Pop-Culture | Posted by Brenna F on 09/28/2010

Not My “Teenage Dream”

I’m sure that anyone reading this has heard Katy Perry’s new hit, “Teenage Dream” on the radio or TV.  I have to admit, it is a very catchy song, but like many pop songs out there today, it does not portray the right message, and it doesn’t quite sit well with me.

Let’s break it down:

The song is about a girl who was “a wreck” before she met this really tough, sexy guy, because, of course, all she needed was a man in her life to make her feel better.  Later on in the song it even says she found her “missing puzzle piece.”

Other lines in the song inlcude:  “Let’s go all the way tonight/No regrets, just love.”  The biggest theme in this song is sex, which is obviously what this lyric is about.  I feel that this supports having sex without thinking about the consequences.  Being in love doesn’t protect against STDs or unwanted pregnancy, which are things that you would probably regret in the future.  There are many lines that repeat the idea of not thinking about the future, such as, “We can dance until we die/You and I/We’ll be young forever.”

I also think that this song isn’t a very accurate description of a good relationship.  Katy sings that “this is real,”  but the only things she says about this guy is that he thinks she’s pretty, he thinks she’s funny, and he’s sexy and exciting.  Is that all it takes to make a good teenage relationship?

One of my biggest concerns with this song comes from the line, “Let you put your hands on me.”  Because she uses the word “let,” does that mean she doesn’t really want him to put his hands on her, and that she only “lets” him because that’s what he wants?  Because she wants to be his teenage dream?   Does this mean that a teenage boy’s dream should only consist of a girl who will “let” him do with her what he wants?

This whole song is only based on love, sex, youth, partying, and drinking, and these should not be the only aspirations of a teenage girl.  This song describes completely reckless behavior without acknowledging the terrible consequences that could arise.  This line of thinking should not be anyone’s “teenage dream.”  I understand how exciting it might be to have a boyfriend, and that right now it feels like that is all that matters in the world, but we need to change this kind of thinking.  Instead, girls should dream of becoming confident and smart young women who make informed decisions about the things that they choose to do in their lives.  Girls should aspire to be something great for themselves and the world, not just somebody to roll around in bed with.

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  • Natalia @ at 11:10 am, September 28th, 2010

    I just hate Katy Perry in general. She keeps sending the wrong messages in her songs and videos over and over again. Great post btw.

  • Zoe @ at 11:51 am, September 28th, 2010

    I’ve accepted that Katy Perry does not write feminist music, just catchy, lyrically lacking music. And I’m OK with this.

  • Katherine C. @ at 12:08 pm, September 28th, 2010

    What Zoe said- I don’t feel like this is anything to get all riled up about. I hate Katy Perry’s music, but we shouldn’t be holding celebrities responsible for sending the “wrong message” for every little slip of the tongue. Yes, we live in a rape-oriented culture. Yes, we live in a terribly (and often harmfully) oversexualized culture. But in this context, I feel like Perry is a symptom rather than a perpetrator. (or perhaps both? Well, *more* a symptom than a perpetrator.) I think that in this, as in very many feminist disscussions, we need to focus on where (and at whom) we should really be directing our anger.

  • Samuel W. @ at 12:35 pm, September 28th, 2010

    Is it me, or does literally every new garbage-pop song on the radio end up examined here? Just shows how abjectly uncreative mainstream music has gotten. It’s as if every song on the charts right now is a skewed, dumbed-down view of the world, instead of a serious artistic statement. I definitely think we could’ve had a much better song to convey feelings of adolescent love and lust, and I wish there was a song that was a lot more clever and complex the kids could listen to without being entirely alienated. But such is the utter dominance of corporate power in the music industry, and they’ll make sure each record they churn out is sanitized and commercialized into an unappealing, crassly commercial confection.

  • Claire @ at 1:53 pm, September 28th, 2010

    She also has the song ‘UR so gay.’

    And she claims to be a friend of the gay community.

  • Veronica @ at 5:51 pm, September 28th, 2010

    Honestly? It’s a catchy, fun song to dance to. No girls are getting ideas from this that its okay to not have protection or whatever. And if they are? then thats how they thought to begin with. I understand the problems and concerns that go with Katy Perry, but also? It’s music. It’s pop music. You can’t expect every female artist to be a feminist, and to do so is asking too much. Not everyone will send out the right message and you just have to hope that young people can think for themselves.

  • Tessa @ at 6:22 pm, September 28th, 2010

    Sometimes such analysis is exhausting. Why is it bad that she thinks he’s “the one”? I, for one, think it’s a romantic song and doesn’t at all hint that all hint that all girls need a guy.

    You mention that it doesn’t thoroughly portray a good relationship. Okay…note that this song can’t be 10 minutes long. There are time constraints so she can’t just go rambling off about all the good things in her relationship. She describes him as thinking “she’s sexy and funny” and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sounds healthy to me.

    “Girls should aspire to be something great for themselves and the world, not just somebody to roll around in bed with.”
    Wow, didn’t know it was suddenly anti-feminist to be in love. A girl CAN be in love and have a career/do great things. The two are not mutually exclusive and it’s dumb to think of it that way. A girl can dream about doing BOTH. Never does this song say that she suddenly doesn’t want an education cause she has a guy.

