By Erin Longney
In the bubble of my own social media echo chamber, until recently, I had been lulled into a false sense of security that most people were now on board the Taylor Train. The scores of videos that filled my social media channels of people ranking Taylor Swift albums, posting Taylor Swift memes, or simply sharing videos of themselves singing to their favourite Taylor Swift song had put me under the impression that the rest of the world reflected this Taylor Swift-loving community that my phone presented to me. Of course, I wasn’t naïve enough to think that every person was a hardcore TS stan, with multiple Taylor playlists on their Spotify and a private story purely for Taylor content – though one can still hope – but I was under the impression that we had mostly moved out of the 2016 #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty phase, and into an era where it was widely accepted that she makes good music, is a good role model, and is a genuinely good person.
Now, I don’t think I was entirely wrong. I do feel that in recent months, there has been a lift in Taylor Swift appreciation, especially since the release of folklore and evermore. But it’s certainly become apparent that there are an abundance of people out there with a less than favourable attitude to Miss Swift, and that unfortunately, not everyone is a Swiftie. Whether it be from conversations in the classroom or scrolling through the comments of a social media post, my fantasy of an all Taylor-Swift-loving world had been shattered.
Enter: Year 12 Retreat. On the first night, the teachers informed us that we would be watching Miss Americana that evening, much to the delight of myself and the other Taylor stans in the room. If you don’t know, Miss Americana is the 2020 documentary directed by Lana Wilson that details Taylor’s life and musical career, providing candid insights into her life from when she first came into the spotlight as a young country singer-songwriter, all the way through to her experiences writing reputation and Lover. I was equally shocked as I was excited – who knew that the RE department were Swifties?
I had already seen the documentary before, but this is the kind of film that I can watch multiple times and never get sick of. I’m pretty certain that this is what originally converted me from a mere Taylor-appreciator to a full Taylor stan. And watching it again affirmed exactly why.
The film gives a powerful snapshot of the trials and tribulations of a successful singer-songwriter who has been in the spotlight for more than 15 years, detailing defining moments in her life, from the body dysmorphia she experienced throughout her career, to the extremely public feud with Kanye West after he dropped ‘Famous,’ and the thought processes behind taking her first public political stance by openly backing Tennessee Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections. As we watched Kanye West steal the microphone off Taylor at the 2009 VMAs to proclaim that Beyonce should have won the award instead, both the Swifties and non-Swifties murmured in anger and frustration. After the film had ended, many expressed how they had no idea of the struggles she has faced throughout her career, and that their opinion of her had completely shifted.
I was delighted that some of my more impartial friends were finally being converted. Perhaps not yet full Taylor stans, but many in the audience were definitely now more appreciative of her music and her as a person. And that is the key point: I’m not expecting every person in the world to be a hardcore Swiftie, as much as I would like that to be a reality. But after hearing various reiterations of the ‘I’m not sure what it is, but there’s just something about her,’ line for so long, it was refreshing to see people start to appreciate Taylor Swift, and acknowledge the prejudices society has held towards her as a woman in the music industry, prejudices we have all probably held at some point.
In my opinion, Miss Americana is an imperative watch, for Swifties and non-Swifties alike. Not only could it change your perspective of Taylor Swift, but it also provides powerful insights into cancel culture, the intersection of politics and celebrity, and the treatment of women in the music industry. Of particular note was the focus on the public backlash towards the Dixie Chicks after they spoke out against George W. Bush, as a TV reporter labels them ‘the dumbest bimbo’s, with due respect…’ where the irony makes the statement possibly the funniest line in the entire film. This is not just a film about Taylor Swift: it is about resilience, music, finding your voice, and, epitomised perfectly by the rendition of ‘Clean’ that Taylor performs on the 1-year anniversary of her sexual assault trial, it is about hope.
Watch Miss Americana, you won’t be disappointed.