Scholastic video features Taylor Swift on reading, writing, and feminism

My kids and I just watched a very cool 30 minute Scholastic video where Taylor Swift talks with students about reading, writing, and feminism. We found the video because my 11 year old entered an essay contest where she wrote one page about the meaning of Swift’s “Shake it Off” which to her (and probably most people) is a song about how to overcome bullying.

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A die hard Swift fan, here’s my daughter holding her finally finished (almost finished?) essay and her beloved guitar. I am very psyched Taylor inspired her to think about her experiences with bullying and to write about her feelings.

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Obsessed with Taylor since 2012 (and always told she looks like her) here she is dressed as her idol on Halloween that year.

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I was so happy she picked Taylor instead of a sparkly poofy princess, or witch or vampire with a costume that looks just like a princess. (Her younger sister in the background is Batgirl. Unfortunately, she has since realized Batgirl hardly exists in the world and has now lost interest in that character. Sad!)

I can’t believe we hadn’t seen this Scholastic/ Swift video! It’s so good. You must watch it with your kids. Swift is sitting around with a bunch of students and more students are Skyped in. What I loved is that first and foremost, Swift defines herself as a writer. I really appreciated my kids hearing Taylor say this because they think of her as a pop star. Taylor says that she would never want to get on stage and just sing someone else’s songs. She recommends journaling. After introducing the kids, Taylor opens the video with this statement:

I’m really excited to talk to you about reading and writing because I wouldn’t be a songwriter if it wasn’t for books that I loved as a kid and I think that when you can escape into a book it trains your imagination to think big and to think that more can exist than what you see. I think that’s been the basis of why I wanted to write songs and why writing became my career.

What’s the first question, from a 11 year old boy?

I saw that you liked the Emma Watson video about feminism, and I wanted to know what female characters influenced you in literature?

Can you see why love this video? Watch it now with you kids and find out what Taylor says! Here’s the link.

Previous Reel Girl blogs on Taylor Swift:

Taylor Swift spoofs psycho ex-girlfriend trope in ‘Blank Space’ video

Mini Taylor Swift gets her hands on ‘1989’ as it hits stores

If Taylor Swift is boy-crazy, is Dylan’s ‘Idiot Wind’ confessional?

I admit it, I loveTaylor Swift’s ‘Red’

Taylor Swift sings her way from victim to hero, triumphs at Grammys

More on Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

 

 

Taylor Swift spoofs psycho girlfriend trope in ‘Blank Space’ video

In Taylor Swift’s new video “Blank Space” she mocks not only her own image as an obsessed ex-girlfriend but the trope of the psycho woman scorned. After the success of the misogynistic “Gone Girl,” a chilling narrative about a woman who fakes her own stalkings, abuse, and rapes, Swift’s video could not have come out a better time. The best-selling book/ movie and the song are strikingly similar down to specific passages. In “Blank Space” Swift sings:

Find out what you want
Be that girl for a month

Gone Girl has a famous so-called feminist passage (also a montage in the movie) about the Cool Girl:

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want.

I hate Gone Girl but I love “Blank Space.” What’s the difference? “Blank Space” is a parody. My favorite part of the video is when Taylor slashes her guy’s shirt and when he puts it on, there are two holes for his nipples. I also like the poisoned apple sequence, recalling how old this story is, from fairy tales to the Bible. As long as the culture keeps dishing out misogyny, I’m grateful for the artists who call it out. Thank you, Taylor for filling in the blank space.

Mini Taylor Swift gets her hands on ‘1989’ as it hits stores

Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ drops today, and I just bought it for my daughter as her reward for getting an HPV vaccine (which turns out to hurt pretty bad.)

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Told she looks just like T.S. practically since she began walking, my music loving, constantly singing daughter dressed as her idol for Halloween back in 2012.

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Back then, I was psyched she chose not to be a princess and since, I’ve only come to admire Taylor more. We’re listening to the CD right now, so I can’t review it yet but Time’s post is excerpted below along with links to previous Reel Girl blogs on TS.

But Swift has gambled before and won. After writing every song solo on her blockbuster 2010 country-crossover album, Speak Now, she teamed up with a varied roster of top-shelf tunesmiths for 2012’s sprawling, genre-spanning opus, Red. That album went quadruple platinum, earned rapt critical acclaim and four Grammy nods and made her an icon.

