I wrote this "Re:tuned" study about Katy Perry's 'California Gurls' for Interlinc's YLO 81. I was surprised to see them request an article about the song and then to print the study! I wonder what Ms. Perry thinks about it ...
Artist: Katie Perry
Song: California Gurls
Album: Teenage Dream
By: Kirk Moore
email@example.com (yes -- that email address works. It's my bit of humor for this article. I took a sabbatical during Lent 2006)
Humor helps us learn – it’s in the Bible, too!
Is “over the top” humor or sarcasm ever a good tool for teaching and learning? Can parody help us understand?
Katy Perry’s song, “California Gurls” is filled with so much over the top color, dress-up, sexuality and praise of beautiful women that it is difficult, if not impossible, to take it seriously. Ms. Perry appears to be trying to communicate the opposite of what the song shows. While folks will snicker or glare at lyrics like “so hot we’ll melt your popsicle” and turn away or look more closely at the vivid ‘cupcake’ scenes in the video, the song seems to communicate, through over the top humor, the shallowness of looking only at external beauty.
But isn’t humor and sarcasm and double-entendre harmful? When it hurts someone else, it definitely is, but that didn’t stop the writers of, and the people written about, in the Bible, from using sharp humor. Take a look at these examples:
1 Kings 18:27: Elijah made fun of the prophets of Baal by suggesting that their god was too busy going to the bathroom to answer them.
Matthew 7:3: Jesus poked fun at those who would try to remove a spec from their neighbor’s eye while they have a log in theirs.
John 1:46-47: Nathanael and Jesus traded ethnically-charged jabs.
Galatians 5:12: Paul went over the top with sarcasm by suggesting that the ones who were telling all the Gentiles to be circumcised in order to fulfill God’s command should simply cut the rest of their equipment off.
Sometimes the humor in the Bible is lost on us. The humor in Katy Perry’s song is likely lost on many (as evidenced by several parody versions of this parody song.) Nonetheless, the humor is there and it can help us learn and it can help us have better conversations.
Conclusion: There is biting humor present in our Bible and all throughout our culture. We don’t have to embrace everything about the humor, but we can find something to learn as we seek to better understand the humor. What have you learned from the Bible and from “California Gurls” today?