In the new music video for “...Ready For It,”, the old Taylor Swift continues to be presumably dead as the new one tries her hand at sci-fi pastiche, referencing several masterpieces of the genre, like Blade Runner, as well as neoclassics Ghost in the Shell, Tron and Ex Machina.
In the video, Swift walks through a graffitied warehouse while rapping (yes, she’s rapping) about her beau du jour, cloaked in what appears to be a Blade Runner inspired hooded garment. She approaches a crouched female figure trapped inside of a glass box in an abandoned shopping mall of sorts, marked by its decrepit escalators and water fountains.
A nod to Ghost in the Shell’s Major—the cyber-enhanced human protagonist of the franchise—the nude bodysuit-wearing figure is revealed to be a non-human version of Taylor Swift, as the camera pans and suddenly the figure has peeled away her human suit to reveal robotic tentacles. These two Taylors do not get along.
The trapped Swift adorns herself in a suit of armor, in an attempt to break the glass box that imprisons her—just like Alicia Vikander’s Ava in Ex Machina—only to morph into a humanlike version of Swift again, this time in a glowing, white Tron-esque bodysuit. She sits on top of a white cyborg horse (a reference to her own “White Horse,” perhaps?). Glowing orbs surround her as she floats into the air, because, sure.
A mesmerized human Swift touches the glass to incite war against herself as she shouts, “Let the games begin.” After the two Swifts strut towards one another, the trapped onebreaks open the glass, which blows away the once-human skin of the “real” Taylor to reveal that, à la Blade Runner, she was indeed a “replicant,” or nonhuman, all along, too.
In a moment ripped straight from a scene in Ex Machina, the newly freed Swift makes her way up the escalator in an attempt to escape. She ascends to the top as the “original” is struck by lightning on top of a structure with graffiti that reads, “They’re burning all the witches.”
Real or replicant, why does Swift always position herself as a victim? When the iconoclastic feminist academic Donna Haraway challenged the limitations of gendered concepts of identity in “A Cyborg Manifesto” and said, “I’d rather be a cyborg than a goddess,” Swift’s attempt at creating a post-human variant of herself in “...Ready For It?” was most likely not what she meant.
In Swift’s recent visual projects, she is toying with concepts of villainy and victimhood, bifurcating herself into two models of one person in the video for “...Ready For It?,” and reckoning with multiple iterations of herself at the end of her video for “Look What You Made Me Do.” As a metaphor, the cyborg should collapse boundaries—of gender, politics and other limitations—but Swift’s attempt at self-discovery while pitting two sides of herself against one another misses the point.
The discourse surrounding the references she makes in each of her Reputation single videos can be dizzying, and on top of that, this particular cyberpunk video concept appears to have nothing to do with the actual lyrics of the song. While this video is at least perfectly timed for Halloween (Taylor Swift costume inspiration knows no bounds when she's created this many iterations of herself), we can only hope that by the time the video for "Gorgeous" drops, Swift will be past her cyborg phase.
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