Sundance 2020: Taylor Swift’s MISS AMERICANA Is Singing, No longer Shut Up


Review by Bears Rebecca Fonte

Every year it becomes easier to publicly announce my love for Taylor Swift. My initial shock and surprise at the depth, musical complexity and pure pop perfection of her 2014 album ‘1989” has only been deepened by Tay-Tay’s open up her heart on “Reputation,” showing both sadness and rage. Netflix documentary MISS AMERICANA picks up her story from there while obviously looking back that her progression. But by focusing on the last few years, it navigates the most fascinating part of the Taylor Swift story, her feminist and political awakening. As a transgirl, nothing can match my own personal pride, relief and acceptance when Taylor Swift, a pure symbol of femininity, says I belong. The singer’s work on behalf of the Equality Act and her outspoken support for the queer community in general has led her to receive the GLAAD Vanguard award this upcoming April for using her platform to champion LGBTQ acceptance.

Miss Americana is a big, bold picture of a star at the peak of her career, a career that finds her spending most of her whole young life trying to please everyone. Finally, Ms. Swift has decided it is time to please  herself. The film offers previously unimagined insight into her writing process and her views on herself as a storyteller. On the non-musical side, Miss Americana covers her MTV Award interruption and online trolling by Kanye West and the fallout of her revealing her political views during the 2018 primaries, mostly revealed through Fox news clips. The documentary mixes fly-on-the-wall Cinéma vérité, archival footage dating back to 2002, and direct interviews with Swift at home. Although the film is filled with great music, this isn’t a music documentary as much as the glimpse behind the woman who makes the music. Besides there is a great concert film already on Netflix that captures the Reputation tour so just watch that if you want a little more. What you do get here is a deep dive into the process of Swift putting together the “Lover” album, her first album featuring overtly political messages.

 It’s quite possible that the film is coming out about a year too soon, as it does not touch upon Swift’s recent battle with her former manager Scooter Braun for her Masters, which would drive home the point of her personal awakening, the root of which is covered extensively in the film – a groping lawsuit that Swift won. It also never touches upon her spat with Katy Perry, which may be a socially important piece of history and it may represent the first time two artists conducted a Twitter proxy war. At the open of Miss Americana, Swift describes herself as a good girl and she never really reveals another side. This gives the documentary a bit of an ‘artist approved / commissioned’ feel. We also never really delve much into her personal life except to talk about her desire for privacy. For some time now, many people have felt that Swift more than just an ally of the queer community but a member of it. Wouldn’t that at least be interesting to see discussed?

However, those are caveats by someone who feels like they already know Taylor Swift pretty well and for a wider audience, which may not understand how she got to her new political emergence, the film really does serve to change her… ‘Reputation.’ She may still be a good girl but now she’s a good girl with opinions on the right side of history. And if there ever was any question, Miss Americana serves as evidence to her place among the best talented songwriters of all time.


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