How Dare You: Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams”

Artist: Taylor Swift

Song: “Wildest Dreams”

Sample lyrics: “He’s so tall, and handsome as hell / He’s so bad but he does it so well”


Taylor Alison Swift is a music phenom. Once a country-pop crossover darling, she is now a diva in her own right. Like a true diva, she takes throwing shade to high art. In a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, she said, “She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me. And I’m surprisingly non-confrontational — you would not believe how much I hate conflict.” This zen-like approach to conflict resulted in surprisingly non-confrontational massive hit “Bad Blood”, which is NOT AT ALL about Katy Perry. Real divas make money off their hate.

Taylor Swift is a major influence in music. She made Kanye West apologize to a grateful nation. Her concerts have more celebrity guest stars than the last season of a fading sitcom. She stood up to Apple Music on behalf of independent musicians which, at this point, is basically like standing up to Dr. Dre. Oprah-esque ascendancy aside, Swift has a major blindspot: Taylor Swift does not appear to know black people, and it shows.


Right away, there are many questions.

Music videos are films now? (“Trapped In the Closet” has a lot to atone for.)

Look at this giraffe making an early bid to steal the scene with his wind-fan. You go, G.

Wait, why are there animals running loose on this set? Was this what Africa was like in the 1950s?Who is even managing these animals?

Who is this Not James Dean reading up on how to be a disappointing male? Why is the male lead out in African sun wearing Hugh Hefner’s first robe?

What is this “movie” even about? What plot point requires a blowing dress moment?

It is a very pretty video with a big big problem. And for once, that problem is not the tepid-ass dude we’re meant to feel hurt her. (LOOK AT THEM. They look like their middle name is Did I Not Mention My Girlfriend.) It’s that there are wild animals who are allowed to freely roam on set but the Africans have been kept away.


Step one: Open on a migration of animals against a grass savannah. This is what all Africa looks like. Let the people know.

Step two: Let some animals run loose on your set. Do not hire any Africans to manage them as they may end up in the shot. It’s a risk but a worthwhile one.

Step three: Elephants. Elephants are like the African people in many ways — stoic, majestic, slow-moving (Ed. citation needed) — except that elephants do not invoice.

Step four: Atone for your people’s sins by bringing out a relative of Cecil the Lion. This lion may invoice, but that’s fair.

Step five: Prove your love for Africa by twirling your delicious head in front of your new lion friend. Your decision to not have Africans on set will be proven right as none of them will be there to have first, second or third thoughts about this idea.

Step six: Pull back to reveal it was all a lie. You would never go to Africa! It’s full of Africans.


“Oh my god! You’re going to Africa! That is so exciting. For what? Your ‘Wildest Dreams’ video? Yes, girl, that sounds like an amaz- it’s set when? Ooh, 1950s Africa… So like you’ll be in there making a theme of the liberation movements and upr- What movie by Isak Dinesen? Out of Africa? I mean… I guess. Tay, tell me you’re throwing some cash at Chiwetel or Djimon or…WHO? YOU’RE GOING TO AFRICA TO MAKE OUT WITH MORE WHITE MEN? Girl, importing disappointment to Africa is illegal. But do you. So, where in Africa are you going? The wilds? That…That is not a place. I think even in 1950, they had names for places in Africa. No, I am sure you know where or you will when we get there! Girl, WE ARE GOING TO AFRICA!

…What do you mean I can’t come?”


The How Dare You? Scoring system: The artist begins with 100 points for sheer audacity.

  • Taylor’s eyeliner is on point: +11
  • Minus 6 points for every Africa Establishing Shot (lightning in the skies, exotic bird taking off, zebras, lion, giraffe, cheetah running, white people in khaki): -42
  • Making music videos almost entirely so you can make out with hot men in fabulous locations: +23
  • The blowout on that lion mane is glorious: +17
  • Going to Africa to film a colonial-era romance fantasy without putting a single person darker than beige on camera: -99
  • Diva move: the guy is hot but not hot enough to distract you from Ms. Swift: +20
  • Committing to the 1950s colonial theme of aggressive caucasity by wiggling in front of a lion while wearing couture: +9 (HDY? always rewards thematic consistency)

Total Score: 39.

  • UPDATED. Allowing your director to give this quote to NPR: “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.” Oh, our bad for not understanding that you were simply re-creating the romantic era of Anglican missionaries in Africa, colonial landowners in Kenya, and that time World War II interrupted everyone’s colonizing. (No points lost for this but: FYI those were all books first.): -18

Updated Total Score: 21 (Taylor, talk to your boy.)


“After celebrity activists and aid workers, conservationists are Africa’s most important people. Do not offend them. You need them to invite you to their 30,000-acre game ranch or ‘conservation area’, and this is the only way you will get to interview the celebrity activist. Often a book cover with a heroic-looking conservationist on it works magic for sales. Anybody white, tanned and wearing khaki who once had a pet antelope or a farm is a conservationist, one who is preserving Africa’s rich heritage.” — How To Write About Africa

Heavens to Ngai.

When I was 11, I lost a pair of black and white Adidas runners somewhere between Minneapolis and Chicago. My life's goal is to get them back. Those exact ones.

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