If you're a self-proclaimed "Swiftie," then Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams" video might have been something you were, well, dreaming about for quite some time. One thing that likely did not run through any fans head was the possibility that the video would stir up some serious controversy, though — which happens to be exactly what happened. The video for "Wildest Dreams" has received backlash for, according to critics, "channeling white colonialism." As NPR described, "Wildest Dreams" is coming under fire for presenting a "glamorous version of the white colonial fantasy of Africa." Now, "Wildest Dreams" director Joseph Kahn is responding to the controversy.
In case you missed Swift's latest music video, "Wildest Dreams" features a love story between two old Hollywood actors (played by Swift and Scott Eastwood) who become romantically entangled while working on a film set in Africa. The music video, which is an homage to old Hollywood glamour and resembles the look of films like 1985's Out Of Africa, was criticized by some for telling the story of two white people despite being set in Africa. Viviane Rutabingwa and James Kassaga Arinaitwe at NPR penned this in response to the video:
Swift's music is entertaining for many. 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.
In response to the criticisms, Kahn has released a statement detailing his vision for the project, and the thought process he had while making the video. Here is the statement that Kahn made, issued by Swift's publicist:
“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.
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. We cast and edited this video. We collectively decided it would have been historicially 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. 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.
You can check out "Wildest Dreams," which premiered during the MTV VMAs on Sunday, below: