Taylor Swift’s Video Full of Symbolism–from Zombie to “Reputation”

Danielle Lippert, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Taylor Swift released her first album in 2006. She was 16 years old, and the album was a self-titled country album.

Eleven years later and Swift definitely isn’t the small-town country girl she used to be. With the recent release of her song “Look What You Made Me Do,” she’s gone as far as she possibly can away from her country roots.

With the single came the accompanying music video. Most people I’ve talked to have absolutely loved the video. I loved the video. Even my mom loved the video. We both absolutely loved what she did with it.

Of course, if you weren’t caught up with all of Swift’s drama, then you wouldn’t have caught the massive amounts of symbolism in the video.

The music video starts off with Swift coming out of the ground like a zombie, dressed like she was in her music video for “Out of the Woods” from her previous album 1989, and if you have a careful eye, you can see the gravestone next to her reads “Nils Sjoberg,” which is the name Swift used as an alias for the song “This is What you Came For” by Calvin Harris.

Harris and Swift dated for about 15 months before they broke up. Swift helped write this song while they were together. No one knew Sjoberg was Swift until someone made a mistake on the Wikipedia page for “This is What you Came For.” Harris then tweeted and confirmed that Swift had contributed to the writing of the song. After Swift’s relationship with Tom Hiddleston went public, Harris tweeted about how free he felt now he was away from Swift and that Swift controlled the break-up situation with the media. That was definitely the last of Swift and Harris.

Next up in the video, we see Swift in a bathtub filled with diamonds, pearls, jewels and everything in between. If you look closely, you’ll see a single dollar bill to the left of her head.

Just a few months ago, Swift won a trial against a Los Angeles DJ who claimed Swift ruined his career and any chance of his having another job. A few years prior, Swift, her mom and her photographer claimed that the Dj had lifted up her skirt and groped her. The DJ then lost his job at the radio station. He sued Swift for three million dollars for ruining his career, but Swift countersued him for one dollar for the sexual assault. Swift won the case and the dollar that came with it.

With this part of the music video came some controversy. Swift makes a gun motion with her hand during the line “You said the gun was mine.” Some people believe that Swift was trying to take a hit at Kim Kardashian about the robbery in Paris. Kardashian was held at gunpoint and robbed in her hotel room in Paris. People believed that lying in the tub of jewels and making the gun motion was supposed to signify Kardashian.

So far, the hidden things in the music video are very well put together, and throughout the whole video, it’s obvious Swift knows she isn’t perfect. She knows she has started her fair share of controversies in these past few years, but making a dig at someone’s robbery? I don’t believe Swift would ever go that far.

The video continues with Swift on a throne with snakes surrounding her. Some carefully counted and saw that there were 12 snakes. Swift has made it evident that 13 is her lucky number. So why settle with 12? This goes back to when Kanye West released his song “Famous” which had some very derogatory lyrics about Swift. She wasn’t happy about it and took to social media to release a statement on how hurt she was by the line. Kardashian, West’s wife, also took to social media to post a video of West and Swift on the phone. Swift approved the line and said it was okay. Swift’s Instagram was soon littered with countless snake emojis in the comments of all of her pictures. Swift tried to deny it and said she only approved half of the line and not the other half. No one believed her and continued to spam her account with snakes. So where’s the thirteenth snake? Well, it’s Swift herself.

As the song goes to the chorus, the video shows Swift crashing a very expensive car into a lamppost, but Swift doesn’t look like herself at all. In fact, she looks just like Katy Perry. Perry and Swift have had quite the feud going on for a while.

In 2014, Swift released her album 1989 and with it came the anthem everyone loved, “Bad Blood.” An interviewer asked Swift what the song was about, and she said it was about another woman in the industry who hasn’t been the nicest to her. Swift said that she was never sure if the woman was her friend or her enemy. Swift also said that this singer tried to sabotage her entire tour. People were buzzing trying to figure out the newest feud going on. The next day, Perry tweeted “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing…” confirming the feud.

The past few years have been a constant back and forth between the two. In fact, this June Swift decided to put all of her music back on Spotify the same day Perry released her album. Perry’s album was pretty much ignored while everyone else was ecstatic to have Swift’s music at their fingertips again.

