The Emergence of the Emoji: Taylor Swift vs. Calvin Harris
The feud that started it all. Swift and Scottish DJ and producer Calvin Harris dated for almost a year and a half, but announced their breakup in June 2016. The breakup came just two months after Harris released his Rihanna-featuring hit "This Is What You Came For" and in July of that year, Swift's team went public with the news that Swift had co-wrote the song under the Swedish pseudonym Nils Sjöberg. Harris countered by embarking on a since-deleted Twitter mini-rant, stating that he and Swift had agreed to use the pseudonym in order to keep her involvement a secret, allegedly so their relationship wouldn't overshadow the song, according to TMZ.
I wrote the music, produced the song, arranged it and cut the vocals though. And initially she wanted it kept secret, hence the pseudonym— Calvin Harris (@CalvinHarris) July 13, 2016
And she sings on a little bit of it too --
Amazing lyric writer and she smashed it as usual https://t.co/vW3yGOIJit— Calvin Harris (@CalvinHarris) July 13, 2016
Hurtful to me at this point that her and her team would go so far out of their way to try and make ME look bad at this stage though --— Calvin Harris (@CalvinHarris) July 13, 2016
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— Calvin Harris (@CalvinHarris) July 13, 2016
I know you're off tour and you need someone new to try and bury like Katy ETC but I'm not that guy, sorry. I won't allow it— Calvin Harris (@CalvinHarris) July 13, 2016
As a consequence, the first batch of snake emojis began cropping up on Swift's social media, most notably on her Instagram account (which have also all since been deleted--more on that later).
Inside the Snake Pit: Taylor Swift vs. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West
Here's the feud that solidified the snake/Swift association: "Famous," the lead single from Kanye West's seventh studio album The Life of Pablo, features the controversial lyrics "For all my Southside niggas that know me best/ I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/ I made that bitch famous." While Swift's friends and family responded to the lyrics, the singer's reps issued a message stating she "cautioned" the rapper "about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message" and had never approved being referred to as a "bitch."
But West's wife Kim Kardashian took to Twitter with a different story -- "coincidentally" on National Snake Day (July 17).
Kardashian also urged her Twitter followers to check out her Snapchat story, where she'd posted a video recording of West on the phone with Swift. The temporary video appeared to show Swift verbally signing off to West's mention of her in the song, even saying his description of wanting to have sex with her was a "compliment."
The snake emojis began appearing in full force this time, as streams of them flooded the singer's comments section on Instagram. Kardashian's video did not, however, include Swift hearing or approving the line "I made that bitch famous" and later defended herself in a since-deleted tweet by saying that the Snapchat video was "a character assassination" while reiterating her previous statements.
Nevertheless, the snake comparison stuck.
The Disappearance: The Snake Emoji Disappears from Swift's Social Media
Seemingly just as quickly as they invaded, the snake emoji began disappearing from the pop star's social media accounts. This mass extinction was later revealed to be the work of Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, who, according to a profile in Wired, created a filter that would allow celebrities to automatically delete certain words and emojis from their feeds. Swift's snakes were the first live test case, according to the article, and the feature was publicly released in September 2016.
For all intents and purposes, Swift's attempt to disassociate herself from the slithering creature -- or at least keep her feed from "look[ing] like the Reptile Discovery Center at the National Zoo," as Wired writer Nicholas Thompson described it -- appeared to be working. Swift had ditched the snake.
The Reclamation: Swift and Snake Make Cryptic Social Media Appearance
On Friday, Swift shocked fans around the world by apparently not just ditching the snakes, but all of social media. The star deleted her Twitter and Facebook avatar picture and header, while also deleting her posts on Tumblr and Instagram. Her website, too, became nothing but a black page.
Fans soon began speculating that this was Swift's way of letting the world know that something -- perhaps her next studio album -- was coming, while others thought maybe it was the musician's way of affording herself some privacy after a very public sexual assault trial. On Monday (Aug. 21), however, it appeared fans finally had the answer.
A short video, posted to Swift's Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr, appeared to show a snake tail flickering in grainy film. Could Swift be reclaiming the snake as hers, embracing it as a sort of rebirth in image and career?
Whatever the case, the saga of Swift and snake seems sure to continue.