In an extremely subtle move, Taylor Swift is now selling a snake ring in correlation with the release of "Look What You Made Me Do," her new single. It's true that merch can take some weird turns now and then (looking at you, Biebs), but few examples come to mind of a pop star turning a common criticism of themselves into an entire album... and then turning that into a $60 accessory. But if there's anyone who can mold a valid, widely agreed upon critique of themselves into a money-making part of their brand, it's Taylor Swift. Frankly, it's as scary as it is genius. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
The key thing to remember here is that the "snake" criticism of Swift isn't without merit or evidence. This isn't Swift being clever and turning empty name-calling into something playful. This isn't a feminist moment of her reclaiming a word once used to tear her down, although some may argue that.
From her questionable, never-ending feuds, to her radio silence about the election, to being caught in a lie when it came to Kanye West's "Famous" and never acknowledging it, Taylor Swift's public missteps in recent years have been notable. But more remarkable than any of these mistakes (she is only human, after all) is her silence in response to all of it. Every wrong move is met with... nothing at all.
While I've never been a die-hard fan of Swift, I have genuinely enjoyed her music for years, and I find it difficult to imagine that anyone could deny that she is remarkably talented. But it's flat-out infuriating to watch someone with one of the most powerful celebrity platforms in the world waste it in such a brutal way. With "Look What You Made Me Do," these snake rings, and the Reputation merch as a whole, Swift is now not only wasting it, but manipulating it.
Gold Snake Ring, $60, taylorswift.com
The snake rings in particular are a perfect example of Swift spending a lot of time concocting a brand-building opportunity to be defensive rather than a chance to admit wrongs, but they also leave me wondering: Who the hell are they making these rings for, exactly? Reminiscent of that thing you almost bought in Claire's in 2004 before your parents laughed in your face and let you buy an Auntie Anne's pretzel instead, the snake ring is... a very particular type of merch. It's not a hoodie, or a T-shirt with an image of Taylor on the front. It is a full-on glam piece of statement jewelry.
The ring is described on the site as: "adjustable, made of 8g silver, 300 zircon crystals, plated with 24kt gold, and a light dusting of pettiness." OK, yes, I added the last part. My point is that the ring is absurd for Taylor Swift merch. It's pretty safe to assume that the only person Taylor had in mind when she OK'd the ring is Taylor. And, yes, fans will buy the ring, and the ring will sell out. But it has nothing to do with the appeal of the ring itself, and everything to do with promoting and selling a Taylor Swift-approved version of using every misstep as a chance to place the blame on everyone — anyone — else. And I'm not here for it.