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Katy Perry's 'E.T.' video: She's having alien sex but is she having fun?

April 1, 2011 |  6:07 pm

Katy Perry's new video with Kanye West for "E.T.," her ode to extraterrestrial romance, has been burning up the Internet today, setting off debate about whether Perry's space-glam get-ups blatantly rip off Lady Gaga or whether West's rhymes celebrating the joys of alien sex help or hinder. Some have even expressed sadness that Perry's breasts don't shoot lasers, preferably the kind that could blow up something 50,000 yards away. Well, it all goes to show that you can't satisfy everyone all the time -- even when you have a big, fawntastic reveal at the end. (And no, dear reader, you don't get to complain about that being a spoiler but you may complain about my pun.)

The video, created by "The Runaways" director Floria Sigismondi, who has crafted several notable music videos for the likes of Dead Weather, the Cure, Christina Aguilera, Sigur Rós and many others, is getting so much attention because it marks a departure in style for Perry, who's usually frolicking with bananas or rolling her eyes like a screwball comedy actress or otherwise engaging in something raunchily campy. At first glance, Sigismondi's video might seem a step away from all of that, but it still aligns with Perry's style. The difference is that the campiness is to be found in many of the visuals and not in Perry's facial expressions or her acting. She even seems, gasp, kind of serious.

The former Christian singer from Santa Barbara has never been particularly original -- even her cutesy vintage-store look praised by fashion mags was basically grifted from several Los Angeles party girls before her -- but what she does do well is to absorb everything she sees around her and then present it in an ultra-shiny package that never takes itself too seriously. In that way, she's left herself a kind of artistic escape hatch -- if she's not taking it very seriously, why on earth are you?

It's not surprising that Perry is married to a comedian, Russell Brand, because essentially she's a comedian herself, but in the "E.T." video she doesn't get to indulge that side nearly enough. In the video for "Waking Up in Vegas," a much more traditional slice of Perry fare, she's clearly in her comfort zone, acting out a host of trashy personas that nevertheless charm. In "E.T.," she's playing an alien goddess -- a rather stiff one who doesn't wink at the camera nearly enough.

The biggest demand the video actually makes of her is to be a good body model for the dramatic looks inspired by sea creatures -- but that's not really her strong suit. Unlike Lady Gaga, who has a thorough dancer's command of her body, Perry isn't much of a physical performer. She's much more of an old-fashioned prop comedian, who comes to life when there's a giant cherry chapstick cannon or something else equally silly to play off of.

In that sense, the video doesn't really work with Perry's strengths -- and it misses an opportunity at the end. So, arriving at the kind of conclusion only music-video logic can make, it turns out that Perry is half-deer (not a centaur exactly; that's so last year), hence the images in the middle of some little Bambi scampering around and then dying. But we don't even get to see the absurdity of Perry leaping around on her Cervidae legs, nor do we get to see her facial expression after the big reveal. Where's the fun in that? Is there anyone else who could've looked at the camera with a mischievous, doe-eyed wink better than Perry?

--Margaret Wappler