This past weekend was colorful, to say the least. It was one of those weekends where I was so physically exhausted from the constant goings-on, but also I just couldn’t get enough because all the things that were happening were so out of the ordinary and exceptional. The Bad Kids network learned a lot this weekend, and for that we are, and always will be, thankful. I’ll start by saying this post is from the both Lex and I so we apologize for the long winded form it has taken. We want to take you on a deep dive into the war between The Bad Kids and “Swiftie Nation”.
As you probably already know, a buddy of ours - Matt - reached out to Lex about printing a shirt he had concepted around the pop-sensation, Taylor Swift. The shirt originally started out as just a light hearted joke between friends, as both Lex and Matt enjoy the pop tunes of T-Swift. Matt loves her so much, that him and 8 friends had been planning for months to go to her show in NYC this weekend, and absolutely needed to dress for the occasion! As of last Thursday, I had never heard a Taylor Swift song and if I had, I didn’t know it was her. Lex had to explain to me that each of the names listed on the shirt Matt created were either past boyfriends or alleged flings of the singer / songwriter and I thought it was great. I was joking with friends saying I wish I had as many hot boyfriends as Taylor - so hard to even get a solid date around here! You go T-Swift, you’re a babe! A simple, fun, harmless joke however, turned into an online sensation over the weekend and frankly shocked the Bad Kid community to the core.
Lex posted a picture on instagram that Thursday night of the new shirt concept. I woke up Friday morning to a few unusual emails from random accounts telling me to take down the Taylor Swift shirt and that I was an uneducated disgrace to society. The word “Swiftie” kept coming up and I literally had no idea what the heck these people were talking about. Lex calls me - same thing. Emails, phone calls, texts, all from “Swifies” threatening to kill us and burn our store down because of how disrespectful we were being to Taylor. I was laughing as our online store simply cannot burn and really didn’t think much of it. I remember when I had a deep obsession with Brandon Boyd from Incubus - I was under the impression I would meet him and we would spend a life of happiness and bliss together. I just assumed these emails were coming from a few emotional, hormonally unstable teenage girls and it would end quickly. I was wrong, so completely wrong.
I go into an all-day meeting with a client, come out to around 150 emails, 99 twitter notifications, 30 facebook messages / notifications and about 25 personal texts from friends all surrounding the war between Bad Kids and the “Swifties.” I call Lex to get the update. Shocked, but somewhat amused, I then take to the Internet. I sat at my computer in disbelief, as the messages we were receiving were some of the most foul, horrific, violent notes I had frankly ever encountered in my personal experiences. Lex and I were by no means in the cool crowd as kids - and even then through all the bullying - I had never seen anything like this, period.
The messages took many different forms, came through at a rapid pace and all were mildly, if not incredibly disturbing. Messages saying we should burn in hell, that we were fat and ugly, that we were uneducated, that these 13 year old girls were going to murder us with knives or guns, that we should not be allowed to live, that the “Swifies” would come to ruin our lives, that we were prostitutes, that our company should burn to the ground, that everything we stood for was worse than Hitler and the assassination of millions of Jews, that we were the cause of suicide among young women throughout the country, that we were worse than the plague.. man, this list could go on. I have been personally called an “uneducated faggot” on 24 different occasions by 13 year old girls because I spelled “Swiftie” with a y! Incredible.
All the while these young girls were harassing us, our peers were commenting on the magnificent PR that we were getting, and the unbelievable content that you could not even pay for even if you tried, from a marketing standpoint. We went viral. We were trending worldwide. Our supporters, followers and friends found the entire experience in the beginning to be incredibly humorous and some even joined in pretending to be “Swifties” themselves. Lex’s phone number was up on our site as it was a requirement to keep the e-comm site operating and the calls were coming in every minute... no, every second!
However, the more and more Lex and I thought about it, we realized how disturbing this whole thing really was. Disturbing that kids today feel compelled to hide behind their keyboards and threaten lives of people they didn’t even know in ways that were so graphic and horrific, all over a t-shirt, with references to their dearly beloved pop star. Death threats over a joke that they simply could not comprehend - all because they have bought into a pop-culture trend and made it their lifestyle.
