Unlike the white artists that surround themselves with black friends (in music videos, at least) and markers of black culture to prove they’re cool and a little bit dangerous, Taylor does the opposite. She surrounds herself with hip hop and breakdancing, but the point is to reject those things with a self-deprecating attitude. When we see Taylor goofily failing to twerk, she seems to be saying, “haha I’m such a white girl, this is so embarrassing,” which is actually code for “haha I fail at being sexual or dirty or threatening, I’m just innocent and endearing.”
Yet Taylor manages to act both innocent and sexy, particularly when she sings about “the fella over there with the hella good hair” who should “come on over, baby, we could shake, shake, shake.” Embodying both sides of the coin is a feat rarely achieved, though if anyone could do it, it would definitely be a white woman. But it’s only one of Taylor’s several balancing acts with in the video—like how she’s bad at ballet because she shakes her hips too much, but she’s bad at twerking because she doesn’t shake her hips enough. Like how she uses hip hop elements and the presence of people of color to prove her newfound edginess while also reassuring (white) America that she’s still sweet as apple pie.
-Celeste Montaño, Taylor Swift can’t shake off white privilege