'You Need to Calm Down' is a campy, queer wonderland
Once upon a time, I was a self-proclaimed Taylor Swift hater.
In the beginning, I found Swift’s music vapid and irritating. But this was at a time in my life when I thought pop-punk was a god-tier music genre and that I was straight. (There’s a lot to unpack there.)
My hatred for TaySway eventually fizzled into indifference, every so often, peppered with short-lived annoyances. I was skeptical when the previously apolitical pop princess posted her open letter to senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). While the letter appeared thoughtful and sincere, I wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t simply a shrewd PR move. She relays in the letter the fact that the vast majority of Americans support equality for the LGBTQ+ community, so it seemed to me that she only had support to gain from taking this publicly progressive stance.
Then, I watched the preview for YNTCD, with the names of notable LGBTQ+ individuals flashing colorfully across my phone screen: Ellen Degeneres, Antoni Porowski, Hayley Kiyoko, RuPaul — even Hannah Hart (who I was pleasantly surprised to see, as I followed her on YouTube in her early days of MDK).
I was intrigued, and ready to open my heart and mind to the possibility that Taylor Swift isn’t just playing the industry’s game. Watching the video turned that from a possibility into a reality in my opinion.
Politics aside, the video is fun as f*ck. I’ve watched it multiple times at this point, and each time I’ve found myself with a huge smile across my face.
The aesthetic is campy and vibrant, set in a utopian, rainbow-laden trailer park inhabited by a star studded LGBTQ+ community. One of the first cameos we see is Laverne Cox in a gorgeous pink sequin gown walking from her pink trailer to water her “lawn” overgrown with plastic pink flamingos. She gives a sweet wave to her neighbor, Chester Lockhart, who faints with a transgender flag in tow.
Swift marches through town, arm-in-arm with Todrick Hall (who co-executive produced the video) as the lyrics make the shift from the silliness of people talking trash about Swift to the absurdity of people with hatred in their hearts. We see a same-sex couple getting married, and one of my favorite lyrics makes its appearance: “‘Cause shade never made anybody less gay.”
I also adored the Pop Queen Pageant featuring former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants like Trinity Taylor of season 9, Adore Delano of season 6, and A’keria C. Davenport of the most recent season 11. Perhaps the best part was the queen impersonating Swift — lip syncing to the song and everything. Perfect and so, so campy which is, of course, a pillar of LGBTQ+ culture.
Truthfully, I can’t find a single thing to dislike about the song, the video, or TaySaway at this point! And let’s face it: even if this was some elaborate PR move, it still has the power to contribute to positive change in a big way. At the end of the video, there’s a link to sign Taylor’s petition for the Equality Act, which you can find here if you haven’t yet signed it! 🍒