I don’t keep up a lot with celebrity gossip, and I’m not invested in any of it. I get a general idea of almost everything happening in Hollywood from Twitter. I like short, synthesized summaries and occasional links to articles on the off chance something isn’t explained to my satisfaction in 140 characters. So as someone that doesn’t follow Taylor Swift – or any celebrity for that matter – very closely, I could be completely off base. But yesterday as the hot takes and hysterical tweets from both her stans and detractors flooded my timeline, I realized something.
If you’ve never watched Gossip Girl, it’s the story of young rich kids from New York’s Upper East Side with the occasional “middle class” kid from Brooklyn thrown into the mix to keep things interesting and highlight how exorbitantly wealthy everyone else was. It follows the ridiculous soap-opera level betrayal and drama from high school to college. I suspect that rewatching it at the age of 23, it would seem predictable and stupid, but at the time it always kept you guessing.
The two main characters of the series were best frenemies Blair Waldorf and Serena Van Der Woodsen. Blair Waldorf was the ruthless, elitist, life-ruining C U Next Tuesday that was easy to hate, and made no apologies for it. Serena Van Der Woodsen was the happy-go-lucky blonde that liked to think of herself as kind and down to earth because she hooked up with kids that didn’t have trust funds. On the surface, she was much more likable than Blair. But any viewer with an IQ above that of a toaster knew that Blair was better than Serena because she was honest about who she was. Serena always found a way to become the victim. No matter how blatantly wrong her course of action was or how obviously responsible she was for what happened, we were supposed to feel bad for her and find someone else to blame.
So following the teasers of Taylor Swift’s new album I realized two things. First, I realized that Taylor Swift is Serena Van Der Woodsen. I also realize that for a long time, she made music for victims. I thought about how much I listened to her in middle school and high school and my mentality back then. I realize that while I don’t care about who she dates or how many people she dates, I haven’t heard a single song where she takes any responsibility for anything that goes wrong in her life romantically or otherwise. But back to the issue at hand.
A quick recap for any grown straight man that may be reading this that still has no idea what I’m talking about. Last year, Kanye West released “Famous.” A line in the song sparked controversy.
I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous
According to Kim and Kanye, Kanye brought the lyric to her attention before the song was released and she approved it. In a series of videos that Kim released on Snapchat it appeared that Taylor Swift was completely on board with it, and even vowed to back him up knowing that the line would cause controversy. Taylor Swift fans argued that the videos were manipulatively edited. But instead of backing him up as she said she would, she played the victim card. She stood before us in an acceptance speech and positioned herself as a feminist icon who’s accomplishments were being undermined yet again by big bad Kanye. After Kim releasing the videos it was as if she was wearing a scarlet S for snake. On everything she posted online there were dozens and dozens (maybe hundreds and hundreds?) of snake emoji comments, leading to her eventual social media black out. And like Serena, she fled the scene when the kitchen got too hot for her. She comes back this summer, posting videos of snakes and as her fan base jumps to conclusions about what this means, I can’t help but become annoyed. Once again, Taylor Swift is the victim.
Second, I realized that Taylor Swift is Beyonce. The Beyonce effect is something I articulated during the primaries of Election 2016. It’s when you come to hate something not because of the thing itself, but the thing’s fans. Think of crossfit. Think of veganism. Policy aside, Marco Rubio is actually a very likable person. But between his supporters that acted like he was the second coming of Jesus and like everyone that didn’t like him was a hypocrite and a liar, I hated him with a passion between September of 2015 well into the summer of 2016. Before any Lil Marco alum get in their feelings, I acknowledge that there were people like this behind every major candidate, including my boy Teddy. Cult like followings are both a blessing and a curse to celebrities, because they provide an impenetrable core of support but their rabid, obsessive tendencies tend to turn otherwise indifferent people against whoever the celebrity is.
Taylor Swift kind of reminds me of vanilla ice cream. It’s good. It’s basic. Most people like it, but some people don’t. But seeing hoards of people online so obsessed with vanilla ice cream is off putting, and starts making me question the ice cream itself.
I’m looking forward to listening to Taylor Swift’s next album, and have confidence that there will be at least one or two bangers. Her fan base could be entirely wrong, and this album could have nothing to do with her Kimye beef or her general victim routine. But if she really wants to shock the world she should name her next album “Responsibility.”