Taylor Swift’s strength is not subtlety. And she leans all the way into that – or away from it – in her video for “The Man”, which she directed, wrote, owns, and stars in. Sure, there may be some Easter eggs for her fans throughout, but for those who don’t obsessively comb every shot for hidden clues, her message is unmistakable. And while this in-your-face approach doesn’t always work in her visuals, this time she totally nails it. Because what she’s attacking is sexism, misogyny, toxic masculinity, double standards, and why should that be addressed with a soft approach?
We start in the most obvious way: Taylor Swift is “The Man”. I think it was obvious when the teaser came out earlier this week showing a man from the back looking out the window that this would be her. She makes it clear at the end of the video showing the transformation process but by now, her face and her features are so recognisable, it’s impossible to obscure completely, even though Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson did a great job with the ADR. And the makeup artists did an even better job with the hands.
While there was speculation from fans yesterday that Taylor would target Kanye West in this video, and I hoped that she wouldn’t, I don’t see any Kanye here. Instead, the enemy is Scooter Braun. Here’s the scene in “The Man” as he takes a leak in the subway, against a wall with her album titles graffiti-ed on the wall, and a “missing” sign right next to a symbol that bans scooters.
Taylor Swift more than shaded Scooter buying her masters, she put it on display bluntly.— Ben (@TS7Track3) February 27, 2020
All her albums spray painted next to a missing poster sign? Next to a ban Scooters sign? She’s not letting men walk all over her and manipulate her anymore. She did THAT. #TheManMusicVideo pic.twitter.com/cWdeb9EYsJ
This is the bigger fight – because her conflict with Scooter is more than just “he said/she said”. There’s some of that, of course, but in her mind, whether or not you agree with it, she’s advocating for artistic ownership, and specifically a woman in a man’s business being able to claim what she created. And if, historically, every business is man’s business, how much women’s work has been uncredited and stolen?
That is true in our professional and personal lives, as she includes a scene where “The Man” is celebrated, even canonised you might say, for looking after his child while women are taken for granted and unacknowledged for doing the same. Similar hypocrisies are addressed throughout the video and it’ll generate conversation all day – at post time it’s already the #1 trending topic on Twitter and, so far, from what I’ve seen, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. As is this one. “The Man”, in my opinion, is Taylor Swift’s best video ever.
Before you hit play though, if you haven’t already, here are my favourite parts. First… in solidarity with Serena Williams.
How do you think Leonardo DiCaprio feels about getting namechecked in the actual song and then referenced not once but twice in the video? There’s this:
Which of course is from The Wolf of Wall Street, the film that glorifies that grossness of investment douchebags and is considered prestige cinema (while Hustlers gets shafted as film-lite). And then, as Leo’s part in the song comes up, we do see what it’s like for Leo in St Tropez:
This is the kind of punching down I can stand behind. Or punching across, if you think Leo’s as powerful as Taylor. God I wish someone had the balls to ask him about it though.
Taylor’s video for “The Man” is below.