In the last few years, Taylor Swift has proven herself to be master of her own image. When tabloids painted her to be a boy-crazed vixen, Swift turned that narrative on its head and released "Blank Space," owning that narrative and turning it into a smash hit. During her groping trial earlier this month, her testimony was fierce and unapologetic, and the applause it received from women everywhere was well-deserved. However, her latest song, which seems like her latest attempt to take control of her image, goes too far — and frankly, Swift's new song sends kids the wrong message.
On Thursday night, Swift released her new Reputation single, "Look What You Made Me Do," and the public was quick to decipher what seemed like thinly veiled digs at Kanye West within her lyrics. The attack wasn't exactly surprising, either: after all, it's no secret that Swift's reputation took a fairly large hit when Kim Kardashian provided Snapchat evidence that Swift hadn't been entirely transparent about the extent of her knowledge of West's "Famous" lyrics prior to the song's release.
The fallout was pretty dramatic: after the West incident, fans wrote open letters to Swift about their disappointment. Many had been supporters of Swift for years not just because of her music, but because of her apparent kindness, transparency, and relatability. Her fans — a large majority of them young and impressionable — wanted answers, and all they got was a statement on Instagram that, to many, felt stilted and lacking.
Of course, just because Swift is famous doesn't mean she owes anyone anything, even if that's just an explanation. She is allowed to react to events as she wishes, whether that's with silence, a short statement, or a revenge-fueled single. But Swift's every move is followed by millions of young girls who are currently immersed in the often cruel, drama-filled world that is middle school, and — regardless of whether Swift chooses to respond with that influence in mind or not — their idol's words and actions impact them.
Swift could have chosen to respond to the West scandal in several different ways. She could have explained to fans what really happened, set the record straight, and apologized (if need be). Alternatively, she could have also just stopped contributing to the drama after releasing her statement (which stated that she would "very much like to be excluded from this narrative") and ignored it from there on out, having explained her side of the story and promptly moving on.
Instead, Swift chose to respond to the drama by adding to it. "Look What You Made Me Do" is the lyrical equivalent of a sneaky, middle school fight. In her new single, Swift didn't directly confront anyone or answer any questions — she just further fanned the flames of a conflict and dragged people publicly without naming them. Listening to it made me feel like I was being transported directly back to middle school, where girls gossiped behind others' backs, posted vague statements on social media, and tried to prolong drama, rather than resolving it.
As a fan, it was disappointing to see Swift, whose actions influence so many kids, choose to respond the way she did. Sure, she doesn't owe anyone anything, and drama certainly sells. But by releasing "Look What You Made Me Do," Swift missed a valuable opportunity to show her young fans what a healthy response to conflict looks like — and for fans who supported her precisely because of her character, that was a disappointing choice.