By Anne T. Donahue
Finally: A little pop culture for the soul. This week, we learned that Taylor Swift may or may not be dating Travis Kelce which is a big deal to anybody who likes football and/or anybody who desperately needs a distraction from the world imploding on itself.
Of course “dating” is a term we’ll use loosely. According to Us Weekly, Taylor and Travis have hung out twice, and according to our own eyes she went to watch him play a game, and after she was spotted next to his mom, his jerseys are selling like hotcakes now, which I’m sure both he and the NFL really needed.
The thing is, it’s what we all needed. Matty Healy disaster aside (he is the disaster here), we haven’t been privy to fun, fearless single Swifty for a very long time, and while it doesn’t matter to me whether or not she’s dating an athlete whose work I’m unfamiliar with, it does matter that we’re given the most harmless version of pop culture discourse in recent human enemy.
And is that so wrong? It is shameful to buy into a PR dream that benefits both famous parties and leaves us mere serfs with something to talk about outside of why everything else is bad? Travis Kelce seems lovely, and Taylor Swift is an incredible lyricist, and the potential union between the two would be entertaining at best and harmless at worst. Their power dynamic is pretty much equal, and Travis (to my understanding) hasn’t done anything horrifying that necessitates any of us being upset about this. Plus, just think of the songs: if Taylor can make Joe Alwyn seem interesting, a man who is famous by his own accord could oust Red for solid and ground-breaking material.
Naturally, some may say that whomever Taylor Swift aligns with is none of our business; that her love life is her own concern, and absolutely none of ours. And with that I agree: but the magic is that there is no actual proof that Taylor and Travis are an actual item. Thus, what fills me with joy is less the promise of everlasting love, and more that we will be anointed with photo ops and bad lip reading on TikTok while both of these people continue to live their cute lives and/or perform certain aspects of it. It doesn’t matter if what we’re watching is a love affair in real time – it matters that we’re all part of the same game without the emotional investment all other realms of pop culture seem to be necessitating lately. The Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner divorce is heartbreaking and upsetting. The Real Housewives are my close and personal friends, and I worry about them way too much. Nobody cares about Chris Evans getting married because it’s not 2013 anymore. We need the adult equivalent of the high school quarterback wooing the lead of every play, musical, and talent show. We need the lowest possible stakes, and baby, they’re delivering.
Some may have Taylor Swift fatigue, while others do not know or care about any famous athlete. One of these applies to me. (Travis Kelce could walk right up to me, steal my purse, and yell, “I am Travis Kelce!” and I would have no idea what that meant or who he was. Bless him!) But our current cultural landscape is giving nothing. This time last year, we had weeks of Don’t Worry Darling drama to feast on and sustain ourselves with, and in the year of our lord 2023 we are being delivered hot servings of Millie Bobby Brown releasing a novel she didn’t even write.
We need frivolity. Superstars sitting in football stadiums. NFL players . . . doing whatever it is they do. (Drive nice cars? Go to nice restaurants? What do you want from me? Our high school had a football team and everybody on it was awful. I’m sure that’s not the case for the NFL, but . . . I mean, prove it, Travis Kelce.) We need something we can roll our eyes at or champion or do nothing but scroll past and think, “Neat!” We need nothing that will entice an emotional response – at least not until we’ve listened to Midnights to the point of it no longer evoking any semblance of feeling.
Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!