It’s been less than three weeks since Taylor Swift’s music video for “Bad Blood”, directed by Joseph Kahn, debuted on YouTube, and the video already has over 144 million views. It broke the YouTube viewing record for the number of views in the first 24 hours, reaching a cool 20.1 million. Taylor and this video have taken the world by storm, and because this video is such a feminist piece, I couldn’t be happier.
The video echoes the tone and colouring of a Frank Miller adaption, like 300 or Sin City. While these dark, gritty movies are usually made for a male audience, here women – tons of them – enter into this badass world. These women are all armed and dangerous, not just with feminine wiles, but with guns and knives. Even without the weaponry, the women participate in traditionally masculine activities, like riding motorcycles and boxing.
But in this world, they don’t lose their femininity. We see Taylor putting on lipstick in the middle of a fight. We see Selena Gomez’s character use makeup to blind Taylor before kicking her out the window. We see compact mirrors and purses being turned into weapons. The video doesn’t just show that girls can fight; it shows that they can fight without having to give up feminine parts of themselves.
It’s also important that in “Bad Blood,” the girls are in charge. There are no men in the video save for the ones that Catastrophe and Arsyn knock out in the beginning – with barely any effort, I might add – and Kendrick Lamar, whom we hear rapping, but only see removed from the action. Taylor’s all-girl posse gives her all the help that she needs to come back to life for revenge.
In real life, Taylor Swift is a huge supporter of all of her female friends and makes a point to dispute the idea that girls can’t get along with each other, and this video reflects that.
There are older women in the film as well, which is something that it is difficult enough to find on television, let alone in a pop music video. Cindy Crawford and Ellen Pompeo, who are in their forties, and Mariska Hargitay, who is 51, all appear in the video in the same capacity that the younger girls do. The video’s Villain, Arsyn, is also a woman. Allowing women to be villains as well as heroines is an incredibly important aspect of making women in film more complex, as illustrated in the popularity of Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne.
The video, of course, isn’t a faultless feminist masterpiece. There are some shots of Taylor Swift’s body – particularly when she is lying on the table being put back together – that quite clearly evoke the male gaze. While it portrays a positive view of feminine behaviours that are often dismissed as frivolous because they are feminine, such as enjoying using makeup, it does nothing to represent the millions of women who are discriminated against for not presenting themselves in a traditionally feminine way.
And while there is some diversity in the actors, we are still mostly presented with thin, traditionally-beautiful white women.
But while it isn’t perfect, I would love for this trend of showing off what girls can do to continue into other artists’ works and Taylor’s future videos. The “Bad Blood” video is making a hell of a lot more effort than the vast majority of music videos to further the images of women as strong people who build each other up by working together.