Taylor Swift has played a band geek, a bitter bedroom dilettante (twice), and a bumbling modern dancer, but her latest role is one that’s often associated with young women who burn through boyfriends as quickly as the public believes Swift does: The Crazy Girl.
Throughout Swift’s Joseph Hahn-directed “Blank Space” video, the Crazy Girl canon is in fine form: hysterical screaming over a text from another woman, breaking expensive artifacts in the castle the couple calls home, and strategic sob-posing and smeared mascara on Swift’s part (that’s the “nightmare dressed in a daydream” part). One minute she’s painting a portrait of her Prince Charming, the next she’s letting her cat(s) deface the picture. It’s essentially “Before He Cheats” meets The Great Gatsby with the meta factor turned up past 11. But I mean, don’t say she didn’t warn ya.
“Blank Space” leaked early this morning, was pulled down shortly thereafter, and re-emerged in its official form this afternoon. In the span of a few hours, numerous outlets — from Entertainment Weekly to Vulture — have been keen to deem “Blank Space” Swift’s “Cool Girl”/Gone Girl moment. Sure, there are similarities to Gone Girl‘s Amy Dunne, particularly when a twinkly-eyed Swift starts wielding a knife while wearing lingerie in bed. But just because the truly warped Gone Girl brand of Crazy Chick is de rigueur at the moment doesn’t mean Swift’s following a trend. I wouldn’t exactly call a prissy, clingy debutante a “Cool Girl,” even before the jealousy-fueled rage blackout.
“Blank Space” is more about taking the public’s perception of Swift’s love life to its most dramatic heights, perhaps in an attempt to point out its absurdity. It’s the music video equivalent of saying “I’m not crazy” without actually saying it, as that phrase is precisely what women who are called crazy by men are expected to say.
I’m reminded of two recent Swift quotes on the subject of her love life, each with slight subtext of her ‘Crazy Girl’ public perception. The first comes from her recent Rolling Stone cover story:
I feel like watching my dating life has become a bit of a national pastime. And I’m just not comfortable providing that kind of entertainment anymore. I don’t like seeing slide shows of guys I’ve apparently dated. I don’t like giving comedians the opportunity to make jokes about me at awards shows. I don’t like it when headlines read ‘Careful, Bro, She’ll Write a Song About You,’ because it trivializes my work. And most of all, I don’t like how all these factors add up to build the pressure so high in a new relationship that it gets snuffed out before it even has a chance to start. And so, I just don’t date.
The second quote comes courtesy of Swift’s “Shake It Off”: “I go on too many dates/ But I can’t make them stay/ At least that’s what people say.” Throughout 1989, Swift offers up her usual brand of lyrical self-awareness in small doses like this. But in case “Blank Space” lines like, “Got a long list of ex-lovers/ They’ll tell you I’m insane” slip through the cracks (since everyone seems to think that line says “Starbucks lovers”), Swift has made herself explicitly clear in the song’s video. “I know crazy,” she seems to be saying both as a defense and a warning. “This is crazy, this is fantasy.”