I write in response to Alexandra Brodsky’s piece concerning the messages sent by popular music (“Not quite ‘Fearless,’” Feb. 2). While I strongly agree that artists whose lyrics trivialize or glorify date rape and substance abuse are a negative influence and should be condemned, I was surprised to see Taylor Swift as the central focus of the column. I believe that it is inaccurate to say that she promotes male dominance or characterizes men who like her music as “a few guys who like skinny blondes sitting around waiting for them.” To the contrary, I think that her music carries positive messages about love and self-esteem that are a much-needed change from the negative influence of much of contemporary popular music.
“Love Story” is, of course, a modern musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic play “Romeo and Juliet,” without the tragic ending. The focus of the story is a couple falling in love despite a father’s disapproval. The lyrics reveal that it is Juliet who urges Romeo to remain with her despite her father’s grievances. I believe that the song portrays a woman who is active in determining her own destiny, not one who is helpless or dependent on men to take initiative for her.
However, even if the message of “Love Story” is ambiguous, many of Swift’s other songs clearly depict situations inconsistent with Brodsky’s portrayal. Take, for example, “White Horse” and “You’re Not Sorry.” Both songs are about decisions to leave boyfriends with whom she is deeply in love because they mistreat her. She recognizes her own worth and does not allow herself to fall victim to them any longer. This is assertive, not passive.
In the insert included with the album, Taylor Swift explains why she chose “Fearless” as the album title. She speaks of taking action and standing up for oneself even when fear or heartbreak make it difficult, a definition of courage reminiscent of the words of John F. Kennedy. This is the sort of message that ought to be a positive influence for both girls and boys.
The writer is a senior in Ezra Stiles College.