You got nothing but time, so why not watch a documentary. People love documentaries.
Taylor Swift and Netflix did what they do and dropped a documentary about none other than Taylor Swift (saving narcissism for a different article), Taylor Swift: Miss Americana. Love or hate Taylor, she expresses (controlled) vulnerability in a way that I assume someone who doesn’t like her would at the very least have compassion towards her. Talk trash all you want, but let’s be real, many of us would fail miserably if we were in her position.
When you stop to think about how long Taylor Swift has been in the public eye, it makes sense that she’s stumbled. Imagine the years when you were a major doofus (high school, college, early twenties, right now) and having everyone watching ready to watch you fail so they can tear you down further. She didn’t use her voice for change, and honestly, it’s understandable. She feared the backlash after seeing her peers, the Dixie Chicks, reprimanded for criticizing George W. Bush. Shockingly, she witnessed this backlash when she was a teenager. While we tend to forget young Swift barely crossed into her 30’s last year, that doesn’t change that she’s fairly young. Part of youth is observation and acting on those observations, Swift did just that. She saw that being “controversial” landed you in the mouths of people you’d rather avoid. In the mix of it, the Kanye debacle occurred right before Taylor blew up (not necessarily because of Kanye, but because she transitioned from country to pop), then the video of Taylor okay-ing lyrics for “Famous,” which then led to “Reputation” which then led to Taylor disappearing for a short while because she somehow found herself in the controversy she worked to avoid. Life has a funny way of playing out.
Although Taylor’s stumble wasn’t quite as extreme as say doing lines of coke in public venues, getting a DUI, or even assaulting anyone, her name was in our mouths. Because she’s famous, we forget that she also has feelings that can be hurt by calling her “fake” or “a bitch” or “untalented.” Oddly, this documentary will evoke feelings of empathy (and let’s be real, we all need to exercise our empathy muscle these days) when it comes to mental health and the day-to-day nonsense most folks are dealing with.
Before you get indignant about how the struggles of a beautiful, white, cisgender, heterosexual, wealthy woman cannot possible be worth time or energy, you yourself might need to check yourself. Here’s the thing about mental health struggles, they don’t discriminate based on any of these identities. Taylor Swift is just as susceptible to mental health woes as any of us. While her struggles may look like an eating disorder and working through that, it doesn’t invalidate it just because of her privilege. It’s hard to open up about those struggles and it was great that she did. She even talked about how she works through that today. The stress of work, trying to fit into a specific image, and personal life can lead down a path no one intends for, and she talks about all of these things.
In this documentary, Swift addresses the comparison monster that trolls women across all industries. Since hers is more visible, reporters will get entertainers to verbally compare fellow entertainers – good for content, bad for relationships. Swift realized too late what they were doing, and now has changed her behavior. In case you didn’t know, we all mess up and all need grace to move on and do better. Is Taylor Swift going to be perfect from here on out? No, but she’s growing and that’s what matters. She’s grown in how she interacts with marginalized communities, she’s now very vocal about elections so she’s not complicit. I know folks will say she’s doing it for clout, and maybe she is, but is it really that bad if she’s promoting the greater good?
In the same vein of comparison, Swift acknowledges that every album she creates has to be different, more flashy. Women entertainers have a shorter shelf life than men entertainers, so she’s making the most of the window of time she has. Sure, there are entertainers like Cher, Beyoncé, Dolly Parton and Janet Jackson who continue on, but they’re the exceptions, not the majority. Sad to say, we live in a society that values women for their looks, and those looks better look young and hot. Swift gets this, and most women get this. Perhaps that’s part of the magnetism of this documentary, along with her song writing process.
Swift brings the viewer into her world of creating the album Lover. Hot take, the album slaps. From the flop of Reputation to Lover Swift offers a peek into her world. Maybe for folks who don’t care about the process, this won’t seem exciting, but for folks who have followed her since she was 15 (she’s been writing songs since she was a child), they can appreciate her trajectory. Lover is essentially a love letter, a somewhat different vibe than her past albums of heartbreak songs. As she says, she must adapt and change, Lover is a result of that need to be something different album to album while maintaining her singer songwriter persona.
I’ve said it before, Taylor Swift is a businesswoman. She knows what she’s doing in creating this content and music. Sure, she created this documentary to self-promote, but isn’t not like fans didn’t want to better understand and know this woman who’s been putting out music they’ve been listening to since their formative years…