Taylor Swift is one of the most successful artists of the moment, and her life is constantly under public scrutiny. Her fans, known as Swifties, hold her to high standards and dissect her movements carefully. Moreover, Swift’s public persona is carefully crafted.
In 2023, Swift was linked to Matty Healy, the lead singer of the 1975. Their relationship sparked controversy among Swifties: Healy has a history of making provocative statements about race and sexuality. This controversy is why fans launched the #SpeakUpNow campaign, as mentioned in the video. Moreover, like this fan in a TikTok video comments upon: “Swift herself says, ‘you are what you love’”— would being a Swiftie then mean approving of Healy’s statements too? Some Swifties felt that her relationship with Healy was a betrayal of her— and their values (see the TikTok)— while others defended her right to date whoever she wants.
This controversy highlights the complex relationship between pop fandom and politics. It illustrates a ‘reactionary moment’ (not yet a reactionary fandom) in fandom. On the one hand, fans feel a strong connection to their idols, and will feel betrayed when they make (personal) choices the fans disagree with. On the other hand, fans also want to respect their idol’s privacy and personal freedom (and choices).
What this reactionary moment, in which fandom wasn’t so beautiful for some Swifties, then invites is to reflect upon some questions: should fans hold their idols accountable? Should they boycott an artist if they disagree with them? Or should they just focus on the ‘art’ and not the artist?
In the end, Swift and Healy’s relationship ended as abruptly as it began. Yet, the controversy it instigated will likely be debated by fans and scholars for years to come.