Viewers Called Taylor Swift’s ‘Anti-Hero’ Music Video Fatphobic: Here’s Why

Despite being open about her struggles with disordered eating in the past, Taylor Swift has come under fire for her depiction of internalised fatphobia in her latest music video.

It’s not often that Taylor Swift’s name is accompanied by criticism or backlash. For most, the star can do no wrong and as the release of Midnights revealed, her 10th studio album has only gone on to cement her place as music royalty, with the kind of fan following that has now eclipsed the mania of the Beatles or Rolling Stones. Having broken a slew of records with the album’s release, Swift has now gone on to release videos for the songs but her latest video for “Anti-Hero” was the subject of great debate across social media. Viewers were quick to criticise the video, believing it to be fatphobic in its depiction of Taylor Swift’s nightmares. 

The song “Anti-Hero” is one that describes self-sabotage and personal demons, with the video showing Swift going through a number of nightmare scenarios that take place in real time. There’s a scene where Swift takes shots with her ‘evil’ drunk self, taking notes from a blackboard which reads “everyone will betray you”, and then stepping onto a pair of scales which then display the word ‘fat’.

The latter has caused great debate online, with many calling it fatphobic, insensitive and harmful for the use of the word ‘fat’ as it reflects Swift’s internalised fatphobia. As one viewer wrote on Twitter, “Terrible. Just awful. Fatphobia at its finest. And from a skinny, rich, white, straight cis woman. Your choice to include this will cause intense harm to many people.” Another wrote, “It is possible to appreciate Taylor Swift and midnight as an artist AND call her out on her blatant fat phobia. Taylor Swift should have done better because even if it is relatable and an “intrusive thought” it is damaging and fatphobic. Listen to fat ppl when they tell you it is.”

As Shira Rosenbuth, an eating disorder therapist in New York, explained: “Taylor Swift’s music video, where she looks down at the scale where it says “fat”, is a shitty way to describe her body image struggles. Fat people don’t need to have it reiterated yet again that it’s everyone’s worst nightmare to look like us.”

Rosenbuth added, “Having an eating disorder doesn’t excuse fat phobia. It’s not hard to say, “I’m struggling with my body image today,” instead of I’m a fat, disgusting pig.”

Though the majority have been vocal in their criticism, some fans have expressed that the video is merely a depiction of Swift’s truth as she has been open about her struggles with disordered eating in the past. In her 2020 documentary, Miss Americana, Swift described seeing “a picture of me where I feel like I looked like my tummy was too big, or…someone said that I looked pregnant…and that’ll just trigger me to just starve a little bit…just stop eating.” 

In an interview with Variety in 2020, she said: “My relationship with food was exactly the same psychology that I applied to everything else in my life: if I was given a pat on the head, I registered that as good. If I was given a punishment, I registered that as bad.” Swift added, “I remember how, when I was 18, that was the first time I was on a cover of a magazine, and the headline was like, ‘Pregnant at 18?’ And it was because I had worn something that made my lower stomach look not flat. So I just registered that as a punishment.”

“You register that enough times, and you just start to accomodate everything towards praise and punishment, including your own body.”

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While Swift seems to recognise the unrealistic beauty ideals and impossible expectations placed on women by wider society, the fact remains that for many, the fat phobia that remains prevalent in society can in fact contribute to disordered eating. In putting such imagery to the screen, Swift doesn’t lend her voice to those struggling with eating disorders, but rather perpetuates the idea that self-worth is one equated to the number on the scale when the reality is eating disorders exist in larger bodies, too. 

As Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at eating disorder charity Beat, explains to Glamour, “Not everyone with an eating disorder will have distorted beliefs about their body size and shape, but many people with eating disorders do have problems with body image and expressing dissatisfaction or even disgust at their own body or weight can be a symptom of them.”

Quinn adds, “When public figures like Taylor Swift choose to speak about their own journeys with an eating disorder, it can have a very positive influence and encourage others to seek help. However, we’d also urge them to be mindful of the effect their depictions could have and to do so sensitively.”

While Swift has not acknowledged the criticism or allegations of fatphobia, edits have been made as the scene has now been removed from the Apple Music edit of the music video.

If you or someone you know is struggling with body image or disordered eating, help is available. Contact the Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673.

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