 

On 1989, out Oct. 27, she sounds like one. Leaner and keener than those on Red, her new songs fizz and crackle with electricity and self-aware wit. Driven by synths and drums in lieu of guitars, all trace of country abandoned, 1989 holds together sonically as a tribute to the electro-pop that dominated radio 25 years ago. Swift executive-produced the album alongside Swedish hit machine Max Martin, who lends pop shellack to her nimble lyrics. Winding choruses have been whittled down to their stickiest essence.

 

Thematically, too, Swift breaks with the past, skirting victimhood and takedowns of maddening exes, critics and romantic competitors. Instead, there’s a newfound levity. Not only is Swift in on the joke; she also relishes it. The bouncy “Blank Space” hyperbolizes her portrayal in the media as an overly attached man-eater who dates for songwriting material: “Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane/ But I’ve got a blank space,” she coos before, incredibly, a clicking sound like that of a pen, “and I’ll write your name.” The skronky, horn-driven lead single “Shake It Off” communicates a cheerful disinterest in being critiqued, and a panicked, operatic vocal sample of Swift singing the word “Stay!” gives the swerving “All You Had to Do Was Stay” an oddball kick. The angriest song here is “Bad Blood,” a chanting call to arms over a dispute with a frenemy, and even it feels tongue-in-cheek.

 

If Taylor Swift is boy-crazy, is Dylan’s ‘Idiot Wind’ confessional?

I admit it, I loveTaylor Swift’s ‘Red’

Taylor Swift sings her way from victim to hero, triumphs at Grammys

More on Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

 

 

If Taylor Swift is boy-crazy, is Dylan’s ‘Idiot Wind’ confessional?

Taylor Swift is a great writer, yet lately, the media seems determined to trivialize her lyrics as “boy-crazy” and “confessional.” Huh, I thought lots of artists, including, believe it or not,  males, wrote about love and break-ups.

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I read all over the internet about how Taylor Swift humiliated herself in April’s Vanity Fair. I finally bought it and to my surprise, the actual piece is so great, I gave it to my nine year old daughter to read. (April’s Vanity Fair is great for kids. There’s a good piece on Malala Yousafzai and also one on Sheryl Sandberg, both which my daughter read.)

What I love about the VF article on Swift is that it makes clear what a driven, hard worker she is:

Watching her rehearse that day, it became clear that Swift works incredibly hard. While her band– which she commands in a friendly, laid back way– was taking a break, she continued practicing, playing songs on her guitar and piano, and going over sound issues with her soundman. “I’m the type of person, I have to study to get an A on the test,” she would tell me later. “I have to work really hard to get that record deal– I have to spend years at it to get good. I have to practice to be good at guitar. I have to write 100 songs before I write one good one.

I would’ve bribed Swift to convey that exact message to my perfectionist, easily frustrated daughter. But, lucky me, no bribery needed and my ethics remain intact.

In another part I love, Swift says:

For a female to write about her feelings and then be portrayed as some clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend …that’s taking it and turning it and twisting it into something that is frankly a little sexist.

 

This from the woman who says she’s not a feminist. But as I wrote about it then, she is 23 year old. Look at her actions, not what she calls herself. I am so glad she said this. It is SO sexist. For God’s sake, Eminem writes incessantly about break-ups, not to mention classic stars like the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Would anyone ever call Dylan, the great poet, “confessional?” Or any male artist girl-crazy? Is that even a term?

Check out the lyrics of “Idiot Wind” rumored to be about Dylan’s wife Sara. Does this song remind you of anyone younger and blonder?

Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they’d cut it out quick but when they will I can only guess
They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy
She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me
I can’t help it if I’m lucky.

People see me all the time and they just can’t remember how to act
Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts
Even you yesterday you had to ask me where it was at
I couldn’t believe after all these years you didn’t know even me better than that
Sweet lady.

Idiot wind blowing every time your move your mouth
Blowing down the backroads heading south
Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

I ran into the fortune-teller who said beware of lightning that might strike
I haven’t known peace and quit for so long I can’t remember what it’s like
There’s a lone soldier on the cross smoke pouring out of a boxcar door
You didn’t know it you didn’t think it could be done in the final end he won the wars
After losing every battle.

