Taylor Swift transforms into “The Man” for her new video.
The Grammy-winning performer is unrecognisable as a manspreading, womanising, boozing, tantrum-throwing male exec for the project, which she directed, stars in and owns — as she proudly notes in the credits.
The video, which was released Thursday morning, takes on the patriarchy and includes a not-so-subtle dig at Scooter Braun as well as the voice work of Dwayne Johnson and a cameo by her dad, Scott Swift.
Set to lyrics about how it’s still a man’s world, Swift, in character as a male exec, acts like a god to his employees, who applaud when he enters into the room, fist-bumping the other dudes and hang on his every word.
“The Man” is then the world’s worst subway passenger, spreading his legs to hog multiple seats, smoking a cigar (perhaps a dig at Gabrielle Union’s claim about Simon Cowell on the set of America’s Got Talent?), reading a man-centric newspaper (with women relegated to the style section) and obliviously dropping sections on other women.
He then gets off — at the 13th Street Station, a nod to her favourite number — and the shade is less subtle.
As he urinates against a wall, the graffiti and posters come more into focus. Along with a poster that says, “If found return to Taylor Swift” are names of albums (“1989,” “Red,” “Speak Now”) she made with her former label, Big Machine Label Group, which was purchased by a company owned by Braun last summer — and she was livid about because the music manager, whom she isn’t a fan of, now owns her music.
The more direct hit at Braun is a no scooter sign above the Man’s right shoulder.
Also, the word “Karma” appears on the centre of the wall, which some fans think could be the name of her next album — or another message to Braun.
And there’s a Mr. Americana poster starring a “Tyler Swift” and premiering at the “Mandance” festival. (Her doc, Miss Americana, premiered at Sundance last month.)
Another part people are speculating over is a scene where Swift dances down a long arched white hallway, which many have pointed out looks like one in Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s home.
She’s looong been feuding with the couple (with the snake emojis to prove it), starting in 2009 when West interrupted her acceptance speech at the MTV VMAs to say she didn’t deserve to win.
Kanye’s house/ The Man mv... i stand a genius pic.twitter.com/Kz4EZu9giK— ootw FAN ACCOUNT (@disneyparklove1) February 25, 2020
Swift’s character goes on to appear on a yacht with a bevy of yellow bikini-clad women.
And, during a boys’ night at a club, graphically discusses a woman’s body before cheering on a buddy doing a body shot off a woman who doesn’t even seem awake or coherent as dollar bills, with his face, rain down on her.
The Man is also inexplicably deemed the “world’s greatest dad” for merely spending a few minutes with his daughter — literally applauded and cheered by adoring women. It also hops ahead 58 years to when he marries a woman who could be his granddaughter.
A tennis scene features a cameo from Swift’s dad as the umpire. The Man slams his racket and screams and freaks out on the court — perhaps a nod to Serena Williams being criticised for something many men in the sport did before her with less criticism.
🔍 | The cameo that Taylor said "is gonna make you guys laugh 🎾" is her dad, Scott Swift, playing a tennis referee who Taylor flips off in the tennis scene. 🖕 #TheManMusicVideo pic.twitter.com/f3v8FBK0lc— Taylor Swift News | TSwiftinAsia (@TSwiftinAsia) February 27, 2020
Swift appears as herself at the end. The video director, she yells cut on the tennis freakout scene. She talks to The Man about his performance — and the voice is from none other than The Rock. Her feedback is telling the actor to be “sexier” and “more likable” in the scene — critique long given to women — while praising the actress in the scene for being “astonishing” when she was doing nothing more than her job.
The credits then show Swift’s epic transformation — via a lot of prosthetics — step by step. But even more than that, she gives herself credit for all the roles she had in making the video, noting it was directed by her, she wrote it, starred in it — and she owns it.
It is thought that the release date of the video is no coincidence. On Feb. 27, 1992, the Supreme Court upheld the 19th Amendment, the voting rights for women. And there were 19 colorful hands to high five in the hallway.
Amid her dispute with Braun and Big Machine Label Group over her music, Swift has been outspoken about “toxic male privilege” in the music industry and has called for change. Swift is now with Universal Music Group, noting the leadership there supports “women’s empowerment.”
“The Man” is the fourth single from her 2019 album Lover, which was released in August.
Words by Suzy Byrne
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