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Not A ‘GUTS’ Review: The Demonization Of Young Women

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USF chapter.

To many, Olivia Rodrigo has the perfect, unattainable life. As a former child star who didn’t spiral by making questionable life decisions, she was able to seamlessly move from being an actress to a singer and performer. 

She was able to perfectly encapsulate the teenage girl experience in 2021 with the release of her freshman album Sour, and has once more cracked the code with her latest album GUTS in 2023. Both albums perfectly encapsulate the feelings of being an insecure teenager who can’t seem to escape boy drama, friendship troubles, and overall lack of self-esteem. Most listeners have drawn comparisons between the two albums, with “vampire” being the new “driver’s license” and “lacy” being the new “jealousy, jealousy.” If you wanted to put it in simple pop music terms, Sour is the Taylor Swift version of the teenage experience, while GUTS is the Lana Del Rey version. This simply shows the progression of Rodrigo as she moves from late teenagedom to young womanhood. While she almost rejected the more emotionally insane, for lack of better words, aspects of being a young teenage girl, she has now embraced it. She is no longer as concerned with how the outside world views her and has accepted her inner monologue. 

This is incredibly ironic considering the world cannot stop passing judgment on the 20-year-old artist. When her first album was released, the public tended to focus on two things: They either hyper-analyzed which chords she seemed to ‘copy’ from other artists or which song was aimed at which celebrity. This led to public scrutiny about the alleged love triangle between Rodrigo, Sabrina Carpenter, and Joshua Bassett. The release of GUTS has been no different with people finding similarities between her songs and previously released songs or trying to target if “lacy” is about Carpenter or Gracie Abrams. 

When considering the two critiques, the former is considerably more valid than the latter. One has the potential to explore the oversaturation of the pop music market and the recent tendency for younger artists to idolize older artists too much to the point that their music starts to sound alike. It could even start a larger discussion about how younger artists are obsessed with sounding mature and profound and relatable. In reality, this relates to a larger issue with the music industry. Yet, commenting on her personal life in relation to her songs reveals a larger issue with the public’s response. It happened with older female musical artists; Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Brittany Spears, Rihanna, and more all had their private lives scrutinized every time a new album came out. Each song was tied to a person in some way. While it could be argued that this happens to male musical artists as well, it is never to this extent. In fact, if it does happen. They are almost praised for how they handled the situation while a woman is demonized. For example, Justin Timberlake came out of his relationship with Brittany Spears unscathed while she continues to deal with the repercussions. In the same way, there are large amounts of sympathy awarded to Kanye West while scrutinizing comments are made about Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian. 

While the hate Bassett and Carpenter received was unreasonable, Rodrigo was still a teenager at the release of Sour. Even though she had been in the limelight since childhood, this was her first true fifteen minutes of fame. For the longest time, Rodrigo, Carpenter, and Bassett were linked together. Even after it seemed as if they buried the hatchet, they were constantly pitted against each other. Rodrigo has not been linked to Bassett since the release of Sour, even dating two men between the release of her two albums. However, the audience is still finding ways to decipher meaning in her album about Bassett.

Moving past finding connections to the outdated love triangle, people are continuously pointing out how Rodrigo is not as close to Swift as she used to be. Some theorize that it could be that they had a large falling-out and therefore no longer associate with each other. Instead, it could be as simple as Rodrigo’s PR team pushing for her to make a brand of her own. If Rodrigo continued to be associated with Swift in such a manner, she would never be able to truly achieve her true potential, but the public feels the need to find a much more dramatic possibility. 

Rather than enjoying the music and the lyricism, the public continues to find potential drama that may exist within Rodrigo’s life. This reveals a larger issue with how the public responds to media that is produced. It reveals that the masses are so largely invested in the private lives of celebrities that they feel the need to know and analyze everything about them. While we should still hold celebrities accountable in what causes they support and how they treat minority groups, reading between lines, creating unnecessary drama, and pitting women against each other should not be the role of the public. 

Tanmayee Kanagala is a first-year majoring in biomedical sciences and minoring in political science. With aspirations to one day enter the medical field, she enjoys having creative outlets that differ from her future career path.