Pop Culture Conclave: ‘Blank Space’


In the two weeks since Taylor Swift’s “1989” has been released, we’ve been hearing a lot of our favorite country-gone-pop star. The fervor reached a peak Monday with the release of the video for the album’s second single “Blank Space.” Here, seven self-proclaimed Taylor Swift analysts discuss the best, worst and everything in between moments of the video, accompanied by a lot of screaming.

The panelists: Chair of the Board of Directors and former Guide Editor Sheena Karkal (COL ’15), Business Editor and former Guide Editor Kim Bussing (COL ’16), Contributing Editor Penny Hung (SFS ’16), Online Editor Ian Michael Tice (COL ’16), Executive Editor Mallika Sen (SFS ’16), Guide staff writer Michael Fiedorowicz (COL ’18), Guide Editor Jess Kelham-Hohler (COL ’17)

On Taylor Swift

Sheena: I guiltily like Taylor Swift. Even though she uses the same chord progression in every song, I think this new album is a divergence from her normal style. I thought it was interesting and I like that she’s branching out.

Kim: I literally bought Keds because Taylor Swift wears Keds. [Editor’s note: Kim is wearing Keds right now.] I think Olivia Benson, her cat, would be a great friend. I think she’s perfect. And she has great clothes. And we carry our handbags the same way.

Penny: I guess I’m a fan. Her Red concert was actually the first concert I ever went to. She wasn’t my favorite singer but the new album’s growing on me. Some songs aren’t my favorite. “Blank Space” definitely is my favorite song though — even before I saw the video.

Ian: I won’t admit to it but Taylor Swift is one of my favorites. [Editor’s note: You just admitted to it.]

Mallika: I don’t watch music videos but I watched this one about five times yesterday, including before every time I went to bed. [Editor’s note: Apparently, Mallika went to bed three times yesterday.]

Michael: I was very neutral about Taylor Swift until seeing the terrible video.

Jess: I was always the person who teased all her friends for liking Taylor Swift but then two days ago I found myself going into my room and stealing my roommate’s copy of the CD and putting it on my laptop, so now I’m confused.

The Video



Kim: Olivia Benson!
Jess: Is this like making fun of Beyoncé? It looks exactly like the Beyoncé video. It’s “Haunted” where she’s like in the black lingerie looking all sexy. But of course it’s Taylor Swift so she has a white cat and doesn’t really know what she’s doing.
Kim: Oh because “Shake It Off” was making fun of Miley and Katy Perry and all.
Jess: We are so deep!
Sheena: Is she trying to make fun of Beyoncé right now?!
Kim: That’s crossing a line though.
Jess: This may change my confusion into just hatred.
Kim: I thought she was just trying to look sexy and the evil, pretty temptress.
Mallika: And very Gatsby.
Sheena: Yeah but Beyoncé is actually amazing so …
Penny: Her outfit is just on point.


Kim: Why wasn’t he cast in “50 Shades of Grey?”
Jess: Taylor Swift needs to stop pretending she’s that sassy.
Everyone, except Michael: *gasps at closeup of his face*
Mallika: Isn’t his eyebrow way too over here, though? [Editor’s note: It literally extends into the middle of his..apparently it’s called a ‘glabella.’]
Kim: That’s his one flaw.
Ian: Just get some tweezers.


Jess: She needs to stop swaying her head nearly so much in like every second of this video.
Mallika: Doesn’t he also look kind of bored?
Sheena: He’s a terrible actor.
Mallika: He looks kind of, like, patronizing.
Penny: Well he’s a model, not an actor.
Ian: He does not know how to act. He just kind of sits there.
Mallika: He also looks like ‘OK I’m getting paid for this so I don’t care’
Ian: It balances out. She’s overacting to the extreme and he’s just not doing anything.


Ian: OK who rides bikes inside?! I’m sorry, there are breakables all around them.
Jess: Especially since she seems to have an entire field to ride around in.
Ian: Yeah, go outside.


