Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" Video Director Mark Romanek Defends It From Racist Claims
Shaking that off, too! Mark Romanek, the director of Taylor Swift's new music video, "Shake It Off," defended his work from recent claims that it was racist.
"We simply choose styles of dance that we thought would be popular and amusing," Romanek told Vulture. "And cast the best dancers that were presented to us without much regard to race or ethnicity."
In fact, Romanek urged viewers to take a broader perspective at the video's message. "If you look at it carefully, it's a massively inclusive piece," he said. "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 cliches and stereotypes."
Swift and her team caught flak from outraged fans after the singer released the "Shake It Off" video earlier this week. In the footage, Swift tries out a range of genre looks and moods, including a ballerina tutu, Lady Gaga-like wig, and more. Most offensive to fans, though, was Swift's hip-hop outfit of cutoff shorts, cropped leopard print jacket, and gold hoop earrings, as she crawls underneath a row of twerking dancers.
Rapper Earl Sweatshirt took to his Twitter to slam the visuals. "Haven't watched the Taylor Swift video and I don't need to watch it to tell you that it's inherently offensive and ultimately harmful," Sweatshirt wrote. "Perpetuating black stereotypes to the same demographic of white girls who hide their prejudice by proclaiming their love of the culture… For instance, those of you who are afraid of black people but love that in 2014 it's ok for you to be trill or twerk or say n---a."
Romanek, who's worked on videos like Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," Michael and Janet Jackson's "Scream" and much more, said the video's main premise was conceived by Swift herself. "This basic idea was all Taylor's," he explained to Vulture. "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."
Expressing support for the Grammy winner, who will release her fifth studio album, 1989, next month, Romanek said Swift's pitch moved him to direct the video. "I loved that idea, so over the following week or so we narrowed down our choices for styles of dance. I think she imagined it in more natural settings and I suggested giving it a starker, more minimalist look. And I suggested the idea of incorporating her fans as a climax, for the ending as a kind of surprise."
Romanek also urged Earl Sweatshirt to watch the video before making any presumptions. "In a way, the whole video is just a setup for that moment," he said. "And this is why, I think, if Earl Sweatshirt was open-minded enough to take the four minutes to watch it, he might see what the larger, humanistic, and utterly color-blind message was intended to be."