Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour – Plugged In

An old cliché tells us, “Everybody peaks.”
One could be forgiven for wondering if perhaps 33-year-old Taylor Swift is an exception to that rule. Her stratospheric career shows no signs whatsoever of abating, 10 albums and 17 years after her eponymous debut as a spunky, fresh-faced, curly-haired teenager.         
In an entertainment world fragmented by so many screens and streams and voices begging for attention, Swift has parlayed her talent, appeal and storytelling into a unifying cultural force. And as she closes in on two decades of superstardom, her fanbase now spans multiple generations as well.
Over the last eight months, her Eras tour has marked a lucrative victory lap for the singer. Demand for the first 53 shows in North America vastly outstripped supply, even though most of those concerts offered space for 75,000 or more Swifty celebrants. Aftermarket prices for tickets soared into the thousands of dollars for the privilege of watching Taylor sing through 10 “eras” (each representing an album) and 45 songs over the course of four hours.
By the time the entire global tour wraps next year, The Washington Post estimates that Swift will have earned a cool $4.1 billion—or about what Disney paid George Lucas for the Star Wars franchise.
One tour.
Not a bad year’s work for someone born in 1989. (And, if you’re wondering, that amounts to $17.10 for every American, and that total is greater than the entire economic output of 42 countries, again per the Post.)
One suspects that Swift’s marketing team never sleeps, however, because even that staggering sum apparently left some money on the table. So now, everyone who wasn’t lucky enough to snag a ticket to a live show (and probably plenty who did) can now see a slightly time-compressed version of the massive show in theaters.
That comes courtesy of a distribution deal with theater chain AMC that cuts Hollywood’s typical studio middle men out of the picture. And that means still more dough for Taylor.
But enough about how much money she’s raking in (answer: seemingly all of it). What do parents need to know about this young woman’s latest stage extravaganza in its theatrical form? Let’s dive into that question, with the caveat that this review won’t seek to address each of the positive and problematic content issues in every single song here. Instead, you’ll get a representative sampling of what to expect in this two-hour, 46-minute concert film, both in terms of what we see and what we hear.
Much can—and already has—been said about Taylor Swift’s influence and appeal. And though many of her songs have lyrical issues to note (which we’ll talk about below), we need to at least acknowledge Swift’s core appeal: She comes across not as a diva or a queen or one of the richest self-made women on Earth (even though she certainly is). Rather, she seems surprisingly likeable and approachable. That girl-next-door, awe-shucks persona is very much on display here. And while her story isn’t exactly rags to riches, it does exemplify the American myth of a self-made woman whose talent and drive propelled her to the top.
Certainly, a performer of Swift’s stature may well be feigning her gratitude for her legions of adoring fans. But if so, she’s a pretty good actor. Because she comes across as a young woman who seems genuinely full of gratitude for her generational superstardom, and equally full of affection for all of those adoring fans. Taylor’s ability to connect with them in a deeply personal way, a lone singer on a stage (albeit with a retinue of talented dancers in some numbers) is undeniably remarkable.
And while we’ll have more to say about Taylor’s go-to topic, the messy intersection of romance and relationships, you can’t help but acknowledge her genius for articulating the yearning, the longing, the effervescence and the inevitable heartache all wrapped up in her favorite topic. Her early love songs, especially, exude an innocent sweetness. “Enchanted to Meet You,” for example,” begs repeatedly, “Please don’t be in love with someone else.”
Other songs offer positive bits of takeaway as well. “We Are Never Getting Back Together” sassily tells a toxic guy off. “Shake It Off” playfully advises not taking crit from “haters” too seriously. And Swift’s recent hit “Anti-Hero” thoughtfully unpacks her own complicated relationship with celebrity while simultaneously exploring why some might see her as a negative influence in culture.
“Willow” has drawn criticism, both for the song’s controversial 2020 video featuring witches around a fire and for Taylor’s less-obviously occult performance of the song here. Looking something like a cadre of robed druids, Taylor’s dancers carry glowing orbs and encircle her as she sings song lyrics as if she’s casting a spell. Overall, this staged scene has what we might describe as a “nondenominational” pagan vibe to it.
Meanwhile, “Karma,” near the end of the show, blends references to that Hindu spiritual concept with a surprising amount of profanity. Among other things, the chorus says, “Karma is a god/Karma is the breeze in my hair on the weekend/Karma’s a relaxing thought.”
“Mastermind” ponders the question of fate; it also nods, perhaps metaphorically, at astrology: “Once upon a time, the planets and the fates/And all the stars aligned/You and I ended up in the same room/At the same time.” “Bejeweled” makes a passing reference to auras.
Other songs glancingly reflect ideas more in the Judeo-Christian tradition. “Our Song” includes the repeated line, “Asking God if He could play it [the song] again.” And in “All Too Well,” Taylor  compares a savage breakup to spiritual torment: “I’m in a new hell every time you double-cross my mind.”
From a visual perspective, Swift and her retinue of dancers sometimes wear revealing outfits. Likewise, some of her (and her dancers’) moves have an unmistakably sensual or suggestive vibe to them. The song “Vigilante S—,” especially, has the most aggressively sexual imagery in the show, at times seemingly copping a strip-club vibe.
