I didn't want to listen to her new song, "You Belong With Me," but you can't avoid it. It's on every radio station, from the top 40 stations to the indie stations to the country stations to even the fucking hip hop station. It's saturated our culture so much that while I'm still trying to memorize Robert Service's, "The Cremation of Sam Magee," I already have nearly every word of the wretched abortion of this song stuck in my head. And let me tell you, folks, these are Bad lyrics. And I mean that in the sense of D&D alignment.
In the gender wars, one of the rarely used but surprisingly strong criticisms men have against women is specialness. Women want to be special. They're encouraged to think of themselves as special. The idea that every child is special that's saturated education in the past twenty years has accompanied a decline of masculinity in the common culture. This is unfortunate because specialness is something more often associated with girls than women, and when women are encouraged to think of themselves as uniquely special without justification it reduces them to the status of children.
Think about the most popular little girl fantasy: being a princess. A princess is someone who is special not because of what she's done but who she is. She is special because of the way she was made and nothing she or anyone else does can diminish that and nothing anyone else does an equal it. As the girl matures she is encouraged to buy into other fantasies like horoscopes. Again, it is telling girls they are worthwhile (which one would think good) but is not connecting this to anything they have accomplished. Is it any wonder there are so many men who consider women irrational? The vast majority of women are quite rational, or at least as much as men are, but these men are responding to what they see as women's culture and they understandably don't like what they see. The fact that most women don't like these portrayals becomes irrelevant as the portrayals dominate the media over these women's objections. It doesn't matter that the public as a whole has turned against bullshit self-congratulations, these self-congratulations are still associated with women.
There are other examples I could bring out but just pick up any issue of Cosmopolitan from the last ten years if you don't believe me, and you'll see an entire magazine of un-earned self-accolades. For the rest of this post, accept the premise that we live in a culture that encourages women to believe in their specialness, regardless of whether it is earned.
And so we come to, "You Belong to Me."
The premise of the song is the inner pinings of juvenile girl who has a crush on her male best friend; said best friend is in a relationship with another girl. I have no problem with this premise. Unrequited feelings are part and parcel of growing up. It is a highly appropriate topic for a tween pop song. But after listening to the lyrics, I just want to take the narrator and throttle her. I want to scream at her, "Of course he's chosen another girl instead of you! You're boring!"
She is boring! There's not a single line in the song where she tells why she would be a good girlfriend. To paraphrase Dan Savage, your significant other has one job and that's to make your life better. How is Taylor Swift's protagonist going to make the guy's life better? You don't know anything about her! All I know about her by the end of the song is that she likes unpopular music (we're probably supposed to interpret this as indie music) and she doesn't put any effort into her appearance. She claims to have a close relationship with the guy but leaves us no reason to believe it. She never references a shared experience or even an in-joke. Despite the emphasis many people place on musical taste, has anyone ever fallen in love with someone because of their CD collection? This is a girl with nothing going for her.
We don't have a lot of info on the rival girl except that she occasionally gets upset (Really? Is there anyone who doesn't? Ever?). We're also told she wears high heels and short shorts, contrasted with the narrator's sneakers and t-shirts. We're clearly supposed to interpret this to mean that the rival is a phony and the narrator is pleasantly laid-back. I interpret this to mean the rival puts effort into her appearance and is willing to put effort into her relationship, while the narrator is just going to wait and whine until she gets what she wants. Who would you want to spend time with her, let alone date her?
One could make a very strong argument that all the characters are kept deliberately vague as either an artistic or marketing decision in order to allow the audience to project themselves and their situation into the song. This is probably true, but it's not exactly a point in the song's favor. A situation bland enough to have anything or anyone projected over it is not equivalent to a universally sympathetic situation.
Everything comes to a head with the narrator whining, "Why can't you seeeeeeeeee? You belong with meeeeeeeeeeeeee!" There is no explanation of why the guy belongs with the narrator, just a complaint that he doesn't. What exactly are we supposed to see, Taylor?
Perhaps we are supposed to interpret the lyrics to mean that the narrator and the guy are fated to be together. This would fit into the princess/zodiac pattern by suggesting the narrator (and thus the audience) will get her perfect romance because of who she is and not because of anything she does. The end result is is yet another pop culture entry that demeans life its subject and misleads its target audience. Once again we're left with the girls who listen to this shit having another piece of media not only misleading them but developing harmful versions of romance and self-esteem. But worse than usual, it's done in an insidious matter because of a forcible attempt to cause the listener to self-identify as the protagonist.
God, I hate Taylor Swift.