Tuesday, September 4, 2012

All Infantilized Up: Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" Music Video

Let's get one thing straight. I love Taylor Swift, or at least the idea of her. I mean, look at her.

If this young woman isn't America's sweetheart, I don't know who is. But I think, perhaps, that classic white, pure, blonde, country-girl look and character can only go so far. Recent history tells all the story that there is. Over the past two years, Taylor has made a transition from a teen with a country twang to a more poppy, bubbly sound in stardom (though she still manages wins CMA's galore regardless of an obvious change in style from "our song is the slamming screen door" to "Why you gotta be so mean?").  And even while her nonthreatening image sells, we know exactly what we buy; a generic, clear message of sweetness and heart unsullied by our multicultural and shades-of-gray reality. Score one for the white right, I suppose. 
That's all acceptable, for the most part -- I can stomach it, if barely. After all, we need some happy-go-lucky music once in a while, and even I will attempt to stop short of taking the joy out of everything. Apart from pandering to very particular country and celebrity "sellable" image, there really isn't that much harm being done by T-Swizzle.
Until it comes to Taylor's latest music video for "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," which does its best to infantilize adult issues, water down an adult Taylor's relationship story into a fifties-in-fashion parade that drives home the song's typical country and pop undertones of feminine subordination and immaturity.
Swift's music video opens right where we should expect it to, based on the opening lyrics of the song:
"I remember when we broke up the first time / Saying, 'This is it, I've had enough,' 'cause like / We hadn't seen each other in a month / When you said you needed space
And we see Swift wearing cute fifties cover-up pajamas while in the background the apparent neer-do-well boyfriend ("How dare you break Taylor Swift's heart?") drifts about looking uncannily (and I mean creepily) like Adam Levine a la "Misery" and mouthing vague protestations to the camera. 
And, once again, look at her. She doesn't look like an adult capable of a relationship, she looks like she's put on her hipster frames to pretend to read along to her own bedtime story.
What's wrong with that, you ask? I mean, what's the harm in looking so sweet and innocent? Ask yourself if she could be the heroine of the music video without looking so sweet and innocent. That innocent cute look is what makes us root for her -- because who would hurt this innocent beauty. She must be in the right.
Now take a look at the band, whose appearance will certainly haunt my nightmares:

They're dressed up as happy stuffed animals.
Look at the headline to this blog post. Look back at this picture. Do I need to explain any more?

Thus, not only is celebrity Hollywood unwilling to sacrifice their token of white purity that is Taylor Swift -- even when she is singing breakup songs clearly indicating she's been in relationships, even when those songs have a more mature tone hidden in their lyrics. Don't believe me about the "more mature meaning" claim? Remember the line of Taylor Swift's "Mean": "Someday I'll be big enough so you won't hit me"? You probably don't, because in the music video, we only see Taylor singing the line once, after a big glitzy costume change, and in the very last minute. The other two times, it's sung with Swift off-camera; the first time we hear the line, a young fashionista is bullied by football players, and the second time, Swift's voice is again background music to the unhappiness of a elementary schooler's exclusion during recess.
Whatever you do, don't think of abuse when you look at this picture.
Suuuuure, but what does "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" have of substance in its lyrics that its video imagery dismisses? 
It's a tale of love addiction, a relationship gone truly bad: "I say, I hate you, we break up, you call me, I love you."
Swift, however, has been made so craftily small and diminutive in her surroundings that we feel she's childlike, which forces any evidence of her obvious maturity, mostly that betrayed by song lyrics, to the back burner of our consciousness . Look at the size of that table, the chair, the cups, even the big-leaved wallpaper. Note that Swift is 5'11", a veritable amazon woman to today's other wispy starlets). 
Not convincing? How about: "I'm really gonna miss you picking fights / and me, falling for it screaming that I'm right."
I would do an in-depth analysis of those lyrics, but I don't really think it's necessary. It should be obvious by now. Your eyes aren't deceiving you, unlike music videos and doctored photos: Swift is a woman. She has the capability to sing about real issues, regardless of the too often whitewashed nature of pop music, particularly county music, and all the other young stardom she has attained. Unfortunately, whatever voice she could have is lost in her music videos' collective whirlwinds of infantilization, a deeper message lost behind the blinding light of her purity.

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