kenny G (but Perry defends him) and featuring former teen idols from the 80’s and 90’s. It is just hard to get past that the message of heavy drinking by young teens, ‘slutting up for success’, abandoning your real friends, winding up blacked out in bed with someone you don’t know, and so on.
What do you think – is this a bad case of mixed messages, or am I over-reacting to what I should dismiss as just more mindless pop-trash?
Here is the official 8 minute video: