Taylor Swift's newest video for her single "You Need To Calm Down" is a star-studded affair. The video features more than 20 prominent figures within the queer community like Ellen DeGeneres, Laverne Cox, and Toddrick Hall among others. And while it's great to see so many LGBTQ+ artists in one music video for an admittedly catchy song, it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Taylor Swift has voiced her support for the LGBTQ+ community on more than one occasion recently and while having someone so famous and well-respected in your corner can really help your cause, this video made me feel like Taylor was not voicing her genuine support of the queer community but rather indulging in the straight savior complex and trying to insert herself in the narrative as if to say, "Look at me! I'm woke! I love the gays!"
As I said, the song itself, while not entirely my thing, is catchy and fun. It's upbeat and sends a positive message with Taylor essentially saying it's none of your business who "we" choose to love. The issue with the concept of "we" in this case is that Taylor Swift, who has, until relatively recently not seemed too invested in LGBTQ+ issues wants to be included in a group of minorities in which she frankly doesn't belong. And like I said before, I do feel like her support of the community is real and rooted in kindness, there are better ways for her to show support than a flashy, almost exploitive, music video.
To me, the video also came at the wrong time. Dropping in June which is Pride month, makes it seem like Swift is trying to create a new gay anthem, a song that not only showcases her support of the community but also gets her a little pat on the back for being a good ally.
That feels, at least to me, like performance allyship. It feels like Taylor Swift is using the influence of queer icons like Tan France, Billy Porter, and Hayley Kiyoko to make herself look good. It looks as if Taylor is slapping queer icon after queer icon into this video for as little as three seconds not because she wants to showcase the existence of the LGBTQ+ community but because she knows that it will look good on her and draw an audience and subsequently make her money.
The thing is, Taylor Swift is a brand, she's a business and that's what businesses do, they pander to the LGBTQ+ community when it will look good on them for "supporting" a minority group. And like any other business, I won't be surprised to see Taylor Swift go from trying to make the world's next gay anthem to being silent for the next 11 months of the year.
And I know that it may seem like I'm being way too critical of a silly music video for some pop song but it really did rub me the wrong way. It's easy to take it at face value and say wow, she essentially did a service to the community by including our icons in a video but when you really look at it, it's not as simple as that.
Take the villains of the video, for example, a bunch of homophobic protesters, all of whom look like they've just emerged from some backwater stereotypical hillbilly town. They've all got long, greasy hair, yellowing teeth, and are wearing the same trucker caps and stained white tank tops. This in and of itself is perpetuating a harmful belief. While often times when we think about closed-minded, volatile people, that's our mental image, someone unrefined and unsophisticated but in truth, they're not the only ones who cause trouble for the LGBTQ+ community and other minority groups.
Just like "rednecks" cause problems for the queer community, so do well-dressed men and women who, at first glance seem respectable and well rounded and by choosing to exclude them from the crowd of protesters, Swift, maybe unknowingly, perpetuated the idea unkempt, stereotypically "redneck," people can be hateful or harmful.
All of this to say, Taylor Swift missed the mark on this one if you ask me. From the exploitation, a number of queer celebrities to the misguided attempt at inserting herself into a narrative of an identity that she doesn't claim. However, I will say that I was both shocked and pleased to see that the video closed out with a link to a petition for the government to pass the Equality act. With all of the things wrong with this video, that was the one real service Swift did for the LGBTQ+ community and I appreciate that at the very least.
All in all, leave queer art to queer people. Be an ally because you genuinely care, not because it's trendy or you think you'll get something out of it. Remember these things as you move forward, not only as we close-out Pride Month 2019 but at all times! Happy Pride!