Taylor Swift has a new music video out which means all other work I had planned to do today is simply off the table as I bust out my internet magnifying glass and prepare to Harriet the Spy the shit out of this thing. The video for “The Man” runs 4 minutes, 14 seconds long and is laden with, to quote Ms. Swift from a YouTube Q & A discussing the video, “Lots and lots [of Easter eggs]. More than in any kid’s yard on Easter morning.” Let’s skip the throat-clearing and get right to it then, shall we?
The Release Date
Thursday is February 27. That’s 02/27/20. If you add all those numbers together — ignore the zeros — you get 13. Which in Swift speak is the number to rule them all. Her lucky number. The one she’ll often draw on her hand in eyeliner before performances. The length of the introduction to “Call It What You Want.” [Extremely Taylor Swift “Tim McGraw” voice] When you think Taylor Swift, I hope you think 13. There are a number of other hidden thirteens scattered throughout the video, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Turns out, there was also potentially a clue about the video’s release date (and time) buried in “You Need to Calm Down.” At 24 seconds in — on the track itself, not the music video — Swift sings, “it’s 7:00 a.m.” There is exactly 2:27 left of the song at that point. 2:27! 7 a.m.! Her! Mind!
The Establishing Shot
“The Man” opens with, well, a man. We’ll call him The Man™️. He is staring out the window of an office overlooking a city. The window is important here. Think back to the video for “Lover,” which opens with a little girl — later revealed to be Swift’s daughter — sitting on the living room floor staring out … a window. “Me!” starts (after that whole snake-to-butterfly business on the rainbow pavement) with a shot of Swift through a window. “You Need to Calm Down” has the least similar opener, but still, Swift sits inside her windowed trailer in the beginning of the video. Is this a sly commentary on gaze? A subtle reminder that we’re always watching Swift watching us??
The Wolf of Wall Street
There’s more than a little stylistic similarity between Swift’s video and The Wolf of Wall Street, a film which starred Leonardo DiCaprio as a corrupt New York stockbroker who eventually landed in prison for fraud. DiCaprio, of course, gets a nod in the lyrics in a later verse. (And, while we’re here, friendly reminder that the 45-year-old man doesn’t appear to date women older than 25.)
The Miss Americana Sweatshirt
Seated next to The Man™️ on the subway is a young woman wearing a pair of blue headphones and a tie-dye sweatshirt. “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” is printed on the sweatshirt. A potential hint of a future video or possibly just some universe-building on Swift’s end? (We see other references to her documentary, Miss Americana, elsewhere in the video.)
“WHAT MAN WON THE YEAR IN CELEBRITY DATING?” reads a newspaper held by The Man™️ while riding the subway — he’s manspreading, naturally — in the video. “Year’s Most Electable CEOs,” reads another headline. The paper’s third headline is fairly blurry once you enhance it, but it’s something to the effect of “MEN LOVE SPORTS.” Swift’s dating history has long been tabloid fodder and this is Swift, once again, reclaiming that narrative. (“Blank Space” was also inspired by this same media treatment.)
The Scotch Ad
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Swift opened up about the battle between her, Braun, and Borchetta. “These are two very rich, very powerful men, using $300 million of other people’s money to purchase, like, the most feminine body of work,” she said. “And then they’re standing in a wood-panel bar doing a tacky photo shoot, raising a glass of scotch to themselves. Because they pulled one over on me and got this done so sneakily that I didn’t even see it coming. And I couldn’t say anything about it.” Does that ad for “Bo$$ Scotch” feel a little more pointed now? (Take another look and note the word “greedy” is scrawled on the subway car next to the poster.)
The Graffiti at 13th Street Station
The Man™️ walks over to a graffiti-covered wall in 13th Street Station. (There’s another 13 for your count.) Some on Twitter have pointed out the similarities between this shot and the scenes of Swift dancing in a subway station in the “Delicate” video. The stations don’t appear to be the same, but hey, a nod’s a nod. The wall, where The Man™️ is peeing because he is a man and can do that, is spray painted with the names of Swift’s old album’s, Reputation, 1989, Fearless (spelled backward), Red, and Speak Now. The word “Karma” is also sprayed twice on the wall. As in, “the world moves on another day, another drama. But not for me cuz all I think about is karma.” When The Man™️ walks away from the wall, he has used his urine — which appears as, uh, blue spray paint — to spell “the man” on the wall. But as the paint drips down, “the man” starts to look like “this may.” Which could mean we’re getting something new, and possibly karmic, in May. Cool! Gross! IT BETTER BE A “CRUEL SUMMER” VIDEO!
No Scooters Allowed
This one is screamingly obvious, but still we’ve definitely got to talk about it. No, this is not a reference to the blight of electric scooter start-ups that have descended upon cities across the United States. This is, duh, a reference to one Scooter Braun, the music executive who acquired Swift’s former record label, Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group, and Swift’s entire catalogue pre-Lover in the process. Swift called it a “worst-case scenario” in a statement alleging she’d faced “incessant, manipulative bullying” at the hand’s of Braun. She later said Braun’s purchase meant he was blocking her from performing any of her songs before Lover at the American Music Awards where she was presented with a special award for Artist of the Decade. Braun later said this was untrue and Swift was free to sing them. The statement did not deal with the fact that the sale of her catalogue was effectively withholding it from her. Swift has since said she’s looking forward to rerecording masters of all her old songs.
The Missing Sign
Also on the wall is a sign reading “Missing If Found Return to Taylor Swift.” This, paired with the spray-painted album names — remember who owns those now — is another jab at Braun. Also, yes, I see the Miss Americana–parody poster with a man’s face on it. We will get there!
