Pop For Skeptics: Why Are Music Videos So Obsessed with Fairy Tales?

Once upon a time, pop stars used to be just like us. But then at some point — probably during their impressionable youth, while the rest of us were stuck in SAT prep classes — they were whisked away to an enchanted world of pop superstardom. It was the promised land of excess and beauty, where everything is magical all of the time. Louboutin heels served as glass slippers; award ceremony afterparties as fancy balls; black limousines as horse-drawn pumpkin carriages; and hunky A-listers as Prince Charmings. Yet it’s an open secret that when most of these pretty young things got sucked into the vortex of pop, they also found themselves having to grow up overnight. While they shirked the banalities of roommates bugging them about the ConEd bill, pop stars found themselves entangled with the messier parts of becoming an adult too soon: contracts, scores of people relying on them to make piles of money, and grueling hours that most of us probably only begin to reckon with as adults.

So it makes a lot of sense that some of the biggest stars in pop have, at one time or another, have employed fairy tale motifs in their music videos — what other trope could so evocatively represent the difference between who they used to be and who they are now? In addition to providing a venue to meditate about who they have become, these children’s stories allow pop stars to reconnect with that younger, perhaps forsaken version of themselves. Perhaps that explains why the fairy-tale music video trend pervades popular music across cultural, geographical, and musical divides. After the jump, we explore some rock and pop stars’ kitschiest fairy tale fantasies — many of which harbor curiously dark messages about coming of age.

Katy Perry, “Wide Awake” (2012)

Katy Perry is just the latest pop star to cash in on tropes inspired by The Wizard of Oz and Alice In Wonderland. In the video for “Wide Awake,” Perry ends up tapping into her inner child during a weaker moment in her adult life. It’s a theme that finds her character navigating a hedge maze with this young girl, who ends up clearing some major obstacles for her — like slaying a couple minotaurs — and giving her the strength to punch out Prince Charming, an obvious reference to her split with Russell Brand. Ultimately, the singer and her inner child part ways and there is the grand a-ha! moment that finds Perry is in her dressing room, buoyed by this ability to connect to a more fearless version of herself.