Intellectually, I know that Taylor Swift produces innoffensive country-pop hits, and that I could just ignore her and life would go on. I get that. I really do. I know that I could pay her no attention and she could keep being absurdly rich and we could both be happy. But my GOD this song pisses me off, in the sense that I’m starting to take every time it’s played as a personal affront. Here, take a listen and see if you can figure out why:
Okay, universe, it’s time to get something straight. Romeo and Juliet is about two teenagers who screw each other and then kill themselves. Possibly the best abstinence PSA ever written, but not a love story. In fact, probably the furthest possible thing from a love story. If anything, it’s Shakespeare making fun of love stories, of the courtly philosophy (which, ironically, began its life as a twelfth century satirical how-to guide by Andreas Capellanus, so really, no one ever took it seriously in the first place, but I digress) that we, for some godforsaken reason, still idealize today.
So instead of being appreciated as a brilliant social critique, Romeo and Juliet has undergone pop-cultural osmosis to become the reference people pull out due to a hazy memory of that week in ninth grade when they watched the movie with Leo DiCaprio. Except that people always use the reference incorrectly, and the cumulative intelligence of everyone unfortunate enough to be listening is consequently decreased. Or, in other words, when you talk about how romantic Romeo and Juliet is, you sound like a moron. (Same way you sound like a moron when you take the word “wherefore” to mean “where.” The line is “Why are you Romeo?” It’s about the power of identifiers and the fluidity thereof. Not Juliet asking for a freaking map.)
Basically, here’s the deal. I’m perfectly fine with Taylor Swift churning out her stupid radio hits and rolling around in her piles of money. I don’t mind at all if she squeezes her high school diaries dry and exploits the dumbassery of Kanye West and shows up for no particular reason in substandard romantic comedies, but Taylor Swift, a word: From now on, you had better stay the hell away from Shakespeare.