As the great Egyptian pharaoh Rameses II declared in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, let it be written that a 21st-century pop star shall release a music video that will ignite a torrent of think pieces examining or denouncing said clip’s cultural appropriation. And so it was.
On the geta heels of her “sexy geisha” performance at the American Music Awards last fall, Katy Perry has chosen to set herself up for another public flogging by setting the video for “Dark Horse,” the latest #1 hit from her album Prism, in Memphis, Egypt “a crazy long time ago.” But her neon reimagining of the transcontinental nation, previewed at the BRIT Awards last night, isn’t totally out of leftfield, what with the album’s prismatic iconography and a reference to Cleopatra on the track “Legendary Lovers,” and she certainly isn’t the first pop singer to co-opt Egyptian motifs.
Perhaps more notable is the video’s suggestion of a feminist critique that never quite materializes. A pun enthusiast (her cat is named Kitty Purry, after all), Perry portrays a “magical queen” cheekily named Katy-Patra who presides over a parade of potential new lovers. Unimpressed by their “offerings,” including a jewel-encrusted grill, she turns each suitor to sand, immediately calling to mind Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time.” Directed by Guillermo del Toro cohort Matthew Cullen, who was at the helm of Perry’s iconic “California Gurls” video, “Dark Horse” is ultimately just eye candy that doesn’t offer much beyond your boilerplate “men are dogs” missive and plenty of fodder for Illuminati enthusiasts. Check it out below:
Get in on the cultural appropriation by inserting yourself into the “Dark Horse” video here!