Three days ago, Taylor Swift disappeared from the internet. In a matter of seconds, her 102 million Instagram followers lost Swift’s trove of hyper-saturated photos forever. Her Twitter and Tumblrs were wiped. Her official website displayed a similarly blank space (sorry).
As Swift's internet presence diminished, the rumors grew more fervent. Was she dropping an album? Is there even an album, or has Swift been abducted by aliens? The weekend stretched taut with anticipation.
Then, at noon on Monday, Swift’s Instagram showed its first sign of life. Swift uploaded a fuzzy, glitchy video of a snake.
A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on Aug 21, 2017 at 8:00am PDT
It's difficult to determine what, exactly, this is a video of. If it's not a snake, it's almost definitely an animal's tail swishing — perhaps a transparent reference to Katy Perry's song, "Swish Swish," which was one long diss directed right at Taylor Swift.
But many fans were quick to assume the video was of a snake's subtle movements. If you’ve been following the drama and tumult of Swift’s career – namely, her relationships with a few key celebrities — you likely gasped at the video. You know exactly what this snake is referencing.
Haters: taylor swift is a snake
Taylor: *posts a video of a snake*
— andrea 🌹 (@starIighttswift) August 21, 2017
We pop culture archaeologists can date Swift's association with a snake emoji back to July 2016, when three of Swift’s public feuds reached dramatic climaxes. Following her fallouts with Kim Kardashian West, Calvin Harris, and Katy Perry, the comment sections in Swift’s social media pages were pummeled by an onslaught of snake emoji, sent from her rivals’ stans.
It was a dramatic summer for Swift. In early June, Swift ended her 15 month-long relationship with Scottish DJ Calvin Harris (real name: Adam Wiles). About a month later, Swift started dating actor Tom Hiddleston.
On July 13, Swift's ex-boyfriend Harris went on a (now deleted) Twitter rant that essentially accused Swift of making him look bad. "I figure if you're happy in your new relationship you should focus on that instead of trying to tear your ex bf down for something to do," he wrote in a tweet related to Swift taking credit for co-writing "This Is What You Came For," Harris' hit with Rihanna.
Harris fans took to Instagram to defend Harris' honor using — you guessed it — the snake symbol.
Only five days after Harris' Twitter explosion came the Kardashian/West contribution to Swift's crazy summer.
Flash back to February 2016, when Kanye West released a song called "Famous" that called Swift out in the very first lines.
“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / I made that bitch famous,” West sang.
Initially, when the song was released, Swift denied ever consenting to being mentioned in the song. Swift's representatives released a statement saying, "Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single 'Famous' on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message. Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, ‘I made that bitch famous.'"
Then, on July 17, 2016, after an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians aired in which Kim Kardashian West discussed Taylor Swift's rivalry with her husband, Kardashian West rubbed her hands together, laughed sinisterly, and dropped a video on Snapchat that contrasted directly with Swift's statement.
In the footage, West is speaking to Swift on the phone. He reads the line from “Famous” about him and Swift possibly having sex, and Swift seems to approve.
“It's obviously very tongue in cheek...And I really appreciate you telling me about it, that's really nice!” Swift said in the leaked footage. Swift continued later on in the conversation, “I'm really glad you had the respect to call me that and tell me that as a friend, about the song. It's just a really cool thing to do, and a really good show of friendship.”
By posting the video of Swift assenting to West's lyric Snapchat, Kardashian West implied Swift embodied essentially snakey qualities: back-stabbing and treachery.
Yes, West did call for approval — but the cut-together Snapchats have one noticeable detail. In the video, West reads the specific lyric, "For all my south side n****s that know me best, I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex." He never reads a line which contains the word "bitch."
In response to Kardashian West's video, Swift wrote a statement which asked, "Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me ‘that bitch’ in his song? It doesn’t exist because it never happened. You don’t get to control someone’s emotional response to being called ‘that bitch’ in front of the entire world."
Despite Swift's statement, which pointed out the difference between the line she heard and the line that made it into the song, accusations of Swift's supposed "snakiness" continued to proliferate. Before Kardashian West released the video, she tweeted about "National Snake Day," which is apparently a thing. It appeared to be a dig at Swift.
Wait it's legit National Snake Day?!?!?They have holidays for everybody, I mean everything these days! 🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) July 17, 2016
Following the incident with Kardashian West and Harris, the snakes became so prevalent on Swift's Instagram account that, according to a Wired article, Swift’s Instagram became the first testing ground for a filter that removes unwanted comments from posts. Thanks to the new feature, the snakes that had overrun Swift’s Instagram posts retreated back into their caves and disappeared.
The snake references have quieted — until now. On the eve of her (potential? possible?) single release, Swift makes a subtle wink to her infamous summer. She claps back at her rivalries. Instead of flashing a bat sign in the sky à la Batman, Swift posts a snake video. It means the same thing. It means, "I'm coming, baby."
Coincidentally enough, Taylor Swift was born under the sign of the Snake in the Chinese Zodiac. She really is a snake: wise, spontaneous, and yes, occasionally a bit devious.
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