Taylor Swift wears an old-timey black dress in the music video for 'Fortnight'.

Taylor Swift Courts Backlash by Romanticizing the 1830s as Only a Wealthy White Woman Can

Taylor Swift’s latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, has arrived, bringing plenty of bangers, ballads, and hot takes. But a particular lyric has rubbed fans the wrong way.

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In the song “I Hate It Here”, Swift addresses about feeling out of place in the present day. She sings,

“My friends used to play a game where / We would pick a decade / We wished we could live in instead of this / I’d say the 1830s but without all the racists / And getting married off for the highest bid/”

Of course, the Antebellum era was a shitty time to be alive, especially if you were a person of color. Slavery was still the law of the land, with or without “all the racists.” And it’s not as if you can pluck all the racism out of the era and everyone would be happy.

This is not to mention the myriad downsides to living in 1830, like how women couldn’t vote, Andrew Jackson was president, Native Americans were being removed from their lands, antibiotics didn’t exist, and cholera and influenza pandemics galore. When Swift wrote the 1830s, she might have pictured drinking sweet tea on a fancy porch or something.

Fans were quick to question Swift’s lyrics online as a backlash began to build.

Swifties were quick to point out that critics weren’t paying attention to the whole song. The verse continues,

“Everyone would look down ’cause it wasn’t fun now/Seems like it was never even fun back then/Nostalgia is a mind’s trick/If I’d been there, I’d hate it/It was freezing in the palace/”

Fair enough, Taylor. But despite acknowledging that the 1830s wouldn’t be “fun”, it still makes you wonder why she chose that year specifically. There are plenty of post-slavery eras she could have been nostalgic for, and for an artist so focused on lyricism, this seems like an avoidable misstep.

(featured image: screenshot/Taylor Swift)


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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.