The video for Taylor Swift’s new song, “Wildest Dreams,” conjures up a colonial-era Africa of magnificent landscapes, beautiful animals — and virtually no black Africans.
Here are some facts for Swift and her team: Colonialism was neither romantic nor beautiful. It was exploitative and brutal. The legacy of colonialism still lives quite loudly to this day. Scholars have argued that poor economic performance, weak property rights and tribal tensions across the continent can be traced to colonial strategies. So can other woes. In a place full of devastation and lawlessness, diseases spreads like wildfire, conflict breaks out and dictators grab power.
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 a number of shots,” he says, “but I rarely cut to crew faces outside of the director as the vast majority of screen time is Taylor and Scott [Eastwood, who plays her lover].”
“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.”
To those who felt the video did not show enough black Africans, Kahn says: “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 collectively decided 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 says, stating that “we are all proud of our work.”
He emphasizes that “there is no political agenda in the video” and adds, “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.
Joseph Kahn on ‘Wildest Dreams’ being labeled racist. (NPR)
The Amazing Secret Behind Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams Gown
Like all of her music videos from the past year, Taylor Swift’s just-debuted “Wildest Dreams” is chockablock with gorgeous fashion. One piece that particularly caught our eye? The strapless pink gown she wears to the premiere of her faux film, redolent of glamorous retro screen stars. The dress is from Christian Siriano, was custom-crafted just for Swift after her stylist saw an Instagram peek of it and will come down the runway at Siriano’s spring ‘16 show this NYFW, all before being returned to Miss Swift.
“I got an email asking if we’d even loan it because it’s something new. I wasn’t sure if it was really done—we’d finished it, but hadn’t tried it on anyone yet. It had just been finished being sewn in our studio,” Siriano told us in amazement. The spring '16 piece was overnighted the next day.
Keep in mind all of this, more or less, just happened. Siriano said the initial call came in about three weeks ago, meaning the video (released during Sunday’s VMAs) had an epically quick transition from raw footage to finished mini-movie.
“Taylor likes to keep her pieces, so we’ll send the original to her after our market. Hopefully she’ll have it by mid-October.” As you’d expect, Swift isn’t likely to re-wear the gown anytime soon; instead, it’s likely for an archive. “Taylor actually buys [stuff]. She doesn’t ask for them for free, she purchases them. If I was Taylor, I’d want an amazing archive too so when I’m 50 years old I can be like, 'Look at all of the fabulous things I wore.’ I’d give it to her, but they offer and that’s what’s so great about her. She makes money, so she can buy clothes.”
The relationship between designer and pop star started when he dressed her for her Wonderstruck fragrance campaign. The dress, a frothy dream of a thing from his spring '11 collection, is indeed in Swift’s archives, but it’s not the only one of its kind. The starring spot led to all kinds of interest and orders, with Siriano saying his team could barely keep up with demands. Here’s hoping magic strikes twice!
We collectively decided it would have been historically 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.
Joseph Kahn, director of ‘Wildest Dreams,’ response to the criticism that the music video is racist. (Billboard)