REVIEW: ‘Taylor Swift: Miss Americana’ Offers a Look Inside the Life of the Pop Star

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Miss Americana

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana is a Netflix Original documentary, directed by Lana Wilson, that follows the iconic pop star, Taylor Swift. The film explores the struggles Swift faces as she tries to define who she is as an artist. Having begun writing songs at such a young age, Swift has been in the music business for years and because of this, so much of her sound, voice, and aesthetic as a performer has been defined for her. In the opening sequence, Swift, while going through her old journals and songwriting notebooks, admits that for the longest time, her “entire moral code is a need to be thought of as good.” Throughout the documentary, Swift works to unlearn that sentiment.

The amount of pressure Swift faces from critics, the media, and her own fans have made her a perfectionist. When her album reputation wasn’t nominated for album of the year at the Grammy’s, Swift became determined. That determination and drive have kept her relevant and successful. Swift’s music has changed as she has grown but one thing remains the same, her ability to craft song lyrics.

Taylor Swift is one of my favorite artists on the planet, mostly because her songwriting ability is unmatched. But, she has also been considered problematic for a few issues, the largest of which is that despite her huge following, Swift never involves herself into politics. She often avoids confrontational topics, and her brand of feminism, while constantly evolving, is ultimately very white. In the past, she has preached girl power but also stayed quiet about political issues that deeply affect women. For the most part, her message on girl power felt performative with no real action to back it up. Miss Americana addresses a lot of those controversies as well as other notable ones, starting with her history with Kayne West.

Swift recalls the VMAs where West interrupted her speech believing it was a pivotal moment and a “catalyst for a lot of psychological paths” since up to that point she had built her world and brand around getting people to like her and clap for her. While the crowd was booing West, and not her, being on a stage, in that environment was overwhelming. While the documentary focuses on Swift’s success and record-breaking career, it also gives insight into her struggles. At one point, Swift opens up to the fact that seeing pictures of herself can be triggering and in the past, she has starved herself after seeing an unflattering photo. As someone who struggles with disordered eating, it is refreshing to see Swift be so honest about her struggles and also how she is now healthier.

Miss Americana

Swift’s raw emotion feels genuine. Swift’s songs have always been emotional and relatable so seeing the inside look into her songwriting process and why the songs came together as they did is one of the strongest parts of Miss Americana. A lot of Swift’s best songs come from her stepping out of her comfort zone which is seen in the documentary as she pens her album reputation. However, one of the most important things Swift did was finally speak out about politics during the 2018 midterm elections. Swift explains her strong opposition to GOP Senator Marsha Blackburn after she voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and her fight against the gay rights movement. Swift talks about how being a country singer made her feel that she wasn’t allowed to speak out against injustices. And while her explanation does not absolve her from staying quiet, it does show how influenced she was to stay quiet from various executives.

But one thing Swift couldn’t bounce back from was the negative press following her reignited feud with West. When the media framed her as playing the victim, Swift’s ideology and moral code intricately based around the idea of needing to be liked was called into question. In Miss Americana, she admits that part of her appeal and many artists’ appeal is that they seem vulnerable and insecure. She admits that part of the reason she got into the business is that she wanted the approval of others. This is something I relate a lot to personally. As much as I am able to ignore negative comments, some hit hard and cut so deep that I can’t ignore them, even when I should.

Swift isn’t perfect but Miss Americana reminds viewers and fans she is human. It also shows just how much Swift has grown as a person and artist since beginning her career at the age of 16. Overall, Miss Americana is a much watch for fans of the singer though it is doubtful if it will change the minds of her fiercest critics.

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana is streaming now on Netflix.

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana
  • 8/10
    Taylor Swift: Miss Americana - 8/10
8/10

Summary

Swift isn’t perfect but Miss Americana reminds viewers and fans she is human. It also shows just how much Swift has grown as a person and artist since beginning her career at the age of 16. Overall, Miss Americana is a much watch for fans of the singer though it is doubtful if it will change the minds of her fiercest critics.