Right here is the aforementioned meaning-drift, the dilution.
“You Need to Calm Down” has, between its muddled metaphors, only one clear through line: Swift’s struggles with criticism in the public eye are like those of gay people facing actual hate for being who they are.
For a star whose greatest political controversy used to be that she had no politics, a single that name-checks GLAAD is a real evolution, and it’s already reportedly having the concrete effect of boosting donations for gay rights.
Yet fans seem equally fixated on the personal implications.
The song’s second verse takes on homophobic demonstrators: “Sunshine on the street at the parade / But you would rather be in the dark ages.” The video, released today, has a legion of queer celebs doing famously queer things such as sipping tea, performing in drag, and getting married in matching baby-blue tuxes.
It closes with a plug to sign a petition for the passage of the Equality Act, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity.Just check out the discourse about the video on Twitter.It’s packed with people marveling, maybe more than anything else, at the climax: Swift and Perry, dressed, respectively, as french fries and a hamburger, hugging.Its breathtaking argument: that famous people are persecuted in a way meaningfully comparable to queer people.The first verse aims at anonymous tweeters sending Swift rude notes, making for yet another catchy gripe about “haters” in the lineage of 2010’s “Mean,” 2014’s “Shake It Off,” and much of 2017’s Reputation.After the “Calm Down” video premiered, she tweeted out that fans should support the video’s co-stars, many of whom are queer, including Ellen De Generes, the actor Laverne Cox, the You Tuber Hannah Hart, Ru Paul, and a group of Ru Paul’s drag disciples.When rumors emerged that Swift and Katy Perry would kiss in the video, Swift shut them down, writing on Tumblr that “to be an ally is to understand the difference between advocating and baiting.”But the Perry flap hints at why queer folks have a right to feel queasy from the song.The cause becomes more vulnerable to criticisms of faddishness, or of style above substance—of ROYGBIV and sequins as empty aesthetics. Swift has shown some awareness of the risk of over-centering herself.She’s consistently linked her recent Pride-themed performances—including at the Stonewall Inn—with real activist efforts: writing her senator, directing people to a petition, driving donations.Queer people used to mostly stand alone in advocating for those things, and it wasn’t long ago that a video like the one for “You Need to Calm Down” would have been assumed to be a career-ender for a performer banking on wide popularity.But public sentiment, the marketplace, and the dynamics of online communication have given queerness a trendy mainstream component.