If I learned anything from Trump’s inauguration and the subsequent Women’s March, it’s that Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston belong together. While hordes of women descended on Washington in pink knit hats and righteous indignation, sparking emotions from hope to confusion to mild annoyance, celebrities attempted to do their part. Their efforts ranged from exemplary—what did we do to deserve you, America Ferrera? –to polarizing, to Lena Dunham. Rihanna put on a pink tutu and dabbed outside of Trump Tower. Ashley Judd put on an uncomfortable accent and did her best spoken word routine. Scarlett Johansson advocated for Planned Parenthood and showed off her amazing haircut. And dozens of celebrities braved the slushy streets of Park City for Sundance’s own edition of the Women’s March.
Celebrities who exercise their political muscles walk a fine line between helpful advocacy and self-serving opportunism. As a collective, they occupy the same uncomfortable space as, say, men at the Women’s March. We recognize that resistance finds strength in numbers, and that these powerful constituents, be they dudes or Hollywood actresses, can shed vital light on crucial issues. Still, there’s something performative about a white dude surrounded by pussy hats, proudly raising his witty poster in the air, patiently waiting for his cookie, praise, Pulitzer prize and/or Academy Award. Of course, cynicism could easily reduce the entire march to much-needed image control. Men know that now is the time to insist that #NotAllMen view women as playthings, PMS-ing nags, or potential pee-pee parties. White women know that they helped elect Donald J. Trump. And celebrities may suspect that they could have done more to push our first female president towards the Oval Office.
With all of the pink posturing on display last weekend, conversation naturally turned towards Taylor Swift, our nation’s most opportunistic celebrity. Taylor has an unrivaled ability to read the room and seize a moment. The country star leveled-up by crossing over to pop music, widening her fan base and earning Swift the title of queen of the tweens. She’s turned Kennedy’s into boyfriends, break-ups into hit singles, and friendships into headlines. Swift’s airtight image control is at once calculating and enviable. On the one hand, she’s a badass black widow, sucking all of the fame (and blood?) out of A-list white boys. To say that Taylor Swift is more famous than all of her exes combined—and that she wears the high-waisted, size two pants in every romantic relationship—is an understatement. On paper, the 27-year-old pop star has earned a spot in the pantheon of terrifying-but-totally-awesome females—Tracy Flick with a better wardrobe, or Regina George with a bigger clique. But strangely enough, Swift has no interest in leaning in to her true potential; instead, she’s resolutely tried to preserve her public image as the sweet, romantic girl next door.