Fan-them Diaries: I can’t tolerate ‘Rebecca,’ but Taylor Swift makes me love it

“evermore,” Taylor Swift’s ninth studio album, contains various parallels to Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel “Rebecca.” (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

I will be the first to say that any book written before the 2000s declared a “classic” is bound to have more than one questionable thing about it, but we’ll get into the problems I have with “Jane Eyre” at a later time. For now, bear with me as I go into the rabbit hole of the cultural phenomena that is “Rebecca” and its tie to the one and only: Taylor Swift. 

“Rebecca” follows an unnamed protagonist who falls in love with a rich widower, Maxim de Winter, who the narrator supposes is still madly in love with his deceased wife, Rebecca. Rebecca had mysteriously died in a boating accident, although it is later revealed that de Winter murdered her and, consequently, is facing legal repercussions. The narrator does everything in her power to help her husband get away with murder, and, to no one’s surprise, he does. 

The thing that angers me about this “jet-set Bonnie and Clyde” ending is that it comes at the expense of a (mostly innocent) woman. Rebecca lived a lavish life of luxury and — I’ll admit, more questionably — shared a bed with a number of lovers. However, it makes one wonder why the practice of cheating is deemed acceptable or casual when men realize this is most certainly not a death sentence and end up doing it. However, when Rebecca was caught with her lover, somehow, that justified de Winter murdering her and then faking a boat crash to attempt to silence the truth. 

What’s even worse is that the narrator, a woman, seems to not care how easily disposable Rebecca was to de Winter and decides to stand by his side. 

“Rebecca” is the most irritating classic to read.

Somehow, however, when someone asks me for book recommendations, the word “Rebecca” non-consensually falls from my lips. Why? 

Maybe it’s because I am an unapologetic Swiftie and am currently in the process of permanently marking “Taylor’s Version” on my skin, or possibly, it’s the book obsession that began during middle school and has now amounted to me adding a narrative structure minor to my academic path. Maybe it’s both. 

Welcome to Fan-them Diaries: a fandom-obsessed college student ranting about anything and everything pertaining to books and their intersection with modern pop culture.

I got the idea to write this column in summer 2020 when I started writing commentary on every book I’d burned through while finishing off my unread shelves. It began with me writing about “Little Women” and why I think Aunt March is gay, then expanded to ideas like this one: How does “Rebecca” become redeemable only through Taylor Swift’s “evermore”? 

The 2020 phenomena, “evermore,” is most known for its beautifully heartbreaking “champagne problems” and the single “willow,” but midway through the tracklist, it hides the gem “tolerate it.” The song is about a young woman who is with an “older and wiser” man that ignores her best efforts to make him love her. Sound familiar? 

One of the biggest plot points in “Rebecca” is the narrator’s paranoia that de Winter is not over his former wife. She tries to be a suitable partner for his lavish lifestyle once his former wife is gone, but nothing seems like enough.

In Taylor Swift’s song, the lyrics “use my best colors for your portrait” made me do a double take. In “Rebecca,” the narrator hosts a costume party and gets the idea to dress like de Winter’s favorite portrait, quite literally using her best colors to impress him. 

The parallels between “tolerate it” and “Rebecca” are uncanny — the protagonists of both are haunted by an idea of having to be perfect for their lover and are not seeing the validation of their devotion. One of the breaking points, however, is how the story ends.

Unlike “Rebecca,” Swift’s protagonist “break[s] free and leaves [him] in ruins” as she begins to recognize the value of her love. I’d wish nothing less than justice for Rebecca, a justice I imagine finally arrives in “tolerate it” after du Maurier’s gravely disappointing end. 

But notice I said “evermore” redeemed “Rebecca,” not just “tolerate it.” Swift’s parallels don’t end there.

A more comedic parallel appears in “no body, no crime,” which is notorious for interconnecting in the Styles-Swift manslaughter theory that stemmed from “Out of the Woods” — a story for another day — but it also has a connection to “Rebecca.” In the book, Rebecca’s murder was covered up by a staged boating accident. In the song, the lyrics read, “Good thing my daddy made me get a boating license when I was 15,” and, of course, the story is also about infidelity, paranoia and an implied murder mystery — a story eerily similar to Rebecca’s.

Let me explain my thought process. 

I’d like to imagine this world where, upon finding out de Winter’s murdered Rebecca for simply living her best life, the unnamed protagonist, in a fit of anger, decides to get justice for her predecessor and murders him. You guessed it, this murder mimics the “accident” de Winter staged: a boating accident. 

I believe du Maurier did not consider the repercussions of having women refuse to stand by women — especially when that novel was adapted to Netflix and appeared on a Daily Trojan book recommendation list. Honestly, why is the narrator even unnamed? Perhaps it’s to show how her lack of individuality drove her to latch on to the validation of a man. She is defined solely by her husband and her complacency toward the murder of Rebecca. 

It’s not the most feminist novel for a particularly feminist audience. For that reason and that reason alone, I can’t like “Rebecca” when it is not in relation to Taylor Swift. It is through her songs “tolerate it” and “no body, no crime” that I am able to reframe the abysmal narrative of the original novel and craft a more socially acceptable piece that promotes individuality, womanhood and ridding the world of a man who is willing to murder his wife on a whim. We don’t need that.

If you’re asking yourself: Does this really live rent free in your mind? Do you really spend hours thinking about books and Taylor Swift instead of writing your philosophy paper? Like a diary that spews out unfiltered thoughts and can perfectly craft narratives of your day-to-day life, to those questions I say, yes. What is life without a constant diary entry going on in your head, mapping out a world where all the things you love exist in one fandom? 

It’s almost unacceptable if I didn’t end this column like you would a diary entry. From me and my rewritten “Rebecca” ending, sincerely yours, Myriam.

Myriam Alcala is a sophomore writing about literature and popular culture in their column, “Fan-them Diaries.” They are also an associate managing editor at the Daily Trojan.