A blank space can be many things: her thoughts when dancing at an awards show, the spot on a tree trunk where she’ll carve her lover’s name, the moments she spent with Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner, John Mayer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Conor Kennedy, and Harry Styles that you can’t see. Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” arguably the best track off her album 1989, is a nod to the idea that the anti-Spotify New Yorker can be, in her words, a “nightmare dressed like a daydream.” Swift is aware that she has a long list of ex-lovers who will undoubtedly say she’s insane—but is it really wrong for the 24-year-old phenomenon to love the players who love the game?
The music video begins with Swift in a Downton Abbey-like mansion, symbolically yolo-ing: she’s lounging in bed in sexy black lingerie, holding her white cat Olivia Benson and flanked on both sides by twin white stallions. Yet Swift is no cat lady. Despite doing nothing to get the man of her dreams, he arrives at her doorstep as if she Ubered the heartthrob.
“Oh my god, look at that face,” Swift sings. “You look like my next mistake.”
Actually, the guy looks more like the love child of Robert Pattinson and Michael Keaton, a steely-eyed and purse-lipped model, hiding something dark—or perhaps just constipated. He sits on the opposite end of a long dining table in a scene reminiscent of Keaton’s first date with Kim Basinger in 1989’s Batman. The conversation can’t be that enthralling, much less audible. But to Swift, well-versed in Hollywood dating, this is inconsequential. “New money, suit, and tie,” she sings. “I can read you like a magazine.”
And so the doomed courtship begins: a dance in an empty room like no one’s watching, bike riding indoors like expensive furniture can’t be broken. She slow-motion jogs through the courtyard, paints his portrait, and carves his name into a tree. Swift and her man love like they’ll never be hurt, even though she sings that she is making a bad guy good for a only a weekend.
The romance eclipses as the couple rides those beautiful white steeds down a path lined by evergreens. The scene must be a metaphor for sex, because really who does any of this? Mid coital-gallop, Swift confesses that she has “a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane.” His head cocks to the side.
A brief kiss and instrumental interlude later, Swift has a picnic that reeks of Lolita—she lies down, wearing sunglasses and red lipstick, popping a candy heart into her mouth, her head resting close to his crotch. Her man finally smiles, though it’s because he’s texting someone else.
“Oh my god, who is she?” Swift erupts, as they argue while mouthing the lyrics of the song.
The insanity begins. She dumps his cell phone into a pool. She stabs and tags and claws at his portraits. She raids his wardrobe and slices his pants and shirts with scissors, leaving his nipples exposed. She takes a golf club, the country club equivalent of a Louisville slugger, and attacks his car. After unsuccessfully attempting to chop down the tree on which they once professed their love, she stabs a cake with a butcher knife.
These shots are interlaced with scenes of Swift crying, mascara bleeding down her cheeks, while writhing on the ground in a cheetah-print dress. Next to a fireplace. In front of a taxidermied doe. There’s a whole lot of imagery about innocence going on here. More digestible though might be how she holds an apple and sings, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” It’s her man who bites the fruit from the forbidden tree. You know, guys really suck sometimes.
“Blank Space” telegraphs a keen self-awareness of Taylor Swift’s caricature as a man-crazy psycho-bitch. She’s not just singing about shaking off the haters, she’s actually doing it.