“Lavender Haze” features a guy with an unbuttoned shirt and Taylor looking lustily (for effect) at his chest at one point (corresponding to a lyric that mentions a guy’s chest). That song also finds her lifting her dress up a bit to suggestively show a garter.
Many, if not most, of the songs involve romantic or relational themes. Taylor’ early “era” hits have a more innocent, earnest and wide-eyed feeling to them, a general attitude that contributed a great deal to her popularity growth over her first several albums. The song “Love Story” from 2008’s album Fearless comes to mind as an example here, a happier retelling of the Romeo and Juliet romance.
But Taylor’s last several albums have become increasingly suggestive, though not particularly explicit. “Ready for It,” for example, includes the sultry lines, “In the middle of the night, in my dreams/You should see the things we do, baby (mmm)/ … I know I’m gonna be with you/So I’ll take my time/Are you ready for it?” “August” finds her revisiting a sexual memory: “And I can see us twisted in bedsheets.” Likewise, several songs reference waking up in bed with (or without) a certain partner.
“Blank Space,” from the album 1989, breezily admits that Taylor’s “got a long list of ex-lovers.” And the song “Style” narrates a story of two lovers’ insatiable desire for each other, as they can’t hardly wait to get out of a car and get into bed. (That said, Taylor’s performance of the song here is truncated, cutting out the more problematic second verse.)
“Tolerate It” seems to be a cautionary tale of sorts about Taylor realizing that an older lover is taking advantage of her.
The song “I’ll Be the Man” unpacks themes involving sexism as Taylor sings, “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can/Wondering if I’d get there quicker/If I was a man.”
Meanwhile, “You Need to Calm Down” takes aim at those who oppose homosexuality, with one verse apparently criticizing conservative and/or Christian protestors at a pride parade: “You are somebody that we don’t know/But you’re coming at my friends like a missile/Why are you mad?/When you could be GLAAD? (You could be GLAAD)/Sunshine on the street at the parade/But you would rather be in the dark ages/Making that sign, must’ve taken all night.” Rainbow colors flash onscreen during this song.
In the end credits, we see many happy couples (attending the concert) kissing and embracing, including same-sex couples of both genders.
Some mock violence turns up in the song “Blank Space,” where Swift and her dancers whack a CGI car with golf clubs. “Bad Blood,” meanwhile, finds her lighting a match to burn down a house. Other songs describe love gone wrong in violent emotional terms.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the MPA has allowed Taylor to get away with four f-words in her songs here. Generally speaking, two is the limit for a PG-13 film. But we get one each in “All Too Well” and “Champagne Problems,” as well as this repeated angry line in “Betty,” in which a guy asks how a girl would respond if he showed up unwanted: “Would you tell me to go f— myself?”
In addition, we hear six misuses of God’s name (including three pairings with “d–n”), about a dozen s-words, six or seven additional uses of “d–n” and one of “b–ch.” The adjective “godforsaken” is used twice as well.
We hear some passing references and allusions to alcohol usage and getting drunk in a couple of songs. In “You Need to Calm Down,” for instance, Taylor sings, “You are somebody that I don’t know/But you’re taking shots at me like it’s Patrón.” On “August,” she sings, “August slips away like a bottle of wine.” We also hear a dismissive reference to someone who’s high.
None.
Taylor Swift presents a vexing problem for parents, something of the proverbial glass half-empty, glass half-full conundrum.
Many likely have taken a look at the lyrical problems above, which encompass sexual content, LGBT advocacy, profanity and spiritual worldview concerns, and said simply, “Nope.” And that’s an understandable response from the glass-half-empty contingent. Or maybe even closer to just empty. There are significant issues here.
Other families may have fans who got onboard with Taylor’s earlier, relatively innocent love songs. And despite the problems noted above, Swift’s controversies haven’t completely tarnished her public perception as a nice girl next door, never mind the tabloids.
Just this week, the camera kept locking on to her as she attended Kansas City Chiefs games in support of her apparent new boyfriend, tight end Travis Kelce. Watching Taylor laugh and hug and cheer with Kelce’s mom and dad reinforces that image of Taylor Swift as the kind of girl you bring home to meet the parents.
And relative to so many other far more problematic entertainers out there, Taylor’s shortcomings may not seem like automatic disqualifications for some families. Call that the glass half-full contingent.
What’s indisputable is the fact that Taylor Swift continues to exert enormous cultural influence, shaping societal conversations about love, romance, identity and even conceptions of what it means to be a woman in 2023.
If you and/or your kids are planning on seeing Taylor Swift’s concert movie, here are some questions worth pondering together:
Only time will tell if this moment is indeed “peak Taylor,” or whether there’s another summit further down the road in her career. But one thing’s for sure right now: There’s no one who has a bigger entertainment platform than hers in popular culture at this moment.
And even if we (or our kids) enjoy and identify with some of her songs and messages, we’d do well to reflect on how this enormously popular young storyteller is potentially influencing our stories as we sing along to hers.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.

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