This year’s silly season could hardly seem more serious. Too much of the news plays like the precredit sequence to a postapocalyptic art film that’s sure to end with the last man on Earth eating the second-last man on Earth.
Thank heavens for Hiddleswift. If nothing else the apparent relationship between Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift allowed the young generation to demonstrate its prodigious gifts – worthy of James Joyce in his bonkers phase – for coining elegant portmanteau words.
Within seconds of the news breaking the internet had decided that "Hiddleswift" they would forever be. If only we had such brains in the era of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. That exhausting saga would have been much more digestible if we'd thought to call them Lizard.
Sadly, this happy news soon revealed dangerous rifts in society.
We can ignore those who bragged about not having heard of either Hiddleston (an actor, m’lud, known for playing an impish Norse god) or Swift (a popular singer, famous for the catchiness of her tunes and the briefness of her relationships). If you don’t wish to be part of modern life then we’re happy to let you eat weevils in your foul hermitage.
There is, however, much to be learned from perusing the celebs’ respective fan bases. The Venn diagrams have a significant crossover, but large portions of the Hiddleston clan remain atavistically hostile to Swift and all they pretend she stands for.
The tall, aquiline actor, educated at Eton and Cambridge, played Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse and Prince Hal on the BBC. He has been in serious films such as The Deep Blue Sea and Archipelago. Why would a proper actor bother with one of these "pop" singers? Is Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf not available? What about that lady who trilled Chopin in the National Gallery during the war?
Then there are those fans Hiddleston has picked up playing Loki in the Thor movies. Let us be clear. Most comic-book aficionados are no more fanatical than the average fishing enthusiast or butterfly collector. Women are as keen on the Marvel Comics universe (from whence Thor emerged) as are their friends with Y chromosomes.
There remains, however, a hard-core cadre within the MCU army that sees their world as the preserve of boys who like boys' things. The problem is not so much that Taylor Swift is a girl. After all, Scarlett Johansson is a girl and she's, like, superawesome. The issue is that what Swift does – brilliantly honed pop with a new-car smell – is the sort of thing girls like. It would scarcely seem less treacherous if the drummer from Metallica were caught reading Twilight.
With this in mind we are minded to pour scorn on reports that the relationship is a fake. Tom is less than a decade older than Taylor. So he’s not cradle robbing. At 35 the actor is too young for the contemporary version of a midlife crisis.
It's true that Swift, whose songs often draw on romantic disappointments, moves quickly from one relationship to the next. Hiddleswift was composed weeks after she ended a tryst with the DJ Calvin Harris. So what? She's young. She's allowed.
The coupling’s status as a “perfect media storm”– Hiddleston is one of those classed as the “internet’s boyfriend” – shouldn’t be held against it either. You could have said the same about Lizard, but decades of romantic destruction attested to genuine passion imperfectly contained. It’s all mean-spirited bias. Leave them to their bliss. Right?
Oh, come on! Will you look at the photographs that first announced the relationship? Showing the two entwined on some photogenic rock off Rhode Island, the image had all the earthy veracity of an André Rieu album cover. More “hastily snapped” photographs suggested the stock images that you find within frames at Ikea. They were seen holidaying in the Vatican.
It then emerged that Taylor had been taken to meet Hiddleston’s parents. Courtships between Hohenzollern cousins in 17th-century Prussia were carried out with less concern for protocol.
Simmering suspicions boiled over last week when the hitherto sober Hiddleston was photographed wearing an “I heart TS” T-shirt. Look more closely and you will see, on his upper arm, a temporary tattoo – the type 14-year-olds like – of a pink heart with a “T” inside. Has it all been arranged for a video? Or maybe this really is what happens when contemporary deities fall in love.
It doesn’t matter much. Swift and Hiddleston have, over the past weeks, cheered us up no end even as older old Etonians have torn the continent to pieces.