By: Sakura Gray
If the world is high school, Taylor Swift is the “it girl” that everyone secretly (or not-so-secretly) hates. She has it all: she’s beautiful, talented, and everyone knows who she is. Yet, behind the fame and glamour is a girl who just wants to be accepted. Swift’s documentary, “Miss Americana,” exposes just how lonely it can be at the top.
The Netflix documentary follows Swift as she creates her 2019 album, “Lover.” She reminisces on her past and the pressures of maintaining her “good girl” persona. Swift takes the audience behind the scenes of her transition from country music’s sweetheart to pop music icon.
Documentary footage shows Swift during the early phase of her career: smiling sweetly, wearing sparkly dresses and behaving as harmlessly as possible. She keeps her mouth shut and stays in her lane in order to maintain a positive public image.
Swift’s belief that good behavior correlates with likeability shifts after the 2009 VMAs when Kanye West infamously interrupted her Video of the Year acceptance speech for her hit “You Belong With Me.”
“I thought that they were booing me,” she explains in the documentary. “For someone who has built their whole belief system on getting people to clap for you, the whole crowd booing is a pretty formative experience.”
From here, the documentary dives into the evolution of Taylor Swift.
As her country accent disappears, so does her naiveté. She gives insight into her world, one that is viciously critiqued by complete strangers.
Swift discusses struggles with an eating disorder, getting slut-shamed by the media and combating social media trolls who tried to end her career. The film succeeds in humanizing Swift and breaking down the superficial layer that often surrounds conversation about her. The singer lived under a microscope for the entirety of her career, and the combination of old footage and interviews allow for the audience to see the emotional effects of this incessant scrutiny.
The most interesting parts of “Miss Americana” come when Swift takes viewers into the recording studio. Amidst the media frenzy that surrounds her career, the one place that Swift is able to be consistently vulnerable is in her music.
The documentary shows the not-so-glamorous parts of her in the creation process, and reveals the countless hours that go into perfecting an album like “Lover.” Fans of her music will enjoy watching each song come together like a puzzle as she documents every step of her songwriting process. Swift has an incredible work ethic, and it is inspiring to see how dedicated she is to her craft.
The turning point of the film occurs when Swift offers emotional subtext about her time in court battling a DJ who put his hand under her skirt during a pre-concert photo opportunity. Like most cases of sexual assault, the defense lawyers attempt to undermine her credibility during the trial.
Swift refuses to let that happen.
Swift’s refusal to back down propels her to reject the old, curated version of herself. Once she understands the power and influence she has on others rather than the other way around, she decides to use her platform to incite change.
For the first time in her career, she publicly shares her political opinions. The end of the documentary spends a lot of time on her political awakening, and, at times, it seems as though she is pushing her views onto her audience. Swift, however, no longer cares if her opinions are “too much” for the people around her. She shares a call to action for her fans to sign a petition supporting the Equality Act and encourages them to vote in the Tennessee election.
The ending is a bit overdramatic and serves as promotional material for her political agenda. The film ends with her writing a song, “Only the Young,” to inspire and mobilize the younger generation to get involved in politics. What should have been a biography about her music career turns into a political war cry, but it is uplifting to see that she finally feels free to speak out on her beliefs. Swift wants to make a statement, and she does so in the best way she knows how.
“Miss Americana” reveals that Taylor Swift no longer needs the approval of the world; she is too busy changing it.