In the middle of the month of June, the Pride Month, Taylor Swift had dropped a new video for her single ‘You Need to Calm Down’. A song battling homophobia and her haters, the song has received moderately good reviews but it’s the video that has been making headlines.
The video starts with Taylor waking up in a trailer and then burning it down as she walks past anti-LGBTQ protestors. She keeps on walking in a world of flashy colours which features a huge ensemble of some of the greatest queer icons, from Ru Paul judging a beauty pageant to Ellen DeGeneres getting tattooed by Adam Lambert. In the end, even Katy Perry (a major foe of Taylor in the past as per gossip journalists) gets along with her.
But the reaction like most of Taylor’s content in the past has been polarising.
While her support for the LBGTQ community has been welcomed, some are critical of the vibe that the video gives off. Associating queer people with pink and all other flashy colours is a major stereotype and unconsciously the Drew Kirsch directed video seems to reinforce the very same stereotype.
As a queer school student (name withheld) said, ‘She went with the whole stereotype with how LGBT is all about rainbows, being excessively flamboyant, spilling tea and being dramatic and constantly being obsessed with drag culture.’ He added that it caters to an extremely exclusive set of people from the community and not every ‘non-straight guy’ would relate to it.
There have been artists in the past with songs that achieve the status of a ‘pride anthem’, like many tunes by George Michael, Lady Gaga and Madonna. But none of these artists ‘try’ to be queer icons. It’s the community of their listeners that ultimately give them this status.
In the case of Swift, before her ‘Swifties’ decide, she seems to have proclaimed herself as a queer icon. As a Vox report read, her song ‘wants to be a queer anthem’. It also feels that she like many other capitalist companies is trying to commodify Pride Month and make money out of it. But is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Even if shameless capitalism is involved, in some way or the other they are trying to celebrate pride and criticise the homophobes. That just makes them allies of the LBGTQ community and that’s a good thing…right?
But support and appropriation are two extreme sides of the rainbow. ‘She’s just queerbaiting. She can’t take up a space that’s not hers. We don’t need straight saviours’, Ambuj, a third-year student from Ambedkar University said.
Poet and blogger Arjun Randhawa had a similar narrative that Taylor ‘overdid’ herself as he called the video ‘a great way to get views during pride month and for calling a truce with another pop star (Katy)’.
So, appropriating, pretending, overdoing, stereotyping, capitalising, there are many allegations on the pop star but it’s no secret that she has been a genuine ally for the queer community for a long time. In fact, Taylor has released this song to raise funds for GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and her own petition urging the US Senate to pass the Equality Act.
She might be walking the straight path of being a ‘straight saviour’ for the community in the video too but maybe some queer people are ready to give her this status despite her heterosexual identity. But as the video many famous queer personalities, do we really need a straight white singer to be their voice, that’s the question.
A Hyderabad student who identifies as bisexual (name not disclosed) feels that the hate that Taylor is getting seems a bit unnecessary.
‘She has been a genuine ally, and the video isn’t the same as corporate gaining off the pride tide. This is a product that can be streamed and viewed with nothing to pay for but our time. Yes, she gets ad revenue but come on, the sets didn’t materialise out of thin air right!’
So, have you watched the video for You Need to Calm Down? Do you feel Taylor Swift overplayed her ‘queer avatar’? Or do you have a ‘calmed-down’ stance?
Featured Image Credits- Taylor Swift Archives
Shaurya Singh Thapa