I wasn’t surprised when Time Magazine announced Taylor Swift was its 2023 Person of the Year. Her ongoing five-continent, 151-show “Eras Tour” is the first and only concert run to surpass $1 billion in sales. Her two “Taylor’s Version” album releases, along with a healthy dose of marketing, also made her inescapable. Like it or not, she was everywhere this year. Not even Monday Night Football was safe.
What I found surprising was that Swift’s win drew sharp criticism from some who – citing her many public relationships, song content, and the fact that she is unwed and childless – believe she heralds the fall of Western civilization.
The argument goes that this award crowns Swift as the de facto “ideal woman” whom young women and girls will imitate to become promiscuous, childless, middle-aged cat-owning succubi. I understand the logic; Taylor has opinions I disagree with, but I think the doomsday hand-wringing is overblown.
So far, I’d say she’s done less damage to society than Time’s 1938 winner, Adolf Hitler, or two-time winner Joseph Stalin. Even Ayatollah Khomeini got one in 1979. Isn’t hindsight great?
I don’t think it’s a big deal that Swift won the award – and this isn’t me simping for a millennial “girl boss” or cheerleading the continuing sexual revolution either. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not a feminist – I thought “The Stepford Wives” had a happy ending!
It’s just that I believe these “the sky is falling” moral arguments about culture and the arts are unproductive and old-hat. They’ve been going on for literally thousands of years, dating at least back to Plato. In 1698, Jeremy Collier wrote “A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage,” a broadside attack on the writers and performers of 17th century English Restoration Theater, a medium best described as “Ye Olde Sex Comedy.”
There is nothing new under the sun, and though we live in the 21st century, our culture is no more offensive than any other great society at its decadent zenith.
This is not an excuse for any naughtiness but a reminder to keep things in perspective. Whether you like things as they are or not, they are inevitably temporary. Not long after the libertine English Restoration came the definitively conservative Victorian Era of the 1800s – which was, of course, replaced. The English Restoration itself was a reaction to the staunchly traditional England of Cromwell’s Commonwealth.
Finally, I’d like to point out that the controversy surrounding Time’s Person of the Year is grossly disproportionate to the actual impact the award has. Before you spend time fretting over who Time’s Person of the Year is, ask yourself this: who won the award last year? How about three years ago? Five years ago? Do you or anyone you know still read Time Magazine?
By reacting strongly to the award, we only lend credence and legitimacy to what is ultimately a frivolous and temporary pop-culture exercise. If we don’t care what Time Magazine thinks 99% of the time, why does their opinion matter now?
Ultimately, we should focus less on things we cannot control and more on what we can. I feel unqualified to say this because, like Taylor, I am unmarried and childless (call me, ladies!), but if you don’t like Taylor Swift’s cultural influence on young people, raise your own kids rather than let pop culture do so. Even if all of America looked like Mayberry and Mother Theresa was Person of the Year, parents hopefully still wouldn’t let social media and TV raise their children.
Ultimately, changing the culture is a temporary solution; what we need are people insulated from it, whose lives and views are unaffected no matter which way the pendulum swings.
Nick Treglia is a student at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
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