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Taylor Swift’s Video Director’s Latest Beyoncé Quotes Are a PR Stunt

Joseph Kahn is a 44-year-old director who’s spent the past 20 years working with an impressive roster of hip-hop and pop artists. Most recently, he directed Taylor Swift’s new video for “Look What You Made Me Do.” He’s also now nakedly attempting to incite a trolling war with Beyoncé fans. Don’t pay attention to him.

The would-be feud began a couple weeks back, when Swift released still images from “Look What You Made Me Do” that drew a few unflattering comparisons to scenes from Beyoncé’s “Formation” video. Kahn initially stuck to a polite defense: “I’ve worked with Beyoncé a few times,” he tweeted. “She’s an amazing person. The #LWYMMDvideo is not in her art space. Love and respect to Bey.” In any case, the release of Swift’s full-length video should have dispelled the copycat criticism. “Look What You Made Me Do” is not necessarily a great video, but it’s also not especially similar to Beyoncé.

Kahn, though, is committed to keeping this stale controversy alive. That’s because he’s promoting another new directorial project: Bodied, the Eminem-produced film about a wannabe white battle rapper that premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival tonight. Kahn managed to wedge the currently nonexistent pop star feud into a new interview with the Los Angeles Times by accusing Beyoncé of copying Swift—namely the latter’s outfit in “Bad Blood,” which Kahn also directed. “It’s not ‘Formation’ at all,” Kahn said of the “Look What You Made Me Do” video. “They try to say she’s wearing a black crop top and Beyoncé wore a black crop top. But they don’t realize in 2015 in ‘Bad Blood,’ Taylor Swift was wearing a black crop top. I really do think, by the way, that Beyoncé copied ‘Bad Blood.’”

Joseph Kahn almost certainly does not really think this—his doubling down at the end feels like a classic case of protesting too much. It’s only been a few hours, and he’s already sort of retracted the statement on Twitter:

As that above tweet implies, Kahn is really angling to stir controversy in order to promote Bodied. His Los Angeles Times quote was bait. His other preferred marketing strategy is tweeting the film’s tagline alongside selections from his deep back catalog of not-very-funny race and sexuality jokes. Predictably enough, some already-irritated Beyoncé fans accused him of racism. Kahn’s reaction: “Remember when Beyhive said El Guapo’s tweets were racist but then El Guapo retweeted all his tweets to sell out his movie BODIED? Dope.”


Kahn is trolling, in the very classic sense, for attention. He’s locked in a one-sided rap battle with his Twitter mentions, and he looks a fool doing it. Bodied will probably find a distributor—it does have Eminem’s name on it—but it won’t be because of its director’s publicity stunts. (Publicity stunts almost never actually work.) Many of the battle rap contestants in the movie are played by real rappers, but their medium is understood to involve a certain level of fiction. The accomplished middle-aged director flailing in front of an audience of online pop stans is actually Joseph Kahn’s real life.