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Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero" is countercultural in the best possible way.

Author: Jordan G Estabrook

Love or hate her, Taylor Swift makes music that starts a conversation, whether it’s because of her personal life, Easter eggs or deciphering each song’s meaning. In full disclosure, I don’t listen to much of Swift’s music. Up until her latest release of “Midnights,” I forgot she was still a relevant figure.

That’s not a political or personal slight at Swift, I just forgot. It’s true that I don’t care too much for her politics or her beliefs, which was probably best reflected in her 2019 album “Lover,” but I must judge as objectively as possible.

Some say her music sucks. Some think she’s a lyrical genius. Maybe they’re all right, but there’s no doubt that her latest single “Anti-Hero” is potentially her most conservative song ever.

Why, you ask?

It is surprisingly deeply self-reflective and honest regarding her own being and our generation’s self-obsession and destruction in every aspect of life. Let’s break it down.

Mistake, Never Learn, Repeat.

“I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser

Midnights become my afternoons

When my depression works the graveyard shift

All of the people I've ghosted stand there in the room”

Indeed. We have many people who are older, but never wiser. The same shenanigans you’d expect a teenager or 22-year-old to pull are being done at 42.

Not so appealing, right?

We’ve extended adolescence in many aspects of our culture. Even less appealing is that it doesn’t satisfy, as a now 32-year-old Taylor Swift admits in her song.

“Too big to hang out

Slowly lurching toward your favorite city

Pierced through the heart but never killed”

“Too big to hang out” means you’re doing immature things past your time. It is damaging and destructive, but as Swift says, it “pierce(s) through the but never killed.” So, you keep doing it again and again with all the same consquences:

“I should not be left to my own devices

They come with prices and vices

I end up in crises”

Covert Narcissism Disguised as Altruism

Then Swift says something that pierces and convicts the heart:

“Did you hear my covert narcissism

I might disguise as altruism

Like some kind of congressman

Tale as old as time”

Swift absolutely nails it. There are political and cultural movements aimed at making victimhood come across as an altruistic pursuit, which politicians use to their advantage.

There’s a reason why I’m against Critical Race Theory and overall victimhood. CRT pits one race against another, with one truly believing they're the victim, trapped in the system and can never improve. Therefore, it becomes a place of self-pity.

Or something simpler like complaining on social media and getting praised for it. It is a way of feeding our ego and being validated. It is covert, but narcissistic, nonetheless.

Maybe You’re the Problem

As if the nail wasn’t already perfectly lodged in, Swift hammers in another one:

“It's me


I'm the problem, it's me

At teatime

Everybody agrees

I'll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror

It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero”

Victimhood claims your problems are because of everyone else. Swift makes a contrary claim: she’s the problem and she eloquently explains why. This is countercultural.

She spends verse after verse admitting her own issues, so it makes sense the chorus is a direct indictment against herself. Culture doesn’t say that, though. It says everyone else is responsible for your own poor choices.

You can say that some people are put at disadvantage because of their life situations, but society has a tendency to excuse their poor choices, which deeply damages their character and potential for growth.

We Never Look in the Mirror

If we were honest and took a long look in the mirror, we’d find many of the traits Swift is alluding to in ourselves. Instead, we’re too busy looking into the sun. We’re blaming somebody else. We can avoid what Swift and many others have done by looking at ourselves having the problem.

But there’s good news. We might be the problem, but we can also be the solution.

We can make better choices. We can take responsibility. We can see ourselves as individuals capable of strengthening our own character, regardless of the circumstances.

Whether Swift meant to or not, she made several very conservative and moral points. All the things that bring us pleasure will eventually disappear.

The inquiry is, how do we live a good life? Swift seems to think culture has it wrong, and I agree.

“And life will lose all its meaning

For the last time.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of Resident Skeptics.

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