UP Diliman to offer course on Taylor Swift

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
UP Diliman to offer course on Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Are you ready for it?

A media studies professor at the College of Mass Communication in University of the Philippines-Diliman is offering a course to discuss the celebrity status of American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift.

The course will be called “Celebrity Studies: Taylor Swift in Focus.”

UP is the latest to join the academic trend of offering courses on the Grammy-award wining singer and 2023 TIME Person of the Year since her groundbreaking “Eras Tour” concerts.

The others are Harvard University, which offers a literary take on Swift’s discography; the Berklee College of Music on her songwriting; Stanford University, which offered a deep dive into her “All Too Well” 10-minute version hit, and New York University on the singer’s legacy.

In an interview with The STAR yesterday, professor Cherish Aileen Brillon said the class will be a “celebrity studies” course into the Filipino Swiftie’s response to her fame as among the music industry’s most prolific pop stars.

“Her songs are about love and hate and relationships. But her celebrity status is also as important to look into and dissect,” Brillon said.

She cited popular culture moments involving Swift in the Philippines – such as Filipino fans’ rendition of the Grammy Award winning artist as Mama Mary by editing pictures of Swift as the mother of Jesus; and Swift’s moniker among Filipinos as “Taylor Batungbakal,” a reference to the Hotdog song about a disco girl who lives in Frisco, Quezon city.

Not to mention Filipino drag queen Taylor Sheesh, performed by certified Swiftie John Mac Lane Coronel who lip syncs to Swift’s songs in his shows.

“Filipinos are so much adept in the creation of a ‘third space,’ the same way Filipinos were able to create the story of Taylor as a religious icon and as a drag queen,” Brillon said.

She admitted to being a Swiftie herself who wants to tackle fandom from an academic perspective, focusing on celebrity studies, gender discourse and political economy.

As a broadcast elective, the course will focus on how media portrayed Swift as a celebrity, and how her status as a “transnational” icon was perceived and “appropriated” by Filipinos, Brillon said.

Gender can be tackled in how Swift addressed the misogynist attacks on her through the years, especially over her dating life. Brillon said the backlash at Swift for reacting the way she did to the roast of Filipino-American comedian Jo Koy during the Golden Globes is reminiscent of the time Filipinos responded to Liza Soberano’s candid views on love teams.

“Gender should be part of the discussion because Taylor is a woman operating in a highly patriarchal and misogynist entertainment industry. Why is she expected to act ‘female’ even though she is offended already?” Brillon said.

“Transnationality is a large part of the discussion,” said the professor, who defined the term as a “media-driven flow of goods, products and services from various nations” in the globalized age.

“Celebrities have always been transnational anyway. The class will look into the transnationality of Taylor and how Filipinos are appropriating their relationships with celebrities,” she added.

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