For the second semester of the school year 2023-2024, Dr. Cherish Aileen Brillon will be teaching the class: “Celebrity Studies: Taylor Swift in Focus” in the UP College of Mass Communication as an elective under the program of BA Broadcast Media Arts and Studies.
Harvard University, Stanford University, New York University, and Ghent University are among the few prestigious international universities that offer courses on Taylor Swift's literary prowess and her global superstar reputation. However, the Special Topics in Broadcasting elective that Dr. Brillon will be teaching will highlight Taylor Swift's decade-long career's legacy and the intersectionality of media with class, politics, gender, race, and activism; additionally, how her image as a transitional icon mobilizes these conversations in the Filipino context through the lens of her fandom's culture and appropriation.
Promising as it may be, it was not as well received as the "All Too Well (10-Minute Version)" when it was released. Many netizens were quick to quip about the "incredulity" of having a course about a pop star whose "white feminism and carbon emissions should also be discussed", while some shared their concerns on "the direction our future is going" and "this generation's priorities". All these remarks hint at focal discussions in the field of Communications - equality, sustainability, and society-building; highlighting what the “Celebrity Studies: Taylor Swift in Focus” class initially plans to achieve.
In the dynamic landscape of Mass Communications, the intersectionality of media with gender, politics, class, race, and activism forms a crucial nexus that shapes narratives, influences perspectives, and molds societal discourse. Understanding this intricate interplay is essential for media professionals, scholars, and consumers alike.
Taylor Swift, whose anthems have resonated globally, is more than just a chart-topping artist. Her evolution from country sweetheart to pop powerhouse mirrors a broader societal shift, making her a fitting subject for academic exploration. Her ability to connect with audiences through storytelling and songwriting is unparalleled and analyzing how she strategically utilizes various media platforms to communicate her message and navigate the evolving landscape of the entertainment industry will provide insight on surviving the highly-patriarchal systems of society.
Swift's unapologetic stance on issues such as gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights resonates strongly in a society where conversations around these topics are gaining momentum. The course becomes a platform for students to critically assess the impact of Swift's reputation and the beliefs she advocates for, within the Philippine socio-cultural landscape.
Furthermore, Swift's foray into political expression, notably during the campaign period of the latest 2023 National Elections where many "Kakampinks'' rallied with ex-Madam Vice President Leni Robredo using Swift's lyric excerpts and anecdotes, as well as, her speaking out against the Anti-Terror Bill in 2020 where only few of our local celebrities lent their voice on calling to junk the bill; serves as a catalyst for discussions on the intersection of music, celebrity, and political engagement.
You may wonder, "If this is about the relationship between celebrity-centric actions and societal shifts, then why Taylor Swift specifically? Why not a local celebrity like Kathryn Bernardo?" Dr. Brillon has just the right answer for you, she says "So,I always answer, why not Taylor? A lot of foreign scholars study us, our cultural products, our discourses, so why can’t we study theirs and put forth knowledge claims and pathways that come from us being Filipinos existing and participating in a global stage?"
She also noted that she is not dismissing the need to study local celebrities and the relationship that their fans have with them as driving factors for important conversations that are also gaining momentum in our country. She acknowledges the existence of parallel realities that need attention, but having a platform that discusses "political economy (especially on the transnational nature of cultural products), gender, Philippine media studies (with a special interest in postcolonial theories), and popular culture" does not invalidate these existing problems rather it initiates bringing to the table new ways of looking at social issues and actions.
Understanding the interrelation of media with social issues and society-building is crucial in creating efficient and long-term solutions, and injecting pop culture into these conversations make room for creative and inclusive movements. In a world increasingly shaped by the convergence of entertainment and societal discourse, UP's bold move to delve into the artistry of Taylor Swift might just be a way to encourage storytelling that is also conscious of the broader societal implications of their work and its role in shaping the media landscape that reflects the rich diversity of the human experience of living for the hope of it all.