Love story, when you first listen to it, seems like a typical fairy tale narrative. However, when you start scrutinizing the lyrics, there are many hints that lead us to believe that it’s far from a fairy tale it is portrayed to be. In the first part of this post, let’s look at how the song strays far away from the story of Romeo and Juliet. In the second part, let’s look at why the use of scarlet word changes the entire song.
Song starts with the lyrics ’We were both young when I first saw you’, suggesting a typical fairy tale meet. But the lyrics goes as ’little did I know, that you were romeo, you were throwing pebble’.The use of the words ‘little did I know’ suggest that she din’t actually think that this person might be her romeo, until the said person started throwing pebbles, an obvious reference to the book. Save this little conjecture, we will talk about it later in the post.
Taylor said that she wanted to deviate the story from the original ( which she did ) but towards a happy ending. Romeo and Juliet were supposed to have love at first sight. But she urges her lover to 'just say yes’, thus contradicting from the fact that it’s not a love at first sight.
’You be the prince and I’ll be the princess’ Neither of the classics she references in this song are about prince and princesses, but by mixing all the classic themes in a song, she has woven a story that is strangely unique yet at the same time, can be owned by anyone.
Now, looking at other lines with this premise.. ’cause you were romeo, I was a scarlet letter. This line brings “love story” to an interesting turn of events, which is often questioned and criticized by many,the juxtaposition of Romeo and Juliet and Scarlet Letter. By referencing two popular works (Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare and Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne) in the same line, she seems to make a statement, lost by many.
Her lover seems to be a romeo, but she referenced to herself as a scarlet letter, which is meant to be symbol of punishment, of sin, of going against moral code of the puritan society, and this changes the story of Romeo and Juliet into a much darker version
Is the use of scarlet letter just a mindless way of using words in her songs? or, is there more to these lyrics than what meets the eye? Whom did a naive young sixteen year old girl love that made her think of herself as a scarlet letter?
There were many theories floating around as I searched for this. Most common theory, like many other controversies surrounding Taylor, is that she’s simply ignorant and arrogant and that she just used the words without knowing their literary value. To those, I have no other answer other than to ask them to look at all the songs she has written.
And, the second theory I have found is that, the relation was adulterous. But In Taylor’s own words, the relationship she had in mind for this song, didn’t happen. So, we can rule out that.
Interestingly, she never bought the exact words 'scarlet letter’ in her interviews, as far as I researched. But she always said the words that 'it’s a love that society wouldn’t accept’. Um, Now that’s interesting.
Let’s take a look at another line.. Romeo, save me. They’re trying to tell me how to feel. This love is difficult but it’s real. In fact 'this love is difficult, but its real’ are the first lines she wrote and then spun the story around it. She tries to tell her lover, that the love they have/she feels is real but people around her are influencing her to feel a certain way. Looking at this from scarlet letter point of view, this line holds an entire different meaning. This love she feels towards her lover, goes against the society norms, and they are influencing her, may be trying to tell her that what she felt is not real, or will not be accepted.
With these ideas, now look at the 'little did I know’ line I mentioned earlier. So, it wasn’t a love at first sight, and she din’t think of this person as a romeo initially, and people around her are trying to tell her that the love she feels is not real and that it might be just a friendship or something that’s imaginary?
Why couldn’t she have felt as a scarlet letter, if her lover is in fact a girl, and thus it was seen as a sin or against moral code by the society around her? And may be that’s why the people around her tried to tell that what she felt towards her love might not be real.
Taylor told Billboard magazine that the song is about “a love that you’ve got to hide because for whatever reason it wouldn’t go over well. I spun it in the direction of 'Romeo and Juliet’; our parents are fighting. I relate to it more as a love that you cannot really elaborate on - a love that maybe society wouldn’t accept [or] maybe your friends wouldn’t accept”
So, it’s safe to assume that this ’love story’ is about a Romeo, who is in fact a girl. Now, to all those who want to say that scarlet letter is just about adultery, listen to ’New romantics’ ( one of the gayest songs )
We show off our different scarlet letters, trust me mine is better
Even going verbatim, book version says there are three crimes that are punished in that puritan society; Adultery, Lust and Heresy. In puritan thinking, homosexuality is a sin. So, the use of the word scarlet letter here seems to be appropriate.
Just the way Hester owns the scarlet letter and starts wearing the scarlet letter as a symbol of her pride, in the song New Romantics, Taylor owns it and says that her scarlet letter is better than the most, thus accepting herself and showing that she’s proud of who she is.
So, I think this is more of a Scarlet Letter’s love story than of Juliet’s.
I know that this post doesn’t have any reference or a theory about whom these songs might be about in specific. But I guess that’s mainly because I think she is gay before Emily, Dianna or Karlie. all-my-possesions has master posts about how we can look back at 'love story’ and other songs after listening to 1989. thanks to@jennyboom21 for helping with information.