I love Taylor Swift.
I think she’s perfected the 2016 version of bubblegum pop, and cannily crafted a genius narrative of preternaturally talented young country singer-songwriter turned commercialized pop music product still worthy of artistic respect.
I think she’s clever in her use of her own celebrity to comment on our perception of her celebrity, from the cheeky “Blank Space” music video to the way she clapped back at Kanye West’s misogyny during her acceptance speech for her (second) Album of the Year Grammy Award.
She seems to really care for her fans and have a grasp on how to make them feel cared for, no small feat in the age of insatiable fan armies and social media. She’s appropriated a derogatory branding of millennials—“basic”—and turned it into something kind of irresistible.
She’s fallible in a way I think somehow makes her even more indestructible, whether it’s through her tone-deaf instigating of Nicki Minaj or her eye-roll questioning of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s feminism—and how she very publicly worked through both controversies.
I love that ridiculous coven of famous women she wields as “friends,” and the way we all mock and decry it but secretly love her for it. I love “Shake It Off” at a wedding more than anything in the world.
But I have had enough.
The internet whipped into one of its daily tizzies Wednesday afternoon after a U.K. tabloid posted photos of Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston canoodling on some oceanside rocks, evidently revealing a secret romance between the singer and professional James Bond campaigner.
The three worst words in celebrity journalism: “New Couple Alert!”
The Internet’s Boyfriend and Hollywood’s Most Notorious Maneater, coupled up! And just weeks after her endearingly amicable breakup from the Ed Hardy of music, Calvin Harris. Has she no heart?! Has he no sense?!
Details were vaguely teased of Hiddleston and Swift’s courtship. She was dancing like no one was watching at the Met Ball, only he was! He was watching and he was smitten. Now they are very stressfully navigating wet stones and shielding their perfect hair from ocean mist. And with no respect for Harris’s heart.
The internet sleuths quickly discovered that Harris, in the wake of the world’s most awkward engagement photo shoot gone viral, unfollowed Swift on social media and deleted his previously gracious breakup tweet.
Before we blinked there were memes and swoons and hashtags and outrage and a veritable obsession.
Guys, stop it.
Listen, I have no proof that those photos are staged except to say, C’mon! Those photos are totally staged! Look at them. It’s ridiculous.
Ah yes, that classic date: walking on dangerous rocks, nuzzling each other while evading grave injury but totally owning what would be a standout scene in a Hollywood romance flick.
When do couples usually go on that date, the walking on rocks date? Is it before or after the dinner and a movie? I’ve been out of the dating scene for a while.
I’d bet that Swift was as shocked to see a photographer capturing every single moment of the date as she was when her walk down the middle of a Park Slope street holding hands with Jake Gyllenhaal ended up on the cover of Us Weekly, illustrating the perfectly packaged headline, “Jake & Taylor In Love!”
OK. At best Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift are in love and craggy rock enthusiasts. I’m a monster and a skeptic and disparaging real romance among really famous people who probably struggle greatly to find it.
At worst, this is a stunt and a terrible career move for both.
Swift, the perennial victim of a sexist slut-shaming society, is constantly swatting away negative press about the number of men she dates. The backlash is usually more shaded with frustration over its predictability: an It Guy of the moment, and typically only for a moment.
This narrative about Swift had abated with the collective “aww”-ing over her very public American Eagle ad of a relationship with Harris. But a fake—or at least, fake-seeming (but also probably fake)—relationship with the next It Guy du jour is already setting blazing fire to it once again.
As for Hiddleston, what was once seen as wide-eyed gumption and enthusiasm now reeks of career opportunism. His excessive campaigning to be the next James Bond seemed unusual, but also adorable. Who wouldn’t want to be 007, after all?
But his current starring role as Taylor Swift’s PR-orchestrated love interest sullies that. Now he just seems like a crass career-climber. And given the seedier elements of Swift’s dating reputation among the internet’s baseless gossipmongers—that she’s often used as a beard for celebrities rumored to be gay—it could spark whispers about Hiddleston’s sexuality as well.
Swift, as much as she is in the business of entertainment, is in the business of managing her reputation and how she’s perceived. Every sweet surprise on a fan’s doorstep and pointed interview sound bite is in that pursuit. Right now? I’m not perceiving her well!
The whole thing feels so manipulated and strategized and planted. Sure we’re used to such things. That celebrities and their publicists invite paparazzi to carefully planned photo ops is no secret, and we often shrug our shoulders about the whole practice because we like seeing photos of the world’s prettiest people and, besides, no one really thinks Hollywood is real anyway.
But, dammit Taylor Swift. Dammit Tom Hiddleston. Have a little respect for us. Our first reaction shouldn’t be “oh that’s not real.” That should at least be our fourth or fifth reaction.
And we’re all complicit. We reacted just as we were supposed to: immediately and passionately, thus escorting Swift and Hiddleston to their Trending Happily Ever After.
Again, we at The Daily Beast have no information about whether the couple is dating. We also have no information that the photo shoot is being staged.
What we have is exhaustion. Exhaustion over the complacency to the charade. Exhaustion over suspecting that we’re being manipulated in a PR stunt and not caring about it. This time we care!
This might end up being the most off-base celebrity gossip reaction I ever write. I might one day be writing about the Swift-Hiddleston wedding. That’s fine! I just hope they play “Shake It Off.” That’s the wedding party jam.