By Chris Edwards
Pop culture figureheads are by no means strangers to bizarre, and sometimes funny, rumors circulating around the populace. Think of the old days when tabloids in the supermarket typically given to cover stories about Bat-Boy would report on whatever strange thing Michael Jackson was supposedly up to. In the early days of the internet’s pervasiveness, a rumor spread about Marilyn Manson having a couple of ribs removed in order to, well, I’m sure you can imagine, if you don’t remember or are too young. If you can’t imagine that bizarre scenario, then, congratulations for being pure as the driven snow, but I digress.
Nowadays with social media spawning and dominating so much of the universal conversation, Taylor Swift is the it girl for proclamations as crazy as Bat Boy’s guano.
Before I endeavor further along this trek, I must confess ignorance of Ms. Swift and, by and large, her music. I’m not really her target demographic, and aside from that bit of eponymously titled juvenilia about Tim McGraw, the only real exposure I have to her music is through a song-by-song covers album that Ryan Adams recorded of her 1989 album.
From that record as evidence, I must admit she has some serious songwriting chops, and that’s further underscored by the fact that Adams, one of the best songwriters of his generation, opted to cover a whole album’s worth of her material.
Again, I’m no “Swiftie,” but there is no denying the woman’s talent, charisma and drive. Now, let’s get to these profoundly strange and utterly stupid conspiracy theories circling around her existence.
Swift has not been immune to out-there theories since her meteoric rise to household name status. More than a decade ago, a bizarre conspiracy theory surfaced that hinged on her resemblance to a woman named Zeena Schreck, the daughter of infamous huckster and Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey. Schreck served as “High Priestess” of the so-called church, and this discovery of resemblance between she and Swift led to a theory that Swift was the reincarnation of Shreck, but there was one problem: Schreck is still alive.
Still, that theory, as ridiculous as it was, led to all sorts of folderol about the pop star having made a Faustian bargain and/or her influence on young girls as a witchcraft practitioner. The most recent blitz of bizarre seems to be a by-product, or at least has coincided, with her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Swift, who has been seen at Chiefs games supporting Kelce and the Chiefs from skybox seats and enjoying the games, has fueled several strange fresh theories, one of which is centered on the idea that the coming Chiefs vs. 49ers Super Bowl game is rigged to ensure that Kelce and his teammates win, so as to allow Swift a platform to announce an endorsement for President Biden’s re-election bid.
Anyone who has seen a Chiefs game in the past five years can easily call bull malarkey on the game-rigging idea. I’m not even a fan, but they are a team who has found a winning formula and wants the wins bad enough, having made three Super Bowl appearances in those five years. I watched them play the Baltimore Ravens last weekend, which sealed the deal for their appearance at Allegiant Stadium in Vegas this coming Sunday. If sloppy penalties and turnovers aplenty equal “rigged,” then I suppose the argument could be made, but my take is that the Chiefs wanted the victory more than the team from Baltimore.
Instead, reports such as Fox News host Jesse Watters proclaim Swift to be “an asset”; the result of a “Pentagon psy-op unit.” One-time presidential candidate and colleague to Watters in conspiranoia rantings, Vivek Ramaswamy, wrote of Swift and Kelce as “an artificially culturally propped-up couple,” and fanned the flames of the Super Bowl rigging theory.
What the Swift/Kelce coupling represents to me is a wholesome notion of supporting one’s partner. Swift cheering on her man is the sort of example that young women and young men need to see.
Many of the conspiracy theories that have circulated in the intelligence and positivity-starved social media corners about Swift seem to originate from a demographic known as the incels, or “involuntarily celibate.” These losers are threatened by strong women with platforms, simply put. Their inability to even co-exist with the fairer sex leads them to dealing in misogynistic rhetoric, largely online.
None of these folks bat an eye when Jack Nicholson or Flea are seen courtside at Lakers games, or when Matthew McConaughey turns up on the camera supporting the Longhorns. Funny how that works, eh?
The dearth of any cogent, valid criticism of Swift seems staggering given the number of inflammatory, or downright bizarre, dispatches out there. An article from the Federalist, published last September, states that Swift’s popularity represents a sign of societal decline in America.
Mark Hemingway, who wrote the piece, spends several paragraphs arguing that Swift is actually an amazing artist, and buried within it, the actual criticism is, well, shall we say, half-baked at best.
Hemingway cites a lack of lyrical quality but also claims that Swift has created an entire lyrical trope in popular music: failed romance grievance songs. Hmmmm…now that bucket holds no water whatsoever. Someone run and tell Stevie Nicks about this development, or how about Alanis Morissette.
At the end of the day, Taylor Swift is showing herself to be a positive role model for young people, but also helping fathers to bond with their daughters. If seeing that sort of wholesomeness, along with the public displays of support she gives her partner, bothers someone, that is a special kind of toxicity.
At the end of the day, however, even though I’m not familiar with her music, it’s amusing to watch a whole internet contingency of snowflakes melting all over Swift.