Taylor Swift has once again partnered with Netflix in a new documentary Miss Americana which released on January 31. It follows Swift from parts of her childhood through her career as a rising country artist to her current global sensation status. Swift invites her fans into her private world as she opens up about who she is and what she stands for now. Miss Americana has an intimate feel as if we are just a friend and Taylor is telling us about her journey. We get a look at what she sees as her niche — writing her own songs. Her unique way of storytelling in her lyrics is what makes her who she is and she shows us behind the scenes of making her two newest records, Reputation and Lover as well as her collaboration with Brenden Urie on the track, “Me.” We also get a look at the motivations behind her newest single, but we’ll save that for the end.
Swift talks about how she trained herself to live off praise, applause and always aiming to be better, to do more, to be more. After releasing her first album at only 16, she put on performative stage shows for years as first a country artist and then transitioned to a pop sensation shortly after the 2009 Video Music Awards. This was a pivotal moment because it was the infamous moment when Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech. She shared that when the crowd went from cheers to boos she believed they were booing at her and how she had begun to believe in herself. She was propelled from quiet country star into the national spotlight literally overnight. Swift handled it the only way she knew how, by being the nice girl, the kind girl, and it worked.
At the time she was wholeheartedly trying to be what everyone wanted her to be. She changed her mannerisms and her body. She shared that at that time in her life she was working out, but she wasn’t eating. “I thought it was normal to feel like I was going to pass out at the end of a show, or in the middle of it,” she says. The Taylor of yesterday stands in stark contrast to the Taylor we see now. “Being a size six is what my body needs, not being a double zero.” She admits to not looking at photos of herself because it can trigger her, and her mind goes back down the road of wanting to change. However, she can now recognize that pattern and stop it. She took some much needed time for herself and has clearly come out happier, healthier, and more determined than ever before to take a stand for the things she believes in.
Miss Americana shows us a Taylor that’s unapologetically open and honest with a vulnerability we almost never see from Hollywood. Swift opened up about her time in a Denver courtroom a couple years ago over a sexual harassment claim she made from her Red days. The radio host was fired from the station and he, in turn, sued Swift for $3 million. She countersued for $1. During a concert in Tampa in August 2018 for the Reputation Stadium Tour, Swift spoke out about it. “A year ago I was not playing in a stadium in Tampa. I was in a courtroom in Denver, Colorado,” she told the thousands of fans. “This is the day the jury sided in my favor and said that they believed in me.” She went on to talk about the victims of sexual assault. “I guess I just think about all the people that weren’t believed and the people who haven’t been believed, and the people who are afraid to speak up because they think they won’t be believed.” We see her use her platform to talk about her experiences and to inspire others to speak up.
We also see the struggle her camp had with her decision to step into politics during the 2018 mid-term elections. Following her own assault case and having dealt with stalkers she held firm, Swift showed a strength many artists choose not to. She openly spoke about the elections and encouraged everyone to vote. After posting on Instagram speaking out about politics for the 2018 mid-term elections, Vote.org had seen more registrations in 24 hours than the entire month of August after her post. Miss Americana follows just why Swift finally found the courage to speak out about it after avoiding the political talk for years, even going against the majority of her camp when deciding she was going to write a lengthy post. Following the frustration of Tennessee’s election outcome she began writing the new single that was released in unison with the documentary, “Only the Young.”
Miss Americana is an emotional journey for anyone who grew up alongside Swift, jamming to every new album and celebrating every accolade she earned. At the close we have a sense of knowing her a little better, and seeing for ourselves that she is owning who she is as both an artist and as a woman.
Sometimes when we’re fans, it’s easy to put celebrities up on a pedestal. We collect images not caring about the angle their face is distorted in, and the various lyrics constructed from their life. We see them through the lens of how we see our best friends, this perfect person wrapped up in everything we wish to be. However, those people sometimes don’t even want to be themselves. As Taylor points out, “We’re people who got into this line of work because we wanted people to like us, because we were so intrinsically insecure, because we liked the sound of people clapping, because it made us forget about how much we feel like we’re not good enough.”
The irony is laced in when we take into account the complexity of being human; with Taylor Swift, we feel closer to her because she’s pulled down that wall between us and her. Suddenly there’s a connection. We’ve all felt unworthy of the desires we have from time to time, and so we mold ourselves into the person we think would be worthy. The important message within Miss Americana is that we always were and always are worthy and deserving of our wildest dreams. Swift at her core has forever been the same, but now she finally sees herself through the ‘pedestal lens’ we see her. Perfectly imperfect. After all, what’s better than a “sharp pen, and thin skin, and an open heart”?