As a Taylor Swift fan, her new “Shake It Off” video is obviously a fucking disaster, a humblebraggy liberation-of-the-bad-dancers things set to a sub-”Hollaback Girl” anti-hater cheerleader chant that substitutes a fucking Taylor Swift rap verse for a bridge. (Music-video OG Mark Romanek directed the video, which doesn’t really make anything better. You made “99 Problems,” Romanek! You have your own Director’s Label DVD! You’re better than this!) The video shows Taylor sucking at a wide variety of dance styles — ballet, interpretive, ravey liquid-dancing stuff — but the parts that are justifiably raising the most eyebrows are the ones where she twerks or breakdances, offering a halfassed stereotypical take on street-dance styles that are still identified with black culture. One of the people who isn’t thrilled with the video is the great young rapper Earl Sweatshirt. On Twitter last night, he talked about how the video was “harmful” even though he actually hasn’t watched it yet. And while that’s usually a clear case of uninformed criticism, the “Shake It Off” video is the rare case where you can look at a couple of gifs on Twitter and still get the whole picture. Here’s what he wrote:
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. 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 nigga
(via Earl’s Twitter)
Solange Knowles favorited those tweets, too, which is telling.
UPDATE: Mark Romanek responds to Earl’s criticisms in an interview with 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.
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.
He also reveals that in choosing the genres represented in the video “we did consider a punk mosh pit thing … but it didn’t really work out.”