Does Katy Perry's Video For 'Dark Horse' Play Off Egyptian Stereotypes?
Katy Perry is my spirit animal. She’s so quirky but doesn’t give two craps whether you like her or not, which is one of the many reasons why I love her. She’s also not one to shy away from things like bras shooting whipped cream and dressing up like a sexy version of Jane Porter. I constantly defended her when all my friends bashed Roar, and I was likely the biggest fan of her performance for Dark Horse at the 2014 Grammys. Yet after the singer finally released a music video for "Dark Horse", featuring rapper Juicy J, a big WTF came to mind. I don’t understand.
The Egyptian-themed video begins with a scene showing a small boat floating down what we can only assume is the Nile River, with the words “Memphis, Egypt… a crazy long time ago,” appearing across the screen. Look. I lived in Cairo, Egypt for six years, so I wasn’t going to let this one slide even though I do love everything-Katy Perry. But when the camera zoomed in onto the boat, and I saw Perry dressed as what I’m sure is supposed to be Cleopatra (because I think that’s the only historical fact people know of Egyptian women), I thought, “Oh lord, here come the stereotypes.” Cleopatra wasn’t actually Egyptian by the way, so I’m just throwing that out there for you now. However, she did identify with the Egyptian goddess Isis.
For all we know, Perry could have been Hathor (goddess of love) considering she actually refers to Aphrodite in her song lyrics, who is the goddess of love in Greek mythology. She even could have been Bast, the cat goddess, by the amount of white cats there were in this video. But then again, everyone immediately thinks, “Egypt? Cats” so I hope this wasn’t the case. Maybe Perry wasn’t portraying a goddess at all, but was Queen Nefertiti, the wife of Pharao Akhenaten, or Queen Tiye, the wife of Pharao Amenhotep. However, since I’m assuming many might not understand the historical references in her video, I’m going to go ahead and say she probably was Cleopatra meets Isis as you’ll later see her standing at the top of a pyramid with outstretched wings. This is typically symbolic of the goddess Isis.
I really wish she had chosen someone else to portray, though, because it always seems that every Egyptian theme typically comes accompanied with Egyptian stereotypes. It probably would have been best to avoid this altogether, or to at least enlighten her audience with other powerful women in Egypt’s rich history, which definitely didn't include this:
And while I can appreciate the use of bright, neon colors to add some modernity to her video — I even admired the use of sneakers as a choice in Pharaoh foot apparel — it seemed odd that we had to go and add Twinkies and Cheetos to the mix. After seeing various men bring their offerings to her, a platter full of the two brand name snacks makes its way down to the throne. We see Perry eat one spicy Cheeto and she immediately zaps one of the male characters, turning him into a goblet of water, which some cats then bring to her. Casual.
Later, Juicy J tries his hand at wooing Perry with a golden chariot but she’s not having that either. A dog also makes its way down the aisle, but she shoos it away because… I don’t know. I know she likes cats, (hence Kitty Purry) but is this making a statement about her personal life or the fact that Egyptians worship cats? They don’t actually. Cats flock the streets of Egypt, but so do dogs, and I don’t know anyone who went to a mosque to worship cats. People don't ride camels to work either, so I'm happy that wasn't incorporated into the video. Yeah, trust me. People actually believe that.
The video finally ends with her accepting the last gift, a giant pyramid, from a suitor who she then turns into a dog with a human head. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a statement about men being dogs (haha just kidding, kind of) but that’s all I got from it. But of course people are probably going to assume this is King Tutankhamun (King Tut for anyone who is confused) because of the headdress he is wearing at the end. I can’t.
Others may beg to differ, but the music video didn’t really do anything for me. In fact, I think it took away from the message of her song, which is all about helping women feel more empowered and standing up to men. Basically, if you’re in a relationship with Perry, you better be in it for the right reasons. Yet her video, while visually stimulating, seems to say that we’re all gold diggers and will only accept the best in material items from the man we’re with, otherwise we’ll just zap them into sand or something. Nope. Not feeling that. However, simply because I will always love Perry, I can forgive her this one time.