In the illuminating revelation of the documentary Miss Americana, Taylor Swift makes a defiant stand and lets her voice be finally heard. This is no mere dip; she is full on diving into the politics that affect you, me, and her.
Allow me to preface this piece by saying that this isn’t an in depth, introspective internalization of Miss Americana, drawing of the bedazzled curtains on the life and times of Taylor Swift, pop culture zeitgeist and avid manicure enthusiast. Before you roll your eyes and click that ominous red exit button, scoffing in pure disappointment that this is nothing but false advertisement, or you know, pure clickbait, hear me out. While it is true, I wasn’t actually planning to watch the Lana Wilson-lensed documentary, reasoning how it appeared to be yet another self-serving, highly-choreographed instrument of microscopic self-awareness from a pop star (heck, I barely went halfway through Gaga: Five Foot Two), I’m glad I did. No, really.
There is nothing wildly ground-breaking from the exposition. In the beginning of the quasi-confessional, Taylor Swift bemoans her own desire of perfection. “You know, my entire moral code, as a kid and now, is a need to be thought of as good,” she begins, drawing on a memory of her writing in quill and ink on a diary. “That’s dangerous for you. It was all I wrote about. It was all I wanted. It was the complete and total belief system that I subscribed to as a kid. Do the right thing. Do the good thing. And obviously, I’m not a perfect person by any stretch, but overall, the main thing that I always tried to be was like, just…like, a good girl.”
And that’s exactly what she has become, a textbook goody-two-shoes buffed to impossible flawlessness. However, despite being revered and venerated to an almost god-like stature, this perception of perfection backfired on her, with Taylor Swift being assumed to be just your typical manufactured pop star living for the applause.
A well-intended, earnest dissection of Taylor Swift, Miss Americana stretches out to the span of life and career thus far, careening from the usual roaring of a stadium and standard quiet moments with in-your-face camera shots to a pulling of the rug that uncovers the dark side of her fame: body issues, cancel culture, and yes, even Kanye-gate. A compelling and sympathetic unravelling, the story of Taylor Swift in the context of this documentary climaxes to a crossroads, where she grapples with the idea of who she is, how she was told to behave, and what she is actually capable of on her own terms.
“I want to love glitter and also stand up for the double standards that exist in our society. I want to wear pink and tell you how I feel about politics. And I don’t think that those things have to cancel each other out,” she says at the awning of her realization. Coming from the heels of the sexual assault case she found herself in, and a more pivotal political awakening, the myth of Taylor Swift as a pop star puppet. Unlike how the world reacts to every little, mundane, and often totally unnecessary thing, she chose to distill her thoughts and informed herself before dispelling anything into a precocious and highly impressionable timeline.
“It’s not that I want to step into this. I just…I can’t not at this point. Like…something is different in my life, completely and unchangeably different since the sexual assault trial last year. Like, and no… no man in my organization or in my family will ever understand what that was like. For 12 years, we’ve not got involved with politics or religion. Yeah, but this is on the home front. And also, back in the presidential election, I was in such a horrendous place that I wasn’t gonna pop my head out of the sand for anything. Why would you?”
Bearing a wisdom far beyond those of her contemporaries or even that of supposedly more mature, (cough) adults (cough), Taylor Swift makes a strong case for thoughtful paradigm, setting her personal partisan politics into a framework of proper discourse. “I’m trying to be as educated as possible on how to respect people, on how to…deprogram the misogyny in my own brain. Toss it out, reject it, and resist it. Like, there is no such thing as a slut. There is no such thing as a bitch. There is no such thing as someone who’s bossy, there’s just a boss. We don’t want to be condemned for being multi-faceted.”
With an acute sense of self, one that obviously has gone through the wringer and back, Taylor Swift is able to leverage her pedigree and privilege, and uses it to defy what has been expected of her, especially when it comes to politics. “I couldn’t really stop thinking about it. And I just thought to myself, ‘Next time there is any opportunity to change anything, you had better know what you stand for and what you wanna say,” she firmly asserts.
