Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams" Video Accused of "Channeling White Colonialism"
"Just because you represent the past or pay respect to it doesn't mean you need to recreate its worst aspects."
Taylor Swift recently debuted her music video for "Wildest Dreams," co-starring Scott Eastwood, and it is receiving criticism from some media outlets for its content.
The video was shot in an undisclosed location in Africa and directed by Joseph Kahn. It tells the story of two 1950s actors having a relationship while shooting a film in Africa. Jezebel 's Madeleine Davies describes the storyline as Old Hollywood meets Out of Africa. "It’s all passion and desire while on location (isn’t it funny how wild things get in Africa?), but once back in Hollywood and shooting on a soundstage, our poor lovelorn colonizers just can’t get it together."
Many outlets have pointed out that the film only depicts wild animals and white people with, as Davies puts it, "bizarrely, nary a black person in sight." The title of a Fader article about the video reads, "Taylor Swift Went To Africa To Film A Music Video And There’s Only White People In It." The Huffington Post, Mic and The Daily Dot criticized Swift for the video.
Huffington Post's Lauren Duca said the video "channels wild colonialism." She wrote, "Instead of the cultural appropriation that has become almost status quo in today's pop music, Swift has opted for the bolder option of actually just embodying the political exploitation of a region and its people."
The Daily Dot's Nico Lang said the video "has a major race problem." Lang said, "For a clip that’s set in Africa—it’s about as white as a Sunday morning farmer’s market."
"The video wants to have its old-school Hollywood romance but ends up eating some old-school Hollywood racism, too," said Lang, adding, "Just because you represent the past or pay respect to it doesn't mean you need to recreate its worst aspects."
Mic's Zak Cheney-Rice talked about the history of white colonialism in Africa. "The video's narrative of white people finding romance in the hinterlands of a land wracked by colonial violence is not only obliviously ahistorical, but also exhibits tropes that people across the African diaspora have been trying to dispel for years," said Cheney-Rice.
"The video also takes place in the mid-20th century, a time when such 'classic' Hollywood efforts as The African Queen, and Out of Africa were either filmed or set — and which romanticize a version of the era that overlooks the anti-black violence and slavery on which the lifestyles depicted were built," said Cheney-Rice.
He said it seems "remarkable that the insidious nature of the African colonial fantasy is so seamlessly glossed over." Cheney-Rice said that this is important because of Swift's popularity and influence. "When a pop culture product reaches as many people as a Taylor Swift video does, the images it presents have implications beyond their immediate purview."
On Sept. 2, director Joseph Kahn went on Twitter and seemed to respond to some of the critics by telling fans his longtime producer, who worked on "Wildest Dreams" is black.
My long time producer Jil Hardin who did Power/Rangers, Blank Space, Wildest Dreams is a (super hot) black woman FYI http://t.co/S4Koj7XfsU— Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) September 2, 2015
I work with the most famous people in the world...and I would never want to be famous. People take shots at you 24/7. It's nuts.— Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) September 2, 2015
Swift's rep did not respond to request for comment. All proceeds of Swift's video will be donated to the African Parks Foundation of America.
Here's a look at some social media reaction and criticism of Swift's video:
In my wildest dream Taylor Swift had a frank conversation about race, class, and cultural appropriation with Cecil the Lion— Puja Patel (@senari) August 31, 2015
@taylorswift13's "Wildest Dreams" video presents a white washed narrative of white people problems set in africa. It makes me sick.— Alfonso Manalastas (@alfonsaurus_rex) September 1, 2015
So Taylor Swift's Wildest Dreams video was filmed in "Africa" but what country? Also, why does it only contain animals and white ppl #Taylor— Lena Olson (@LeynuhPawp) August 31, 2015
Rather than using Africans as props in her new music video, Taylor Swift just sticks to white people... http://t.co/CSMBNMf2sb— Tom Murphy (@viewfromthecave) August 31, 2015
But are we *really* surprised that Taylor Swift went to Africa to film an exclusively white music video? http://t.co/vzyghdY5vQ— Claire (@ClaireShrugged) August 31, 2015
"Let's make a music video glorifying colonialism. lol." - Taylor Swift— Hann_Hel (@Hann_Hel) September 1, 2015
Can anyone else not think of glamourization of colonialism when watching the new Taylor Swift music video.— Cindy (@thecindyjun) September 1, 2015
But the way Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams" video performs colonialism, that bothered me. Africa with all white people? C'mon.— Andrea Lambert (@AndreaLamber) September 1, 2015
Yes cheers to colonialism. Those were epic times for us Africans. Thanks Taylor Swift for the reminder! https://t.co/SqhsGtsOE9— Makho Ndlovu (@makhondlovu) August 31, 2015
Updated Sept. 2 1:39pm PT with Kahn's comments.