Entertainment

The Character Assassination of Taylor Swift

Amrit Virdi

Taylor Swift rose, fell, and then rose again. She went from a loved teenage country singer to the most hated woman in the music industry. However, after reinventing herself, she is now more popular than ever. Amrit Virdi discusses the trajectory of her career so far, and what the future holds for her.

For the last 15 years, Taylor Swift has been one of the most popular and influential women in the music industry, and her everchanging musicality has always kept her fans on their toes. Many have tried to topple her reign but, especially in the past three years, she has come back “stronger than a ‘90s trend”.

Misogynistic misrepresentations defining her by her lovers have been associated with her for years, as she has been unfairly slammed for writing breakup songs

Over the years, the media hasn’t been shy in slandering the country-turned-pop-turned-indie star. Misogynistic misrepresentations defining her by her lovers have been associated with her for years, as she has been unfairly slammed for writing breakup songs which could be linked to specific exes, such as Harry Styles, John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhaal. But isn’t music meant to be authentic and cathartic? Thousands of other artists do the same thing and receive no backlash – so why has Taylor Swift had to suffer such a brutal character assassination?

Flashback to 2009 and Kanye West invaded the stage during Swift’s acceptance speech to announce his personal opinion that Beyonce deserved the award more. Only 19-years-old at the time, it’s completely understandable that Swift would be traumatised by having rap’s biggest name steal her thunder. But she handled it with grace, and the pair seemed to have made amends in 2015.

Fast forward to 2016, the year that brought the worst of the media-induced storm for the star

Fast forward to 2016, the year that brought the worst of the media-induced storm for the star. Scandal arose when West called Swift a “b*tch” in Famous, claiming that he gave her fame, and Swift stated that she was not made aware of her name being associated to such a misogynistic message. West’s (now ex-) wife Kim Kardashian then got involved, calling Swift a snake on social media as numerous phone calls were leaked. Cue the unnecessary bashing of Swift on social media.

If having two of the most influential figures of popular culture starting a hate train against you isn’t enough, 2016 also brought Swift a sexual assault claim to battle with as she launched a court case against a radio presenter who groped her. On her 1989 World Tour at the time, Swift’s ‘Miss Americana’ documentary revealed that she was also battling an eating disorder. It seemed as if all the walls were closing in, as Swift suffered horrendous hate online for no apparent reason. So, the star took the decision to go radio silent, as she admitted “self-hatred sent me into a year of hiding”.

After a year of isolation, Swift returned with ‘reputation’ in 2017, the ultimate revenge record

No one saw or heard from her in a year, a move that was potentially one of the best she has made in her career so far. After a year of isolation, Swift returned with ‘reputation’ in 2017, the ultimate revenge record which Swift refused to do press interviews for as she “wanted the album to speak for itself”. The record also documented Swift’s relationship with Joe Alwyn, which was blossoming beautifully and is still thriving in 2021. The record was the ultimate statement that the star wasn’t going to let the media’s character assassination of her overshadow her musicality and autonomy.

Come 2018, Swift still received unnecessary backlash, this time for her political stance as she expressed her anti-Trump views, and faced a musical battle to win her own discography as Scooter Braun exerted unfair and controlling power over her life’s work. Many may have accepted defeat at this point, but not Swift. She has managed to make her life more “manageable” and set boundaries, one of them being that she is keeping her personal life and relationships completely private.

It’s a shame that constant degradation and scrutiny from the media led her to do this, but she does seem happier for it. And the biggest bounce-back of all has to be the announcement of the re-recording of her entire discography, decidedly one of the biggest power moves in the music industry. This effort to gain power over her carefully curated discography, along with the surprise release of sister albums ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’ in 2020, really is evidence of Swift’s new IDGAF attitude – she knows what she wants and she gets it, making her an excellent role model for her fans.

The take-home message of all of this, however, is that the media need to do better

The take-home message of all of this, however, is that the media need to do better. The upsetting impact that the hate and meticulous misogyny has had on Swift’s mental and physical health needs to be learnt from. And Swift should be commended for her strength and comeback, as she continues to go from strength to strength in her genre-bending career.

Amrit Virdi


Featured image courtesy of Eva Rinaldi via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image. 

In-article images courtesy of @taylorswift via instagram.com. No changes were made to these images.

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