Calling bullshit on “You Belong With Me” five years later
You belong with me was a lie, nothing now but a dead dream. Taylor Swift as the t-shirt-and-sneakers wearing, quiet, sort of weird but actually really cool to hang with and good looking too, girl crushing on the boys dating the popular girls was, to borrow a phrase, a fairytale.
Taylor Swift in 2013 is very much the popular girl – and villain – of You belong with me.
There was a period of time, from the time Fearless made its way into every tween girl’s shower mix until right before WANEGBT came out, that so many of us believed (or wanted to believe badly enough that we convinced ourselves it was true) that Taylor was indeed the narrator of You belong with me that she had created. With her curly gold locks and her aw shucks award show surprises faces, Taylor played the innocent, loveable outcast part well. Sure she dated the likes of Taylor Lautner and John Mayer, but her intentions were good. It was all, “shame on those men for breaking her heart!” When Taylor was writing songs like White Horse and Speak Now, we were on her side. She was harmless.
But then she had to write WANEGBT and get an attitude.
Taylor, girl, you brought this on yourself.
In her interview with Vanity Fair, Taylor calls out Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for the shot they took at her love life. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” she said. No need to make jokes about her dating John Mayer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Harry Styles, and a fucking Kennedy all in the span of a couple years. That’s a low blow; Taylor never did anything to deserve that. And maybe she’s right, maybe Tina&Amy shouldn’t have made the crack about Taylor dating so many men. She can date who she wants. It’s not the principle of what Taylor is saying.
It’s the egregious hypocrisy and lack of self-awareness that boggles my mind.
First off: Taylor’s dissing “women who don’t help other women”? Really? Did she forget, somewhere between dressing like a hipster and throwing cell phones that she wrote a song called Better Than Revenge, which is basically the slut-shaming anthem of the 00s? Did it somehow slip her mind that she wrote that Camille Belle is “best known for the things she does on the mattress” all because Joe Jonas broke up with our poor Tay for her? Not to mention the whole premise of You belong with me is that the quiet girl with glasses deserves the handsome prom king more than the popular girl wearing makeup. Taylor has built her entire career on being the girl guys should fall in love with over all other girls. Too many of her songs pit girl against girl for Taylor to get defensive about a joke made of her dating history.
Sorry Taylor, but when you say that it’s unfair you’re portrayed as a “clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend” remember that you straight-up called Camille Belle a slut on a record that sold over four million copies.
And that brings me to the worst part of the Vanity Fair interview (which hasn’t even been released in full yet and has already prompted me to write 800+ words).
“It’s why I have to avoid the tabloid part of our culture, because they turn you into a fictional character,” she told VF. I’m starting to think she really is as oblivious as she comes across in interviews.
Back in January I wrote about Taylor Swift as performance artist. Her life exists as model for her art. If Taylor doesn’t date celeb after celeb, she doesn’t write a record that sells a million copies in its first week. Taylor Swift’s music isn’t her product, her life is. And that’s why the idea that she wants to avoid the tabloids is asinine. Of course she doesn’t want to. If people weren’t paying attention to her, she’d cease to be remotely pop culturally relevant. Taylor needs the tabloids to sell copies just as much as they need her to do the same. It’s a symbiotic relationship that feeds off the same pool of consumers.
But she has to say she hates them. In order for her to stay the bashful heroine of You belong with me she has to hate the drama and gossip. She has to be the one sitting in the back of class writing notes to herself in a secret code she made up while she was watching reruns of Friends on TBS the night before. If she’s the one all the boys are talking about, if she’s the one the other girls make cracks about behind her back, this whole façade falls apart. And three months into 2013, it’s unraveling faster than that big sweater she wears in the video for Mine.
Because she is the popular girl. She is the one dating John Mayer, dating a member of the most popular boy band on the planet, dating a member of American royalty. She’s the girl who dates the popular boys for the attention and then gets mad when the attention isn’t all laudatory. Taylor is the girl who wants everyone talking about her, but only if everyone is saying good things about her, what a fine girl she is. As soon as some of it turns sour, her critics are just petty, jealous, sexist, and there’s a special place in hell reserved just for them. She wrote a whole goddamn song about it, actually. Who knew Mean was just the tip of the iceberg that is Taylor Swift’s abhorrence of any criticism whatsoever.
And shut up about that whole tabloids turning you into a “fictional character” thing. If you want to sing about party nights and deadlines when you’re twenty-two, Taylor, then stories about beach houses in Cape Cod are fair game.
The truth is that Taylor was always a fictional character. Her life was always a construction, whether intentional or not, to make her as commercial and relevant as possible. She succeeded. And now that she’s the most popular girl in the room, she has to deal with the backlash, with the possibility that maybe she isn’t the pure and innocent 18-year-old she was when she wrote Fearless anymore. But she doesn’t want to hear that. She’s trying to convince everyone she still wears t-shirts when we can all see her short skirt as she walks down the red carpet.