Taylor Swift premiered her video for her new single “Wildest Dreams” at the VMA’s on Sunday, and with over 13 million views in two days, it seems safe to call this video a hit. Shot predominantly in Africa before returning to California to wrap, the end of the video also announces that all proceeds from “Wildest Dreams” will be donated to African Parks Foundation of America’s wild animal conservation efforts. However, as lovely as the video is and as wonderful as the donations will be, something just seems missing and those wondering what it is need only to remember the location of the shoot. Considering that filming takes place in Africa, the very conspicuous lack of any black people is the troublesome detail that many seem to have overlooked.
Described as “Old Hollywood meets ‘Out of Africa‘“ the video depicts two actors in the 1950’s as they seemingly fall in love during the filming of an epic romance/adventure film. Swift goes brunette for the role and plays alongside Scott Eastwood as her love interest in the period film. They have a most beautiful landscape in the vast and beautiful expanses of Africa and several native animals are featured as well including a lion, giraffe, and zebra. The animals seem to be the only natives used in the “Wildest Dreams” film though, as every other living creature in video – from the love interest to the extra’s holding Eastwood’s jacket or the ones responsible for the fan used to billow Swift’s dress – all seem to be white; not a black person in sight.
NPR did a piece on Swift’s use of their continent and pointed out that essentially the video is promoting the message that Africa is full of wild animals and white people, a very glamorous version of the white colonial fantasy of Africa. Joseph Kahn directed the video and he’s sadly just one in a long line of people who romanticize colonialism. The Huffington Post‘s review of “Wildest Dreams” took a none too subtle nor kind take on the error of the video’s ways.
“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. It’s brave, really.”
The Daily Dot‘s Nico Long also had a few choice words about the video and many can’t help but agree.
“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.”
Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” video is completely bereft of the truth of Africa, that the continent is more than just vast sweeping landscapes and waterfalls. The era she so romantically portrays was one of the darkest for the African people, the colonial period saw millions of Africans, black Africans, being dehumanized, traumatized, and murdered.
Swift and her team could surely have been more responsible and donating the proceeds from “Wildest Dreams” hardly makes up for the offense.
Below are a few tweets from others who feel a similar outrage or disappointment with swift’s new video.
[Photo Courtesy of Vevo]