I woke up on the roadside daydreaming about the way things sometimes are
Visions of your chestnut mare shoot through my head and are making me see stars
You hurt the ones that I love best and cover up the truth with lies
One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzing around your eyes
Blood on your saddle.

Idiot wind blowing through the flowers on your tomb
Blowing through the curtains in your room
Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart
You tamed the lion in my cage but it just wasn’t enough to change my heart
Now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What’s good is bad what’s bad is good you’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom.I noticed at the ceremony, your corrupt ways had finally made you blind
I can’t remember your face anymore, your mouth has changed your eyes don’t look
Into mine
The priest wore black on the seventh day and sat stone faced while the
Building burned
I waited for you on the running boards, near the cypress trees while the
Springtime turned
Slowly into autumn.

Idiot wind blowing like a circle around my skull
From the Grand Coulee Dam to Capitol
Idiot wind blowing every time you move you teeth
You’re an idiot babe.
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

I can’t feel you anymore, I can’t even touch the books you’ve read
Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishing I was somebody else instead
Down the highway down the tracks down the road to ecstasy
I followed you beneath the stars hounded by your memory
And all you raging glory.

I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I’m finally free
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me
You’ll never know the hurt I suffered not the pain I raise above
And I’ll never know the same about you your holiness or your kind of love
And it makes me feel so sorry.

Idiot wind blowing through the buttons of our coats
Blowing through the letters that we wrote
Idiot wind blowing through the dust upon our shelves
We’re idiots babe
It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.

I admit it, I loveTaylor Swift’s ‘Red’

My daughter and I have a favorite song on Red: “All Too Well.” I think it’s about Jake Gylenhaal, clues being: reference to sister, plaid shirt, he’s close to his mom, Taylor had Thanksgiving with his family at Maggie G.’s house and that’s scarf season, right?

Whatever you think about Swift, and I’m a fan, she’s great with lyrics. Some lines from “Well” I really like “you called me up again just to break me like a promise”…”Cause here we are again on that little town street, You almost ran the red cause you were looking over at me” (Can totally picture that) and finally “Time won’t fly it’s like I’m paralyzed by it.”

Swift is a talented story-teller. I recommend the whole CD.

“All Too Well”

I walked through the door with you
The air was cold but something ’bout it felt like home somehow and I
Left my scarf there at your sister’s house
And you still got it in your drawer even now

Oh, your sweet disposition
And my wide-eyed gaze
We’re singing in a car getting lost Upstate
The autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place
And I can picture it after all these days
And I know it’s long gone, and that magic´s not here no more
And it might be okay, but I’m not fine at all

Cause here we are again on that little town street
You almost ran the red cause you were looking over at me
Wind in my hair, I was there, I remember it all too well

Photo album on the counter
Your cheeks were turning red
You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-sized bed
And your mother’s telling stories ’bout you on the t-ball team
You tell me about your past thinking your future was me

And I know it’s long gone, and there was nothing else I could do
And I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to

Cause here we are again in the middle of the night
We’re dancing round the kitchen in the refrigerator light
Down the stairs, I was there, I remember it all too well
Yeah

And maybe we got lost in translation
Maybe I asked for too much
But maybe this thing was a masterpiece
´til you tore it all up
Running scared, I was there, I remember it all too well

Hey you called me up again just to break me like a promise
So casually cruel in the name of being honest
I’m a crumbled up piece of paper lying here
Cause I remember it all all all too well

Time won’t fly it’s like I’m paralyzed by it
I´d like to be my old self again
But I’m still trying to find it
After plaid shirt days and nights when you made me your own
Now you mail back my things and I walk home alone
But you keep my old scarf from that very first week
Cause it reminds you of innocence and it smells like me
You can’t get rid of it, cause you remember it all too well Yeah

Cause there we are again when I loved you so
Back before you lost the one real thing you’ve ever known
It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well

Wind in my hair, you were there, you remember it all
Down the stairs, you were there, you remember it all
It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well

Reel Girl rates “Red” ***HH***