It was a sunny day on June 14 when news broke about Hollywood’s newest “it” couple. Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift, or Hiddleswift, had taken the world by storm. They were first dubbed a soon-to-be-power-couple when they were caught canoodling on a rocky beach in Rhode Island and photographs of the encounter were published in The Sun. These photos caused Hiddlestoners across the world to clutch their pearls, aghast at the oddball pairing. They felt a disturbance in the Force. Millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror: “Why her?” And unlike the ill-fated citizens of Alderaan, they would not be silenced.
Something terrible had happened indeed. Outrage and disdain for the gruesome twosome exploded on Hiddleston’s fan sites, most notably, on the diehard (but wonderful, respectful, and supportive) Tom Hiddleston subreddit. The original post of The Sun’s beach photos entitled, “Tom Hiddleston is Dating Taylor Swift. Thoughts?” blew up, inciting almost 150 comments, a rare event for the small subreddit.
The comments and posts came pouring in, each one twisting the knife in our hearts a little more. We shrugged when he was caught at the Selena Gomez concert. We cried when we saw him take her home to Mama Hiddles in Suffolk. We rolled our eyes at their first sanctioned Instagram photo, the infamous Fourth of July deckchair tableaux. As the weeks went on, the sentiment of Tom’s subreddit became infinitely clear: when it comes to Hiddleswift, Hiddlestoners are united in their disappointment.
Reddit-user Brightstarr compared the relationship to George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin’s high profile marriage, although minus any shred of dignity:
“Whenever I think of Hiddles with another person, they are usually a UN Ambassador or a Nobel Prize winner or an ‘Amal Clooney’ style kickass human rights lawyer. Not saying that Taylor Swift isn’t nice or smart, she just seems … I don’t know … 25. And that is a perfectly good time in life and I’m not saying she won’t be there someday, it’s just that she doesn’t have the same life experience as a woman like Amal.”
Another user, po0rdecision was less delicate with their disdain for the pair, calling out the relationship as a cheap PR stunt:
“If this is we’re running the good ship Hiddleston later, I want off this mother-effer. So much talent, cheapened. And it’s not even about dating someone. It’s the whole trend. I didn’t care about Jane Arthy, homie seemed happy. I was skeptical during the Olson thing. But this? Nuh uh. This to me cements the quest for fame not legitimacy. One can definitely stay out of the limelight and make your career your focus if that is absolutely what you want. But that is not this.”
As the hoards of jilted Hiddlestoners can attest, Hiddleswift feels different. It feels cheap and tawdry. It feels plastic. And it has very truly soured many fans’ opinions about Hiddles. Perhaps it is because we feel like we know the real Tom. The Tom who sings “We’re up all night to get Loki.” The Tom who is a nerd about two things: tennis and Shakespeare.
Fandom is all about affect. We fall in love with fictional characters and the actors who play them. We invest our time and emotions in following the rise and fall of our icons. We watch hours of press junkets, red carpet interviews, talk show clips, and gifs. We listen to hours of their voices on audiobooks, podcasts, and radio plays. It is completely natural to feel crushed when our wannabe friends, partners, and lovers start dating “someone else.”
When I named this article “How to Lose a Fanbase in 10 Days,” I was, of course, being hyperbolic. There is no doubt that Tom’s loyal fans will always support his acting choices, his humanitarian causes, and his personal relationships. But everyone is allowed a little time to mourn the loss of “our Tom.” Because, at least for the foreseeable future, he is Taylor’s Tom. And, cringeworthy as “I Heart Taylor Swift” T-shirts can be, we still love his hokey Hiddles humour all the same.