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Katy Perry's 'California Gurls' video is a festival of candy -- and sadness?

June 16, 2010 |  2:00 pm


As a rule, I am generally in favor of the following: Board games and candy. So when the video for Katy Perry's summer pop confection "California Gurls" opened with a nod to vintage children's game Candy Land, there was reason to hope that the clip could elevate the ultra-shiny dance pop cut to something with a bit more camp value.

Alas, Candy Land is entirely dependent on the chance flip of a card, and there's something about this explosion of colors, sugar and flesh that ultimately rings a bit sour. It's not the parade of "buns," or Snoop Dogg's tossed-off rap, but rather the underlying sense that this California-boosting anthem plays out more like propaganda than a celebration. 

Championing our state's glitz, beach parties and fit bodies is a part of our history, and no doubt one of Los Angeles' biggest tourism sells. Yet "California Gurls" fits in with a Perry tradition that she began with "I Kissed A Girl." It's a tease, and one that's more empty than fun. 

Set in a cloud-based world that's half Wonderland and half Super Mario Galaxy -- admittedly one that's lovingly and playfully created with detail by Motion Theory's Mathew Cullen -- Perry and girl pals dance with Gummi Bears, lick giant lollipops and squirt frosting out of their bras. Perry rescues her trapped friends as she moves around the game board and frees them to become real-life figurines -- some sort of sexual playthings that may or may not be maneuvered by Snoop Dogg. 

Look, it's catchy, corny and no doubt Perry looks like she's having fun. Yet there's never any sense that the rest of us -- those outside of Hollywood's prim, rich and tan bubble -- can play. Perry and her friends run wild in a world that's an open bar overflowing with free cookies. No doubt that world exists in Los Angeles, but I can't shake the sense that watching "California Gurls" is simply a reminder that most of us aren't part of it. 

-- Todd Martens

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