That’s Her Whole World

Even after a year, Taylor Swift’s Netflix documentary still remains relevant to current topics

The+advertisement+used+to+promote+the+documentary%2C+Miss+Americana%2C+which+follows+famed+songwriter+Taylor+Swift+from+late+2018-2019.+The+film+was+initially+released+at+the+Sundance+Film+Festival+on+Jan.+23%2C+2020+and+later+on+Netflix+on+Jan.+30%2C+2020.

Courtesy of Taylor Swift's Instagram

The advertisement used to promote the documentary, “Miss Americana,” which follows famed songwriter Taylor Swift from late 2018-2019. The film was initially released at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 23, 2020 and later on Netflix on Jan. 30, 2020.

Though it’s been about a year and a half since it’s release, “Miss Americana,” a Netflix documentary about Songwriter-Singer Taylor Swift, is still one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. As someone who watches a lot of history and contemporary issue documentaries, I have seen many documentaries – both good and bad. This one, however, stands out for not only its content, but also its quality. I’m not even just saying that as a Swift fan either. Yet whenever I seem to recommend it to other people, they always turn up their noses at the sheer concept of watching it. Why? Because people hear the words “Taylor Swift documentary” and immediately assume that it’ll be lukewarm, discussing only her love life and big hits. In reality, both Swift and this documentary are so much more.

“Miss Americana” was released on Jan. 23, 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival and later released to wider audiences on Jan. 31, 2020 on Netflix. The film was directed by Emmy winner Lana Wilson and follows Swift from the “Reputation” era (2017-2018) into the beginnings of the “Lover” era (2019-2020) as she discusses her life since rising to stardom, the process of recovering from the backlash of 2016 and most importantly as she finds her voice in politics.

The documentary starts off with Swift sitting at her piano with one of her cats, delicately playing a soft melody. While the piano continues to play, the viewer sees Swift read out of one of her childhood journals. She uses the entry to prompt a discussion on her childhood and the beginning of her career, which brings up the first mention of her issue with wanting to be seen as “good” and have the approval of others – a common theme mentioned over-and-over again throughout the film.

Taylor Swift is seen playing a piano with her cat, Benjamin Button, by her side. The film follows Swift through moments like such as this one as she discusses her life and experiences as one of the most accomplished musical artists in the industry. During the documentary she uses these experiences to bring up important topics that have affected her and others she cares about. (Courtesy of Netflix)

One of the aspects of this film that really stands out is how vulnerable Swift allows herself to be. An example of this, which adds to the previously mentioned theme, is a clip of Swift as she sobs while telling her parents, “We’re people who got into this line of work because we wanted people to like us, [because] we were intrinsically insecure, because we liked the sound of people clapping [because] it made us forget about how much we feel like we’re not good enough…” following her cancellation in 2016.  

Even bigger issues are also discussed too. From Swift’s eating disorder as a result of media scrutiny to the 2017 sexual assault trial against Radio DJ David Mueller, the audience gets to see intimate sides of Swift’s life that have never been seen before. The inclusion of these topics makes Swift appear almost more human in a way since oftentimes society puts celebrities with such a high profile on a pedestal, leading people to think nothing can touch them. However, they go through the same issues we do. I’ve always admired how genuine Swift has been from the moment her career began; this documentary only added to that admiration. She used this documentary not only as a chance to tell her story and her side of things, but also as a chance to shed some light on some really tough issues and situations. 

One issue that Swift talks about quite a bit in the documentary is the misogyny she has faced being a part of the music industry. All female celebrities deal with it, but it seems like a staple in Swift’s life, especially due to the media constantly and unrightfully portraying her as a serial dater. There’s no better way to discuss this issue than to bring up why it took her so long to get into politics. 

Swift explains that from the moment her career started, she was constantly told not to be like The Dixie Chicks: a female country music group whose name was decimated when they made a remark against then-President George W. Bush and the United States invasion of Iraq. Going into a career in country music, she was told it was best to not state her political opinions and to let her audience live their lives as they please. 

Swift stated the set of rules she once followed, “A nice girl doesn’t force their 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.”

A nice girl doesn’t force their 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.”

— Taylor Swift

Eventually, she couldn’t keep silent anymore during the midterm elections in 2018 when Senator Marsha Blackburn was in the lead for a United States Senate seat for the state of Tennessee. Swift, not being a born Tennessean but claiming it as her home state, felt betrayed that the state’s values were being pitched as anti-women and anti-gay marriage as well as being opposed to other issues she considered to be basic human rights. So, she decided to make a post encouraging her followers to vote against Blackburn and instead voiced her support for two Democratic candidates. 

This entire section of this documentary is perhaps my favorite part. The way Swift speaks, you can just feel how passionate she is about everything she’s saying. And in that moment, the audience can find sympathy with her as she cries while arguing with her father and another male executive on why she needs to make this post.

Though much of the documentary’s focus is on politics and the treatment of women within the industry, there is still some behind-the-scenes footage of her writing songs and making music videos for her albums “Reputation” and “Lover.” In these scenes, her raw talent is unleashed as she sits at the piano, strums the guitar, or works with one of her producers to figure out how to make a simple melody become a masterpiece. Not only is it truly amazing to see her thought process and what could’ve been, but also to see how much love and passion went into making the songs that are heard all the time on the radio. In addition, during the film, Swift writes and produces a song titled “Only the Young” that is made specifically for the film. The song is a response to the 2018 midterm elections and spreads a message that even if the state of the country looks bad now, the younger generations have the power to create change. 

“Miss Americana” is an hour and twenty-five minute dive into what it is like being one of the most successful and well-known women in the music industry. Even if you don’t like Swift’s music, this documentary will, at the very least, make you respect her as a person.

Click here to view the trailer for “Miss Americana.”