Courtesy of Netflix
You don’t control what people think of your story, but you do control what you believe about yourself and how you tell your story to the world.
Having spent half of her life in the spotlight, Taylor Swift knows what it’s like to watch her reputation get shattered over and over again, but she also knows how to rise up from the ashes and re-create her narrative, as seen in her recently-released Netflix documentary, “Miss Americana.”
Swift narrates much of the documentary, reflecting on her life and career.
“I know that, without me writing my own songs, I wouldn’t be here,” Swift said. “There is an element to my fan base where we feel like we grew up together.”
From country-pop sweetheart to global phenomenon, Swift has re-invented her image several times, and fans have watched her grow through it all. In “Miss Americana,” she talks about things that she’s struggled with over the years: body image, her feud with Kanye West, being a woman in a male-dominated industry, her current relationship with Joe Alwyn and her loneliness at the height of fame. The reflections in her simple-but-sweet documentary makes it worth the watch.
Swift starts out by talking about her early days as a musician and her ever-present desire to please. She wanted to maintain her image as a good girl because it was expected. This ended up being a problem for her later, when Kanye West interrupted her VMAs acceptance speech in 2009 and when #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty hashtag became a trend in 2016. She was unsure of her voice, obsessed with maintaining her reputation, and it took a while to find the courage to share her political views with the universe.
“Throughout my whole career, label executives would say that a nice girl doesn’t force her opinions on people, that a nice girl smiles and waves and says thank you,” Swift said. “I became the person that everyone wanted me to be.”
This transitioned into the next topic of her documentary: the person that she wants to be. It seems the main thing Swift wants to be is someone who speaks up about politics instead of staying out of it. She wants to be a role model, inspiring young girls to harness the power of their voices. She wants to be someone who makes a difference.
One could argue that she already has made a difference on a large scale. In terms of music, Swift has made seven beautiful chart-topping albums that have been global successes. In terms of politics, Swift caused voter registration to increase dramatically in 2018 after she posted on her Instagram, telling her followers that she endorsed Tennessee Democrats Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper.
According to Vote.org on Oct. 9, 2018, nearly 65,000 Americans ages 18 to 29 registered to vote in the roughly 24 hours after her post. It proved that Swift has a huge following and a tremendous amount of power. Like a true leader, when Swift uses her voice, people listen.
Many people listen to Taylor Swift, but not many people know about her inner struggles with her body. “Miss Americana” shows a video of Swift opening up about her insecurity with her body weight. Swift talked about how she used to obsess over photos of herself online, choosing to starve herself when she didn’t like how she looked. She said that even today, she needs to remind herself to accept the way her body looks, like the fact that she’s a size six instead of a size double zero.
Swift also mentioned her struggle with fame. At one point, she won Album of the Year at the Grammys for the second time. As she walked to the stage, she wondered, “Shouldn’t I have someone I could call right now?” It’s the other side of fame, the uncomfortable, lonelier side. She paints an image of someone who’s gotten everything she wanted, standing at the top of a mountain– only to realize the view isn’t as beautiful alone.
The best scene is when Swift goes backstage after a concert and runs into Joe Alwyn’s arms. It’s the only time that Alwyn’s face appears on screen. There’s also a part later where she sings her song “Call It What You Want” to someone videotaping her, presumably Alwyn, and in the middle of the chorus, she stops and mouths “I love you” to the camera. Their private relationship still remains largely off-screen, but the few scenes included with the two of them are quite adorable. Their love for each other is clear and very beautiful.
There’s one thing that is also clear after watching the documentary: Swift has definitely grown up. She’s mature, thoughtful and still has her sense of humor. More than that, she seems happy where she is and with who she is. And what more could Swifties want than a happy Taylor?
The 85-minute documentary gives viewers a fascinating peek into the life of the most influential artist of our generation. There’s a montage of old concert clips, reminding people of Swift’s journey from country star in 2006 to pop superstar in 2020. She’s a pro at blending confessional storytelling with sharp wit. She’s a queen who wears pink while talking about politics. Forever and ever, her narrative can inspire us because of the way she told it, and the way that she found love for herself, her songs, and those around her— even among the chaos of her reputation.
No matter what happened, she was loved, and today, she is still very loved. And maybe that’s all that really matters.