Earlier this year it was noted that Tom Hiddleston’s public persona has shifted from “internet’s boyfriend” to a more closed off, grown up persona. Saint Tom the Huge Dork is dead, and in his place we have…Tom Hiddleston: Sears Catalog Underwear Model. In a new profile in W, Hiddleston strips down to his doctor’s office-approved white boxers to show off his runner’s body and let you know exactly what Taylor Swift is climbing. The photos are unintentionally hilarious—we already knew Hiddles is built, so it’s not like this is a revelation—and also do not jive with his earlier shift in PR tone. Boxer shots are the kind of thing the internet’s boyfriend does.
Ostensibly he’s campaigning for James Bond—W identifies him as “Taylor Swift’s boyfriend and James Bond hopeful”, and also mentions his Bond prospects on the heels of the success of The Night Manager. But I choose to believe this is entirely orchestrated by Taylor Swift. This is how ultra-famous celebrities show off boyfriend upgrades. TSwizzle is using W as her Facebook wall.
This W profile is entirely about introducing Hiddleston to the wider audience suddenly aware of him as an entity beyond “Loki”. The article is just tracing his filmography, his whatever-the-f*ck with Elizabeth Olsen, and his future as maybe the next James Bond. It’s calling card and declaration: Tom Hiddleston is Accomplished, and Worthy of our pop princess Taylor Swift. But does this mean his relationship with Swift is entirely PR? Is it a “fauxmance”, if you will?
Swoki is certainly a mutually beneficial relationship. She gets to put Calvin Wiles Harris Adam in his place and remind everyone about who is calling the shots, and he gets a huge profile boost in the mainstream, right when he’s hustling to take over one of the biggest roles on the planet. But they’re also two dancing dorks who met at a party, and they chose to tell us about their mutual interest with a walk along a rocky shore while they contemplate the drifter they just killed.
The thing about the “fauxmance” label—which is inevitably applied to any celebrity relationship that does not please both fanbases equally—is that it oversimplifies things to a point that makes them less interesting (not to mention also inferring that public displays of affection are inherently suspicious). The idea that every celebrity romance is nothing more than PR social engineering is so boring I don’t understand its persistence in gossip circles. Has it happened? Sure. Especially back in the Old Hollywood days, when gay actors had to have orchestrated hetero relationships to remain viable stock commodities for studios. That is a shameful, destructive legacy.
But now? In the twenty-first century? When celebrities have more power than ever to control their own narrative? Celebrities, especially in the age of social media and instant access, sell us pieces of their lives—it’s part of their #brand. Everything about their lives has an extra-dimensional possibility, and we gossip about how they exercise it. And today Tom Hiddleston is exercising it in his underwear. What other female celebrity has the kind of status that when she announces a relationship, it’s the dude taking HIS clothes off to prove he’s worth her time? That’s the conversation I want to have.
Click here to see the rest of Tom in W.