But, in Swift’s case, the lyrics of the song address trolls on the internet and those trying to deny gays rights. As a matter of political priority, would the same people who hate Taylor Swift also hate gay people? And if “yes” is the answer, is it not morally pitchy to conflate the two? And if this thing really is a virtual petition for tolerance signed by everybody from RuPaul to Ryan Reynolds (the running time, by the way, is only 3 minutes and 30 seconds!), why is the most satisfying image its final hatchet-burying moments between Swift and Katy Perry? There’s something risible about the idea of these two straight, well-intended, politically hapless women providing the dismount for a plea for equal rights while actual gay people have just been throwing gay-wedding cake all over each other. These two exit that narrative, and stand in a separate, apolitical one. And what you’re left with is two people who can’t help but be their fullest, truest selves in a context that doesn’t require all that fullness. It’s camp.
CARAMANICA It would have to be at least a little bit funny to really be camp, no?
In the midst of that chaos, that the saving grace for Swift is the mending of an old fence could be a demonstration that even those who had once been closed-minded can evolve — Taylor believes in change, see? But I think it’s something different, something less considered: The song’s lyrics conflate tensions big and small, personal and political. In the song, and especially in the video, with the Katy Konclusion, what emerges feels like a bait and switch, or really just a switch. (For what it’s worth, the lyrics also misuse the word shade.)
MORRIS I don’t think you can have the switch without the bait! So, bait and switch it is. (And Jon, you just gave my Katy Perry kover band a name!) Anyway, it also feels important to say that ultimately this is a fine thing. We just don’t like how clumsy and basic and grabby it is. But I’ve been thinking, in earnest, about what it might have meant for little me to happen upon this. I was presumed gay pretty early in school and, for a few years, had been mildly persecuted for it. Warhol and Haring and Baldwin — they hadn’t happened to me yet. Boy George and Jermaine Stewart and “The Real World” found me first. And Madonna found me most.
Before she was anybody’s problem, she was a great big window, this thing through which you could see a world that included people I wanted to be, people I wanted to be with, people I knew I was. At 7. At 11. At 15. And there was something about all of her racial and sexual alignments (not allyships), something about that “Vogue” video, where she’s out-everything-ed by these black and Latinx dudes even as she’s keeping up with them. At the height of her meaningfulness as a star and an artist, she opened windows, which feels as important as opening doors. And she did it without having to say, “Yo! I’m opening stuff up!”