Minds everywhere imploded this summer when Kim Kardashian released footage of Taylor Swift approving Kanye West’s “Famous.” The rapper’s lyrics went along the lines of, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex,” ending the line with, “Why? I made that b**** famous.” He did not include the end of that line when reading the lyric to Swift.
The 45-second clip rehashed an ongoing feud over the lyric. In it, Swift approved part of the contested lyric. Once Kardashian released the footage, Swift quickly fired back and noted that she did not approve the entire lyric.
“Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination,” Swift wrote in her rebuttal. “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009.”
Questions of legality and fairness aside, Swift’s painfully ironic character assassination claim falls flat on its face. Swift has built her long and illustrious career entirely around what can only be described as character assassinating. Swift’s victims are a long list of exes that includes everyone from boy band singers like Harry Styles and Joe Jonas to actors like Jake Gyllenhaal and Taylor Lautner.
Not above Swift’s reproach are the girls she was left for; her hit “Bad Blood” is a thinly- veiled attack of Katy Perry, who allegedly stole three back-up dancers from Swift mid-tour.
“She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour,” Swift said in a 2014 Rolling Stone. “She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me.”
“Better Than Revenge” is about Camilla Belle, whom Joe Jonas left Swift for in 2008.
“She’s an actress,” Swift sings in the song. “She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.”
“No need for revenge,” Belle wrote on her personal Instagram immediately following Kardashian’s reveal. “Just sit back and wait. Those who hurt you all eventually screw up themselves and if you’re lucky, God will let you watch.”
I have to agree with Belle on this one. On a micro level, I can identify with Swift as a writer. I know what it’s like to be a Taylor in a world of Kims. I know that the best material for any artistic creation is a strong emotion, and unfortunately, vengeance is the strongest emotion of all. I totally get that, and I’ve been a perpetrator myself many times.
However, I also understand the need for distancing. I don’t name characters after people I know in real life, I definitely don’t leave secret messages that reveal identities and I understand that the most valuable part of the process is the writer’s own reconciliation with the internal effects of those negative emotions. I don’t believe any of that should be publicly displayed. The fact that Swift publicly displays it reveals that she cares less about the art and more about getting even.
Swift has had it coming for many, many years now, but the exact manner in which she received her due is what makes this feud so much more than just a petty argument.
Swift’s response to Kardashian’s reveal is hypocritical at best.
At worst, it’s a grim assessment of greater social problems that allowed so many to side with Swift’s “innocent white girl” facade against a black rapper. So many were willing to take Swift’s word over Kanye’s with literally no proof. In a world where systemic racism has conditioned Americans to find black men threatening, Swift could have gotten away with her claims, and police officers can get away with shooting unarmed people. That should disturb everyone.