Taylor Swift

Look what you made me do: Dispatches from a Gen X-er at an ‘Eras Tour’ screening

Aldus Santos

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Look what you made me do: Dispatches from a Gen X-er at an ‘Eras Tour’ screening
'The film is part-bombast, part-theater, and all-fan service'

You can’t eat a burrito at an Eras screening. It’s not like anyone would physically stop you; it’s just impossible.

For one thing, you can’t be the gap tooth in the wide-open mouth of light-stick-wielding Swifties. It’s just…wrong.

Also, you can’t not be groufie-ready. You can’t be the stray dad wearing Nirvana merch bombing complete strangers’ Reels or Stories with the unsightly cameo of you and your lunch.

You can’t be caught nibbling on (what you thought was going to be) a swift bite when your undivided participation is expected (nay, demanded) during a cathartic Swift soundbite.

“The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why?”

I mean, it’s criminal to miss that magical communal moment: “‘Cause she’s dead!”

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MERCH. The coveted ‘Eras Tour’ VIP pass. Aldus Santos

Varying superlatives have already been heaped on Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour movie since it opened October 13. NME reports it’s already “the highest-grossing concert film or documentary of all time,” with $123.5 million in global opening-weekend earnings.

What is more apparent, however — at least in the block screening I caught October 21 at Vertis North with my two grade-school-age children and wife — is that the Sam Wrench-helmed film isn’t a mere distillation of three mammoth shows in SoFi Stadium. It’s a triumphant two-way simulacrum of what transpires onstage and what plays out on the audience floor. With each Taylor closeup, each tearful-fan cutaway, each perfunctory drone shot, the cinema-goer is not only transported geographically, she is also driven into active participation. 

Divided into ten “eras” (each assigned a mood board of its own), beginning with the cotton-candy pastels of diarist-drama Lover (2019) and ending with the danceable insularity of Midnights (2022), the film is part-bombast, part-theater, and all-fan service.  

The lyrics and spiels are subtitled, and in US screenings, theater-chain giant AMC openly “[encouraged] dancing and singing throughout,” as reported by USA Today. In the screening we attended (hosted by Swifties Philippines), that meant not just spirited, choreography-sync’d singalongs but also overzealous asides. 

Look what you made me do: Dispatches from a Gen X-er at an ‘Eras Tour’ screening

At one point during “All Too Well” — the Red single which persistent fan theory pins on the actor Jake Gyllenhaal — a young girl in the row behind us screamed, “Salamat, Jake, ha, may masterpiece tuloy kami (Thanks, Jake, now we have a masterpiece)!” During the racy hooded-lady-boss performance of “…Ready for It?” (from 2017’s Reputation), meanwhile, another young girl shrieked, “Busog na ‘ko (Now I’m full)!”

Such behavior is Taylor-approved, of course. Apart from “dancing and prancing and recreating choreography,” Swift also gave a shout-out (in a post on Twitter/X) to the in-jokes, the spells cast, and the not-so-rare engagements as “the exact type of joyful chaos we’re known for.”   

The Eras Tour film is proof positive of why watching movies in a theater remains an irreplaceable experience. You can argue that’s a cop-out, and you can argue some genres are better seen slumped in your couch, but I can’t picture consuming this much TayTay (the run time’s shy of three hours) not flanked by these kids with their hip drips, their always-on light-sticks, their heart-on-sleeve earnestness.  

Urban, Club, Night Life
AGLOW. Light sticks abound at the ‘Eras Tour’ screening. Aldus Santos

My own daughter, who’s got my deadpan down pat, gets visibly awakened each time she recognizes a visual cue or prop detail. She knew Swift was set to sing “Champagne Problems” (from 2020’s evermore), for instance, when the performer sat at a baby grand that looked like it came straight from Swamp Thing

She was stumped (and hence stunned) when the singer performed bookend songs “Our Song” and “You’re on Your Own, Kid” (the former written when she was 20, the latter in her early 30s), because Swift just doesn’t do these songs a lot, apparently.  

The Eras movie clearly belongs to Taylor Swift’s long list of “good ideas” and “power moves,” which included eschewing “the man” (i.e., the studio system) and electing herself de facto “cheer captain” (from being merely “on the bleachers”) when she distributed it herself. 

But all of this, even if “this” points to a major power-woman win, is journalistic ephemera.   

Body Part, Hand, Person
RED. The ‘Eras Tour’ wrist band for the event. Aldus Santos

“I’m gonna make sure people know I deserve to be here,” Swift defiantly said in the closing act of Miss Americana (her 2020 Netflix documentary). And while that’s all too well, you don’t get any of this (backstory, motivation, drama) in the Eras Tour film. Wrench doesn’t show you behind-the-scenes prep work or cheesy closeups of mixing-board faders and dudes in headsets; he just lets you bathe in the artifice: light, sound, and spectacle. 

But deserving or not, Swifties I feel just want to be there for Swift no matter what palette, cosplay, or vibe their participation entails: a multiplicity that was evident at the labyrinthine queue at our screening, for sure. 

People, Person, Adult
LONG LINE. Fans await entry into the cinema. Aldus Santos

Despite the singer’s confession (still from the aforementioned Netflix docu) that she’s “constantly finding new facets of [herself] that people find to be shiny” she does appear genuine in her loving use of first-person-plural pronouns in reference to her captive flock. 

A similar buoyancy is in their blood, and — if I’m catching on quick, in between embarrassed chomps at my burrito — they won’t just shake it off, shake it off. – Rappler.com

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Aldus Santos

Aldus Santos is an independent author and musician.