Taylor Swift sent the celebrity-obsessed Internet into a tizzy this week over whether her romance with actor Tom Hiddleston is true love or a performance-art put-on. One tipoff for conspiracy theorists: Hiddleston's Fourth of July fashion choice – an "I (heart) T.S." tank-top – seems too cheesy and demonstrative for a Brit (unless, of course, he's simply declaring his love for his countryman, the late poet and playwright T.S. Eliot).
Either way, Swift's public promulgation of the awkwardly nicknamed "Hiddleswift" alliance marks a victory: She's succeeded in stealing back the Internet from her frenemy, Kanye West, and re-breaking it in her own image.
Swift is an artist determined to control her persona by carefully sharing – or over-sharing – scenes from her love life, manufactured or otherwise. Country's young queen of the breakup album, like Beyoncé, displays a consistent knack for turning lemons into lemonade.
Swift is taking back a storyline dominated in recent weeks by her public split with DJ Calvin Harris and her latest pillorying from West, who included an apparently doctored image of her in the buff in his instantly infamous "Famous" video. West declared the effort, which also featured nude renderings of his wife, Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump and Bill Cosby, among others, a statement on celebrity, though it's unclear exactly what he's trying to say.
It's a good bet Swift knows what she wants to say, but is happy – for now – to let fans do the talking as her relationship with the actor who played Thor's evil brother, Loki, unleashes a summer storm of speculation.
Intentionally or not, Swift is making her own statement on fame at a time when there are far more important things for the world to worry about other than whether two talented entertainers are an item or practical jokers.
But Swift, a digital native at 26, is just competing in a game she was born to play. On stage and online, Taylor Swift knows how to put on a show.
Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.