Living for the Applause: Post-Miss Americana Thoughts
Hello and welcome back to the blog my loves!
Now this Friday evening, I thought I would do something different and watch Taylor Swift's new documentary on Netflix. I really enjoy documentaries on musicians; I've watched films on Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, The Jonas Brothers, and now Taylor Swift.
Now, let me begin by saying that I was an enormous Taylor Swift fan until her 1989 album. I’ve always loved and supported her music, owning albums, memorizing the words, and using her experiences to vent my own frustrations. She felt like a kindred spirit, and I was REALLY excited to see her music documentary.
These documentaries are typically really interesting; a look into how the artist found fame, a peek into their private life, and some personal thoughts on how fame affects their lives. But Swift's documentary feels different; instead of revealing the "real" Taylor, or giving us an inside look at the spoils of her fame and fortune, the documentary adheres to an odd narrative-- Swift is a victim, and we should feel sorry for her.
Uhm... excuse me?
I'm supposed to feel sorry for Taylor Swift? One of the richest and most successful women of our generation? Tall, blonde, beautiful, and greatly awarded? Something about that just does not feel right, and this documentary does her no favors.
The film is insistent in the narrative that Swift is somehow a victim of her fame despite the spliced-in footage of her enjoying private jets, stunning mansions, and sold-out stadium tours. Between shots of her complaining about the "hate," we see her strutting on Red Carpets, accepting prestigious awards, and creating the music of her dreams. She seems to be surrounded by people who support her musical vision, friends and family who love her for "her," and of course, millions of supporters around the world. Her life is pretty good.
We're talking about a woman who has achieved more with her musical career than any other woman could probably even DREAM of, but then she's going to complain about how the headlines treat her?
Honestly, Mr. Documentary, I'm sorry, but who EVER told this woman that you can have fame and fortune and the adoration of millions without consequences? And how is that our problem? Why is she shocked that people don't like her? Who promised her that her fans would stay fans forever?
Fame is NOT the bonafide blessing that many people want to believe it to be, and this is an important message I think would be REALLY interesting if it were explored by a talented songwriter such as Swift, but unfortunately, the documentary seems to ignore this storyline in favor of politics, her new music, and her frustration with the media.
It's interesting because I do in fact feel sorry for her, but not for the reasons she wants me to. I don't feel sorry that she's received mean press, backlash, or cruel comments (what celebrity- even marginally famous ones- have NOT had that happen to them !?!?) I feel sorry for the fact that her life feels so empty, lonely, and exhausting.
Swift spends much of the documentary exploring the concept of reinvention.But on her quest to really “find herself,” she seems to get sidetracked by her addiction to the approval of others. The film fails to conceal her obvious obsession with one-upping herself, and finding out the key to her next big hit.
For example, after finding out that her Reputation album was snubbed by the Grammy awards, she definitively declares that "it's fine" because she's just going to make a better album next time.
This scene SHOCKED me. If she felt she deserved recognition for the album, how could she turn around three seconds later and decide that it wasn't good enough? Why wasn't it good enough anymore? Because the Grammy's didn't recognize it? Really?
Instead of having personal thoughts and opinions about her music and work, or even her own identity, she seems to be completely informed by the opinions and outlooks of others! What if she personally loved and was proud of that album? Why would it matter if the Grammy Award people didn't? Does that actually mean that it wasn't a "good" album?
Swift's view of herself is completely seen through the lens of how OTHER people view her; the fans, her critics, and the award judges.
And this is probably the strongest theme I grasped from the documentary, despite the film attempting to draw my attention elsewhere. It is clear to me that Taylor Swift is highly insecure and builds her identity upon the thoughts and views of other people. She constantly tries to fit a mold set out for her, and does anything she can to prolong the applause and capture the attention.
When she began her career, grabbing attention meant being relatable and "nice." But now she complains that she was just trying to "fit" into the mold her executive producers built for her, revealing now that her "sweet" image was all a product meant to enhance her career.
Later we are let in on the secret that she felt extremely lonely after her 1989 album, without a person to call on the phone to celebrate with... yet... I'm sure we all remember her dynamic clique of impossibly beautiful models, singers, and actresses parading around her at every event throughout that year. She excitedly announced that these women were her squad--her friends and total BAES; if she was so lonely, what was all that about? Was the girl squad a lie?
Why is she constantly selling us an image that she later goes on to completely denounce?
So fast forward to today: Swift has come out with yet another reinvention, saying that she is FINALLY being "herself," and using her "voice" to affect "real change." That sweet girl from 2010? That was just a media creation! The model clique? Totally fake... but this new Swift? The politically-correct icon? Well, she's the REAL Taylor Swift and she's ready to throw her influential weight AND voice around for the right cause.
Yeah... sure. We'll see how you feel about that in a few years. If her record rings true, I think we should expect her to find her denouncing this particular image of herself a few years down the road.
So... will the real Taylor Swift please stand up? Because honestly I have no idea who she is.
And that's the point of this little breakdown I'm doing with this blog post: Taylor Swift's identity, being built upon how she is received by others, has been revealed to be NO IDENTITY AT ALL. Let it be repeated:
When we build our identities on how other people view us, WE WON'T HAVE AN IDENTITY TO SPEAK OF! We won't!
You're either going to constantly be shapeshifting to fit whatever reflection the cultural mileu is desiring to see, OR you're going to be so upset and triggered by people who don't like you that you'll fail to build any sense of security or confidence in your identity or skills, let alone any semblance of real joy or contentment.
You will become a "yes man:" someone who takes joy and excitement from pleasing others, yet has no idea how to ACTUALLY take pleasure in life.
This is the question:
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
If Taylor Swift loves her album, but the Grammy's snub her, can she still be proud of it?
I think according to Taylor, the answer would be a definitive NO... and that is a shame.
If we cannot derive pleasure from life without the applause from other people, then we are set to live in constant agony. Not only will the applause never satisfy our wretched hearts, but it will always be quieter than we had secretly hoped for.
A life lived for the applause of others is NO LIFE.
It isn't! Especially for Christians. In fact, Christians are told to live in complete opposition of this. Matthew 6 says:
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Mammon, meaning man. We cannot serve God AND man. We must serve God above man, and in doing this, we are also rejecting our own sinful cravings for the selfish approval of others, brought on by our pride and desire to feel important.
Furthermore, Scripture tells us that when we are persecuted, we are to rejoice. We are to be glad, as 1 Peter 4 says:
12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
We are to have excessive joy when we experience trials, rejoicing in our suffering and remaining glad in our place in the Lord. This is in direct opposition to the concept of building our lives upon the foundation of applause.
I don't mean to be hard on Taylor Swift; I really don't. I just want to use her as a cautionary tale- to remind you, and myself, that a life lived for the applause of others is no life at all. I promise you that if you cannot find gratitude or peace in your current circumstances, no amount of fame, money, love, or recognition will fill your soul.
With Swift, all I see is an insecure person who is ready to shape-shift into whatever the world wants her to be. She declares that she's finally speaking out and being "herself" but it just feels like another stage of Swift's desperate attempt at fitting in and reaching for adoration.
And that is why I feel sorry for Taylor Swift: not for all the mean comments or the harsh headlines... not because of the stalkers, the court cases, or the Kanye-West-Kardashian harassment. No.
I feel sorry for Taylor Swift because her internal identity is entirely built upon what other people think of her.
I hope we can learn from her story and remember that no amount of money or fame or any kind of earthly thing will ever be enough if we are looking to build our lives on anything other than the Lord.