Author

About the Author
Mariam Ansar is a student at the University of Cambridge. Residing in England, she is hesitant about calling herself a journalist but admits she enjoys critiquing and analyzing most things and then writing about them later. Twitter: @mariamwrites

Could Sexism Be Behind The Success Of John Green’s Books?

For the reader, whether partial to the Young Adult genre or not, John Green’s name is a familiar one.

Recognizable film titles like The Fault In Our Stars and more recently, Paper Towns are easy sentimental watches for many, based on Green’s meandering narratives of young people juggling life-threatening diseases, big swelling crushes on the girl next door, and generally attempting to survive life with all the emotions of your common teenager.

Green’s success as a writer is one which has enabled him to have two of his books translated to film already, and with another prospectively in the works, many now place him as the face of Young Adult literature.

Whether it’s the realism that is seen as relatable in his writing, or the fact that his fame partly derives from Green’s Internet presence, creating educational videos with his brother under the name Vlogbrothers, there’s no getting around the fact that John Green’s name is one which is either greeted with contempt, or adoration.

Teenagers have no qualms listing Green alongside J.K Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and Stephenie Meyer. While his books are not so widely renowned as the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games, or The Twilight Saga- some see this as indicative of substance.

Green’s books feature stand-out lines readers of his find relatable and inspiring at the same time. To search his name on any social media source is to come face to face with this outpour. But exactly what is it about this man’s writing which has propelled him to book-to-film fame? To be hailed as a permanent, important member of the Young Adult genre?

Sarah Dessen. Tamora Pierce. Judy Blume. Meg Rosoff. Lois Lowry. Laurie Halse Anderson.

Before and alongside Green’s writing, chock-full of painful love, identity crises and existential doubts that plague his intelligent-pretentious-boy-protagonists, there existed, and exists, a treasure trove of Young Adult books and writers who delve into those exact same feelings.

Dessen was given one shot at the silver screen when two of her novels were combined to produce the 2003 rom-com How To Deal.

Rosoff’s How I Live Now, a staple of formative reading experiences as a recurrent feature in classroom book collections and libraries, took 9 years to reach the big screen.

“It is no surprise that the Young Adult genre is dominated by women writers. To place Green on a pedestal then, is to reinforce the notion that the creative white male voice is the most important.”

This isn’t to say that the measure of a book’s success, the integration of it as a frontrunner of the Young Adult genre, relies on whether it has been converted into a film or not. It is merely significant to note exactly the size of Green’s cultural impact and how the cinematic treatment of his books bookends this. The truth is, Green’s writing being centralised as the most prominent of the Young Adult genre in the minds of teenagers and teachers feels unfair, and a little sexist.

After the release of The Fault In Our Stars in 2014, The Wall Street Journal was happy to congratulate Green in “ushering in a new golden era for contemporary, realistic, literary teen fiction following more than a decade of dominance by books about young wizards, sparkly vampires and dystopia.

Now that Paper Towns is out and talks on Looking For Alaska’s screen-time are rumoured, that ‘new golden era’ looks to be continuing. But actually, there is nothing new about this golden era. Where book editors are looking for ‘contemporary realism’, relatable characters after what some call ‘the John Green effect’, writers of important teenage discourse, Anderson’s Speak, Dessen’s Dreamland, Blume’s entire track record, are shoved to the background, ignored despite their effort to communicate important experiences like body issues, mental illness, sexual and physical abuse, alongside relatable characters. Contemporary realism at its ignored best.

It is unfair to also argue that the genre, as diverse as it is, is only valuable if it is solely realistic. Books about young wizards, sparkly vampires and dystopia do not feature somehow superficial sentiments if the character in goofy infatuation also happens to wield a wand or if the girl struggling to save the life she knows is living in a dystopia which, actually, may not be so dystopian depending on which part of the world one lives in. To take this view of the Young Adult genre is to erase the significant triumphs of many books and their effects on the consciousness of young people.

Hank Green (L) and John Green (R) speaking at VidCon 2012 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Hank Green (L) and John Green (R) speaking at VidCon 2012 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

After all, as Slate’s Ruth Graham said in her controversial article Against YA:

“crucially, YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way.”

It is this perspective which is truly indicative of the Young Adult genre and which deserves to be lauded, whether it is by Green or by his contemporaries.

