Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and the Cult of Awkward White Girls
It seems fitting that Swift is heralding her “first documented pop album” by pulling — or perhaps simply gesturing toward — the ultimate white female pop star move of 2014: cultural appropriation. (Of course, pop’s history is also full of appropriation; we’re just on higher alert for swagger-jacking nearly a quarter-century post-“Vogue.”) But as Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt alluded to, the race-related issues within the “Shake It Off” video stem not from appropriation so much as othering. It’s incredibly subtle, almost systematic racial ignorance that finds Swift not co-opting twerking or other various hip-hop dance styles, but approaching them as an outsider. “This isn’t me, I don’t quite get this, but I’m trying really hard,” she seems to be telling us.
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Earl Sweatshirt never even saw the video. He’s using his imagination to paint a picture of assumed racism because how can a successful white girl NOT be racist. And it’s almost always the women who get called out for this though, I wonder if its because they’re easy targets that media is happy to freak out over. If Taylor Swift isn’t a needy immature serial-boyfriend-having flake, she’s a slut, or a culturally appropriating racist.
I can understand being upset about negative and overt cultural appropriation, but we’re starting to turn our crazy-critical attention to neutral and even, dare say, appropriate cultural references.
So over this on all of your behalfs.