Where the Crawdads Sing Controversy

by John Downey '23 on April 22, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Where the Crawdads Sing Controversy

Taylor Swift Unfairly Criticized for Involvement in Film Adaptation

By Grace O’Connor ’22

Many readers have been anxiously awaiting the release of the film Where the Crawdads Sing, which is based on the New York Times best-selling novel of the same name. The book centers on a woman named Kya who is forced to grow up on her own and navigate the complexities of life without guidance from a young age. 

As a teenager, Kya finds herself involved in two serious relationships. She becomes swept up in both, letting herself be open to love, a feeling she had never experienced before in her life. When one of the men she is involved with is found dead, Kya is the first to be blamed, as many people in her community are quick to judge her due to her tragic past. 

The novel seamlessly combines two genres, romance and mystery, keeping readers engaged from its opening pages to its final lines. Readers empathize with Kya as she falls victim to social prejudices against her owing to her socioeconomic background but are inspired by her resilience.

With news of Where the Crawdads Sing’s adaptation to the big screen has come scrutiny of author Delia Owens’ questionable past, the facts of which were not publicized when the novel was first released in 2018.: Years before she became a writer, Owens and her now-ex-husband traveled to Zambia, where they were believed to be somehow involved with the murder of an unidentified poacher. 

Without spoiling Where the Crawdads Sing, there were enough similarities between the novel’s plot and the author’s unsavory background for backlash to erupt at news of the novel’s film adaptation. Indeed, according to BuzzFeed News, “despite its critical acclaim, Where the Crawdads Sing has been shrouded in controversy after problematic information about [Owens] came to light.” 

One famous figure who seems unfazed by the controversy is music industry legend Taylor Swift. In March, Swift took to social media to share a teaser trailer for the film that featured a song she wrote called “Carolina.” The singer expressed, “as soon as I heard there was a [Where the Crawdads Sing] film in the works starring the incredible @daisyedgarjones and produced by the brilliant @reesewitherspoon, I knew I wanted to be a part of it from the musical side. I wrote the song ‘Carolina’ alone and asked my friend @aarondessner to produce it. I wanted to create something haunting and ethereal to match this mesmerizing story.” 

Although many of Swift’s loyal fans were excited to hear a new song from the artist, some were disappointed that in supporting the upcoming film, Swift essentially aligned herself with Owens despite the author’s dubious past. As The News explains, many have “expressed disappointment that Swift is supporting someone who got away with the murder. Others said that she should have first [considered] all the information [about the project and those associated with it] before doing [a song for it].” Still other fans believe that Swift and her team fans were not aware of Owens’ past before becoming involved in the production. As BuzzFeed News notes, some critics are attempting to paint the situation as evidence of Swift being a white feminist and only standing up for others’ rights when it benefits her.

However, Swift is only one person of many—and one celebrity of many—who is involved in the production, with breakout star Daisy Edgar-Jones starring as Kya and Reese Witherspoon’s production company helming the film. While, if true, Owens’s role in the poacher’s murder is certainly deplorable, critics’ condemnation of Swift for her involvement in Where the Crawdads Sing and silence with regard to the other big names attached to the project suggests that the outcry is not so much about the morality of working on the film, but rather about criticizing a successful woman’s accomplishments.