This morning, news broke that Taylor Swift will direct her first feature film for Searchlight Pictures. She will write it and direct it, in fact, and we know nothing more about it than this. I am now going to tell you how I feel about that prospect.
This is not my first day on earth. I know that writing anything remotely critical of the Taylor Swift project risks incurring the wrath of some of the most dangerous and organized people on the internet. So let me preface all of this by saying: I am a Swiftie. Taylor is my girl. I, too, have rinse-repeat listened to “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)” and indulged in vengeful thoughts about my ex-boyfriends. One of my most cherished memories is screaming “You Belong With Me” in my best friend’s face on the dance floor at her wedding. I am in a group chat called Taylor’s Diversion, in which we swap theories about upcoming albums. I have planned and attended Taylor-only karaoke events. I am mentally preparing to spend a month’s earnings on the “Eras” tour.
Now, all of that said, I do not think this movie is a good idea.
I enjoyed the music video Swift directed for the extended edition of All Too Well, because it was like hearing amazing gossip about an old friend, except it’s about unbelievably hot A-list celebrities. It was only 10 minutes long, and I am sufficiently brain-dead because of fandom that I was going to get a kick out of it even if it was just 10 minutes of Sadie Sink holding up a sign saying “Fuck you, Jake Gyllenhaal.” But a whole movie? A feature-length film? About what, exactly? Can Taylor’s worldview, which can (I’m sorry! I love her!) have a certain kind of slightly cringe, entry-level feminist bent, be tolerable at this scale?
There’s a universe in which she surprises us and does something utterly out of her wheelhouse. I want to see Taylor Swift does David Cronenberg, girls with internal organs spilling out of their plaid shirts. Imagine, if you will, Blade Runner (Taylor’s Version). I would scream with delight for the full 120 minutes and throw up my popcorn in the street afterward if she casts all her actor exes in it: a full-scale work of self-mythologizing unlike anything even she, the greatest auteur in this field, has ever achieved. Or if it’s, like, a Muppets film, and she’s the only human character. There are options here.
My fear is that she won’t take any of them. My fear is that it will become another stick in an already very large battery of sticks with which to beat those of us unfortunate enough to be terminal Swifties. My fear is that it will be too Taylor. A naïve young woman moves to New York from a small town and kicks ass in cat eyeliner. Or, heaven forfend, Reputation: The Movie.
Maybe I’m being unduly pessimistic. Have musicians made good movies? I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head, so I looked it up. Both Madonna and Bob Dylan have directed movies generally agreed to be stinkers and swept under the rug (a plea for mercy from these fandoms also). I mean, Rob Zombie? There isn’t a lot of positive precedent for this.
I would love it if I am wrong and this is a triumph, not just for Taylor’s sake, but for everybody’s. I shudder to think of the day the film is released if it’s bad, or even just not that great. Critics will lose their lives at the hands of teenage girls that night over 3 ½-star reviews. Martin Scorsese will say the wrong thing about it in an interview and have to go into witness protection.
It is of great societal import that this movie does not blow. Perhaps there is some hope. I find that often when a new Taylor project is announced, I’m not sure about it. I will hold up my hands and say that on a first listen, I didn’t get Midnights. But sure enough, a week later, I had “Maroon” on repeat like everybody else. She has proved me wrong before. May it please God that she does it again.