Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Trouble with Taylor...

I'm a terrible person. I knew I hadn't updated this blog for a while, but... sheesh! I didn't realise it had been that long! (I am working on future Princess books, which leaves me less time for blogging...)

But if anything can bring me out of hibernation, it's Taylor Swift. I have been agog since the first snakes began creeping across social media, and since #LWYMMD dropped I have been obsessed. It's just so FUN to see Taylor turn into the ice-cold bitch princess we've always known she could be. (And I mean this in the nicest possible way.)

For someone tall, slim and pretty enough to be a model, Taylor has always been something of an underdog in the public eye. That might sound a strange word to describe someone who has been phenomenally successful since her teens, but her "perfect" life seems to be the very reason people hate her. No matter what Taylor does, she gets criticised for it. Crossing over from country to pop (and mastering both)? Ooh, we weren't sure about that. We like people to stay in their boxes. Dating lots of men? Time to slut-shame! (Never mind that the men in question were also known for their well-publicised love lives.) When people laughed at Taylor's dancing, she good-humouredly made a video showing herself dancing badly in LOTS of different ways, but that got her slammed for racism.

Weird how a million other white singers have made similar videos without 
anybody noticing / caring about the racial politics of dancing or dressing in this tyle...

She got into more trouble a year later with her Wildest Dreams video; shooting in Africa with storyline centred around a retro movie set became "romanticising colonialism".The fact that some of the "actors" milling about in the background WERE black suggests that the videomakers were deliberately trying to avoid excluding people of colour, but it wasn't enough. 

Meanwhile in a One Direction video released around the time of Shake It Off:

Nobody cared about the cultural appropriation of Niall dressing up and joining in with a tribal dance, or the inexplicableness of Zayn chucking yellow paint over sumo wrestlers. So why does Taylor get picked on? Why is she always held to a higher standard than other superstars?

Perhaps it's the idea that people who are pretty and clever and popular shouldn't get to be happy and successful. We're sold the idea that the high school nerd will become the next Bill Gates, that the ugly duckling will become a swan. If someone appears to have been a swan right from the start, it's tempting to pick holes in them. Oh, Taylor has lots of hot boyfriends? Well she can't hold onto them! (Here's a thought – maybe she didn't want to.) Taylor has lots of friends? Well, calling them a "squad" is racist. (Let's ignore all the times other people say "#squadgoals" with literally zero backlash.)

We can't even comfort ourselves with the idea that she's just a manufactured pop puppet, because she writes her own songs and according to LWYMMD video director Joseph Kahn, takes an active role in the planning of her videos too: "These are true collaborations... We talk about every shot, we discuss every set-up as we’re doing it and there’s nothing that happens without literally both of us putting our brains together about it.”

But that's another problem for critics – Taylor unashamedly uses her own life for inspiration, so if you're involved with her, you're likely to find parts of your story written into her lyrics. But isn't this what every great artist does? When BeyoncĂ©'s husband cheated on her, she took the lemons of her own misery and literally made Lemonade from it. Taylor is doing the same thing in turning her feuds with Katy Perry and Kimye into the most deliciously bitchy comeback single EVAH. 

A Regina George in Katy Perry's clothing?

Taylor Swift was "exposed" by Kim Kardashian last year, although looking back it seems it was more a case of her leaving out some details (ie that Kanye had called her to talk about the song) rather than an actual lie, because there is no evidence that she knew about the "bitch" lyric. Kim described how Taylor had been totally on board, gleefully looking forward to telling the media that she had been in on it the whole time (which DOES sound very much like something Taylor would say) but then denied all knowledge when the song actually dropped. Kim waited until "snake day" to post the now-classic snapchat video, Taylor's denials suddenly seemed shady, and with her reputation in tatters, she was declared officially dead.

And this is why her comeback has struck such a chord. She proves that there's no mistake you can't come back from, no insult you can't turn to your advantage. If you call her a snake she'll make them the central theme of her comeback and make herself QUEEN of the snakes. If you call her a mean girl she'll sample music from the movie and make fun of lyrics you wrote about her (karma and receipts, anyone?) Like an expert in Judo, she uses her opponents strength against them and she SLAYS.

Of course, that doesn't stop critics pulling apart her new single(s) – this article sums up some of the harshest barbs. But guys, you know that Taylor isn't taking any of this seriously, right? If LWYMMD has proven anything, it's that this girl has a wicked sense of humour.

I feel sorry for the haters, not just because they are so full of negativity whish spews out at regular intervals, but because they're doomed to listen to music they hate, or avoid radios for at least the next fifty years – Taylor isn't going anywhere.