Wildest Dreams director hits back

Taylor Swift's music video Wildest Dreams, set in Africa, has been criticised as portraying a white colonial fantasy of the continent.
Taylor Swift's music video Wildest Dreams, set in Africa, has been criticised as portraying a white colonial fantasy of the continent.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

NEW YORK • The director of Taylor Swift's new music video, which is set in Africa, struck back on Wednesday at mounting criticism of the scarcity of black people in the mini-film and its romanticised portrayal of the continent.

Wildest Dreams, a love story filmed against a backdrop of giraffes, lions, waterfalls and stunning sunsets, has been viewed more than 17 million times since it was released on Monday to accompany the pop star's latest single.

Although Swift is donating all proceeds to the African Parks Foundation of America, critics have seized on the video as portraying a stereotyped colonial-era view of Africa.

"So thank you, Taylor Swift, for proving once again that African stereotypes are safe atop the pinnacle of American pop culture," wrote Associate Professor Matthew Carotenuto, who teaches African studies at New York state's St Lawrence University, in an article on Wednesday on Salon.com.

Director Joseph Kahn said the video depicted a love story on the set of a period film in Africa in 1950. He said there were black Africans in the video in background shots, but it would have been "historically inaccurate to load the crew with more black actors as the video would have been accused of rewriting history".

He also noted that the video's producer Jil Hardin and editor Chancler Haynes are both AfricanAmerican. "There is no political agenda in the video. Our only goal was to tell a tragic love story in classic Hollywood iconography," he said in a statement.

Swift, who has some 62 million Twitter followers and whose 1989 album has sold more than eight million copies worldwide, has not responded to the criticism.

In an article for National Public Radio's website, contributors James Kaaga Arinaitwe and Viviane Rutabingwa, who have lived and worked in several African countries, said Swift is not the first person to use the continent as a backdrop for romantic tales.

"We are shocked to think that in 2015, Taylor Swift, her record label and her video production group would think it is okay to film a video that presents a glamorous version of the white colonial fantasy of Africa," they added.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'Wildest Dreams director hits back'. Print Edition | Subscribe