It’s not exactly a UN Peace Accord, but it’s not nothing. After more than half a decade of estrangement, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift have officially made up, with Perry declaring the truce via an Instagram post.
The picture of what looked to be homemade, (and frankly, delicious) cookies, along with the words “Peace at Last” written in red frosting on the side of the plate, drew a tsunami of support from the internet. Perry had two words for the caption: “feels good” and tagged Swift, who responded with 13 heart emojis.
It’s an interesting end to what has been a colourful fallout between the two mega successful artists. If cryptic messages via song lyrics, Instagram posts and interviews are to be believed, the fight began when two of Taylor Swift’s dancers abandoned her on tour to join Perry. Swift called it a deliberate sabotaging of her career. No doubt the fact that John Mayer broke Swift’s heart six years before embarking on an on-off relationship with Perry did nothing to help cool the white hot rage between them.
But it was always Swift’s contention that Perry was passive-aggressive toward her from almost the beginning, saying that at award shows, Perry’s comments would leave her feeling stunned.
But both Swift, who turns 30 this year, and Perry, 34, are both in different life stages now. Swift has been dating English actor Joe Alwyn for two years, while Perry is now engaged to another English actor, Orlando Bloom.
Humility is the birthplace of apology. The point at which you realise you’re no better than anyone else.
They’re also at different stages in their careers, or to be put it in stark terms: female pop music is - for better or worse – inextricably linked to female sexuality, which has a cut-off date. Could it be that, as they’ve evolved from a point at which they have to prove they are, to borrow a phrase from John Mayer, “sexual napalm”, they’ve been able to make room for each other?
If this hypothesis sounds a little reductionist, hang onto your ejaculating cream bikinis, because eros is key to understanding why the feud occurred in the first place. Eros, and marketing.
Perry’s entire brand is centred on an exaggerated sexuality; it’s subversive, suggesting that the man-pleasing good girl who likes to bounce on beds is a fiction. Underneath lurks a fully realised woman who understands she must play into basic myths in order to illicit desire.
Swift, by contrast, has, for the bulk of her career, portrayed herself as a girl so wholesome-yet-pretty, she’s left out of sexual relationships, left behind for the cheerleader, who is more adept at performing a hetero-normative seduction in her “short skirts”.
So, perhaps before they had ever met, Perry and Swift had already decided that the other one was the enemy. Not literally of course, but the basic archetypes they represent are what each singer is rebelling against, and taking pains to 'other'.
There are more important things to hold onto than grudges. But those sorts of realisations happen quietly, perhaps you click “like” on a sworn enemy’s tweet.
So what was it that quelled the hate? Well, Perry had a painful, humiliating divorce from Russell Brand, who appeared to openly devalue her. Swift was publicly stripped of her nice-girl victim persona by Kim Kardashian, and had to go into hiding. Both incidents are enough to humble anyone, and humility is the birthplace of apology. The point at which you realise you’re no better than anyone else.
But for an apology to work, it has to be preceded by introspection. Perry, who made her first overture to Swift with a literal olive branch last year, told Vogue she was able to do a bit of reflection at a “personal growth” retreat.
While not all of us are privileged enough go on retreats, there is usually a point around the 30th birthday that self-help is sought out by most of us. It might be because a relationship broke up, or a quarter-life crisis hits, but there’s really nothing like a bit of pop psychology intel to soften the sharp need for everyone to know you’re right and they’re wrong.
The stakes are lowered in your 30s, and you begin to realise not every elbow nudge is a stab in the back, and if it is, well, good luck to them. There are more important things to hold onto than grudges. But those sorts of realisations happen quietly, perhaps you click “like” on a sworn enemy’s tweet. Perhaps they put a laughing emoji on one of your Facebook status updates. They don’t usually carry the fanfare of an Instagram post, declaring it as loudly as a new romance.
But perhaps that’s part of it. Both women are no doubt, like the rest of us, so deeply ensconced in work and relationships they’ve probably missed the great fun, and warmth, of the close female friendships of your 20s. Especially when you’ve realised (as we all tend to do at one time or another) that you have more in common with your frenemy than you think.
Natalie Reilly is a freelance writer. You can follow Natalie on Twitter @thatnatreilly.