February 22, 2024

The slow march of human civilization was intermittently disrupted and shifted by “Heroes,” singular figures “whose vocation it was to be the agents of the World-Spirit,” as Hegel wrote. Heroes interfere in and remake the world. Hegel had Caesar in mind as well as Napoleon, his own contemporary; all of the heroes he identified were men. Today, though, Hegel might be forced to loosen his paradigm and assign the role of World-Spirit agent to Taylor Swift.

Swift was impossible to escape at the height of the Eras Tour, her globe-spanning musical retrospective. When the Eras Tour film appeared in October, the pop star got another boost. News of Swift’s romance with Travis Kelce, the bearded, brawny Kansas City Chiefs football player, gave her a major crossover moment with the sports fanatics.

It seemed unthinkable that the Swift hysteria could crescendo any further—until this past Sunday, when Kelce’s Chiefs won the A.F.C. championship game, sending the team to the Super Bowl, where they will play the San Francisco 49ers. The collision of such cultural forces has led to conspiracy theories and intense speculation.

Now, the inescapability of Swift has led to hyper-focused social media feeds and the sense that everything somehow hinges on Taylor and Travis. Could a shot of Biden wearing a friendship bracelet swing the election? Perhaps so. Even Donald Trump seems to be triggered by Swift’s ubiquity.

The combination of Taylor Swift plus Travis Kelce creates an all-consuming content vortex, and the only way for normal folks to get attention from the recommendation algorithm is to succumb to its gravity.

Hegel might argue that it is not the promise of personal gain that is motivating Swift’s activities but “an unconscious impulse” to accomplish “that for which the time was ripe.” Perhaps Swift is simply an unwitting emissary of our society’s subterranean urges.

Are Democrats, however supposedly hellbent on dismantling gender roles and destroying the nuclear family, still longing for the heterosexual American archetype? Or perhaps, in the absence of enthusiasm for the two unpopular candidates racing toward the Presidential election, young Americans are simply yearning for the kind of charismatic royalty that they can purely worship.