Midway through the Eras Tour, Taylor Swift is everywhere.
The ongoing tour ― Swift is scheduled to resume the international leg in November ― and the subsequent concert film are certifiable cultural events that have actually boosted regional economies. (In Los Angeles, for instance, where Swift performed six shows, the California Center for Jobs and the Economy predicted a $320 million boost to the county. No wonder Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau practically begged the Grammy winner to visit up north.)
She’s even bolstering the NFL’s viewership: Since the “Cruel Summer”
singer started attending her boyfriend Travis Kelce’s Kansas City Chiefs games, the league has seen some Super Bowl-level numbers thanks to all the Swifties tuning in.
Meanwhile, the media coverage is breathless. While daytime talk show hosts ask Kelce’s mom about Swift, there’s play-by-play of the couple’s dates around the web: “They were in a rounded booth sitting super close to each other in deep convo the whole time,” a diner at the Waverly Inn in Greenwich, where Swift and Kelce dined on Sunday, told The Messenger. “It looked super romantic and was super intimate.”
But given Swift’s cultural dominance ― and NFL fans booing an ad for her concert doc early this month ― even her fans are a little worried that Taylor fatigue might soon set in. Is Swift due for another “overexposed” era?
“Kinda overwhelmed by how close Taylor is to overexposure,” one fan tweeted on X.
“You either die the hero or live long enough to admit that you have Taylor Swift fatigue,” another wrote on the site.
Indeed, this isn’t Swift’s first go-around with overexposure. The success of “1989” in 2014 was followed by a heightened interest in Swift’s personal life: her famous friends (or her “squad”), her ill-fated romance with Tom Hiddleston, her drama with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. In response, Swift made a “conscious choice to disappear” and opt for a more “lowkey” life, a source close to the singer told People at the time.
Her rollout of her next album, 2017’s “Reputation,” was relatively quiet. (“There will be no further explanation. There will just be reputation,” Swift remarked on Instagram.)
Swift seems to pay close attention to her fandom and cultivate those parasocial relationships, said Lynn Zubernis, a psychologist and professor at West Chester University who researches fan psychology.
“Who knows, she might consider withdrawing from the spotlight again at some point,” Zubernis told HuffPost.
The professor likened the “Anti-Hero” singer’s ubiquity right now to Barney in the ’90s. Parents loved the purple dinosaur initially (no one kept their kids as entertained), but that love soured by the 104th listen of the “I love you, you love me” theme song.
“Familiarity is part of what drives fandom — we’re wired to attach to familiar faces, whether they’re offline or on our screens — but there’s a limit to how much repetition we can tolerate,” Zubernis said. “Too many instances of someone popping up and behaving the same way or saying the same thing can start to grate.”
The overexposure is sometimes exacerbated by the celebrity being perceived as “trying too hard” or being inauthentic, Zubernis said: Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, even Lady Gaga come to mind, she said.
“At first their ‘antics’ were popular, but people soon grew tired and cynical about them,” she said. “Justin Bieber, James Franco, Shai LaBeouf and Kanye West fall into that category too, and all have been on lists of ‘celebrities we’re tired of’ as a result.”
There’s also a common trajectory that fandom tends to take: Fans love to root for their favourite celebrity ― or sports team or TV series ― because of that vicarious sense of success they gain, but there’s also a cost to that success and visibility, Zubernis said. Some fans jump ship.
“Fans also relish feeling ‘special’ and seeing their fandom as exclusive ― as in, we are the only ones who see how truly special this person is and appreciate her,” the professor said.
“Once someone like Swift becomes beloved by everyone, even ‘normies,’ the fandom doesn’t feel as exclusive anymore,” she added. (Think how in high school, you used to say, “Yeah, I liked that band when they were still underground.”)
Jaye L. Derrick, an associate professor of psychology who studies parasocial relationships at the University of Houston, has a different take: She thinks that most of the people complaining about Swift were never fans to begin with.
“She has a very large following, but no celebrity can make 100% of the population like them,” Derrick told HuffPost.
“As Taylor Swift is shown to new markets, she is meeting some pushback from people who may have been aware of her before but never sought her out,” she said. “I suspect that most of the negative exposure is from people who had maybe consciously avoided her before and are not able to avoid her anymore.”
Tracy Gleason, the chair and professor of psychology at Wellesley College and an author of a paper on parasocial relationships, agrees with Derrick. The fans at the Giants game who booed her ad, for instance, might have done so because she’s dating a player on a rival team.
“Another possible explanation for the football game is that people who are fans of football, some of whom are likely women, are not necessarily fans of Taylor Swift,” Gleason told HuffPost. “Seeing Taylor get more attention than the game itself might have felt distracting and annoying.”
“Who knows, though,” she added. “Maybe they are Swifties but just want to keep each of the things they enjoy in their own lane: Taylor belongs on the stage and football belongs in the arena.”
Is misogyny at play when we deem someone “overexposed”?
When it comes to conversations about fame, some have pointed out that it tends to be women that get the whiplash “love-hate” treatment: They’re celebrated at first, then they’re deemed overexposed, like Anne Hathaway or Jennifer Lawrence were after their respective Oscar campaigns.
For the most part, men have more room to navigate fame: There’s a double-standard for the type of behaviour that is considered appropriate for men versus for women, Derrick said.
For starters, men are expected to express their agency, so they are allowed to promote their projects.
“For women, it is harder to engage in agentic behaviour without people viewing them as too in-your-face,” Derrick said. “In American society, we traditionally expect women to be more communal and less agentic.” (Swift addresses this complicated bind for women in the song “The Man” from 2019 album “Lover.”)
The professor thinks these women would probably get a pass if they were “trying too hard” to promote something communal, like a charity, but over-promoting yourself is a cardinal sin in celebritydom if you’re a woman.
With male examples of overexposure, it usually results from some publicly frowned-upon behavior: Bieber was a notoriously bratty teen (which is hardly a crime, of course, but his reputation persists), West was accused of antisemitism, Franco and LaBeouf were both accused of sexual misconduct, and Elon Musk has been accused of not only damaging Twitter (or as he’s rebranded, X) but threatening democracy itself.
Women celebrities are shamed for bad behaviour, too, of course, but also for deviating from social expectations, Zubernis said.
“The culture still isn’t all that comfortable with women being very visible or powerful or successful in some way; that idea is vaguely threatening to the status quo,” she said. “I think that would apply to Swift, Hathaway and Lawrence.”
If you were a fan of any of those women to begin with, though, you probably stuck by them through and through. Fandoms tend to be ride or die until something truly cancellable happens.
“There are times when fans will turn on a celebrity, but those are usually cases where the celebrity did something out-of-character that led people to become disillusioned with their brand,” Derrick said.
In other words, when it comes to these “overexposed” claims ― or criticism from non-fans who wish Swift would take a sabbatical ― Swifties worldwide are probably just going to “shake it off.”