While my musical tastes are broad and sometimes “auditorily offensive”, Katy Perry is by no means a favorite, and not someone I normally associate with Paganism. So when I saw Katy Perry mentioned on The Wild Hunt, I was a bit confused. Apparently, Perry is in the hot seat again for her 2013 hit “Dark Horse”. For me, Perry is hugely problematic not-fave for reasons you can see here, here, here, and here.
And honestly, even if none of her homophobia, cultural appropriation, or sexual misconduct was a factor, I’m not super enthused by the music video. As a Hellenic practitioner with no real ties to the Egyptian pantheon, I don’t have a horse in the race in terms of divine representation; even if the color scheme in the music video is the hue of my depression. The song is meh and I have no comment on the use of Aphrodite’s name in the lyrics. In an early version of the music video, Perry destroyed a necklace with the name of Allah on it which is really just another sign of her inattentiveness as an artist. Although I did find her Grammy performance of “Dark Horse” distasteful and concerning for a whole host of reasons.
The issue here is that Perry is being sued by Marcus Gray, Lecrae Moore, Emanuel Lambert, and Chike Ojukwu for plagiarism of their song “Joyful Noise“, as well as tarnishing the reputation of “Joyful Noise” with “Dark Horse”s “association with the witchcraft, paganism, black magic, and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in Dark Horse. Indeed, the music video of Dark Horse generated widespread accusations of blasphemy and an online petition signed by more than 60,000 demanding removal of an offensive religious image from the video.” Given that Perry has a background as a Christian music singer, and that the songs do share a remarkably similar beat and melody I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Perry didn’t give credit where it was due. And that’s really shitty of her if she did. But I take serious issue with where this fits into the larger cultural narrative, particularly the cultural narrative in Trump’s America.
Right out of the gate, I will say I don’t expect my celebrities to use their platform politically. I do think that individuals with that kind of reach have an ethical responsibility to use that platform wisely, but having a responsibility doesn’t mean you have to do something. However, I do know for a fact that people who claim minority status have to behave like the eye of the Moirae is on them; because the eye of the public is and it’s not much kinder.
Why does that matter? Perry has claimed to be a New Age practitioner.
Now, if we’re talking labels, “New Age practitioner” isn’t Pagan isn’t pagan isn’t Wiccan isn’t witchcraft isn’t Illuminati (what even is an Illuminati when it’s at home?). But those are differences without a distinction to most of the populace, as we see in the “Joyful Noise” lawsuit.
In terms of the claims from the lawsuit, most of the pagan imagery comes from the music video. Excluding the army of sexy-Bastet, I can somewhat understand it. Ra and Anubis have probably never been so ripped, but many who reject the Christian faith often go through a phase of strongly connecting with the Divine Feminine. Most people don’t have such a large artistic venture to express it though, and others who do have certainly done it better (the bold mixture of Isis and Christianity in The Cranberries “Zombie” and Beyonce as Oshun come to mind). I can tolerate Perry’s bubblegum attempt at Isis, even if I give it a healthy dose of side eye.
More concerning was her Grammy performance. I’m not going to claim that witchcraft is always rainbows and fairies: in my magickal pantry I have grave dirt, bones, and menstrual blood. But that performance. I was a child during the Satanic Panic, and the evangelical school my parents sent me to clung to the panic even after it passed out of the mainstream media. That Grammy performance was EXACTLY what my parents and the school said witchcraft was: skeletal trees, hooded Baphomet, dancing demons, witches branded with red crosses, women getting sexual pleasure from being burned. I swear, joining my first coven after that build up was such a letdown.
Outside of a very wise group of Cassandras, I don’t think any of us really expected the political rise of the White Evangelical to play out the way it did. In 2014 I remember Pagans talking about LGBTQ rights and evangelism; Trump, Russia, and the malice of White Evangelism were hidden for the most part. Most of us didn’t think it could or would happen. Except it did, and we’re seeing all sorts of human rights violations and bullshit go down. After all, evangelical lobbyists sell access to the president at the Prayer Breakfast, the DOJ uses the Bible to justify separating children at the border, and Jeff Sessions formed the Religious Liberty Task Force (ostensibly to protect the voices of religion in the government, but let’s be real about how that’s going to play out). In the grand scheme of things, this lawsuit seems small and insignificant. But bigger atrocities are built on the small and insignificant, so this case very well should be watched closely.
Perry has the wealth and resources to inoculate herself against the discrimination every Pagans and magickal practitioners face. Regardless of the outcome of this case, Perry will continue on making money by the boatload and will present an air of the effortless New Age practitioner. She will not struggle to find employment or days off, and should things in America turn against minority religions she has the means to protect herself and her empire. But if Perry claims to be a New Age practitioner, she’s the representative we have in the wider world even if she isn’t one we would have chosen for ourselves. Which means she needs to step up her game, and we need to call her out about it. Because it’s not her neck on the line. It’s ours.