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Taylor Swift’s Box Office Domination Joins Barbie’s to Spell Cultural Trouble for Republicans

Last updated on October 17th, 2023 at 07:47 pm

As the Republican-led House of Representatives moves to elect Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as Speaker, the Republican Party shows itself to be more and more out of touch with the culture. It is, after all, the cultural Year of the Femme, as both Barbie and Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour dominate the box office, capturing the Zeitgeist of the Post-Roe era.

Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour concert film opened with a $96 million domestic opening, which makes it already, in one week, the highest-grossing opening of a concert film of all time. Higher even than Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, which made $99 million plus for its entire run in 2011, opening with $29,514,054.

If you’re not a Swiftie, you might be wondering what could be political about America’s Sweetheart/Pop Powerhouse, which is another way of saying you didn’t watch the 2020 Swift documentary Miss Americana, in which the singer explored her need to speak up politically. As in, up and out against hate, against Donald Trump, for women, for fair pay for women, for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (then Senator Joe Biden was a co-author of the original VAWA) and against then-Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn.

Here’s a short clip from Miss Americana:

@swifts.clips Replying to @formicality FULL SCENE of her talking about her politics! #swifttok #swifties #taylorswift #swiftie #marshablackburn #tennessee #democrat #feminism #lgbt #missamericana ♬ original sound – tayluh swift

Swift fans skew suburban, white, and leans Democratic, according to Morning Consult. “A slim majority of U.S. adults (53%) identified as fans of Swift, according to a recent Morning Consult survey, while 16% identified as “avid” fans of the “Anti-Hero” singer… The Swift fandom, which outnumbers that of other pop stars like Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, and Harry Styles, is largely made up of millennials and leans white, suburban, and Democratic, according to the Morning Consult survey…. Women (52%) slightly edged out men (48%).”

Last month, Swift encouraged her 272 million Instagram followers to register to vote. NPR wrote that the site she directed them to, the nonpartisan nonprofit Vote.org, ‘reported a 1,226% jump in participation in the hour after the post” and “recorded more than 35,000 registrations, according to the organization.”

It was a “highly encouraging sign of voter enthusiasm”:

Andrea Hailey, CEO of Vote.org, called it a “highly encouraging sign of voter enthusiasm,” especially among voters who are newly eligible since turning 18. “Time and time again young people are showing up and demonstrating they care about their rights and access to the ballot box,” Hailey said in a statement.

So, put that in context: One Instagram story calling for Swifties to register to vote led to a 1,226% jump in voter registration participation in an hour. That’s political power. That’s generational political power, hitting in suburbs where Republicans need to win.

Swift’s short post connected their voices to their power to their votes: “I’ve been so lucky to see so many of you guys at my U.S. shows recently. I’ve heard you raise your voices, and I know how powerful they are. Make sure you’re ready to use them in our elections this year!”

If the idea that people vote with their wallets before they vote with their ballots is true, then Swift’s domination spells trouble for Republicans, and so does Barbie’s success.

Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig’s girl-dominant, sing-song, barn-burner Barbie has hit $1,438,371,975 worldwide in 12 weeks, even though the Right insisted it was “woke” and Ben Shapiro took self-own video of himself burning Barbie dolls as if he had been deeply hurt by one as a child. Barbie is a seriously fun but also funnily serious movie about the damage the patriarchy has wrought upon both men and women as seen through the lens of Barbie in the real world, versus Barbie in Barbieland, where women ruled until Ken got a whiff of toxic masculinity via patriarchy in the Real World and tried it out in Barbieland.

There are also songs and lots of pretty scenes for the younger set, but adults know Barbie is a friendly, man-loving but not worshiping, ode to egalitarianism. It’s been odd listening to (mostly) conservatives describe Barbie as man-hating, when in reality, Barbie treats the Kens like men treat women in the Real World. If that’s hate, great. Let’s discuss. And that is the point. Barbie is a cultural mirror and that mirror is wildly successful.

These two record-breaking events are taking place Post-Roe and that’s not an accident. In Barbie, when (spoiler alert!) the Barbies get Barbieland back from the Kens just in time after Ken has overthrown the all-women Supreme Court and is plotting to change the Constitution so that men have all the power, Ken suggests hopefully that the Barbies could given the Kens a seat in the Supreme Court.

Barbie immediately shuts down this idea (just like women are shut out of power here in the Real World by default), offering instead mayyyybe a seat in the House of Representatives.

America’s favorite doll doesn’t give her power away to men to make decisions for her. You know, like medical decisions. The Barbies are in charge, thank you very much. The Supreme Court dialogue is hardly an accident.

Barbie and Swift’s Era’s concert film aren’t just two wildly successful girl projects. They are dominating the box office above others. They are the winners of the culture war even as Angry Bros shoot Bud Light cans and burn books as if to prove their “masculinity”.

The culture is moving in the opposite direction of the Republican Party, and that is why they have resorted to grabbing power unconstitutionally, illegally, and with violence.

The overturning of Roe was the big event that woke up many who just didn’t previously get involved in politics. The 2022 midterms showed the get-out-the-vote power of abortion, which is to say, it showed the strong, bipartisan sentiment among voters against the theft of women’s basic human rights.

The end of Roe ushered in the Era of the Femme and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon.

Sarah Jones

Listen to Sarah on the PoliticusUSA Pod on The Daily newsletter podcast here. Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump. Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Connect with Sarah on Post,  Mastodon @PoliticusSarah@Journa.Host, & Twitter.

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