During last week’s MTV Video Music Awards, pop-princess Taylor Swift debuted her romantic and dreamlike music video for her song “Wildest Dreams.” The video opens with a twentieth-century-themed Swift on what appears to be a film set in the middle of an African desert. Throughout the video, Swift is flanked by the handsome Scott Eastwood and a medley of African wildlife.

The video director Joseph Kahn explained to Entertainment Weekly, “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.” However, this message was not so easily received by all audiences. The video sparked controversy, and even outrage, when critics noted its lack of diversity. The National Public Radio [NPR] even went as far as saying “Wildest Dreams” was romanticizing the white colonialism of Africa. Viviane Rutabingwa and James Kassaga Arinaitwe, authors for NPR and African natives, weighed in on the controversy by stating, “[Swift] 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.”

The two authors went on to complain that the continent was inaccurately depicted throughout the video and they felt it should have showed grasslands filled with tall and starving African people. Now when creating any piece of art, one must always consider every possible reaction – both good and bad. One has to consider how all parties are going to interpret the message being conveyed, which is very difficult to do. When I was watching the debut of “Wildest Dreams,” I interpreted as the director intended. I saw an actor and actress caught up in a love affair that was bound to fail. As for the desert setting, I thought it made sense. There’s a line in the chorus that goes, “Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams;” the key word in this line is “wild.”

I don’t know about you, but when I think about the word “wild” I usually picture a rainforest or the woods or the desert – much like the one where this music video took place. It makes sense for the video to take place in a desert setting and there just so happens to be wildlife in the background, so be it. I have to disagree with the authors from NPR about the video needing to include grasslands and starving natives.  If the storyline were about lovers on a romantic getaway or visiting African villages, then by all means include accurate depictions of the people living there.

But that’s not what the video was about. Could it have used more diversity? Absolutely. I don’t think there is such a thing as having too much diversity. I also did not find “Wildest Dreams” to romanticize African Colonialism. It may have been set in the colonial-era but in my eyes it in no way showed any hint of colonialism. I don’t know why Swift and her team chose to set the music video in the era they did considering that is when European nations colonized Africa. Realistically she could have picked any other time period but we’ll just have to call this specific decision a lapse in judgment. Overall I do not think that Swift and her team were trying to offend anyone or romanticize such a tragic occurrence in history.

While I do understand the frustration and outrage some people may feel while watching the video for “Wildest Dreams,” I do think we’re beginning to reach the point of over-analyzing something to turn it into something it’s not. Swift was merely trying to portray a story in a setting that coincided with the title of the song. I find too often that we look at starlets and pick them apart, often for no reason at all. Maybe instead of immediately criticizing the celebrities for their work we should take a look at what they’re trying to convey instead of immediately creating a problem or controversy when there might not have been one in the first place.

Claire Hickey can be contacted at chickey@kscequinox.com

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