After the Gossip Christmas
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I call it Gossip Christmas. There can be many Gossip Christmases throughout the year though. Duana tells me that some people are now calling it the Day Of The Receipts. I like that too. And whatever you want to call it, it was a day that was GREAT for Gossip. It was a day that will be remembered and studied. It’s already being studied. Even The New York Times posted an analysis of the Day Of The Receipts, highlighting the difference in these two adversaries locked in what’s become the most volatile celebrity gossip battle of our time and their different styles of engagement: “Ms. Swift is a covert operator, Mr. West a namer of names.”
So many great articles have been posted in response to what went down. Some have decided to approach it like a film studies class, with The Ringer’s analysis of Kanye West’s wife’s editorial skills breaking down each specific cut and how the decision behind each cut of her video was specifically designed to make a point about Taylor Swift.
Some posit that this war over the word “bitch” is actually a war over “narrative” – a word used by Taylor herself in her defence post on Instagram in which she ends by declaring that she would “very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009”. Oh…but didn’t she? She dedicated her Grammys acceptance speech for Album of the Year this year to Kanye West. She may not have named him (because, see above, she’s “covert” like that) but it was basically an oratory subtweet. So, as The Atlantic suggests, is she really mad at the narrative or is she “mad, explicitly, at not being in control of this narrative”?
That control is the problem. Taylor’s image and message has always been to “live by the heart”. Even though what I personally enjoy about her most is that she’s actually quite cunningly business, for whatever reason, this is a side that Taylor doesn’t often want to share. Like somehow it would mean less if people thought she actually had to strategise about her career instead of letting it come to her on clouds. That’s what Vox argues is “more damaging” to Taylor about this entire mess. Not that she may have lied about how Kanye’s song came to be but that their “interaction… confirms that underneath the thick coating of bubblegum pop known as Taylor Swift, there’s a shrewd, savvy woman who puts a lot of effort into shaping and maintaining her public image — a person who we sort of knew existed but never really had the proof. Until now.”
VSB is, hilariously, calling that person “Darth Susan” and Kanye a seven month old baby who spits avocado for no reason. A couple of weeks ago, when we were still high from the spectacle of #Taymerica, I referred to Swoki Love as “performative happiness”. Here VSB similarly describes Taylor’s approach to any and all of her fights (and she’s involved in so many of them) as “White female performative faux melodrama — where status is cultivated and maintained through a state of perpetual exaggerated victimhood (which everyone laps up because “sad White woman” = “Let’s find our f-cking capes and save her!”) — than she is”. And The New York Times also suggests that what’s unfolded between Taylor and Kanye has “extended a narrative in which Mr. West, who is black, is painted as the predator and Ms. Swift, who is white, as the prey, a story with uncomfortable racial overtones”.
Those “uncomfortable racial overtones” are reflected in how her supporters have defended her. This is a tweet from Joseph Khan, director of some of Taylor’s videos:
Ain't the first time the Kardashians supported the murder of an innocent blonde woman.— Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) July 18, 2016
And here’s what a “Swift source” told PEOPLE:
"For seven years, Kanye has continued to attack Taylor, attempting to incite hatred for her at his live shows and on social media, even going so far as portraying her naked in his most recent music video.”
Incite hatred is very specific wording, used frequently these days in headlines not related to entertainment. But, then again, I have always argued that the celebrity ecosystem is a mirror. And that gossip is not just a conversation about famous people but a conversation about where we live and who we are.