Critic calls Swift 'obnoxious Nazi Barbie'

Taylor Swift (middle,in yellow) with (from far left) the three Haim sisters, Jaime King, Ariel Foxman and Lorde
Taylor Swift (middle,in yellow) with (from far left) the three Haim sisters, Jaime King, Ariel Foxman and LordePHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

LONDON • Not ever one to mince her words, cultural critic Camille Paglia has chosen "obnoxious Nazi Barbie" Taylor Swift as her latest target.

In an essay for The Hollywood Reporter, she said the singer - who has a habit of bringing her "girl squad" of famous friends and associates onstage with her - "should retire that obnoxious Nazi Barbie routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props".

During set changes on her tour this year, stadium screens beamed videos of Swift's friends - model Karlie Kloss, singer Selena Gomez, the Haim folk-pop sisters - telling sweet, propagandistic stories about their friendship with the pop superstar.

And each night, Swift, 26, had guests such as country musician Miranda Lambert, singer Lorde or, in one case, Oscar winner Julia Roberts and singer Joan Baez together.

A scary flashback to the fascist blondes who ruled the social scene during my youth.

CULTURAL CRITIC CAMILLE PAGLIA on the persona of singer Taylor Swift with the three Haim sisters, Jaime King, Ariel Foxman and Lorde

These moments have already been subject to mockery online, most famously in the viral YouTube video by comedienne Lara Marie Schoenhals, Please Welcome To The Stage.

In the parody, Schoenhals plays Swift introducing increasingly preposterous guests: "the hologram of Maya Angelou", "the women survivors of ISIS", "acquitted murderess Amanda Knox".

In interviews, Swift has frequently painted her newfound fascination with female friendship as a rejoinder to her peak tabloid era, two to three years ago, and to her lack of girlfriends as a child.

But her friends are more often seen on social media in her milieu - baking, shopping, taking lovely- looking vacations - than she is in theirs. They can appear decorative, carefully arranged details in a trompe l'oeil of normal life.

At MTV's Video Music Awards in August, the singer arrived on the red carpet cloistered among a group of friends, including models Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne and actresses Hailee Steinfeld and Mariska Hargitay. Those women had all appeared in the video for Bad Blood, a song, perversely enough, about the dissolution of a friendship, supposedly with singer Katy Perry.

Paglia, 68, said the "tittering, tongues-out mugging of Swift's bear-hugging posse" is out of step with modern feminism and presents a "silly, regressive public image".

She called the singer's persona a "scary flashback to the fascist blondes who ruled the social scene during my youth".

Instead, she said, girl squads "need to study the immensely productive dynamic of male bonding in history. With their results-oriented teamwork, men largely have escaped the sexual jealousy, emotionalism and spiteful turf wars that sometimes dog women".

Paglia made her name in 1990 with her sweeping cultural history, Sexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson.

She has criticised cultural figures such as comedian Jon Stewart ("I cannot stand that smug, snarky, superior tone") and pop star Lady Gaga ("For Gaga, sex is mainly decor and surface; she's like a laminated piece of ersatz rococo furniture").

THE GUARDIAN, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2015, with the headline 'Critic calls Swift 'obnoxious Nazi Barbie''. Print Edition | Subscribe