Just when Taylor Swift gives us hope, she lets us down.
Her latest music video features almost every mainstream queer celebrity you could imagine. While her intentions are well-meaning, the video is a missed opportunity to highlight the narratives represented by the queer icons. Instead of throwing a trans flag at Laverne Cox, Swift could center the video on the activist and her perspective rather than on her own.
Taylor Swift - You Need To Calm Down www.youtube.com
The Todrick Hall production capitalized solely on the culture of the LGBTQ+ community— celebrating it and taking the song a bit too literally. But uplifting these voices means more than a feature in a video or tagging them on social media.
The music video highlights the visual aesthetic that "signifies" gay culture. There are rainbows and dancing and glitter. We follow a white cis, straight woman parade around with her LGBTQ+ friends. It's a party, a celebration of being yourself, fighting against "barbaric" homophobes with love and positivity. Yet, here, the biggest takeaway from this video is that at last, pop's biggest feud between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry is over. They embrace in the video— which will be sure to cause conversation. It overshadows the video's intent. It's also marketing genius.
The video ends with an image of text advocating for the Equality Act. The Equality Act was passed by the House of Representatives but now sits idle in the Senate. The law would extend civil rights protections to people of any sexual orientation and gender identity. Swift urged supporters to sign her petition asking for Senate support. The petition already has over 200,000 signatures, converting the single's success into political support for LGBTQ+ issues.
While Taylor Swift has contributed to the LGTBQ+ community through donations and recent political support, she's misinterpreted what an ally should be. Leading up to the video's release, Swift addressed a rumor that she would share a kiss with Perry:
"That is ABSOLUTELY false. To be an ally is to understand the difference between advocating and baiting. Anyone trying to twist this positivity into something it isn't needs to calm down. It costs zero dollars to not step on our gowns."
It's difficult to forget the days when Taylor Swift refused to comment on politics, to the point she threatened to sue over white supremacy allegations. Now, she's attempting to be a part of the conversation while lacking the language to be effective. What Swift cannot seem to grasp is that advocating for and offering a platform to the LBGTQ+ community should be greater than featuring them in a music video. Uplifting their stories and normalizing their experiences goes a lot further than a straight woman's celebration of pride. Expecting an immediate embrace from LGBTQ+ members after years of silence and quiet donations is asking for more credit than she deserves. It takes time to earn the trust of queer people, and just maybe, Taylor Swift should take several seats and listen.