- Big Machine
By Gibson Johns, Daily Arts Writer
Published November 12, 2014
The video for “Blank Space,” arguably the strongest song on Taylor Swift’s record-breaking 1989, pretty much has it all: more than a handful of glamorous outfits (Swift is wearing her now-signature red lipstick with every look), a regulation hottie love interest in male model Sean O’Pry, a Versailles-esque mansion (and its opulent gardens) as its setting and an overall message that essentially flips off the media and her haters.
In line with the song’s intentions of calling out the media’s portrayal of Swift as an angry serial dater who writes about all of her ex-boyfriends, the video begins with Swift playing into her historically sweet image, only to go completely nuts halfway through as she sings the line “I can make all the tables turn.” She paints a portrait of her man, lays in his lap during a picturesque picnic, gallivants through the gardens dressed in expensive evening-wear and Louboutins and carves their names into a tree. It’s all very much out of a WASP-y, Kennedy fairy tale.
And then they lived happily ever after ... as if! As soon as she catches her man texting another woman, T-Swift gives the video a major plot twist and goes full Amy Dunne from “Gone Girl” on O’Pry: she stabs and Banksy’s his portrait, ruins their tree carving, gives his dress shirt nipple cutouts à la Regina George in “Mean Girls,” stabs a heart-shaped cake with a giant kitchen knife and smashes his sports car with a golf club. This is a new intensity we’re seeing from Swift, and it proves to be very refreshing. She’s giving her image a complete overhaul here, even going so far as to repurpose her signature, exaggerated, open-mouthed surprise-face as she drops the phone into the garden’s fountain.
It comes as no surprise that this video is a homerun for Swift; after all, it was directed by Joseph Kahn, the genius behind the videos for Britney Spears’s “Toxic” and “Stronger.” Kahn knows how to make spectacle-driven music videos for pop stars looking to make a lasting impact, which is exactly what Swift needed to do here. She’d tried the over-the-top, storyline-driven music video before with Red’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” but it wasn’t as convincing or fun.
The reason she’s fun here is that her insane freakout throughout the video’s second half is presented with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge self-awareness. We’re in on the joke. As she girates up against a fireplace in an amazing leopard get-up and mascara running down her face, Swift looks directly into the camera with a crazed, wide-eyed smile and sings, “they’ll tell you I’m insane.” Yeah, insanely badass.