10 Women on a Yacht
Swift said she’d be “just like Leo in San Tropez” and so … there is The Man™️ on a yacht with ten women in yellow bikinis drinking Champagne. Another narrative reclamation from Swift, biting back after years of commentary about her so-called unending string of boyfriends.
The Woman in the Bed
Nothing really to see here except that I’d like you to take note of The Man™️ getting out of bed, where a naked woman is asleep. This is not really an Easter egg so much as something near and dear to my Kaylor–truther heart. (You already know were I going with this! Yes, this is the gay agenda. You need to calm down! I need to calm down!)
The High-Five Hallway
The shot of a hallway with multi-colored hands reaching out into the middle was how Swift teased the video earlier in the week. (There are 19 hands, which could be a nod to the 19th amendment, which gave women the vote.) The stark architecture has since drawn comparison to the home of one Kanye West, the OG source of Swift drama. In the video, The Man™️ runs through the hall while high-fiving each of the hands. Almost like Swift entering the stage at a concert. Or, perhaps, a commentary on how women are subjected to the concept of the “walk of shame” after sex, while men are praised. Hmmm.
The High-Five Hallway (Again)
This is extremely niche but also you’re reading Vulture dot com so your brain is also broken and into niche details. This shot bears a striking similarity to a scene from La Belle et la Bête, a French Beauty and the Beast from director Jean Cocteau. That’s all I have to say about that. Moving right along.
World’s Best Dad
This whole thing is about exposing double standards, people! Watch as The Man™️ gets praised for being the “world’s best dad” for doing truly the bare minimum. Pay additional attention to the way he and his daughter sit. While he manspreads (just as he did on the subway), she sits cross-legged. The patriarchy starts young!
The $100 Bill
Spot The Man’s face on a $100 bill. United States paper currency still only features men, despite a years-old announcement from the secretary of the Treasury that Harriet Tubman was to appear on the $20. (That’s not happening any more.)
An homage to Serena Williams calling out an umpire at the U.S. Open in 2018, The Man™️ is seen playing tennis and losing his temper. (The “Women’s Charity” printed on the court walls is a nice tongue-in-cheek touch. Swift also teased the Lover album with a photo of her … on a tennis court posted to Instagram.) He smashes his racket, he yells at the ump, he flips off the ump. “You owe me an apology. I have never cheated in my life! I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her,” Williams told the umpire on the court during that particular match. “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.” She’d eventually receive three violations from that particular umpire, Carlos Ramos, and go on to lose the final to Naomi Osaka. Williams used the incident to call out sexism in the sport, which prompted a wave of backlash (including a racist cartoon) against her for being an unprofessional “sore loser.” Game, Swift, match.
Does this man look familiar to you? Congrats, you’re a true Swifty. That’s Swift’s dad, Scott. (There are simply too many men named Scott in this narrative. They should make like contestants on America’s Next Top Model and be forced to change their names to continue competing.) You might recognize him from Miss Americana, specifically the scene where Swift tells her team she’s decided she needs to get political and can no longer sit by in silence. You can also spot a Taylor Swift–branded water bottle on the court, from her collection with Stella McCartney.
The Ball Girl
The ball girl standing on the court watching The Man™️ go postal is actually TikTok star Loren Grey. It’s important that you know her fans are called “angels.” So when Grey rolls her eyes watching the scene on the court, you might say angels are also rolling their eyes. “Angels roll their eyes.” Taylor, I swear. If “Cruel Summer” is not the next single I WILL be writing a strongly worded blog post about it.
58 Years Later
The Man™️ gets married to a much, much, much younger woman at a wedding ceremony the video tells us is 58 years later. Fifty eight. Five and eight. Five plus eight. Thirteen!
The bride in this scene flashes a giant and tacky engagement ring. Is it possible this is Swift’s own hand? And that she is confirming the rumors — she sported a ring on that finger during the scene where she and her dad fight about politics in her Netflix documentary — that she and Joe Alwyn (he was in The Favourite but you probably missed him because Rachel Weisz was also in The Favourite) are engaged.
The Mr. Americana Poster
In real life, Swift’s documentary was directed by a woman, Lana Wilson, and about, well, a woman, Swift. In the video, Lana is replaced by Larry Wilson and the film is titled Mr. Americana. It was an official selection at the 2020 Mandance festival and chronicles the life of one Tyler Swift.
After flipping out at the umpire, The Man™️ walks off the court where he finds a director … Taylor Swift. In case it’s not clear, she’s sitting in a chair emblazoned with “DIRECTOR.” “Could you try to be sexier? Even more likable this time?” she says to him, turning then to praise Grey. “By the way, excellent work over there Loren, that was astonishing.” This! Video! Is! About! Double! Standards!
The Other Rock
When The Man™️ opens his mouth to speak, the sound you’re hearing is one Dwanye Johnson. He congratulated Swift on Twitter on Thursday, thanking her for the opportunity to be in the video. Guys, please. When that duet happens … call me. You need somebody to bring snacks. That will be me!
The Man™️ Himself
The big reveal you knew was coming. In the credits scene, photos reveal all the prosthetics and colored contacts that went into turning Swift into The Man™️. (There were moments, like the wink very early on in the office scene, where it was clear it was her all along. But others, like Swift’s hairy, masculine legs in tennis shorts, might have made you second guess yourself.) The credits are also … all Swift. She made this. She directed this. She wrote this. She starred in this. She owns this.