Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video ended up receiving the Video of the Year Award at the VMAs. Perhaps her video was better and the nominations were not racially motivated but it does not change the fact that her music video concentrates on ideal beauty in the form of thin Caucasian women with little diversity included.
The video focuses on a woman’s [Swift] attempt at revenge against a former partner who double crossed her. Throughout the video Swift moves through different scenes in a futuristic training module with themes similar to that of the films The Hunger Games and Tron. Featuring a large cast comprised mostly of famous super models [including Cindy Crawford], the video also includes actresses Hailee Steinfeld, Lena Dunham, Jessica Alba, Ellen Pompeo and Mariska Hargitay.
Out of the eighteen cast members, the video was almost entirely white, with only two African-american woman (Zendaya and Serayah) and one African-american man (Kendrick Lamar).
Swift body shames women who do not fit the size zero mold by portraying Lena Dunham as the clear “DUFF” or “Designated Ugly Fat Friend” (this seemingly comical term is referenced from the recent film The Duff which focuses on issues such as body shaming and social media). Dunham, who is famous for creating and starring in the HBO series Girls, is clearly the only woman of average build in the entire video. Unlike the other women who can be seen wearing skimpy and flashy clothes while participating in awesome action scenes, Dunham is wearing dark and conservative clothing whilst sitting behind a desk and smoking a cigar. The message is clear: women who do not wear a size zero do not belong. Rather, they belong behind a desk.
Another popular and controversial music video of Swift’s, “Shake It Off,” does not openly objectify the female black body (in fact, throughout the music video it appears as though Swift is attempting to make fun of herself). Yet Swift can be seen crawling on her hands and knees through a tunnel made up of twerking female legs. The blank yet curious expression on her face suggests her own innocent ignorance to the world of twerking and gyrating yet the camera focuses solely on Swift’s face and only shows the legs of the dancers above her. Most of the dancers in this scene are African-American which further begs the question: Is the message of this scene to accommodate the idea that black women are no more than a bunch of gyrating butts and thighs?
Swift is not the first to do this - many other white female artists including Miley Cyrus, Lily Allen and Katie Perry have objectified the female black body through their music. Though in the face of criticism they have all cried out the same phrases: “You’re reading too much into it,” or “I did not know any better.” Molly Lambert, a staff writer from Grantland, points out regardless of whether they knew or not, someone around them should have.