Every Mother's Reaction to the New Taylor Swift Video
So the new Taylor Swift video dropped two nights ago at the Billboard Music Awards, which means that all that anybody’s going to be talking about on the internet for the next couple days is the new T. Swift video, so naturally we just have to join in distracting the masses from stuff that matters. But maybe we can take this as a teachable moment, about gender roles, femininity, the collaborative process, and society’s declining standards for artistic self-expression. From the initial teaser posters plastered all over social media to the video’s bombastic, explosion-packed conclusion, it’s clear that Taylor Swift has embarked on a very elaborate and ostentatious makeover of her entire public image, which is entirely within her freedom as a financially independent adult but leaves one wondering what if anything she values in the new image over the old one. We asked a married mother of two young Swifties what she thinks of Taylor Swift’s evolution as an artist and a role model for the next generation of women. ---
I’m Misty Reeus and I’m a die-hard converted fan of Taylor Swift. Incidentally, this is the very reason why I’m so offended by the direction that Taylor has taken over the last 18 months of her career, culminating of course in the atrocious and vulgar music video released last night. After treasuring and watching all of Taylor’s previous videos a hundred times or more with my daughters Cady and Hannah (10 and 8 years old, respectively), I’m afraid I won’t be showing them the latest video by someone who has formerly been a responsible exemplar of female dignity and moral fortitude. No, Taylor Swift apparently wants to go the way of many fallen Disney Stars before her, quickly degenerating into the next Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, and other role models gone wrong. From here on out the only prescription Swiftamine that my daughters and I will be taking is the old, country-girl-next-door Taylor Swift, before the secular media and our decadent culture of carnality corrupted her from an icon of female grace into just another self-objectifying, unobtainable plastic cover girl.
Perhaps I should start by noting what the heinous video in question did really well. The whole concept of cramming a ton of “celebrities” and cultural references into one mega video is pretty brilliant from both a marketing and a creative standpoint, encouraging multiple viewings, shot-by-shot playback, and group analysis just to ensure that you’ve correctly acknowledged and identified all the bullpucky that’s happening on-screen. You’ve got a bit of the Watchmen introduction here, some leather-clad Sucker Punch-like girls there, a lot of visuals blatantly taken from Tron: Legacy, The Hunger Games training room, Leeloo from The Fifth Element, a smattering of Sin City, any Michael Bay production at the end, and a bunch of other stuff like the snow warriors or the pair in the hallway at the end that I just didn’t get because I’m a busy, stay-at-home mother and don’t have time for reading silly comic books. Every aspect of the production from the CGI to the costume design to the title graphics editing to the color palette is spectacular, and inasmuch as the purpose of “Bad Blood” was to convey a sense of hugeness and make Swift’s inaugural “King of the world” address even more overstated and boastful than that of King James Cameron himself, it has “succeeded” marvelously. The video feels massive, sometimes stupidly so with the inclusion of people who are downright obnoxious in any other context (Selena “*itches of Waverly Place” Gomez & Lena “I love Planned Parenthood because they were there when a made-up college Republican raped me” Dunham) but whose presence we’ll tolerate just this once because we’re all Swifties at heart.
It doesn’t hurt that the music is also really good. Aside from the art of Lecrae and TobyMac, I don’t know much about hip-hop and prefer to listen to more wholesome, safe-for-the-whole-family material around my daughters, but Kendrick Lamar’s first verse complements the song perfectly even if the second doesn’t really work with the musical progression, and the remix deftly avoids becoming just another Pitbull-esque guy rapper-girl singer radio jam about shaking booties and getting down on the dance floor (don’t tell my daughters that I compared Kendrick’s lyricism to Pitbull’s; they don’t think I know who either of those people are, and just between you and me Kendrick can roll all over Pitbull’s hiney any day). I think that Swift’s producers cranked the bass track up to ten for this edition, and while I tend not to like heavy programming in songs because Kendrick raps, “These beats of a dark heart use bass lines to replace you,” the whole arrangement sounds wondrously complex for an electro-pop tune.
With that said, I don’t know what the holy heck Taylor Swift was thinking when she planned this video. I know that we women aren’t supposed to criticize each other for the way we dress and yes, feminism means you should be able to wear (or not wear) whatever you want in public without being disturbed or nonconsensually approached for your apparel, but from the very first scene Taylor’s clearly pulling no punches in going for the full harlot look, and it doesn’t get much better as the video moves along and she dons several midriff-bearing outfits along with high heels and the kind of eye makeup that’s practically screaming, “Come and get it.” My daughters have always looked forward to reading the weekly People Magazine just to see what Taylor’s wearing and until now I would freely encourage them in their research, knowing that Taylor is very conscientious about the way she presents herself to society and to men whose eyes may cause them to stumble. Apparently I was wrong and Taylor has become just as promiscuous and classless about her fashion as her peers. I suppose I could have seen it coming if I had paid attention to the twerking “dancers” in “Shake It Off”, all the 1950’s bathing suits, or the Victoria’s Secret show either of the times that Taylor sang for that, but I always try to avoid watching programs that I know will feed my daughters glamorized images of unrealistically tall and skinny supermodels, clad in most unflattering attire.
