I feel like every blog I write starts with “I saw on Facebook.”
The truth is, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other forms of new media are the ways that people share what is important to them. It is an open forum that allows people to not only put out thoughts, opinions, and feelings, but gives their friends the chance to weigh in, to validate those experiences.
This week, it has been fascinating and downright upsetting to see how the world is falling apart. There are riots going on in Missouri, people being shot because someone was shot (yes, it makes sense for violence to lead to more violence). There are bombs being thrown every hour in the Middle East, with Israel defending itself from terrorist strikes. There are people dunking water on their heads, hoping to raise awareness and money for a disease that is ruining lives across the country and the world.
Yet, the story that most baffles me is the one that popped up less than 24 hours after Taylor Swift released her newest music video. People began to argue with Taylor. Yes, you read that right. With the world crashing down around us, there were those who insisted that Taylor Swift was one of the major global problems in need of immediate attention.
Here’s the background information. Taylor’s new video, “Shake It Off,” was released on Monday. The video shows the country-pop star singing as she attempts (rather unsuccessfully) to dance alongside many different kinds of dance. She is a ballerina in one shot, a modern dancer in another, and a hip-hop/rap star in another. The lyrics of the song, which talk about how she doesn’t let what people say about to her get to her, embody “shaking off” the bad things, and focusing on just being you.
Who could have a problem with a role model like Taylor singing about being one’s self, loving one’s self, and owning it with flare? A whole lot of people, apparently.
Within 24 hours, the internet was abuzz with people clamoring to call out Swift’s horrific example of cultural appropriation. She, in her wickedly offensive, and clearly hateful video, goes so far as to wear a flat brim hat, walk around in a letterman jacket with a hood, wear basketball shoes, and, get this, have a boom-box on her shoulder. She even allowed women to twerk! How dare she?!
Here’s the question, though. What could she have done that WOULDN’T have caused a stir? If she had put together this video, with cultural appropriation issues in mind, and left off the scenes with rap and hip hop themed outfits and dance moves, she would have been destroyed by the same people for not giving those genres fair attention, which clearly is an example of racism. Doing what she did, we clearly see she got accused of “perpetuating a black stereotype.”
Even twerking, which has been a major part of pop-culture, has a place in this video, especially in the fun and playful way Swift attempts to understand the dance craze. If she had ignored twerking, she would be accused of being a goody-two-shoes, too prude to understand the world she’s living in. As it is, she’s a raging racist who needs to be brought to justice.
Let’s be real, though. She isn’t perpetuating a black stereotype. She is perpetuating a hip-hop stereotype. Is hip-hop a predominantly black cultural piece? Sure. But is it a stereotype of all black people? Not even a little bit.
The most challenging part about this is the lunacy of the meaning of the song, in context with the criticism. One critic who has received a lot of attention for his comments is rapper Earl Sweatshirt (yes, that is his name). In his blast of Taylor’s video, he admits to NOT HAVING EVEN WATCHED IT. Seriously, Mr. Sweatshirt? Your quote: “haven't watched the taylor swift video and I don't need to watch it to tell you that it's inherently offensive and ultimately harmful.” The only thing inherently offensive and ultimately harmful about this situation is your desire to argue about something’s value without even educating yourself on the matter.
This video is about finding yourself, about dancing to whatever type of music is in your heart. It is about not taking yourself too seriously and not getting wrapped up in what other people say about you.
The world is a screwed up place right now. There are a lot of good causes, good fights to stand up for. This fight, though, is a petty argument, meant only to take advantage of a girl who is making the music she loves.
One of my favorite TV shows, the Newsroom, handles this best. When Will, the main character, is overwhelmed by the craziness in the world, he goes to bail one of his co-workers out of jail after his wrongful arrest for participating in a peaceful protest. Video here.
At the 1:49 mark, you see Will explode a little bit. He declares “So obviously, what I’m doing is dealing with the easiest one!”
People here are dealing with an easy thing. A young girl who doesn’t really have the ability to bite back. Our biggest problem isn't a music video. It is the world's refusal to learn how to pick our battles. Grow up, people, and learn to pick the right fight.
If you would like to argue about it, go watch the video. It’s posted above.