I am a black woman, and this week the internet says I should be angry because Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” video is set in an Africa full of white people. In it, director Joseph Kahn channels old Hollywood, with Swift and her co-star, Scott Eastwood, playing actors from the 1950s filming a movie on the African plains. The co-stars have an affair offscreen. There are exotic animals. When the actors return to the States for the premiere, it turns out one of them is already hitched. Hearts are broken. End scene. Oh, wait, sidebar, almost forgot — there are no black people.
After watching the video during its debut on the VMAs Sunday night, my initial thought was that it's boring. It's the visual equivalent of a harlequin novel on flibanserin. But then, like a stampede of zebras across the sunbaked savanna, the outrage started to roll in via headlines across the globe. Jezebel called it “a highly stylized, white-washed celebration of African colonialism.” NPR went further: “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. Of course, this is not the first time that white people have romanticized colonialism: See Louis Vuitton's 2014 campaign, Ernest Hemingway's Snows of Kilimanjaro, the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia and of course Karen Blixen's memoir Out of Africa. But it still stings.”