Director Taylor Swift’s African video hits back at critics
The director of Taylor Swift’s new African-set music video on Wednesday sought to deflect mounting criticism over the absence of black people in the mini-film and its romanticized portrayal of the continent
“Wildest Dreams,” a love story filmed against a backdrop of giraffes, tigers, waterfalls and stunning sunsets, has been viewed more than 15 million times since it was released on Monday to accompany the American pop superstar’s latest single.
Although Swift is donating all profits to the African Parks Foundation of America, critics have seized on the video, which appears to be set in the 1930s or 1940s, 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 Matt Carotenuto, who teaches African studies at New York’s St. Lawrence University, in a Wednesday article on Salon.com.
“Taylor Swift Went To Africa To Film A Music Video And There’s Only White People,” wrote Myles Tanzer in a blog on New York-based music site TheFader.com.
Joseph Kahn, who directed the “Wildest Dreams” video, responded on Twitter; “My long time producer Jil Hardin who did Power/Rangers, Blank Space, Wildest Dreams is a (super hot) black woman FYI.”
“I absolutely love that Taylor donated all her video proceeds to African parks Foundation. She’s lost a lot of money doing that. Good soul,” Kahn added, saying the video was shot in Botswana and South Africa.
Neither Taylor Swift, who has some 62 million Twitter followers and whose “1989” album has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide, nor her representatives have responded to the criticism.
In an article for National Public Radio’s website, James Kaaga Arinaitwe and Viviane Rutabingwa, who both have lived and worked in several African nations, said Swift was by far the first person to use the continent as a backdrop for romantic tales, without including African people.
“We are shocked to think that in 2015, Taylor Swift, her record label and her video production group would think it was OK to film a video that presents a glamorous version of the white colonial fantasy of Africa,” they added.