Taylor Swift has faced her fair share of adversity: Katy Perry was mean to her, that Kennedy kid didn’t propose, and it took boys in high school way too long to notice that she was adorable. But all that pales in comparison to the days that followed Swift’s Sunday social media outing—Taylor Swift’s worst week ever.
For months, Kim, Kanye, and Taylor had been feuding over “Famous,” with the Kimye kamp claiming that Swift had approved the rapper’s explicit lyrics. Swift, who low-key (but maybe high-key?) has been tapping into virginal white victim tropes her entire career, allegedly threw Kanye under the bus for favorable press. In olden times (2010), this story might have ended at “he said, she said.” Luckily, Kim Kardashian eventually came to her senses and remembered that she literally films her entire life for a living (meanwhile, Kanye just endlessly records himself because he can). Once Kim sorted through her receipts, it was only a matter of time before she leaked the incriminating footage on Snapchat. With Taylor Swift’s reputation permanently punctured, the internet collectively danced on the grave of America’s former sweetheart to the tune of a Katy Perry Spotify playlist.
The story of Kim exposing Taylor will go down in history as a true Hanukkah in July: the tea, which only looked like enough for one or two 24-hour news cycles, miraculously kept spilling. Swift’s squad, her first line of defense, got totally annihilated on Twitter—at least the ones who bothered showing up. (Et tu, Cara Delevingne?) Next, Calvin Harris finally stopped crying into his ab rivulets long enough to go to Nobu with his new gal pal, Tinashe. Then rumors began circulating that Swift was in the running to pen the Olympics theme, but lost out to her nemesis Katy Perry’s “Rise”—even though stringing together inspiring pop songs through vague aphorisms and three chords is Swift’s specialty! Miranda Kerr got engaged to Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, an alleged Taylor Swift ex—even though love and marriage are totally Swift’s thing! Lastly, Chloë Grace Moretz, who got tons of attention for self-righteously attacking Kim Kardashian this week, somehow managed to parlay her non-celebrity into a DNC gig—even though annoying people with her inexplicable success/cloying sincerity is the entire foundation of Taylor Swift’s brand!
Thank you, Chloë, Miranda, Katy, Calvin, and miscellaneous squad members. It truly takes a village.
In all likelihood, Swift took one look at this shitshow and decided to take an extended vacation. And while we don’t know the geographic coordinates of Taytay’s wartime bunker, we do know that she brought her lawyers with her. Ever since Sunday’s Snapchatgate, everyone’s been wondering if/when Taylor will sue the Wests, in keeping with the claim that her phone call with Kanye was surreptitiously and illegally recorded. If Taylor was truly unaware of being on speakerphone—which many think is an outright lie, given Rick Rubin’s presence in the room—then Kanye might be criminally liable under California’s Invasion of Privacy Act. Of course, the crucial evidence was also blasted out to the entire world via Snapchat, an app that destroys content the day after it goes live. So there’s not a lot of legal precedent for this one. It’s a case that’s left entertainment bloggers in a frenzy of confusion, with legal experts doubtlessly wondering what Snapchat law is, and what they ever did to deserve this.
Rumors of a pending lawsuit seem legit in light of Taylor Swift’s history of Trump-ian litigiousness. Her various suits, trademarks, and legal grievances are as numerous and insubstantial as the members of her squad. While surface-level tabloid surfers might claim that Swift’s only public reaction this week was an Instagram, that’s not exactly true. According to one Australian graffiti artist, Swift was passing out cease and desists as recently as Wednesday. The story comes out of Melbourne, where street artist Lushsux installed a mock memorial to Taylor Swift, “1989-2016.” The macabre portrait of the face that launched a thousand memes is technically labeled as “Taylor Smith”—fans suspect that this typo was Lushsux’s attempt to dodge a defamation lawsuit. But according to an Instagram posted by the artist, “Taylor Smith’s attorney has emailed me with a threat of legal action if I do not remove my wall relating to her.” Luckily, Melbourne street art has a short life span, and the mural was quickly tagged over by an anonymous artist. (Tom Hiddleston, is that you?)
This is only the latest in a long line of overly vigilant image policing. Back in 2015, Swift was first outed by her own childhood guitar teacher. To hear Swift tell it, her transformation from plucky tween to pop-country sensation was a “magical twist of fate”: “I was doing my homework [when the tech fixing my computer] looked over and saw the guitar in the corner. And he said, ‘Do you play guitar?’ I said, ‘Oh. No. I tried, but…’ He said ‘Do you want me to teach you a few chords?’ and I said, ‘Uh, yeah. YES!’” According to the aforementioned “tech,” Ronnie Cremer, Swift’s version of their relationship is about as sugarcoated as a Taylor Swift song. While Cremer does work as a tech guy in Reading, Pennsylvania, he was first approached by the Swift family because of his side gig as a respected local musician. Cremer claims that Taylor and her mom asked him to help her record a demo, and teach her country guitar. Ronnie worked with her for six hours a week, at $32 an hour. Still, he understands why that story never gets told: “It’s just that their publicity team, that doesn’t sell as good: a 36-year-old bald guy taught her. That ain’t gonna work.”
But while Ronnie waited years to share his side of the story, Swift’s team didn’t waste any time taking him to task. About a month after his testimony went public, Cremer received a letter from T(aylor) A(lison) S(wift) Rights Management, threatening to sue him for purchasing the domain name itaughttaylorswift.com. Given the proliferation of Taylor Swift fan sites, it’s clear that what Swift was really protecting was her brand as a self-taught songwriting whiz kid. Shockingly, going after the man who taught her her first guitar chords isn’t Swift’s legal team at its most heartless. That would be the cluster of cease and desist letters that Swift unleashed on some of her biggest fans: small-time purveyors of Etsy fan art.
When Swift eventually sheds her current snake/human skin to reveal a motherboard, we won’t be surprised. That’s because in 2015 one of the most profitable celebrities of our generation took precious time out of her schedule to intimidate a bunch of Swifties for the crime of selling $10 1989 mugs to other fans online. In the words of one targeted Etsy seller who was forced to take her merch down, “We originally made the item for fun, we love Taylor and we had friends that love Taylor. We never intended for it to be a profit-making item. The cost of the item covered shipping costs, and production costs with very little left over… When we got the e-mail that the trademark infringement occurred, we were pretty shocked because while our item was popular we didn’t feel as if it had become popular enough to cause harm to Taylor Swift’s empire. We were shocked. And we were scared. We didn’t even make enough money for a lawyer and this had seemed like such a harmless and fun idea.” Of course, no potential trademark violation is just “harmless” to Taylor Swift, a woman so litigious that she attempted to trademark colloquial phrases like “This Sick Beat” and “Could Show You Incredible Things.” To “crib” the iconic words of Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, “this concept that [Taylor Swift] invented the English language is absurd.”
The overexposure caused by these legal actions, particularly in the form of articles like this one, is hardly worth whatever soiled brand Swift believes she’s protecting. If anything, suing mural artists and famous celebrity couples will only add to the image of Taylor Swift as a conniving, clandestine control-freak. In other words, see you next week!