Swifties need to grow up

The manic fandom over Taylor Swift speaks to the infantilism of our age.

Lauren Smith

Topics Culture UK

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Taylor Swift was in London last week, and it felt like a collective mania had briefly taken hold of the capital.

As Swift’s seemingly never-ending Eras tour was in town, you could hardly move for millennial women wearing cowboy hats and glitter. But it wasn’t just hardcore Swifties who were in the grip of Taylor-mania. Transport for London released a special Swift-themed Tube map to mark her presence, with lines renamed after her albums, stations renamed after her songs and the map’s colours jazzed up with sequins. On Friday, the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace was performed to the tune of Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’. Walls across the city were decked in Taylor Swift murals.

When you think of a ‘Swiftie’, you’re probably imagining a teenage girl – or a thirtysomething professional who thinks she’s a teenage girl. But some of the guests at the London concerts over the weekend were a long way out from even those demographics.

Prince William, the heir apparent to the British throne, posed for a selfie with Swift before attending the concert for his 42nd birthday. Although he did have his two older children, Charlotte and George, in tow, his vigorous, frenetic dancing to ‘Shake it Off’ made it all too clear that he was the biggest Swift superfan of the bunch.

Even Keir Starmer was out among the Swifties. The Labour leader posted a snap of him and his wife, Victoria, at the concert on X, noting that he was making a ‘“Swift” campaign pitstop’, to groans all round.

Bizarrely, Taylor Swift has become a favourite of British politicians. Last summer, prime minister Rishi Sunak was spotted at a Swift concert in Los Angeles with his family. He might have been able to claim that this was for his young daughters’ enjoyment were it not for the fact that, shortly afterwards, he was spied taking part in a Swift-themed SoulCycle class in Santa Monica.

Sunak isn’t even the UK’s first Swiftie prime minister. That dubious title goes to Liz Truss. In an interview with the BBC’s Chris Mason earlier this year, she revealed how, back in 2019, she elbowed her way across the room at the BAFTA awards to ‘demand’ a selfie with Swift. She once quoted Swift’s ‘The Man’ in parliament, and arrived on stage during a Tory leadership hustings to ‘Change’. Apparently, Truss’s favourite Swift song is ‘Blank Space’. Which is perhaps a fitting metaphor for our empty-headed ex-PM.

What is going on here? Why are fully grown, adult politicians fawning over a star who makes pop music for teenagers? Or at least, in any sane era, should be making pop music mainly for teenagers. It surely can’t be down to her underwhelming lyrics. After all, this is the musical genius whose latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, contains such lyrical masterpieces as: ‘We would pick a decade / We wished we could live in instead of this / I’d say the 1830s but without all the racists’; ‘You smoked, then ate seven bars of chocolate’; and ‘Touch me while your bros play Grand Theft Auto’.

To be fair, I once loved Taylor Swift, too – until I was about 13 years old. The pining over unrequited love, the on-again-off-again relationship dramas – it all gets a bit tiring once you’re done with puberty and the hormones have settled down. There is something desperately sad about the adults still gushing over this childish mush.

We shouldn’t begrudge anyone’s enjoyment of pop music. Each to their own and all that (although I suspect the likes of Starmer and Co are trying to pose as down-with-the-kids by co-opting the one modern singer they’ve actually heard of). What is bizarre and troubling, though, is how many grown adults profess themselves to be Swift superfans. There are armies of millennial marketing managers, dressed in sequined costumes, who squeal like over-excited teens at the very mention of Swift’s name. They will have practically drained their bank accounts last week to see their heroine in concert. The cheapest tickets to her Eras tour set you back an average of £650. That’s real money. Adult money.

Swifties are constantly making a spectacle of themselves, too. Earlier this year, a TikTok video did the rounds in which a superfan screamed and wailed in her friends’ arms outside a Taylor concert in Sydney, Australia. You’d think that something traumatic and life-changing had just happened to her. But this tearful outburst was provoked by nothing more than Swift performing a song the fan quite liked. There have been plenty more examples of Swifties hysterically screeching, flailing and making scenes like toddlers in the toy aisle in the presence of their idol.

The rise of the millennial and middle-aged Swiftie speaks to the infantilism of our age. This is a time when trigger warnings are slapped on any media deemed too ‘adult’ for our supposedly feeble minds to handle. Where endless demands for safe spaces and emotional coddling have taken over public life. The adulation for Swift and her juvenile love troubles feels like yet another product of a society that’s stuck in an extended adolescence.

Perhaps it’s time for the Swifties to grow up.

Lauren Smith is a staff writer at spiked.

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