Update: Taylor Swift Faces Racial Controversy Yet Again With "Wildest Dreams" Video

Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages/REX USA.
Update: Joseph Kahn, the director of Swift's "Wildest Dreams" video, has provided Refinery29 with a statement addressing the controversy. The statement is below, in full:

"'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.

"There are black Africans in the video in a number of shots, but I rarely cut to crew faces outside of the director as the vast majority of screen time is Taylor and Scott.

"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.

"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 cast and edited this video. We collectively decided it would have been historicially 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 and we are all proud of our work.

"There is no political agenda in the video. Our only goal was to tell a tragic love story in classic Hollywood iconography. Furthermore, this video has been singled out, yet there have been many music videos depicting Africa. These videos have traditionally not been lessons in African history. 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."


This article was originally published on September 2, 2015 at 2:15 p.m.


Original story continues below:

Wherever Taylor Swift goes, whatever Taylor Swift does and no matter what Taylor Swift says, backlash is certain to follow. If it's not about her famous friendships, then it's about her statements on feminism. This time around, it's about her latest music video for "Wildest Dreams." So, is it a harmless mistake on Swift's behalf, or is it a legitimate oversight about race?

The video — which harkens back to the Meryl Streep-led film, Out of Africa (a controversial piece of art in and of itself) — has been accused of having "a major race problem." The clip, which features Swift and co-star Scott Eastwood as actors shooting a film and having a rocky romance amidst a sweeping desert backdrop. The Daily Dot called it "both stunning and stunningly tone-deaf," while The Huffington Post argued that it glorified "white Colonialism." NPR, however, got in the clearest shot of all with their headline, "Taylor Swift Is Dreaming Of A Very White Africa."

"Shake It Off" had its own share of racial issues, and it's easy to see how "Wildest Dreams," a video about two gorgeous white people having a glamorous rendezvous during a time and place when it was anything but for the people living there, could also be accused.

Still, it seems the video is paying more homage to an old school Hollywood romance storyline than anything else, and not purposefully glorifying an ugly chapter in history. And, that's not to say that those should be glorified or glossed over in art by any means, it's just clear that Swift — whether she knew it or not — overlooked the ugliness in all that beauty. As Salon pointed out, Swift knew to combat one possible controversy regarding the setting of the video, by having all the proceeds from "Wildest Dreams" be donated to wild animal conservation efforts through the African Parks Foundation of America.

The video has pretty imagery, no doubt, even if it is clueless about its place in history. But, if it wasn't Taylor Swift, would it cause the same kind of uproar? Will her vision as an artist always be under a scrutinized eye? Or will Swift herself have to start to look at matters — especially when it comes to race — through a much clearer and much more careful lens?

Watch the video below and share your thoughts on the controversy:

Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages/REX USA.
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