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Writing 121 Creative Piece

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By mcriceballs
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Harrison Liu
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Rita Feinstein
Writing 121
February 3, 2015
Aristotle once stated “man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual.” Looking at modern society, people often choose to conform to the “group’s” opinion. People choose to discard their own personal identity to stay under the radar and avoid being labeled a misfit. This leads to the abdication of free will. In Taylor Swift’s recent music video “Shake it Off”, she uses both her lyrics, and images in the video to display to the audience how free will is discarded to obtain collectivism.
When initially listening to the song, one first notices the happy and upbeat background music. Background music is often regarded as the most essential piece of a song as it is the biggest contributor in giving the audience their first impression of the song, the message. As explained in Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society, first impressions are more than just the initial establishment of a person. First impressions create the foundation of one’s characterization of another and are the hardest to forsake in an attempt to change. Taylor Swift incorporates a very fast paced, upbeat background in her song. This generates a very positive and happy impression making the audience think of her as a cheerful buoyant person. Swift’s immediate attempt to make the audience like her is very similar to how people work hard to make others like them. Sometimes, people try so hard that they become someone else.
Today, many people conform simply to get others to “like them.” One key example of this is the “Pratfall Effect” where when a person makes a mistake or appears clumsy, they are found to be more likeable. This is because when one makes a mistake, they appear to be more human, more like others, more likeable. This psychological phenomenon can be found multiple times in the music video “Shake it Off.” When Swift dances with ballet dancers and hip hop dancers, she appears goofy and funny as it is very clear she does not fit in nor does she not know what she is doing. Doing so, the audience finds themselves liking her even more knowing that Taylor Swift, a celebrity, an idol, is someone just like themselves. Throughout the video, Swift’s costume is the same as the others she is dancing with. This is done to show how she is fitting in with the group. When looking at the facial expressions of the ballet dancers, the hip hop dancers, or the high school kids, they are all serious and intense. This is then contrasted to the end of the video where people are dancing individually in whatever way they want, laughing and having fun. Swift does this to show how it is much more fun to dance the way you want, instead of trying to fit in with others. At the end, she has all the individual dancers conform into a line, representing how even though they are doing what they want to do, they are in a group and having fun. Swift shows how acting the way you want to act is much more fun and rewarding than simply trying to fit in. The music video not only uses choreography and costuming but also smaller details to emphasize this.
There are two main types of camera angles used in this music video. There is a pan 2D angle shot as well as a 3D track angle shot. The video begins off with a pan angle shot of all the ballet dancers. In the book Cinematography, Tim Grierson explains the importance of camera angles in videos. A pan angle shot is often used to help show similarities. Immediately, the video begins with an emphasis on how all the dancers are dressed very similarly and perform very similar moves. This is then contrasted later in the film with a 3D track angle shot of the entire line of dancer. The track shot allows for the camera to capture the whole picture with a focus on not just a single person, showing how everybody in the shot is happy while dancing their own way. Camera movements are motivated by objects movements to create a sense of following. When they are not motivated by objects, the camera acts as a guide for the audience towards a suggested point of view. In the video, it begins with the camera movements being solely on Taylor Swift. As the video progresses to where she is surrounded by others who all are dancing in their own way, the camera movements lose focus of a specific object and focus on the big picture. The camera focuses on the line of dancers all smiling and dancing their own way. The camera action in the video helps the audience distinguish the two segments: free will and collectivism. While the video helps reveal the two opposites, the lyrics in the song help define her argument.
The title of the music video is “Shake it off”. This may suggest that there is something bothering her and she is simply trying to ignore it, trying to “shake it off.” When listening to the song, the words “shake it off” are repeated throughout the song. This repetition may suggest how she is consistently bothered by something, not just once. Later in the song, Swift states that “fakers gonna fake” and “heart-breakers gonna break.” The “fakers” may point at those who attempt to fit in with others by choosing to be fake instead of themselves. The “heart-breakers” on the other hand may indicate a notion of jealousy or fear. The jealousy felt by someone who did not have enough courage to act like themselves or the fear felt from someone disrespecting a majority, a social enigma. The cause of a group of people ostracizing an individual may be due to a personal insecurity. According to a recently published journal in the Current Directions in Psychological Science “Sources of Ostracism”, those who ostracize others are insecure and feel a sense of security and belonging when ostracizing others. Swift may be making the argument that those who ostracize others are simply people who are more insecure and don’t know how to act like themselves. Those that ostracize others give up their individuality in order to achieve a sense of false security. In her song, Taylor Swift does not refer to the others even once in the single person. Every single time she mentions those that collectivize, they are referred to in the plural. This may have been done to further prove a point on how you lose your individuality and free will when you choose to simply “fit in.” While Swift’s distinction between free will and collectivism is present, her actual stance is hidden more in the minor details. When examining the background colors in the video, it can be noted that the background is white when everyone is happy, smiling, and doing their own thing. The background becomes dark and grey when the actors are in a group performing or dancing, all with solemn looks on their face. White is often used to portray good or purity, almost heavenly. Black on the other hand is used to portray evil and negativity. This may suggest that Taylor Swift believes that it is better when everyone is dancing their own way as they are all happy compared to the serious faces on the group performers. Also, the video contains footage of Swift singing along with her band multiple times throughout the video. The background chosen for that footage is white. The lighting in the video is also heavily favored towards scenes where everyone is dancing in their own way. In all of the scenes with the performers dancing in groups, the lighting is very dark. In some of the scenes the background is even completely black. In our society, light is constituted as positive and dark is negative. With the background along with the lighting, it can be proposed that Swift prefers expressing free will over collectivizing.
The “Shake it Off” music video is much more complex than what it appears to most teenage girls. It serves as a stepping stone to understanding the divide in society between majority and minority and also acting as a wakeup call to those who simply just “fit in”. It is important to understand that free will is something that every individual owns. By choosing to not follow one’s own will, they are forsaking their rights as an individual. Losing individuality derives the loss of humanity. Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” music video not only empowers those who desire to act upon their own free will, but also persuades others who currently choose not to.

Works Cited

Francis, Darlene, and Daniela Kaufer. "Beyond Nature vs. Nurture." Scientist 1 Oct. 2011:
30-31. Print.

Goodridge, Mike, and Tim Grierson.Cinematography. Amsterdam: Focal, 2012. Print.

Zadro, Lisa, and Karen Gonsalkorale. "Sources of Ostracism: The Nature and Consequences of
Excluding and Ignoring Others." Current Directions in Psychological Science 23.2
(2014): 93-97. Print.

Aronson, E., Willerman, B. and Floyd, J. (1966) The effect of a pratfall on increasing interpersonal attractiveness, Psychonomic Science, 4, 227-8
Turner, Victor W. "Social Dramas and Ritual Metaphors." Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell UP, 1974. Print.

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