‘Miss Americana’ uses the portrait of an elite pop star to illustrate a universal female coming-of-age story
There is a line in Lana Wilson’s Taylor Swift documentary, Miss Americana, that hits much harder than any scripted line in a film I can recall in recent years: “My entire moral code is a need to be thought of as ‘good’”, which Swift tells the camera early in the film.
We’re all inherently familiar with Taylor Swift the superstar, the once country-singer-turned-breakup-anthem-icon-turned-worldwide mega star, or at least according to her countless media portrayals.
It’s quite undeniable that the beginning of the past decade ushered in a new lineup of A-list celebrities, and more undeniably, that Swift has been one of its most elite. As literally anyone who’s partaken in celebrity media coverage from the 2010s can attest to, Swift has been the target and subject of countless stories, a large number of which have been in negative light — whether it is her slew of high-profile boyfriends, or so-called tendency of self-victimizing — some of which were highlighted in the documentary. And to her credit, Swift has addressed such portrayals too in her music, most notably in 2014’s ‘Blank Space’ and ‘I Know Places’.
What’s most striking, however, about Miss Americana is that it isn’t so much the telling of the journey of a pop star as it is the story of a young woman coming of age and finding her voice — it just so happens that that woman is one of the most popular, most controversial, most recognizable — and therefore one of the most polarizing stars on the planet, so much so that her every public appearance is documented, her every relationship scrutinized.
It’s no secret that Swift was so impressionable in her early days in her sweet country-singer image, complete with her corkscrew blonde curls and ball gowns paired with cowboy boots. But soon enough, many then turned against the singer, with deeming her goody two-shoes persona a fake act, then later on, vilifying her string of boyfriends, and even later on, accusing her of treachery in the infamous snake emoji-filled peak of the Kanye West feud in 2016.
It comes no surprise then, that Swift chose to withdraw from the public eye for over a year — and it’s this particular period that the documentary brings to light, showing Swift where she is most in her element: at the recording studio, piecing together the melodies and words, sometimes alongside collaborators, that would later become the hits we now know — and it’s truly an exhilarating sight to watch her genius at work, as well as a reminder of her true place in the music industry as a producer and songwriter before anything else. Another pivotal and intensely emotional moment in the film also comes when she’s shown in a room, discussing — defending — her decision to endorse Democratic candidates in an Instagram post, thereby breaking her years-long silence on politics.
Ironically, it’s in these particular moments that I find Taylor Swift’s star shine the brightest — when she’s at her most human, using any and all means necessary to communicate to her audience her innermost thoughts and feelings, no holds barred. In hindsight, it’s pretty much what she’s been doing her whole life, whether it’s with a guitar and a microphone, or an opinion and a (massive) online platform.
Originally published at https://share.snippetmedia.com.