Perry was just one celebrity making a cameo in the pop star’s song, which heavily featured LGBTQ stars, including the Queer Eye crew, Ellen DeGeneres, Adam Lambert, Laverne Cox, RuPaul, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Billy Porter. Timed with Pride month, Swift sings about how “shade never made anybody less gay,” and name-checks GLAAD while imagery of same-sex marriage and drag performances play out. It ended with a call to sign a petition for the passage of the Equality Act.
While Swift using her platform to get political is applause-worthy — she had famously been politically neutral until speaking out against Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn in 2018 — many have issues with this song and video.
The Atlantic called it a “queasy double message” in which the “singer’s pro-gay single strangely compares her struggles with fame to more dangerous kinds of persecution.” The writer noted, “The entire song, indeed, subsumes queerness into Swift’s narratives. Its breathtaking argument: that famous people are persecuted in a way meaningfully comparable to queer people.”
Vox writes that Swift wants the song to be “a queer anthem,” yet it “also wants to sell you something.” It says she’s “speaking out in support of LGBTQ causes at a time that’s financially convenient, borrowing from subcultures that have already been proven to be lucrative (drag, for instance) and incorporating them into her brand.”
In a piece about the song, Esquire writes that while Swift’s “gesture is nice,” her “attempt to marry the personal with the political is a baffling parallel. Equating online haters with the personal and societal struggle of LGBTQ+ people is, at best, tone deaf.”
The Onion even spoofed the video with its “Taylor Swift Inspires Teen to Come Out As Straight Woman Needing to Be at Centre of Gay Rights Narrative.”
Twitter is filled with similar sentiments. While there is a general appreciation for her attempt, they don’t think the execution was right.
I’m glad Taylor’s intentions are in the right place, but the misunderstanding of “shade” is criminal. Imagine seeing a Westboro Baptist Church “God Hates F*gs” sign and being like “oooh girl, the shade!”— Chris Schleicher (@cschleichsrun) June 14, 2019
That Taylor Swift video is 100% using LGBT people as props come on....— Lily (@kubrickzirconia) June 17, 2019
Maybe I'm just overly skeptical of Taylor Swift's intentions, but her new music video feels a lot like when corporations slap rainbows on their packaging to cash in on Pride.— Kait 🖤🦊 (@Fussy_Fox) June 17, 2019
Me every time someone I like popped up in the video to be a prop for Taylor pic.twitter.com/C7rdF6iTQW— Kristen (@kristenisbored) June 17, 2019
Congratulations to Taylor Swift for figuring out a way to exploit gay pride for some recognition. 🏳️🌈— Olivia (@OliviaKawaii) June 17, 2019
Wake up you brain dead morons!!! Celebrities and corporations don’t care about lgbt people they just want our money! Taylor Swift can suck my toes then I’ll believe she genuinely respects lgbt people :^)— down with capitalism (@greenmoonbean) June 18, 2019
I regret to announce that I too have watched the T*ylor video pic.twitter.com/MBuSMTn2tI— Adam Moussa (@adamjmoussa) June 17, 2019
Y’all gonna let Taylor Swift exploit the queer community for views like that? During pride month? Ok— Hayley ™️ (@xielxss) June 17, 2019
They new #TaylorSwift video is visually very fun, but just comes across as awkward and pandering. Like, thanks wealthy straight white woman for using a litany of LGBTQ+ people to get views, bolster your “image” and make money— sticky griffin (@darcvaders) June 17, 2019
katy perry and taylor swift became friends just in time to exploit pride month that's a funny coincidence— lize (@cobrafinch) June 17, 2019
Though many appreciate that she’s an ally.
Nothing Taylor does will ever be okay with you all. She has always been a huge LGBT+ ally, period https://t.co/YlDTNEMdXu— Jake (@senatorsarver) June 18, 2019
stop calling taylor swift a queerbaiter she’s always been a vocal lgbt supporters and several of the people in her latest music video are are actual friends.— j (@ThotneySpears) June 18, 2019
Because Taylor has tons of celebraties celebrating our month. And, she spent a ton of money on a LGBT song, video. That's an ally!— Connie Bloom (@BloomConnell) June 18, 2019
Several pointed out that a video like this could have helped them when they were younger and struggling with their identity:
.@taylorswift13's new video "You Need To Calm Down" made me cry. No shame to admit. Didn't have that type of support growing up. Can't speak for the entire community, but I personally appreciate it and thank Taylor Swift. L pic.twitter.com/w70d77sk9p— Tom & Lorenzo (@tomandlorenzo) June 17, 2019
i think taylor swift’s new video is cute and has a super important message? especially for her young fans who maybe don’t know as much about queer culture or have overwhelmingly conservative households. this would’ve meant the world to a younger, closeted me— Matt Ford (@JMatthiasFord) June 18, 2019
Having my identity validated as a struggling queer kid by seeing all these gorgeous LGBT figures from all backgrounds, lifted up by someone as powerful and influential as Taylor would have meant a LOT to me when I was younger. I’m really happy this is where she’s at— jack rem (@jackremmington) June 18, 2019
Hey @taylorswift13, from one Rhode Islander to another, thank you so much for using your new music video to bring attention to the #EqualityAct!— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) June 18, 2019
Let me know when you want to come to Washington to continue the fight - I’m proud you’re on our side! https://t.co/BIc6Kw1QQO
And some said she would have been criticized no matter what.
y’all: taylor is silent about politics! more straight celebrities should speak up about lgbt issues!— ilyuswnt (@pvssyisgod) June 18, 2019
taylor: does that
Many of those featured in the video posted about being glad to be a part of it:
I’m proud of @TaylorSwift13 for making this video. I’m proud to be in it. I’m proud to be a member of this community. Happy #Pride. @adamlambert #YNTCDmusicvideo https://t.co/UJXRBXRtE0 pic.twitter.com/3x0OxNhNnF— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) June 17, 2019
What great company to be in! Thank you @taylorswift13 for this great video. The message is incredible. @JustinMikita & I loved getting married again in your playground of fabulousness! https://t.co/UUt5PXZanA— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) June 17, 2019
Feeling so damn #PROUD 🌈 to be in one of the gayest videos of the year! Thank you @taylorswift13 for being such a gem & light for the community. Check out the #YouNeedToCalmDownMusicVideo: https://t.co/GD5X2GhkHV 🐈— Adore Delano (@AdoreDelano) June 17, 2019
And some maybe wished they were?
I guess I was too gay for the taylor swift video 😔— billy eichner (@billyeichner) June 17, 2019
Swift said she would be getting political on her seventh studio album, Lover, which is expected on Aug. 23. “I’m not planning to stop encouraging young people to vote and to try to get them to talk about what’s going on in our country,” she said in May. “I think that’s one of the most important things I could do.”