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Fear itself: Inaction in Fearless


The Basics

Taylor Swift sings to a man about how fearless she feels with him while they walk to his car and then drive through town. She remembers their first kiss.


Analysis

Although Taylor Swift openly proclaims her fearlessness, her inability to act throughout the song indicates otherwise. Swift portrays herself as someone who is acted upon, while she portrays her partner as an actor. Throughout the song he consistently initiates actions. He drives, he walks her to his car, he runs his hands through his hair, puts his eyes on her, takes her hand, pulls her in to kiss her, etc. On the other hand, Swift is walked to the car, is driven in the car, is pulled in for a kiss, etc. When acted upon, Swift uses words that imply resistance and a desire to keep still: “you drag me headfirst” and “you pull me in” imply that he must exert force — she is impeding motion. Even her desire is passive since he “absentmindedly mak[es her] want [him.]


Swift only portrays herself in motion in imagined scenarios. In the first verse, she says “You know I wanna ask you to dance right there / in the middle of the parking lot.” In the chorus, she follows up: “With you I’d dance in a storm / In my best dress / Fearless.” Swift’s imagined version of herself doesn’t just move, she dances. She imagines herself initiating the dancing, uninhibited by either the location or the weather.


A closer inspection of the third verse reveals that Swift is afraid of movement because she is afraid of the passage of time. Swift tells him “So baby drive slow / ‘Til we run out of road.” If they move forward, their time together on the road will come to an end. “I wanna stay right here in this passenger seat … In this moment now capture it, remember it.” Again, Swift wants to stay in this perfect moment rather than getting out of the car and moving forward. The chorus explains why: “I don’t know how it gets better than this.” Swift is afraid that her happiness is fleeting and she wants to freeze time. She cannot, so she freezes herself instead.


Fearless thus provides an ambiguous portrait of Swift’s fear. She has found someone with whom she feels “brave” and “fearless" but is paradoxically unable to act upon that fearlessness because of her fear that it will not last. The flashback in the bridge provides hope.


Literary Device: Flashback

While Swift addresses most of Fearless to her partner in the present, the bridge is a flashback to their first kiss:


Well you stood there with me in the doorway

My hands shake

I’m not usually this way but

You pull me in and I’m a little more brave

It’s the first kiss, it’s flawless, really something, it’s fearless


Swift moves to this earlier episode by using a past-tense verb, “stood.” The rest of the bridge uses present-tense verbs as swift puts herself and the listener fully back into that memory. She re-experiences her thoughts and feelings at the time of their first kiss.


In the middle of a song where Swift is paralyzed by fear that her happy moments cannot last forever, she undermines that fear by successfully revisiting a “fearless” moment in her past.

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