Just who are Katy Perry’s ‘California Gays’?
As far as I can tell, Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ is the jam of the summer.
I want to be clear that I’m not saying it captures the cultural zeitgeist of 2010 or anything — it’s just the song that America has collectively decided to bore into our collective skulls for the moment. And why not? It has Snoop Dog and manages to steal from both the Beach Boys and Big Star in one sugary swoop. The fact that the video features a naked Perry surrounded by orgasming streams of cotton candy might have something to do with its popularity as well.
The real sign that the song’s a huge hit is the number of parody videos that have sprung up. There’s one for Wisconsin, one for Jersey, Milwaukee gets in on the act and there’s even a parody for California. The most popular parody, (at least based on the number of times it keeps showing up in my Facebook feed) however is Ryan James’ “California Gays.”
Instead of doing something useful with my day, I chatted up GOOD’s information architect, John Durkin about the video, what it says about the gays and what this video means for the future of humanity:
John Durkin: Have you seen Ryan James’s videos? The “California Gays” video for Katy Perry’s song?
True/ Slant: I keep ignoring it on Facebook. Should I not?
JD: It’s the best. The Katy Perry video with Snoop Dog is terrible and makes no sense, but this video made me love the song.
TS: I just started watching it. I am only interested in the blond one so far.
JD: [Perry] loved it and retweeted it. The blond is totally adorable, and then there’s one boy toward the end who shows up who is super cute. But it’s the funny part in the middle that sold me.
TS: I almost lived with one of these guys! I interviewed to be his roommate. This actually is exactly the kind of gay shit I don’t like. Like, these are not my people. Fine for them, don’t get me wrong, but mostly they seem ridiculous. If I were at a party and these were the guests, I would probably feel horribly insecure and judgmental.
JD: Well – it’s just a video! I mean – of course it is! It’s a song about how hot California girls are. It would be silly to show pale hairy people primarily. Notably, there is a fat hairy guy front and center at the end.
TS: Guy Branum! He’s great. You know he’s on Chelsea Lately? He’s her official homosexual or something. I like that he’s the celebrity cameo.
JD: And there is some diversity. They’re not all white.
TS: I like how the cute blond is totally sunburned at the end. But that doesn’t count as ‘not white.’ I see only two non-white people.
JD: I thought it was sufficiently self-conscious and willing to be pretty silly — I mean — It’s all put together in a week by a 23 year old logger at MTV.
TS: My problem is not with this vis-a-vis it being a statement about ‘the gehs.’ My problem is that I don’t really want to hook up with any of them.
JD: Ugh. So what? It’s colorful and fun and far more appropriate a video for the song than Katy’s candyland bingo thing.
TS: I am not saying it’s bad. I’m saying it repulses me on a sexual and aesthetic level. Oh, I see now — at the end — That it is like a video blogger’s cute project–
JD: — I think “repulsed” is a bit strong–
TS: — and that sort of makes it more charming.
JD: Yes, it’s more charming when you see the ubergay guy who directed it explain this and a few other pop-videos he made with some of the same people.
TS: But yeah, the whole ‘Ohmgawd am I not fucking fabulous with my speedo and my sunglasses’ thing is usually pretty repulsive, at least for me. I am sort of happy now that I realize that I don’t like those guys and that being gay just means being attracted to other guys and not having to buy into well, the rainbow youth.
JD: I suppose – but – hello – this song is about California and therefore, the beach.
TS: It’s just a taste thing! My California gays would be like, latinos on the eastside or silver lake dudes.
JD: Well, maybe you should do a music video with them and have the dance-off part in the middle be eastside vs. westside.
TS: I already did my gay music video! 50s sexual sublimation and science experiments! I mean, this is really cute, but you have to see it’s also very very WeHo meets Queer As Folk. And maybe only as a result of being gay for pay all these years, it’s not my thing. Put this way: Judging the video on its own merits, it’s great! It totally achieves what it sets out to do.
JD: It’s certainly over-the-top gay. It couldn’t be gayer, but that was the intention from the outset. It’s not necessarily meant to be smorgasbord of sexual delights for you. It’s just supposed to be campy and fun.
TS: I agree and then want to have a conversation about what ‘gay’ means and if the ‘gay’ presented in the video is in fact a contemporary and relevant depiction of ‘gay’, whether here in California or elsewhere. I can’t help but watch gay stuff without deconstructing it. It’s why I avoid it.
JD: It does interest me that a 23-year-old’s vision of California gays is this. It’s a very 90s gay.
JD: A very gay pride look
TS: Not even hipster gay. It’s almost Chelsea.
JD: Which – again – for the summer – for the pop song it’s a video to – that’s perfect. Yes, its Chelsea WeHo West Village gays. In fact, the NY gays in the danceoff were slightly hipsterish in comparison.
TS: Which is a sort of strange statement, don’t you think? I always found the whole Chelsea boy mentality to be very fascist. Very ‘one of us’. You’d think in doing a video about ‘California Gays’, we would see some more pride in the different kinds of gays here, or barring that, something less dated.
JD: Not to a Katy Perry song tho. I mean, what hipster listens to Katy Perry?
TS: I know I don’t.
JD: Right, I don’t either – until my head was infected with her song due to this video.
TS: It is catchy, but so is AIDS.
JD: I thought the song was stupid. Still do – but they really made it fun! That’s the thing I feel it’s not. It seems to be 90s gays style, but I don’t detect any weirdness about AIDS. There is no dark side to the video.
TS: No, there is no dark side to this video. Yeah, but it’s not my fun. It’s like the Roland Emmerich pool party fun.
JD: And that’s because it’s through a 23-year-old lens.I think they don’t see AIDS. They just see rainbow Speedos.
TS: Fun gay speedo Nazis romping on the beach!
JD: Well, I certainly don’t see them as Nazis! And it’s funny that there is a homophobic line delivered by Snoop Dogg in the song, delivered by the director confusingly in this video. “No weenies.”
TS: Oh, I saw that. They could have made that a moment. But it just sort of flops out.
JD: Ahem. Yeah, I think their enthusiasm primarily, and then the skillful choreography, editing, etc… are commendable. They made a much more fun video for that song – that at least makes sense – and I dunno -I like the sort of thoughtless happy gayness they show.
TS: It’s well made.
JD: I am tired of seriousness and complexity and extended metaphors and meta this and that.
TS: Well, it’s July. No one can blame you.
JD: Yes. That’s why I felt it was timely.
TS: Also, the world is falling apart, so maybe there are more important things than pouring over the hidden meanings of a gay music video parody?
JD: No, no there are not.