Featured Image: Artist’s Own
When it comes to stomping out the misogyny dominating the music industry, Taylor Swift appears to be ‘The Man’ for the job. Swift has never been an artist to willingly bow down to the decisions made by others, often using her platform to promote acceptance and political liberalism- even when advised against it. The music video for ‘The Man’, one of the biggest hits from Swift’s most recent album, Lover, depicts the everyday sexism experienced by women. The video, written and directed by Swift, is brimming with allusions to how our society criticises women for doing the same things which men are often saluted for. In light of this, we’ve picked our top patriarchal destroying moments from Swift’s music video for ‘The Man’.
The video begins by portraying a successful businessman, loved and revered by all of his employees. He appears to be worshipped in the workplace, with each scene being an almost direct recreation of scenes from The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), starring Leonardo DiCaprio. As the lyrics “I’d be a fearless leader, an alpha type” can be heard, it can be deduced that the man in this video is Swift herself, in prosthetic makeup. The first message, therefore, becomes clear, that if Swift were a man, her actions and reputation would be esteemed, rather than torn down by the media and trolls alike. The representation of male stockbrokers, like Jordan Belfort, who DiCaprio portrays in The Wolf of Wall Street, depicts how successful men can get up to no good, without it having any effect on their accomplishments, all while people still idolise them.
Swift portrayed as a man replicating the circumstances of real life, is a motif continued throughout the video. For example, the man is later featured on a yacht, surrounded by dancing girls wearing bikinis. The video is satirical of the over-sexualisation of women, often featured in the music videos of male pop artists. However, it goes far deeper than that, as it is no coincidence that the scene ends with Swift singing “I’d be just like Leo, in San Tropez”. The music video acts as a commentary on how individuals react to the likes of DiCaprio having many girlfriends, in comparison to Swift dating numerous men. Neither are doing anything wrong, yet only one is called out in tabloids for seemingly jumping from partner to partner- implying that their behaviour is not ‘ladylike’. In comparison, DiCaprio’s exploits are merely chuckled at, with a worrying ‘boys will be boys attitude’ emanating from the media.
Furthermore, the man in the video is displayed as ‘manspreading’ and smoking on a train, leading to those around him being crammed in and choking on his smoke. This lack of consideration for others, is clearly the concept of a self-obsessed viewpoint, from a successful man who benefits at the detriment of others. This leads directly to one of the specific people Swift is commenting on with this video, Scooter Braun. For those who do not know, Braun’s conglomerate, Ithaca Holdings, bought Big Machine Records in June of 2019, with the deal including the masters to all of Swift’s first 6 albums.
The man in the video then urinates against a wall that has the names of all 6 albums graffitied on it, with a sign reading ‘Missing, if found return to Taylor Swift’ and a sign prohibiting the use of scooters. This alludes to Swift’s public campaign against Braun, for preventing her from singing songs from these previous albums at the AMA’s, and from using them in her Netflix documentary. Braun and Big Machine Records founder, Scott Borchetta, did this in an attempt to stop Swift from re-recording all of the albums with her new label, Universal Music. This means that fans would be able to purchase and listen to Swift’s previous records, whilst still supporting the artist, rather than her old record label. Unsurprisingly, their attempts to silence Swift did not deter her, as she performed a medley of some of her most popular tracks at the AMA’s, where she was also awarded ‘Artist of the Decade’. In true Swift style, this performance did not come without its not-so-subtle hints at the injustices in the industry. Her performance began with her wearing a prison-style outfit, with all 6 album titles written on it. Swift took what would typically be a private conflict and threw it directly in front of the public eye. Some have said that this act may have been a defining point in changing who owns what within the music industry, as she exposed how even the most successful artists can be exploited by whichever man is the most powerful at the time. The message Swift relays here is a very personal one, as she felt as though her content had been stolen from her. The video appears to be a justified hit back at Braun, proving that she will continue to do as she pleases, with the music she has worked so hard to create.
‘The Man’ goes on to reference one of the most defining events in sporting history; the 2018 US Open match between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. Williams lost the match after the umpire issued her a violation, due to his belief that she was cheating and giving him ‘verbal abuse’. She may have smashed her racket, something the man in Swift’s music video also does, but she also attempted to speak to him calmly before accusing him of sexism. Take Roger Federer, who repeatedly swore and shouted at umpire Jake Garner back in 2009. Federer was fined $1,500 for that incident, whereas Williams was fined $17,000 for doing far less. Furthermore, Williams has since been completely demonised in the media, including an infamous and rather repulsive cartoon of her going viral all over the world. This highlights how relevant it is that ‘a man is allowed to react, and a woman can only over-react’. This is a quote from Swift herself, proving that she shows solidarity with women such as Williams not only with her words, but also with her actions.
Reality is blurred with the meta ending of the video, with filming being ‘cut’ by director Swift, asking the man to be sexier and more likeable. This switching of the gender roles signifies the otherworldly amount of pressure on women’s shoulders to be attractive, as if they owe that to society. The female actress is then complimented by director Swift for just being there. This implies how absurd it would be for women to be praised for simply existing, while the world demands everything at once of men.
Finally, ‘Owned by Taylor Swift’ can be read in the credits, reiterating that from now on, Swift will be ensuring that she rightfully has full control over her work. Swift was able to use her music in her outstanding Netflix Documentary, Miss Americana (2020), and the re-recording of her first 6 albums is expected to commence in November 2020.
Lover, is available now on all major streaming platforms.
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