At Sunday evening’s VMAs extravaganza, the squad-flanked Taylor Swift perhaps attracted as much fallout as the entirety of Miley Cyrus’ weed-fueled antics and run-in with Nicki Minaj. Swift introduced Kanye, hugged it out with Minaj, and released her “Wildest Dreams” video amidst allegations of broken wind. Huge night.
Now Swift’s video, which filmed in an undisclosed area of Africa, has attracted some criticism. In the vid, Swift frolics in the grasslands while flanked with giraffes, lions, and elephants. She is courted (sort of) by a buff wax statue (played by Scott Eastwood) within the framework of an Old Hollywood movie. Ms. Swift thought she was appearing in a romantic setting fit for a power ballad, but, of course, controversy will be had. Almost immediately, NPR called out the vid as “very problematic,” and the entire think-piece ridden internet lost its everloving mind.
Most of the criticism revolves around claims that Swift channeled white colonialism. The oh-so-white video portrays a fantasy scenario where Swift finds torrid (yet scripted) romance in 1950s Africa while surrounded by white people. Fader magazine came right out and titled their article as such: “Taylor Swift Went To Africa To Film A Music Video And There’s Only White People In It.” Daily Dot wrote, “For a clip that’s set in Africa — it’s about as white as a Sunday morning farmer’s market.” Ouch.
Perhaps even more telling than all the deep analysis is how director Joseph Kahn previously described the video as a “#ToothPasteCommercial.”
In case you missed watching the video, here’s your chance.
Now Kahn has released a statement addressing the whitewashing political exploitation claims:
“The reality is not only were there people of color in the video, but the key creatives who worked on this video are people of color. I am Asian American, the producer Jil Hardin is an African American woman, and the editor Chancler Haynes is an African American man. We cast and edited this video. We collectively decided it would have been historically inaccurate to load the crew with more black actors as the video would have been accused of rewriting history. This video is set in the past by a crew set in the present and we are all proud of our work.”
Well, he has a point. The temporal setting of the video indicates a period when whitewashing was widespread. Swift plays an actress in a colonialist movie, which isn’t portrayed for any reason but to highlight her failed romance with the big lug. Intentional or not, the video pokes fun at Hollywood’s tendencies to include nearly all-white casts, even if the roles would be better suited by a diverse cast.
Such a critical eye coming from inside the video probably didn’t happen on purpose. That is to say, Swift does not write deep songs or appear in deep videos. Her past vids, especially “Shake It Off,” have met cultural appropriation accusations when Swift crawled underneath a twerking black woman. At least “Wildest Dreams” doesn’t do that, but Scott Eastwood doesn’t twerk, either.
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