Taylor Swift's New Video Is ... Problematic

'Wildest Dreams' romanticizes colonial-era Africa
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2015 10:59 AM CDT

(Newser) – Taylor Swift's new video for "Wildest Dreams" was shot partially in Africa, so of course, it features giraffes, zebras ... and lots of white people. As far as James Kassaga Arinaitwe and Viviane Rutabingwa, writing in NPR, can tell, there's not a single black actor in the video. (ETOnline points out that there are, but they're only background players and appear very briefly.) The storyline involves Swift and her male love interest, decked out in colonial-era garb, filming an old-timey movie in Africa, and the whole thing is very romantic and glamorous. The problem? As Arinaitwe and Rutabingwa point out, "Colonialism was neither romantic nor beautiful. It was exploitative and brutal. The legacy of colonialism still lives quite loudly to this day."

"To those of us from the continent who had parents or grandparents who lived through colonialism (and it can be argued in some cases are still living through it), this nostalgia that privileged white people have for colonial Africa is awkwardly confusing to say the least and offensive to say the most," they continue. They're not the only ones upset:

  • "The truth: The African continent endured unspeakable brutality under European colonial rule," writes Zak Cheney-Rice at Mic. "Millions of people were enslaved, tortured or killed under violent systems of European law enforcement, forced labor and segregationist policies, fueled by a ravenous export economy that plundered much of the continent's natural resources and left many African nations indebted to—and often financially dependent on—their white former enslavers."
  • "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," writes Lauren Duca at the Huffington Post. "It's brave, really."
  • "It’s the exact African safari paradise that we were promised!" writes Madeleine Davies at Jezebel. "Lions! Elephants! Shirtless Scott Eastwood! And, bizarrely, nary a black person in sight."
  • "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," writes Nico Lang at the Daily Dot. The "accidental racism" is "sadly indicative of its star’s own shoddy racial politics."
  • Fader's headline: "Taylor Swift Went To Africa To Film A Music Video And There’s Only White People In It"
(Read more Taylor Swift stories.)

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