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How Taylor Swift took the image of a snake and repurposed it to become the world’s biggest pop star…again

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bristol chapter.

“I would like to be excluded from this narrative”

Everyone remembers mid 2010’s Taylor Swift, because she was everywhere. On the Radio, in print, on screen and -most importantly- on social media. After the phone call, the snake emojis and the famous year of silence, Swift came back to the music scene a ‘changed’ woman. From her colourful, obliging, ‘city girl’ aesthetic, she transitioned into a quieter, darker (but still sparkly) aesthetic presence. As an artist who was used to having everything noticed by fans (literally everything is an easter egg), becoming more private was a strange change for the woman who built her community in the public eye, on MySpace,Tumblr and Instagram. It was an active choice that she made however, to exit from spaces that didn’t serve her anymore and create new ones that did. She embraced the snake. She began explaining a lot less. There will be no explanation, there will just be reputation.

There will be no explanation there will just be reputation (explained)

The lack of apology in Swift’s main catchphrase during the Reputation era and the use of the snake was a complete pivot from her statements in the midst of ‘snake-gate’. Now, she excludes herself from narratives she doesn’t care for and simply refuses to add to chatter and speculation. She recognises that morality is based on context which is not solid enough to hold your reputation on, how reputation is fleeting and how you cannot rely on context to sustain a reputation in order to sustain you. She separates her identity and her reputation within her album, deconstructing her relationship with herself by not relying on her reputation and by building a new personal belief system, submitting Reputation as her only contribution to the discourse. She leaned aesthetically into what people were calling her (a snake) and used that to take power away from the commentary by addressing the judgment within that symbol.

How Swift went dark but kept her sparkle (… cause I am that dramatic!)

Swift had taken the countless snake emoji tweets and comments and embraced them. She shed the skins of her previous eras to embrace now being comfortable in her own skin and with that produced her most introspective and honest album to date. She looked at the symbol of the snake with empathy and conceptually considered the relationship between explanation, reputation and identity from a feminine point of view. She considered how this connection isn’t stable and eventually your reputation will break down, allowing only your ‘self’ to be preserved. She looked at duality of the self, contemplating the public and the private.  Swift’s exploration of how these things are delicate and fragile but, for better or worse, temporary is a powerful message that she finds through the snake. This notion of ‘nothing will last forever’ emphasises the need for a ‘self’ to fall back on – you need to be more than just the layers of skin you shed, you need to be somebody underneath.

She uses the perceived darkness of the snake to explore lightness in a different way, by instead looking for things that shine in the dark. Swift embraced her authentic experience as a female and as a person by separating her identity from her reputation to build her own personal belief system through the image of the snake (and even performed with a 63ft inflatable serpent called Karyn). The snake as a symbol for Reputation is a celebration of the ‘self’ you form once you question who you are and is a reminder that you choose how you are defined and remembered. Swift became one of the biggest pop stars in the world, hitting new records because she embraced the tensions within her life and didn’t allow herself to be defined by others. She allowed herself to be emotional and found light within the darkness she was experiencing- and did so through the concept of the snake.

Silva Shahini

Bristol '24

I am a history student at the University of Bristol; I have really enjoyed writing academic research articles for the Bristol history magazine, The Bristorian and wanted to expand further into more writing styles by taking the opportunity to write for Hercampus! I enjoy getting coffee that I didn’t make and really enjoy reading,listening to Taylor Swift and going on walks.