There is something very disconcerting about Taylor Swift’s new music video for "22." She comes off as eerie and unsettling in her blatant and unabashed facade that she is a “real person.”
The video isn’t much more than her “hanging out,” “goofing around” and “partying” with a group of similarly good-looking people. The only trouble is that Taylor Swift doesn’t just hang out and party - everything she does is calculated and mediated by the fact that she’s Taylor Swift. Her pretending for four minutes that she isn’t feels cheap and comes littered with holes that remind us of reality.
When she introduced the video’s premiere on “Good Morning America” on March 13, Swift promised that the video starred her “real-life best friends.” That she had to qualify the video with that statement is evidence enough of the false authenticity and earnestness that shortly followed.
Because the default is to assume that Swift’s actual friends wouldn’t populate the video - the roles in Swift’s videos are usually filled with beautiful sort-of actors, actresses and future boyfriends. They’re calculated choices to maximize the videos’ potentials, pairing Swift with whomever’s market appeal is highest then, whomever they can turn into a tabloid commodity.
But putting Swift’s “real-life best friends” in the video is an equally calculated choice, one that follows suit with the rest of the video. It’s Swift showing everyone how fun, flirty and “real” she can be, but it all feels like just another attempt to market herself.
The weirdest moment occurs around the 30-second mark of the video. One of Swift’s friends mock-sings into a giant metallic fork while the rest of the girls in the video play her adoring fans. Is this girl pretending to be Taylor Swift? Is Swift’s friend pretending to be her while she pretends not to be herself? Does Swift make all her friends do their best impression of her when they hang out?
The video has other oddities, like an abundance of fedoras, a Christmas light-covered swing set and girls donning cat ears for a night out. But it’s the forced pretend authenticity that ends up striking the off note. It’s clear the more Swift tries to pretend she isn’t a mega superstar, the less real she becomes.