Taylor Swift finds a voice beyond music

Taylor Swift in the 2020 Netflix original documentary “Miss Americana.” (Sundance Film Festival/Courtesy)

Netflix original documentary, “Miss Americana,” shows the evolution of Taylor Swift and how she went from America’s sweetheart to a diva who trolls on social media. The film gives insight to the creative mess that is Taylor Swift’s brain while also successfully drawing empathy for the music sensation who seems to have it all.

From her career launching single “Tim McGraw” in 2006, Swift has relied on public approval, which she sites as the reason for staying out of politics and refraining from saying anything that can be deemed as controversial. Silenced no more, the 85-minute documentary directed by Lana Wilson is a concoction of studio footage, home movies, awards-show tape and press clips that Swift uses to tell her story.

Early on, we do not see Swift with a lot of company. Apart from the one dinner that she has with a childhood friend, her infamous squad filled with celebrities and models is nowhere to be seen in the film. After a tour, Swift is once again alone with no one to call and share her success with. It really is lonely at the top.

While “Miss Americana” does not reveal any groundbreaking revelations on the life of a celebrity, it becomes even more difficult to not empathize with Swift. She narrowly escapes from being swallowed up by the crowd of vultures and paparazzi in front of her apartment and opens up about her eating disorder. She becomes fixated on unflattering pictures of herself which would sends her into a “hate spiral” of starvation.

“I have always been a fan of Taylor Swift from the beginning but I never knew about her eating disorder,” said Bella Hale, student at Saddleback College. “When celebrities open up about their personal struggles it makes them seem more relatable.”

Protecting your reputation while also remaining mentally healthy proved difficult for Swift, as the media mercilessly attacked her for being too skinny, too fat, surrounding herself with too many models, for being too attractive and for her long list of ex-lovers.

From early on in the film, it is hard not to be impressed by Swift’s undeniable creativity and talent.  In the studio footage that is shown, it is impressive to watch her creative process, and see how lyrics and melodies easily flow from her. Most people’s venting sessions include a rant that borders on being slightly incoherent, but for Swift, venting unfolds in song lyrics and creates tracks such as “The Man.”

“I never really like her music that much,” said Alyssa Garcia, sophomore at Saddleback College. “But I thought it was really cool to see her writing process, and whether or not you like her, it’s clear that Taylor Swift is really talented.”

The later half of “Miss Americana” features Swift as she dips her toes into the dangerous and highly volatile waters of politics. Done with her people pleasing days of the past, she posted a picture on Instagram in which she discouraged Tennessee residents from voting for Marsha Blackburn, who actively stands against rights for women and members of the LGTBQ community. While not everyone approved of her decision to publicly voice her opinions, the documentary credits Swift’s political activism to her growing confidence and maturity.

“Miss Americana” is not the typical biographical documentary that celebrities produce to desperately regain the faith of their fans or emotionally manipulate the audience. It highlights the journey of a young girl who once thrived off of the acceptance of others to an empowered young woman who fights for herself and others.

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