Taylor Swift literally became “The Man” in her new video to highlight scenarios of toxic masculinity and we’re so here for it. Per her typical fashion, there are lots of hidden symbols and scenes to decode, so let’s get to it!
The video starts out with a businessman (Taylor’s male alter ego Tyler Swift) yelling at his employees, who of course all cheer for him, and we get a signature wink to the camera from Taylor-as-the-man. Next we see him in the subway, smoking a cigar and manspreading with no regard for the other people on the train (raise your hand if you’ve experienced this too).
The “omg” moment of the video happens when the man steps out at 13th Street Station (a nod to Taylor’s favorite number, 13) and promptly pees on a wall with graffiti writing of all of Taylor’s albums that Big Machine Records currently holds the rights to.
The two signs really bring home the message, with “Missing: If Found, Return to Taylor Swift on the left and “No scooters” on the right, alluding to her feud with Scooter Braun, who purchased BMR last year–without giving Taylor the option to buy her Masters.
The camera pans down from one word also written in graffiti: Karma.
Next the man is making business calls on his yacht, which of course is littered with a handful of lounging models in matching yellow bikinis. He yells at the waiter, and then parties with the models (hello champagne!) before heading back to work. This matches with the lyrics of the song, “I’d be just like Leo, in Saint-Tropez” nodding to how celebrities like Leo DiCaprio are out on dates and vacationing with models in tow. The difference is they are men, and therefore their conquests are celebrated, whereas in contrast, her relationships have been portrayed in the media in a completely negative context for doing the exact same thing.
But what really stuck out to me was the second part of the video. The man gets dressed in the morning after presumably having a fling with the half-naked girl asleep in his bed. Instead of having a “walk of shame” like a woman would, he gets a “walk of fame” instead. 19 hands high five him as he runs down the hallway, proud of his accomplishments.
In the next scene, he’s in the park with his little girl, and all neighborhood is raving over the fact that he’s a great parent, throwing a “World’s Greatest Dad” party for him–another reference to how the double standards exist between women and men when it comes to parenting. So often women are questioned for being career-focused while being a parent, while on the other hand, men get praised for being a parent.
Then the man is playing in a tennis match (for a women’s charity) and when he isn’t winning, he has a mantrum–a man tantrum–and breaks his tennis racket and throws the tennis ball at the umpire when he doesn’t get his way. Many people think that this might be a nod to the incident in the 2018 US Open, when Serena Williams was fined for having a clash with the umpire. She later stated that it felt like a double standard because men have gotten more upset and said worse things during a game with no repercussion.
Next it’s 58 years later and the man is finally getting married–to a woman half his age. She proudly displays the massive ring on her hand, before shaking her head and walking away after the cake cutting.
In my opinion, the best part of the entire video is the end, when the man walks off of the tennis set to the directors chair. Taylor Swift (the real Taylor Swift) is the director, and she gives the man some instruction:
“Could you try to be sexier? Maybe be more likable this time?”
AKA things that the media have all criticized Taylor for in the past. Burn. For her directorial debut, she’s absolutely killing it.
And then it ends with “Directed by Taylor Swift, Wrtitten by Taylor Swift, Owned by Taylor Swift, and Starring Taylor Swift.” She certainly doesn’t need a man, or anyone’s help for that matter. She’s in charge, and that’s an empowering narrative to share with the world.
Swift is singlehandedly fighting the patriarchy and isn’t afraid to speak up about unfair gender biases in the world today. In the video, a man gets away with so many things that if a woman did, would get a very different–and not to mention more negative–reaction. We think she completely nails it.
She might not be a dude, but as far as we’re concerned, Taylor Swift IS the man. You can check out the full video below.