Taylor Swift, a music industry icon, released a documentary “Miss Americana” on Jan. 31. The documentary, directed by Lana Wilson, revealed her raw emotions, struggles with identity and the truth about her time away from the spotlight.
Opening the documentary, Swift shares her adolescent diaries with the viewer, describing one she wrote at 13. Even then, doubting herself but assured that someday, someone would see the talent she offered the world. Carried by her desire to write music and a strong work ethic, Swift took the music industry and country music by storm. In 2006, Swift became the youngest female country singer to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts with her debut, self-titled album.
Plunging into a world of headlines, gossip, and television personnel that described Swift and her body disrespectfully, the documentary shares the idea of who the world thought Swift became. Part of this discussing the long history of drama surrounding Kanye West, who publicly dissed Swift in his song “Famous,” sparking rumors about Swift’s understanding of how the song portrayed her. Ending her 1989 world tour in late 2015, Swift disappeared from the public eye, struggling with an eating disorder and feeling utterly alone.
“No one physically saw me for a year and that was what I thought they wanted,” Swift proclaims in the film. “When people decided I was evil and wicked and conniving and not a good person, that was the one that I couldn’t really bounce back from because my whole life was centered around it.”
During this time away, Swift transformed her mindset and reconstructed the idea of fame and success and how she took the criticism that constantly got tossed her way. Taking the world’s opinions and thoughts as writing material, Swift wrote “reputation,” her sixth album.
This new era of her music coined the phrase “there will be no further explanation, there will just be reputation.” Removing herself from the interview and album promotion scene, “reputation” became one of the most successful albums of 2017 purely on it’s content alone and excitement from fans. In the documentary, you view Swift receiving the news that “reputation” failed to receive a Grammy nomination in the major categories in 2018. She took the news by expressing, “I just need to make a better record.” In August 2019, Swift released her seventh studio album, “Lover’” which became nominated for a 2020 Grammy. However, the Academy snubbed Swift’s work once again.
At this point in her career, it was purely her against the world. What the world didn’t know was prior to her hiatus, was that she was beginning to fall in love. British actor, Joe Alwyn, met Swift at the 2016 Met Gala and the two began dating months later.
“I also was falling in love with someone who had a really wonderfully normal, balanced, grounded life and we decided together that we wanted our relationship to be private,” Swift said.
Alwyn’s presence was minimal in the documentary, his full face barely shown on screen. Nonetheless, the impact he made on Swift’s life became greatly obvious as clips of their relationship flipped by. His shadow became visible during a clip of the couple taking a walk in rural England and his back and side appeared during a moment of the two hugging backstage after one of Swift’s reputation tour shows. With this slight glimpse into her romantic life, it became obvious that Swift continues to strive to keep their relationship away from the static atmosphere of tabloid media.
“I was happy. But I wasn’t happy in the way I’d been trained to be happy. It was happiness without anyone else’s input, it was just… we were happy,” Swift said regarding her relationship with Alwyn.
Viewers see Swift’s dating life become glamorized in mainstream media as clips from interviews and red carpet interviews roll on. This trademarked Swift’s identity throughout her career, making her long list of ex-lovers the only thing that came to mind when people thought of her. With this magnifying glass looming over this part of her personal life, it became hard for Swift to speak out against anything or publicly announce her relationship without limited privacy.
Throughout Swift’s entire life, she followed the rules and displayed herself as the “good girl” who smiles and waves and doesn’t force her opinions on anyone else. A mindset which shifts when Swift discovered that the conservative candidate for senator of Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn, was in the lead for winning the 2018 midterm election. Blackburn’s values expressed through her campaign became thought of as backwards to Swift, hindering the protection of women and the LGBTQ+ community. Swift, feeling strongly about this, fought her father and other members of her team for her chance to express her political views and help gain attention to the importance of voting. The documentary shows Swift on her couch, wine glass in hand, surrounded by her mother, Andrea Swift, and her long-time publicist, Tree Paine, about to post one of her most influential and well thought out Instagram posts. Nervous about the backlash she could receive, Swift broke her political silence outlining her opinions and calling those eligible to get out and vote. However, Blackburn won the election, despite Swift’s efforts to sway the public’s decision.
Closing the documentary, Swift is seen in the studio, working on a new song fueled by the results of the midterm election entitled “Only the Young.” The song, released the same day of the documentary release, partnered her idea of inspiring young people to vote with her narrative songwriting abilities. The upbeat anthem played during the end credits with the inspiring lyrics, “They aren’t gonna help us, Too busy helping themselves, They aren’t gonna change this, We gotta do it ourselves, They think that it’s over, But it’s just begun, Only one thing can save us, Only the young.”
“Miss Americana,” while extremely emotional and eye-opening, revealed an intimate version of Swift, allowing fans and even those who dislike her to connect with her struggles. Insuring that even if Swift has seven record-breaking albums, 10 Grammys and one of the highest grossing world tours to date, she remains down to earth with real emotions that all people feel and understand.