Review: Miss Americana
In her Netflix documentary, released on Friday, Taylor Swift shows viewers a side of her that they’re not accustomed to seeing. Swift is raw in her honesty about the struggles she’s faced throughout her lifetime, and she showcases the many different definitions society has placed upon her throughout her years in the spotlight. Despite these definitions, the documentary shrinks the 5’11 star down to just one word: Human.
Broken down by age, Swift’s film shows her growth through the years. The audience watches as her music career quickly progresses from Swift’s first appearance in the public eye at just 13 years old. From singing the National Anthem at football games to producing her first album at 16, Swift’s adolescence proves itself to be not only a setup to her future success, but a predetermination of the pressure she would inevitably face.
The documentary shows Swift’s ability to both change and stay the same through the years, a journey from being a self titled “good girl” to a woman who is firm in her beliefs and stands up for what she thinks is right.
As a young artist, Swift received backlash for not speaking up politically, but in the film, she admits that she knew little about politics in her early adulthood. As she’s grown up, however, she’s educated herself enough to have solid beliefs, beliefs she wants to stand up for even in the face of potential public criticism.
Angry, disappointed and in denial in a fully human way, when Marsha Blackburn was elected to the Tennessee senate, Swift turns her passion into productivity with the release of a new, highly political song titled “Only the Young.” The song aims to emphasize the importance of young people being involved in politics and using their voices in a way Swift never did at their age.
Swift also highlights that ignorance wasn’t the only reason why she never used her voice in political activism prior to her late 20s. Living a life only fulfilled by the approval of others, Swift says that the pressure to please strangers and to maintain her “good girl” image dissuaded her from speaking up.
“A nice girl doesn’t force her opinion on other people,” said Swift. “A nice girl doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable with her views.”
After living a life where her level of happiness was determined by the approval of others, Swift’s journey shows the realization of a much more important variable in the equation of happiness: approval of yourself, by yourself.
Off of this point, Swift shows a much deeper emotional side that fans are only used to seeing in the depth of her lyrics. When Swift speaks up about the psychological trauma she’s faced as a result of constant criticism, the typical happy, carefree Swift who America has come to know and love is gone. Here, Swift is real, and she is raw, proving that the spotlight doesn’t always make a star shine; it can burn when the light is too direct.
“There’s always some standard of beauty that you’re not meeting,” said Swift.
The public eye speculated Swift’s weight for years, constantly calling her too thin. Yet, after gaining 15 pounds in her year hiatus from the spotlight, criticism shifted the other way.
“You don’t ever say to yourself, ‘I have an eating disorder,’ but you know you’re making a list of everything that you put in your mouth that day and you know that’s probably not right,” said Swift. “But then again, there’s so many diet blogs that tell you that’s what you should do.”
The film depicts the universal pressure to please others alongside the pressure to be something, be someone, but not yourself. Exploring just what it means to be human, Swift proves that whether she’s singing or speaking, she has power in her voice