Pop Takes on Sci-fi

Our group came across the realization that pop artists have used sci-fi and speculative fiction elements in some of their most popular music videos. We began to ask, “why would pop artists use sci-fi and speculative fiction themes for their music videos?” I came to the conclusion that the artists use the sic-fi and speculative fiction elements in their videos as an entertaining way to promote social change and get their songs’ stories across. We chose to cover four different music videos from four different artists. We reviewed the videos for Katy Perry’s E.T., Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, Ellie Goulding’s Powerful, and Justin Bieber’s Children.

Katy Perry, in E.T., is recreated and made up to look like an alien. She is seen roaming a dark, desolate, post-apocolyptic looking planet. The main point of this video is to portray a love story, and in this case the love story is between an alien Katy Perry and a robot. Aliens and robots are not of the same “race.” This connects to her lyrics “They say be afraid. You’re not like the others, futuristic lovers. Different DNA, they don’t understand you. You’re from a whole other world.”(Perry) Katy Perry is using sic-fi terms to sneak in issues regarding interracial relationships. People may be critical of these relationships, but Katy’s message expresses that these relationships are often misunderstood, and that all races and relationships should be treated equally. If Katy Perry outright expressed these issues without any sic-fi elements, her lyrics and music video would lack in their creativity and excitement.

I found huge connections between Katy Perry’s E.T. and Major Lazer’s Powerful. Like E.T., Powerful’s manor theme is love. The romantic relationship is between an African American male and a caucasian woman. The relationship in E.T. gives the couple so much power that their love is able to light up the whole dark planet they were on. Similarly, the relationship in Powerful gifts the couple with special powers. They are able to control surrounding objects with their minds. This use of science and speculative fiction in the music video allows for a literal portrayal of the “power” that love can give to a couple. Rather than just talking about the “power” love creates, the figurative power can be seen through their supernatural powers. In Fledging, love is extremely powerful, for each person in the relationship becomes responsible to keeping the other alive. Also, the relationships in Fledging cross all boundaries of race, gender, or age.  These artists are expressing the power love can create and how love should not be discriminated against.

Lady Gaga created Born This Way to serve as inspiration for everyone to stay true to who they are and love their selves, despite gender, race, class, or sexual preferences. At one point Lady Gaga and a male are both depicted to be skeletons. This shows that within everyone is simply a skeleton, we are all the same underneath and nothing else should matter. I truly feel Kamala Kahn in Ms. Marvel: No Normal would have loved this song. Kamala’s main issue is accepting herself and finding confidence in who she is. Kamala’s race, religion, and appearance cause her to doubt herself and envy others. Lady Gaga’s music video may appear hectic and random at first glance, but underneath all the craziness is tons of symbolism. Lady Gaga wrote and created the video herself, and took pride in expressing the message of “loving yourself” in a dramatic and eye-catching video.

Justin Bieber’s Children, features an extremely diverse cast of young kids. Children are usually seen as innocent and ignorant victims, yet this song turns towards children as the future generation who is the “visionary for a change.” (Bieber) The children in the video are exposed to a screen which features videos of injustices around the world. As these are just children, they often will break down in the video, looking scared, hurt, or upset. But, between any break downs they put on brave faces and unite together. When they unite together their dancing takes on an empowered fighting feel.

Justin Bieber’s Children, had to have been my favorite music video to study. It reminded me a lot of Big Hero 6, in the fact that the cast was young people and their drive to become super heroes and fight was because of past social injustices that affected them. In Big Hero 6, Hiro, like these children in the music video, often gets emotional and looks like he gives up hope but then continues to fight for the greater good. This music video also reminds me a lot of the Hunger Games, as it is also young people who becomes catalysts for change. Children puts emphasis on the importance of children, for they are the future generation and their power can be used for the greater good.

In conclusion, pop artists use sic-fi and speculative elements for a few different reasons. They use them to take the harsh edge off of serious issues. They also use them to make their lyrics or videos more relatable to mass audiences, by using common sci-fi tropes. They also use them to simply make their videos more entertaining and dramatic.

Works Cited

Big Hero 6. Walt Disney, 2015. DVD.

Butler, Octavia. Fledgling. New York: Grand Central, 2005. 306. Print.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Justin Bieber. Children. 2015. YouTube. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Katy Perry. E.T. N.d. YouTube. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Lady Gaga. Born This Way. N.d. YouTube. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Major Lazer Feat. Ellie Goulding. Powerful. N.d. YouTube. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Wilson, G. Willow, and Adrian Alphona. Ms. Marvel: No Normal. New York, NY: Marvel Worldwide, 2014. Print.


