Miss Americana

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Kristin Smith

Movie Review

We all know Taylor Swift. At least, we think we do.

From country star to pop queen, Taylor has taken the world by storm with each album she’s released. Her talent is undeniable, and her reputation and influence have grown right along with her popularity.

But let’s stop there for a second, because the same reputation that has garnered Taylor millions of fans from all over the world has also frequently been torn apart, piece by piece. Be it a negative spin on her love life or a contentious feud, people have had a lot to say about Taylor’s choices, about who she is and the values she holds.

But now it’s her turn to tell her story—and perhaps, she might say, to reclaim it—with the Netflix special Miss Americana.

This MA-rated documentary follows Taylor’s life from being a young, aspiring country star to the massive sensation she is today. It’s an in-depth look at how Taylor has evolved from a young girl, desperate to please, to a woman who has learned to speak her mind.

For better or for worse.

Positive Elements

Taylor says that while growing up, her moral compass included “a need to be thought of as good.” While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, we see how that need gradually morphed into an unhealthy desire for public approval. It was ultimately destructive and harmful and caused her to spiral. Taylor also learns that seeking joy from the approval of others is shallow and can never bring true happiness.

This lesson is further emphasized when Taylor learns her mother has cancer. This difficult diagnosis encourages Taylor to live in the present. The tough news also reinforces the idea that the most important thing is to love and cherish those who are in your life.

Elsewhere, Taylor talks about how she used to struggle with an eating disorder due to impossible beauty standards. However, she says she’s moved on from destructive tendencies, recognizes what might send her into a spiral and knows how to avoid harmful habits.

Taylor stands up for women who have been sexually assaulted, becoming a strong and clear voice against sexual abuse. Similarly, she wants to be known as someone who stands up for the rights of all human beings.

Taylor wants to empower those in younger generations to speak their minds and to create positive change. We also watch as she strives to work through personal issues including bitterness, self-loathing, perfectionism and others.

Spiritual Elements

Taylor thanks God for her family. Later she says that she is a Christian, and she emphasizes her belief that Christian values do not include withholding rights from the LGBTQ community or staying quiet about abuse against women.

Sexual Content

A significant portion of the documentary focuses on Taylor’s battle in court against a man who groped her. Taylor also discusses the problems with sexualization in the music industry, as well as sexual discrimination and abuse against women.

Taylor hugs and kisses her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, and says she loves him. Various clips show her holding hands with former boyfriends. Taylor supports gay pride in her music videos and in conversation. Two men briefly kiss in Taylor’s music video. A few men wear dresses during an awards show.

Taylor, along with other female dancers, wears leotards, cleavage-baring tops and other shirts that reveal their midriffs. The Dixie Chicks are shown on the cover of a magazine, naked (although their breasts and private parts are covered).

Taylor calls Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee a “homophobic racist.”

A fan proposes to his girlfriend at Taylor Swift’s concert.

Violent Content

News anchors refer to the Dixie Chicks as “bimbos” who deserve to be “slapped” around after they take a political stance.

Crude or Profane Language

God’s name is misused at least five times. The f-word and s-word are both uttered 10 times each. “D–n” and “a–” are used a few times, and “b–ch” is heard frequently (often to describe how inappropriate the term is when referring to women). Similarly, Taylor says that calling a woman a “slut” is demeaning.

Tweets and other posts on social media include various curse words, but they’re visually censored.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Women and men consume beer, wine and champagne at social gatherings. A song references being drunk.

Other Negative Elements

Clips from news stations, social media and other headlines portray Taylor as an “evil” and “cunning” woman. Other clips show people bashing her and negatively weighing in on her personal life. We see how that public pressure caused Taylor to break down and to get out of the spotlight for more than a year. The same public pressure, Taylor says, makes it difficult for female artists in the music industry. She says that women are forced to reinvent themselves constantly in order to be the kind of women that men want.

We see Kanye West get on stage and publicly humiliate Taylor Swift as she goes to receive an award. Similarly, a clip from Kanye’s concert shows fans screaming that Taylor is a “b–ch” and repeating his claim that her fame is all courtesy of Kanye himself.

Taylor describes a male fan who stalked her, broke into her home and slept in her bed (while she was away).

Conclusion

I had to reconstruct an entire belief system.

That’s where Taylor Swift finds herself today: on the other side of everything she used to know and believe. And that’s exactly what Miss Americana is all about.

Taylor grew up wanting to be “the good girl.” And in the country music industry she was trained to keep her mouth shut, for fear that her opinions would cause division. But after Kanye West publicly humiliated her, after she battled through a long case of sexual assault, after she received years of negative media … she was done. She needed to find her voice. She needed to be able to express her opinions regardless of how the world perceived her afterward.

And so she did.

This documentary gives fans a close-up glimpse of Taylor Swift’s beliefs. But while it’s refreshing in some ways to see her desire to be a strong woman, to heal and to move past the need for public approval, not everyone will be onboard with the convictions that Taylor embraces today.

Swift’s political leanings, her advocacy for the LGBTQ community, as well as her harsh language and some revealing outfit choices, make this documentary a challenging slog for fans whose own political or spiritual journeys have taken them in a more conservative or traditional direction.

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Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).