    She also uses “let” because of the fact that he doesn’t just get to put his hands on her because he wants to. She’s allowing him to touch her. She’s reminding us that she has the power and can control what happens to her.

    Your analysis is completely off because you leave out tons of factors. Katy Perry isn’t exactly a feminist, yet she isn’t an anti-feminist either. There is nothing anti-feminist about this song.

  • Tessa @ at 6:24 pm, September 28th, 2010

    Sorry for the typos.

    Third Line: I, for one, think it’s a romantic song and doesn’t at all hint that all girls need a guy.

  • Becca @ at 6:41 pm, September 28th, 2010

    “I’ve accepted that Katy Perry does not write feminist music, just catchy, lyrically lacking music. And I’m OK with this.”

    Actually, there are two songs on her new album that have VERY feminist lyrics (“Pearl” and “What I’m Living For”).

    Unfortunately, I think that has more to do with whoever wrote the lyrics than Katy Perry herself, though it would be nice if she chose to focus on the pro-feminism lyrics and less on the “California Gurls” kind. (Which I hate, for the record.)

  • Maggie @ at 8:39 pm, September 28th, 2010

    I find all of Katy Perry’s music problematic as well as her as a person.

    She is genuinely the only musician whose music I literally HATE.

    But this song definitely isn’t her worst (Ur So Gay, anyone?).

    On the other hand I resent the whole “teenage dream” thing. Most of here are teenagers and well, I guess this is just me complaining about how people my age are portrayed again.

  • Nyxie @ at 12:27 am, September 29th, 2010

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

    Media culture does not cause problems, nor stop them – it just perpetrates them. D:

    I’m not surprised about this from Katy Perry. I mean, anyone who’s seen the video for California Girls (wherein women are literally candy) will know that Katy Perry and/or her producers (artists can get sadly little say once a producer is involved, especially in mainstream music) have no interest in being real or trying to help girls – they’re only out for money, and if it hurts girls in the process, then obviously that’s just a bonus. :|

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 2:51 am, September 29th, 2010

    Yeah, I hate Katy Perry. I think my combination of musical taste and principals pretty much guarantees that I won’t enjoy her music. And I know people aren’t surprised, but I’m worried by the “just accept it/ignore it” attitude I hear from a lot of people. It’s out there. It’s not just Katy Perry; she’s not coming up with these ideas that her songs dish out about women, she draws them, consciously or not, from our culture. So accepting or ignoring it just means we consume it mindlessly, which is dangerous.

    The only thing I think you might be a little over-the-top about is the whole let thing. I don’t think there’s an implication of unwillingness in the word “let.” I do agree that it implies passivity to some extent, but it also implies consent. In the context of the song, however, the speaker (Perry or this horny teenage girl she’s singing as) is clearly enthusiastic about the prospect of sex and sexual contact, so I would veer toward consent rather than passive allowance.

    And @Tessa, while I completely agree that a girl can be in love (or even just infatuated, or sexually attracted) and still have other interests and great goals, the problem is that most entertainment geared toward girls of all ages doesn’t make allowances for this. Small girls’ toys are often centered around a theme of homemaking and motherhood, as well as certain professions deemed “girly,” like teaching, modeling, nursing, and acting. Teenaged girls’ television shows, films, and music almost always center around heterosexual romantic interest, with the few exceptions being shows like Degrassi and Pretty Little Liars, which do occasionally present gay and lesbian romantic relationships. Shows geared toward twenty-and-thirty-something female audiences, like Sex and the City, claim to focus on independent, modern women, but the truth is that their careers are just a backdrop against which each of the four main characters looks for the love of a man. Even shows without an obvious leaning toward a female demographic, such as Bones, Castle, and even The X-Files, draw much of their dramatic tension not from the supposedly strong female characters, but from the slow process of these characters’ growing romantic notions toward their (often goofy) male counterparts.
    So yes, women can be in love and still have goals, careers, personalities, and interesting lives. But is that fact really accurately portrayed in songs like “Teenage Dream”?

  • Suzanne Duffy @ at 2:43 pm, September 29th, 2010

    While I see what you’re saying about Teenage Dream I think this song is positively feminist compared to Katy Perry’s other efforts. For example in California Gurls Snoop Dogg sings the line ‘I wish y’all could be California girls’ i.e. hot, young and tanned girls strutting about in bikinis as opposed to girls with brains and personality. I think some of your criticism is unfair. Teenage Dream is standard I’m-in-love manufactured pop fluff, but there’s nothing pointedly sexist about it. After all, I’m sure most feminists wouldn’t have a problem with me having ‘someone to roll around in bed with’

  • Valerie B. @ at 4:41 pm, September 29th, 2010

    Dear Katy Perry,
    My ‘teenage dream’ is to go to college and become a successful, independent woman. It is nothing like your sexist song.
    Love, Val :)

  • Dan L @ at 5:36 pm, September 29th, 2010

    I agree with sam on this one…you’re promoting katy perry and all the horrible artists you dont like by posting articles about them….people in the mainstream music world just care about how many articles are written about them…good or bad. with that said why dont you profile chicks who are making great music. i dont think just hating on stuff is the best way to promote your cause. check out joanna newsom or hurray for the riff raff, or vivian girls….there are so many empowered women making cool, crazy music that is still real and risque and doesnt just simply avoid sexuality, but has a better, more crreative take.

