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Taylor Swift Needs To Calm Down

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift called out a new Netflix show for a joke that claimed one of the characters “go[es] through men faster than Taylor Swift.”

“Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back. How about we stop degrading hard working women by defining this horse sh-t as FuNnY. Also, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn’t look cute on you. … Happy Women’s History Month I guess,” Swift tweeted on Monday. The tweet immediately generated a rush of creative headlines about Swift “call[ing] out” the streaming platform.

Federalist Staff Editor Madeline Osburn and Culture Editor Emily Jashinsky discuss the incident below.

Emily Jashinsky: Swift is right that the joke is lazy, but is it “sexist”?

Madeline Osburn: Is it sexist if it’s true? Just kidding. The joke is lazy since Swift has had a long-term, serious boyfriend since 2017, making the trope very old, as she pointed out. Although it is absolutely true in that her early albums invoked a different boy’s name on every track. Why is it “deeply sexist” to point that out? Or sexist to say a hopeless romantic teenage girl likes dating lots of boys?

Her response here seems super defensive, to the point of an overaction, which is also probably a sexist thing to say. It’s very on-brand for Swift, who often plays the victim card, but especially when it comes to misogyny. She wrote a whole song about her oppression as a woman on her 2019 album called “The Man,” in which she laments, “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can, wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man.” Other defensive songs addressed at her haters like “Mean” and “Shake It Off” sound like Swift has some chip on her shoulder about femininity and womanhood, as if they’ve kept her from success. If anything, her many songs about boys have done the opposite.

EJ: “The Man” is truly a terrible song, and this is coming from a lifelong fan of the Indigo Girls. I have no problem with artists exploring sexism, but like so much pop art in the woke era, Swift’s takes are facile and cliched. She’s a good storyteller but she’s not an interesting cultural observer. It’s sad to me because she’s wasting her genuine talent by trying to channel it into an ill-fitting mold. On top of that, her mediocre music and politics are celebrated by the legacy media, which provides no incentive for her or any other celebrity to actually be better.

The same jokes are made about men like Leonardo DiCaprio cycling through girlfriends. As you pointed out, she legitimately did cycle through a ton of dudes back in the day, so it’s not so much “deeply sexist” as it is outdated. She’s right about that. You’re also totally right that her different songs about different boys resonated and made her a lot of money, giving her the platform she’s using to denounce the jokes pointing it out now.

On a broader level, I think Swift’s tweet about Netflix and her fans’ reaction to it speaks to the entertainment media’s overcorrection from the mid-aughts blogging days of people like Perez Hilton and the paps that chased Britney Spears. Celebrities are using wokeness to demand nerfy treatment from the culture. Why is the press uncritically swallowing the demand for protection from our most powerful people?

MO: The thing that is most annoying about celebrities and their tendency to use wokeness as a crutch is that it’s so easy to do. Anytime a celebrity “speaks out” on an issue, it’s always in lockstep with the beliefs of Hollywood and progressive elites, and yet the media reaction is to laud them as “stunning and brave.” An actual brave thing to say as a celebrity is something like “abortion is murder” or “boys and girls are different.” It almost seems lazy of Swift to get those sweet fan retweets by going for the low-hanging fruit like responding to a bad joke as sexist.

A bigger problem with entertainment news media is that for the most part, aside from something like the saga of Lady Gaga’s dognappers, is that it’s very boring. A majority of E! News stories are what one celebrity commented on another celebrity’s Instagram post. Or how one celebrity “clapped back” at a random internet troll in their comment section. So I don’t know if it’s so much the press protecting powerful people like Swift, as much as it is them just constantly having to react to or regurgitate every time a celebrity sneezes on social media.

EJ: Fair point, they do reflexively fall into the clapback-clickbait, which gives celebrities incentives to engage in these performative social media exchanges. Chrissy Teigen’s constant fawning media coverage is a good illustration of this. I guess my counterpoint to your argument would be that it’s protective in the sense that journalists, whether they cover politics or entertainment, are the fourth estate. They exist to hold powerful people accountable, not run press releases for them, even if the outlet is Teen Vogue. Sure, the incentives are different because politics and entertainment news consumers are different, and that also differs from outlet to outlet. But Swift is wrong, and she’s using her position of power to shape our cultural norms to fit her vapid personal ideology.

The incentives for celebrities to gripe like Swift did are creating a really pathetic class of artists who have little motivation to subvert groupthink because they don’t even realize the politics they think are edgy are actually just elite corporate leftism. It’s bad for our culture.

MO: That is sad but true. What’s worse is that even if our media were to do better, we still live in a world where rabid Swift fans got #RespectTaylorSwift trending on Twitter. I guess that means until we have more Lana Del Reys and fewer Taylor Swifts in our class of artists, there will always be an audience for elite corporate leftism.

EJ: I’ll let you have the last word, mostly because it confirmed my opinion, which was brilliant, as usual.