Earlier this week, Taylor Swift’s newly released music video for “Blank Space,” off her album 1989, predictably blew up the Internet. But it was the super-smart message behind the video that really got our attention.
In the video Swift is shown rapidly contradicting herself — one moment she’s an elegant, charming serene girlfriend, and the next she is hitting her boyfriend’s car with a golf club and cutting up his shirts with scissors, mascara tears streaming down her face. The video illustrates the jealousy, violence, and turbulence of an unhealthy relationship, all while invoking some dark humor (and impressive self-awareness) at the pervasive concept of the “crazy girl.”
I’m sure you’ve heard about (or perhaps even been called) a “crazy girl.” She comes in many shapes and sizes, but is always moody, jealous, dramatic, sensitive, obsessive, and entirely too alluring for her own good. Her romantic interests are helplessly stuck in her web of insanity, unable to pull themselves away until everything falls apart entirely. They then shake off the rubble, look back on the former relationship as a cautionary tale, and walk away shaking their head over that “crazy girl” who totally pulled the wool over their eyes and wanted too much from them.
Swift is quite familiar with this supposed social trope. She has often been unfairly characterized in the media as someone who is so fixated on her former paramours that all she can do to cope is write obsessive songs about them. With “Blank Space,” however, Swift is actually playing into and poking fun at the perceptions which are perpetuated about her in the media. With lyrics like “Got a long list of ex-lovers/ They’ll tell you I’m insane,” and “Find out what you want/Be that girl for a month/ Wait, the worst is yet to come,” it’s evident that Swift is exploring a new brand of dark humor in terms of addressing her relationship history. She told Yahoo Music:
It’s interesting when you put out a song with sort of a comedic element to it. People with different senses of humor perceive it differently. You’ll have people who completely get the joke and they’re saying, “Oh, look, she’s completely taken back the narrative, and she’s singing from the perspective of the person the media paints her to be.” And then other people will be listening to it on the radio and thinking, “I knew it! I knew she was crazy!”
Swift’s video, while obviously echoing her own experiences of being called romantically “insane” and dramatic, brings up an interesting point for all women: what is the behavior that supposedly makes a girl “crazy”? And why is it a label which is consistently being tacked onto women? Swift’s video asks us to acknowledge that most women (though not all) don’t actually do really crazy things like take golf clubs to cars, or burn items of clothing, or symbolically stab cakes with sharp knives — yet many girls are still referred to as “crazy.”
In addition to Swift, other high-profile women have also been on the receiving end of this lazy adjective: Megan Fox’s religious beliefs have been flippantly labeled as “insane,” and an Angelina Jolie unauthorized biography bears the hilariously insulting title From Crazy To Courageous.
This term seems to have become a blanket phrase for classifying any female behavior that deviates from what people are willing to deal with (i.e., emotions). I’ve heard my friends refer to their female exes as “crazy” for being overly emotional, for not being emotional enough, for being clingy, for being distant. It seems that there’s really no exact trigger mechanism — if we do something uncomfortable or weird, I guess we’re just going to be called “crazy.”
Is the concept of the “crazy girl” basically a method of oversimplifying multi-faceted women into two-dimensional villains? Is it possible that maybe we should use our enormous brains and come up with different adjectives that actually describe people’s personalities, and don’t reduce them to mere stereotypes?
Yes, absolutely. .