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Taylor Swift makes waves with “Blank Space” music video

The latest release by Swift challenges stereotypes with humor, hyperbole

If you can’t beat them, join them.

Taylor Swift took this to heart with the release of her “Blank Space” music video last Monday. After years of being labeled as a vengeful girlfriend who writes songs about every messy breakup, Swift uses her “Blank Space” song and video to embrace and enhance the stereotype of the obsessive, irrational and boy-crazed ex-girlfriend. Her tongue-in-cheek humor pervades the serious and symbolic elements of the video, creating a comedic, yet intense portrayal of a relationship gone wrong.

With the lyrics, “New money, suit and tie/ 
I can read you like a magazine/
 Ain't it funny, rumors fly” Swift is shown in 1920s attire, resembling Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Swift smirks as she says she can read this man better than he knows.

In the next scene, Swift further emphasizes her power in her relationship as she says, “I can make the bad guys good for the weekend.” This scene alludes to her ability as a world-famous singer-songwriter to paint the characters in her songs as however she wants them to be portrayed. With a charming smile and devious eyes, Swift lets her audience know she’s in control — she knows just what to do with her men if they break her heart.

The period attire shifts to the 1950s as Taylor confidently sits atop a horse, assertively singing toward the camera as the man beside her can’t help but glance her direction. She embodies the poise of Jacqueline Kennedy — a powerful and independent woman who embraces her femininity with red lipstick and stylish sunglasses.

Following the climax of the video’s narrative, Swift discovers Sean (whose name is revealed by a romantic carving in a tree trunk) is talking to other women and aggressively cuts apart his shirt.

Swift's unabashed embracing of the immature and vengeful high-school girl stereotype — evident also in some of her older songs like “Mean” and “Better Than Revenge” — comes across almost ironic, as though she is making fun of it, rather than promoting it.

Swift returns with vengeance as she sings, “Boys only want love if it’s torture/ Don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn ya” while playing with an apple, wearing red nails, red lips and a snake ring on her finger. The video depicts Taylor biting into the apple with a determined and decided look on her face, while Sean bites it and spits it out with a look of shock.

The intent of this scene is multifaceted, but it seems to be getting at Swift embracing her own agency, regardless of the outcome. Whether she means this in a playful and sarcastic way, or if it has a hint of truth to it, is up to the viewer’s discretion. Either way, the video showcases a dark side to America’s beloved songstress which hasn’t been seen up to this point in her career.

The “Blank Space” video has a number of facades and is certainly open to a wide range of interpretation. But Swift seems to be modeling many powerful female figures in both history and pop culture to assert her agency as a female and a feminist who does not need a relationship for personal or musical inspiration.

“Blank Space” marks a new phase of Taylor Swift, and the world should brace itself for whatever she comes up with next.


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