As someone who has been a Swiftie for nearly a decade, I have seen the pendulum of public opinion swing from adoring her to abhorring her and back again more times than I can count. I’ve heard people say she is talentless, can’t sing, a serial dater, only dates people to write songs about them, only writes songs about love, needs to consider that maybe she’s the problem, anti-feminist, doesn’t care about fans, greedy, manipulative, fake, liar, playing the victim, should talk more about politics, should shut up about politics, should grow up more, should cover up more… I’ve heard it all.
With 1989, Taylor fought back. She called out the bullshit, called out the sexism, called out the lies. And for a little while, it worked. Suddenly, everybody loved her. People who had castigated or scorned her were suddenly defending her. “Shake It Off” became her biggest Billboard Hot 100 hit, spending nearly a year on the chart, and the music video is the tenth most viewed YouTube video of all time. It spent four weeks atop the chart before being dethroned—by “Blank Space”, which then held that position for seven weeks. 1989 was the highest-selling album of 2014, and the second highest of 2015. The music video for “Bad Blood” became the first to top 20 million views in its first 24 hours. For a few months, she was on top of the world.
And then it slowly started to sink back. Standing up for small artists against Spotify became greedy. Enforcing trademarks (because that’s how trademarks work) became oppressive. Making a music video full of strong, powerful women became cliquey. Talking about the difficulties of being constantly in the public eye became ungrateful. Not wanting to be called a bitch became whiny. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I wasn’t.
When the Reputation Stadium Tour movie came out on Netflix, the pendulum swung again. Suddenly Twitter was full of people talking about how much they loved the movie—the “I’m not a fan, but”s and the “I always thought badly of Taylor, but…”s. And don’t get me wrong—I’m happy that people are realizing how talented and kind she is. I’m happy that they’re questioning whether the snippets picked up from angry tweets and sensationalized gossip magazines are entirely accurate. I’m happy that more people are supporting her, and I’m happy that they now have the opportunity to find as much joy in Taylor’s music as I do.
But I also want to shout, “This movie isn’t for you!”
The thing about the Reputation Stadium Tour movie is that it’s not really about the show. I mean it is to an extent; the movie is obviously showcasing the concert and giving you a sense of the experience. And it’s definitely a fantastic show—from the musical arrangements to the staging to the dancing to the costumes, it’s a work of art, and though it has a ton of variety, all of it is incredibly well done. There are songs performed just like on the album, with a full band (“End Game”). There are songs that are totally changed and taken to a whole new level (“I Did Something Bad”). There are songs that are just a girl and her guitar (“Dancing With Our Hands Tied”) or a girl and her piano (“New Year’s Day/Long Live”). And it’s not just songs from her most recent releases—there are songs from every single past album, nostalgic and respectful to the memory of who she has been.
From a 2015 interview with Elle magazine
But the theme that threads through the film isn’t about what’s happening onstage—it’s about the audience. It’s about the crowd of thousands of fans having the time of their lives— dressing up in costumes, holding up handmade signs, singing along at the top of their lungs. There are shots looking out into the audience, shots that feel like you’re in the audience. The transitions between songs, where Taylor talks about her experience of the album and the tour and the fandom, are all kept in—including a particularly adorable moment where Taylor has to get a tissue from a dancer to blow her nose.
And the reason the movie is about the fans is because the tour was about the fans.
In every transition speech, Taylor ties it back to the fans. She talks about how the memories associated with the song “All Too Well” have changed from the absolutely brutal heartbreak that inspired it to the image and the sound of thousands of fans singing it back to her from across a stadium. She talks about how grateful she is that the fans have supported her through changes in style and genre. She thanks people for wanting to share their time and their lives with her, making it so that she can even do shows like this. Everyone is given a light-up bracelet so even fans way up in the back row of the nosebleed seats are visible. The mainstage extends into the audience in a giant X, and she performs on two different B-stages to get as close as possible to as many people as possible.
And the reason the tour was about the fans is because the album was about the fans.
1989 was fighting back. But reputation is letting go. This era is an era of walking away from people who are committed to misunderstanding you. It’s not bothering to correct someone who doesn’t want to be correct. It’s about letting people “Call It What [They] Want”—because other people’s beliefs don’t change the truth. This era is about holding onto the memories, holding onto the people who have stuck around through the ups and downs, who “don’t care about the he said, she said, and […] ain’t reading what they call [her] lately.”
So, new Swifties, welcome to the fandom. I hope you’re here to stay. There’s a lot of love to be found here, a great community, and some amazing music. But just know, if your love is fleeting, a fair-weather fan… just know, we’re here for good. For keeps. It’s us and her—forevermore.
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