In the show’s season finale, the titular character, Ginny, says, “You go through men faster than Taylor Swift.” By Monday morning, Swift tweeted, “Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back.” She added, “How about we stop degrading hard working women by defining this horse shit as FuNnY.”
Taylor Swift fans retaliated in Swift’s honor, spamming Netflix’s social media accounts with demands that the streaming service “RESPECT TAYLOR SWIFT.” And because we’re operating on the worst timeline, the ire didn’t land on Netflix alone. Actor Antonia Gentry, who plays Ginny on the program, has received a barrage of harassment on Instagram.
Several things can be true at once. One truth is that Antonia Gentry, the 23-year-old actor from Atlanta, Georgia, in her first semi-major role, didn’t write the Taylor Swift line, and attacking her in the name of Taylor Swift is not feminism, it’s being boneheaded online.
Another truth is this: Taylor Swift’s love life has been the center of both tabloid fodder and entire album cycles for the majority of her career. She has made a point to both poke fun at her reputation as a chronic dater and object to the media’s fixation with her relationship status, a fixation that has hounded her since her teens. That Swift is unhappy about a line poking fun at her multiple relationships is her prerogative. Plus, she’s right in saying that the line was outdated: Using Taylor Swift’s love life as a punchline would have been right at home in a script from 2014, but 2021? Not so much.
But it’s also true that Ginny Miller is a fictional 15-year-old girl who, from the little I’ve managed to decipher from this program, is not the moral arbiter of the Ginny and Georgia universe. Granted, my understanding of this show is largely limited to the viral “oppression olympics” clip depicting Ginny and her love interest, Hunter, getting into an argument over who is more white-adjacent: Ginny, who is half-Black, or Hunter, who is half-Taiwanese. The scene is somewhat cringe-worthy and, again, feels outdated, but the fact that Ginny sneers, “I know more Mandarin than you do, you’re barely even Asian!” indicates that Ginny is a character riddled with flaws and might not always say the nicest, most charitable thing.
The context of the Taylor Swift line matters too: Ginny says it during an argument with her loving but somewhat dysfunctional mother, Georgia, who has a tendency to bounce around the country, landing wherever a new romance takes her. The Taylor Swift comparison was Ginny’s way of saying she craves stability, and while it doesn’t negate the sexist ways in which Swift’s love life has been portrayed in the media and interpreted by the public, nothing about this line suggests that the show’s writers are giving Ginny an encouraging pat on the back for saying it.
But context is a pesky thing when you can, instead, get worked up in a mob-like frenzy.
At the end of the day, an angry fictional character said a throwaway line about one of the biggest celebrities in the world. The line wasn’t great, but maybe people’s time would be better spent getting upset about a line uttered by a real person instead of a fake one.
Correction: A previous version of this post stated Antonia Gentry is 25; she is 23. Jezebel regrets the error.