Alongside those I have mentioned previously, Meg Cabot, Malorie Blackman, Lois Lowry, and many more equally deserve to be congratulated for well-written analyses of the teenage experience, of teenage emotion, whether they have the Internet, book agents, and Hollywood idolizing them or not.

It is no surprise that the Young Adult genre is dominated by women writers. To place Green on a pedestal then, is to reinforce the notion that the creative white male voice is the most important.

It is to, as literary tradition makes the mistake of doing and despite both their valued contributions to literature, cast aside Austen’s voice for Salinger’s. To portray the male narrative as a bildungsroman with all the integrity we afford men speaking and to cast off the female narrative as YA self-satisfying trash, just one part of a much bigger pile.

Green himself seems to be aware of the issues surrounding discourse on the genre. He said the following on his Youtube show, as quoted by The Atlantic:

“From a pop culture perspective, or a general media perspective, there can only be one thing…. There can only be paranormal romance, there can only be dystopia, or now, there can only be The Fault in Our Stars. But it’s not the truth, that isn’t the way the actual world of YA books looks or has ever looked.

“To me, the real story of young adult literature is not actually about whatever the big cultural book of the moment is. The real story of young adult literature is that more than a thousand books are read by at least ten thousand teenagers a year, that we have incredible breadth, that we have great dystopia and great fantasy, great sci-fi, great mystery, great romances, and all of that stuff can live together and be in conversation because they all – we all – share the same shelf.”

So it is important to recognize that the general media perspective is not the one we should consistently place value in. When it comes to something as immersive, as personal, as the reading experience, it may be beneficial to pay attention to the reading trends, but it is a significant move to take stock of the whole shelf.

It is the shelf which is the most important feature of a teenager’s love of literature, and if that literature is mostly of the YA genre, it may feature John Green’s writing- and may also feature the writing of many, many others.

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Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Liberal Men With Agendas Can Be Dangerous To The Feminist Movement

Feminism as a movement is one which sets to confront the patriarchal structural inequalities that oppress women across the world.

From the wage gap to conceptions of femininity and existing in spaces dominated by the male presence, the focus given to men in feminist discourse is not something which can or should be taken lightly, especially when taking male influence into context.

Margaret Atwood’s fictitious The Robber Bride makes significant comments on this:

“Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? Up on a pedestal or down on your knees, it’s all a male fantasy: that you’re strong enough to take what they dish out, or else too weak to do anything about it. Even pretending you aren’t catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy: pretending you’re unseen, pretending you have a life of your own, that you can wash your feet and comb your hair unconscious of the ever-present watcher peering through the keyhole, peering through the keyhole in your own head, if nowhere else. You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur.”

For many women, the male gaze and influence is one which permeates views of oneself: from the applying of make-up to choosing to go without it, from sitting on a train to walking down the pavement, from speaking aloud and recognising the voice inflection of a female to increase in pitch, a questioning, unsure manner.

So what happens when patriarchy is molded to a male’s intent? Well, many things: rape, prevention of abortions, standards of femininity, abuse, and the list goes on.

The socialisation of gender roles is one which means the most casual of practises deserves to be unpacked; girls going for pink, boys going for blue, and feminism wondering exactly why all these things exist.

This isn’t to say that every man is afforded the same privileges of his male neighbour: the intersections of race, class, sexuality and religion are valid. A white man may not experience racial profiling. A black man from a deprived area may not be afforded the same consideration as a white man from a wealthier neighbourhood in a job interview.

These differences are significant and deserve to be paid attention to in the wider scheme of things. But when it comes to notions of masculinity in life, men share a common factor of dominance and space-taking, informed by weighted upbringings and casual exchanges. It is therefore easy to recognise how this would translate to their practises of feminism.

I once came upon a quote which argued that men shouldn’t call themselves feminists: rather, they should take the spaces they inhibit and make them feminist. This is a notion which accepts that men are privileged but argues that they have the chance to use this privilege to benefit women. When looking at a number of male feminist figures, from the failed to the somewhat successful, the distinction of success is one which should be clarified. Feminism as a movement is one which cannot be simplified to misandry.

