I’m going to be honest, there is probably a part of me that will always be a Taylor Swift apologist. I am part of that subset of a generation that grew up listening to her Fearless and Speak Now albums. When “You Belong With Me” came out, the music video would play on repeat as I pretended I had a reason to really feel the song. But the extent of my support for her mostly relies on nostalgia.
When she began to subvert everything we knew about her, I was really turned off. And it wasn’t just that she was ‘maturing’ but that she was changing into something negative. She basked in the drama she created and used it to her advantage — it was fantastic marketing but from the perspective of a casual fan, it was off-putting. More than the Katy Perry and Kanye drama (because I think those are things most celebrities go through anyway), it was the way she built up such a problematic persona.
I think there were two things that made her particularly problematic: her white version of feminism, and her willingness to use people. The first is easy enough to prove, with her infamous appropriation of hip-hop in the “Shake It Off” music video and the blatant themes of colonization in her “Wildest Dreams” music video. It was an era where Swift would spout pseudo-feminist statements and the public would hail her as the ultimate symbol of girl power. The second is more circumstantial, so feel free to disagree. But it seemed like her career had peaked and made her willing to use people. There was that issue with Calvin Harris, then Tom Hiddleston, and just generally exploiting her fans.
Then it all came to a boil, and Swift took her cues to lay low. In the time since then, she’s made a lot of noticeable changes with how she manages her career and her public persona. The drama has been practically non-existent with her focus solely on her Reputation tour. Her white feminism has toned down drastically and she’s stopped spewing banner statements of social activism just because its trendy. In fact, the times she has spoken up about causes have all been well-informed, like encouraging people to register to vote.
The Reputation tour itself is a huge redeeming factor. The scale and artistry of it is a strong reminder that Taylor Swift is a performer that at the very least deserves respect. You don’t have to like her music or how she acts to appreciate her ability to put on a great show. And the show itself plays on so much nostalgia, bringing back favorites like “Love Story” and “All Too Well” with a few more personal touches. Streaming that on Netflix was a smart move to bring that experience of sentimentality to anyone still on the fence.
But it’s exactly because Swift is able to play on emotions that it makes asking this question necessary. If we forgive her right off the bat, we run the risk of repeating the same mistakes. On the other hand, not forgiving her is just ignorant of all her efforts. So is it time to forgive Taylor Swift?
Personally, yes. She’s made a clean comeback, put in the work and the proper amount of time to be let off the hook. But there’s no hard evidence to say she’s actually changed, or that she’s not just biding her time.
Unlike last time, there should be no free passes or willful blindness in judging mistakes. We should forgive, but not forget. Our idols should never go unchecked.
What do you think? Is it time to let Taylor Swift back into the spotlight?