This week Katy Perry manages to offend an entire nation of people through an innocuous release of her latest music video, Dark Horse.
In another edition of ‘Cultural Sensitivities Gone Wild’, Perry’s latest video release has caused controversy and invoked the anger of thousands of Muslims across the globe. The video follows a Cleopatra-esque storyline, all set in cartoonised Ancient Egypt. The offending scene sees a man sporting an ‘Allah’ (Arabic word for God) pendant. Deemed an unsuitable suitor by Egyptian Queen Perry, she zaps him to death with lightening bolts through her fingertips and he dissolves into a pile of sand.
The blink-and-you-miss-it scene was spotted by Bradford resident Shazad Iqbal, who launched a petition to have the video removed from public consumption to avoid causing any more offense. The online petition on Change.org attracted over 65,000 signatures, which have all been added in agreement that the video is insulting and should be banned.
In explanation for the petition, Shazad reportedly said: ‘The video is considered highly controversial to its viewers as a result of its portrayal of blasphemy. Blasphemy is clearly conveyed in the video, since Katy Perry (who appears to be representing an opposition of God) engulfs the believer and the word God in flames.’
Shazad’s interpretation seems justifiable although just entirely too deep for a pop video. Shazad’s line of analysis takes a sinister turn against the singer and her intentions. An innocent music video has apparently now become a blasphemous tool through which Katy Perry is denouncing God. When put like that, it’s almost laughable.
Sexualising religion for the sake of a music video is not a new concept.
Katy Perry herself was born into a devout Christian family and even began her career as a Christian gospel singer. While she now claims that she associates with no religion, she states that she still feels a ‘deep connection’ to God. Considering her religious background, is Katy really an intentional perpetuator of blasphemy?
The immediate answer is no. And the following, long thought-out answer would still be a resounding no.
Katy Perry’s video is merely a performance and an exhibition of a pop star trying to do something different. The scene in question is not an intentional insult towards Islam. Perry does not directly blast the pendant, she zaps the man wearing it. It’s hardly a threatening conspiracy against Muslims.
Sexualising religion for the sake of a music video is not a new concept. It has been done countless times. Although this does not necessarily make it right. Pop stars shouldn’t be allowed to maintain the precedent of using religion offensively in their music videos.
Perhaps one day the Western entertainment world will learn that religious symbolism is not designed for pop stars to use as they please in their music videos lest they will most certainly face aggravating one group or another. Lady Gaga learned the hard way when she released Judas. The only difference here is, Lady Gaga did it intentionally. For Katy, it seems this is a misunderstanding due to a clueless director getting his eras mixed up.
The story is set in Ancient Egypt - thousands of years before Islam was even introduced. Therefore, an Allah pendant should have no place in the video at all, it’s entirely irrelevant. If anything, there should instead be an uprising against Katy Perry’s apparent lack of historical knowledge. Or maybe she should get a better production team who conduct better research when putting together props.
Therefore, taking offence at Katy Perry’s insignificant pop video is excessive. On the grand scale of offensive music videos, Katy Perry’s just about makes the list. So really, it is a case of choosing the right battle and not petitioning at any small sign of blasphemy. But Shazad Iqbal’s efforts did not go to waste. In a small but satisfying victory, the pendant has since been edited out of the scene. So, all’s well that ends well, right?