from a redditor here:

Hi folks! This is going to be a long one... but I wanted to at least open a discussion on "Thug Story." I included sections to summarize what it is, why it is important, and some of my thoughts on the matter. Looking forward (kind of, kind of concerned) to reading your thoughts.

What is "Thug Story":

Why this discussion is important:

My thoughts:

First and foremost, this is a criticism of the fanbase's reaction and use of "Thug Story." After all, I don't know or speak for Taylor personally, have not seen much discussion on her behalf, and am doubtful she would ever read this. However, how the fanbase contextualizes and discusses her body of work creates precedence for how the many current and future viewers pass down her artwork and understand what is acceptable and what is not.

Just like I don't foresee her rerecording her 2013 SNL Monologue, I don't actually foresee her rerecording "Thug Story." However, I am uncomfortable by how many fans are willing to tolerate, celebrate, memorize, and memorialize "Thug Story" by sharing the videos, begging for a rerecording, dressing up as "Thug Story" caricatures, or using screenshots of her videos across platforms as punchlines.

Watching "Thug Story," the punchline is drawn from comparing the stereotypes of "thugs" or "gangsters" to how the public imagined the then-country-music-star Taylor Swift. The song plays on humor from irony and preconceptions - just as you would not stereotype a "thug" "baking cookies at night," you would also not likely stereotype America's sweetheart in a club or with a firearm, or rapping.

As in the Desus & Mero interview with T-Pain, just as the term hip-hop and "urban" are often used to denote black people, the word "thug" has its own racially charged history as a "pejorative term describing young, black men who are considered criminals." Part of the "Thug Story" punchline is Taylor Swift being white herself, being a country-music star, and placing herself in a position of "baking cookies" and "[knitting] sweaters." This is in stark comparison and in then-mockery to the hip-hop and the stereotype of the "thug" - the young, black man "out clubbing" with a firearm, diamond grills, and a demeanor you don't want to fight.

As other critics online such as wonderfuckedinthehead and brookeg28 on TikTok have noted, stereotypes used against the black community are perpetrated by "Thug Story." The caricature itself depicts a much larger harm on black lives and livelihoods that is only echoed by current fans dressing in caricature or poking fun at the idea of being a "thug." I do not admit to never finding amusement in the skit since it was release in 2009, but I find "Thug Story" a strange and racist topic for fans to build community around after all this time.

This discussion would be remiss without mentioning reputation where she uses elements of R&B and trap to create the album's sound (not to forget "Don't Blame Me" with hints of soul), genres popularized and largely voiced by black artists. This is notably in an album that mentions themes of crime ("Getaway Car"), drugs ("Don't Blame Me"), drinking ("Delicate") - the latter two not being inherently negative.

I use reputation as an example because whereas the themes are stereotypes are used in full force against black people, reputation is consistently branded as a complex dive into her life, encapsulated into an era. Don't get me wrong - understanding her music and life as multi-dimensional is great, and being able to evolve is a wonderful ability. However, this is the very luxury that is not afforded or granted towards black people - not in "Thug Story" and not in any of the ways "Thug Story" is celebrated.

I am by no means here to censure any fans or encourage harassment towards anyone. As a fan myself, I believe if you are able to study and dissect the crazy numbers of songs or Easter eggs Taylor Swift puts out there, you can analyze her projects as a subset of an intricate culture rooted in history. As members of a community of fans, it is everybody's responsibility to call out past and present racism, call out unwelcoming behaviors, and educate others on how to be knowledgeable and actionable community members.

Other than the creators I mentioned above, there are many voices out there with similar and different critiques by POC fans and by black fans, and I implore you to listen to them. In order to call ourselves a good community we need to not only be mindful of current community members, but also towards the community we want to build.

Note: I realize this may have the supposed Streisand effect for some, but I also realize the discussion would likely come sooner than later. I also want to note I did not discuss this with any of the creators I mentioned in this post, and am not directing harassment.

you have to do something to stop. it is you. it is not them. if you did something or said something or even posted once (not that half-sentence at one show before "Dear John," which in itself is bullying John Mayer, as he professes.) it is you saying these words. you've even been asked directly to stop. you can't. you're scary. you even say you care. that's horrifying. she is using the n-word by proxy, and encourages further use! (see Desus and Mero death/racist threats)

Boyson, A. R., Pryor, B., & Butler, J. (1999). Height as power in women. North American Journal of Psychology, 1(1), 109–114.