To hear Vanity Fair tell it, Taylor Swift had quite the reaction to a simple joke. At the Golden Globes, Tina Fey teasingly told 23-year-old Swift to "stay away" from Michael J. Fox's son and suggested she could benefit by taking some time off dating celebrities to "learn about herself." Poehler dryly said Swift should "go for it" and add the younger Fox to her ever-expanding list of famous and semi-famous ex-boyfriends.
Swift, who has made a
living killing by aiming thinly veiled insults at her ex-boyfriends, offered a brilliantly passive-aggressive response. "You know, Katie Couric is one of my favorite people," the singer said. "Because she said to me she had heard a quote that she loved, that said, 'There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.'"
The quote -- which is actually Madeline Albright's -- hints at the spiteful streak that underscores much of Swift's music. She has gone from producing sing-songy anthems of a lovelorn youth (see: "You Belong With Me") to revenge anthems that viciously mock her exes who are, naturally, always in the wrong (see: much of "Red"). But lashing out at Fey and Poehler, two of entertainment's most likable people (who, by the way, also happen to be women), is just too far.
There are few acts of manipulation more unseemly than maneuvering oneself into a position wherein any criticism is immediately labeled sexist, racist or otherwise wrong. We're all capable of mistakes and all offer up fodder for the occasional lighthearted joke and critique.
Then again, Swift's inability to take a joke might not entirely be her own fault. Though she certainly "made it" on the strength of her music, she was actually cast in the role of pop-music martyr by Kanye West. Though worse things have certainly happened to females in entertainment (see: Rihanna, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige, Betty LaVette), America was absolutely and totally enraged when West interrupted her while she was accepting an award at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. The collective rage could have blotted out the sky, and it continues to define both West and Swift to this day.
There's another person in show business with a similarly self-serving streak. "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy made a cottage industry out of villainizing anyone who dared to criticize his (admittedly sweet) show about a diverse group of teens coming of age while singing campy takes on pop songs.
When the Kings of Leon dared to say they'd rather not have their music turned into jingles between high-school hookup and breakup scenes, Murphy went on a tear: "F--k you, Kings of Leon. They're self-centered assholes, and they missed the big picture. They missed that a 7-year-old kid can see someone close to their age singing a Kings of Leon song, which will maybe make them want to join a glee club or pick up a musical instrument. It's like, OK, hate on arts education. You can make fun of 'Glee' all you want, but at its heart, what we really do is turn kids on to music."
Make a joke about Taylor Swift? You're the enemy of womankind. Rather not have "Glee" have its way with your life's work? You hate kids. If that math is too simple for you, congratulations: You're not stupid.
Note: A previous version of this article suggested that all the songs on Swift's last album were revenge anthems. While that was meant to be taken colloquially, the article has been modified in response to fan objections.