You were basic if you liked Instagram filters, brunching (yes, the verbal version), cocktails, ugg boots, scented candles, Starbucks lattes, Pinterest-styled inspirational quotes, or anything pumpkin spiced. Taylor Swift, America’s pop princess, was possibly the icon – the cult-like leader – for this group of women.
So, in the early 2010s, hating Taylor Swift was cool; an ‘I’m-not-like-other-girls’ sign to those long-haired Bieber-fringed-boys (why was that never mocked?!!) – and other cool girls – that you were different, unique, and special.
Of course, there were legitimate reasons not to declare yourself a Swiftie: perhaps you didn’t like the ‘girl squad’ of A-Listers with sleek abs and spindly legs who posed on yachts, whose (white) skin glistened like champagne in the sun. Perhaps Swift’s lack of political engagement bothered you; as one of America’s most powerful women, she was notably quiet for many years. Or, equally plausible, you simply didn’t like her music. But these were never the reasons given. Instead, she was chastised for her’serial dating’ (as one writer for The Ringer put it,’she picks boyfriends like someone would fill positions on their fantasy team’). She was mocked for her ‘fake’ excitement when receiving awards, for her ‘good girl act,’ and for her body (Nikki Glaser said’she’s too skinny.’ It irritates me’). She was labeled as slutty, devious, and, paradoxically, wide-eyed and innocent.
Damon Albarn said this year that Swift “didn’t write her own songs,” an age-old criticism that inspired (or challenged) Swift to write her third album, Speak Now, without any collaborators.
And this was all before Kanye West leaked a tape (since debunked) that seemed to confirm everything the media had ever assumed about Miss Americana: that she was cunning, artfully deceitful, and ultimately a bad person. #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trended on Twitter worldwide, and the snake emoji appeared in droves in her Instagram comments. We all knew she was annoying, basic, whiney, cliché, and skilled at playing the victim, but now we had proof.
That was back in 2016. It’s 2022, and Swift has solidified her status as a beloved (and bejeweled) public figure in the last few weeks. It is no longer acceptable to dislike Taylor Swift. Indeed, her popularity is almost unfathomable. This is due, in part, to the fаct that it is no longer ‘cool’ to dislike any female celebrity in the way it once was (see: Anne Hathaway’s triumphant return to popularism after being hated for… literally no reason). (Also see: the rise of feminism and a newfound understanding of internalized misogyny.)
Swift’s latest single, Midnights, is crudely self-aware synth-pop fun. It reels from the dance-bop of Karma to the soft-lit mournful Maroon and dazzling-dark rеvеngе of Vigilante Shit, charting her many’sleepless nights.’ With this album, she becomes the first artist in history to hold all ten top positions on the Billboard Hot 100. It is the best-selling album since Adele’s 25, and it has received more streams than any other female artist in history. But that isn’t all. Swift essentially broke the internet last week when millions of US fans lined up to get tickets for her upcoming tour; the next day, Ticketmaster cancelled the general sale due to ‘extraordinary high demand.’
Since then, we’ve seen a different side of her: a matured, passionate Taylor Swift who isn’t afraid to be herself in order to be liked. Instead, she’s jeopardizing herself – and her reputation. One example is her decision to criticize Ticketmaster for failing to meet demand last week, leaving thousands of fans without access to tickets. Another radical move is her decision to re-record her old albums – to breathe new life into classic songs – as part of a plot to reclaim control over her Masters. Many millennials who used to ‘hate’ the singer found themselves returning to the songs they grew up with. Last November, for example, The All Too Well: The Short Film became an iconic cultural moment when nostalgia transported us back to our younger selves from a mature perspective, as Swift does in the song.
‘No woman, not even Taylor Swift, can be America’s sweetheart forever,’ one writer wrote in an ELLE article (‘The Depressingly Predictable Downfall of Taylor Swift’). We put A-List beauty queens like Swift on a pedestal, expect perfection from them, and then turn against them as soon as they show any sign of flawed humanity. Perhaps it is our nascent understanding of feminism that mocked Swift in the 2010s – and now, in 2022, celebrates the pop-perfection of Midnights (this self-recriminating viral earworm is all over TikTok: ‘it’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me’).
Misogyny also fuels the concept of the “basic.” As usual, teenage girls’ tastes are mocked simply because they are teenage girls. But do you know what’s different? Our interpretation of everything.
It was not ‘cool’ to be a feminist in 2012. Liking things that other girls liked – cranberry ᴠodka, candles, mimosa-fueled brunches, Taylor Swift – was inherently ‘uncool,’ because being a young woman who was unafraid of her tastes was not acceptable.
However, in 2022, we will have a new understanding. Many people disliked Taylor Swift because of her internalised misogyny. And as a society, we have much less time for it.
Ugg boots (we didn’t see this coming), crocks (they’re so comfy), scented candles (especially winter-spiced ones), Starbucks iced lattes (thank you, Emma Chamberlain), pastel-hued cocktails, and, of course, Taylor Swift.