Taylor Swift catches criticism for ‘colonialist’ new video

The star’s new video for ‘Wildest Dreams’ is a love story partially shot in Africa featuring the continent’s exotic wildlife but none of its people

Two days ago Taylor Swift debuted her newest video for "Wildest Dreams", the fictional tale of two beautiful, white actors who fall in love while shooting on the Serengeti in 1950. Directed by Joseph Kahn, Swift strikes up a romance with her dashing co-star Scott Eastwood amidst a backdrop of beautiful African wildlife – giraffes, elephants and lions – but once they’ve left the continent and return to the grey, grim reality of America, they struggle to reconnect with the immersive fantasy that they lost themselves in. The video was partly shot in Africa and partly in California.

The arc of the video’s story is a traditional tale of unattainable love, but it’s catching heat in some quarters because of the lack of representation within the cast. Swift and Eastwood are both white, the film crew are both white and an African person doesn’t really turn up at all, bar fleeting glimpses of two African men who we assume are soldiers or park rangers. The omission has led some commentators to criticise Swift and her team.

NPR wrote: "We are shocked to think that in 2015, Taylor Swift, her record label and her video production group would think it was okay to film a video that presents a glamorous version of the white colonial fantasy of Africa." Others criticised the misplaced, offensive nostalgia that privileged Westerners appear to have for colonial Africa.

Presumably inspired by the controversy surrounding #CecilTheLion, a message at the end promises that "all proceeds from this video will be donated to animal conservation efforts through the African Parks Foundation of America", which, wherever you think the money should have gone, is undoubtedly a positive thing.

But what was undoubtedly a negative thing was the colonisation of Africa – the aftershocks of those actions still hugely affect the continent economically and socially in 2015. Should Swift and her team have been more sensitive towards representation or is the criticism unwarranted?