Kim: There is no fourth wall!
Mallika: She also looks evil. She knows what’s coming.


Ian: OK, Taylor is definitely not that good at painting.
Sheena: You know how in Photoshop you can edit a photo to make it look like a painting. That’s what it looks like.


Kim: Capes are back in apparently.
Penny: And like the random dachshunds too.
Mallika: They’re not dachshunds!!
Everyone: *SCREAMS*
Penny: Dobermans, dobermans. My bad.
Sheena: Dachshunds are so different, oh my god.
Penny: Well they’re like large, black dogs.
Mallika: Dachshunds are the wiener dogs!
Penny: But they look big in “Up!”
Ian: “Up” is a cartoon!
Kim: Those were also dobermans!
Sheena: It’s OK, Penny.
Michael: Look at his stare. It looks like he’s looking at nothing.
Ian: Because he is. He has nothing in there.
Kim: It’s like the “Shake It Off” music video where they say she has nothing in her brain. But he actually has nothing in his.
Mallika: The dogs look really happy.


Mallika: He like rolls his eyes at her there.
Jess: Also where is she running? Why is she just randomly running?
Jess: He just looks like he’s like ‘Your butt looks really good when you run.’
Kim: That’s not what he’s paid to do.
Sheena: We’re making up so many excuses for him. I think we need to focus on Taylor Swift.


Ian: I just find a problem with his name being Sean.
Mallika: I don’t like the fact that they gave him a name. They should have never actually showed the heart thing.
Sheena: That’s his real name.
Mallika: They could have shown the heart thing but just not shown his name. Giving him a name ruins the illusion.
Ian: Yeah a long list of ex-lovers. Of Starbucks lovers.
Sheena: We should actually discuss the problem with the lyrics.
Kim: It’s all Brian Carden’s fault. [Editor’s note: Sales Director Brian Carden (MSB ’16) was originally convinced Taylor keeps a long list of Starbucks aficionados. He bailed on this roundtable for the Concert for Valor.]


Sheena: Wait, wait, wait. We need to talk about how he’s just pressing the same button over and over again. He’s like ‘I really like this emoji.’
Kim: I think I owned those sunglasses when I was 4.



Jess: Why does she suddenly become angry?
Penny: He’s cheating on her via text message.
Kim: They’re on a romantic date and he’s like ‘Nah I have to be on my phone.’ You’d be pretty pissed off.
Jess: But he was doing that the whole time before and randomly now she sits up and is angry.
Penny: Her lip-syncing gets really off when she gets angry.
Kim: Her best acting is when she’s angry.
Michael: Her best acting goes from like a 0 to a 1.

Everyone tenses in anticipation …


Everyone, even Michael: *LAUGHS*
Ian: Hands down the best part in the video.
Mallika: Because he’s so bad at it.
Sheena: How can he not just say ‘Oh my god.’ I could do that.
Ian: The arms and everything …

Ian: At this point he just knows that she’s crazy.
Mallika: Why isn’t he leaving?


Jess: Why is there a deer in her house?
Mallika: I thought it was a goat.
Ian: Yeah, it’s a goat.
Kim: It’s definitely a deer.
Mallika: I thought it was a scapegoat metaphor.
Ian: Either way, why is it next to her fireplace. Why are there so many things that should be outside inside?
Penny: I mean you have two random horses in your bedroom. Why not just have a random goat [Editor’s note: poll — goat or deer?] next to your fireplace?


Ian: I didn’t realize Taylor Swift had superhuman strength to disintegrate stone.


Sheena: This look right here.
Everyone, except Michael: Crazy eyes!
Ian: Can she be Crazy Eyes from “Orange Is The New Black” now?
Mallika: She actually looks feral there.


Ian: Yup, there’s Regina George in male form.


Penny: The pants. The pants falling down is the best part.
Mallika: He doesn’t even react. He’s just like ‘OK, par for the course.’
Penny: He’s probably used to getting undressed. He’s hot; he probably gets a lot of action.


