celebrity

Our ongoing hatred of Taylor Swift is about more than just basic cancel culture.

Taylor Swift would like to know if you want her dead.

In all honesty, it’s a fair question for the 29-year-old musician to ask, given the fact that she has often been placed at the centre of cancel culture, a social media motivated movement that seeks to both erase and shame the wrongdoing celebrity in equal measure, with no foreseeable end to the vendetta in sight.

Swift has now snagged the coveted prime position in Vogue’s September issue, both appearing on the cover of the magazine and subjecting herself to the scrutiny of a lengthy profile piece by journalist Abby Aguirre.

The very act of allowing herself to be placed under the sometimes unforgiving glare of a profile piece, even in a publication as illustrious as Vogue, speaks volumes to the true price she now has to pay thanks to the growing public hatred against her.

The Spill is Mamamia’s daily entertainment and pop culture podcast. In this episode hosts Laura Brodnik and Kee Reece dissect the meaning behind Taylor Swift’s new Vogue cover story.  

It has become a trend for a certain calibre of celebrity to flex their muscles by declining to do interviews and in turn, removing the opportunity for journalists to press too hard against the fragile web of personal branding they have carefully spun around themselves.

Beyonce did it with Vogue in 2018, agreeing to be on their cover under the caveat that the accompanying words inside be all her own. Angelina Jolie recently pulled the same trick with W Magazine, penning an essay in lieu of being asked any out-of-the-box questions.

Even Meghan Markle has jumped aboard this train of preferred publicity, choosing to guest edit Vogue UK instead of appearing in a cover interview in order to better control her own narrative.

Taylor has also tried this tactic in the past, with varying degrees of success, and has found that utilising her own immense social media accounts and weaving messages throughout her music and marketing materials may have kept the cash rolling in but has also done little in the way of repairing her reputation and removing her name from the cancellation list.

It’s in this Vogue profile piece that Taylor’s comments somehow land on both the root of why cancellation culture occurs and the unspoken endgame that plays into the narrative.

The biggest call for the pop star’s cancellation came in July of 2016, when Kim Kardashian released video footage of  Taylor speaking on the phone to her husband Kanye West, in a bid to label Taylor a ‘snake’ by inferring that she had prior knowledge of song lyrics she had condemned Kanye for using.

What followed was a social media saturation of people calling to “cancel’ Taylor Swift with the hashtags  #TaylorSwiftIsASnake and #TaylorSwiftIsCancelled trending on Twitter.

“A mass public shaming, with millions of people saying you are quote-unquote cancelled, is a very isolating experience,” she told Vogue about that time in her life. “I don’t think there are that many people who can actually understand what it’s like to have millions of people hate you very loudly.

“When you say someone is cancelled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being. You’re sending mass amounts of messaging to this person to either shut up, disappear, or it could also be perceived as, kill yourself.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The idea that cancellation equals a call for the celebrity to end their life is not just social media-induced hyperbole.

It’s something we saw very much at play in April of this year when US YouTube star James Charles, who was ‘cancelled’ after a public falling out with fellow YouTuber Tati Westbrook, lost lucrative sponsorship deals along with 2.6 million of his subscribers in three days.

Yet even this punishment did not seem to be enough, with people still calling for his downfall long after his numbers had plummeted, leading many people to wonder exactly what this angry online mob actually wanted, was it for Charles to end his own life?

The thing about cancel culture is that the ferocity of the outcome is based on the person rather than their crime.

How else would you explain how someone like Taylor Swift, whose ‘crimes’ consist of a tussle over song lyrics, is mentioned in the same breath of cancellation as people who are accused of breaking actual laws such as Harvey Weinstein, Chris Brown and Johnny Depp?

The answer is that the growing hatred against Taylor Swift is less do with one act of cancellation culture at the hands of the Kardashian-Wests and is more to do with the fact that public opinion has turned against her persona, rather than her actions.

People hate Taylor Swift because she released a song called You Need to Calm Down which many believe used LGBTQI people for profit, despite the fact that she has also, in turn, donated an immense amount of money to organisations that work in this space including $113,000 to the Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates for LGBTQ rights.

People hate Taylor Swift because they believe she always plays the victim, despite the fact that when DJ David Mueller inappropriately touched her and then tried to sue her for  $3 million leading her to successfully countersue for a symbolic $1 to make a point. Years later, she still facing backlash over losing him his job.

But mostly, people hate Taylor Swift because she has successfully monetised a brand that utilises safe activism, touching on feminism, politics, inclusivity and artistic integrity in a way that doesn’t cross the line while being entangled in catchy pop tunes.

Taylor Swift’s inclusion in cancel culture is less about her actions and more about her public persona, and unfortunately, that kind of hatred will always be in vogue.

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here). 

00:00 / ???