We’re all Swifties now

Dalton Delan
4 min readMar 15, 2024

It’s a Taylor Swift world. The rest of us are just living in it.

In a year that gave us a pretty-in-pink, summertime blockbuster courtesy of “Barbie,” it should be no surprise that a billion-dollar business built on musical breakup tunes would dominate what passes for popular culture these days. With the turn of the year and the Sin City Super Bowl, Swift brought her magic wand to the NFL, helping add 9 percent more female viewers for a record 58.8 million women watching the big game that ended with Travis Kelce and Miss Swift kissing amid the confetti. Fans went gaga. Pass-receiving plus romance — that’s entertainment!

If this reads like a kiss-off, it isn’t. I don’t roll down the road singing along to “Anti-Hero,” Swift’s biggest hit so far, eight weeks atop the Hot 100 charts. But I’m not her audience. I do have a tennis buddy who is. He blames it on cruising with his teenage girls. His story and he’s sticking to it. He’s a heart surgeon; give him some slack. Let him blare it in the operating room while threading a stent if it helps save a life. Here’s the trick: for the first time in recording history, the pop phenom driving girls gone wild is a woman. A distinction with a difference. Women heroes are historically in short supply; we need more.

Think back to the 20th century, if you can, and name the musical idols who had them fainting in the aisles. Frank Sinatra. Elvis Presley. Four fab lads from Liverpool. Throw in Sting. Madonna snuck in like a virgin, but her persona and performance were hardly the stuff to overjoy parents. A breakthrough woman nonetheless, still out there striking a pose. Others have added to the female clubhouse: Beyonce, Adele, tragic figures like Sinead O’Connor and Amy Winehouse, beat poet with a rhythm section Patti Smith.

None of these dominated girl-culture. Swift represents a tidal shift. A romantic, serial monogamist who gets even in song and locates art in teen angst. She doesn’t discard the tropes of female adolescence, but surmounts them and emerges stronger, a healed broken bone. Using busted dates to craft hit anthems is grand pop tradition, but she’s carrying the music biz on her back. She’s threatening enough to male culture that after Time named her “Person of the Year,” the lunatic fringe of the GOP — a sadly redundant phrase — floated a theory that Swift is Biden’s secret weapon. But the Swift vote that counts is for Kelce. Biden will have to make it sans Swift.

Instead, in cloud cuckoo land, CBS served up for Super Sunday the embarrassment of a Robert F. Kennedy Jr. campaign ad by his PAC, featuring his famous family. Living relatives cried foul. He’d taken their parents in vain. Meanwhile, Swift stuck to cheering and chugging, nothing suspect. All the teenage girls in America can’t put the broken Biden campaign back together again. Even if she wanted to influence them, most can’t vote.

The movie “Mean Girls” nails the reality that high school is a fraught time for girls’ body image. Social media, where teens spend an average of 5.8 hours a day, only exacerbates the problem. Body shaming is rampant in the TikTok and Instagram metaverse, where adolescent girls pose for their cellphone cameras and upload it for popular consumption. While Taylor Swift flashes her model-length legs proudly, reinforcing an atypical body image, she isn’t doing it for the male gaze. Time and again, her alchemy turns failed relationships into a musical mosh-pit for fans. She’s the eternal teen survivor. Leaning on the trope of a big, strong man as a boyfriend may not do wonders for girl power, per se, but she levels the playing field. The camera loves her even more than her hunk.

As in music, the “great man” theory of history has pervaded our culture for way too long. After all, with the exception of some notable French and British queens, women have not typically held positions that put the fate of nations in their grasp. Even now, there are few female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Women make up only 28 percent of our 118th Congress. While Britain has had Margaret Thatcher, America drew near only with Hillary Clinton, and we know how that story ended. We have Nikki Haley and Kamala Harris in also-ran slots, but neither are crowd favorites. Harris could inherit, if not merit, the throne.

Which brings us back to Taylor Swift. She’s at the top of her game in the music business. Young women finally have a role model who succeeds in creativity, commerce and, at least until he is reborn in song, a Super Bowl-winning beau. It’s heaps better than the male idols who sang the blues in the night before.

Huddle up.



Dalton Delan

Winner of three Emmy Awards, Dalton Delan pens biweekly The Unspin Room, which began August 7, 2016 in The Berkshire Eagle; it has appeared in 50+ newspapers.