I have just spent 10 minutes watching Katy Perry sleeping. I’m not sure who this reveals more about: Me or the pop star – that I want to watch her sleeping or that she wants to be watched? And this is the least confusing aspect of her weekend-long stunt Witness during which she has broadcast live her every moment to support the launch of a new album.
What is Perry’s desired goal with this bare-all spectacle that is cringe-inducing to say the least? When we first met Perry at the dawn of the new millennium, her cartoon-come-to-life aesthetic was bonkers but in a knowing way. The new Katy Perry – dressed in a series of floaty, colourful dresses that call to mind a futuristic shaman and sporting a new haircut that is getting major airtime as a ‘departure’ for the 33-year-old into ‘serious’ mode – seems bonkers in a sincere and distinctly more unnerving way.
We’ve seen Perry engage in everything from a tearful live therapy session with celebrity therapist, Dr. Siri Sat Nam Singh during which she revealed her struggle with suicidal thoughts, to a gossipy bit of banter with James Corden ranking her famous past lovers, to a noticeably ‘squadgoals’ gathering of women of note for a dinner party to discuss feminism where Perry was determined to outline her ‘reformed’ position on the subject. The trajectory of the live-stream has been patchy in terms of theme and tone. From crying to jokes and back again, to a casual viewer the setup is deeply, embarrassingly staged. Perry is skipping around eating a cheeseburger, RuPaul is just dropping by for a chat. Even the apartment looks exactly like MTV’s The Real World – not a show I think anyone feels the urge to revisit. However, I can’t help but ponder: if it were as calculated as it seems, surely Perry would be coming across in a more favourable light?
Generally, the reaction to all this outpouring has seen the pop star accused of being as tone-deaf as ever in her garbled messages. In an interview with Podcast host and activist, Deray McKesson, Perry acknowledged past mistakes made with the appropriation of other cultures but also described how difficult it was to be targetted on twitter and held accountable for these errors.
Perry explained that a friend took her aside to explain among other things “the power in black women’s hair and the struggle” after Perry sported cornrows in her video This Is How We Do. Perry continued “I listened and I heard and I didn’t know.” When she cited this friend as having educated her, further ire was ignited on Twitter.
These “teachable moments” are getting old when their at the expense of POC & the person at fault is white ♀️
— America Hates Us (@AmericaHatesUs) June 11, 2017
There are obvious comparisons to be made with Perry’s longtime rival Taylor Swift as what could be more unlike the ultra-polished Tswiftie than a round-the-clock live-stream showcasing every messy, emotional moment. Swift passed no verbal comment on the funhouse antics of Perry this weekend, she did, however, make her entire back catalogue available on Spotify for the first time which reads as a pretty blatant (not to mention successful, according to NME it is outperforming Perry’s new album) distraction from the Perry pageant.
Taylor Swift and Katy Perry in 2011
Is Perry unstable? In recent months she made a joke in bad taste referring to Britney Spears’ public meltdown in 2007 and appeared to allude to not having had a breakdown herself ‘yet’.
“I know this sounds insane, but live streaming is, like, the most present form of media. If you’re present, I guess,” chirped Perry last Friday. And that is the problem with pushing media to this level of interaction, it demands that celebrities strip away the final frontier of their own self-preservation: privacy of literally any description. In her live therapy session, Perry explained her decision to cut her hair with the explanation that she didn’t want to “look like Katy Perry anymore” a sentiment that seems utterly at odds with live-streaming her life.
Witness at time feels like an extended apology for past gaffs yet with every passing hour Perry seems to be adding grist to the Twitter mill. It’s unwatchable if only we could tear ourselves away.
Tune in below if you can bare it…