Is Historically Accurate Considered Racist?

With the release of Taylor Swift’s video for Wildest Dreams, many have voiced strong opinions about the lack of diversity in the Africa-set video. However, the video is based on 1930’s-1940’s Hollywood, where racial equality was even less of a custom than it is now. So, this is the question at hand, is being historically accurate considered racist?

This is a very complicated issue, so the best I can do is give MY OPINION. Honestly, I am not bothered by historical accuracy, even if there are racial or gender inequalities. The media would lose its authenticity and the aura of the era if it wasn’t historically accurate.

However! When it is a fantasy world, even if it harkens to real period of history, is a whole other thing. There is no reason why a fantasy realm cannot be diverse. Same applies for dystopian universes, granted dystopias are the epitome of a world you should not want to live in. So when media, such as films, tv shows, books, or music videos, are in fantasy or dystopian worlds, then the argument for “historical accuracy” falls very flat, since they would have to actually exist for them to be historical or accurate.

So back to Swift. In my honest opinion, the lack of African people in the setting of a 1930’s movie set in Africa/ Hollywood is not racist, because the historical accuracy argument is plausible and arguable. Honestly, it is not Taylor Swift’s fault that the 1930’s were racist.

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. Shann Eva says:

    It’s definitely a complicated issue. BUT, it’s just a music video. Hollywood has a long way to go with diversity in general, so it doesn’t surprise me.

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    1. Pretty much, Taylor Swift had to choose between getting yelled at for not including African people or yelled at for including them in a potentially stereotypical way of that time period. It was a lose-lose situation

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  2. It’s very lazy of Hollywood or any historian to tell an inaccurate story. People should be bothered by it because it’s not just fantasy, it’s distorting the truth of one culture’s history, and that’s not OK.

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  3. torrs13 says:

    I think you bring a really great point to light here because there seems to be a lot of talk about racism lately. We are at a point as a society where everything is being over-evaluated.

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  4. TC Brooks says:

    Hi Michelle,
    I’m so glad you posted this. I’m a40something woman of color and I recently struggled with this. I love the network TCM that features old, classic movies. Recently, they aired a movie reel from maybe the 1930s that referred to African-Americans in a racially insensitive way (in today’s culture). I won’t repeat what they said because it is hurtful. My first inclination as to contact the network and share my disdain. Then, I paused.

    After a bit of reflection, it occurred to me that the movie reel *was* from a time when it was appropriate to refer to people like me as that racial slur. I sighed and resigned to the fact that it was as you might say historically accurate because it was actually a newsreel from the ’30s.

    How could I be angry when I enjoy all of the other newsreels they air from years past? I love seeing how people viewed the world in past decades and what messages they received. This was no different, but it did sting. THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS. I don’t know why, but it makes me feel better to know someone else thinks about such things and even shares my view on this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gina Nichols says:

    I completely agree with you! I don’t think her video should be considered racist at all. It’s showing a specific point in time, and the video reflects that. Fantasy is a totally different beast. 🙂

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  6. Such a good point! This gets overlooked even in school now, or how people feel about 9/11 even..
    Historically, you say what was. Nicely done!

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  7. Niyah says:

    Here’s why people are upset: the colonialisation of Africa resulted in a horrific genocide against African lives that adapted from slave labor to forced labor which was essentially the same thing up until African countries began to gain independence in the 1960s. So, this Old Hollywood starlet filming in Africa can be rendered offensive given its insensitivity to the tragedies occurring during the projected era it was set in. For example, the apartheid regime in South Africa until 1994 and the millions of African deaths as a result of the European and American mining industries. It’s an example once again of European and American exploitation of Africa. I highly suggest you take an African history course.

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  8. nmiller00 says:

    So agree with you but sometimes I think people get too excited about diversity. Here is a great example. . I was recently docked 10% of my annual bonus because the upper managing bodies of my company did not hire enough diversity in the work force. It had nothing to do with the people they hired were maybe more qualified or that we just didn’t have that diverse of a pool of candidates to pick from. But since my title of my job has the word ‘manager’ in it, I was docked 10% of a bonus that I worked really hard to get. I have nothing to do with hiring or am I anywhere near the top of the food chain. So yes I completely agree with you when it comes to diversity but sometimes it just goes too far. Wonderful post btw!

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  9. HayliDJ says:

    The history teacher in me agrees with you 100 percent.

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  10. Totally agree with you. Historical accuracy is fine. Where I take issue are, like you said, in dystopian/fantasy/science fiction type productions where things don’t exist and we can take all the liberties we want.

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  11. Can we please be upset about issues that matter. Starving children in modern day Africa, perhaps? Life is too short to be upset by a Taylor Swift video. Thought provoking piece…thank you!

    Like

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