Penny: Firebender!
Ian: And he still is just mildly annoyed.
Michael: I think he doesn’t care. He wants to keep the house. He doesn’t want to piss her off.
Sheena: Actually that might be it.
Penny: He’s the trophy husband.


Ian: What is happening with the apple?
Kim: Oh it is apple voodoo. I didn’t notice that.
Ian: She’s controlling him with that apple.
Michael: It looks like he’s waiting for a cue when he grabs his head.
Jess: It makes no sense though because the next time she grabs it then his hands do it rather than him being like squeezing his head.
Sheena: It makes no sense.
Ian: The metaphor is kind of lost.


Sheena: That is my favorite part of the song melodically …
Ian: But it’s paired with the weirdest image.
Mallika: It’s also a bit too comedic. Him spitting it out with those eyes and stuff like that makes you laugh regardless. But everything else is amusing but not overtly comedic.


Mallika: He reacts the second time she smashes the car.
Ian: At least he has some reaction here.
Sheena: Did she hit him with the club?
Mallika: He’s just randomly dead at some point.
Ian: But then he’s alive.


Kim: Where did the cat go?
Jess: She fed it to the deer that was waiting by the fireplace.
Kim: Deers don’t eat cats, Jess.
Jess: This one does. It lives with Taylor Swift.


Jess: Somehow she’s managed to pin down this hunky guy with her tiny thighs…


Ian: How would you stand on a horse?
Mallika: The horse looks mildly uncomfortable.
Penny: What is the purpose?
Michael: Is this like a Jesus metaphor? She looks like the cross and we have the apple.


Ian: Is it intentional that she falls over?
Kim: She’s just like ‘Oh, I’m goofy. I’m Taylor Swift.’
Mallika: She can explode a fireplace but not wield an axe.
Penny: She tried to slap the tree, I think.
Kim: Maybe she shouldn’t have worn heels while using an axe.


Michael: Yeah, that’s weird.
Penny: Isn’t he supposed to be dead?
Mallika: So she’s a necrophiliac.
Ian: But he’s not dead.


Mallika: His hair is not OK. It’s very “Jersey Shore.”
Sheena: OK, you can’t compare this dude to the highest paid male model or whatever.
Penny: They should have got the second-highest paid male model!
Mallika: They should have got Kroenig’s brother!
Everyone, even Michael: Yeah!

Final Impressions

Kim: Great, I’m going to watch it like 10 more times tonight.
Sheena: I feel like it’s ridiculous intentionally.
Kim: It’s a good music video. It’s supposed to be funny.
Penny: It’s supposed to be making fun of the fact that people are calling her crazy. Like you want crazy, you get crazy.
Mallika: Self-awareness is really likeable.
Sheena: I feel like before she was kind of mum on everybody talking about her. So this is nice.
Ian: As I watch it more, I’m kind of getting over it more. I watched it maybe 15 times yesterday but this is only the second time today. It’s a little much.
Penny: I feel like it gets more ridiculous for me the more I watch it. The lip-syncing gets more and more off. Her acting gets worse and worse.
Jess: I think right now we make excuses for her but eventually — probably like two weeks from now — everyone is going to get so annoyed with her.
Michael: The guy was a terrible actor.
Kim: But he’s pretty
Michael: Plus, she’s trying way too hard and she’s not being Taylor Swift.
Kim: That’s the point.
Michael: I know, I get that. But I don’t think she should be trying to do that. And I think she fails in the video.
Jess: You broke Kim’s heart.
Kim: I feel bad for Taylor. I wonder if she cares if people say mean things about her because Anne Hathaway does.
Everyone, even Michael: ….

[Editor’s Note: the roundtable dissolves into chaos at this point, courtesy the insidious divisiveness Anne Hathaway evokes.]

Thanks for joining us for the inaugural edition of Pop Culture Conclave. We’ll be bringing you more incisive analysis and commentary with the release of each zeitgeisty music video.

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