Cotton candy, rainbow flags, and all the tea come with Taylor Swift’s latest single “You Need To Calm Down.”
The video opens with a glamourous Swift waking up in her pastel paradise. We see a Cher quote on the wall, “Mom, I’m A Rich Man” which references Cher being a gay icon.
The lyrics are undeniable. There is no gray area in what she is saying. The reference to The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (“Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD?”) clearly adds to the Pride Month feels.
In the era of Donald Trump and radical LGBTQ discrimination, a shining ally star like Taylor Swift’s is a welcome beacon to many.
The violence against transgender women has recently skyrocketed. According to the Human Rights Coalition, at least ten innocent women were murdered in 2019 alone. An ally like Swift helps highlight what the the “epidemic” of violence against transgender women, particularly those of color.
She recently performed the song at Stonewall Inn, as it marks the 50th anniversary of the riots. Her cameos are so thorough that we even see Ryan Reynolds painting Stonewall in the video. Many see the riots, which occurred on June 28, 1969, as the beginning of Pride. Swift’s attention to such important details and history make this outcry of support for the LGBTQ community appear genuinely heartfelt.
However, some argue that this is merely a brilliant marketing opportunity. Taylor Swift would certainly not be the first celebrity or brand to support Pride as a lucrative business decision. The internet is awash in controversy over supporting the LGBTQ community for a marketing ploy instead of ensuring civil liberties.
Whether motivated by marketing, politics, or a true desire to help, that remains the ultimate question. The community struggles with the stereotype of the flamboyant gay man, butch lesbian, and bisexuals who just want to have it all. The counterpoint in the video comes in the form of hillbilly-esque protesters, complete with dental issues and grammatical errors.
While certainly amusing at first glance, is the mockery of those that mock us going to improve the climate? After the rainbow confetti fades, LGBTQ people will fight for rights while Swift returns to her girl next door status.
Ending the video by asking her fans to sign a petition that would support passage of the Equality Act, an act that would ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, it seems like T-Swift has found a voice.
While reuniting with former frenemy Katy Perry at the end seems to be a great closer, Perry’s own brush with homosexuality and her music cannot be ignored. From the girl crush anthem, “I Kissed A Girl” to “Ur So Gay” Perry has come across as tone deaf and in some ways, Swift could be viewed in a similar light. Using a word like shade, historically used by gay members of the Latino and black communities, to say it never made anybody less gay, might come across as tone deaf.
However, how far is too far in examining the megastar’s motives?
The simple truth of the matter could be that Swift is becoming more aware of herself as a person and of the issues around her and chosen to use her platform to be an ally. She may be an ally whose learning how to be an ally, but it’s on a global stage during a pivotal time in history. GLADD has even seen an increase in donations following the video’s release, particularly $13 increments, Swift’s favorite number (you even see her cat watch have a 13th hour in the video) and that cannot be ignored. Taylor herself donated to GLAAD earlier in the month.
In an era of dystopian news headlines and a radical political climate, “You Need To Calm Down” offers the audience three minutes and thirty seconds of visibility. That is three minutes and thirty seconds than we had before.