Katy Perry has a recent trend toward elaborate and cartoonish cultural appropriation that hasn’t exactlyendeared her to members of those communities. She was called out after performing “Unconditionally” at the AMAs with a regressive representation of Japanese culture, and now finds herself even deeper in controversy over a scene in her new video for “Dark Horse.”
A movement has built on Twitter—and spilled over to a Change.org petition with over 15,000 signatures—to have the video banned on YouTube because of a scene where a man wearing a chain with the Arabic spelling of “Allah” on it disintegrates into dust.
You can see it happening clearly in the video below if you know what you’re looking for. At the 1:15 mark, Perry zaps a man with lightning. He is wearing two chains (let’s assume that in itself is not symbolism), both of which are easily recognizable: One, over the center of his chest, is the logo of Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group. The second, to the viewer’s left, is the Arabic word for Allah.
Western depictions of Islam have a long history of being viewed as disrespectful by Muslims, and though the sight of the word “Allah” burning may not escalate up to death threats against Perry—who may not even be aware that it occurs in her video—a la South Park, it’s certainly an argument for the hazards of viewing other cultures as themes.