Engaging Blank Space

I admit it: I love Shake It Off by Taylor Swift. It’s catchy and fun. I like the message of shrugging off negative messages from others – especially in light of the video which seems to suggest that the negative messages are based on size, race, looks, sex, etc. I also like many of her other songs. She’s amazing at putting together catchy tunes.

Her current song, Blank Space, just dropped a couple days ago. It’s already got nearly 18 million views on YouTube as of today! I listened to it a few times and I’m so disappointed and bummed! It’s catchy, like what you’d expect, but the message is terrible! What’s up with this message?!

My first red flag was in the first verse when she said, “Love’s a game, want to play?” Maybe it’s just a lyric that rhymed not a message, I think. Then more of the same comes and builds on that thought showing that not taking love seriously (both sexual and relational) is the theme of the song. Here are a couple verses:

So it’s gonna be forever
Or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over
If the high was worth the pain
Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
‘Cause you know I love the players
And you love the game

‘Cause we’re young and we’re reckless
We’ll take this way too far
It’ll leave you breathless
Or with a nasty scar
Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
But I’ve got a blank space baby
And I’ll write your name

A couple things really bug me about this. First, life isn’t about being looking forward to mistakes. That’s an insidious lie! Too often when people of all ages make mistakes, instead of trying to avoid the mistakes, it seems in vogue to take ownership and become proud of the mistakes. It’s juvenile but pervasive. It’s a “take me as I am” message because, after all, why should someone change? For someone else? “No way!” they cry.

But if life is a journey – and I think it is – and growth and maturity are learned along the way then the opposite of reckless should be true when it comes to life, love and sex. “Reckless” means thoughtless, rash, hasty, without thought of consequence, irresponsible. Reckless is not a virtue. The opposite would be responsible, with thought, considered. Those are virtues.

Is it any wonder that we devalue love and marriage so much in our culture that we go into it and out of it so quickly when we tie it to adjectives like “reckless” as if that were a positive? What if we didn’t look for a casual relationship that could last a month, as she says in her song, but instead looked for people who we could spend our lives with? Considered, thoughtful choices of who we want to hang with, who we think are good influences on us, who consider us when they take actions, who have similar life goals, who we want to have sex with. People who are not reckless with our hearts, in other words.

Love isn’t a game and sex isn’t something that we score. People aren’t points that we tally up in “blank spaces.”

Many of Taylor’s songs are about how she was mistreated by lovers and the honesty and hurt shine through and make us love her. That’s why it’s so out of character for her to glorify that same harmful attitude in this song.

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