Let me start off by clarifying I'm not saying Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston don't love each other. Far be it from me to make that judgment.
That's not my call, that's not TMZ's call, that's not their PR reps' calls. It's barely even Taylor and Tom's call, to be honest. What they feel toward each other is their business and their business alone.
What I am saying is, as far as I can tell, the early days of their relationship were, without a shadow of a doubt, staged. I can't speak for everything else they've done since late June, but the first 10-ish days of their public relationship had a higher production value than most James Cameron movies.
Those cute lil' private-but-totally-not-meant-to-be-totally-private dates, making out on rocks in Rhode Island and casually strolling into a Selena Gomez concert, never existed.
Instead, we were fed a well-constructed photo narrative, (probably) pieced together by a team of publicists and hired photographers who wanted us to see this relationship as something besides what it actually was: fake.
I'm far from the first person to suggest they aren't actually dating. The two of them together make such an oddly unbelievable pair that since the beginning of their relationship the internet has called bullshit on literally everything they've done.
It's hard to put your finger on it exactly, but there is just something off about them -- they're too flawlessly happy and picturesque. Looking at pictures of them is like touring a Scientology church and being spooked by how nice everybody is.
Their not being together has all been speculation, though. I mean, you could argue any time they are photographed it looks less like they've been ambushed by paparazzi and more like they were posing for a Lands' End catalogue, but what does that really prove aside from the fact they're maybe just the two most photogenic people of all time?
You need hard factual evidence, and this is the first time there has ever been any.
In order to explain this, we need to break down the early days of their romance into four sections.
Section 1: The Mid-May Meet-Cute
Rumors surface around the web of a possible Tiddleston relationship. Calvin and Taylor are broken up. Tom is single, and the two are caught dancing miserably at the MET Gala.
It's the perfect storm of events to lead to speculation.
Section 2: Mid-June Smooch Fest
Then it happens. On June 15, we get our first looks at the couple.
Pictures surface of Tom and Taylor sitting on a beach, getting cozy and throwin' their mouths at each other.
Section 3: A Few Days Later in Nashville
Taylor Swift holds hands with Tom Hiddleston after Selena Gomez concert https://t.co/m0SKH0ubWG pic.twitter.com/JUP7CAoEBH — Daily Mail Celebrity (@DailyMailCeleb) June 22, 2016
On June 21, Tom and Taylor are photographed walking into a Selena Gomez concert. Inside, there are cell phone pictures taken of them dancing, but the main pics getting circulated around are taken outside of the venue.
Section 4: A Casual Trip to Rome
A week later, they take their ROME-ance to the next level. (Rome is that level. They go to Rome. You get it.)
OK, now that you have a brief understanding of their relationship history, you should probably be aware of one thing.
Every professionally shot, seemingly candid "paparazzi" photo of them from the time they were caught in Rhode Island until just before Rome WAS RELEASED BY THE SAME COMPANY.
The. Same. Effing. Company.
After days of tracking down every picture from the early stages of Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston being a thing, I can confidently say, as far as I can tell, this random distributor called The Image Direct is the only company that had pictures of them during the formative days of their relationship.
Aka: Taylor Swift's people hired (or cut a deal) with a photo team to have them follow her and Tom around and shoot these choreographed scenes.
There was nothing candid or natural about the early days of their romance. Her team gave you the story they wanted to you to see and lied about the way you perceived them as a couple.
The Image Direct being the only company to organically obtain those pictures is almost impossible.
For one group to get lucky and snag the first shots of a mega-couple like Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston making out is like hitting the paparazzi lottery. To believe that same group hit the jackpot again in a completely different state at a public venue is batshit crazy.
If you're still skeptical, then consider this for a second.
Let's say the crafty people at The Image Direct did get the natural scoop over every other photo agency through pure luck. Let's say they did fight the odds and end up having photographers in the same place as Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston twice in a row.
There is no way in hell you're going to convince me they were lucky enough to not just obtain pictures of the most financially lucrative photographic moments in recent Taylor Swift history, but also capture the amount of "clean shots" they were able to without inside help.
The only pictures of Taylor and Tom not released from The Image Direct before June 23 were these.
(Like a billion other problems with this relationship, we'll ignore how Taylor clearly sat in the front of the restaurant so she could be caught eating with Tom. That's a whole other discussion. Just, like, be aware of that.)
Those photos are not good pictures by any stretch of the imagination. They're all grainy and look like they've been taken from the 50th floor of a building two miles away.
Compare those to this shot from The Image Direct.
That picture is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my entire life. It's like looking at the concept of a Prince song.
The Image Direct couldn't keep the exclusive photos forever, though. Taylor and Tom are just too big of a couple, and by the time they took a trip to Rome, there were other agencies and photographers competing for photos.
It should be noted, though, even in Rome The Image Direct was still somehow scoring the best pictures. Other agencies did snag some shots, but they were not as good as the ones from The Image Direct.
If you were going to fake a relationship, this is exactly how you do it. You hire paparazzi to take paparazzi-esque photos and treat them like "leaked" information.
Looking at these photos and following their timeline is like reading a textbook or watching a TED Talk on how to trick the general public into thinking someone is in the midst of a storybook romance.
Why, though? Why are Taylor and Tom faking this? I understand celebs date all the time, but there has to be clear motive.
For starters, this is a no-brainer for Tom Hiddleston. His career isn't exactly on the upswing at the moment with "The Night Manager" ending and Loki kind of over.
There has long been speculation he's up to be the next 007, and his dating Taylor has definitely super-charged his Google search numbers. Extra buzz around his name could be the one thing that propels him closer to becoming the next James Bond.
Taylor probably isn't doing this without her own motivations, either. The way I see it, she has two major things to gain from them going out.
First off, she was able to control the narrative with their faux-lationship. She's not being strung along like a heartbroken teen like with Calvin Harris. Instead, she took control of her next boy toy and proudly marched her way into her next fling.
Plus, from every basic's perceptive -- and Taylor is the queen of the basics -- Tom Hiddleston is the evolved form of Calvin Harris. He's the Blastoise to Calvin Harris' Squirtle. He's a British dude with some semblance of fame and a sexy accent that's wayyyy more mature. Calvin 2.0, if you will.
Since she stopped doing everything with 1989, Taylor has been on a quest to mature her image.
Another thing she did to mature her image? Deciding to slowly morph into Tilda Swinton.
Secondly, and more obviously, Taylor is probably not super far away from a new album or talks of a new album happening. This is the perfect low-stakes relationship for her to get into, putz around in for a bit and then publicly end.
Let's just be very clear about one thing: The idea of celebs being in cahoots with the paparazzi is nothing new. Celebs and their publicists tip off photographers all the time.
It's a weird, shadowy symbiotic relationship never really acknowledged by either side, but it's a cornerstone of the industry.
The difference here is it's not just one picture or one event. It's a whole story that was built and delivered as reality.
I'll leave it to you to decide what this all means. She isn't exactly a stranger to lying about major life events *cough* KANYE *cough cough* so the idea behind her fabricating another piece of her life is not out of the realm of possibility.
Sooooooo, what gives, Taylor?