California-based artist Manuela went unexpectedly viral when they posted an Instagram Reel comparing the video for their visual EP “Glimmer” with Taylor Swift‘s “Anti-Hero”.
Like Swift’s video, Manuela’s shows them hanging out with an identical version of themselves.
The videos aren’t 100 per cent the same, but put side-by-side some of the similarities are abundantly clear — in one scene, Manuela pushes the version of themselves off a roof, while Swift pushes the version of herself off a bed.
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Speaking to PEDESTRIAN.TV, Manuela — who identifies as a Swiftie — said when she first watched the “Anti-Hero” video, she though its “feel” was similar to her own.
“But then… I started seeing frame-by-frame similarities, and then mentally, I was counting them,” they said.
“And when the video ended, I was like, ‘that was too many side by side things’… I was like, really sad.”
As you might expect, there’s been a bunch of discourse around the video: the comments are a mix of supportive and downright vitriolic.
Some say neither the concept of Manuela or Swift’s video is original and that the “evil twin” visuals have been done before. Others attack Manuela, saying there’s no way Swift or her team could have seen the video. “Glimmer” was shot in October 2020 and released in April 2022.
Part of the reason Manuela thinks this backlash has happened is because of a PopCrave tweet shared soon after their Reel was released.
The tweet read that she had “seemingly [accused]” Swift of “stealing”.
Singer Manuela seemingly accuses Taylor Swift of stealing visuals from her visual EP for the “Anti-Hero” music video:— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) October 25, 2022
“am i on the moodboard??” https://t.co/0f6f63sugz
“My theory is that when Pop Crave retweeted it on Twitter, using the word accuses — that ignited the defensive fan base to come onto my account, because of that inflammatory word,” Manuela explained.
She experienced, in her words a “wave of really mean DMs”, as well as people “harassing” her in the comments of the post.
Manuela disagrees that her video was an accusation.
“I do disagree with that wording because what I was doing was posing a question. I was highlighting the differences,” she said.
“My Reel doesn’t have any text on top of it, or a voiceover of me… because I have nothing to say about it. All I can do is show the evidence.”
The vitriol they’ve experiences is an example of the intense power, and capability for callousness, fan bases of stars like Swift have. Whether Swift’s team did see Manuela’s video or whether it’s coincidence — there’s a solid chance we’ll never know. They’re both valid possibilities.
But attacking an artist for simply pointing out the similarities between the two videos shows how toxic fan culture can be. Taylor Swift is one of the world’s most powerful women. She probably doesn’t need her fans attacking an independent musician in her honour.
As for the similarities between the videos, Manuela has a number of theories. They say they’ve run through the options in their mind.
“There’s maybe three or four that are super likely. Parallel thoughts, creative coincidences, like, I’ve experienced that before,” she acknowledged.
“But… the Swifties are saying that my audience is really small, like, not notable and not noticeable, either. So I would argue that that’s exactly what makes me an ideal candidate to be copied.
“Because let’s say I was copied and then there would not be a chance that I would stand up for myself.
“I wouldn’t have the platform or the resources or the energy to take on someone who has that platform.”
Manuela also applied for film school using the video back in 2021 which meant it was shared around on an unlisted link. She has no way of knowing who could have seen or access the video via that link.
The other hypothetical avenue through which Swift’s team could have seen “Glimmer” is SEO.
“I’m curious if [glimmer] was a word that was used to search up visual inspiration for the mood board,” they said.
“I’ve gone through all the scenarios in my head. And I’m like, I don’t know which one it could be.”
Swift’s team hasn’t publicly commented on the situation, though Manuela said some people who worked on the video have interacted with her after she tagged them in the post.
One DM’d her saying he’d never seen her video before, two other people commented saying they were there when Taylor came up with these ideas, and another responded, “I don’t know what to do with this information, so sorry you think that Taylor copied you”.
What she would like is a public acknowledgement — or for Swift and her team to reach out, though she described the thought as “terrifying”.
“This happens quite frequently with small independent artists and artists of colour. I do think this is worthy of acknowledgement and accountability,” they said.
Fundamentally, small artists should be able to ignite these conversations without being attacked by the fanbases of mega-stars like Swift. Their voices and work are just as important: even if they’re being a teeny bit critical of your fave.