MUSIC videos are essentially advertising, but the clip for Katy Perry’s California Gurls, top of the Australian charts, is the most cynical bid for market dominance I’ve seen in some time. It’s a video underpinned by a marketing logic common to both soft porn and sugary food, where pleasure is a naughty indulgence in which a woman’s role is to facilitate the enjoyment of others.
In food commercials, women nibble chocolate or lick fingers smeared in whipped cream, smiling coyly for the camera. They are not eating for their own satisfaction — god forbid, that might make them fat — but to illustrate a correctly feminine mode of desire: proportional, demure, and always conscious of its own appearance.
What I find especially irritating about California Gurls is its eagerness to illustrate this lesson to young girls, who form a large segment of the viewing audience of music videos.
If I were five years old I’d be mesmerised by California Gurls: ice cream, gummy bears, giant gingerbread houses, fairy floss clouds.
It illustrates, very powerfully, a fantasy of endless oral gratification that young children are psychologically in thrall to; a fantasy that advertising works to exploit in a highly gendered way. Women and girls — and girls learn this very fast — are not allowed food. They become food, a delectable display for others, as is Perry and her troop in their cupcake bikinis.
Yet it serves little purpose to be moralistic, and to wish that girls could have their innocence preserved while watching Video Hits. If California Gurls proves anything, it’s that ‘‘innocence’’ is a profitable advertising notion, pink and shiny as the inside of Barbie’s dream home.
Anwyn Crawford – The Sydney Morning Herald 17/7/2010
This article was used in a Sunday School lesson on 18/7/2010 for Year 10-12 @ St Barbara & St Noufers Coptic Orthodox Church