They say a woman who changes her hair is about to change her life. Katy Perry hacks off most of her natural locks in the new music video for “Part of Me,” so her shift in life? Joining the Marines.
The Ben Moore-directed clip was shot, in part, over three days at Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton in San Diego, where Perry was put through a series of combat training exercises, shooting guns, lifting logs and lip-syncing beneath a gigantic American flag, throwing in some literal “bombs” and “blows.”
The clip opens up with Perry listening to a fictional celebrity interview on the radio that obviously reflects on her disintegrated relationship with now-ex-husband Russell Brand; we learn that her character in the video was inspired to join the armed services after the crash-and-burn ending of a relationship with a boyfriend. Perry told MTV that she wanted a video that was an “affirmation of strength” after a relationship that took it out of her. “I wanted go the strongest route I possibly could.”
That route began with her chopping off all her hair (a la “G.I. Jane”), embracing her hoodied androgyny (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) wrapping her infamous boobs with gauze (a la… “Shakespeare in Love” [???]) and crying into a sink before handing over her clothes and preparing to mouth “Yes drill sergeant” for as many times as it took. The inspiration was a bumper sticker: “All women are created equal, then some become Marines.”
In this case, enlisting was a source of self-esteem, encourages a sense of community among other women. Marines are tough, their part of America’s pride. But part of the video’s oddness was Perry’s degenderizing — and the co-option of a military institution.
When Rihanna mugged on top of a tank, it was a fashion video, practically parody. Here is another one of America’s most overtly sexualized pop stars, burning love notes next to her tank and peering pensively through a trigger guard. Surely, the video isn’t suggesting that the quickest fix for heartache is to enlist in the Marines, but it was the suggestion of amplified “womanhood” that caused Perry’s character to join — a reaction to the feelings of inadequacy from a romance. Despite the slow-motion action shots and baptismal trial-by-literal-fires, the armed services for “Part of Me” was just a device for a break-up anthem (and product placement), although an inspiringly-shot one. Just thank goodness the vehicle didn’t stop with Perry snagging a hunky male Marine to have and to hold (an idea likely floated around during brainstorming).
The flattening of her breasts was also an interesting move, after many, many, many videos put so much emphasis on her full-chested figure. She couldn’t part completely with her makeup — this is still a fiction, after all — though, during her interview, Perry emphasized the she and her directors decisions to use real soldiers as her extras. Perry obviously supports the troops, but her bolsters looked very different at VH1’s Divas to Salute the Troops show back in December 2010, in her eye-popping American flag hotpants, rubber camouflage mini-skirt fatigues and unbuttoned uniforms.
Like her video for “Firework,” there is a level of hackishness that Perry has to exercise to get a successful video across. Whereas “Firework” was a contradiction in body-norms, there’s some mixed messaging of women and the military here. It’s a simple “service-based video,” as Perry called it in her interview, but the believabilty of performance was obviously an important factor as she marched outside of her comfort zone. Its realism calls for all the more scrutiny of the story, and a somewhat controversial career that has equaled sex with a woman’s strength.
“Part of Me” is included on the “Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection,” out next week along with another new song “Wide Awake,” which debuted earlier this week.