Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Have nice things. Or not.

People have opinions about everything possible. Of course they do: It seems to be a large part of being a modern human. Even so, it’s amazing how people seem to feel the urgent need to spout their negative opinions about things that don’t matter, like pop music. I had two reminders of that this week.

I don’t take part in any of the numerous social media arguments over something in pop culture—movies, TV/streaming shows, music, etc. In general, my feelings about pop culture are summed up in Arthur’s Law:
Everything you love, someone else hates; everything you hate, someone else loves. So, relax and like what you like and forget about everyone else.
Not everyone feels that way—shocker, I know—and many of the Internet Fights I’ve seen are centred on, or related to, something in pop culture. I honestly cannot understand why people get so bothered about what other people enjoy. To me, it seems like such a colossal wast of time and energy.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when I saw a Facebook “Memory” about what I posted after the death of Prince in 2016. I later blogged about that, and the post incorporated much of what I said on Facebook. At the time, I was taken aback by the fact that some people couldn’t even leave people alone to grieve the loss of an artist they liked and admired. I said:
The Internet has provided a great way for people to share their grief with people who feel it, too, and that’s wonderful for them. Really, that should be good enough for the rest of us.
Of course, it wasn’t good enough for some people who chose to be truly awful to other people. It just felt wrong to me—not the first time that’s happened. That made me think about all the other times I’ve seen people that seemingly decided that the world simply HAD to know how much they hated a particular thing in pop culture, especially in pop music, which seems to draw the greatest level of attacks.

At the moment, there seems to be no one in pop culture who is a bigger target of hatred than Taylor Swift, but, to me, it’s utterly mystifying. My cards on the table before I go a step further: I like a lot of Taylor Swift’s songs—actually, that should probably be written be as “a LOT”. However, I wouldn’t call myself a “fan”, mainly because I’ve never bought any of her music (I’ve added her music to my Spotify library), However, her song “The Man” was one of my favourite songs of 2020, and the music video [WATCH — no, seriously, watch it!] is quite probably my favourite video of that year (and on my list of all-time favourites). It’s one of the things that got me through the first Covid lockdown. All of which is to make clear that I think she’s an enormous talent, even though I don’t call myself a “fan”—actually, am I a fan of anyone anymore? A topic for another time, maybe.

There’s a thing called toxic fandom, and they can be fans of literally anyone in the public eye. Personally, I’m not too keen on the aggressive and toxic fans of the frequently napping oddly-hued senior citizen politician from Florida, and the toxicity of such fans can be alarming. However, the number of such fans is astonishingly small considering how much attention they get in the media. Taylor Swift absolutely has aggressive and toxic fans, too, but they’re self-evidently NOT the majority.

I think part of the problem is the imperative of modern journalism to promote the sensational and even outrageous in order to get clicks on links (and, even still, eyes on broadcasts). It’s the old-timey journalist’s slogan, “if it bleeds, it leads”, or even “dog bites man isn’t news, man bites dog is.” The news media, then, has a financial incentive to give airtime and print space (online especially) to the most extreme examples of toxic fans being toxic, and while such fans are absolutely not the majority of a given fandom, and even though it can be argued they cast a shadow out of more normal fans, that doesn’t make those more normal-behaving fans insignificant.

I mention all that because part of the hatred directed at Taylor Swift is “justified” but some people as their supposed reaction to the antics of some of Taylor’s aggressive and toxic fans. The question is, those particular fans’ behaviour aside, why do so many people seem to hate Taylor so very much? Far too much of the answer comes down to politics and culture wars.

Not long ago, the news was filled with fans of NFL (American football) reacting bitterly to Taylor’s relationship with Travis Kelce, a tightend for the Kansas City Chiefs. Fox “News” picked up the chorus, condemning her for having the utter audacity to go to watch Kelce play, and declaring there was a fix in for the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl so that she could endorse Joe Biden for president amid all the media coverage. The Chiefs won, and, of course, Taylor didn’t say a word about President Biden.

