Before we get to the Swifties’ harassment campaign against their fearless leader’s resurrected nemesis, allow me to make a few things clear: Taylor Swift is a phenomenally gifted songwriter and her album Red, the last vestige of her country roots and a bridge to pop-music stardom, is her crowning achievement. I saw her perform three times on the original Red tour—each was nothing short of incredible. And it should go without saying, but Swift is entitled to write songs about whatever she damn well pleases—including past relationships that have affected her. After all, men have received far less criticism for penning stomach-turning hits on everything from fantasizing about killing their spouse and committing statutory rape to coveting their best friend’s wife.
Swift, it’s worth noting, is re-recording all of her albums in order to gain ownership of her master recordings—something that all musical artists should control, and that has historically been wrested from them by label vultures (in Swift’s case, this is complicated somewhat by her father’s ownership stake in her original label). And so, Red (Taylor’s Version) held the internet hostage last week, shattering Spotify records en route to an estimated 500,000-plus copies sold in its first week, an astronomical sum for a re-release and the highest first-week sales total of 2021.
The first iteration of Red, released in November 2012, was inspired by her relationship with the actor Jake Gyllenhaal, which lasted from October to December of 2011, when she was 20 and he was 29. Who can forget this outrageous Us Weekly cover story:
As Taylor’s Version™ of the story goes, Gyllenhaal was once cold to her at a dinner party, even refusing her hand; owned a “fuck the patriarchy” keychain, which struck her as ironic given his poor treatment of her (this detail is almost certainly false); ended things by phone in “casually cruel” fashion; and kept the scarf (presumably the one in the photo above) she’d left at his sister Maggie Gyllenhaal’s house after their breakup. Though Swift has written about other exes in the past, Gyllenhaal has occupied a unique place among her dedicated army of fans, owing to the overall quality of Red and its standout track “All Too Well,” a moving ballad about her heartbreak over their two-month affair. In her new 10-minute version of the song, Swift chose to include one more parting shot:
“And I was never good at telling jokes, but the punchline goes / ‘I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age.’” (Gyllenhaal, now 40, is reportedly dating a 25-year-old model.)
Following the release of Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift has kept mum on the Gyllenhaal of it all, even telling Seth Meyers, “I haven’t thought about their experience once”—but that hasn’t stopped her rabid fans from harassing Gyllenhaal and others in his orbit on Instagram, flooding their posts with angry comments and many, many scarf emojis.
Take this post of Gyllenhaal’s from September 11 of this year, wherein the actor paid tribute to a bus driver for the MTA who was working on 9/11:
Or this one, posted amid the George Floyd protests during the summer of 2020, dedicated to Black Lives Matter. One Swiftie took it upon herself to comment, “Taylor swift matter,” followed by ten scarf emojis:
They’ve even targeted Jake’s actress-sister Maggie Gyllenhaal, who should be in the midst of a glowing publicity tour for her feature directorial debut The Lost Daughter, a poignant adaptation of the Elena Ferrante novel and surefire Oscar contender. Now, every interviewer will feel compelled to ask her about the Taylor drama, casting a dark cloud over her passion project:
Three days ago, Jamie Lee Curtis, a beloved screen icon, had the audacity to post a photo of Jake and Maggie—her two godchildren—to Instagram. She was relentlessly trolled in the comments by Swifties; to make matters worse, the behavior was celebrated by Cosmopolitan, who found it “hysterical” that a bunch of Taylor Swift fans were harassing a 62-year-old woman:
Gyllenhaal’s aforementioned girlfriend, meanwhile, was forced to make her Instagram page private due to the Swifties’ wrath.
We’ve heard this song before. Just last year, Swift’s fans doxxed and harassed a Pitchfork music critic for giving her album Folklore an 8.0 out of 10. Instead of calling off the troops, Swift remained silent.
Maybe it’s time for her to speak up.