Sitting at a piano in a wooden room soaked in daylight, Taylor Swift is at the center of the opening scene (alongside Benjamin Button) in a documentary narrated by the star herself. The film features a level of transparency and honesty that guides viewers through the whirlwind of her career as a high-profile singer/songwriter and invites them to have a closer look at what happens after the curtains have closed.
After watching the film myself and combing through a few of the positive and negative reviews that surfaced after its release, it was unmistakably clear to me that Miss Americana is a fresh reminder of why I, like so many others, fell in love with Taylor as an artist and her incredible talent for that charming eloquence both on and off the stage. And as much as she has received criticism for including scenes such as the clip of her being disappointed (…as any other sentient human being would be) about not receiving any Grammy nominations for her 2017 album Reputation, Taylor has consistently shown her adoration for her craft and the people who make a career like hers a reality.
In an interview with Elle, director Lana Wilson discusses the filming process and what it was like to establish a close relationship with Taylor to further a sense of authenticity and sincerity that would be apparent in the documentary. Wilson describes her experience collaborating with the pop star: “as an artist, I learned so much from watching her work, from her work ethic and her drive and her relentless creativity and dedication to her music.”
It’s no surprise that Taylor is vastly detail-oriented and committed to the content she releases – the film surely includes that aspect of her character. But, as Emma Specter states in her Vogue article, “Taylor Swift is hardly a cipher; after all, the 30-year-old pop star has developed a reputation for an uncommon level of emotional honesty in her music. Nonetheless, Swift still has secrets left to tell…” In Miss Americana, she touches on everything from an eating disorder, her sudden disappearance, to her emotional battle with voicing her opinions in the political sphere.
Her discussion leading up to the primaries in Tennessee included clips of her explaining her initial hesitancy with being vocal about issues she actually really cared about, “…a nice girl doesn’t force her opinions on people. A nice girl smiles and waves and says thank you. A nice girl doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable with her views.” But as we watch events unfold with individuals such as Kanye West and David Mueller, it becomes increasingly apparent that silence isn’t the solution for her anymore, further fueling a passion to speak out on the policies that let people get away with stripping individuals of their basic human rights.
In a car ride following an encounter with fans and paparazzi, Taylor also opens up about the consequences of her overly self-critical tendencies when it came to seeing pictures of her body and hearing what the media had to say about it. “There’s always some standard of beauty that you’re not meeting…because if you’re thin enough, you don’t have that ass that everyone wants, but if you have enough weight on you to have an ass, then your stomach isn’t flat enough…it’s all just f*cking impossible.”
Her experiences as a woman who is inevitably under constant scrutiny because of her career have heavily influenced her path towards finding confidence within herself and her choices, “…I was happy. But I wasn’t happy in the way that I’d been trained to be happy. It was happiness without anyone else’s input.”
Miss Americana is an insight into Taylor’s newfound sense of self, her reluctance to remain indifferent and her growing take on strength in vulnerability. As a young girl, I admired her for the lyrics I found myself enthralled in – but today I respect her for taking the risk of using her platform to shine a light on issues that need more attention and for emphasizing the importance of prioritizing the things that truly matter to you – because it’s too easy to lose yourself when you rely on everyone’s validation except your own.
Miss Americana is now available to watch on Netflix.