Why Taylor Swift Playing Joni Mitchell in a Movie Is a Travesty
Recently, hell froze over, Wile E. Coyote finally caught up with the Road Runner, and it was announced that Taylor Swift will play Joni Mitchell in an upcoming biopic. And yes, most unfortunately, of these factoids, the latter is the true one.
Joni lovers, let us mourn. This is the woman who awakened our hearts and minds with her own; let us drink a case of melancholy and still be on our feet; called us children of god, asked us where we were going, and then when we didn’t know, told us she didn’t either and we were stardust and golden anyway. She has been our poet and our bit of grace in a cruel world, and she will forever be immortalized in celluloid by the teen queen currently dogging a Kennedy and saying “like, ever” a lot.
Alright, alright, Taylor’s songs are catchy. Alright, alright, Joni recycled melodic lines and riffs a bit too. But it’s still a sin and a shame that the girl who got famous off of the immortal complaint “She wears short skirts/I wear t-shirts/She’s cheer captain/And I’m on the bleachers” deserves to be mentioned in the same creative breath as she of “All I really want our love to do/is to bring out the best in me and in you.”
Joni Mitchell is perhaps the greatest female songwriter “like, ever.” Taylor Swift is a creature of surfaces; a blonde (sure, Joni was too, not the point here), bedazzled American Sweetheart with the soul of a Golden Oreo and the breadth of a Pixie Stick.
And sure, Joni is not perfect. Joni is flawed. Joni believes she has a demonstrably fake illness involving bugs crawling around beneath her skin. Joni is a smoker. She is wildly imperfect and wonderfully human. The kind of steadfast fragility that leads our lady down the crazy bug-skin path is what gave her the personal insight, creative spark and cajones to write “Blue” in the first place. Taylor Swift’s simplistic diary-transcript confessional pop takes about as little real vulnerability to craft as it does to slickly promote.
The only possible good this casting could do us as a nation would be to forcibly draft a league of tweens into Joni’s fan club, and in the process maybe inject a little depth and intellect into their otherwise barren musical lives. But frankly, the promise of introducing said tweens to lines like “You don’t like weak women/you get bored so quick/And you don’t like strong women/cause they’re hip to your tricks” is less appealing when you think how ill-prepared they are to take those lyrics for the joyously wry poetry they are. After all, when you’ve been raised on a saccharine diet of mixed literary metaphors like “You were Romeo/I was a scarlet letter”, how can you be expected to know real soul food?