Katy Perry is a Grammy-winning singer, ridiculously wealthy, an icon for millions of young girls, and an object of obsession for a lot of young men. But not for 19-year-old Benjamin Glaze of Enid, Oklahoma who recently auditioned before Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan for a spot on the rebooted American Idol television program.
“Have you kissed a girl and liked it?” asked Mr. Bryan, making a coy reference to Ms. Perry’s first hit single, “I Kissed a Girl.” Mr. Glaze said that he had not. “I have never been in a relationship and I can’t kiss a girl without being in a relationship.”
At that, Ms. Perry stood up. “Come here,” she said to Mr. Glaze. “Come here right now.”
Ms. Perry motioned for him to come over to the judges’ table and stuck her face toward him. “One on the cheek?” he said and she smiled. He quickly touched his face to her cheek. She asked for another kiss, complaining that he hadn’t even made the “smush sound.” As he moved toward her cheek again, Ms. Perry swung her face toward him and kissed him quickly on the lips. “Katy!” he yelled, as he stumbled backward. “You didn’t!” Ms. Perry raised her arms in victory.
In a simpler time, perhaps this would be looked at as an unfortunate misunderstanding, an attempt to be cute and funny that accidentally fell flat. But in our era, there are far more complicated themes we now are faced with:
- In an era of gender equality, we have to ask how this act would have been perceived if Luke Bryan had done this to a 19-year-old innocent female.
- In an era of consciousness towards power dynamics we have to question the implications of a wealthy celebrity who holds the power to literally make this aspiring star’s dreams come true leveraging that disparity into an unwanted romantic advance.
- In an era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, we have to ask if this is not a miniature manifestation of the “casting couch” of Hollywood coming to life on our TVs.
Whether or not you and I think his disillusionment is overwrought and his frustration is warranted is completely immaterial in an age where we automatically defer to all who claim to be victims of sexual aggression (though as a bit of good news for Ms. Perry, Glaze has stated he doesn’t think her act rose to the level of harassment).
In all honesty, with as many “Dude you’re so lucky!” comments that will surface about this scene, I do feel badly for Mr. Glaze who obviously feels as though something has been taken from him unjustly and without his consent. And I would be surprised if Katy Perry doesn’t feel badly about that too.
But if we claim to be living in a liberated era of sexual dignity and respect, and if Katy Perry is going to publicly portray herself as a champion of this new enlightenment, she can’t object to the criticism she is getting for this.