Taylor Swift Did Something Bad - For The Wrong Reasons
“Pulling a Taylor Swift” is a term/phrase I’ve affectionately coined throughout casual discussion with my friends and in my podcast, AP Marvel. It means to problematically abstain or remain neutral as a business tactic. Similar to how Iron Man 2 embodied Disney’s neutral stance on American warfare and the military industrial complex, Taylor Swift remained silent during the 2016 presidential selection in order to prevent alienating a political side of her fanbase.
In the wake of Taylor Swift’s endorsement of Tennessee Senator Phil Bresdesen and Representative Jim Cooper via Instagram, it seems like “pulling a Taylor Swift” is no longer a relevant phrase I can use. Or is it? Let’s analyze the post that sparked “65,000 registrations in a single 24-hour period," as stated by Kamari Guthrie, director of communications for Vote.org, to Buzzfeed News.
In her first paragraph, Swift clearly states her beliefs in order to dispel those who used her as a white supremacist figurehead. Previously, Swift’s political silence, distinctly American lifestyle – i.e. all of her friends were white, and cultural insensitivities prompted white supremacists to cite her as an “Aryan goddess”, according to NPR. Swift then admits her reluctance to speak out politically and how she “feel[s] very differently about that now,” yet remains true to her own values, stating that “I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country.”
“Human rights” is a loaded word she throws into her post, using the broad definition before going into her specific views on LGBTQ rights, discrimination, and racism – the former of which felt like a given, the latter two carrying more of a personal tie to her career due to the whitewashing and appropriation incidents stemming from her music videos, “Wildest Dreams” and “Shake It Off.” Each sentence is firm, clear-cut, and succinct, yet is written in a calculated way that still carries the weight of her own opinion. Her views are still her own, and it will be extremely hard for anyone to get Swift to change her mind.
The second paragraph of her post is the longest, where Swift chooses to go into more detail about Tennessee Senate candidates Marsha Blackburn and Phil Bredesen and Tennessee House candidate Jim Cooper. She acknowledges her own regrets of not being able to fully support having more women in office before offering a detailed history (for an Instagram post) about Blackburn’s political voting record. However, her case and political appeals would have been stronger if she had also mentioned Bredesen and Cooper’s own political beliefs, pushing forward a problematic black & white mentality of politics and support.
Within her first sentence, Swift pushes forward this stark black & white, or “burn it all down” mentality that is a horrifyingly large problem in politics today. It is a “you’re with us or you’re against us” mindset that became more widespread after the 2016 presidential election, leading to relationships, communities, and families torn apart by political beliefs. It also spreads within news coverage, with Democrats and Republicans painted as firmly good or evil. This mentality is not new, but the political divide has become much deeper and wider since 2016. Swift’s neglect to discuss more about Bredesen and Cooper’s beliefs in her post prevents the young voters she’s inspiring an opportunity from “educat[ing] yourself on the candidates running in your state,” adding an unnecessary crack in the already-colossally deep political divide.
There’s only one key element in her third paragraph to analyze, and that is the date she advertises: Oct. 9, the last day to register to vote in Tennessee. Swift made this post on Oct. 8, which raises the question: why not earlier?
This is a question that plagues Taylor Swift’s entire history with political activism. Why didn’t she speak out about the 2016 presidential election? Why didn’t she speak at or about women’s marches? Why didn’t she speak out during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, especially since sexual assault was such an important issue to a former victim like herself that she would sue a radio host for a dollar over it just to make a point?
The world has finally cornered Taylor Swift into a place where taking a political stance was not just the only move she could make, but the best move she could make. Swift met with not just media attention, but also relieved reactions from the fans who questioned her silence. Fans talk about how Taylor Swift is reclaiming her political narrative from the white supremacists who painted her as their American sweetheart.
Quite honestly, I have little doubt that the beliefs that Swift posted about on Instagram are her true ones. It is simply convenient that her beliefs fall in line with the Democratic beliefs of Hollywood and a slightly more substantial portion of her fans. In the grand scheme of things, Taylor Swift’s political beliefs don’t matter. In a survey about celebrity opinion conducted by The Hollywood Reporter, 58 percent of individuals across the United States were not interested in the political and social opinions of celebrities, with only nine percent of respondents strongly interested in what celebrities have to say. In fact, it is more impactful for celebrities to voice their opinions on “universal issues with bipartisan appeal.”
What we should really be asking is “why.” Why is she supporting Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper? Why is she choosing to voice this opinion to her fans? Swift urges us to “vote based on who most closely represents your values”, and we as a public have had little context to what these values are and why they matter to her, making us question why what she says should matter.
In the last sentence of Swift’s second paragraph, she states that “For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway.” Swift also suffers from this same ordeal. While Swift doesn’t want to entirely voice her political beliefs, she must speak anyway. Unfortunately, as much as she tries to hide it, she is not speaking for the right reasons.