During Sunday night's VMAs, Taylor Swift debuted the video for her song "Wildest Dreams," and it immediately received tons of backlash.
Various outlets accused Swift and crew of romanticizing African colonialism. The most notable critique comes from an NPR article written by Viviane Rutabingwa, born in Nairobi, and James Kassaga Arinaitwe, who grew up in rural Uganda.
The authors wrote:
Swift's music is entertaining for many. 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.
The Daily Dot's Nico Lang also pointed out problems with the video, writing: "The video wants to have its old-school Hollywood romance but ends up eating some old-school Hollywood racism, too."
The video's director, Joseph Khan, was quick to rush to Swift's defense, releasing 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.
He added that many of the video’s crew members were not white, including himself:
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 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 and we are all proud of our work.