Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” video depicts more than just a doomed love affair — some say it glamorizes a shameful chapter in the history of Africa.
In the video, which premiered on Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards, Swift portrays an Old Hollywood actress who has a steamy affair with her costar, played by Scott Eastwood, while on location in 1950s Africa.
The problem? 1950s Africa was not a particularly great place to be if you happened to be black — and now Swift’s video is being called racist for glamorizing colonialism.
But others defended Swift’s artistic choice, saying that the video does not depict colonialism at all, but quite obviously a simple movie set in a beautiful, remote location.
The video’s director, Joseph Kahn, denies the piece has anything at all to do with colonialism and says the setting was chosen to represent a complete departure from their regular lives.
“‘Wildest Dreams’ is a song about a relationship that was doomed, and the music video concept was that they were having a love affair on location away from their normal lives. This is not a video about colonialism but a love story on the set of a period film crew in Africa, 1950,” Kahn said in a statement.
“There are black Africans in the video in a number of shots, but I rarely cut to crew faces outside of the director as the vast majority of screentime is Taylor and Scott. The video is based on classic Hollywood romances like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, as well as classic movies like The African Queen, Out of Africa and The English Patient, to name a few.
“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,” Kahn explained. “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.
“There is no political agenda in the video. Our only goal was to tell a tragic love story in classic Hollywood iconography. Furthermore, this video has been singled out, yet there have been many music videos depicting Africa,” Kahn continued. “These videos have traditionally not been lessons in African history. Let’s not forget, Taylor has chosen to donate all of her proceeds from this video to the African Parks Foundation to preserve the endangered animals of the continent and support the economies of local African people.”