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Taylor Swift Is Seemingly Reclaiming The Snake, But Will It Work?

The path ahead is foggy, but also snaky.

Posted on August 23, 2017, at 1:01 a.m. ET

Taylor Swift is no stranger to the snake emoji (🐍). In fact, since July 2016, it's partly defined her.

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It was around then that a dispute arose between the singer and her ex-boyfriend, Calvin Harris, over songwriter credit for Harris's hit "This Is What You Came For," featuring Rihanna.

@CalvinHarris preach...expose the 🐍🐍🐍

Swift's camp claimed credit for the song after the two split (the song was rumored to also have been the source of the breakup). This caused the pop producer to go on a Twitter rant against her β€” invoking the name of Swift rival Katy Perry, and accusing Swift of trying to "tear" him down. People who sided with Harris started spamming Swift's Instagram comments with the snake emoji. (Harris has since revealed regret for his tweets.)

Then, a few days later, Kim Kardashian took to her Snapchat, posting video of a conversation between Swift and Kardashian's husband, Kanye West, that seemed to show Swift approving of West referencing her in his now-infamous song "Famous."

@KimKardashian I'm still shook with this! β€οΈπŸ˜‚πŸ™ŒπŸ»πŸ™ŒπŸ» #TaylorSwift is a #Snake 🐍🐍🐍 https://t.co/cgGyS8vcfc

Earlier in the year, Swift had condemned the lyrics, calling them misogynistic; after hinting at "Famous" during her speech at the Grammys, West claimed she'd approved the lyrics. Kardashian seemed to be claiming via her Snapchat post that Swift had heard the lyrics in full and approved of them.

Swift refuted the implication of Kardashian's post that she had heard and approved of his "that bitch" lyric and attempted to ~exclude herself from the narrative~. But it didn't quite work out like that.

Again, people began spamming Swift's social media accounts and posts about Swift with the snake. The green coil has continued to pop up around Swift, including when she ran the risk of stealing Perry's thunder earlier this summer.
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Again, people began spamming Swift's social media accounts and posts about Swift with the snake. The green coil has continued to pop up around Swift, including when she ran the risk of stealing Perry's thunder earlier this summer.

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Her name became so connected to the snake emoji that her own fanbase even tried to reclaim the symbol on National Snake Day 2017.

Taylor Swift is the most known snake in the world #nationalsnakeday 🐍😍

For much of 2017, Swift has been lying fairly low. Earlier this month, a jury sided with Swift and her claim that a DJ groped her without her consent in 2013; she took the stand during the trial. There were also the social media shoutouts to her friends, a rumored incident with a suitcase (that has now been retracted), and a pre-Super Bowl concert.

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But now she seems to be back β€” with a largely wiped social media presence that she is slowly refilling with images of what appear to be SNAKES.

The snake has left fans reeling, with theory...after theory...after theory β€” about what it means for her sixth studio album, her feud with Perry, and, of course, her public image in general. It's all very overwhelming.

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No one really knows anything until the moment Taylor Swift and her team DECIDE they want us to know something. But that doesn't mean there's not plenty to talk about.

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For the past year, the snake emoji has been used a lot in association with Swift. Google Trends data shows a 46% increase in use of the snake emoji overall in July 2016.

Wait it's legit National Snake Day?!?!?They have holidays for everybody, I mean everything these days! 🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍

Of course, Taylor Swift isn't the beginning and of the 🐍 β€” and she's not the first to have had it used against her in a big public arena. NBA Kings coach George Karl has a history of being called a snake in the grass, and according to Google data, usage of the snake emoji was at an all-time high during the summer of 2015 β€” when that really ramped up for him.

But the snake emoji is a somewhat helpful tracker for Taylor Swift movements β€” much like the lemon emoji πŸ‹ for Beyonce: Despite their different connotations, these little images have become shorthand when talking about the artists.

Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images

This phenomenon is reminiscent of a recent quote from Swift's court testimony this month. "I have a new and uncanny ability to elicit new types [of] criticism," she said.

As for Mueller calling her cold she said β€œbut I am not surprised I have a new and uncanny ability to elicit new typ… https://t.co/shg7uHG0hw

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With her 2014 album 1989, Swift addressed the public's perception of her with songs and music videos like "Shake It Off" and "Blank Space."

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So it would make a lot of sense if the (supposed) snakes appearing on her social media accounts were a direct reference to the prevailing symbol attached to her over the past year.

Perhaps, like her fans on National Snake Day, Swift may be trying to reclaim, adopt, co-opt, embrace, or appropriate the snake. That leaves a couple of major questions.

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One is: How? As in, what methods will she use? What will the music sound like, and what will the content be?

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Is the snake a symbol of her or her mistakes? Will she turn the snake on haters/media/men that she says don't understand her? Is it a sign that she's addressing the snake in the room and may put one of her biggest feuds behind her during the VMAs?

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Another question is: Can she pull it off?

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The tide turned hard against Taylor Swift last year, there is no denying that. Some stans stayed true to her, some jumped ship. The tenor of conversation around the singer changed palpably, and the image of the snake helped to shape that.

taylor's best looks through out the years 😍 #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty

There are different benchmarks for "pulling it off," of course. There's the question of how much music she sells; how many awards she could win; how critics and fans will receive her new sounds. And Swift has never not been a powerhouse when it comes to selling music.

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Then there's public image, which is a whole other beast.

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Swift doesn't necessarily have to be well-liked to be successful. Music history is full of figures who eventually shrugged off likability, and instead banked other self-image branding. Like β€” ironically β€” Kanye West himself.

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Power doesn't always come from being the relatable one.

Swift's cryptic video posts don't give us much to go on. But they do seem to indicate that she's very aware of where she stands with the public. And they also seem to indicate that she's ready to use that β€” in whatever form that takes.

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No matter what, it looks like Swift is gearing up for something new. Get ready.

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CORRECTION

1989 was released in 2014. An earlier version of this post said it was released in 2015.

UPDATE

The text has been updated to clarify the implications of Kardashian's Snapchat post and the timeline of Swift's disapproval of the lyric "that bitch."

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