For men, it is a far from simple exchange which harms just as much as it benefits: with toxic standards of masculinity and social cues for dominance comes a questioning of exactly how comfortable one can be to do this, and whether some even question this. In bell hooks‘ ‘Feminism is for Everybody’, it is noted that:

“Most men are disturbed by hatred and fear of women, by male violence against women, even the men who perpetuate this violence. But they fear letting go of the benefits. They are not certain what will happen to the world they know most intimately if patriarchy changes. So they find it easier to passively support male domination even when they know in their minds and hearts that it is wrong.”

So what happens when patriarchy is molded to a male’s intent? Well, many things: rape, prevention of abortions, standards of femininity, abuse, and the list goes on. The male fantasy, as Atwood mentioned previously, is perverse. It can also color a male’s practice of feminism, and this is precisely what happened with Tumblr’s Josh Macedo, known online as confusedtree.

For the Internet-savvy, this is old news, a drama concluding in 2013: a 20-something lover of nerd culture builds up his following through a mixture of meme humour and feminist discourse, maintains himself as a defender of misogyny, and then is revealed to have sent sexually-explicit material to underage teenagers.

Pedaling the guise of the awkward loner, the scandal that followed Macedo was one which took notice of the undercurrent of manipulation which plagued his actions. His fame was one which was credited to a cause he took little notice of except to manipulate to his own intents: Macedo was aware of the benefits of his masculinity but could not shake off the allure of its benefits.

Prompting hesitant, terrified responses to his sexually-explicit behaviour, these exchanges are typical of the pressurizing male, aware of his power and using it to his own advantage. Aja Romano said it best for the Daily Dot:

“When you frame yourself as an outside-the-establishment liberal who understands the struggles that women face, it puts you in an elevated, respected position—and it becomes easier to abuse your power in the community.”

The influence of social media is one which, paired with the fast-evolving rate of social justice and feminist discourse, is dynamic, and which can be both negative and positive. A community which is both effective and which can amount to nothing is difficult to comprehend, but for many, saying the ‘right’ thing can be backing women’s rights while remaining divorced from them, refusing to support victims of abuse or to understand the dangers of the male gaze but accepting the number of likes or shares something you penned acquires.

The male voice is one which requires being conscious of one’s actions. It is to recognise that where an intention is positive, an effect can be negative and to speak is to speak with an awareness of patriarchal repercussions.

For a male, it is easy to use feminism as a tool, to speak over a woman without realizing one’s influence or that a woman’s voice has already articulated your words. Male influence within feminist discourse is powerful in this way.

For Matt McGory, star of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black and self-proclaimed feminist, a male understanding of feminism is to recognise misconceptions and to fix them, to know the limits of your knowledge and to expand on it further:

“The people we have to convince who are gonna be allies, like me—the people I feel like I’m trying to go after are the good people who just maybe have blind spots about gender inequality like I did. Or, didn’t know what the term feminism meant. You know, a guy who’s a bigot who hates women is not gonna care what feminism means anyway, so I don’t need to go after him. But I’m trying to incorporate an easy way in for those people that don’t know a lot about it. Who actually have good intentions.”

While intention is not sacred and while one can be aware of the privileges afforded to them based on race, gender and sexuality, the idea that an ally is protected from ever making a mistake is an unfair demand. McGory’s estimate of a male ally is simplistic, but fair. In speaking about the wage gap, trans rights, and the importance of intersectionality, his handle on feminism is interesting and somewhat significant.

While it is already regarded a dilution of the value of feminism that we now place celebrities (with personal agendas) as the faces of the movement, the value given to a voice is only worth something if it corresponds to an awareness of power, an awareness of domination, an awareness of how masculinity is detrimental in its effects for society.

The male voice is one which requires being conscious of one’s actions. It is to recognise that where an intention is positive, an effect can be negative and to speak is to speak with an awareness of patriarchal repercussions.

It is to divorce the self’s need for approval, to ignore the modification of social justice as ‘trendy’, to prioritise the need to improve the standard of living that women so ardently require, and to be happy with this decision. The most important thing comes from an awareness of the history of male oppression and dominance: to recognise that your support will always be secondary to the issues women face.

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Cover Photo Credit: AK Rockefeller/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Fresh Faces of Feminism: Why You Should Listen To The Teen Women Of Color

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 11.09.36 AMFeminism is both simplistic and complex, which lends itself as a concept to be inaccurately conveyed or misunderstood. In truth, ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes,” as defined by Oxford Dictionaries, is an advocacy which takes into account the contexts of the time.