It now can be said: Taylor Swift is political, and in Miss Americana, it becomes even more apparent, what with the struggles that she had to go through to even just have the liberty to speak up. Quite ironic for a person whose professional currency is primarily her voice, right? As the documentary on Netflix continues to unravel, the debate on how personal politics become really comes to the fore, where she really goes at it with issues such as fair wage, violence against women, and LGBTQ+ rights. The mere fact that she had a rainbow spectrum of queer artists and people for her You Need To Calm Down video is a political choice, one that among other issues raised, has inadvertently caused a divide among die-hard fans and spectators alike.
This is perhaps the same context the highly righteous and overly insensitive plane of social media should learn a thing or two from. If Taylor Swift, a woman of immense power can see beyond her proverbial pedestal, private planes, and personal sanctuaries, then why is the rest of the high-horsing world acting petulant and holier-than-thou?
In an age where the very freedom to express your thoughts and live out your sworn truth is threatened every day, why is everyone afraid of being political? At this point, there is little to no choice but to choose a side and be political, because the very conditions of humanity is being eroded as we speak. Besides, the mere fact that we get to enjoy these privileges is enough reason for us to say or do something in whatever capacity we can. Let’s get a little biblical here. In the book authored with the guidance of God, it has been written that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” With a whole lot at our disposal, we should be affected by inexcusable and obscene peddling of skewed morality disguised as objectivity. Wait, no. We should be angry.
This isn’t to heckle anyone or recruit a sizable chunk into a side that is just and right—that is your call to make. (Although at this point, there should be no more reason to support what is obviously inhuman and unjust.) What we are trying to contend here is that just because you are able to dish out an opinion, it doesn’t mean that it is an absolute, irrevocable gospel, especially when at its essence, it intends to malign and antagonize a segment of the community that is doing what it can to disrupt the status quo and encourage conversations to hopefully end the persistent tug-of-war of humanity.
This function of ignorance and deliberate apathy concerning the politics that involves us all, based only on what your limited view of the world has to stop, because it no longer works the same way it did a few comfortable years back. Activism and the rights movement are inextricably linked, and thus, it is our intrinsic responsibility to resist when and where we can, because this is our life, our reality, too. We wouldn’t even be living and speaking of these if it weren’t for the unsung heroes, the bold and brave pioneers who came and paved the paths for us today. The mere fact that they took the courage to shift the power for the greater good of the world, then if by trusting this long and arduous process, it won’t be like this hopefully within our lifetime.
Whether it is shedding light on the obscene inadequacies and governance of patronage that rules the country or stepping out from a comfort zone and speaking up on issues that plague the world, everything is political. More so, it cannot be stifled or silenced—not now, not ever.
“I’m saying right now that this is something that I know is right, and, you guys, I need to be on the right side of history. And if he doesn’t win…then at least I tried,” Taylor Swift reasons when she wanted to take a stand in politics. Just like the rest of us, it was her intrinsic responsibility to do so, and so she did. “I feel really good about not feeling muzzled anymore. And it was my own doing. I needed to learn a lot before I spoke to 200 million people. But I’ve educated myself now, and it’s time to take the masking tape off of my mouth…like, forever.”
In this debacle of political and personal proportions, the greatest lesson to be learned, and one that she has taken to heart, is that you don’t just speak when and just because you can. An opinion isn’t obligated to be offered, especially when it is obviously misguided and misinformed, but let it be clear: you cannot separate the personal from the politics, even Taylor Swift knows that now, because it is simply that—a choice you have to stand by.
From where things stand, we still have a lot of learning and living to do, but as time ticks by, and perhaps even if history repeats itself, we have to hold on to the belief that at the end of the tunnel isn’t just a silver lining for all of us, the marginalized, but rather a raucous of a party waiting to be celebrated. We have to persist and persuade. Yes, we have to keep on fighting—for you, for me, for us.
Who would’ve thought I would get to all of this reckoning because of Taylor Swift? Well, the joke’s on me, because I’m certainly glad I gave Miss Americana a go. If you haven’t, then what are you waiting for? You’re in the clear.