Film Review Katy Perry: Part of Me
By Rob Horsley | Friday, July 13, 2012
A concerning amount of hands. Photo by Sean MacEntee
Katy Perry: Part of Me is a concert documentary/biopic featuring performance and backstage footage from the pop-megastar's recent "California Dreams" tour. It also chronicles the life of Katy Perry from youth through to her eventual rise to superstardom.
I know what you're thinking: Katy Perry? Really?
And the answer is yes. Really. As one with an interest in celebrity culture, and specifically, cultural obsession with celebrity status, this was a movie I had been 'looking forward to' for quite some time.
I'll even admit, I find Perry's music to be catchy and carefree enough to find some sort of simple enjoyment in it, even if the message is one that I simply can't find relevant to my life. I'm not a "California gurl." I haven't had a teenage dream in quite some time. And I can recall fairly well what happened to me last Friday night.
Part of Me might be of interest to those looking to catch a glimpse of Katy Perry's inside story, considering that it's pretty common knowledge that she was raised in a Christian home, and even more evident that her message does little to reflect that these days.
The movie is conflicted throughout by a number of apparent contradictions. There's an ongoing motif of 'breaking free' and Perry finding herself as an individual. Yet it becomes clear that she has simply traded the restrictions of a conservative Christian home for the demands of a grueling tour schedule. This is seen through the prodding of Perry's support staff to maintain her tour schedule, often at the expense of seeing her (now ex-) husband Russell Brand.
It seems odd that a movie highlighting the 'realness' of Katy Perry shows her putting on a pretty fabricated visage, on more than one occasion. Most notably is the sequence that shows her backstage, moments after receiving a breakup text from Russell (classic), clearly heartbroken. Probably considered to be the film's climax, it shows Perry quite literally putting on a happy face, and deciding that the show must go on. It's a moment that probably resonates with the crowd that sees this as 'not letting life get her down,' but for a more reflective audience, the ability to immediate side-skirt such fresh grief is kind of disturbing.
And does anybody else have a serious problem with how many fans have nearly identical stories of how they've been inspired by Katy Perry to be an individual and not blend in? I mean, I'm no Alanis Morissette when it comes to defining irony, but…isn't it? That's a joke, by the way.
Part of Me paints a pretty narrow picture of Christianity, and refers to it as little else but one of the restraints that Perry has shed in pursuit of finding the freedom to be herself. There's no mention of the freedom we as Christians find in Jesus. And it raises the important question: is this how the world views us? An outdated set of restrictions? Why is this still the common conception of us as a church? How much are we really doing to remedy it?
Maybe you're still not seeing the relevance. Maybe that 'old-time religion' is still good enough for you. But what are your kids into these days? Your grandkids for that matter?
I think we should probably start facing the reality that it's not going to do us much good to stand around and reminisce about the good old days when we said the Lord's Prayer in public school and complain about the political incorrectness of "Merry Christmas." The fact is those things don't matter to the up-and-coming generation in the same way they might have mattered in the past.
One image from Part of Me continued to strike me throughout my viewing of the movie. There was this repeated image, over and over again, of young fans going into what seemed to be some sort of celebrity-excitement-induced shaking fit which didn't look all that different from the "slain-in-the-Spirit" moments captured in the home movie footage of Perry's childhood church. And to me, that seems silly. But the reality is, that is the reality for someone else.
Now, I'm not saying that the model for Christian life is broken. Far from it, I believe there's still a lot to be said for being a person of virtue, attending weekly services, loving neighbours, and spending time in the Word. But it might very well be the case that that old-time appeal might not seem relevant to the eyes of the new generation.
If nothing else, Katy Perry: Part of Me offers an insight into the values of a changing, individualistic, less religious, more freedom-seeking, type of culture. And I think the message of freedom, especially the freedom we have in Christ, is still a good one. But how we share that message just might be the key, for us and for our families. What type of freedom are we preaching? And how good a job are we doing of appealing to the next generation, our future as the Church?