Taylor Swift's 'Wildest Dreams' Video Under Fire for Its 'Glamorous White Colonial Fantasy'
By Zach Seemayer
Big Machine Records
Taylor Swift is once again coming under fire for one of her music videos.
On Sunday, Swift released the music video for her new single off 1989, "Wildest Dreams," which has been viewed more than 12 million times in just under three days. However, it is already catching heat for what some are seeing as racial insensitivity.
The story depicted in the video tells the tale of two 1940s-era movie stars (Swift and The Longest Ride star Scott Eastwood) who, for most of the video, are shooting a film on-location in the African desert.
As NPR pointed out in a lengthy critique titled "Taylor Swift Is Dreaming Of A Very White Africa," despite the video being shot partially in Africa, black performers are not prominently featured on screen, though some of Africa's native animals -- lions, zebras, giraffes and cheetahs – are. There appear to be two black actors playing soldiers; however, they only appear in the background during several moments of the music video.
"Taylor Swift is dressed as a colonial-era woman on African soil. With just a few exceptions, the cast in the video — the actors playing her boyfriend and a movie director and his staff — all appear to be white," NPR contributors Viviane Rutabingwa and James Kassafa Arinaitwe write in their commentary of the video. "We are shocked to think that in 2015, Taylor Swift, her record label and her video production group would think it was okay to film a video that presents a glamorous version of the white colonial fantasy of Africa."
"Swift's music is entertaining for many,” Rutabingwa and Arinaitwe add. "She should absolutely be able to use any location as a backdrop. But she packages our continent as the backdrop for her romantic songs devoid of any African person or storyline, and she sets the video in a time when the people depicted by Swift and her co-stars killed, dehumanized and traumatized millions of Africans. That is beyond problematic."
They are not the only media pointing out the glaring discrepancy. Many other outlets have raised similar concerns.
"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,” wrote Huffington Post reporter Lauren Duca, who said the video channeled "white colonialism."
"It's brave, really,” Duca continued. "Almost as brave as moving sensuously in the vicinity of a real-life lion."
(Swift’s proceeds from the video will be donated to the African Parks Foundation of America, according to a title card at the end.)
"Taylor Swift’s 'Wildest Dreams' video is here," wrote Jezebel’s Madeleine Davis. "And it's the exact African safari paradise that we were promised! Lions! Elephants! Shirtless Scott Eastwood! And, bizarrely, nary a black person in sight."
Many critics remarked that the video appeared to be an homage to the 1985 film Out of Africa, which ended up taking home seven Oscars despite being generally disliked by critics in the years following its release.
"An homage to a love triangle about white colonialists is going to present some, uh, challenges to an artist who just wants to make a three-minute music video to put on her VEVO page—and Taylor Swift found that out the hard way,"The Daily Dot’s Nico Lang wrote. "Even the most casual observer would have noticed that -- 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," Lang added.
However, many of Swift's fans were wildly supportive of the video -- and the star's stunning new brunette look -- and shared their love on Twitter.
Swift faced similar criticism just over a year ago for the music video to her megahit single "Shake It Off,” the first single from 1989. Some said then that Swift was guilty of cultural appropriation and "perpetuating black stereotypes" due to a number of her wardrobes and dance numbers in the video.