There’s a Very Good Reason Why Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” Video Is Set in Ancient Egypt

At first glance, Katy Perry’s latest music video, the Egypt-themed fantasy “Dark Horse,” seems to bear little resemblance to actual Egyptian history — but you might want to look twice. The clip’s director says there’s good reason for the Egyptian references, and prominent Egyptologists say that reason is good enough for them.

“[Perry] said that there’s actually a place in Egypt called Memphis, and she thought it was so interesting that Juicy J is from Memphis, Tenn.,” explains director Mathew Cullen. “She basically came to me and said, ‘I want to do something Egyptian and I want to combine it with Memphis hip-hop.’ That’s music to my ears — when an artist has a couple concepts that they want to mash up to create something fresh.”

Cullen says that while there was no on-site Egyptologist involved in the Los Angeles video shoot, they researched the period online to better “respect the symbolism” while having fun. Though Perry has been criticized for appropriating the symbols and images of other cultures — and has been under attack for “Dark Horse” for the same reasons — Cullen says he believes that while it’s dangerous to rip things directly from modern cultures without adding anything to them, ancient Egypt is part of what he calls our “shared collective mythology.”

“We’re only here because we build on the stories of every human being since the beginning of mankind,” he says. “The most important thing is that when you create something, and this is actually something Katy and I worked to do — you bring a new spin to it.”

And as it so happens, Perry and Cullen (who also directed the “California Gurls” video) did a pretty good job building on those stories.