I rarely write on this sort of thing, and until the Elmo/Cleavage matter, I wasn’t sure who Katy Perry was, but this tweet brought me to this post applauding Ace O’ Spades, which brought me to this piece by Ace, wherein he (who has always differentiated between adult and kid material), gets tough with the sexpot singer for her choice of market target.
Katy Perry appeared on Saturday Night Live doing the tiresome Abbreviated-Catholic-School-Uniform-Singing-About-Sex thing that has been done by Britney Spears and others. Perry’s overt calculation though, steps it up an offensive notch. Writes Ace:
. . .the basics of the lyrics is that she’s super-hot to have sex with a guy she loves, and thus proposes:
Let’s go all the way tonight
no regrets, just love
We can dance until we die
you and I will be young forever
You make me feel like
I’m livin’ a
the way you turn me on
I can’t sleep
Let’s run away and
never look back, never look back
She is plainly attempting to mimic the basics of Like a Virgin here, lyrically. Like a Virgin was also a metaphor — kinda — about very young people having sex and how awesome it is. I say metaphor, because Madonna said “like a virgin;” that is, she wasn’t actually saying she was a virgin, but was so hot for this guy she felt like one.
Similarly, Katy Perry isn’t saying she is a Teenage Dream, but she feels like one, because she’s so horned-up and stuff.
But I do not think her legions of tweener girl fans are going to get this very thin distinction (and Katy Perry doesn’t really mean them to). They are not going to take from it that this is an adult woman saying she feels so hot ‘n horny she feels like a Teenage Dream, but is in fact not a Teenage Dream at all; they are going to make this their anthem, and become someone’s Teenage Dream.
And she’s telling them how awesome that is. And how teenage sex is just so awesome that even when adults want to discuss awesome sex, they talk about it terms of teenage sex, the most awesomest awesome sex of all.
And yeah, for that reason, the song will sell well, and it will be proposed as theme for junior proms across the country (and will mostly be rejected by faculty… mostly).
None of this was necessary, of course, even if her motive was money. As an attractive woman with some ability to write catchy bubblegum pop, her career is failry secure. It’s not like she was a Britney Spears desperately needing a comeback hit and thus resorting to the tried and true method of selling sex to younger and younger tweener girls.
This was just evil for evil’s sake. She wanted to be even more famous than she is . . . and she decided to grab at that on the backs of tweener girls, already immersed in a culture that tells them virgins are weird and having sex is what the cool, popular kids do, with almost no pushback against this message at all.
It’s in this context that I would advise all those people who think Christine O’Donnell is “weird” and “judgmental” and “too religious” for expressing her take-it-slow views on sexuality. Young girls — really young; tweens — are being sold this crap day and night by an insidious, viciously cynical pop culture that says it’s never too young to be someone’s Teenage Dream.
I can’t say I disagree with a word. There’s more, so you’ll want to go read it all.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, Danielle Bean notes that dozens of Mesquite, Texas high school girls were sent home from a recent dance because their dresses were too immodest. The girls (and Salon) say the dresses were “tame,” and so the social tension continues to stretch.