I Can Build A Castle Out Of All The Bricks They Threw At Me: Updated Taylor Swift Video/Theory
It's been less than 24 hours since Taylor Swift's music video for Look What You Made Me Do dropped at the Video Music Awards (hosted by longtime Swift nemesis Katy Perry no less) and a lot has already been said about the hidden meanings behind the different parts of the video (here and here, namely.) But, after giving my TS6 Theories post, I figured I'd follow up with what changes for me now that I've seen the video (one that turns a mediocre song into a completely brilliant piece of cultural commentary and celebrity genius, if I do say so myself. She's no rocket scientist, but DANG. She's good. Real good.)
I'll try not to repeat what's already been said, but here are a few stray observations I haven't seen documented in any of these lists, which I guess makes me a real loser. Leh go.
The very first clip contains a nighttime flyover shot of a castle/mansion in a graveyard (where the tombstones spell out TS, no less). I didn't catch this at first, but upon my 11th viewing of the video (give or take 2-10 viewings) I was reminded of the chorus from my favorite Swift song, New Romantics.
'Cause, baby, I could build a castle
Out of all the bricks they threw at me
And every day is like a battle
But every night with us is like a dream
From the get-go, she's setting up this video as one that will systematically break down all of those bricks-- all of the criticisms, hate, controversies, rumors, etc, that have lead her to being where she is right now AKA The Darkest Timeline Taylor. I actually think New Romantics is the key to this whole thing, and I'll prove my point as I go along.
We show off
Our different scarlet letters
Trust me, mine is better...
In addition to noticing there's a $1 bill in the tub (referencing her recent lawsuit win in a sexual assault case) other posts have suggested this scene is a dig at Kim Kardashian getting robbed in Paris. But, I don't think that's the case. I think it's a nod to Katy Perry's This Is How We Do music video, and by being surrounded by a hall of mirrors, a call-out to her so-called vanity and two-faced personality.
Also of note, these New Romantics Lyrics:
We're so young
But we're on the road to ruin
We play dumb
But we know exactly what we're doing
We cry tears
Of mascara in the bathroom
Honey, life is just a classroom
Katy Perry, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, famously replied when asked about the updates in the Taylor feud after 1989's Bad Blood release: "Everything has a reaction or a consequence so don’t forget about that, okay, honey. [Laughs] We got to keep it real, honey." Perry also refers to Swift as honey in her new single Swish Swish-- it seems to be their passive-aggressive way of referring to each other, and anytime I hear honey, I'm going to think it's about Katy.
She knows exactly what she's doing, OK? OK!
At the end of the birdcage sequence, we get Taylor eating a lobster meal. There's also a rat on the table, which is pretty self-explanatory. In Perry's Swish Swish, she sings about she "don't need opinions from a shellfish or a sheep."
New Romantics tie in:
We team up
Then switch sides like a record changer
Are terrible and cruel
But, honey most of them are true
Katy and Taylor used to be friends, but fame and misunderstandings and backstabbing has made them enemies. In New Romantics, she references the fact that a lot of what people say is true. The rumors here tie into the birdcage via Lindsay Lohan's song Rumors, which also feature her on a swing in a birdcage and is LiLo's version of the "media get out of my life please" inevitable popstar anthem.
The birdcage also pretty literally paints herself as a prisoned songbird, beautiful and poised but also guarded and on display-- a metaphor for her whole career.
Mansion Scene with the Male Dancers
Here you see Power-Strutting-Lady-Boss Taylor entering a room to the immediate shock and fear of her male dancers. The 8 guys represent her 8 ex boyfriends, and the fact they're in stilettos, rushing to get in line behind her addresses the criticism she's received from being a "man-eater"-- emasculating them, chewing them up, and spitting them out. This is further referenced by their "I Heart TS" shirts and the connection to ex Tom Hiddleston.
Again with the New Romantics lyrics:
We're all here
the lights and boys are blinding
We hang back
It's all in the timing
He can't see it in my face
But I'm about to play my Ace
She's got an ace, yall. She's about to play it... wait for it...
The Many Taylors Scene
This is the true genius of the video. Forget all the references to Kanye, Kim, and Katy. Forget it. Those don't even matter when you see this scene. It's jarring, it's funny, it's nostalgic, it's sad, it's amazing, it's brilliant. The tower of Taylors that built her career is crumbling. It's almost as if the "we" and "us" in New Romantics are just... her.
Baby, we're the new romantics
Come on, come along with me
Heart break is the national anthem
We sing it proudly
We are too busy dancing
So get knocked off our feet
Baby, we're the new romantics
The best people in life are free
So, What Does It All Mean?
Is Look What You Made Me Do freeing Taylor of the pop pantheon's expectations? Is she asking us to come along with her as she belts out her new version of heartbreak, a TSwift specialty? Will my Red Herring theory be true? Will we get harder, smarter Taylor with a dash of humility, as we've seen her demonstrate here in the final scene by making fun of herself? This video doesn't answer all of the questions, but dang. It's pretty fun.
November 10th ya'll. Can't wait.
Also, just a fun random fact: Taylor opened her 1989 Tour with Welcome To New York and mashed it into New Romantics... which was amazing.