After the car crashes, Swift is hanging outside of her car, one of her many Grammys in her hand as paparazzi swarm her. It almost seems as though Swift is trying to direct their attention to how successful she is rather than have them focus on her mistakes. This point sums up the whole video. Why is everyone so concerned about the little things Swift does that they completely forget how incredibly successful she is? The media would rather see Swift fight with West and Kardashian again than listen to her new album coming out in November.

Next we see Swift robbing what looks to be a bank. She and the people helping her are all wearing cat masks, a small ode to Swift’s two cats Meredith and Olivia. As Swift storms out with her girls right behind her, we see what the company actually is, Steam Co. Like I mentioned before, Swift just recently put her music back onto the free music streaming website Spotify. Listeners can listen to pretty much any songs they want, but with ad interruption. Listeners can pay $10 a month to get rid of the ads and listen without wifi. Swift wasn’t a fan of this. She thought that the artists should be getting compensated for putting their music on the sight. Swift wrote an open letter and then pulled her music from the website.

Moving on, Swift is standing in front of a large group of women in lines wearing the same outfits, hairstyles and everything else. They look identical. A few things flash across the screens up front. Cats are seen again, but more importantly, the word “squad” flashes across the screen. Swift has a very tight knit group of friends that the media can’t stop talking about. Most of them were even featured in her music video for “Bad Blood.” As always, someone finds something wrong with everything Swift does. People have been commenting about her “squad” since the first time a group of them were seen together. Other artists have made comments about how exclusive it is and that the whole theme of it was rather “high school.” Many of Swift’s friends have commented back about all of this. They all say the same thing, Swift is incredibly sweet and is always there for them no matter where or what it is.

The next part shows Swift storming into a room and a bunch of male servants rushing to her side to aid her in whatever she needs. They all light up in formation and rip off their jackets to reveal shirts with “I (heart) TS” written on them. This goes back to when Swift dated actor Tom Hiddleston. At Swift’s famous Fourth of July party, Hiddleston wore a tank top with the same thing written on it.

The next part shows the “new Taylor” standing on top of all of her old styles, personalities, album covers and every other look she’s ever had. This part’s message is pretty obvious, the “old Taylor” that everyone misses is not coming back. The next line is what sets the message in stone. Swift says, “‘I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now’ ‘Why?’ ‘Oh, ’cause she’s dead!’”

The end of the video is my favorite part. The end really shows that Swift knows what she’s done in the past. She knows she’s made plenty of mistakes (of course, haven’t we all?), but she also knows that many people seem to be far too interested in it.

Swift spray paints the word “reputation” across an airplane, the name of her new album coming soon. Lined up in front of the plain are fifteen of Taylor’s most iconic looks or personalities.

The first one shown is the Swift from her music video “You Belong With Me.” In the video, Swift wore one of the director’s old band shirt. It seems she’s wearing the same shirt, but this time it’s a little different. Instead of her director’s camp friends’ names on there, it has Swift’s closest friends. We see the “Out of the Woods” Swift again and a few from her “Shake it Off” music video. All of the Swifts are fighting about the others’ personalities. She calls herself fake, making the Taylor Swift era Swift cry, and then calls herself the victim saying, “There she goes, playing the victim again.” It then shows the Perry-looking Swift taking videos of everything and saying she was “getting receipts” and would “edit it later,” again digging at the “Famous” scandal. The last Swift is seen with an MTV Video Music Award in her hand and saying, “I’d very much like to be excluded from this narrative.” All of the rest shout, “Shut up?”

The VMA Swift is from the beginning of Swift vs West, when he interrupted her accepting her award to say she didn’t deserve it. Swift later wrote an open letter saying the same thing about being excluded from this narrative.

Again, I absolutely loved the music video, and it took a lot of guts and thought to release this. Swift could have easily continued on denying she ever did anything bad, but instead she owns it. She makes it into a number one song.

Swift is a little dramatic. I’d compare her to that one girl you’re friends with in high school. We all had that girl, the one you were incredibly good friends with, but always seemed to be starting new drama or getting involved with it. No matter what, you stay friends with the girl just as I will stay a fan of Swift. You could probably do without her, even though you definitely don’t want to. Her music is catchy. It’s amazing and makes a lot of people incredibly happy. Swift is constantly donating to charities without saying a thing about it. She’s a sweet person, and the media seems to purposefully forget all of this.

I am beyond excited to see the new era of Taylor Swift and hope she’s learned from her mistakes and continues to make amazing music.