Taylor Swift 'Anti-Hero' backlash

One of our writers discusses the controversy surrounding the Anti-Hero music video.

Neve Watson
8th November 2022
Image credit: Instagram @taylorswift
Following the release of Taylor Swift’s 10th album Midnights on 21st October, the singer unveiled her first single Anti-Hero, and its music video. This song is described through an Instagram reel as encompassing ‘insecurities’ and is ‘a guided tour into what [she hates] about [herself]’ but stresses the importance of needing to ‘come to terms [with these aspects].’

There is a specific scene in the music video which has sparked controversy: whilst being encouraged by another version of herself, Swift steps onto a pair of scales, and instead of showing a numerical weight, the word ‘FAT’ is shown in big red letters. This scene has now been edited, removing the close shot of the scales and the word shown.

There are split opinions. Some have defended Swift’s artistic interpretation, explaining that it is supposed to be a representation of her eating disorder and relationship with food, whilst others have argued that whether or not this was the intent, the outcome is fatphobic and amplifies the fear of being overweight.

others have argued that whether or not this was the intent, the outcome is fatphobic

It is worth noting that over the past couple of years, Swift has been public regarding her struggles with disordered eating and the body dysmorphia that she was experiencing at the height of her career. In the 2019 Netflix documentary Miss Americana, Swift openly talks for the first time about this: she says that ‘it isn’t good for me to see pictures of myself everyday’ because if there are comments around her stomach looking big or speculation regarding pregnancy she will ‘starve a little bit, and just stop eating.’ She says how she thought it was ‘normal to feel like I was going to pass out in the middle of a show’ and whilst she still experiences these negative and toxic thoughts, she knows to address them and try to stop them from spiralling further. When she began putting on a healthy amount of weight, tabloids criticised her heavily.

In breaking down the scene, it was clearly supposed to represent her eating disorder. She is encouraged into stepping onto these scales and is guided into what to think. It is supposed to represent the toxic and unhealthy thoughts she experienced - and probably still experiences - surrounding food, and what outside presences were telling her. As a thin white woman who is arguably the beauty standard, it is understandable why having her on scales which then say ‘FAT’ would be harmful and offensive, but it cannot be disputed that most eating disorders stem from a fear of being overweight. It is impossible to erase that, and if taken too far, can result in the dangerous idea that thin people cannot have eating disorders or negative relationships with food. It’s also not the only song on Midnights where Swift addresses this – in You’re On Your Own, Kid, she sings the line ‘I hosted parties and starved my body / Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss.’

it cannot be disputed that most eating disorders stem from a fear of being overweight

Weight and body image are so prevalent in this society. It is still viewed that to be thin is positive and to be fat is negative. Until this is addressed properly and steps are taken to change this systemic thinking, then there will always be toxic ideas regarding eating, food, and body image. In Miss Americana, Swift says that ‘there is always some standard of beauty you’re not meeting.’ There is an unrealistic and unhealthy pressure on everyone to conform to society’s beauty standards, which she is successfully drawing attention to. As someone who has previously struggled with my relationship with food and weight, and still do to this day, I could immediately see her interpretation, and commended her for addressing it. Whilst respecting someone’s own personal experience of disordered eating and the pressure to fit the beauty standard, our final take should be to criticise and dismantle the society in which these standards are created.

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