There are probably about a dozen different ways to view Katy Perry's "Part of Me" video, which premiered Wednesday night (March 21) on MTV, and all of them are certainly valid: a deft recruiting tool, a feminist super-fantasy, a pop video on steroids, a vérité indie flick (Katy acts). No matter what your takeaway is, you're right. But for the sake of sanity, let's just examine it as a video, plain and simple. Because dang, it's a good video.
Over the years, Perry has been a California Gurl, a nerdy teenager, an alien and just about everything in between, but up until now, she's never really been an actual person. (We'll do our best to ignore the old-person makeup in "The One That Got Away.") In "Part of Me," she does actuality to the hilt. As she told me when we sat down in London, she worked overtime with boot-camp instructors to make the clip, practicing fireman carries and munching on MREs and getting in touch with her inner badass. And working with a cast that included nothing but actual Marines, she also was able to come face-to-face with the men and women who put their lives on the line for us — and she left with a newfound respect for that level of sacrifice.
In that regard, "Part of Me" is unlike any pop video in recent memory. Rihanna did military chic in her "Hard" video (she even straddled a tank), and just about every one of Perry's pop contemporaries have ventured down the same path. But they were never really in the military; they were just making it more fabulous. Perry takes the opposite tact: She cuts off her hair, she eschews makeup, she fights, crawls, suffers. It's a commendable level of commitment. Your move, everybody else.
Of course, you could look at "Part of Me" and get some icky chills — after all, it presents a very pop spin on the military — but since when has pop been a medium for the conscientious observer? Katy went to war and emerged with a video that is both real and really affecting. Of course, don't sign up expecting to meet someone like Private Perry; she's already completed boot camp. But can I introduce you to Private Germanotta?