The Hollow Hypocrisy of the Taylor Swift/Matty Healy Backlash


In this op-ed, writer Chiara Giovanni explores the reaction to Taylor Swift and Matty Healy’s relationship and what it says about the way we engage in political criticism of celebrities.

When Taylor Swift embarked upon her long-awaited Eras Tour in March 2023, it seemed like she could do no wrong. Her 10th studio album, Midnights (2022), had broken seemingly every record in existence; fans eagerly awaited the announcement of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), the latest in the string of re-recordings of the pop icon’s back catalog; Swift seemed happily committed to longtime boyfriend Joe Alwyn. Swifties, as the superstar’s fans are known, breathed a collective sigh of relief that the drama of 2016, which saw Swift publicly “canceled,” was firmly in the past. 

But two months and a high-profile breakup later, we Swifties would be forgiven for feeling like the past seven years never happened. Swift’s tour of the U.S., wildly successful by any metric, has shared the spotlight with a steady stream of headline-grabbing drama, including social media unfollowingspap walksrevealing new music, and, above all, a highly controversial new relationship. Swift’s budding romance with British musician Matty Healy, who was recently described by Jia Tolentino as “something of a test case for the digital panopticon and its reaction cycle,” has been dogged not only by rumors of Swift’s infidelity, but by Healy’s own attention-grabbing antics.

Taylor Swift and Matty Healy seen leaving Electric Lady studios in Manhattan on May 16, 2023 in New York City. Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images

The 1975 frontman’s history of provocative behavior, from co-signing, laughing along to, and later apologizing for racist comments about rapper Ice Spice, to joking about watching torture porn involving Black women, has sparked a fierce backlash among both ardent and casual Swifties. The furor has only continued to escalate with Swift’s conveniently-timed release of a remix featuring Ice Spice (whose music video seems to obliquely hint at a collaboration with Healy himself) and the rapper’s surprise appearance onstage with Swift in New Jersey this past weekend, all of which has been critiqued as a blatant attempt at damage control for the controversy.

Healy himself admits to having deliberately baited people, and the motions of the outrage cycle are, consequently, fairly predictable: receipts documenting Healy’s behavior and critiques of Swift’s “white feminism” have spread across social media platforms, impassioned fans have launched a campaign to convince their idol to “engage in genuine self-reflection,” and even group chats I’m tangentially in are filled with disappointed disavowals, Onion headlines, and barf emojis.

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