Agreed: there are much, much more important events going on in the world at the moment. Yet the internet is still ablaze with the latest celebrity scandal news which has seen Taylor Swift receiving thousands of snake emojis on her Twitter account and a huge backlash for her claims that she did not approve Kanye West’s ‘Famous’ lyrics. Kim Kardashian West, in what was both an extremely well calculated and malicious move, dangled the snapchat bait in front of the world and dropped the bomb. Taylor was not innocent, she knew about those lyrics, and this is all just another demonstration of celebrity artifice at its best.
The arrival of Twitter and Instagram have allowed celebrities to cultivate ‘authentic’ personas: showing the ‘real them’ is what celebrities are trying to do. Of course, the irony lies in the fact that these images, videos and hashtags are, especially in the case of those at the very top, highly orchestrated products used to promote and manipulate celebrity image. The face of promotion may have changed, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you are seeing the ‘real’ thing (if that even exists in the first place.). Oh no, celebrities like Swift and Kim are cunning, well-versed manipulators of their own brand: how else would they have got to the top? How else would Taylor Swift have maintained or even created such a well crafted, girl-next-door image in the first place?
That is all these accounts and snippets are, after all : images. And in this black and white celebrity world where social media allows little room for subtlety, there always has to be an underdog and a bully. Taylor Swift has, up until this point, been cast as an underdog. Outraged as she should have been at Kanye storming on stage at the 2009 VMAs, it actually worked in her favour. Following the massacre of Kanye’s image that night, Swift wrote a successful song, appeared on talk shows to discuss it and gained the status of a victimised woman. Kanye was the black bully, the morally corrupt, drunk and out of control maniac who had the audacity to bully America’s porcelain sweetheart.
Race politics aside (although they do come into play here), Swift capitalised on her status as a victimised woman. It suited her, and she played the game well. Now, it seems that the tables have turned. In terms of talent, Swift is obviously very gifted: she writes her own songs and plays the guitar, but that isn’t the extent of her talent. Over the past eight years, she has crafted, with the help of her expert team, an image as a good girl. The kind of girl you want to be friends with, the golden girl who can do no wrong, the innocent. One of her latest cries of upset over Kanye showing that she might not be the one dimensional sweetheart she portrays herself to be demands that she not be part of this narrative. But how can you write yourself out of a narrative that you have been a part of, that you have helped to create?
Swift has constantly used others to help build up her image: from her first guitar teacher whose story she twisted in her favour, to her social media attacks on Calvin Harris and her outcries that the media is ruining her relationship with Hiddleston as well as her slut-shaming song ‘Better than Revenge’, Swift has created a tornado. Stepping out of this self created storm will be difficult. Of course, it is totally ok to date multiple men, to do what you want and to be strong and in control, that isn’t the problem. But how can this clearly intelligent, in control and calculating persona exist alongside another Swift who claims that she lacks control, who has repeatedly made sure Kanye and others were the bullies and she just an innocent little girl? Take ownership of your actions, and the world would be more forgiving. The danger with creating a self is implicit: its fake, and it will crumble before your feet at any given moment.