Taylor Swift’s video director tries to defend racist video, somehow makes it worse
Back in the ’90s, all the music videos took place in strange anti-gravity future tubes, as it was the trend of the day. These days, it is the popular thing for white lady singers to have black lady dancers twerking in their videos, and for them to then fail at imitating that. You know, because they are too sweet and innocent and “dorky” to pull such a thing off. This is often accompanied by a pained, awkward, minstrelsy imitation of a black woman.
Mostly, it has been awkward for everyone and despite the many please for them to just freaking stop it already, they persist. They cannot stop themselves. Miley’s done it. Lily Allen’s done it. Iggy Azalea…well, who even knows what that’s about. And now, the delicate Fabergé gelfling known as Taylor Swift has jumped on board as well.
Before I even get into what Swift’s director said, I want to make a few things perfectly clear. No one is saying that white people cannot enjoy or appreciate art forms created by black people. Or even that they cannot participate in them. Hell, I actually happen to be a jazz singer, and happen to be listening to Ida Cox as I type.
Where it becomes a problem is when it becomes this “Tee-hee! I’m a white girl!” schtick, and when these women play “dress-up” as black women in outfits that a black woman would be disparaged for wearing. But, you know, it’s adorable because they’re white. When, like Swift, the joke is that they are sweet, innocent, virginal lily-white girls and it is funny and ironic for them to dress up as hyper-sexualized black women. That is when it becomes a problem.
So, Mark Romanek is the fella who directed the Taylor Swift video “Shake it Off,” and his feelings were very much hurt by Earl Sweatshirt calling the video racist without ever even watching the whole thing.
He said to Vulture:
I’m a fan of his and I think he’s a really interesting artist. (I posted a Vine to one of his tracks once.) But he stated clearly that he hadn’t seen the video and didn’t even intend to watch it. So, respectfully, that sort of invalidates his observations from the get-go. And it’s this one uninformed tweet that got reported on and rehashed, which started this whole “controversy.” We simply choose styles of dance that we thought would be popular and amusing and cast the best dancers that were presented to us without much regard to race or ethnicity. If you look at it carefully, it’s a massively inclusive piece. It’s very, very innocently and positively intentioned. And — let’s remember — it’s a satirical piece. It’s playing with a whole range of music-video tropes and clichés and stereotypes.
Oh good. Well, if you were just satirizing these women, then I guess it is all in good, innocent fun.
If you ask me, I don’t think he had to watch the whole thing. I did, and I came away with the same creeping feeling. Anyone with half a brain could look at one of the stills of Ms. Swift dressed up like an “In Living Color” Fly Girl, staring up in amazement at disembodied black woman’s thighs and ass, and say to themselves “Well, this is not right…”
Let us also remember, that this is Taylor Swift, here. Not Jonathan Swift. We are not talking about an eye-opening satire of modern life and music video. What we’re talking about here is a white woman “satirizing” black culture. That is not necessary. The thing with satire, like any form of comedy, is that it’s supposed to kick up, not down. Black women do not need to be “satirized” by Taylor freaking Swift. They are not exactly a group that needs to be taken down a notch.
Another one of his statements to Vulture was equally telling:
But this basic idea was all Taylor’s. We met and she told me that she wanted to make a sort of paean to the awkward ones, the “uncool” kids that are actually cooler than the “cool” kids. She said she wanted to shoot all these styles of dance and then be the individualist dork in the midst of these established genres.
Does Taylor Swift even know who Taylor Swift is?
Taylor Swift, you are a very rich, blond haired, blue eyed, objectively pretty and thin woman who sings milquetoast pop songs. You could not possibly get more mainstream if you were Patti Page singing “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?”. You are as much of an uncool, geeky, cultural outsider as Marie Osmond is a little bit rock and roll.
Your two biggest problems is that not everyone thinks you’re swell, and that the peasants who live by your seaside mansion would like to continue using the public beach near it. This is the cross you have to bear. You are not the underdog here, and acting like it looks foolish and disingenuous.
I don’t know how goddamned long this idiot trend is going to last. At what point white recording artists will feel they have sufficiently “satirized” black women, we cannot be sure. However, each time they do it, they can be sure that they will be called out on it, and that each time they pretend they simply had no idea that anyone would find it offensive, it will become slightly less believable. Then, I don’t know, maybe they’ll have to find something else.