That Katy Perry song referencing Ernest Hemingway

Capture from Katy Perry's video for Ur So Gay

Ernest Hemingway is interesting for any number of reasons. Long a cultural touchstone in America and beyond, the man, his works, and the “Hemingway Myth” have infiltrated all aspects of society that they are often used (and abused) by people who have never read his writing or studied his life in depth. While I admittedly have no concrete data to back this up, I would argue that he is perhaps the most cited/referenced American author by people who have little to no idea about him.

Portrait of Ernest Hemingway in Paris 1924

In setting up this website, along with the social media for it, I looked to see what other people were posting related to the Lost Generation and was immediately deluged by posts with Hemingway quotes, often transposed over pictures of him in his later life, when the myth had already outgrown the man. The other most popular post seemed to be using his book as a prop in a very cultivated photo, often with an old man sweater, watch, cup of coffee, or other such thing. In every one of these the book looked pristine, the spine never cracked, words never absorbed. (This is meant in no way to disparage those who have a sincere interest in the man and his works, among which I count myself. Is this elitist on my part? Perhaps, but all signs indicate that Hemingway himself wasn’t one to suffer fools lightly. Would he wanted to have punch me in the face? Possibly.)

Anyway, all of this brings us to Katy Perry’s 2008 song UR So Gay. Per most of her stuff, it’s ridiculous– at least at face value –and includes a reference to her boyfriend at the time preferring to read Hemingway in the rain rather than hang out with her, which led me to think about why reference him rather than another author, which led me to think more about all of those people posting about him with little substance behind them. Just some thoughts on a topic that I’m sure I’ll delve into often on this blog. As for the content of the song, this is what Perry had to say about it when interviewed in prefix in 2008:

Katy Perry

“Every time I play that song, everybody has come back laughing. I’m not the type of person who walks around calling everything gay. That song is about a specific guy that I used to date and specific issues that he had. The song is about my ex wearing guyliner and taking emo pictures of himself in the bathroom mirror. The listeners have to read the context of the song and decide for themselves.”

Check out the official video and lyrics below. In it she goes on a website which is a clear parody of MySpace, where she finds this full-of-himself guy. Among his pictures are him with a quote of Hemingway underneath (see above) – exactly what I’ve been talking about! Seems like he has long been a go-to for people trying to show how deep they are online.

Video for Katy Perry’s 2008 song UR So Gay

I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf
While jacking off listening to Mozart
You bitch and moan about LA
Wishing you were in the rain reading Hemingway
You don’t eat meat
And drive electrical cars
You’re so indie rock it’s almost an art
You need SPF 45 just to stay alive

You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like boys
You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like

You’re so sad maybe you should buy a happy meal
You’re so skinny you should really Super Size the deal
Secretly you’re so amused
That nobody understands you
I’m so mean cause I cannot get you outta’ your head
I’m so angry cause you’d rather MySpace instead
I can’t believe I fell in love with someone that wears more makeup than

You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like boys
You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like

You walk around like you’re oh so debonair
You pull ’em down and there’s really nothing there
I wish you would just be real with me

You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like boys
You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like

Oh no no no no no no no

You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like boys
You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like

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