Just keep her off of Sesame Street. If a corporation was a television show, SNL would be it. If a corporation was a pop singer, she would be it. They are made for each other.
Moreover, if a corporation were a creepy, diabolical stranger looking to snatch my kid, Katy Perry is the candy confection bait. If I don’t teach her right, my daughter is eventually going to get lured in, grow up too fast, and become a soulless consumer automaton with the rest of them. So, not yet, I’m not done with her. My intention is to keep the Katy Perrys away from my kids as long as possible.
Parents know that Sesame Street appeals mainly to the 1- to 4-year-old set. The show was smart to ax her act. Not only because her sunshiny yellow bustier-inspired “dress up” costume is eerily reminiscent of the getup she wore in her breakthrough “I Kissed a Girl” video, but the clunky way Sesame Street attempts to innocently impose the corporate nonsense that is the Katy Perry “package” — perky breasts, phony ingenue act (no, 25 is not the new 15!), and that skull-drilling mass produced ‘music’ that only Henry Ford would love — on its unwitting PBS audience of toddlers. My lord, we’re already victims of this corporate indoctrination everywhere else — one can’t click anywhere on the Internet or set foot in a store — not even a Safeway — without being inundated with the glossy hyper-sexed pop images, the relentless, ulcer-inducing music. Leave Sesame Street alone. It’s ours, at least it’s supposed to be. Times like these, I wish it were funded entirely by taxpayers or go off the air altogether.
We know sex sells, but the only thing Elmo & friends are supposed to be selling are the ABCs and the 123s. I love the people who say criticizing Perry’s Elmo act is “prudish,” that little ones don’t pay attention to boobies and Americans are just so uptight about their bodies. They have their heads so far up the hive they wouldn’t know corporate creep if it crawled up and kissed them on the mouth. This isn’t about a couple of C-cups bouncing after a furry red monster along a garish cartoon backdrop, it’s about the sexualization of everything — including the innocence of children — to sell a brand, a lifestyle, a trend. Perry has nothing to offer Sesame Street (this is a woman who sang, I got so brave, drink in hand/Lost my discretion/I kissed a girl and I liked it/The taste of her cherry chapstick/I kissed a girl just to try it/I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it/It felt so wrong/It felt so right) other than a bump in their viewership. And if you don’t think this was a ploy by Capitol Records to tap into the extremely lucrative sippy cup and stroller market (toddlers and their parents), you underestimate the power of celebrity and fashion on the pod people we call the buying public. Frankly, this is nothing but corporate whoring and cross branding, and I say fine, just take it to The WB or Fox and leave the babies alone.
In the 1950s, author Aldous Huxley saw the television, then very new, as a tremendous tool of manipulation, which, put into the wrong hands, could wield more power and success than any form of mass propaganda witnessed so far in history. He predicted that our American children would become “television and radio fodder” — easy prey for the machinations of corporate advertising. In his 1932 masterpiece, Brave New World, he described a future society under a world dictatorship, the lifeblood of which was mass consumption, the empty-headed denizens forever distracted from their bondage by sex, pills and shopping. Sound familiar?
Which brings me back to Miss Perry. You may be wondering whether I am being too harsh in singling her out. But Sesame-gate on its own did not prompt me to sit down and risk ridicule (I mean, all the cool kids at Salon and Huffington Post just love her). It began when my daughter told me she “saw” Perry’s latest video, “California Girls,” earlier this summer.
I had been teased into clicking through to the video online — 2 seconds into the first frame and immediately my 4-year-old sidles up and says, “I know that!…I saw it at (blank)’s house, on her mommy’s computer.” Looking back and forth in horror from her to the abomination unfolding on my own computer screen, I endured like one watching a train wreck while my little girl watched bemusedly, and yes, admiringly, from the side.
It was as if her Candy Land and Strawberry Shortcake & Friends Magnet Playbook had undergone a horrifying pornographic makeover — my daughter of course recognized (with glee) all of the symbols and references to these childhood games. It’s just that now they were being used as erotic devices, in blazing primary colors, aided by the computer-enhanced voice of Katy Perry, warbling about sipping “gin and juice” and wearing “daisy dukes” and threatening to “melt your popsicle.”
The video opens with Snoop Doggy Dog lending his shopworn pimp act as the “player” of the game (no, Dog, 38 is not the new 25). He manipulates his “dolls” — Perry and the rest of her sparkly lingerie-wearing sisters — on the game board, which to me, had come alive like something in Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception gone terribly wrong. It was also like seeing my daughter’s life before my eyes.
There’s a patch of ice cream cones and there’s Perry using them to simulate fellatio. There’s a tall cane of hard candy and there’s Perry humping it. There’s a cloud of cotton candy and there’s a naked Perry straddling it, bare ass high in the air. There’s Katy and friends dressed up like Brownies — knee socks and all — giving a “heart” to an angry gingerbread man wearing men’s Fruit of the Looms, and then taking turns “eating” him. Get the picture yet?
No? Then proceed to the end of the game, where Katy and her “fine and fierce” pals don cherry cupcakes on their bare breasts. When evil pimp and his gummy bear henchmen come to claim their prizes, Katy “creams” them from two cans of whipped cream attached to her boobs.
I now know what it means when characters in books “sputter.” I did the same trying to explain to my daughter why mommy was red-faced and ready to put a fist through her computer. She’s four — I found I did not have the language to express how both of us had just been visually assaulted. All she saw was candy and in her words, “pretty” girls. To her, it was everything that was bright and fun and yummy in the world, and I was forced to find a way, like the two dopes wearing the special glasses that see the aliens in “They Live,” why is was all corrosive to the core.
I did my best, but ended up feeling defeated.
The fact is, corporate America really isn’t interested in debasing our culture, its primary compulsion is to keep shareholders fat and happy. If it wrecks us entirely in the process, so be it. Their mission is simple — they want to steal my daughter and compel her to buy everything in sight so she can look (and behave) like everyone else. And “everyone else” is not of average weight, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, maybe hair tied back in a pony tail with a few sentimental baubles on her wrist and earlobes, no, it’s Katy Perry or Paris Hilton, popsicle sticks with painted-on mini-skirts, glittery bling-bling everything, from eyeshadow to pink pedicured toe nail, knee-high Prada boots and $500 handbags with teeny bejeweled dogs that fit inside. Oh yeah, and an iPhone with tons of “apps” and proprietary music inside.
Her buying habits will of course evolve, but are always calculatingly encouraged, because they have her locked in. From cradle to grave.
And when my little girl is finished with her transformation from “citizen” to “shopper,” she can turn around and demand that everyone else get with the program. If Huxley taught us anything in Brave New World, it is that a non-violent dictatorship depends on self-policing and peer pressure to keep the sheeple in the herd. Katy might be a quite attractive whip hand, but that is all she is, a blunt instrument that is helping her suited masters exploit children for monetary gain.
Her Saturday Night Live spoof on getting the ax by Sesame Street, not surprisingly, drew her even more attention. One shill helping out another — for SNL is nothing but a variety show run by corporate committee. That’s why it hasn’t been funny in over 15 years. But there, Katy fits right in. And anyone who watches SNL because they think it’s funny is already a zombie and beyond help anyway.
And they’re certainly old enough to take care of themselves.