When rumors spread that Taylor Swift and Matty Healy were dating, Swifties weren’t happy.
Twitter thread after thread was dedicated to exposing the 1975 frontman’s “problematic” behavior.
Fans were angry Swift would do this to herself, do this to them.
Swift has made a career out of catering not just to her fans’ appetite for new music but to their political and cultural tastes.
So it wasn’t that surprising when news came this week that Swift and Healy had broken up after a whirlwind month-long romance.
After all, Swift had already communicated she will do what it takes to stay “on the right side of history” in her fans’ eyes.
Why should her personal life be any different?
Sources say they were “both extremely busy and realized they’re not really compatible with each other” and “it was always casual.”
But it was never casual in the eyes of Swift’s fans, who have come to expect a certain level of political activism from Swift — and not without cause.
After years of apoliticism, save a nod to President Barack Obama in 2009, in 2018 Swift endorsed two Tennessee Democrats in the midterm elections.
When the press wanted to know why it had taken so long when democracy was at stake, she said she wasn’t sure if her endorsement of Hillary Clinton in 2016 would have helped.
At the time, her silence induced serious backlash.
As The Washington Post notes, “A Guardian editorial deemed the singer ‘a musical envoy for the president’s values’ on account of her silence, while other writers accused her of being complicit in racism and sexism. Though Swift expressed support for the inaugural Women’s March in 2017, she was derided for not attending.”
Then she became outspoken about LGBT rights, even dropping the cringe-inducing lyric “Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD?”
More recently, Swift edited her “Anti-Hero” music video after fans accused it of being “fatphobic.”
Originally, Swift steps on a scale that reads “FAT” — not a commentary on her size but rather the media’s scrutiny of her and the struggle she says she had with an eating disorder.
Nonetheless, after enough angry tweets, she trimmed the video so it doesn’t zoom in on the scale.
This really makes the joke tweet about Swifties unionizing for “formal bargaining power” in the star’s career choices seem not so ridiculous after all.
So when fans heard that Swift was dating Healy, of course they were quick to dig up everything in his past, from the odd — eating raw meat on stage — to the boring — kissing fans during concerts? So cliché — to the actually pretty creepy — laughing about watching hardcore porn just 30 seconds after guests left his house.
There were also the supposedly ironic Nazi salute, the politically incorrect comments about Muslims, following Kyle Rittenhouse and Andrew Tate on Instagram, and being a fan of the Red Scare podcast.
And back in 2014, amid rumors Healy and Swift were dating, Healy said adopting the status of “Taylor Swift’s boyfriend” would be “emasculating.”
Onlookers may have various opinions about these things and where they fall on the scale of normal guy to douchebag to pervert, but unless they’re trying to determine whether to support him and his band through ticket sales, it doesn’t really matter what they think.
I know, we all want to believe we have the obligation to call out the Bad and Powerful People of the world.
But hordes of unhappy Swift fans aren’t exactly going to change Healy’s mind. Healy basically said as much in a recent New Yorker profile.
He had also come under fire for a podcast appearance in which he was criticized for laughing at jokes made at the expense of the rapper Ice Spice.
(Conveniently, Swift announced a collaboration with Ice Spice a couple weeks ago.)
In response to the controversy, Healy told The New Yorker, “Nobody is sitting there at night slumped at their computer, and their boyfriend comes over and goes, ‘What’s wrong, darling?’ and they go, ‘It’s just this thing with Matty Healy.’ That doesn’t happen.’”
When the interviewer pushed back, Healy pressed in: “If it does, you’re either deluded or you are, sorry, a liar. You’re either lying that you are hurt, or you’re a bit mental for being hurt. It’s just people going, ‘Oh, there’s a bad thing over there, let me get as close to it as possible so you can see how good I am.’ And I kind of want them to do that, because they’re demonstrating something so base level.”
But this is what Taylor Swift’s fans do, given the evidence of their passionate social-media posts.
There’s no guarantee their outrage will make a difference in the grand scheme of things.
But they can make Swift take, and pass, their ideological purity test. And that may be all that matters to them.
Madeline Fry Schultz is the contributors editor at the Washington Examiner and a contributing writer for Verily.