Australia Has No Idea How to Handle the Cult of Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift will touchdown in Australia soon. Already, she's made everyone feral.
Taylor Swift
Wesley Lapointe via Getty

“If you’re American, stay in your own country…Don’t get on a plane, we’ll meet you at the gate. You’re not ready for that, trust me.”

Taylor Swift tickets have just gone on sale in Australia, and high strung Australian Swiftie, thommoy, is taunting Americans on Tiktok – doing that thing where you're smiling but simultaneously thinking about slitting someone's throat with broken glass. 


This is the physical manifestation of the Taylor Swift effect, down under. And if you’re daring enough to enter the wormhole, you’ll be met with an equal-parts welcoming yet gate-kept community caught in the throes of idealistic, obsessive celebrity culture. In a way it’s absurd, another, it’s predictable. Overall, it’s impressive.

And watching the mayhem from the sidelines – neither understanding the Swiftie movement, relating to it or subscribing to her sound (don’t be fooled, I love the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna and a vast array of other popular music folk) – feels almost like an ethnographic study into the raving lunacy of god-like celebrity power. 

A while ago, I wrote about it

“Consumer capitalism creates the idea that, basically, everyone feels like their life is okay but could always be better,” Peter Strumbourg had told me –  an anthropologist and author of the book Caught in Play, which explains how the entertainment industry works to subconsciously shape our lives and values.

“Celebrities are people who we have actually entered that world of perfection - that world that we're always one step away from.”

In a lot of ways, Swift is one of the last-remaining Backstreet Boy, Beatle-esque Gods that grips at the millennial heart while being idolised by children. She’s a real life Barbie doll, epitomising beauty standards often held by almost no one but seen as the ideal. Her music is easy to listen to and just vague but relatable enough that you might think she’s looked through your break-up messages over Instagram. The perfect specimen for a successful marketing ploy. It makes sense that Australians – and the world – would go feral.


For the past week, as whispers of Swift’s visit circulated around Australia, several wheels were set in motion. Would she bolster the economy? How many shows would there be? What states would she visit? Would ticket prices be exorbitantly high?

Every Australian had a glimpse of the Swift machine in motion, whether willingly or not. 

On Monday, VIP packages that cost either $899.90 or $1249.90 were scooped up by a lucky and loyal few.

“I was happy to pay whatever it took to be able to see her,' a diehard fan named Abigail, who cried with joy after securing a ticket, told the Daily Mail.

The price? $2,724 for two tickets for her and her mum and a dent out of her house deposit fund.

On Wednesday, presales for the Sydney leg saw a gargantuan 800,000 queued on Ticketek, 30 minutes before the sale time of 10am. It was the largest amount ever, according to Tiketek - breaking a national record. They sold out 3 hours later, with hundreds of thousands of Swiftie’s missing out. These tickets sold for anywhere between $79.90 to $379.90.

With only 450,000 tickets available – and millions of fans looking to swindle tickets – the scalping began. One ticket for the Melbourne show was listed on Viagogo for 249% of the official maximum price, at $3,144. It caused Victorian premier Daniel Andrews to make a moment for himself, looking to avoid the exorbitant prices ranging into the $20,000’s felt by US fans.


Victoria’s Minister for Tourism, Steve Dimopoulos, announced on Tuesday afternoon that Swift’s concerts would now be classified as a “major event,” (joining The Australian Open, The Grand Prix, and Melbourne Cup) mobilising Victoria’s anti-scalping laws. If any ticket was sold for over 110% of its value it would become defunct and scalpers could cop a fine between $925 to $554,760.

And for those that missed out, the psychologists were deployed.

“Validate [your child's] feelings,” Melbourne psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg told the Herald Sun. 

“Let them know that it's okay to feel upset, angry, or disappointed. Encourage them to express their emotions and listen to them without judgement.”

And then the economists appeared – filling the media void with their own takes on Swift's effect on the economy. Some leant into the bad, while others leant towards a phenomenon that analysts from around the world have dubbed as the “TSwift Lift”.

“Based on recent international events, it’s possible the mega-star’s recently announced concerts in Melbourne and Sydney could cause some champagne problems for [Governor of the Reserve Bank] Phillip Lowe in the fight against inflation,” wrote William Bennett for the Sydney Morning Herald, implying Swift’s visit might be comparable to the higher-than-expected Swedish Inflation that resulted from Beyonce’s “Renaissance” tour in May.


Then it was “The RBA has nothing to fear from a burst of Taylor Swift Inflation,” as James Thomson wrote for the Australian Financial Review. And finally, “Taylor Swift just added Australia to her Eras tour – and economists say it could help the country avoid a recession”, according to Swati Pandey for Fortune.

Then Swift left politicians weak at the knees. Rumours even started that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was going to write a personal letter to Taylor Swift to bring her tour to the sunshine state. Obviously, that’s probably bullshit – but MP Andrew Wallace wasn’t bullshitting when he said:

“Taylor, I’m asking you, begging you, I’m pleading with you. I’ll get down on my knees if I have to. Please come to Queensland. There are so many Swiftie fans in Queensland. I am one of them,” he whimpered to journalists.

“To the guys at Frontier touring company, I don’t know why you left Queensland off, it’s the first time Taylor will be visiting Australia and not Queensland.”

The cult of celebrity is an amazing thing, and Swift’s is one of the most impressive in the world. In Australia, she’s changing economies, changing laws, indirectly influencing TikTokers to incite violence on poor (but yes, annoying) Americans, and getting simp-like politicians to get down on their hands. 

And for a country that doesn’t really have a culture of celebrity like the US or UK, it’s an impressive feat.

Follow Julie Fenwick on Twitter and Instagram.

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