I’ve not always been a fan of Taylor Swift. In my head, she was a bit like cotton candy. Super sweet and a delightful confection if you’re into that sort of thing — I’m not — but she just wasn’t intended for global appeal.
I think it might have been “1989” when I really started to appreciate Swift’s music and listen to her back catalogue as well. She released her first song at 16 in 2006, and she’s been continuing to pen her own songs ever since. Late last year, she was declared the Artist of the Decade at the American Music Awards.
I knew I couldn’t miss the Netflix original, “Miss Americana,” which debuted Jan. 31.
The title is titled after “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince,” a track off of Swift’s latest album, “Lover.” But, it’s also a very real portrayal of Swift’s life. She gained mainstream attention at 16, y’all. She was a pretty, young blonde role model that taught young girls they should follow their dreams, and their guitars would catch their teardrops.
“Miss Americana” gives the audience a look at young Taylor and her rise to fame. We also get a behind-the-scenes look at some of her high moments and some of her lowest, including Kanye West’s infamous interruption of Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. The VMA audience booed West, but the young girl on stage thought those boos were aimed at her.
It’s a very real and raw look at Swift’s insecurities. She discusses her battles with eating disorders, Grammy disappointments, her mother’s cancer and her need for acceptance. She also goes into a bit of detail about the sexual assault lawsuit she brought against DJ David Mueller after he groped her before a 2013 concert. It was a clear-cut case with witnesses and photographic evidence of the assault, but Swift still had to defend herself and her actions.
“Miss Americana” shows us how a superstar was created. Throughout her career, Swift didn’t ruffle feathers. She didn’t fight back when West was a jerk at the VMAs. She didn’t comment on politics or any other taboo subjects. She smiled for the camera and played the “nice girl.”
It wasn’t until late 2018 that Swift decided to stop playing nice. She’d watched the Dixie Chicks’ career go down in flames after lead singer Natalie Maines criticized then-President George Bush at a concert. Swift knew she was taking a risk by letting her political opinions be known, but she was tired of playing a part. She publicly endorsed Phil Bredesen in a 2018 U.S. Senate race and spoke out against Marsha Blackburn, who ultimately went on to win.
Swift’s career didn’t end, although she did make a few Conservative enemies. She’s stayed vocal and politically active, even calling Blackburn “Trump in a wig” in her new documentary. She’s an advocate for LGTBQ+ rights and used her latest album “Lover” to speak out against bigotry, homophobia and misogyny.
Filmmaker Lana Wilson gives the audience an intimate coming-of-age story. We get to watch Swift go from a shy teenager scared of making people mad into a grown woman that dares you to mess with her or her friends.
She’s grown up in front of TV cameras and in headlines. She’s been judged for her songs, her love life, her weight, her hair style and every other thing you can think of. She’s been the victim of stalkers, sexual assault, bullying and petty comments. She’s also been a Grammy Award winner, a pop icon and the ultimate cat lady.
We’ve seen all of these sides of Taylor Swift, but “Miss Americana” gives us a look at who we haven’t seen, and that’s a vulnerable young woman growing up in the spotlight. For more than a decade, Swift has had folks telling her who she needs to be, but no one ever asked who she “wants” to be. We’re finding out with her in this new movie, and it’s a revelation for both fans and newcomers.