Fox and other rightwing media outlets then switched their attention to Swift’s hugely, insanely successful Eras Tour. Fox performers claimed Swift would use the platform to urge her fans to support Democrats, something that apparently came from her previous non-partisan urging of her fans to register to vote (and they did). Fox performers demanded that Taylor “stay out of politics”, which, oddly enough, is a demand they’ve never made of any rightwing performer since, well, ever. Amazing, isn't it!

With the rightwing media ecosystem promoting hatred of Taylor Swift, it was inevitable it would metastasise. Now, it’s become part of the USA’s far-right religious-political activism.

Today I saw a cut-and-paste share of a Facebook post by a far-right “Christian singer, songwriter, former worship leader,” and failed Republican candidate for Congress (because I’ve never heard of him, it seems prudent to not name him, so as to not give him a Google boost). He wrote on his Facebook post, “Almost half the songs on Taylor Swift’s new album contain explicit lyrics (E), make fun of Christians and straight up blaspheme God. Is this the music you want your kids listening to? Do you think I’m overreacting?” Well, since he asked, yes, I absolutely do.

He shared small portions—in one case a single line—of lyrics to songs from Taylor’s latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, and I found nothing in those quoted lyrics to be even remotely offensive, so I decided to listen to the songs in their entirety to find out for myself what he was clutching his pearls about.

The fact is, I liked all three songs, and the two the guy seemed to be the most apoplectic about (because he shared more than a single line from them)? I liked those two the best of the three. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. The rightwing is constantly bleating on and on and on about how “the Left”—by which they actually mean anyone who’s not a rightwinger—is “woke” and they’re all “snowflakes” who can’t accept offence and should “just to grow up”, and because this is the rightwing mantra, I have a question: What should mainstream people say about rightwingers when they entirely overreact to a song’s lyric and claim to be mortally offended by “attacks” on supposed Christians and their version of the Christian god? Are they “woke”? Well, yes, and insofar as that has any meaning, it’s their version of it—though they’d probably prefer their version of the term, “red-pilled”. What’s clear is that, by their own definition, they’re being “snowflakes”—people who can’t accept offence.

It’s easy for people to be cynical about their ideological opposites, presuming they’re arrogant, aggressive, that they lack intelligence or, at the very least, self-awareness, and that their defining trait is hypocrisy. It’s also easy to point out things that seem to justify the prejudice, like the pearl-clutcher who attacked Taylor who then used the comments on his post to market t-shirts he sells on his website. Obviously, neother hypocrisy nor grifting is defined of limited by ideology, even though it seems like the Right has more than their fair share of it.

Decades from now, Taylor Swift and all the nonsense thrown at her by the rightwing in particular will be items in history books, but is this really the way her loudest critics want to be remembered, as intolerant pearl-clutching snowflakes? I ask for a very simple reason: The rightwing constantly demands that mainstream people should “just get over it” whenever rightwingers say or do something the mainstream finds offensive or over-the-top. Shouldn’t righwingers do the same?

Everything you love, someone else hates; everything you hate, someone else loves. So, relax and like what you like and forget about everyone else. No, really!

The graphic up top is something I've seen on social media for several years. Sometimes the graphic has been altered to make a different statement, but the text in this version is the first I saw. I couldn't find who originally created the graphic or where it's from (or even if this version has the original text), however, the first online use I could find was from 2016.


Roger Owen Green said...

There are college courses about TS- not just lyrics/music, but her economic impact on communities, her successful Taylor's Version reissues. I think they hate her BECAUSE she's too successful. They're tired of hearing about her; I'm tired of THEM talking trash about ger.

BTW, I saw the Eras Tour movie in the cinema. Some of the music I liked more than others. The stuff from folklore, the only TS CD I ever purchased the most; no surprise.

Arthur Schenck said...

Yeah, and there have been courses about other current artists over the years, and the moaners and whingers almost never complained about those. I think her enormous success is what pisses off a lot of the complainers, especially those who've never liked her music—for them, it was never about her. Those who hate her for ideological or partisan reasons have their hatred ramped up by her success, especially since so many people in that particular demographic are—um— far less successful in their work.