  • Anastasia @ at 7:54 am, September 30th, 2010

    It’s sad that pretty much every song on the radio performed by a woman (and most likely writtem by a man) has the same central message: Men are the be all and end all.

    I think that the worst thing about this song is that it makes its listeners out to be immature and stupid, with only one thing on their mind – boys. Reading many of the articles on this site, and being a teenage girl myself, i know that’s not true.

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 8:46 pm, October 2nd, 2010

    I never really listened to this song before – just heard lines of it on the radio. It struck me as mildly feminist that the only line I could totally make out was “you turn me on,” but considering it was Katy Perry, I assumed there was more there, and now having read the lyrics, I see the “I need a man to exist without a man I am nothing OMG” in the song. Thanks for bringing her to light.

  • Heather Aurelia @ at 8:26 am, October 3rd, 2010

    I don’t hate Katy Perry, but I do not like her music, too. This actually the first time I heard her new song, thanks for the heads up.

  • Marlene @ at 8:19 pm, January 30th, 2011

    It is really frustrating to grow up in such a culture were your teenage dream is to have irresponsible sex with a guy. At times, it becomes hard to hold your ground when the pressure from guys in your society and the media’s sureal idea of what love is…sex. I wonder to what extent is sex a role in a healthy young relationship. The pressure that guys feel from society is reflected in relationship dynamics. A new perspective is very much needed.

  • Ariel S. Lee @ at 12:12 am, July 6th, 2011

    I, too, HATE Katy Perry. I mean, hate like if she was walking down the street I’d happily run her over in my vehicle.

    I agree with you on most of these points, but I’d like to bring up something else. THE APATHY. Oh my god, “Leave her alone she’s just some innocent marketing took that writes fluffy pop songs.”


    At least if she was saying SOMETHING meaningful or relevant through her music. Even if that message was that all girls should serve husbands…yeah, I wouldn’t agree, but at least she’s standing up like a real person and saying something.

    Instead, she sells total and utter garbage, manufactured to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Someone mentioned most of her hits are written by a man– yes, it is, actually middle-aged men (which I find extremely creepy on a whole different level, Dr.Luke and Max Martin if you’d like to look them up). She just “sings” (kind of.)

    Has anyone read a KP interview? All she does in interview is talk about her breasts. In a culture that is already over-saturated with female-body-ideals, the most scintillating content Perry drags out at nearly EVERY interview is how “She prayed to God” to grow big boobs and “GOSH!” she got them!

    It literally makes me sick to my stomach. What a hideous tool, what an empty head. She’s and her PR team are playing everyone as marketing tools. Remember how fun music could still be smart, or interesting, or even political? None of hers is. Ever.

    “Fireworks” was committee-written G-rated positive thinking drivel that was then shoved in the mouth of the poor “It gets better” campaign. Why? To make money. That song in no way, shape or form has any heart or soul in the LGBTI movement. It could’ve been written by Terry Schiavo. She’s as happy taking money from the queer community as she is from rich young kids and tired middle aged adults. Money is money!

    And before people go with on with this ridiculous “slut shaming” = against Katy Perry…? Please. She’s pretending to be a pin-up girl from the 1950s, which was obviously a huge era for female rights, right? Right? OH, WAIT!

    Owning your own sexuality means YOU find what makes YOU feel sexy, not you cater to pre-set societal molds. Do you think wearing big Hershey’s kisses on her boobs is really an expression of her own personal sexuality? Or is owning your own sexuality more about having confidence, or getting a compliment, winning an argument, using a new shampoo that smells great… there are all sorts of weird, interesting, unique ways that women (and all human beings in fact) can express their own sexuality and Katy Perry is NONE of them. She belongs to the school of “managers tell me to put brightly colored things on my tits and now teenaged boys and girls will keep giving me attention and paying for my vacations and private jets!” Yes, that’s very enlightened. If there are any “feminists” that truly believe that, I’m not in your club thankfully.

    So there is my hatred of Katy Perry… not because she is the devil incarnate who burns feminists at the stake and is willingly the slave of young white males everywhere, but precisely because she is NOTHING.

    Katy Perry is, essentially, a real doll. And she opted to be that way. A women who willing sold her voice out for greed, and got everything she asked for as thanks. Kids call her “idol” and “hero.”

    Oh yeah… just to finish… someone on here said, “EVERY female pop singer doesn’t have to be a feminist..”

    Can you name ONE? On the radio today? A single one?

    No? ‘Nuff said.

  • icefox @ at 10:42 pm, July 7th, 2011

    I first started hating on Katy when I heard this song and read Jamie Keiles article: http://tinyurl.com/3oqv3su
    Later I learned to stop hating on her. But this just sticks in my mind. The only “teenage” thing I get about it is the “skintight jeans” part, because, as we know, teens love skintight jeans. But basically I hate everything about this song.

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