Can We Talk About Taylor Swift For A Moment?

photo of taylor swift pictures
Personally, I am not really a fan. I am really sorry that that one guy at the 2009 VMAs interrupted her like a crazy person. Kanye West, right? I only have a vague idea of who he is. His tweets are basically those of Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock, as I understand things.

Mostly against my will, I do know who Taylor Swift is. I started becoming aware of famous people about whom I do not care when I started reading Evil Beet Gossip back in late 2008—and I have been addicted ever since.

Some number of months after the 2009 VMAs, I saw this adorable video, which is the gay version of her “You Belong With Me” music video. As a result, I know that particular song. I have not genuinely cared for any of her music that I have heard.

I know that she has great taste in guys. I know that, despite her awful bangs, she is a beautiful young woman who is extremely successful and has a figure for which millions of young women would kill.

I also know that I am not a fan. Her music has this very southern element to it and, while my family has been in this part of the southeastern United States for at least seven generations, and probably more than that, I am not a fan of Country Music. The sound of a banjo honestly just seems like the music that would accompany a lynch mob. Also, and perhaps more importantly, Taylor Swift’s music seems, lyrically, all about romance and love. Not just that—a lot of music is about love—but about these fairytale and juvenile ideas about romance. I am twenty-five, so, quite naturally, life crushed all of that nonsense out of my head about a decade ago. Her refusal to accept the reality that love and relationships do not happen like they do in vintage Disney films does not appeal to me.

So, have you guys read this brilliant post by the lovely Emily on Evil Beet? Read it. Also, read the comments. Oh my goodness. (Also, I have no idea if ForgetWhatSimonSays is a reference to me or to something else. It’s presumptuous to assume that some crankypants named his or her commenting identity after me, though, right?)

My favorite of the comments is definitely from Mireee, who is one of my favorite commenters on Evil Beet, period. “Fucking hell, so she and her friends don’t even pass the Bechdel Test when they’re together.” I died. Too funny. And too accurate.

Talking about boys is one thing. Only talking about boys, with all of your friends? I do not understand Taylor Swift. And maybe I am not meant to.

Of the people whom I know, her fans tend to be girls and gay guys with very Southern leanings in terms of their senses of identity (especially gay friends from scarily small towns). Also, often but not always, concepts of highly improbable runaway romances fill their minds. These people enjoy the feelings that I have long since buried, and I will not begrudge them for it.

She comes from a different world than I do, and so do her fans. That world does not exist, but I guess that they enjoy it. I can sit back and ignore it, even if I am always disgusted when people romanticize the 1950s.

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The Bechdel Test Is Good, Not Always Enough

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Two female characters in a film, television show, or book have a conversation with each other. The conversation is not about a male character.


That’s how the Bechdel Test works. When I first learned about this test, I was horrified that any work of fiction might not pass that test. I mean, typical women’s lives, thoughts, and conversations do not revolve around men. I know this because I actually know women. It seems simple, right? And there are some horrible writers out there who apparently think that female characters only exist to further the characterization or story of male characters. Sickening and horrifying.

The Bechdel test does not always work to determine if a show has quality, obviously. It also does not determine if a show is reasonable in its portrayal of women. I cannot recall a single instance of Hermione having a talk alone with another female character in the Harry Potter series (like I even needed to name the series). This is because the series is almost exclusively told from Harry’s point of view in, primarily, a third-person limited voice. Basically, that means that few things happen directly on the pages of the books that Harry does not personally experience. And yet I think that most people would agree that Hermione is a strong, empowering female character.

The same problem might arise if a book’s protagonist is female but she finds herself surrounded by male characters. She can be a powerful female protagonist without having a female best friend—or even a female friend.

The Bechdel Test still has value, however (a friend mentioned that The CW’s critically panned but totally watchable and fairly enjoyable pilot of Beauty and the Beast, which aired recently, totally passed the Bechdel Test. So far, everyone, including me, loves the female protagonist and her female fellow detective but does not care so much for the Beast part of the story). And it can be applied beyond its original scope. Or adapted, anyway.

For example, two gay characters can be non-lovers and have a discussion that involves neither other guys nor various gay stereotypes.

The problem with sloppy (or just bad) writing is that sometimes characters exist to serve the plot, and so their lines are written to reflect that. If you want to describe a male protagonist’s body without making potential homophobic readers uncomfortable, have two women talk about him outside of his presence in a scene.

But that’s not how characters work. That’s not how good writing works. Conflict drives a story, but above all else, characters and their interactions with each other and their environment should drive a story and dictate the events. Everyone and everything should be well-rounded and complete in order to present the best story in a compelling manner. If everyone is reduced to stereotypes and exist only as shallow vessels for the writers to convey information, it weakens the story and does not do any favors for the sorts of people represented.


PS: I am a writer, and I checked recently, and even just from outlines, my first book definitely passes the Bechdel Test. But also, you know, more than that. It’s good—you should never have to consciously modify your writing to pass the Bechdel Test. There are a lot of interesting things in the world aside from men that women might discuss. And no, I do not mean “like shoes.”

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