At one point in the video, which The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon accurately diagnosed as a “deranged kaleidoscope of brand self-explosion,” Swift cracks a whip behind a glass podium. Because this isn’t your mom’s Taylor Swift, the singer has traded in her regular wardrobe for a BDSM-lite ensemble. In a black latex bodysuit, matching pink gloves and thigh-high boots, and the biggest choker she can find, TayTay is a Hot Topic superhero who appears to be giving a TED Talk. Her audience of mannequins in bikinis are looking forward, unseeing, as the words “Squad U” flash on a screen behind their fearless leader.
This segment of the highly self-referential video alludes to Swift’s infamous “squad,” and how the media portrays her as a calculating and superficial accumulator of famous, glamorous girlfriends. Swift specifically shouts out some of her “squad members” later on, donning a shirt signed by A-list pals like Lena Dunham, Selena Gomez, Gigi Hadid, Blake Lively, and Ryan Reynolds.
But while Taylor is still talking about her squad—or at least, talking about how other people talk about her squad—they don’t seem to be returning the favor. Almost a week after Swift dropped her comeback video, a surprisingly small number of her well-documented BFFs have spoken out to congratulate their friend or hype the track. It’s almost as though Swift has purposefully disbanded her squad, fearing even more internet derision—either that, or her A-list pals are afraid of catching Taylor’s brand toxicity.
In the past, Swift’s squad has been her first line of social media defense. Who can forget the bravery of dedicated gal pals like Selena Gomez and Martha Hunt, who heroically set their own mentions on fire by standing by Swift’s side, snake emoji spam be damned. In the wake of Swift’s infamous Snapchat outing by Kim Kardashian, it was Gomez who dared to tweet in favor of an elevated national discourse, explaining, “There are more important things to talk about...Why can’t people use their voice for something that fucking matters? Truth is last thing we need right now is hate, in any form…This industry is so disappointing yet the most influential smh.” Gomez’s heartfelt plea for substance over Snapchat shade quickly inspired Twitter users to interrogate Gomez’s own positions on important issues like police brutality and #BlackLivesMatter—only to find she doesn’t have any.
Even after Selena’s moral compass hit a 404, squad members valiantly continued to tweet against the current, pushing the unpopular opinion that people should just let this whole “Taylor Swift is a liar” thing go.
“It’s pathetic how quick our culture is to sensationalize a fabricated story,” model Martha Hunt insisted. “Take interest in the real problems going on. Spread love.” Feminist actress Chloë Grace Moretz also toed the party line, tweeting, “Everyone in this industry needs to get their heads out of a hole and look around to realize what’s ACTUALLY happening in the REAL world…Stop wasting your voice on something so petulant and unimportant.”
Against Moretz’s best advice, I’ve decided to waste my voice on something even more petulant and unimportant than criticizing Taylor Swift—aggregating her famous friends’ responses to her latest music video/reputational makeover. Unfortunately, it seems Swift’s new technique of not picking up her phone (because she’s dead) has had some serious consequences on her social life. In contrast to last summer, when every model with a Victoria’s Secret contract and every pop singer who wasn’t Katy was team Taylor, celebs this time around have been slow to align themselves with the queen of petty pop.
Only two relatively low-profile squad members—Martha Hunt and Ruby Rose—reprised their roles as TayTay cheerleaders last week, both sharing screenshots to prove that they were listening to the new single (or at the very least, that they’d paid for a download). Rose captioned with a simple and timeless “Omg OH MY GOD,” while Hunt wrote, “Working out like 5 x harder today [flame emoji].” But while Hunt was torturing herself with the world’s worst workout song—there’s barely even a chorus!—Swift’s other famous friends couldn’t seem to bring themselves to tweet an endorsement.
Lena Dunham, who previously went off on Kanye when he featured nude models of Taylor Swift and other celebrities in his “Famous” video, did mention the single, but in a characteristically weird and uncharacteristically apathetic way. She tweeted, “Finally got my father to weigh in on @taylorswift13 @jackantonoff single: “I don’t trust my body but my body trusts me! Very cool lyrics!” Of course, Dunham’s “humorous” shout-out may have had less to do with supporting her friend and more to do with hyping her boyfriend Antonoff, who wrote and produced the track.
And in the midst of accusations that Swift stole her “Look What You Made Me Do” music video imagery from Beyoncé, only one Taylor affiliate has vocally defended it—the actual director. Joseph Kahn, who also directed Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video, addressed the backlash head-on, tweeting that, “I’ve worked with Beyoncé a few times. She’s an amazing person. The #LWYMMD video is not in her art space. Love and respect to Bey.” Kahn later shared a more general Team Taylor post, saying, “If I plan something as a man I’m a ‘genius.’ If Taylor as a woman plans something she is ‘manipulative.’ Double standards. This is wrong.”
In light of Swift’s reduced squad, a handful of lesser stars appear to be campaigning to fill the vacant spots. Bella Thorne tweeted, “The new taylor video fucking smashes [sic].” Julianne Hough took things a step further (too far?), opining, “Ummmm @taylorswift13 just 8 mile’d tgat [sic] shit!!! Yo... that video was freakin awesome!” Sarah Hyland quoted the single in a caption, and Ashley Tisdale featured a clip from the video on her Instagram. But no C-list celebrity responded as emphatically as Spencer Pratt, ex-reality TV star and current content producer. Doubtlessly aware of the lack of high-profile celebrity reactions, Pratt seized the moment by producing his own music video.
So far, Pratt’s humorous cover has gotten far more favorable coverage than the original, with E! News posting, “Taylor Swift’s ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ Music Video Is Dead to Us After Watching Spencer Pratt’s Hilarious Spoof.” TFW your famous friends ditch you and Spencer Pratt steals your thunder.