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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Why ‘But Daddy I Love Him’ by Taylor Swift is actually a queer anthem

Meg Richards
Graphic Meg Richards

Opinion editors are not responsible for agreeing or disagreeing with their writers but rather elevate each individual’s specific voice. 

If you ignore the repetitive use of he/him pronouns in this song, this shit is gay as hell.

With recurring religious motifs, themes of societal shame, and a triumphant “fuck ‘em” to the judgemental wine moms, Taylor Swift’s “But Daddy, I Love Him” is a queer anthem.

Allow me to explain. 

This track six tells a tall tale of star-crossed lovers and the uptight bitches who look down their noses at them. As such, many hypothesized the song to be about Swift’s highly controversial ex-boyfriend Matty Healy, the dashing and darkly handsome frontman of The 1975. 

Swift criticizes her critics right back, writing them off as “vipers dressed in empathy’s clothing” on their “high horses.” In the chorus, Swift sings the titular line—“I’m running with my dress unbuttoned / Screaming ‘but Daddy I love him!’”—how very Disney Princess of her. 

But what if there’s more than what meets the surface to this ballad about rebellion and yearning? 

We start off with “Sarahs and Hannahs in their Sunday best.” Right off the bat, Swift’s hitting us with a religious allusion: Sunday best equals church clothes. In the next line, she sings “clutching their pearls, sighing ‘what a mess.’” These characters are vague and not very three-dimensional, but that’s okay, since they’re really only there as plot devices. The plot devices in question are obstacles for Swift and her budding romance with an unnamed beau—all we know about him so far is that people in her small, traditional town—Nashville, Tennessee—do not like him. Is it because he’s tatted? Drives a motorcycle? Plays in a rock band? Or is it because “he” does not exist at all, and is instead a placeholder for an allegorical queer relationship?

There are lots of reasons for religious people in small towns with traditional values to dislike a girl’s partner. But, inarguably, the biggest one would be that the partner is of the same gender.

To continue in our lyrical analysis, Swift spends verse two talking about the plights of growing up groomed to be the “dutiful daughter.” Fulfilling gender roles is another hallmark of growing up with holy rollers like Swift has mentioned in the song already, but once again, this becomes doubly important when you deviate from what “girl” is supposed to look like or be in the slightest. Who knows this experience better than queer women?

The final nail in the coffin for me, though, is Swift wailing this last line to a sucker punch of a bridge:

“You ain’t gotta pray for me.”

That one got me. It pretty much sealed the deal. Again, it’s just as applicable to a hypothetical bad boy character à la Matty Healy, but all I’m saying … ever heard of “pray the gay away?” 

I’m not trying to speculate on Swift’s sexuality here—even though I am a proud #GaylorTruther #SwiftgronIsReal #KissGate. Regardless, it is not our business to try to guess who of her female friends she might have been romantically or sexually involved with. I believe this of any celebrity because it’s a slippery slope from guessing someone’s sexuality, to getting mad at them for “queerbaiting,” to forcing them to come out (see: Kit Connor from “Heartstopper”). 

But there is something so intimate about seeing parts of yourself reflected in a song written by a woman who has absolutely no clue you exist. Like, maybe if this is a shared experience between the two of us, something bigger than both of us, things will turn out alright for me. Maybe I can be like her one day; rich, influential, and killing the environment. One can dream, right?

Genuinely, it’s not cool to speculate on real life people’s sexualities, but with something that is so lacking, like queer femme representation in media and pop culture (see Merritt Hughes’ Jade West article), it can be comforting, affirming, and validating. Who cares if it’s actually written about a woman or not? 

The point is, it’s just a song. And it’s not the first one thought to be queer-coded, such as “Dress,” about a hush-hush clandestine affair (possibly a wlw one?), or “The Way I Loved You,” which laments the loss of a toxic but passionate relationship (perhaps one of the homoerotic variety?)

The great thing about songs, especially Taylor Swift songs that are known for their narrative throughlines and strong plotlines, is that they’re subject to interpretation. 

And my interpretation just so happens to be gay as fuck.

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About the Contributor
Meg Richards
Meg Richards, Staff Writer
Meg Richards is a first-year student from Richmond, Virginia. She has a double major in journalism and political communications. She mainly writes for the Opinion section, though she dabbles in News and Living Arts.

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