Two days ago, Taylor Swift released a new video for her song Wildest Dreams. It’s been viewed upwards of 15 million times.
The video, directed by Joseph Kahn, features Swift being made up on the plains of Africa — she’s obviously an actress in the music video, on the set of a 1950s film — while flirting with her co-star, Scott Eastwood. The video shows her making out with Eastwood a good deal, standing in glamour poses near various exotic animals, flying above Africa in a biplane, riding a horse, and then standing on a set in Hollywood with an African safari backdrop. The punch line: she arrives at the premiere of this 1950s-style film, finds Eastwood is married, and flees the theater.
The video is obviously a riff on various high-profile celebrity romances from the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, when co-stars would routinely travel abroad to exotic locales, become lovers, and then return back to the United States with their personal baggage. Swift’s suddenly-brunette hair is a shout-out to Elizabeth Taylor, and the whole scenario reeks of Taylor’s romance with Richard Burton.
The video concludes with this line: “All of Taylor’s proceeds from this video will be donated to wild animal conservation efforts through the African Parks Foundation of America.”
This nod to environmentalism bought no sympathy from the social justice warriors, however, who have deemed the video – you guessed it – racist. Viviane Rutabingwa and James Kassaga Arinaitwe, professional useless people, wrote a piece for NPR in which they accuse Swift of bigotry for the cast’s excessive whiteness – even though the video has nothing to do with Africa or African people except as a shout-out to an Out of Africa stylistic flourish. Rutabingwa and Arinaitwe write:
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 continue by labeling Ernest Hemingway’s Snows of Kilimanjaro and David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia romanticizations of colonialism, then add, snidely:
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 spread like wildfire, conflict breaks out and dictators grab power.
Presumably, Swift should have shown some Boers raping native Africans in the background, or perhaps a picture of an Ebola-stricken villager dying beneath the boots of a Cecil Rhodes-looking actor. The social justice warriors conclude:
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.
Did Elizabeth Taylor dehumanize and traumatize millions of Africans? Aside from her performance in Cleopatra, there has been no evidence to substantiate such a claim. But absence of white guilt in any context is now proof of racism. If you don’t affirmatively load your music video with critiques of South African apartheid, while filming a video that has nothing to do with apartheid, you must be upholding apartheid. If you show white people in Africa without showing those white people impoverishing black people in Africa, you’re an emissary of imperialism. Sure, it might be jarring to hear Swift singing about lost love while carrying a sign reading, “RHODESIA BLOWS.” But it’s the message that counts.
Ridiculously, the mainstream media is now taking such critiques seriously. The Daily Mail (UK) has run with the Swift story as its top headline. The Guardian ran with the story, too. So did The Wrap, The Daily Mirror, and Newsweek. Huffington Post entertainment reporter Lauren Duca wrote that the video “sure felt like some harkening back to white colonialism… 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.”
Thus far, Swift has offered no defense. But clearly she must be made to pay for the grave sin of being a white person with a music video set in Africa. Coldplay, you’re on notice. You too, Lily Allen.
The director, Kahn, finding himself in the crosshairs of the SJWs, has now released a statement:
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….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.
Such protestations carry no weight with those who mandate popular culture narratives, however. And this controversy is merely the latest attempt by hard left culture dictators to label Swift a racist. In 2014, critics said Swift was racist for her idiotic Shake It Off video, in which she awkwardly attempts break dancing and twerking.
Just months ago, the vastly untalented Nicki Minaj complained on Twitter about the supposed racism of the Video Music Awards for not nominating her Anaconda rump-shaking routine for Video of the Year, adding a slap at Swift: “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year.” Swift responded, “I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot.” Minaj then denied she had referred to Swift in the first place, and her supporters called Swift racist, prompting Swift to back down.
Everything is now racist, unless it is explicitly anti-racist – even if it has nothing to do with racism. The bad news: every music video will now contain an obligatory disclaimer supporting Black Lives Matter, even music videos from Kenny G. The good news: Spike Lee just found himself a second career.
Watch: Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams music video:
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.