In this sense, the evolution of the theory of feminism, from the 19th century to Third-Wave and beyond, is seen as natural progression. In focusing on women’s suffrage, gender neutrality, reproductive rights, sexual harassment, autonomy, and equal pay, it aims to address every facet of the female struggle.

Yet modern feminism lacks awareness about race issues and the nuances of the gender spectrum. These are important issues within our society, seen as part of feminist theory due to their influence. Modern feminism treads a difficult line, one which desperately needs to consider the concept of intersectionality – the inclusion of race, gender and class in feminism discourse – when following the example of prominent feminist celebrity figures.
For Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Emma Watson, the label given to the feminism they practice is a reflection of their privileged positions: White Feminism.

White Feminism addresses the issues of only those who are straight, cis-sexual, white and middle-to-upper-class. Though not all white feminists practice White Feminism, it refuses to place emphasis on anything but issues which are reserved for those who fit this standard. It is a sheltered, inaccurate movement which has not only bred a dissatisfaction with this definition of feminism, but which has emphasized inequality between lives of women.

One example of the struggle of feminists of color can be found in the words of Sandra Cisneros in her book Chicana Feminist Thought:

“I guess my feminism and my race are the same thing to me. They’re tied in one to another, and I don’t feel an alliance or an allegiance with upper-class white women. I don’t. I can listen to them and on some level as a human being I can feel great compassion and friendships; but they have to move from their territory to mine, because I know their world. But they don’t know mine.”

From the fact that white women make more money than women of color, to the appropriation of different cultures and the objectification of the black body and black culture, our society is one which features a multitude of oppressions. The feminism of these privileged white women, then, is not cutting it.

But what is surprising is just who is now championing the need for a feminist discourse which does not casually discriminate, which calls to attention the flaws of White Feminism, which attempts to fill in the gaps of all the disparities. 16-year-old Amandla Stenberg, actress and activist mostly known for her role as Rue in The Hunger Games, and 13-year-old Rowan Blanchard, star of Disney’s Girl Meets World, can both be recognized as trailblazers in noting that there is more to feminism than blanket statements about equality and the lives of the privileged middle-classes.

Two brilliant young actresses, Amandla Stenberg and Rowan Blanchard, dispel the myth of the apathetic teenage voice, as they champion the need for intersectionality and articulate oppressions faced by women of color.

From Stenberg’s school-project video on cultural appropriation ‘Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,’ to her using social platforms like Twitter and Tumblr to offer insights on police brutality, America’s relationship with the black community, essays on representation and more, comes a keen awareness in youth feminism which has a pulse on social justice. To scroll through her Instagram is to come face to face with the thoughts of someone who refuses to let her age hold her back from being vocal. An example of one of her posts:

For this 16-year-old, race issues and being aware of the nuances of social oppressions are not only a valid component of feminism, but should be integral to one’s practices.

Similarly, when 13-year-old Blanchard answered a question by a fan on intersectional feminism, posting it on her Instagram later, she joined Stenberg’s crew of progressive, young, clued-up female voices:

View this post on Instagram

Part 1. By me

A post shared by Rowan Blanchard (◕‿◕)🌹 (@rowanblanchard) on

 

So what does it mean when teenagers are showing up their adult contemporaries in recognizing the facets of social justice and the depth of intersectionality paired with the practice of feminism? It reveals a shifting of tides and the acceleration of social justice in our modern world. As Stenberg noted for Dazed:
“I think people discredit teenagers and how wise they can be. Sometimes I meet teenagers who are much wiser than many adults I’ve met, because they haven’t let any insecurities or doubts about themselves get in the way of their thoughts.”

Blanchard and Stenberg seem to understand the need to open up dialogues through the social medias which are open to them, utilizing their fame to further causes. This also suggests that within the fractured nature of our society, of race issues and power structures which have manifested themselves in shows of police brutality, appropriation of cultures in the music industry, one does well to learn about these things and speak up on them than to stay enclosed in the protective bubble fame could trap.

Stenberg and Blanchard have shown this to be true. The pair sit comfortably along the likes of 19-year-old Rookie Mag creator Tavi Gevinson, Willow Smith and Kiernan Shipka under the label ‘youth feminism,’ using the influential nature of their age to their advantage by refusing to stay silent about issues close to them and choosing to remain open to that which they can educate themselves on.

