Taylor Swift released her documentary “Miss Americana” on Netflix on Jan. 31, garnering buzz from fans and onlookers alike. The documentary spans from the past few years of her life, which was a very transformative period for Swift. She disappeared from the public eye, reprioritized her life and tackled a lot of issues — publicly and privately.
As an avid fan, I was excited to see what more Swift had to reveal in the film. It was touching, inspiring, funny, emotional and vulnerable. It shows Swift’s journey in finding her voice and coming to a place where she doesn’t live off approval from everyone else.
She discusses how growing up she was taught to be a “good girl,” always polite and respectful, and catered to the “America’s Sweetheart” archetype. This label boxed her in and made her feel trapped while working in a male-dominated industry. She worked consciously to strip herself from those labels and fight against the misogyny she sees and experiences.
What makes Swift’s journey interesting to watch is the shift that she experienced in her life that pushed her to find her voice on the issues that pervade our society. The documentary touches on her sexual assault trial back in 2017, when a radio DJ sued her after she alleged that he had innapriopriately groped her during a meet and greet, causing him to lose his job.
Swift countersued him for $1 and delivered a powerful testimony, not accepting the blame that was placed on her and demanding her assaulter to take accountability for his actions. Although the jury ended up ruling in her favor, the process was emotionally difficult for Swift.
The director, Lana Wilson, did an excellent job of showing this, using dark imagery of a courtroom and sketched drawings of Swift to evoke how draining it felt. The movie then cuts to Swift giving a speech at her Reputation Stadium Tour stop in Miami exactly a year later. She gets choked up talking about what she went through the year before and lends support to those who weren’t believed or are afraid to speak up about their experience.
This was pivotal in bringing Swift to speak up about politics for the first time, eventually condemning President Donald J. Trump's administration and endorsing the Democratic candidate of Tennessee ahead of the midterm elections in 2018. The document shows a scene in which Swift fights with members of her team, pushing them to support her decision to insert herself in politics. She eventually tears up discussing how the Republican candidate, Marsha Blackburn, stands against feminist and queer rights issues.
Swift made a long post on her Instagram explaining her views and emphasizing the importance of voting, causing a dramatic spike in voter registrations within the next 24 hours. Her post even garnered a response from Trump himself, saying he liked her music “25 percent less.”
The film shows Swift’s reaction to Blackburn winning the race and how it inspired her to write a song encouraging young people that they have the power to run and make a difference, titled “Only The Young.”
Swift also opens up about her battle with an eating disorder for the first time, which many people wouldn’t expect. She discusses how the pressures women face in society to have the perfect body were detrimental to her body image. She opens up about instances where she would starve herself if she saw a headline claiming she was pregnant or noticed a weight gain.
This gave a new perspective to her struggles and the effects of your body being constantly published and scrutinized by the media. Swift bluntly opens up about long-term issues she’s learned to overcome and how she had to redefine her happiness and fight against her innate nature of seeking approval.
Swift’s story is relatable, speaks to many young women and presents her as human more than anything else. Wilson captured her in her most vulnerable and ordinary moments, including captivating footage from studio sessions. She pieced the documentary together to show Swift’s evolution throughout her entire career, and how she transformed from a young girl with big dreams writing songs in her bedroom to the pop icon that she is today.
“Miss Americana” received an outpour of positive responses from critics like The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly and is beloved by fans. As one myself, it made me feel closer to Swift than ever before. It presents Swift as self-aware, honest and resilient and approachable to young and old audiences. Swift’s journey can serve as a guidance force for young girls growing up today.
The film grapples with a lot of material in 1 hour and 30 minutes, and ties it all in a bow at the end. And aside from all the hard topics Swift tackles with, it also shows the magic of her songwriting craft, her adorable cats, intimate moments with her loved ones and allows her to finally tell her story in her own words.