Good news! Taylor Swift finally got political!
The bad news? She’s about four years behind.
Both Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus released politically charged music videos. Taylor Swift supported the LGBTQIA+ community with “You Need To Calm Down”, while Miley got down and dirty with lesser- known feminists and activists in “Mother’s Daughter”. Which one is more important?
Taylor Swift’s video for “You Need To Calm Down” demonstrates her usual exercise in excess and sounds inspired by the singer’s penchant for Googling herself. The video features a “squad” of well- known gay icons including Queer Eye‘s Fab Five, RuPaul, Adam Rippon, Laverne Cox, Hayley Kiyoko and Ellen DeGenres, festooned in all manner of sequins, baubles and blazers. Taylor and her new Gay Best Friends throw a party, have a food fight and tell some angry picketers “you need to calm down”. She throws in Katy Perry dressed as a hamburger for extra publicity. What does this have to do with anything? Trailer park people can only afford fast food?
“You Need To Calm Down” is the second single off Taylor’s upcoming album RAINBOW EXPLOSION (okay fine, it’s called Lover) to feature a hook in the chorus instead of actual lyrics. Like “Bad Blood”, the three- and- a- half minute video gives each person a few seconds of screen time, but focuses mostly on Taylor ruling the trailer park. The video has gay people in it. Other than that, it’s just another Taylor Swift music video.
I really tried to avoid this video.
“That video made me ashamed to be a gay man,” said my friend Brandon. “It’s like she paid off all these gay icons to like her.”
I played him Miley and RuPaul’s collab “Catitude”, where RuPaul raps about gay sex in graphic detail.
“That song made me feel GREAT,” Brandon said.
The gay community doesn’t have much organic love for Taylor Swift. This episode of Fashion Photo Ruview pretty much sums it up:
Katya: We may not always be there for her…
Violet Chachki: I will never be there for her.
Katya: Do you realize that her fans are going to come for you? Her fans are NOTORIOUS.
There you go. Taylor’s fans are not above bullying drag queens.
Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus dropped her writhing red viper of a music video for “Mother’s Daughter” and it is all kinds of aggressive. Miley reclaims her critics’ insults like “freak”, “witch”, “nasty” and “evil” in a song basically titled “WOMAN”.
Both videos use the same formula: female lead singer doing her signature moves intercut with portraits of controversial individuals. Only Miley choses individuals you’ve probably never heard of: trans skateboarder Lacey Baker. Black, trans, wheelchair- bound Aaron Philip. Plus- size model Angelina Duplisea. Mother and activist Melanie Sierra. Community activist Little Miss Flint. Women freeing the nipple. Women covering the nipple. Women with abortion scars. Women with babies. Women wearing panty liners. All kinds of women. Oh, and of course, Miley’s mom, Tish.
“Mother’s Daughter” uses dramatic portraits of each human intercut with word cards like “virginity is a social construct” and “tough titties”. For a breakdown of all the phrases used in Miley’s video, go here. Miley wears a version of Britney Spears’ “Ooops! I Did It Again” costume and takes up most of the screen time. Many of her subjects use their space to do provocative things, like breastfeed or get naked. Miley leans on these women, showing how women support each other. I loved the part where Miley leans on Vendela and jerks off.
I could criticize “Mother’s Daughter” for oversexualizing femininity and not acknowledging women who feel empowered by modesty. I would have liked to have seen a Muslim woman. Technically, Miley’s bodysuit covers her whole body, but she’s doing stripper moves, so that doesn’t count.
Miley and Taylor used social media very differently when promoting their videos. Miley gave each of her co- stars portraits and personal statements where they talk about how important it is to speak up and support your community. Taylor posted her usual sizzles, with captions like “asked a few friends to be in the You Need To Calm Down video :D” and “Some of us had champagne on set and it shows [champagne emoji] “.
Of course, working with an influential billionaire like Taylor Swift is kind of like winning the Super Bowl. Being associated with Taylor Swift IS a Big Break. LGBTQIA+ celebs like Todrick Hall and Hayley Kiyoko will no doubt praise Swift for supporting their careers. Taylor’s endorsement of the LGBTQIA+ community matters. But it’s 2019. We have concentration camps on US soil, male senators criminalizing women for trying to control their own bodies, unchecked gun violence, white supremacy groups gaining power and an undeniable climate crisis. Do we really need to calm down?
But it’s 2019. We have concentration camps on US soil, male senators criminalizing women for trying to control their own bodies, unchecked gun violence, white supremacy groups and an undeniable climate crisis. Do we really need to calm down?
Taylor could take a note from Miley. Although Taylor Swift seems eager to align herself with the political left, she benefits from the capitalist agenda. I doubt she’ll ever have the bravery to do what Miley does because it will hurt her massive bottom line. But, Taylor has a bigger platform than Miley: 119 million followers to Miley’s 95.3 million, and Taylor posts mostly corporate content. Who can make more of an impact: the huge celeb who says something small, or the smaller celeb who says something huge?
It’s important that they both speak up.