The Meaning of “Anti-Hero”: Taylor Swift suggests Trump is the Problem
When Taylor Swift’s song “Anti-Hero” dropped earlier this year, the song seemed to be about Taylor Swift — and all of us — who are sometimes so self-centered, we don’t realize we are the cause of our own problems.
In the video, Swift arrives at the door as her superstar self and says pointedly, “I’m the problem! It’s me.” The video suggests that the attention-seeking, thrill-seeking, boundary-pushing part of ourselves may be getting us in trouble.
But there is a lot in the song to suggest that the song is about Trump, that other iconic figure guilty of stealing the limelight.
One of the lines that references Trump most explicitly might be when the singer says, “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror.” Looking directly at the sun suggests a little bit of hubris, someone challenging the sun. Who looks directly at the sun? In fact, Trump famously “stared directly” at the sun without eye protection for a solar eclipse in 2017. The moment elicited a bevy of media coverage from news outlets all over the world, because it illustrated Trump’s low-key stupidity. He had been advised to wear eye protection, and according to experts, likely caused himself irreparable eye damage. Who was the problem in this case? It was Trump.
This is to say nothing of the mention of “narcissism” which comes up halfway through the song. “Did you hear my covert narcissism lightly disguised as altruism?” the singer asks. The singer admits s/he is guilty of narcissism, a clinical personality disorder in which those afflicted think their appearance, intellect, or talents, etc. are better than they really are. A little narcissism can be a good thing. It turns out CEOs are disproportionately more likely to have this personality disorder. It is a personality type which Trump has been accused of having by psychologists and armchair psychologists alike, probably because of his many narcissistic comments over the years including that he’s a “very stable genius” and “like, really smart” (6x). This despite the fact that a former professor of his at the University of Pennsylvania called him the “dumbest goddamn student” he’d ever had.
The person in this song is also rich, which many of us assume Trump is. The singer is so rich, his “daughter-in-law kills [him] for [his] money” thinking she’s in the will. In the song, the singer imagines “the family gather around.” We can imagine Don Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and Jared Kushner materialize as they so often did in the White House during Trump’s presidency.
But the reference to a funeral and the reading of the will with adult children indicates that the singer is way older than Taylor Swift. This gives the opening “I get older but never wiser” new meaning. The singer is not “older” as in her 30s, but “older” as in almost dead, which Trump is.
Although nearly octogenarian, we know from Trump’s tweets that Trump nevertheless stays up til the wee hours of the morning. The second line of the song when the singer says, “midnights become my afternoons.” Like Trump, the person in the song suffers from some type of mania which makes it difficult to sleep at night.
Like Trump, the person in this song also plays or knows people who play golf. “At tea time, everyone agrees I’m the problem” might be a reference to high tea, but tee time. Given that the person is a rich, old, narcissistic person who behaves “like some kind of congressman,” it’s more likely that he is meeting for the classic sport for networkers, golf, not crumpets.
The setting of the song also seems to be D.C. The singer feels s/he is a “monster on the hill.” Not a hill, “the hill,” a reference to Capital Hill, the seat of the U.S. government. Indeed, for four years and even today, Trump continues to be a major thorn in the side of many politicians, including his own party. Republicans like Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, and de Rubio questioned their own party but ultimately backed a guy they didn’t like to push through their agenda. For many, Trump was the “monster on the Hill.”
The song goes on to describe the monster like King Kong or Godzilla, big as a building, “lurching toward your favorite city.” As if in a movie, the monster is even “pierced through the heart but never killed.” Like the monster described in Swift’s song, many have tried to bring down Trump but he has managed to endure in power and popularity. Despite the never-ending accusations of sexual assault, fraud, mental health issues, tax evasion, daddy issues, incest, Trump persists.
Finally, there’s the “you” in the song, a possible romantic partner who the singer fears might leave him/her. “One day, I’ll watch as you’re leaving /cuz you got tired of my scheming.” Is this Melania, Trump’s third wife, finally walking out the door?
No. It is you. It is all of us, the media, the limelight, his fans, his haters. When the narcissist loses the attention of the masses, “life will lose all its meaning.” Maybe this is Taylor Swift, who will become adrift when fans finally leave her, but more likely it is Trump who will not know what to do when he loses his adoring fans.
[The “sexy baby” I have no idea about. Is Trump a sexy baby??]