Taylor Swift Haters Hate in Many Flavors

Curator's Note

To rephrase the title of this post less poetically, Taylor Swift haters perform their anti-fandom on the different levels explained by Jonathan Gray – on a rational-realistic level (e.g., she's insincere), on a moral level (she’s bad for women), on a political level (she’s a "feminist's nightmare") and on an aesthetic level (she’s disposable pap). Gray, borrowing from Matt Hills, discusses the way in which anti-fans have discursive “mantras” about why they don’t like a particular cultural product.

Not only are these mantras familiar, even to the casual consumer of popular culture, but they can be heard echoing from the hills of magazines and valleys of Twitter blasts and YouTube rants: Swift can’t sing, she’s too nice, she’s a hater, she’s made of garbage. Considering the deeply mean vein running through this anti-fandom, one would be forgiven for thinking that the object of the Swift hatred is her person, rather than her persona.

Yet what cannot be overlooked with this anti-fandom is Swift’s massive global successes. We might then see Swift anti-fandom through the lens of Dan Haggard’s description: for him, the anti-fan “seek[s] to modify other people’s perceptions of […] texts in a way that more closely resembles their own [and] tend[s] to resent the success of the particular cultural artifact in question.”

Haggard suggests that this anti-fandom is performed for the purpose of undermining the cultural artifact’s success. But how might one explain what appears to be the cyclical nature of Swift hatred? A quick peek at the peaks on a graph of Google trends for “Taylor Swift” and “hate” between January 2007 and January 2013 reveals that hatred of her flowed heaviest after moments of her greatest cultural visibility (the VMAs in September 2009, when the world was seemingly on her side) and her greatest perceived transgression (her split with One Direction’s Harry Styles in January 2013).

Considering her own successes are cyclical, too, Swift anti-fandom can come across as pointless: why bother hating on a product that may fail? But as Gray and others have reminded us, though, there can exist a power in the community formed by anti-fans. The cacophony of mantras, in other words, can harmonize, for better and for worse.

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