Taylor Swift

"Taylor Swift: Miss Americana" premiered on Jan. 23 on Netflix.

 

On Jan. 23, Taylor Swift released her documentary “Taylor Swift: Miss Americana” on Netflix. For one hour and 26 minutes, Swift’s fans get to experience her life and find out what thoughts were rolling around in her mind when major life events happened.

The documentary begins with the most Taylor Swift image of all time: her playing the piano as her cat walks across the keys. It then cuts to a shot of her, at nearly 30 years old, flipping through her childhood diary. 

She explains all she has ever wanted was to be a “good girl,” and that she thrives off other people’s approval and high praise. Throughout the documentary, this theme always seems prevalent.

At first, it’s like every other musician’s documentary. The film takes the audience on a journey through Swift’s life, starting years before her career began and ending in the present year. It features Swift as a kid always playing the guitar, writing songs for homemade videos, experiencing her first success with the song “Tim McGraw” and reflecting back on her life years later.

Where Swift’s documentary differs from others is when she talks about her hardships. This portion of her life began with the Kanye West debacle, when he interrupted her on stage at the 2009 VMAs by praising Beyoncé’s music video instead of Swift’s. 

She was 17 years old when that happened. Emphasizing her age in the documentary makes West seem like an even bigger jerk because he was a grown man making a stupid decision that hurt a young girl.

Following West’s speech and the hatred directed toward her by his fans, Swift disappeared for nearly a year. It may seem like she was overreacting, but considering her need for acceptance, it makes sense that she spiraled downward.

It was then she threw herself into the “Reputation” album. Knowing the backstory behind that record makes most people like it more, and learning about her life and the challenges she’s faced makes them respect her more.

When they learn fame drove her to an eating disorder, in which she basically starved herself, when they discover her mom was diagnosed with cancer or when they find out that she was groped by a radio DJ, the audience sympathized with her.

The documentary critiques her as well. It displays talk shows and news channels discussing Swift as an annoying girl who craves drama and only writes about the hundreds of boys she’s dated and broken up with. The point of these attacks is to show how they affected her life and her health, but they also end up pointing out her flaws.

However, as the documentary continues and Swift grows older, the viewers see those flaws diminish and her strength is revealed. She is still quite dramatic, but she is more confident in who she is. She forces her brain to let her eat, she branches out with the themes of her songs, she goes to court to sue the man who groped her and she spends as much time with her mom as possible.

The most surprising thing about this documentary and most representative of Swift’s personality is when she starts talking about politics. With a strong, vocal opinion about the recent Tennessee senator election, she ended up being partially responsible for the spike in young voter turnout. It becomes evident she is an advocate for women and for voting rights, though she makes clear she would never tell people how they should vote.

At the end of the documentary, her new and radically different song, “Only the Young” is discussed. Upon first listen, the lyrics seem meaningless, but the documentary explains they are about young people’s ability to change the world. It was inspired by her experience with the election and her disappointment with the results. 

Though it is repetitive and not one of her best songs, it is one of the few songs she has written that is not about a relationship.

Taylor Swift is bagged on a lot, but she really is quite talented. One of the most interesting parts of the documentary is when she is writing songs with her producer. It seems to come so easily to her. 

She starts with an idea and a tune, then, when the lyrics finally come together, and she knows she’s written a hit song, it gives you goosebumps.

Samantha DiMaio is a staff writer.

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