The UCCS Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life and the UCCS’ Department of Philosophy hosted Yale religious studies professor Kathryn Lofton, for a discussion on Taylor Swift’s influence on pop culture.
Lofton is a scholar of religion and has written two books on religion, pop culture and capitalism. Her talk focused on how Swift’s fanbase “worships” her, almost like a religion. As a part of her lecture, Lofton showed a video of fans screaming and crying along to Swift’s songs in concert, and another highlighting Swift’s call-and-response style songs.
According to Lofton, scholars and fans can map the way Swift became the popstar that she is today through the anthropological lens of religion. During the lecture, Lofton pointed to Swift’s ability to be seen as sweet, wholesome, maternal, dorky and powerful simultaneously, making her likable and relatable, especially to young girls.
Considering Swift’s largely female fanbase, Lofton believes that the existence of patriarchy in many religions leads women and girls to seek faith in someone like Swift, who makes girlhood and femininity seem powerful and admired.
Lofton also pointed out that Swift’s fanbase ranges generationally. She played a video of mothers and daughters dancing at one of Swift’s concerts.
“Something about the story Swift told sustains them all, young and old,” Lofton said.
Lofton compared conspiracy theories about Swift to the presence of myths in religion. She even played a TikTok of a user speculating that Swift is the clone of former satanic leader Zeena LaVey, though she made it clear that she does not believe in this conspiracy.
Lofton pointed out Swift’s economic impact as well, showing TikToks of fans purchasing outfits, accessories and merch for The Eras Tour. Lofton claimed that Swift promotes neoliberalism and has “commodified her need to be liked,” passing that responsibility onto her fans.
Ending her presentation, Lofton noted that she enjoys Swift’s music but doesn’t let that stop her from criticizing the popstar.
Lofton compared Swift to other pop culture icons like Michael Jackson, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and even William Shakespeare. She also described Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce as a real-life “Barbie and Ken,” referring to the summer blockbuster “Barbie.”
This spring, the Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life will host Sophie Bjork-James of Vanderbilt University to discuss Evangelicalism and Christian Nationalism. The date is not yet determined. Visit their website for additional details.
Kathryn Loftin, professor at Yale University, discusses Taylor Swift in Centennial Hall on Oct. 25. Photo by Lillian Davis.