Taylor Swift was in town this past weekend. Thus caps off my ten-day meditation on Bad Blood. Now, of course, I love Taylor Swift like everyone else. But that does not mean I don’t want to speak some truth as part of my love.
I wrote in my Facebook page: “I think I am spending a week with this Taylor Swift vid — Mad Max meets Project Runway meets 50 Shades? What do YOU think this mashup means?” Some people taught me some stuff.
On the face of things, Bad Blood is just a very thin “I’m really mad at you” break up song: “Did you have to do this? I was thinking that you could be trusted. Did you have to ruin what was shiny? Now it’s all rusted.” But it quickly moves to: “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes.”
It is OK to tell me I am over-reacting. But can I just point out how anti-Christ it is to deal with a broken relationship by renaming yourself “Catastrophe” and imagining getting together with your superhero friends for a fight to the death? Have we all become Lindsay Graham? Is this mentality running Jesus over?
The song is thin, but the video is lush (even though it is mostly devoted to model-like strutting with weapons). It starts in a typical high rise office floor (which many people might feel is worthy of blowing up). The action begins when a gray-suited man in a Zorro mask man falls on a desk. Catastrophe (Taylor Swift) cartwheels in and puts on lipstick. More suits meet two women dressed in plastic, one in black: Arsyn (Selena Gomez) one in white (Ms. Swift). They triumph, but Arsyn betrays Catastrophe and pushes her through a window and lands her artfully on a vintage car. Catastrophe is then dropped into an Elysium-like medical device for repairs and comes out more super than before. She begins to collect her crew of strong women mentors and goes to revenge boot camp.
The cast all chose their hero nicknames, such as Lucky Fiori. The Trinity straps on Catastrophe’s armor. She goes on to weapons training with Dilemma, Slay-Z (and her bulldog in a Hunger Games training center), Destructa X, Home Slice (the awkward ninja), and Mother Chucker. Cut Throat teaches her to knife a teddy bear. The Crimson Curse (looking like Leelo — Hayley Williams of Paramore) looks like an homage to Chucky (who was also out of his box in 1989). Frostbyte must be a salute to Elsa. Knockout teaches her some kickboxing, complete with moves for slicing off a man’s head. Domino (Jessica Alba) teaches her to ride motorcycles like in Tron. Then the older mentors come in to pass on their wisdom: Justice (Mariska Hargitay/Law and Order SVU/Jayne Mansfield’s daughter — danced at the concert Saturday) , Luna (Ellen Pompeo/Dr. Meredith Grey), and Headmistress (Cindy Crawford). The showdown occurs with flames and London in the background.
I’ve watched the video enough to collect the names (even though I could have found them in IMDB). It is entertaining. But I keep thinking there are points being made. If not, there is certainly influence happening. One fan got married before her concert Saturday and was treated to a close-up backstage. so that influence happened. This kind of relatablility and connection is a Swift trademark, which make mothers feel like she is a good role model for their daughters. So what role is Bad Blood modeling with all those models strutting in high heels toward their personal Armageddon? I asked my FB friends to make some sense of this video for me, and they did a decent job.
#1 — Although I don’t think Kahn executed the narrative well, I think it’s pretty clever that she paired what could have been written off as a “catty” diss track (some people wrote it off as one, using that language) with the huge vibe of the summer blockbuster. It is a diss track about another woman, but there are more images of women supporting each Swift as she trains for vengeance. It grounds the one frayed relationship with a woman, with all of the other positive ones she has (although, how positive can a relationship be if they are encouraging you to shoot bazookas at a former co-worker?)
It says, to me, that when women write about not liking women it isn’t because they are catty, it is because they are experiencing the range of human emotion. Swift isn’t letting Hollywood disregard her experiences because she is a woman. Fairly assertive idea, I just wish she would have hired a better director.
#2 — I know the name Taylor Swift, but couldn’t pick her out in a line up or know any songs. I watched that video for some reason and my over-simplified thought is: it’s empty and all about sex. Some boys are turned on by seeing girls fight. S&M¹ has worked its way out of the sub culture into the mainstream. It’s pathetic and laughable to watch. Milky gals playing dress up and not fully grasping what’s going on. It’s like seeing the distortion, evolution, transformation, whatever you call it, of Punk. Nearly 30 years ago, someone with green hair and a nose ring was expressing and living out something very different than the folks who have it now, acceptable by everyone, suburban moms, etc.
#3 — Pop culture mash-up. No intentional symbolism or purpose. Showreel ²– 20 bucks on Khan doing a studio picture in the next 3 years.
What doe you think?
I think Taylor Swift is an immensely talented songwriter, musician, and entrepreneur. You have to admire anyone who can amass $200 million by age 25 (!). She has thousands of devoted fans who feel like they know her. She may feel like she knows them, too. She’s a fantasyland on wheels. Not everything she does is bad of course (and I like Shake It Off, too)! But, if nothing else, she encourages young people into even more delusional behavior, which usually works its way into delusional life-making decisions and works its way up and down the societal food chain into delusional government policies and popular philosophy, which runs over Jesus.
Could that be true? Is Jesus getting rolled over by who-knows-how-many concert trucks parked at Lincoln Financial (there’s an homage for you) Field? Maybe. Whether Taylor means anything by her songs and videos or not, they mean a lot when they are so influential they override the sensibilities of the impressionable. Do you think I am overreacting when I point out that an artist who makes an anti-Christ video with 192 million views (and counting) on YouTube should mean something? Isn’t the meaningless running over Jesus? Or do you think something else is happening here? Let me know.
¹ Sadism and Masochism — the practice of using pain as a sexual stimulant.
² A short videotape containing examples of an actor’s or director’s work for showing to potential employers.