The main concern from “Swiftie Nation” has been that we are calling Taylor Swift a whore, and that the number of boyfriends portrayed on the shirt was wrong. She only has had 6 boyfriends, no more, no less. And, as I have learned from many “Swifties” calling into Bad Kids headquarters, we are bullying T-Swift with this shirt. One “Swiftie” explained to me, that the shirt calls Taylor slutty and that I am evil for doing this to Taylor, but I am in fact a slut myself. I explained how ironic her statement was and she hung up immediately. Then we stopped picking up the calls - there was no point in speaking to children who didn’t want to and couldn’t comprehend the joke around the t-shirt - and frankly it was just a waste of time.
Then tragedy struck. We found out late Saturday evening that Cory Monteith - a celebrity mentioned on the t-shirt - died at 31 years old, allegedly from a drug overdose. The young actor has a history of drug abuse, and had been found dead in his hotel in Vancouver, Canada. The “Swiftie” outlash took a whole new direction - and they began using Cory’s death as part of the slander, pairing it up nicely with their favorite hate messages.
Here's the thing: Death is a part of life. It happens every day to all kinds of people, but this one really hit home for Lex especially. She had the pleasure of spending time with Cory Monteith on multiple occasions when she worked in LA a few years ago, and upon hearing the news of his death she felt as though the wind had been knocked out of her. Working in LA, she interacted with celebrities every day, but Cory was one-of-a-kind. He easily charmed anyone and everyone he met with his endearing sense of humor and beautiful smile, which is why now after his death, no one has a bad word to say about him. He was, to the core, a great person who surrounded himself with really good, level headed people. He was an example of someone who wanted to turn his life around. He had a problem, took action to change, and strived daily to overcome his deep-seeded addiction. Through all of his personal troubles, one of the things that Cory did with his stardom was give back. He was a role model for today’s youth and worked on anti-bullying campaigns, along with friend, Taylor Swift. Cory’s loss is terrible, and is so sad - we know those close to him are feeling a great deal of pain after this tragedy.
But what does Cory have to do with the war between Bad Kids and the “Swifties?” It is simple. This is an example, thrown in our face, that life can be gone in the blink of an eye. What we stand for at Bad Kids Clothing is celebrating life, living in the moment and joining together - with people from all corners of the world - to enjoy what we have been so blessed with. To celebrate music that we love. To celebrate our friends and family who support us. To celebrate education and the opportunities that have been presented to us. Our demographic knows this is what we do, and this is who we are. We accept anyone, from all walks of life, just for being true to oneself. We appreciate differences, and the concept of freedom of speech. We will never take down a post that has someones thoughts or point of view captured throughout it, because that is expression of oneself. But, through all the recent hate messages, and all the threats, we are going to continuously spread this message of a better tomorrow. This leads to our next point...
Cory’s death should be an example to the kids out there, sitting behind their computers and phones threatening lives, to go explore what the world has to offer. Make memories with the people who matter to you. Experience life. Make new friends. Meet your soulmate. Be one with yourself. Learn from mistakes, and strive each day to be a better person. You want to look back on your childhood and remember the amazing times you had with friends and family - not that you were worshiping a pop-star that you have never even met, and most likely will never encounter on a personal level. There is so much more to life, and Cory’s sudden death should be an example to all that our chance to be great is short. We don’t have time to spread messages of hate and violence across the Internet... especially not over a trivial t-shirt.
We will not be removing the shirt from our store. We will however remove Cory’s name. This shirt is intended to be light hearted and a joke - for those who can understand this type of humor. We will deal with the death threats and incredible slander from here on out, when necessary, with proper authorities as it is never acceptable to threaten anyone’s life. Let's collectively focus our efforts on things that matter, as we are sure Cory would have wanted that. Along with the one and only, Taylor Swift.
It would be outstanding if we could channel the type of effort we have seen from the “Swifties” around topics that matter, in order to make this world a beautiful, more inspiring place..filled with peace, love, unity and respect.
Thanks for your time, and continuous support,