Miss Americana is not the film that I thought it would be. Being a fan of Taylor’s I was looking forward to it and had high hopes that it would deliver. However I was not expecting such a raw and honest account of the past few years, for her to address so many current issues and clarify where she stands on such important matters. The film begins on a comical note, quite literally as we see Taylor practising the piano with new kitten Benjamin Button walking across the keys, adding a little unwanted colour to her tunes! We’ve seen this Taylor before in other documentaries like Journey to Fearless, but this carefree, happy Taylor is only fleetingly seen in this documentary. The only criticism I have of this film is noticed early on, it feels slightly disjointed, there is a distinct lack of flow and this is not helped by the lack of a secondary narrator. Not too dissimilar from the Dixie Chicks documentary, Shut Up and Sing, the story is completely left to Taylor and the sequence in which the videos are directed and edited together to tell the story. In some ways I wonder if this is by design, reflective of the highs and lows and the disconnect she has felt throughout her career. She addresses coming into the industry as a young girl and how she was trained to be happy when receiving compliments about her music, knowing that she was doing it right from these comments. I think this sets up the premise for the whole film as she looks back on a number of detrimental moments over the last few years, detrimental moments that led to Taylor retreating from the limelight and struggling silently with eating disorders and low self esteem.
The main focus of the film to me is that our idols, our artists are human too, they have feelings just like us and in short the clips we see, the headlines we read are nothing short of bullying. However we seem to think this is what our stars, who signed their name on a dotted line at the tender age of 15 signed up for. It isn’t. The first big revelation we see is Taylor leaving her house in the morning, we see hundreds of fans and paparazzi camped outside, this is just part of her day to day. Whilst in the car she addresses the fact that it’s abnormal, nothing about her life is normal. We then hear her talk for the first time about starving herself after seeing photos and reading comments about her weight online, how she was close to passing out at most shows. Something good has come out of this though, two of the people in the clips that are heard criticising Taylor and her image have immediately taken to social media to apologise for their impact and to my knowledge, Taylor has accepted these apologies.
The media has a lot to answer for in this documentary, Taylor, we’re not all bad I promise. From comments about her looks and her career downfall... yes did you know about that? No me neither, it didn’t happen. These kind of statements have led to all kinds of self esteem issues but towards the end of the video Taylor talks of a stalker breaking into her house and sleeping in her bed which was partly due to the press publishing her address. The stalking issue leads to what I deem as the most critical point in the film. Taylor sits down with her team who are (rather aggressively) advising her not to talk about politics. Taylor breaks down in tears at the beliefs of senator Marsha Blackburn which if in power would jeopardise the rights of the LGBT community and women’s rights too. It’s in this segment she mentions sexual abuse and stalking, something she goes into further detail in when she talks about her sexual assault case. One of her team mentions the fact he had to order armoured vehicles and he’s worried about her safety following these big decisions. But when she cries, begging them to let her stand up about these issues, I cried “I want to be on the right side of history.”
This is a girl who is on top of the World, a World that seems determined to tear her down. The highs are not triumphed in this video, instead they are overshadowed just like they are in real life by the negativity and struggles Taylor has had to overcome. She hints at a possible step back from Pop as she says “ This could be my last chance...” This is not the film I thought it would be, but it is much, much more important. This shouldn’t just be watched by swifties, it should be watched by people who have been abused and the abusers, it should be watched by the press and paparazzi, anyone whoever had an idol, it should be watched by the politicians and anyone who ever wondered wether they should vote or not, it should be watched by the industry and the rising stars. It should be watched by everyone. This has the power to inspire change and I really hope it succeeds. Taylor, we continue to stand by you.