EXCLUSIVE: Taylor Swift’s Director Joseph Kahn on How Her Image Invokes a Double Standard: ‘She’s a Genius’
By Leena Tailor
Their “Look What You Made Me Do” video might be taking the world by storm, but there’s not one thing that director Joseph Kahn made Taylor Swift do!
While the songstress was laying low making new music in recent months, ET spoke with the award-winning director, who reflected on his previous collaborations with the 27-year-old pop star prior to his work on "Look What You Made Me Do" and shared how intensely involved Swift gets with all of her music videos.
“We talk very deeply about every project that we do,” Kahn told ET in April. While production of the video started in January, choreographer and "Look What You Made Me Do" co-star Todrick Hall confirmed Swift's new video was filmed in May. “We have a complete discussion. These are true collaborations -- it’s not like, ‘Hey Joseph, here’s a song and come back and tell me what to do.’ It’s not like that at all. We talk about every shot, we discuss every set-up as we’re doing it and there’s nothing that happens without literally both of us putting our brains together about it.”
Since making his mark directing the iconic video for the Backstreet Boys’ 1997 hit, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)," Kahn has gone on to work with pop music’s biggest names, including Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Katy Perry and Mariah Carey.
He first worked with Swift on several videos for her 1989 album, including “Blank Space,” “Out of the Woods” and “Bad Blood,” for which he won the 2015 GRAMMY for Best Music Video.
Their latest creation received 100 million views in less than four days, and while it has been labelled “polarizing,” there are more than six times as many likes than dislikes on the video’s YouTube page.
Some have applauded the video’s artistic brilliance, while others remain critical of insinuated digs at celebrities with whom Swift had fallen out with over the years -- including Kanye West, Katy Perry and ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris.
Following outcry at the video, Kahn spoke out on social media, declaring that Swift and other well-known female artists are victims of “double standards.”
“If I plan something as a man I'm a ‘genius.’ If Taylor as a woman plans something she is ‘manipulative,’” Kahn tweeted. “Double standards. This is wrong.”
The director then retweeted a Guardian article about the battle against misogyny faced by Swift and other female celebrities, who the editorial claims “are swapped in and out of roles in the machinery of patriarchal society and its race to destroy them."
However, being a woman may not be the only hurdle faced by Swift. Having worked closely with the musician several times, Kahn told ET in the same conversation from April that he believes she is a “genius,” whose sheer beauty has hurt her credibility and reputation in the eyes of some.
“The most interesting thing about Taylor is that she’s the rare solo artist who has her head on straight, which is pretty insane,” he said. “I generally think she’s a genius, and it’s interesting that people tend to try to dismiss her, but it’s almost ironic because they dismiss her because she’s blonde, tall, blue-eyed and beautiful. They almost assume that negates her actual talent. It’s like a distraction to what she actually does -- write amazing songs.”
“She’s an incredible songwriter,” continued Kahn, whose recent projects also include directing Imagine Dragons' "Thunder" video and the rap battle film Bodied, co-produced by Eminem. “Taylor, before she was a performer, was selling songs to labels and they didn’t even know that she was 16 when she was doing it. So, she’s genuinely a genius and I think she’s also genuinely an introvert who has to be an extrovert to survive the business. People sometimes react to how smart she is and they think it may be manipulative, but it’s not. It’s literally that she’s so smart and is really thinking things through, whereas people normally just want to see [celebrities] be stupid. Taylor’s not that way.”
See more on the much-talked-about "Look What You Made Me Do" video below.