Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Anti-Hero

Written by: on February 6, 2024

I have four teenage daughters living at home. Thus, the iconic star – Taylor Swift, is a topic of discussion around our dinner table almost nightly. This week we have seen a collision of the political world and pop culture, all centering around Taylor Swift. Now, I am not a closet Swiftie (A person who secretly listens to her albums). But I am happy for my kids to blast (most of) her songs nightly as they do their chores. Her music has filled our house for years and has led to plenty of dance parties.

Last week, we read about the hero’s monomyth, and I was left with an unanswered question.[1] The question I remain with is, what about the anti-hero? What if the hero does not want to be where he or she is? What about those who want to tear down the hero?

This week, my news reel seems to have had a new Taylor Swift story almost hourly. This will likely be increased now that google has seen my recent search history. Swift has dominated the headlines for the last week, starting with AI generated pornographic photos of her that were released. Then she found herself in the cross hairs of the right-wing media. Suddenly, according to some of the media, she is a pop star who has been put in place by the CIA and the Biden administration so that she could make a huge political announcement supporting the Democratic party while attending the Superbowl. Her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, who will be playing in the Superbowl is also a government plant for his part in endorsing vaccinations.

Simply writing all this out seems silly, but it has been a deliberate attempt to malign her by right-wing media. One article stated, “It’s a play for engagement. If you look at interest in Taylor Swift and the crossover with the NFL, you want to be part of those conversations online.”[2] Essentially, it was intentional drama that was flooded into the media. The media knows that many people will simply hear these stories and believe them without much investigation or thought. It is a form of passive confirmation bias where “we simply fail to look for any information that could contradict our beliefs.”[3]

Harford’s book comes at a time in which political discourse is infused with false narratives, or partial narratives that shape the world in which we live. He demonstrates, through the view of a statistician, the way in which information might be shaped and ways in which companies or governments might even try to question everything simply to muddy the waters.[4] His book helps us to recognize our own biases and our emotional attitude when we investigate the truth. He encourages his reader to, “Look deeper and ask questions.”[5]

Harford makes many excellent points, two of which I want to highlight. He encourages us to use two perspectives, “The worm’s eye view as well as the bird’s eye view.”[6] The second point is, “Weekly, daily, hourly – the metronome of the news clock changes the very nature of what is news.”[7]

These points are the points I am bringing up with my teenage daughters around the dinner table. How can they think deeply about the issues surrounding Swift? Can they discern where the information is coming from? Who is profiting off the misinformation campaign? The disinformation campaign regarding Swift might seem focused primarily on pop culture but at the heart of the matter lies numbers and dollars. Her influence is significant and what she chooses to endorse shapes the thinking and buying habits of many of her followers. I do not want my daughters to do something or believe something simply because a pop star says so, but I do want them to learn to discern and understand what is behind the headlines of the day or the week.

Swift has learned how to manage her fame and her influence. She has been beaten up this week but has been able to keep her own focus, allowing other media outlets to push back against the narratives of her being a psy-op for the government. She wrote a song a few years back about her own heroine journey.

It’s me, hi (Hi)
I’m the problem, it’s me (I’m the problem, it’s me)

At teatime (Teatime), everybody agrees (Everybody agrees)
I’ll stare directly at the sun, but never in the mirror
It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero [8]


[1] Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1. Princeton/Bollingen paperback print., 3. print, Bollingen Series 17 (Princeton, NJ: Univ. Press, 1973).

[2] Shannon Bond, “Here’s Why Conspiracy Theories about Taylor Swift and the Super Bowl Are Spreading,” NPR, February 1, 2024, sec. It’s Been a Minute, https://www.npr.org/2024/02/01/1228373511/heres-why-conspiracy-theories-about-taylor-swift-and-the-super-bowl-are-spreadin.

[3] Kathryn Schulz, “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 128.

[4] Tim Harford, How to Make the World Add up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently about Numbers (London: The Bridge Street Press, 2021), 14.

[5] Harford, 282.

[6] Harford, 69.

[7] Harford, 95.

[8] Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero, accessed February 6, 2024, https://genius.com/Taylor-swift-anti-hero-lyrics.

About the Author

Adam Cheney

I grew up in California, spent five years living along the beautiful coast of Kenya and now find myself working with refugees in the snow crusted tundra of Minnesota. My wife and I have seven children, four of whom have been adopted. I spend my time drinking lots of coffee, working in my garden, and baking sourdough bread.

