Look What They Made Charlie Do


We take a look back on the classic original series Star Trek episode “Charlie X” and draw an improbable comparison to Taylor Swift.

I suppose I should start this article with a warning: I’m going to use Star Trek to talk about Taylor Swift. I know she’s a controversial topic, so feel free to click away and read about Star Trek: Discovery or something.

But before we get to Taylor, we need to talk Star Trek. And if the title didn’t tip you off, today’s article is about Star Trek’s third (second?) episode titled “Charlie X”.

In the episode, the crew of the USS Enterprise picks up a teenage castaway by the name of Charlie Evans. At only three years old, he was the sole survivor of a transport crash on the planet Thasus. Charlie essentially raises himself, with no human interaction, until he’s picked up by the Antares. He’s then passed off to the Enterprise to be taken to his only living relatives on Colony Alpha 5.

While watching this Star Trek episode, I wrote in my notes that Charlie is “cute and confused but definitely evil”.

He certainly wreaks some havoc while aboard the Enterprise. After losing a game of chess to Spock, he burns the pieces. When Yeoman Rand turns down his advances, he disappears her into the void. He turns Tina into an iguana (savage).

Oh, and he blew up the Antares, killing everyone aboard. Yikes.

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As things start to look dire, the Thasians arrive to rescue the crew. They apologize for Charlie’s actions, explaining they gave him his powers so that he could survive on his own. They also claim that Charlie is a danger to humankind, and therefore they will be returning him to Thasus.

Charlie pleads with Kirk to let him stay, to take him to Colony Alpha 5. He explains that all he wants is love and human connection, that he didn’t know better, that his actions are the result of him being raised with no other humans.

It’s really quite sad.

Charlie is young. He’s scared, finding himself in a new and strange situation. It doesn’t excuse his actions, but it does add an element of tragedy.

Alright, here comes the Taylor Swift. Don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn ya.

At one point in the episode, Charlie disappears a member of the crew simply for laughing at him. Charlie then tries to reason with Kirk that he “didn’t mean to do it” but that the crewman, by laughing at him, made him do it.

Sound familiar?

Unless you live under a rock, you know that Taylor Swift recently released a record-breaking song and music video titled “Look What You Made Me Do”, the lead single off her upcoming sixth album titled Reputation.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be some grand defense of Taylor Swift. But it’s not exactly a condemnation of her either.

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Ever since Taylor made her debut in 2006, she has been the subject of intense public scrutiny. Her lyrics picked apart, her relationships put under a microscope. Sometimes it seems as if Taylor Swift can’t so much as breathe without facing criticism.

This isn’t to say Taylor is without fault. I’ll be the first to concede that she’s the poster child for “white girl feminism”. But while there are legitimate reasons to dislike Taylor Swift, some of the hatred is downright uncalled for.

Putting her down for “writing about her exes” is ridiculous. Taylor is hardly the first artist to use real-life experiences as inspiration for music. Not to mention, the hint of sexism and slut-shaming that tends to accompany this criticism.

And, yes, some of her lyrics have been problematic. In her song “Picture to Burn” off her self-titled debut album, Taylor sings: “So go and tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy / That’s fine! I’ll tell mine you’re gay”. Her third album Speak Now includes the song “Better Than Revenge”, in which she promises revenge against the girl who “stole her man” and claims this girl is “better known for the things that she does on the mattress”.

Yeah, they’re bad.

What people seem to forget, though, is how young Taylor was when she wrote these songs. She would have been no older than 16 when she wrote “Picture to Burn” and 20 when she wrote “Better Than Revenge”. And who hasn’t said dumb, ignorant things when they were teenagers? I know I’m guilty, and I’m sure you are too.

She’s since grown and matured and apologized. Sure, it’s easy to say she never should have said these things in the first place, but she was young and didn’t know better, and these words can’t be taken back. The most we can ask for is that she apologizes and makes a change, which she did.

She isn’t Charlie Evans. She didn’t blow up a spaceship full of innocent people.

But now let’s jump to the present, to Taylor’s current controversies: the “feuds”.

Let’s start with Katy Perry. The source of the drama was when three of Taylor’s dancers on the Red tour left early to work on Katy’s Prismatic tour. Taylor went on to write “Bad Blood” about the incident. But in the Rolling Stone article where Taylor explains the song, she never actually names Katy Perry. She’s very vague about who the song is about. It’s Katy who heightened the drama and named herself when she tweeted “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing…”.

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And then there’s the Kim and Kanye feud.

This one starts all the way back in 2009, when Kanye West interrupted Taylor’s VMA acceptance speech to assert that “Beyoncé had one of the best music videos of all time”. And people love to rag on Taylor for “playing the victim” here but the truth is…she kind of was. She was a 19-year-old girl who’d just won her first VMA, only to have a 32-year-old man come up on stage, take the mic from her, and ruin her moment.

Now, for the controversy surrounding the lyrics to Kanye West’s song “Famous”. It seems to me that people have purposefully misconstrued the nature of the argument simply to paint Taylor in a bad light. Yes, she agreed to let Kanye include lyrics referencing that they might have sex. But nowhere in Kim Kardashian’s videos is there any mention of her consenting to being called “that bitch”, which is what she was upset about.

(Not to mention how shady it is to record someone without their knowledge or consent. But that’s a whole different matter).

Yes, she played a role in these feuds. But Taylor isn’t the only one at fault.

And through all the drama, all the backlash, all the un-warranted criticism, Taylor tried to remain upbeat, tried to “shake it off”.

But that was the old Taylor, and the old Taylor is dead.

She’s gone completely silent, deleting all of her social media. No more cute photos of her cats and her friends. No more quirky tweets about losing hair ties and baking cookies. No more photos of her going to dance class and stopping to greet fans.

All that remains are promotional tweets and snarky music videos highlighting her various “scandals”. She’s fully embraced her reputation as pop’s “mean girl”. She’s the villain, the “actress starring in your bad dreams”.

Look what you made her do.

I’ll reiterate: Taylor Swift isn’t without fault. But to understand who Taylor has become, we need to take a step back and look at the overall picture. From a young age, she has been the subject of intense scrutiny and hatred, which has persisted for over a decade.

We bullied and belittled a teenage girl, and now we’re left with a (seemingly) angry and paranoid adult woman.

Next: Discovery's look may evolve as it nears TOS

If Taylor Swift is a monster, then maybe, like Star Trek’s Charlie Evans, she’s the monster we made her.