The Old Taylor is still here

Kathleen Posted by Kathleen at September 21, 2017 15:49:15 September 21, 2017 15:49:15

The new era of Taylor Swift is far from over. It’s just beginning. Beyoncé help us. I was hoping I would never have to watch the Look What You Made Me Do video ever again because when I saw it the first time, the Old Kathleen almost died of secondhand embarrassment. How can something be so self-referential and yet so severely lacking in self-awareness? Lainey rightly called the video an “obvious attempt at cleverness” and in my opinion, that’s the nicest thing you could say about it. My favourite description came from Kevin Fallon at The Daily Beast who called it a “deranged kaleidoscope of brand self-explosion.” 

The latest phase in the reputation roll out is the release of behind-the-scenes footage from the set of Taylor’s “deranged kaleidoscope of brand self-explosion”. The clip focuses on the “Taylor Mountain,” the part in the Look What You Made Me Do video when the “new” Taylor stands on top of a pile of “old” Taylors who are desperately clawing at each other, trying to stay alive. It’s also the part in the video when the cringey voicemail recording “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now” kicks in. Is no one talking about how an interlude in 2017 about someone “coming to the phone” is dumb and outdated? She’s speaking into a vintage rotary phone! Do Taylor Swift fans know what a rotary phone is? Do Swifties even have voicemails?

Still, as a hardcore fan of the MTV series Making the Video, I love seeing the process of creating a music video. In this case, Taylor is literally showing us her work. Lainey and Duana have asked Taylor to show her work repeatedly. Of all the Taylor content we’ve been smacked in the face with over the past few weeks, I might be the least mad at this clip. Not only does it give us a glimpse into the work it took to create this video (no matter how bad I think it is), it’s also solid proof that the Old Taylor is alive and well.

When Taylor arrives on set to meet the extras who are playing her “old” selves, she calls it the “trippiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” And she’s seen Calvin Harris naked. (Ba dum tss! I’ll be here all week.) Look What You Made Me Do ends with 15 different incarnations of the “old” Taylor saying sh-t to each other that essentially confirms that Taylor Swift reads everything anyone writes about her. Well, there are way more “old” Taylors in the video and in this BTS clip, we get a better look at all of them.

The You Belong With Me Taylor is now wearing her friends’ names on her t-shirt instead of the names of boys she likes. Some may interpret this as Taylor moving on from her boy crazy phase. To me, it’s just driving home the friendship popularity test we’ve seen Taylor trot out every 4th of July. Some of the names visible are Blake [Lively] & Ryan [Reynolds], Ed [Sheeran], Lena [Dunham], Todrick [Hall], Gigi [Hadid] and Selena [Gomez]. I’m sure there are fans who have screengrabbed shots of the shirt and tried to deduce whose names were left off the list. Is Karlie Kloss still in the squad? Taylor keeps claiming that her old self is dead but this Easter egg for her fans is exactly the type of thing the Old Taylor would do. The childish notion of writing down all your BFFs names on a t-shirt is precisely the high school cafeteria, Mean Girls type of exclusionary sh-t people criticized about Taylor’s squad during the 1989 era. As problematic as parts of that era were, I really miss it. I’ll f-ck with a good Taylor Swift track any day. Look What You Made Me Do is not that.

The most fascinating part of the behind-the-scenes footage is watching Taylor work. Her vision is clear. I don’t think anyone has ever doubted that Taylor has the control of every single aspect of her image. Here, she shows that she does. The biggest example of this is the part in the clip when she’s speaking to Joseph Khan (a man who has said such blasphemous things about Queen Bey he should no longer be allowed to work in the music industry) and rattling off which Taylors should fight each other. She gives them succinct names like Ringmaster Circus Girl, Ringleader Red Tour and Sparkly Dress Fearless with the Long Hair Curly and the 13 on Her Hand. OK, that last one needs some work. I will give it to her that I remember almost every single one of these Old Taylors. It may be a “deranged self-explosion” but that branding is strong. In this clip, we see that she’s confident and clear in what she wants. This is the Taylor I’ve always wanted to like – the one who runs the sh-t out of a multi-million dollar business. That business is Taylor Swift.

The clips also shows glimpses of Taylor’s signature dry humour (the “I have no experience with home invasion” quip was almost funny and “I have to actively try not to be graceful” actually was) but mostly, it gives behind-the-scenes insight into Taylor’s terrible acting. Again, more proof the Old Taylor is still here. All of the Taylors still can’t act for sh-t. 

Since I can’t seem to stay away from Taylor content, here’s hoping the Ready For It video is better than this.

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