11 responses to “The Anti-Hero”

  1. mm Ryan Thorson says:

    Thanks for your post Adam. I appreciate the integration of last week’s text, this one, and current events. I’ve got 2 teenage daughters also, and we talk often about Taylor Swift and how she manages her fame, as well as how we know who the real Taylor actually is.

    How do you think media contributes to identity narratives in our culture? how do we equip our daughters to build their identity around non-media based values?

    • Adam Cheney says:

      I think if I really knew the answer I would have holy grail of a key to unlock true discipleship. The media narratives that are lambasting our kids are strong and powerful. They live in a world in which one screwup or one bad idea can be caught on film and disciminated throughout their schools, and anywhere. I sure made many stupid mistakes and said many stupid things as a youth, they just weren’t caught on camera and live streamed. It is tough for them. I focus my efforts on helping them discern biblical truth and what the narratives are behind the media. Actually, I have dissected Frozen II with them so many times that they got tired of watching it and other Disney movies with me. I am also happy to discuss what I might disagree with in the sermon we just heard from the pastor each week. I don’t do this to knock on the pastor but rather to encourage my girls to think at a deeper level and try to discern the different perspectives.

  2. mm Jennifer Eckert says:

    Adam, of course, you folded in Taylor Swift. Good one, friend. Given the wide variety of information pathways available, how do you discern which of those mechanisms you will use (social media, traditional newspapers, books, etc.) and how do you determine what information to trust?

    • Adam Cheney says:

      I had to go with Taylor Swift on this one.
      I do try to get information from a variety of sources and understand the perspective they are coming from. I don’t use social media for information generally speaking but I do watch a variety of Youtube videos for general overviews. I try to find those who present information rather than drama. Some of the people who I would rely on the most for decent perspective and information are those who no longer have reason to lie or go with the flow. For instance, Mitt Romney has often been a bit of an outlier in the Republican party (except for when he was a candidate) and now he is retiring. He does not have to worry about the next election cycle and keeping his job. Now, he is mostly worried about his own integrity and he is calling out many issues that others in his party are unwilling to speak on at this time. His freedom from the tyranny of a paycheck is giving him true freedom of speech.

  3. mm Glyn Barrett says:

    Thanks Adam. Asking for a friend, How do you encourage your daughters to adopt both the “worm’s eye view” and the “bird’s eye view,” as suggested by Harford, when examining the narratives surrounding Taylor Swift’s recent controversies? How might these dual perspectives help them gain a more comprehensive understanding of the situation and the broader implications of media portrayal and public perception?

    • Adam Cheney says:

      I want to help them understand the different perspectives. Why do the Republicans have reason to treat her this way? Why are the Democrats rallying behind her right now? How has she responded? How do we think this makes her feel? She has said before that she feels that her persona has gotten bigger than she can contain. How is she supposed to respond to these allegations? Finally, since she is an image bearer of Christ how should we respond when we see someone getting bullied like this, whether she is in the public eye or not?

  4. Diane Tuttle says:

    Thanks for the perspective Adam. I like that you are able to use real world examples that connect with your daughters to teach them valuable tools, maybe without even realizing it. There is power in the dinner table conversations and in a casual way you are surely teaching them. Just wondereing, did your daughters able to come up with their own way of deciding? I would be interested to hear how adolescents make their decisions. thanks.

    • Adam Cheney says:

      Sadly, I think that most of my daughters decisions come from what they hear on Tiktok. Social media has a way of bringing uniformity to people who all see the same videos and think they need to act in a certain way. Now, I hope that biblical discussions and rational thought will be a part of their decision making capability but I do worry about the influence they are getting. I am just working hard to try to help them learn to think beyond the video. For years, I have had a saying in this house that, “Tiktok is not real.” My seven year old has been repeating the mantra for years now. Even though they know it is not real they still are persuaded at times by it.

  5. Diane Tuttle says:

    Being a teenage girl is tough. I will pray for your family.

  6. mm Chris Blackman says:

    Four teenage daughters? Now I know who to pray for!! I had two, and I can’t imagine double that!! Lol. God bless ya!
    I love that you can take something or someone that is essential to them, and as a parent, discuss media manipulation and questionable sources and think critically about the information they read and hear about Taylor. What a great learning tool that I hope will help them have well-rounded views of the world!
    How do you get your daughters to think for themselves instead of following what celebrities or the media say?

    • Adam Cheney says:

      Actually, I have a 22 year old as well and she is basically still a teen…
      I do think that my daughters have a good head on their shoulders and they have learned to think for themselves very well. However, the onslaught of false narratives found on social media and the rapid pace at which they come still makes it very hard to discern truth versus error.

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