Some may call it a reinvention. Some may call it a good marketing tactic. Others may call it self-discovery unmasked to the world.
Whatever you call it, “Miss Americana,” a Netflix documentary about the life of Taylor Swift, the 30-year-old pop singer, takes viewers into the depths of the singer’s personal struggles within the industry in which she grew up and her big step into the political world over the last three years. This film creates an awareness of how this industry chews women up and spits them out.
As a result, Swift’s latest transformation of a woman who is slowly becoming a political activist and someone who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself challenges the world to see there is more behind a pop-star than a pretty face and catchy hit songs.
“This movie shows how she realizes she has a voice– she has that following to say something important,” Amanda Muench, senior, said.
The documentary starts with Swift’s struggles to please everyone. She wanted to be known as the nice girl, the unproblematic girl who sits and accepts her awards while making songs that people will like, but life experiences change that.
The film flashes through important snippets of her life– snippets that not only defined her as a celebrity but as a young woman. These snippets include the infamous 2009 MTV VMAs incident of Kanye West interrupting Swift’s speech after she had won ‘best music video of the year.’
“That was completely unfair of him to do,” said Remy Loerraker, sophomore, who stumbled across the documentary while on Netflix with her family. She has been a fan of the singer for numerous years. “I don’t agree with what he did since I think that as an artist and as a person, you should treat people with respect.”
After the VMAs spectacle, Swift started her first ‘feud,’ but as the world started to take sides (Swift versus West), Swift instead focused on her career and just creating music; she started to develop an even stronger need to succeed.
“It made me change perception on what stardom is really like,” Muench said. “You really see Swift as a real person with real feelings.”
The film firmly grasps that sense of distortion from a balanced reality that Swift may have needed to keep her drive in check. In a turbulence of success, Swift touches that mountain top of success. She reaches that peak where she wins ‘Album of the Year’ at the Grammys for the second time, and that is when the mood shifts.
“I’d been trained to be happy when you got a lot of praise,” Swift said at the beginning of the documentary. She comes to learn not to rely on external forces to determine her happiness, though.
The psychological work Swift has done for herself throughout the three year time period of filming is evident and beautiful. This is shown from the focus of the need to be wanted, the need to be successful and the need to be loved to the new focus of finding that acceptance within herself; there is a new belief system set in her head, as the film shows, where she prioritizes her family.
Her mom was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, and the film brings that up for a brief moment as a sort of segue into Swift’s new perspective on life. A line that Swift said that struck many views as eye-opening was one regarding her mom and cancer.
“Do you really care if the internet doesn’t like you today if your mom is sick from chemo?” Swift said in the film.
Just because she lives in the public eye doesn’t mean there aren’t struggles she goes through behind closed doors– struggles that everyone goes through, not just famous musicians.
“I gained more respect for her because I finally saw what she’s been through,” Loerraker said.
The film also offers an eye-opening look into other dehumanizing events Swift has experienced. Toward the end of the movie, Swift’s sexual assault trial is brought up.
This was one of the most emotional parts of the documentary, and to find out more about the details of the trial, watching the movie will give the story.
After that, the ending of the film is about Swift stepping out of her shadows and coming forward with her viewpoints.
The viewer sees Swift get emotional with her management team and father about how important it is to have a voice, especially in this political climate. This part of the film definitely wraps up with the point Swift wants to get across: you can be nice and still have opinions.
“I think it is important for someone like her to say what she believes in,” Muench said.
Within all these life-altering events the super star has been through, including the start of a political whirlwind, snippets of how Swift makes her music are shown, too.
In one scene, she is creating the bridge to her song, “Getaway Car,” with one of her producers, creating lyrics on the whim and shouting out rhymes.
“Learning Taylor’s perspective and finding the stories that inspired her songs brought a new meaning to the songs themselves,” Loerraker said. “It made me want to listen to her newer songs just as much as I used to.”
The whole film was put together in a beautiful way that made sense. Viewers get to see what the music industry does to one of the top women in it. All the things that happened to Swift forced her to recreate herself for the better. It is a film that can change perspectives.
As Muench said, “This documentary has the ability to change views on Taylor Swift.”