A Sophisticated Analysis of Sadomasochism and Cannibalism in Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ ft. Snoop Dogg (2010)

by Anonymous

The heavy psychoanalytical undertones of Katherine Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ has been the subject of much scholarly attention in recent years, as has the Oedipal complexity that dominates the lyrics. However, less well documented is the gastronomic and culinary imagery which pervades the song both lyrically and videographically. This, coupled with a recognition of the sadomasochistic implications of Perry’s syntactic choices, produces a reading of the text which exposes a deep obsession with the act of consumption, and highlights Perry’s subversive anthropophagous desires.

From the first verse, it is evident that Katy Perry is not well, ‘this California Gurl’ refers to her state of residence as ‘warm, wet and wild’, possibly a reference to game meat. Perry’s perception of California is saturated with hunger. The sanguine imagery of Perry and the gals ‘sippin’ gin and juice’ as ‘the boys break their necks’ presents a convincing case for viewing Perry as a sadomasochist. Obviously, the gin and juice are metaphors for the boys’ blood that the women have obtained by whipping and performing other sadomasochistic acts on them.

Additionally, ‘golden coast’ denotes Perry’s latent desire for crispy men, a clear nod to McCarthy’s The Road and the act of roasting human flesh. It is also possible to identify here the debt Perry owes to Swift’s A Modest Proposal in her nods to different modes of food preparation; Swift declares that ‘a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled’, whilst Perry references ‘golden’ roasting and the practice of sun-drying through the phrase ‘sun-kissed skin’. Listeners are also offered an allusion to the act of microwaving, which Perry obviously wants to do to the men’s phalluses as she sings ‘so hot we’ll melt your popsicle’.

Perry paints herself as the dom, following the literary legacy of Christian Gr*y as she uses the imperative to order the men: ‘Now put your hands up’. This clearly signals sadomasochistic practices and Perry’s penchant for police role play, the order followed by the mens cries of pain ‘oh-oh-oh-oh’. Ouch! Most experts agree that ‘sand in our stilettos’ is a common refrain of sadomasochistic narratives. Thus it is no surprise to those of us in the know that Perry employs it in the pre-chorus.

The double entendre of ‘party’ connoting both dancing and dining in ‘once you party with us’ belies the endearing cannibalism of Perry as her party/dinner guests are consumed, becoming part of her. No further explanation is needed to understand that Perry exploits the etymology of ‘party’ to convey ideas of dismemberment and digestion.

The Circean connotations that Perry undoubtedly evokes through ‘sun-kissed skin’ and its recollection of pork crackling belies the culinary advancements and feminine rage that characterised 2010. Pork crackling having, obviously, been invented by Lady Gaga’s stylist through the medium (rare) of the Meat Dress™ earlier that year.

As the speaker shifts from Perry to Mr Dogg, the cannibalistic notes of the text become increasingly prominent. Mr Doggy Dogg, like Perry, wields the imperative, instructing her to ‘Turn it up’, ‘it’ obviously referring to the dial on the stove which the duo are using for their anthropic cheffing. By thus turning up the heat, the pair are able to more efficiently cook their yummy victims.

In the phrase ‘Toned, tan, fit and ready’, the connotations of battery chickens and ready meals hardly need explaining. This is evidently also a reference to Swift’s A Modest Proposal, in which he details the convenient readiness of children for consumption. Likewise, the men here are quick and easy to prepare, like a microwave curry.

Doggy Dogg also showcases his acute lyricism in the provocative phrase ‘All that ass hangin’ out’. This ostensibly depicts the haunch and the nutritional value of the rump, perhaps also alluding to Hanger Steaks, thus highlighting the way in which late-stage capitalism has transformed the body into a set of consumable goods. Doggy Dogg thus displays to us his sharp understanding that we live in a society.

Finally, the phallus assimilated to a vegetable, highlighting its nutritional deficiency as well as elevating its status within society at large. ‘Bikinis, zucchinis, martinis, no weenies’ demonstrates how the phallus no longer exists after consumption, emphasising the transience of the flesh, hence ‘no weenies’. Perhaps we will see more of Perry’s cannibalistic tendencies as she spies Charles Mountbatten-Windsor’s ‘sausage fingers’ on full display from the stage on the 7th of May.

The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford. Written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff, new issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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