To those of you who will inevitably try to shame me for shaming Taylor for shaming her fans by dressing like an s-l-u-t, why are you telling me what I can or can’t say about another person’s behavior? Why don’t you write your own letter to the Author explaining why you think that Taylor Swift’s new skintight, Sucker Punch-inspired wardrobe is a very appealing showcase for her feminine physique and should be replicated in the fashion statements of all her younger, mini-Swifts? What gives you the right in your mind to tell another person what they can write on the internet? It’s not your internet, it’s certainly not your blog, and unless you’re capable of articulating a contrary opinion as well as this article does my own, saying that I shouldn’t argue this point of view without saying why is kind of pointless and lazy and unintelligent. The greatest thing about the internet is that people can write whatever they want to on it without worrying about whether it’s the “right” thing to say; the internet is an open arena of ideas which roots out uncompetitive ideas by its nature. This is why I laugh whenever any of you interject, “Misty Reeus, Misty Reeus, you can’t say that,” because I obviously can.
A gruesome photo from the “Bad Blood” video.
Coming back to the video, I’m also disappointed that Taylor and her girlfriends think they have to fight like men in order to be equal with men. Not a single woman is present in “Bad Blood” without a weapon or an armored suit of some sort, which is just as offensive and sexist as making an action movie without a single woman in an armored suit. I think Miss Swift and her (bad) blood frenemy Gomez wanted to get the idea across that they’re not just little girls anymore and they’re playing with the big boys now (i.e. Lena and Kendrick), but did they really need to punch and kick and bazooka each other or any of their actress-model minions to make that point? Why is there a character named Mother Chucker or Cut Throat in the video? Was it really necessary to pin Ted to the wall with a knife so that teddy blood graphically spilled out of his throat? Did Taylor ever question the director about the kind of message this will send to her legions of adoring and imitating fans? Why should women act so catty and ill-tempered towards one another when history has shown us the amazing things that women can accomplish as a team? By creating a video that glorifies hostility and pugnacity over friendship and harmony and love, Swift is essentially broadcasting to all her fans a faux-girl power pablum that women need to be just as destructive and violent and mean as men to measure up to them. In reality, by making all the women in the story/trailer/porno thing as masculine and hardened as the Iron Rita from Edge of Tomorrow, Taylor has stripped the female identity of anything that made it uniquely powerful or desirable in the first place.
In the fantasy universe of Bad Blood, women can do all the things that men can do but nothing else. Gone is the elegance, the modesty, the sophistication, the youthful innocence that Taylor Swift embodied before she got the whole 1989 video series into her head (and wrote that horrible song 22), and gone are all the higher qualities that led so many girls (and a couple boys I know) to fall in love with her. Guys didn’t dream of dating Taylor Swift because she had a big sword or boxing gloves or Black Widow ninja acrobatics but because… I don’t really know why. I guess she just seemed like a really honest, relatable, kind-hearted, down-to-earthen person who respected herself and thereby made it easy for everyone else to respect her as well. By the same token, my daughters don’t look up to Taylor because they someday want to go to war or fight a bunch of comic book gladiator biker ladies. The rest of the world wouldn’t have that either, as there are only about a dozen countries which allow women to serve in military combat roles. Acknowledging that our good Lord Jesus endows women with separate skills and stations than men isn’t sexist or degrading; it’s the most empowering admission we can make.
Unfortunately, from now on the only music videos we’ll be watching in this house are vintage Taylor, the I Knew You Were Trouble goat remix, and anything by Lindsey Stirling, who has never let me down yet. Taylor has taught my girls a lot of valuable lessons about life, such as how to look more feminine by grooming and painting their faces with commercial, mass-produced cosmetics, how people shouldn’t base their self-worth on what others think about the way they look, or how one shouldn’t hesitate to discontinue a relationship that’s clearly going nowhere in the long run, but I’m afraid this video marks the end of our relationship until Taylor once again realizes she has a responsibility to set a good example for the young and impressionable Swiftie community. Some people may challenge my discretion as a parent for putting so much faith in celebrities to teach my children good manners and moral right from wrong, as if they have any sort of obligation to conduct themselves decently just because they’re public figures and a lot of people happen to hold them in very high esteem. I mean, you can’t print that! Just, no… These people also probably think I used to let my girls watch Disney Channel or its gosh-awful sitcom equivalents on Nickelodeon, but they’re dead wrong because I never let Hannah or Cady watch the Disney Channel because none of its series had any good role models.
I originally fell in love with Taylor Swift because she was different and took her job as a role model seriously, but now she’s just churning out the same vapid pornography I’ve been trying to shelter my daughters from all their lives. You’ve changed, Taylor. I don’t know you anymore. And you’re going down a path I cannot follow.
Taylor Swift's weirdest video.
Taylor Swift's best video.
Editor’s note:Despite giving room to Mrs. Reeus’ thoughtful thoughts, the Author believed the Bad Blood video was both stupid and awesome – and sometimes stupid awesome – and he enjoyed reviewing it a dozen times in the process of proofing Misty’s writing. If he had to marry Taylor Swift, though, he’d much rather marry the Taylor Swift of Red or Speak Now or Fearless than the Taylor Swift of Bad Blood, Hey. He just wishes that the real Taylor Swift would please stand up.