In her directorial debut, Taylor Swift's brilliant music video for "The Man" has a subversive message that actually dismantles feminism.
Taylor Swift didn’t break any glass ceilings by directing her own music video. But she does powerfully crash through the entire message that “The Man” came to represent to her fans.
Her new music video for “The Man” is brightly subversive. But not of “the patriarchy” or the gender wage gap.
Hats off to the make-up crew. They made “Tyler Swift” look like he could actually be Tom Cruise’s real-life younger brother. They probably had a million people squinting at their phones trying to figure out if it was Taylor Swift or not.
Swift’s hilarious drag king portrayal of “The Man” as “Tyler Swift” actually clowns on the feminists. Because it’s so over the top, it dismantles the radical feminist belief that men have it exponentially better. It lampoons that notion as a silly fantasy.
There’s no telling whether she did this consciously. But a piece of art as perfect as Taylor Swift’s new music video is never the work of the conscious mind anyways. It’s a work of the deeper, wiser part of the artist’s mind. Truly great artists never know what they’re doing. They are the vessels for a message, they allow to flow through them.
Here’s Taylor Swift’s message in the music video for “The Man.”
As soon as Tyler Swift brofists his employees and taunts them to make more money, then “manspreads” on the subway ride home, clad in a business suit, ashing a thick cigar on the woman next to him, you can tell she’s not ridiculing men.
She’s telling you “The Man” that feminists loathe and envy isn’t even real. It’s a cartoon.
The same way the “One Percenter” that Bernie Bros loathe and envy isn’t real. It’s the cartoon character off the cover of the “Monopoly” board game box.
If it’s not clear by the subway ride that this is all a dream, it’s undeniable when “Tyler Swift” whips it out to relieve himself on the subway wall.
And steps away to reveal his whiz is dark blue. It’s so silly – and insanely funny.
One could be excused for thinking Taylor Swift’s lyrics for “The Man” glorify toxic masculinity:
Is that the best feminism has to offer in 2020? Men are pigs, too bad I’m not one because… I’d be the most beastly of them all?
But the music video invites viewers to revisit the lyrics and listen more carefully.
Taylor Swift doesn’t write that she’s sick of sexism in her industry, of being a woman, or of being oppressed by men. She writes:
I’m so sick of running
As fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man
Read that carefully.
Swift isn’t sick of her career going slower just because she’s a woman. She’s sick of wondering if she’d get there quicker if she was a man. It’s this absurd fantasy that’s making her sick. Today’s feminists are making themselves sick by comparing themselves to a cartoonish caricature of how much better men have it.
Now that’s a powerfully relevant and very subversive message.
Taylor Swift is the man.