Film Review: Miss Americana
Taylor Swift has just released a documentary on Netflix called Miss Americana directed by the Emmy winner Lana Wilson. While many people are prejudiced against this movie being just documentary about a celebrity becoming famous, Miss Americana touches on many important issues and presents a Taylor Swift that we do not see much on the media: fragile, vulnerable, insecure, yet brave and strong. This documentary is essential in seeing fame does not make a person any less different than us; any less human. Miss Americana touches on childhood dreams, bullying, eating disorders, societal expectations, cancer of a loved one, American politics and most importantly, speaking about what one believes in.
Many of you who follow the pop culture would know about what’s been going on on media in the past decade. Many know about the 2009 VMAs Kanye event and all the Kanye-Swift feud following. Kanye’s song about Taylor calling her a ‘b*tch’, claiming he made her famous and objectifying her, the phone conversation which was supposed to be an apology, and the Kanye concert where he got the audience to shout ‘f*ck’ Taylor Swift. Many also know the 2016’s #TaylorIsOverParty. The sexual assault case in 2017. Taylor’s one-year-long public disappearance. Taylor finally opening up about her politic views in 2018 Tennessee Senatorial Elections, which follows up with her register to vote calls, equality act petition (as well as her support to LGBTQ+ community with her song You Need to Calm Down), artist rights fight and UK’s recent general elections posts. And of course, everyone knows about the twice-told ‘Taylor had too many boyfriends and ew she writes songs about them’ jokes. Get over it already.
If you didn’t know, now you do. If you did, watching this documentary will make you feel like you knew nothing. You knew what the media told you, but you didn’t know what was really going on for Taylor.
She talks openly about the 2009 event. She talks about how, when the audience was booing Kanye, she thought the audience were booing her. That’s the problem with the social media generation, when they are speaking about someone, especially someone famous, they do not think about these people as people. Taylor’s perfect. Taylor’s great. Taylor’s famous. Taylor’s a human, guys. She has feelings, too. She could mentally suffer.
Which leads us to another thing we never knew about Swift. Her eating problems. When you think about it, it is even easier for a celebrity to obsess about their appearance. Someone is posting their photos every minute. Someone’s commenting on their appearance all the time.
‘She is too skinny.’
‘Has she gained weight?’
‘Is she pregnant?’
You can never make people happy, but even if you are someone who knows that, being surrounded by these comments make you slip into ‘what ifs’. Taylor speaks about her eating problems in the documentary, and you can see that she is finding it so hard to talk about it. It’s raw, it’s heartbreaking but courageous. It can clearly be seen that she wants to spread a positive message for other people going through similar things.
Another very important aspect of Miss Americana is that it gives a new insight into the entertainment industry that many of us don’t think of. When someone has a large platform, that person is very influential. Although for some, this means they can say anything they want, it is quite the contrary. Many haters and media figures are on the lookout for one wrong word, and big audiences often include people from different beliefs and ideologies which means speaking about one thing would be taking the risk of losing the other. However, someone with a significant platform choosing to stay silent is also ignorant, in my personal view. People staying silent are as responsible for the occurrence of adverse events as the people in charge of these things. We see Taylor’s oscillation between whether to speak or stay quiet, we see her team and even her dad being against it. A decline in ticket sales. Loss of fans. Personal safety.
This is the reality of the world, though, isn’t it? Being punished for speaking out.
She was taught to be ‘the good girl’ and ‘a nice girl doesn’t force their opinion on people’. Even as someone who tried to be ‘the nice girl’ she couldn’t please people, people always have something to say, like she is ‘fake’. So, she chooses to take a stand. She chooses to do what she believes in and what she would be pleased with. THAT is what is applaudable.
The main struggle of Taylor Swift, as we learn was wanting to be approved. Yes, she wants to be approved, too and fears losing people, as much as we do. ‘We liked the sound of people clapping ‘cause it made us forget how much we feel like we’re not good enough,’ Taylor says in the documentary. All these voices everywhere judging someone while all they want to do is music, just do what they want to do. I’m sure you feel that because I do. I think when Taylor says ‘it just gets loud sometimes,’ we can all understand what she means. We hear all these societal definitions of what something should be, a mould is given that we are trying to fit into, so many voices at the same time. Now imagine what it would be like if those things said by large numbers of people around the world were directed at you. This documentary does not only makes Taylor’s views and feeling accessible to us but gives a crucial message that famous people have feelings, too, and some things can even be harder for them. So be kind. To everyone.
Through the end, we are happy for Taylor because she is doing better, but she also makes a case that she is still a work in progress and trying to defeat the concepts society plants inside us, educate herself on respecting people and not judging them by the criteria we were thought that actually has no ground to them.
If I had to do some kind of opposite comment (as this is a review), I would say I would’ve wanted to see more of Taylor’s fight for the right of her records, but I’m guessing the timing was not the right one for that. I believe things heated up mostly after the production of the documentary, as the use of her old songs for the documentary was another battle she had to fight in. Well, maybe a future project for Swift? Who knows?
She talks about many many important things in the documentary that I will not try to break down here but make sure you watch it and don’t judge it as being ‘just another celebrity documentary’ or judge it by a clip you see without knowing the broader context. What she is saying is important. This is the reality of behind the stage. This is a story of fighting yourself for finding yourself. Many people will try to say she is acting, but I think the correct answer to that is:
Watch Miss Americana. https://www.netflix.com/title/81028336
Stream Only the Young (a song about how many people turn 18 every year and can vote and how the young is our future). https://open.spotify.com/track/2slqvGLwzZZYsT4K4Y1GBC
Check out the Equality Act petition. https://www.change.org/p/support-the-equality-act
Register to vote.
And be kind to people.
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