By: Kat Kaderabek
Taylor Swift recently released a Netflix documentary titled Miss Americana which details her long career and personal life in the spotlight. From a national pop sensation to a hated, dramatized has-been, Swift outlines the thoughts and emotions surrounding the periods of transition her twenty year career has taken.
The public’s anticipation for this documentary was high, especially because of the singer’s scandalous history and because of the fact that there is much about Taylor’s life that she has kept private. Her entire album, Reputation, dealt with such scandals and negative personifications of her by media outlets.
Her documentary addresses this time in her life. She discusses the Kanye West feud, which began when he interrupted her congratulatory speech after winning her first VMA, and subsequent fallouts, including the “#taylorswiftisoverparty” that trended on Twitter for several days. Swift also touched on the media’s portrayal of her love life and the “tireless parade of men” she dated throughout her twenties.
Now, at thirty years old, her documentary is evidence of a new maturity and outlook on life. Her growth from being a star vying for attention and living for applause to a woman who is confident in her talent and headstrong in her beliefs is inspiring and beautiful to see on screen.
Specifically, her decision to endorse a political candidate in her home state of Tennessee is a rather inspiring one. She explains how, against the warnings of her family and publicist, she knew her voice could make a difference and assist in deflecting another candidate of (what Swift deems) immoral values. And while Swift’s candidate was not elected, her influence was enough to create a tight race and invigorate a sense of activism in the young singer.
Her love and support of women and the LBGTQ+ community is also evident throughout her documentary, even in the smallest of comments. Her inclusivity and desire to make others feel welcome is apparent in her treatment of fans at meet and greets and even guests when they enter her home.
The documentary was entertaining and informative, however it was lacking in the depth that fans have been searching for. There are specific moments that Swift addresses in an attempt to be profoundly transparent, but these seem almost calculated. The documentary is missing the nitty-gritty of her life and struggles. Her darkest moments are rather glossed over, and instead her accomplishments or activism is focused on instead of her mistakes and drawbacks. But it’s the mistakes and drawbacks that fans are so curious about.
At one point, Taylor addresses the media’s portrayal of her as manipulative. And while the documentary does touch upon her hurt and pain from those stories, it does seem very victimizing. There is a fine line between defending oneself and victimizing oneself, and Miss Americana blurs this line.
The reason why the documentary seems to be victimizing Swift is because it lacks the raw emotion of her struggles and heartbreak. It does not address many of her celebrity feuds or her own personal mistakes. Does she regret any of it? Would she go back and change anything about her career? How does she feel now? How does she feel about the constant rotation of men throughout her life? The audience was looking for a more personal Taylor Swift and was rather disappointed at the version that was presented to them.
Additionally, it was interesting to see her creative process when writing music. Her music evidently draws from the pain of heartbreak, betrayal, and the emotions surrounding relationships, however her process for writing songs seems to lack that emotion as well. The clips of her songwriting style merely showed her successes, and not the failures and faults that come with songwriting.
Regardless of the lack of depth in some parts of Miss Americana, the documentary did show a new perspective of Taylor Swift. Her interaction with family, friends, and fans was truly genuine and the everydayness of her life was surprisingly average. The documentary very much so painted her as a normal girl who is – almost – tired of the stardom. At one point, she cites a case in which a man broke into her apartment and slept in her bed when she was not home. While this fact is startling, Swift delivered it with a sense of resignation and matter-of-factly.
There was a vulnerability to her opening up about the sexual assault trial.. Swift provided some clarity and it was obvious that this personal event was the catalyst to her position as a women’s rights activist. However, there was no addressment of the Scooter Braun scandal throughout the entire documentary, leaving audiences to believe there are facts in question or legal ties still concerning Swift’s tell-all.
Overall, the documentary was more focused on Taylor Swift’s origins in stardom, activism, and professionalism. While the film overlapped with her personal life, it lacked the details and emotion needed to create a moving documentary. There are still several questions about her personal and professional life that were left unanswered that could constitute another hour-and-a-half long documentary. Hopefully, Miss Americana is not the end of Taylor Swift’s tell-all. There’s so much more to the star that people are eager to see both musically and personally.