As a professional auto and occasional pop culture reviewer I am essentially what amounts to a paid adult bully. From the comfort and safety of my home office I can take pot shots at various celebrities, musicians and car companies. I am not sure if it makes it okay that I am part of this portion of the working population because it sort of equates to me being a big old meanie.
So how did I come to this conclusion? Well, I am gay so I haven’t ever bullied or taunted someone for being different in that way. That would be like me making fun of myself for wearing brown shoes with a black belt. Although I really don’t know how to properly put together an outfit otherwise so perhaps I do even bully myself. Not all gay people are stylish!
Now, we all know how hard it is for gay kids to come out today given the fact that they can be attacked not only in person but also via cyberspace. It’s a brave and ugly new world for a young gay and lesbian population that is still coming to grips with their identity. Just look to that Arkansas School District Representative for proof that there are still plenty of people full of hatred and vitriol towards people who are different even when they cloak it under the veil of a twisted view of Christianity.
I am not sure I would have been able to take it when I was that age if I had possessed more outward “gay mannerisms.” As you grow older you realize that some women are just more butch and some men are more effeminate according to the social norm. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are gay but it does mean they are different. And this opens them up to a world of schoolyard bullying.
Now, I am not a 16 year old girl so I have never had a particular affinity for Taylor Swift’s usual lyrical “Hello Kitty Diary” confessions although I am a sucker for her ability to craft a potent pop hook. I believe I may have even said here or there that she is a talented songwriter but she just can’t sing. More on that last point later.
In case you have been living under a rock, Taylor just released a new album called “Speak Now” which features a bevy of songs directed at her ex-boyfriends. For example, there is “Back to December” where she talks about how she dumped “Twilight” hunk Taylor Lautner. Maybe it was just too weird that they were both named Taylor?
There is also the not very subtly titled “Dear John” which talks about how creepy it is to date John Mayer. Seriously Taylor, you would have been smarter to start dating Kanye West after that MTV Video Music Awards debacle. At least Kanye has enough self-awareness to know he is a “douchebag.” (Note: The DB word is a title Kanye bestowed upon himself during a performance at the Video Music Awards the year after his unfortunate episode with Taylor. Swift, not Lautner. That is confusing.)
That’s enough talk about Taylor’s admittedly excellent new album which I only listened to all the way through after hearing one particular song called “Mean.” Now, I am not sure where this fits into Taylor’s self-confessional repertoire but this song stands as the most powerful positive message for today’s gay and lesbian youth affected by bullying.
Now, I am all for the “It Gets Better” public service message campaign that includes famous participants running the spectrum from Lance Bass to President Obama. But all apologies to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (who participated) but I don’t think many 8th graders can relate to anything you have to say in regards to their personal struggle. You know, especially given the fact that you haven’t had a facial expression since they invented Botox. Sorry Taylor, I know that was mean.
Now, Taylor Swift has a relatable and human image that will make young people believe what she has to say. “Mean” is an expertly crafted lyrical work that gives the listener a true sense of the hurts they have experienced in the past and encourages them to look towards a brighter future. It also somehow does this without any undue preachy vibe.
“Mean” feels like Taylor’s actual experience so in turn it makes the song all the more universal. Wow, I think I actually may finally understand why Ms. Swift writes her songs from such a personal place. I also finally think she can sing no matter what other critics say. Not everyone needs to have the range and power of1 Aretha Franklin to prove their artistic validity.
So yes, I am a 35 year old gay man and I love Taylor Swift. And since I think the lyrics to “Mean” are this important I am posting them here in their entirety. If you know a young person who is getting bullied you just might want to play this Taylor Swift song for them. It just might save their life. Try to keep in mind that this might even be your own child who is struggling with this very issue.
You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me/You have knocked me off my feet again/Got me feeling like I’m nothing/You with your voice like nails on a chalkboard/Calling me out when I’m wounded/You, pickin’ on the weaker man.
Well you can take me down with just one single blow/But you don’t know, what you don’t know/Someday, I’ll be living in a big old city/And all you’re ever gonna be is mean/Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me and all you’re ever gonna be is mean/Why you gotta be so mean?
You, with your switching sides and your walk by lies and your humiliation/You have pointed out my flaws again as if I don’t already see them/I walk with my head down trying to block you out because I’ll never impress you/I just wanna feel okay again.
I bet you got pushed around/Somebody made you cold/But the cycle ends right now/You can’t lead me down that road/You don’t know, what you don’t know/Someday, I’ll be, living in a big old city/And all you’re ever gonna be is mean/Someday, I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me and all you’re ever gonna be is mean/Why you gotta be so mean?
And I can see you years from now in a bar talking over a football game with that same big loud opinion but nobody’s listening/Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things/Drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing.
But all you are is mean…All you are is mean and a liar, and pathetic and alone in life/And mean, and mean and mean and mean/Why you gotta be so mean?