MaxSpace

Movie Review: Miss Americana

Turns out, Taylor Swift has lots of interesting thoughts on her own fame.

By Max Weiss | February 4, 2020, 5:23 pm

MaxSpace

Movie Review: Miss Americana

Turns out, Taylor Swift has lots of interesting thoughts on her own fame.

By Max Weiss | February 4, 2020, 5:23 pm

Being a female celebrity is like navigating an endless tightrope. You have to be pretty, but relatably so. You have to be confident, but never cocky. You can have opinions, but not strong ones. You have to be sexy, but not too sexy. And so on.

And, as the remarkable new Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, establishes, when you’re Taylor Swift, and you’ve grown up in the public eye, this tightrope is constantly swaying, as public expectations of you shift and change.

When she first broke through in the music industry at the age of 16, it really was enough for her to be pretty, nice, and talented—a “good girl.” But then she became so successful that a backlash was inevitable—in America, the only thing we love more than building someone up is knocking them down—and just like that, the very things that made her successful were now a detriment. She was too pretty. Too nice. She was obviously fake. Conceited. A backstabber. And what about her stubbornly neutral stance on all things political? Was she an airhead? Or, worse still, a secret Trump supporter? (Gasp!)

Lana Wilson’s documentary shows Swift coming to terms with all these paradoxes. At first, Swift admits, they were overwhelming. One minute she was the most beloved girl in the world, the next minute she was something of a pariah. Of course, she was still wildly popular—a teen idol, a multi-platinum recording artist—but suddenly everything she wore, everything she ate, and everyone she dated was a source of endless speculation, debate, and curiosity.

Miss Americana is clearly an authorized documentary. As such, we get incredible access—backstage, in the recording studio, on her tour airplane. There are also things we don’t get (Swift remains very tight-lipped about her private life). To me, it’s a fair tradeoff, particularly because Swift is so forthcoming, bordering on confessional. The star admits that she struggled with an eating disorder and bouts of self-loathing. She talks about her feelings of powerlessness during a sexual assault lawsuit (she won the case against a DJ who had violated her). Through it all, she comes across as not just a preternaturally talented musician, but also amazingly smart, witty, self-deprecating, and self-aware.

The film’s pivotal moment comes when Swift decides to endorse Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, over a Marsha Blackburn, an extreme conservative, in Tennessee’s 2018 midterm election.

Her team, including her father, frantically urge her to reconsider. She’ll be alienating half her fans, if not more—and for what? Better to stay pretty and blank, an avatar for everyone’s hopes and dreams. But she insists that she needs to do this—for herself if nobody else. There’s an incredible scene as she’s about to put out her first social media post endorsing Bredesen. Her finger hovers over her phone tremulously until she musters the courage to hit send. It feels like a “before and after” moment—and she waits, with equal parts exhilaration and fear.

Of course, that endorsement didn’t ruin her career. If anything, it gained her more fans (Blackburn, however, ended up winning the election). And it’s all part of Swift’s journey toward self-discovery. Toward the end of the film, Swift muses that celebrities get “frozen at the age they become famous.” Miss Americana is about her breaking free of that 16-year-old “good girl” she was and becoming the multi-dimensional 30-year-old woman she is today.




Meet The Author

Max Weiss is the editor-in-chief of Baltimore and a film and pop culture critic.



You May Also Like


Arts District

Roundtable: With Many Funds Exhausted, What’s Next for the Arts Community?

Creative leaders gather to discuss artist relief, pivoting programming, and existing resources.

Arts Space

Tariq Touré’s New Children’s Book Explains the Meaning of the Black Dollar

West Baltimore native teaches financial literacy in illustrated story, ‘David's Dollar.’

Arts District

Black Musicians Write the Soundtrack of the City

Consider these Baltimore artists essential listening.


Arts District

WTMD’s First Thursdays Go Virtual for the Rest of the Summer

The planned overhaul of the annual festival will be postponed until next year.

MaxSpace

Movie review: You Don't Nomi

Why the fascinatingly bad Showgirls endures as a cult classic

MaxSpace

Movie Review: Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee takes on Vietnam, in his inimitable way.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Bottoms Up Bagels Rolls Into Harwood: Owners debut their new “BUB Hub” at 28th and Greenmount.

Baltimore Pride’s Legacy Lives On Despite Canceled Festival: Community comes together virtually to celebrate with discussions and events.

Boxer Yahu Blackwell Is An All-Everything Businessman: The 33-year-old Baltimore native is the owner of the new Rita’s Italian Ice in Hampden.

The Womanist Reader Creates an Online Library of Black Literature: A Baltimore writer curates an evolving list of women writers for her women followers.

WTMD’s First Thursdays Go Virtual for the Rest of the Summer: The planned overhaul of the annual festival will be postponed until next year.