“When people fall out of love with you, there’s nothing you can do to make them change their mind. They just don’t love you anymore,” an isolated and lonely Taylor Swift opens up and shows a vulnerable yet powerful side of herself in her new Netflix documentary Taylor Swift: Miss Americana. Directed by Emmy winner Lana Wilson. The documentary is filled with behind the scenes footage of the most publicized times of Swift’s career over the last couple of years, but this time with her input.
Taylor Swift has been a household name for years. After first entering the music industry as a young country star in her teens, America has watched her grow up to become a woman who has shaped pop music. Miss. Americana does a beautiful job of honestly showing how the last few years have changed who she is. The film highlights her 2016 hiatus from the limelight, an eating disorder, a sexual assault case, and finding her political voice.
Anyone who was on the internet in 2016 can remember the trend of calling Taylor Swift a snake. It seemed the world had turned on her in an instant with the #TaylorSwiftisOverParty that trended worldwide. While the world was criticizing her, Swift was busy finding happiness and love on her own terms, without the praise of the media or the general public, which had been the approval she needed for so long in order to be happy. “Even though it was really horrible, I was happy. But I wasn’t happy in the way I was trained to be happy, it was happiness without anyone else’s input. It was just, we were happy,” Swift recalled. Her response to the criticism came with her 2017 album Reputation, one of my favorite Swift albums because she lets her music do the talking when she felt as though she couldn’t. An album that is loud on first listen with abrupt rebellious anthems, but underneath the surface, you find a soft and sweet love story hidden in the lyrics.
One of the most talked-about parts of the documentary is when Swift opens up about her body image issues and eating disorder, something she had never publicly spoken out about. She remembers feeling like she was going to pass out after shows while she was touring on The 1989 World Tour and thinking it was normal. “There’s always some standard of beauty that you’re not meeting cause if you’re thin enough, then you don’t have that ass that everybody wants. But if you have enough weight on you to have ass, then your stomach isn’t flat enough. It’s all just fucking impossible.” She said she would occasionally starve herself after seeing a bad picture or headline but now she has to coach herself through it, reminding herself that weight gain can be a sign of strength and eating means you’re simply getting energy. An important message for all young people, especially girls.
There’s also a moment highlighting the behind the scenes look of a social media post from Swift that shook the world. Her Instagram post showing support for Tennessee Democrat Phil Breseden. “Part of the fabric of being a country artist is don’t force your politics on people, let people live their lives. That is grilled into us.” As a young female country artist who grew up admiring The Chicks, she was told by record executives and other higher-ups to not be like them because of the one time they denouced George Bush and Iraq War. The country music world did not approve of that. Miss. Americana shows an emotional Swift in a meeting with her parents and team discussing the consequences if she decided to voice her political beliefs. When she did post her wordy Instagram post, voter registration spiked in Tennessee with over 50,000 new voters. Her sexual assault trial especially influenced her thought process on going through with her post because Marsha Blackburn, the Republican from Tennessee, does not support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women’s Act which essentially protects women’s basic rights.
The end of the documentary sent chills down my body as Swift says “I wish I didn’t feel like there’s a better version of me out there. I feel that way all the time.” A universal feeling in an age of social media and comparison, a universal feeling for anyone who is human. And that is exactly what this documentary does, proves Taylor Swift is just as human as me and you. Despite what headlines and social media wants you to think, she cries, she has bad days, and she learns to move on and grow just like everybody else.
Miss. Americana ends with “The Archer,” a song off her latest album Lover, playing over a scene of Swift strumming her guitar as she confidently takes the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards stage. Lyrics “Combat, I’m ready for combat” play out she smiles at the camera. And she is indeed ready for combat, and her armor is stronger than ever.