Back to the 50’s
In Taylor Swift’s “Style,” her lyrics describe a couple that resemble James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. One has the white t-shirt and James Dean’s looks while the other demonstrates Monroe’s red lips and skirts. I argue that “Style” represents Swift’s nostalgia for a time she never lived in, yet sees this time in the past as one, which she would desire to be in.
The Infamous Monroe and Dean
Marilyn Monroe and James Dean are representative figures of the 50’s, a time in which Taylor Swift seems to put on a pedestal. She takes these two characters from this time and puts them in a dysfunctional relationship. A relationship in which Swift knows will crash yet continues on because “they will never go out of style.” By using the reference to Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, she is proving her point. These two figures are from the past, yet they are people who are alluded to on many occasions in our pop culture. They were never outdated yet constantly talked about and held to an iconic level.
Swift uses her nostalgia as a time she never lived in to bring Monroe and Dean to life once more. She allows these two characters to represent one of her own dysfunctional relationships. Both Monroe and Dean were dysfunctional people, yet they are names recognized by all. They never die out because pretty much everyone in our society knows whom they are. Just like these two, the relationship Swift sings about will not die out but be intertwined in a nostalgic past. A time Swift seems to hold dear to her heart, and therefore, the relationship will never be unstylish.
Hegemonic Masculinity in “She’s the Man”
In the popular movie “She’s the Man,” there is a scene where the girls are getting ready for soccer practice and walk out onto the field to talk to the coach. Their coach telling them their team had been cut from the school’s athletic program soon crushes their dreams of the upcoming soccer season. The girls then decide to ask the coach if they can tryout for the guys team in which the coach bluntly tells them no and continues on to say why guys are better than girls. In this scene, the coach’s narrative on why the girls aren’t allowed to tryout for the guy’s team is a representation of hegemonic masculinity.
Girl’s Just Aren’t The Same
In the coach’s rant about why the girls cant tryout, he tells them that they just aren’t as fast or strong as guys therefore they wouldn’t be able to compete on the same level and wouldn’t be able to contribute to the team. He is asserting the boy’s team’s masculinity over the girls and making the girls subordinate by saying they didn’t have the same capability as guys. He is laughing at the girls, which indicates that he doesn’t take their request seriously, and when the rest of the guys join, they too laugh. None of the men think that the girls have what it takes to compete on their level.
Out to Prove Them Wrong
The girls in this scene can’t believe that they were being treated in a way that made them seem less than the guys. In fact, in a previous scene one of the girl’s boyfriends had told her she was probably better at playing soccer than the rest of the guys on the team; however, when she makes the proposal to play on his team, he joins the chorus of the other guys in laughing and agreeing that girls shouldn’t be allowed on the team. Hegemonic masculinity is then tested in the rest of the movie in which the Viola is out to prove the guys wrong and show that girls shouldn’t be looked down upon by men, and their masculinity does not give them the right to put themselves above women.
Finding Yourself in the Clearing
“She lost him but found herself in the process and somehow that was everything,” are the ending credits to Taylor Swift’s “Out of the Woods” music video. The final scene shows her walking out of the woods dirty and disgruntled walking towards a clean version of herself staring at the ocean. These words and last scene allude to the idea of finding herself. In this video, unlike her others, there is no man found in it. This video is a strong symbol of feminism. I argue that Swift is making a statement in her video showing that a woman doesn’t need a man to figure out who she is as a person.
Entangled in Toxicity
Throughout the entire music video, Swift is being chased by wolves and entangled in the brambles and limbs of the forest. She can’t escape the chaos and drama the relationship entails. These objects in the video that are holding her back from escaping the woods represent the troubles within her relationship. As the video continues and she gets deeper and deeper into the woods, or her relationship, she becomes more ensnared, dirty and trapped. Her clothing is becoming less as different pieces of her are being stripped away by the dysfunction of the relationship; however, Swift manages to escape the woods, relationship, and ends up back on the beach.
When Swift finds herself out of the woods, this point is the end of her relationship. Breaking free from the woods was her form of breaking free from the toxicity she had been in. Finally, in this moment, she sees herself clean and whole. No part of this newly found Taylor has been stripped away. Only now, with no guy holding her back can she discover who she truly is meant to be. In “Out of the Woods,” I see Swift empowering women to realize that they do not need to be in a relationship. In fact, being out of one could lead to the discovery of their true self and help them grow into the better version of themselves.
Questing the “Good Girl”
The sweet and innocent girl who once sang songs like “Teardrops on my Guitar” and “Love Story” has completely changed shape in her newest album 1989. Taylor Swift has transformed her image with the release of her music video of “Bad Blood.” With fight scenes and violence, one might think she is trying to prove that women are strong and can have masculine qualities; however, her choice to scatter purses and make-up items throughout the fight scenes and training could deter the viewer from observing the feminine-masculinity and perceiving a more petty and typical girl fight.
Primping and Prepping
In the first fight scene alone, Taylor puts on lipstick in between punching and kicking the bad guys, and Selena looks into a compact mirror and blows powder into Taylor’s face. Mixing in the uses of make-up and fighting sends a mixed message. Although on one end, it could reflect girl power by reminding the viewer throughout the video that a girl can be both feminine and still be put in situations that are mainly seen as a masculine role in Hollywood today, but on the other end, as I see it, I am reminded of what many people still see girls as, which is a person who can’t truly get their hands dirty because they are always trying to primp and prep.
Fighting Like a Girl
The attempt at strengthening a woman by trying to step away from passive aggressive fights and moving towards more physical actions has been deluded by the feminine items shown. When watching the video, I was disappointed because I saw Taylor adding a negative connotation to what it looks like to fight like a girl. Men wouldn’t be seen putting on cologne between the fights, and I think if women are striving for equality then they shouldn’t be shown as figures that always have make-up and purses on them. These items detract from the overall message of feminine-masculinity and leave the viewer with negative ideas towards what it means to be feminine.
Taylor Swift has quickly become the golden girl of our society. All of America and people around the world look up to her as a role model; however, her latest music video “Wildest Dreams” has brought about unique criticism as she is following in the steps of previous Hollywood writers and directors in their exotic and all white portrayal of Africa. Her work reflects the African colonial fantasy that has long preceded this video throughout history.
Past Meets Present
Long before “Wildest Dreams” was ever even imagined in Taylor Swift’s wildest dreams, Hollywood created Africa into a picturesque place filled with romance and adventure; however, this Africa was completely white. People of color were either downplayed or not pictured at all. Africa was no longer Africa, but an idealized America set in an exotic place with wild animals featured throughout. Swift chose to play on these ideas and created a music video with the same aspects included. There were no African people represented in the video, and lions stood majestically behind her as she sang her sad love song.
The Plague That Needs A Cure
Taylor Swift might have thought she was just pulling from inspiration of Hollywood past, but, in an article written by Scott Timber, he noted that a Fader headline once read, ‘Taylor Swift Went to Africa to Film a Music Video and There’s Only White People in It.’” While her motive might not have been out of racism, the video draws out these thoughts that have so easily plagued the U.S. throughout history. Africa should be depicted for what it really is and not made into the colonial setting pop culture tries to make it into. There is no such thing as an all white Africa, and our culture needs to stop portraying it as that.