The fact is, their feminism is intersectional and so the truths they dish out are aligned to not only their age, but their intelligence. The face of feminism they portray is inspiring because it exists with little ego, and perhaps this is a trademark of youth: it posits the desire to continue to learn, to listen, and to grow. It is refreshing in its honesty, compassion, accepts the existence of flawed feminist theory, but aims to change it. It’s something many would do well to learn from.

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#VestGate: UK University Challenge Program Ignites Controversy Over What It Means To Be “Intelligent”

University Challenge, hosted by Jeremy Paxman and witness to the UK’s most intelligent of students going head to head to represent their universities, is a show which can clearly be seen to favour substance over style.

Focused on providing only the most gruelling of questions, its reputation is one of baffled English home-audiences rejoicing when answering correctly between themselves, university pride, and the classic jumper-collared-shirt combo. However, one episode, which aired last week, hosted one contestant whose choice of attire raised more than a few eyebrows.

Kamel Shah of King’s College, Cambridge, injected a certain amount of controversy into the show courtesy of his leather vest and gold chain.

Raising questions on the idea of propriety, some argued that the values of BBC 2, typically home of the straight-edged middle-class crowd, had been compromised. For many, the clothing choice was regarded as a sign of disrespect, aligned on ideas of good manners and appropriate attire which being on a show as esteemed as University Challenge supposedly demands:

However, the issue of the vest could be seen to prompt a much deeper discussion. When it comes to representations of intelligence, is there something inherently problematic in disputing the decency of someone who refused to toe the line of what many see as an out-dated ideal?

 It is no secret that questions on the University Challenge appeal to an educational standard more at home with the privately-educated than anything else; which isn’t to say that its audience must simply be privately-educated. It simply suggests that when questions are focused on, for example, literature of the 17th century, Latin translation, or minimalism in music, one wonders at the concept of common knowledge, and knowledge in itself.

An example of previous University Challenge questions:

Your starter for 10: A schoolboy play-on-words between Latin and English, what jocular translation is usually given to the phrase semper ubi sub ubi?

Three bonus questions on the opening lines of novels:

(a) Which novel, first published in serial form from 1914 to 1915, begins “Once upon a time and a very good time it was…”?

(b) “It was a dark and stormy night”’ are the first words of the 1830 novelPaul Clifford by which writer, whose other works include Eugene Aramand The Last Days of Pompeii?

(c) The novels Midnight’s Children, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Robinson Crusoe and Tristram Shandy all open with which word?”

What does intelligence mean and what is it measured by? When contestants famously previously failed to recognise a musical question sampling the modern R&B sounds of Frank Ocean, one must wonder as to what extent the non-typical, but very valid, contributions of the rest of the world are unnoticed by the majority’s standards.  

It is very likely that Shah’s vest is improper, a fashion faux-paux which does not do well to read too much into. We cannot be sure that he donned the chain and the vest to question the legitimacy of educational standards. However, it is also clear that the impropriety can be interpreted as a sign of defiance. Within the elitist environment with which we both patrol the playground of the deemed intelligent and set the standard, there are remnants of inequality which would favour the symbolism of, for lack of better words, of the jumper-wearer over the vest-wearer.

#GeekAndGangsta. The hash-tag speaks for itself. It’s clear our clothes feature their own identities, can speak without saying of our cultural awareness. But as culture is so easily manipulated, the inference of what this can mean cannot be easily decided upon.

The conclusion is that Shah chose to don non-typical attire on a game show set to test intelligence and provided the ripples of an aftermath which suggest that clothing is not just clothing: the underlying current of values being tied up with appearance, and in this case intelligence, is definite.

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Taylor Swift’s ‘Wildest Dreams’ Video Has A Big Race Problem

Last week’s MTV Video Music Awards will likely be remembered as a hot-bed of drama, social issues, and controversy, spurned by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, and Kanye West. The slightest mention of the awards show is enough to disturb the silence in any room. This is the effect of popular culture at its finest.

But, there is one music video which can be distinguished as emblematic of the whole controversy, released during the award show and drawing attention to the reflective nature of said popular culture: it is fuelled by the cues of our society and what we deem to be acceptable. Or, in this case, what can not be deemed acceptable.