Final Presentation-Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction Themes in Pop Videos

Jillian Valdes, Kaitlyn Klepper, Ashley Berry, Catherine Kearns

Why do you think pop artists use sci-fi/speculative fiction themes in music videos?

Watch the following music videos and listen to the lyrics and pick up on any themes that we have discussed so far in class. Also attempt to find connections with real-world issues.

E.T. by Katy Perry

Born This Way by Lady Gaga

Powerful by Major Lazer (ft. Ellie Goulding & Tarrus Riley)

Children by Justin Bieber

Ms. Marvel

Kamala: Captain America…Iron Man…Captain Marvel?! You speak Urdu?

Captain Marvel: We are faith. We speak languages of beauty and hardship.

Kamala: Okay then. I am totes hallucinating. I must be ultra drunk. 

Iron Man: You are seeing what you need to see. You stand at a crossroads.

Captain America: You thought that if you disobeyed your parents–your culture, your religion– your classmates would accept you. What happened instead?

Kamala: They–they laughed at me.

Zoe thought that because I snuck out, it was okay for her to make fun of my family. Like, Kamala’s finally seen the light and kicked the dumb inferior brown people and their rules to the curb.

(page 16)

This is the point of the story where Kamala is the most confused; Captain America, Captain Marvel, and Iron Man approach Kamala amidst the mysterious fog in order to teach her some sort of lesson. Kamala is leaving the party she disobeyed her parents in order to attend at this point of the story. The fact that the superheroes “speak Urdu”, an Indo-Aryan language, is said to be because they are “faith,” meaning they have trust in being a savior to this language full of “hardship.” Kamala may not see her language, culture, and religion as beautiful, but her biggest role models do.

Iron Man tells Kamala that she is “seeing what [she] need[s] to see.” This is important because at this point the readers get this sense that the superheroes come to Kamala in order to open her eyes to the beauty of her culture and religion that she does not see. Kamala envies her white classmates for being white, she feels her own identity is “complicated” and she is embarrassed with all aspects of her culture.

As Captain America comments, Kamala felt that her classmates would “accept” her if she disobeyed her parents, her culture, and religion. It is important to note Captain America’s accusatory expression at this point, he looks disappointed with Kamala and Kamala looks frightened, upset, and embarrassed as she expresses that her classmates were not accepting of her, they instead just laughed at her. Kamala attempted to ditch all aspects that make her who she is in order to be accepted, rather than just embracing who she was, and she is now realizing how much of a failure this was. Her disobeying allowed for Zoe to feel like she could make fun of Kamala’s family and people, seeing as Kamala was so quick to not defend them and to disobey them. Kamala has not fully realized at this point in the comic book. that being embarrassed of her culture, religion, and family allows for others to walk over these things and see them as inferior.

“Protected Entity” -Daniel José Older

“Calhoun screams and I realize that Riley has made himself visible. I guess once you’ve tossed the rulebook out, you might as well go all the way.

“You’ve caused a lot of problems,” Riley says.

“Jesus, what are you?”

“It’s not about me. Maybe if you’d spent more time studying your own people

before you came studying mine, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“I—I don’t understand!”

“I think you do, but I’ll let it slide. Imma need you to do me a favor, though,

Mr. Calhoun.”


“Put some of that degree’d-up intellect of yours into dealing with your shit,”

Riley says, “and move out.””

(pg. 228)

The story comes to a close with Riley murdering John Calhoun’s great grandfather’s ghost, despite his being a protected entity. Therefore, Riley goes against the council and his duties as a ghost detective are stripped away. Jose is an orderly rule-follwing sort of man, whereas Riley has more of a quick temper which is exemplified through his use of curse words and his willingness to kill this ghost. At this point, Riley points out that Calhoun should have studying his “own people” versus Riley’s “people.” Riley is an African American male whereas Calhoun is a white male. Calhoun is a white male who has chosen to live amongst all people of color and has chosen to study African culture. He stands for this trend of white people whom are eager to assimilate to and learn about black culture, yet they often fail to own up to the wrongs that white people have imposed onto minorities all throughout history. Calhoun is called out for never acknowledging his family’s history of enslaving people of color. Riley is so fed up with people like Calhoun that he risks his own life in order to save the lives of people of color. Jose acts as more of a bystander during this exchange, maybe because he doesn’t directly feel the hurt as much as Riley does. This exchange has a lot to do with the pain that Riley feels of people of color being wronged by white people throughout history. Riley telling Calhoun to “move out” is his final stand against white people walking over people of color. This moment is crucial because it gives Riley power over this white man.