The XX Factor

Is the “Hiddleswift” Romance Really Just Performance Art?

Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston are seen in Rome - 6/27/16
Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston together in Rome on June 27.

KGC-294/Star Max/IPx

Usually when something weird and magical turns out to be performance art, it’s a let down. That mysterious Donald Trump gravestone that appeared in Central Park? The work of (sigh) a Brooklyn artist. James Franco on General Hospital? A “layer-heavy experiment” meant to prompt “people to ask themselves if soap operas are really that far from entertainment that is considered critically legitimate.” Oh, brother.

Enter Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston, a handsome pair who have spent the past three weeks on a world tour of public adorableness. They have made out on the Rhode Island shore, held hands at the Colosseum, and danced at a concert in Nashville. This weekend, the Avengers actor was photographed splashing in the surf wearing a tank top that read “I <3 T.S.”


It’s all very cute, but doesn’t it seem just a bit on the nose? A brilliant new theory posits that yes, Tom and Taylor’s World Tour is perfect—because it’s a piece of performance art being filmed for a future music video.


The evidence, as laid out by the detectives at E!, includes the following:

1. All the paparazzi photos of the couple so far, from their quiet first smooches in Rhode Island to a presumably private meeting with Hiddleston’s mother in Suffolk, have been taken by the same photo agency. What luck and diligence! Or … what a contract!

2. A picture showing the couple at the Colosseum consulting what could be some kind of script or story board during what was supposedly a simple romantic getaway. Other photos show security guards and lookie-loo tourists milling around: Perfect disguises for a professional camera crew that wants to blend into the background.


3. The timing is right: Swift has dropped albums every other autumn throughout her career, and a new release this fall would be right on schedule. Fans also expect a teaser single and video in August or September. Meanwhile, Hiddleston could use his own publicity boost at the same time, if he’s nominated for an Emmy for his performance in The Night Manager. Everybody wins!


The list of winners includes the public. This is no tediously LaBeoufian “It was art all along!” act. The prospect that Swift has been puppet-mastering her public for the last few weeks somehow makes the Hiddleswift phenomenon more enticing, not less. Maybe that’s because the facts themselves—two beautiful superstars being beautiful together—are nothing truly new. Maybe it’s because the Lemonade-like stunt would solidify Swift’s reputation as a Beyoncé-level master of her own image. Or maybe it’s simply cathartic to be tricked on a question of such low stakes, in a moment in which it can feel like the whole country is getting played for fools on a much scarier scale.

In any case, let’s allow for the possibility that Taylor and Tom really are together, even if they are also co-workers on a secret production. Better yet, maybe they started as a fake couple, and are now falling in real love over the course of a romantic multicontinent, weekslong video shoot. Someday those two crazy kids could make a beautiful art project together.