The plot-line of Taylor Swift’s ‘Wildest Dreams’ is easy to understand: intended to complement the sorrowful lamentations of a doomed relationship, Sunday night was witness to a dark-haired Swift posing sadly as the star of a 1950s Hollywood film against a backdrop of what can only be described as the most colonial of images of Africa.

With Scott Eastwood as the object of her affection, her relentless glances at him are not enough to provide the pair with a happy ending and so, the glamour is for nought and the drive into the sunset is non-existent. So too, as many of us have picked up on, is the presence of non-white Africans.

Reductionist at best, Swift’s ‘Africa’ is stereotypically conveyed with all the patronising ignorance of someone imagining what would constitute as The Exotic Land of Africa, a colonial illustration leaving out the knowledge of it being a continent, complex, rich in many histories, and therefore difficult to package and sell so neatly. Still, it did not stop Swift’s creative team from trying.

From the depiction of rolling grasslands, wild animals in migration patterns, dry dust flying as Swift kisses her co-star in her throwback hunter outfit, the video enables the audience to see all of these things as mere accessories.

The romanticism of this history is a clumsy, heavy-handed act which calls to attention an out-dated racial hierarchy and is scarily reminiscent of colonial attitudes

They are ambiguously, stereotypically ‘African’ enough to contribute to not only the myth of Africa, more at home in a historically out-dated periodical, and ambiguously, stereotypically ‘African’ enough to warrant more attention on Swift and her lover. It would be easy to make the argument that indeed, she is the star and this is her music video. But what must be recognised is the fact that the spot-light is on a truly horrifying image: Swift’s Africa features white people, complicit in acting the role of colonial settlers under the facade of the creation of a film.

Watch The Video: 

 

The romanticism of this history is a clumsy, heavy-handed act which calls to attention an out-dated racial hierarchy and is scarily reminiscent of colonial attitudes: ‘Africa’ can be groomed to fit an image the white person deems acceptable, can be plundered for its beauty whilst the locals remain invisible, and can become the mythical image of exoticism anyone fed on racist stereotypes sees it as.

The video casts a hazy, rose-tinted glow to the white imperialist presence in the African continent, romanticising it so that Swift does achieve that old Hollywood ’50s colonialist film vibe she’s looking for

It is truly as Binyavanga Wainaina writes about in his Granta Magazine essay, “How to Write About Africa:”

“Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.”

Swift is not a stranger to the romantic, the evocative, and the unparticular. In fact, these qualities seem to be a staple of her song-writing style, and yet, within the context of the ‘Wildest Dreams’ video, these are not qualities which can be dismissed as simply indicative of her personality.

The video casts a hazy, rose-tinted glow to the white imperialist presence in the African continent, romanticising it so that Swift does achieve that old Hollywood ’50s colonialist film vibe she’s looking for: ‘Wildest Dreams’ can easily be recognised as an example of Western media providing a propagandistic image of the exotic frontier playground, sitting comfortably alongside John Huston’s The African Queen and Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa in these efforts. It is an achieved goal Swift has every reason to not be proud of.

The video is deceptively portrayed as simply detailing a complicated love-affair. As Zak Cheney-Rice concisely explained for Mic:

“It is remarkable that the insidious nature of the African colonial fantasy is so seamlessly glossed over. This matters. When a pop culture product reaches as many people as a Taylor Swift video does, the images it presents have implications beyond their immediate purview.”

Cheney-Rice has every reason to be wary of Swift’s creative products in light of her influence as one of the world’s biggest female popstars, and especially so when said creative products are as disastrously constructed as ‘Wildest Dreams’.

When it comes to influence, it is a by-product of fame which must be handled with responsibility.

It is exactly this which is lacking in this music video, and while director Joseph Kahn may be comfortable to shirk this one must recognise the importance of contentious, important historical landmarks, like the African continent having to suffer under European colonialism, being treated with more respect and awareness and less lazy nonchalance.

Ultimately, it is the fact that these attitudes surfaced so casually in our modern age omitting the truth of Africa’s history and the Black African presence, whether intentionally or not, in the place of romantic fantasy which deserves to be called to attention.

In this case, Swift’s love-story stopped short of occurring between her protagonists and began to cast back to a part of history which needs no affection. It is this which is truly distressing about ‘Wildest Dreams.’

Cover Photo Credit: GabboT/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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