As the all-consuming fame-devourer that is Taylor Swift continues to rampage across the connected world, casualties mount like extras in a Game of Thrones episode: Selena Gomez, Chloë Grace Moretz, anyone who’s ever resisted the Hegemony of Bieber. But let’s not forget one major below-the-line casualty of this most recent Swift-boating episode: This tomfoolery (wink) is not doing the male half of Hiddleswift any favors in his quest to play James Bond.
Let’s recap. Back in October of 2015, just following the release of Spectre, Daniel Craig, the current handsome Englishman playing the role of Archetypal Handsome Englishman James Bond, left no room for ambiguity when he said he would “rather break this glass and slash my wrists” than play the role again. One of the Ten Commandments is that “Thou Shalt Begin Conjecturing About the Next James Bond As Soon As Humanly Possible,” so once Craig spiked the microphone through the floor and into the center of the Earth, the scuttlebutt began.
In March, a new handsome English entry joined the race. Tom Hiddleston — best known as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an adept YouTube dancer, and the internet’s boyfriend — voiced his interest in the role. Of course, Hiddleston is not just a Tumblr meme: He’s also an accomplished actor, with well-regarded parts in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive and AMC’s The Night Manager the most recent successes in a career that also includes playing F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris and opposite Rachel Weisz in Terrence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea. There’s even a plausible parallel world in which Hiddleston became even more famous: There were Oscar hopes for his turn in I Saw the Light before the movie turned out to be terrible, and there were cult-favorite hopes for his turn in High-Rise before the movie turned out to be terrible.
While those latter two films may not have earned him a gold statue or further acclaim, Hiddleston was able to escape more or less scot-free from their failures — and the timing was such that the letdowns were quickly overshadowed by his well-regarded work in The Night Manager. By late May, Hiddlebond rumors were heating up, and the possibility was coming to seem more and more realistic. But then, in the way of a solar eclipse or Pac-Man eating a ghost, something happened that fully devoured the conversation. Through whatever unholy machinations inform her decision-making, Taylor Swift chose Hiddleston as her next Famous Boyfriend.
Considering that Hiddleston had heretofore been thought of as an autonomous, self-governing person, his introduction to the Swiftian narrative was rough. His first appearance, kissing her on the cover of British tabloid The Sun, came just two weeks after her acrimonious breakup with Calvin Harris, provoking very reasonable suspicions of PR manipulation by the T-Swift apparatus. Even if you were to give the two lovebirds the most possible benefit of the doubt, the whole thing was strange, and for Hiddleston to so willingly enter Swift’s story seems to indicate one of two things: Either dude is eminently playable, a beautiful patsy fit for boyfriend duty forever and anon, or he’s just as culpable as Swift herself.
Regardless of which it is, Hiddleston has relinquished control of his own reputation, and he has began to pay the price. Just a week ago — and not even a month after those first photos on the beach — Hiddleston appeared helpless answering reporters’ questions about the relationship. A few days later, doing damage control with The Hollywood Reporter, Hiddleston committed, saying, “Well, um. How best to put this? … The truth is that Taylor Swift and I are together and we’re very happy. Thanks for asking … That’s the truth. It’s not a publicity stunt.”
THR is a responsible trade publication, and because of that, it’s a far more sympathetic outlet for actors than the tabloids. This was an opportunity for Hiddleston to be taken seriously. And yet, he once again looked like a cornered kid, batting down the publicity-stunt accusations like they were worthy of his time and attention. The tables had fully turned. No longer was Tom Hiddleston the Actor Tom Hiddleston, or James Bond Favorite Tom Hiddleston, or the Internet’s Boyfriend Tom Hiddleston. He’d been caught in the Airborne Taylor Event.
Meanwhile, think about what Bond represents, for better or for worse: He’s essentially an embodiment of patriarchy, the lance of imperial England. He’s so virile that there’s a whole line of women referred to as Bond Girls. It’s essential to the myth that he’s irresistible and unobtainable, that he moves from woman to woman — and if he falls in love with you, you die. Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan were such great Bonds because they conveyed an unflappable independence, an ultimate consistency of self, without contradicting the necessary Bond-ian truisms. They were James Bond. Playing James Bond has different requirements than your typical blockbuster leading role; they wouldn’t even let Brosnan do it until he’d stopped playing Remington Steele, because the degree to which the actor must become the part contradicts the idea of him simultaneously embodying another major recurring character.
While there have been (sketchy) rumors that Bond producer Barbara Broccoli liked Hiddleston’s work in The Night Manager, there are few things less Bond than what we’ve seen during his relationship with Swift, and there’s no way that doesn’t influence casting decisions on some level. With the pop star continuing her spiral into the supermassive black hole at the center of the internet, Hiddleston — who, by all accounts, is a very nice guy — probably had to choose between his new-girlfriend-with-whom-he’s-very-happy and a legit chance of playing Bond, and the deadline to make that choice might’ve already passed. But this all could be a moot point, anyway — after another month of this shit, Hiddleston might just start looking for the nearest monastery.