CW: descriptions of abuse
“Ooh, look what you made me do
Look what you made me do
Look what you just made me do
Look what you just made me do …”
These are words I don’t doubt all of you have heard before. Taylor Swift’s catchy new chorus has been virtually inescapable recently – blaring in stores, radios and on the internet. And why not? It combines all the things we love most: a mind-numbingly addictive rhythm, a kick-ass music video, references to celebrity feuds and a vanilla starlet desperately trying to be ‘dangerous’.
Oh, and also a hideous and repetitive main lyric that gets worse and worse the more you think about it.
I call it the ‘blurred line’ effect. In other words, hiding a suggestive title in an otherwise catchy song and letting it slowly seep into the public’s consciousness. Luckily, with Robin Thicke’s smash hit, people were pretty quick to pick up on all the rape subtext. (It was pretty hard to miss, since the music video literally showed the star harassing naked models). As successful as the song was, it certainly received its fair share of criticism for its victim-blaming attitude and prompted serious censorship discussions.
And yet, Swift’s accusatory “look what you made me do” is being let slide without much fuss.
I’m not going to lie, I have a dog in this fight – and for once it isn’t just because I think Taylor Swift is an entitled brat so generic she could be on special at Aldi. I have had those exact words screeched at me over and over again, each time accompanied by a different punishment I utterly believed I deserved. I have had that phrase hissed in my ear, had it sighed with an air of ‘aren’t you pathetic’, and even had it cooed at me following barely-consensual sex. And each time I trusted, with complete faith, that this was true. Each time I believed that looking, speaking, acting or being (somehow) wrong meant other people could hurt you as much as they wanted and it was your own goddamn fault for messing up in the first place.
When you stop and think about it, isn’t the video is cruel?
Swift mocks and shames those who disrespected her in the most public way she can, and then blames them for her actions. The chorus is not only messed up, it’s just wrong; Katy Perry and Kanye West did not drive over to Taylor’s house, force her into a black lycra suit and order her to compose a repetitive track alluding to their flaws. Taylor choosing to behave in a certain way, to get some very public revenge, and then passing the blame for these choices onto those at whom her anger is directed is a disgusting attitude.
Some may say it doesn’t matter. It’s just a song that people will forget in a couple of months. Why not just let it die out?
Well, if Blurred Lines was subject to onslaughts of criticism for abetting rape culture, I would argue the same regulations should be applied to Look What You Made Me Do. Having young people not only believe, but chant, the message that victims of abuse – physical, sexual or emotional – in any way force their attacker to behave in such a way is a recipe for disaster. This is the kind of belief system doesn’t go away.