Taylor Swift has been a polarizing figure within the music industry for years. From her beginnings as a rural country songstress, to topping the charts and ruling the radio, she’s long been in the forefront of the pop conversation.
All her highs, lows and every emotion in between is on display in her new Netflix documentary, Miss Americana.
The film creates a collage of both the high-profile peaks and more intimate valleys in her life, through a medley of clips from childhood home videos, recent footage from various award shows and concerts and new video following her last few years during the Reputation Stadium Tour and the recording of her latest album, Lover.
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Miss Americana is an illuminating explanation as to why Taylor does the things she does and acts the way she acts. She discusses her obsession with trying to maintain the presence of a “good girl” as a result of her own internalized misogyny, and how her deliberate efforts to remain uncontroversial, as a result, then made her seem “calculated.”
The documentary paints a masterful dichotomy of the Taylor seen by fans, and the real Taylor. There’s a clip of her accepting her second Grammy Award for Album of the Year for 1989, and then there’s also some footage of Taylor disappointedly learning that Reputation was shut out of the major Grammy categories.
At first, it may seem irritating or blasé to watch one of the most successful artists in history be shorted of awards for one album, but it’s slowly revealed how heavily Taylor relies on validation from both fans and strangers for the sake of her own happiness, and you can’t help but feel some semblance of sympathy for her.
One of the main plot points of the film is Taylor’s struggle with whether to share her political beliefs. For years, she’d skirt the question when asked with some response sounding like ‘oh, I’m just a little pop star, what could I know about politics?’ Until eventually, she decided to come out against Marsha Blackburn, a Republican running for a U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee.
Since then, she’s released more politically-inspired music, such as the pro-LGBTQ+ anthem “You Need To Calm Down.” The film concludes with the composition of a new song, “Only The Young,” a mellow, hopeful track in favor of inspiring young people to not give up on the world and to have hope in their future.
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At its core, Miss Americana is like a dive into the safe of Taylor’s thoughts from over the years. I mean, she literally reads to the camera diary entries from her childhood years when she was nervous to pursue music, some of those worries still echo in her career today. While the film may not convert someone into a fan of hers, it does provide a thorough explanation of why Taylor Swift is who she is.
While I’ve gone back and forth over the years on how I feel about Ms. Swift, the film has affirmed my admiration of her as an artist in the way she holds herself to such a high level of integrity not only as a creator of music, but as a mentor to her fans. I do not find her evil, and I will actively defend her in the face of her haters. And yes, that is a promise.