In 2012, Katy Perry closed the book on her Teenage Dream era with “Wide Awake,” the video that literally took her through the looking glass, turning the most successful span of her career into a Lewis Carroll-ian dystopia, complete with a cheating Prince Charming, some forbidden fruit, and, uh, minotaurs.
It was a decidedly dark take of the pitfalls of fame (for her, at least), though the message at the end was clear: Sure, Katy got knocked down a few times, but she always managed to get back on her feet, and now, she was on top of the world. And if that wasn’t a happy ending, well, then I don’t know what is.
Of course, now it’s time for the next chapter: a brand-new album and a much-anticipated video for first single “Roar.” And as if the song’s self-empowered sentiments (or her pugilistic performance of the track at the VMAs) didn’t already serve notice of the fact, well, its video most certainly does: Katy’s no longer interested in playing the victim.
Though perhaps that’s too serious a reading of “Roar.” Because, like all of Katy’s best videos, this one’s less about conflict or conquest as it is camp. Her main inspiration seems to be Sheena, Queen of the Jungle who thrilled a generation of Post-War boys by swinging through the jungle in a leopard-skin bikini, and it’s a perfect fit for Perry (tbh, it’s kind of amazing she hasn’t played the role already). Katy crash lands in a jungle with her square-jawed beau, who makes her hold his bags (jerk!) before getting devoured by a tiger, and from there, the video works very hard at driving home the song’s message: she heads out into the night, wrestles an alligator, builds a spear out of a stiletto heel, tames a tiger, befriends a monkey named Ripley, and paints the toes of an elephant.
In short, this isn’t a video that takes itself too seriously, though it also doesn’t stray far from subtext. The tiger represents all her detractors. The jungle symbolizes fame. Katy conqures them all — because she is a survivor — and ends up as the Queen. And, no, she didn’t need a man to help her with any of it, thank you very much. If you thought the metaphors of “Wide Awake” were a tad heavy handed, well, then this is the video for you. Katy doesn’t do dark … she does camp, and does it better than pretty much anyone else out there. She swings, she strugs, she sings, she stylizes with palm fronds; in just about every way, this new video is a blast. Infer from “Roar” what you will, but understand this: the next chapter has begun, and this one’s going to be a whole lot of fun.