After a week of Twitter snakes, Taylor Swift finally released her latest single.
I’m joking. But only very, very barely.
In her new song, “Look What You Made Me Do,” Taylor Swift embraces not her snakely reputation, bestowed upon her last summer after she was proven to have lied about OKing Kanye West’s mention of her in his song “Famous,” but rather the same delicate victim narrative that has defined her career as a whole. Taylor Swift, one of the biggest stars on the planet, whose career and image is a series of finely tuned and crafted choices in the shape of a human woman, is blaming this nebulous “you” for her blighted reputation, to the point where the name of her album is, in fact, “Reputation.”
And she’s doing it in the angry-scribbles-in-my-Lisa-Frank-diary-est way imaginable.
Taylor Swift is not mad that she was exposed as a liar. She’s mad that there existed a narrative she couldn’t control. From her “squad” to her relationship with Tom Hiddleston, every public moment, every Instagram post, every pair of shoes is carefully curated and controlled down to the punctuation. It is by design wholly unclear where Taylor Swift ends and Taylor Swift™ begins—there might not be a difference anymore.
Here’s what’s disappointing about this: Taylor Swift just went through an experience where she was wronged, where she did stand up and say “this is not how you will treat me and I will do what’s right.” And we celebrated her for it. Then just a week later she’s back at it with this imaginary victim bullshit. And, yes, this is expected. Yes, this is classic Taylor, the same Taylor who sang a massively dramatic and condescending ode to Kanye West’s damaged soul after he took a microphone from her for a few seconds. Yes, this is a white woman who has repeatedly made herself the victim of a black man and his reality star wife even after they delivered receipts on a silver platter. Yes, this is a woman who embraced “feminism” but a very specific, performative and all-too-common white cis brand of it, celebrating the pussy-hatted Women’s March but never using her platform to stand up against Trump because she needed those Trump voter dollars and respect (say what you will about Katy Perry, and Taylor certainly earned a great deal of money doing just that, but she was out there fighting Trump like it was her job).
This was an opportunity, an ultimately unrealistic one, for her to go one of two directions: she could go full girl power and all that it means in 2017, supporting intersectional feminism and making a difference with her monstrous platform; or she could embrace the snake. She could go full mean girl villain. That in and of itself has its appeal, especially to the young girls who love her, who would love to have even the tiniest fraction of control over their lives as Taylor has over her own. Or, at the very least, she could have just stuck to the road oft traveled, one where she stays in her lane of lost love and twentysomething hope and hopelessness. It’s what works, it’s what she’s great at. But this world where she is trying to have her sheetcake and eat it too while continuing to learn nothing from the very real, very valid criticism of her painfully common, painfully tone deaf white feminism, this is not the image you want, Taylor. Get back to your focus groups and start from scratch.