A few hours after I attempted to deny Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s alleged relationship, the news broke that she was at Sunday’s Chiefs versus Bears game. Although this is no confirmation of a relationship between them, it makes me wonder — why do we all care so much?
Every day there is a new article about who’s dating who and how this should change our perception of them. These rumors easily turn into headlines and headlines into changed reputations. How much of it is real? How much of it is fake?
The reason we care is hard to pinpoint. It has to do with our parasocial relationships with these celebrities. It’s the same psychology that motivates us to keep up to date on our best friend’s dating lives. For example, Taylor Swift is currently at a new height of fame, selling out stadiums, and breaking records with each new album release. To her fans, her music seems autobiographical because of this, they think they know her. Their relationship feels akin to a one-sided friendship. Although Swift knows little to nothing about her millions of fans, they think know everything about her.
So, when rumors circulate that she is dating someone new, people marvel at it and feel they need to give their opinions, even though they don’t really have the right to. This only worsens due to Swift’s knack for secret codes, naturally increasing her fans’ impulse for speculation with all of her actions.
Do celebrities at large, including Taylor Swift, mind the speculation about their romantic lives? That comes down to the individual. The history of their actions can’t tell us much, either, because people are constantly changing; one relationship could’ve been extremely private, the other extremely public.
It’s not like Swift isn’t aware that she is famous as well. She talks about the lack of normalcy in her life in the documentary “Miss Americana,”. In the documentary, she discusses how fame has made her learn both how to be secretive and how to be seen. When she goes out for a stroll in New York, whether it’s right or wrong, people will gather. A recent example of this was when Swift attended her producer and friend Jack Antonoff’s wedding rehearsal a few weeks ago. When fans found out, they flooded the streets. Because of this, the next day — at his actual wedding — the streets had to be shut down.
However, for someone as publicly debated as Swift, sometimes secrecy isn’t enough. A few years ago she disappeared from the public eye completely due to media scrutiny.
In comparison, speculation has actually benefited both celebrities. Kelce’s jersey sales have spiked, and Heinz created a ranch mixed with ketchup in honor of their relationship. It also marked a significant demographic shift of the viewers of Sunday football. This parallels the significant attention spike Swift experienced with the release of her album “1989,” which is coincidentally her next “(Taylor’s Version)” release. Swift’s songs have also started being used in NFL ads, and “New Heights”– Kelce’s podcast– changed the cover to incorporate a Taylor Swift/“1989” theme.
Whether or not this relationship is a PR stunt is certainly up for debate. Swift has only ever confirmed one relationship out of the many speculated over the years. This is probably a good opportunity for audiences to reflect on their relationships with celebrities, fame, and most importantly, the cost of fame. We need to be acutely aware of how much we think we know about them, and the harm in assuming it’s more than just the headlines we read.