Is anyone else reminded of the singsong ball game refrain, “We need a pitcher, not a belly itcher!” every time Katy Perry’s “ET” comes on the radio? If not, I bet you will now!
The song is catchy, for sure, and though I am admittedly a Katy Perry fan (as well as a sci-fi fan), I am NOT a fan of rape. Or of rape culture. Or of teaching kids to want to be abducted, as this song does. I just watched this entertaining video commentary on the song, and while I’m not convinced that it’s satanic, I am pretty alarmed at realizing what the lyrics do say—I must confess that I hadn’t paid much attention to them until today—and that little girls are repeating them just like they’re repeating the mumbled acquiescences of Bella Swan and her were-vamp victimhood.
Katy Perry invites little girls in on her adventure, and I didn’t mind up until now—not that “Teenage Dream” (a song I happen to adore, by the way) is appropriate for little girls, but “Firework” certainly is a timely, appropriate, and uplifting song that my daughter loves. When you see previews to her movie (which are shown during the previews to Brave, also intended for children), she’s surrounded by children quite a bit. This is celebrated.
One thing I am not celebrating, however, is her use of lyrics like “Take me/ wanna be your victim” and “ready for abduction.” The lyric “fill me with your poison” isn’t something I’m quite fond of, either, but it’s the other two (as well as some of the lyrics that Kanye West sings in the song) that really bother me. Did Perry really not think about what these words mean? I get that she’s talking about alien abduction (and her surreal video illustrates that, which is kind of fun) but she’s also talking about a love relationship, something in which abduction and being a victim do. Not. Belong.
Knowing that girls are singing these lyrics makes me sob just as badly as knowing that they read literature about being victims and think it’s romantic. It’s not. Our culture teaches girls that they are valued by their bodies and that rape is their own damn fault (“Carry a whistle! Travel in groups! Watch your drink!”) when we need to be teaching them to value themselves from the inside out and that rape is the fault of a rapist, period! We certainly don’t need to teach them to romanticize it; our culture has done that far enough.
Ms. Perry, I would really love to hear more songs like “Firework,” especially since so many girls look up to you and repeat the lyrics you sing. Could you please keep that in mind the next time you think about such lyrics? In the meantime, I’m singing over you during that refrain that I abhor so much.
“We need a batter, not a broken ladder…”