These are two of the most popular songs off of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album. They are both about romantically dysfunctional relationships based on how beautiful they look on the outside. Swift uses binaries to show that she lives in the extremes of her relationships in both of these song. She also likens herself to Marylin Monroe using her personal clothing choices and how she situates herself in these relationships.
In both of these songs she appears to situate herself as the naive, sweet girlfriend. She appears to not know how these relationships are going to end, even though she says that these relationships are cyclical. She uses her binaries to show that she will act like she does not know where the relationship will end, but then her next lines are proof that she is not as naive as she seems.
Blank Space “So its gonna be forever/ or its gonna go down in flames”
“It’ll leave you breathless/ or with a nasty scar”
Style “Could end in burning flames or paradise”
She lives in the extremes of her relationships. Binaries are by definition two mutually exclusive opposite ideas. She does not allow herself to see a relationship that has a real chance of working out because those relationships do not look sexy to the public eye.
Swift as Monroe
Swift’s idea of the picture perfect relationship is built on the personas of two people that never dated: Marylin Monroe and James Dean. Monroe had 3 famous husbands, multiple famous boyfriends, and lead a life at the heart of the tabloids. It has been said that ‘Blank Space’ is Swift’s satirical response to the media’s discussion of her relationships, and there is evidence to support the idea that Swift feels like she is the target of media speculation based on her relationships, like Monroe. She also appears to exhibit erratic behavior in both songs. In the video for ‘Blank Space’, she is stabbing a cake with a large knife, she is standing on the back of a horse, and she attacks her male counterpart’s car with a golf club. The lyrics also lend themselves to the assumption that Swift acts erratically, by saying ‘screaming crying/perfect storm”. In these songs, her obsession with a relationship that looks cool, but is bad for her appears to have the same markers as an addict has with their addiction of choice. Monroe was famously an addict and died of an overdose. I think Swift is aligning herself with Marylin Monroe because it allows Swift to continue this public image of living in the extremes of her relationships, just like Monroe was rumored to have lived.