In true Swiftie fashion, the surprise release of folklore has inspired an influx of tweets, dissections and fan theories about the inspirations and Easter eggs that the singer has packed into her new album. In particular, fans seem to be wondering who Taylor Swift's song "Betty" is about, and whether or not the singer was inspired by real people in her life — or if the story was completely made in a whirl of quarantine creativity.
Unlike her earlier records, Swift hasn't spent weeks dropping hints about folklore or slipping Easter eggs into her music videos; instead, the singer revealed that she wrote and recorded the entire record in isolation due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. "In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result, a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness," Swift wrote on Instagram of the inspiration behind folklore. "Picking up a pen was my way of escaping into fantasy, history, and memory. I’ve told these stories to the best of my ability with all the love, wonder, and whimsy they deserve."
In a letter shared on Twitter, the singer elaborated on the idea of being inspired by scenarios and events other than her own life and relationships. "I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing about or from the perspective of people I've never met, people I've known or those I wish I hadn't," Swift wrote. So, which category does "Betty" fit into? Fans have quite a few theories about who — or what — inspired the track.
The "Teenage Love Triangle"
In a live chat with fans ahead of the release of folklore and its lead single, "Cardigan," Swift explained that there is a "collection of three songs [on the album] I refer to as The Teenage Love Triangle." Those three songs, paired together, "explore a love triangle from all three people’s perspectives at different times in their lives," according to Swift, and fans quickly put together the story. "Cardigan" is from the perspective of Betty, who was in a relationship with James until he cheated on her. "August" tells the story of James' infidelity from the point of view of the girl he snuck around with, while "Betty" is his attempt to apologize and reconcile with Betty. Swift herself underlines that in her liner notes, writing that she was inspired by the image of "a seventeen-year-old standing on a porch, learning to apologize."
"Betty" Is Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds' Third Child
Lively and Reynolds are close friends of Swift's — and their eldest daughter, James, can even be heard at the very beginning of her song "Gorgeous." The narrator of "Betty" is James, while the class gossip is named Inez, both of which happen to be the names of Lively and Reynolds' daughters; the couple reportedly welcomed their third child in August 2019, though they have kept their baby's name under wraps since then. It's possible that if Swift was inspired to use James and Inez as the names in her song, she also decided to use the name of their third child, Betty, as well. (Neither Swift, Lively nor Reynolds have weighed in on that theory.)
"Betty" Is Taylor Swift Herself
Swift has been open about the fact that her parents named her after singer-songwriter James Taylor in the past, which has inspired many Swifties to theorize that "Betty" is actually from the singer's point of view, and that it is about some kind of doomed relationship that Swift may or may not have had with a girl. This theory is often coupled with another popular theory among certain portions of the fandom, who believe that the song is actually about one of her close friends...
"Betty" Is Karlie Kloss
Some fans have long believed that Swift and Kloss have had some kind of secret relationship in the past, despite the pair's frequent assertions that they were just friends. However, the "Kaylor" shippers noticed that Kloss' middle name is Elizabeth, which is often nicknamed to "Betty," and that, coupled with the theory that the "James" in the song is actually Swift, has only added more fuel to their fire.
"Betty" Is Rebekah Harkness
Another one of the songs on folklore, "The Last Great American Dynasty," was reportedly inspired by the life of Rebekah Harkness, a composer, philanthropist, and socialite who owned Swift's house on Watch Hill in Rhode Island before the singer bought it. As some fans pointed out, Harkness was also known by the nickname "Betty," which could have inspired Swift to use the name in her song about the teenage love triangle. (While some have speculated that this song is based on Harkness as well, none of her husbands were named James.)
Joe Alwyn's Mother
As all Swifties know, the singer has been quietly dating actor Joe Alwyn since 2016 and based on her song lyrics — which frequently reference Alwyn's younger brother, Patrick — it's clear that Swift has become close to his family over the years. As a result, it wouldn't be a stretch to think that she chose the name "Betty" for one of the characters in her song as a nod to Alwyn's mother, Elizabeth. After all, it's also possible that Alwyn was involved in the making of folklore, so it seems only right that Swift make it a true family affair.