BY RACHEL TESON I’ve never been a big fan of Taylor Swift. Sure, I grew up singing “Teardrops On My Guitar” and “Should’ve Said No” among her other early country songs. As I got older, and became more familiar with social media, I began to actively dislike the star, but if you had asked me, I would not have been able to give you a reason why. After watching her documentary Miss Americana, now streaming on Netflix, I discovered what that reason was — the Celebrity Industrial Complex.
I thought that T.S. wrote the same generic love songs because she knew they would make money and didn’t really care about the music. Now I know better, she was told by her handlers to write and perform those songs. In a clip from an early interview featured in the documentary, she tells the interviewer that she was always told to be a good girl, wave and smile, and be quiet. “People don’t want to hear me talk about politics, they want to hear me sing songs about heartbreak and feelings,” she says. The industry instilled a fear of “becoming like the Dixie Chicks”– a band that spoke their mind about their president and lost millions of listeners as a result — in Taylor, a girl who grew up in the spotlight like a flower would the sun.
Taylor began performing on stage at the age of 12. She made her first album when she was 16, and the her fame and the pressures that came with it only continued to grow over the next decade. I’ve never had much sympathy for stars, to be honest. They have money and fame, they can do whatever they want with their lives while a special occasion for me is eating Chick-fil-A. They must be happy, right? But watching Taylor talk about how she can’t even think about her future because every moment is planned for her, sometimes years in advance, gave me pause. Not to mention having your entire dating career put on display for millions of people to mock and meme.
But perhaps the biggest takeaway from Miss Americana, for me any way, is that Taylor has gotten involved with politics. The final third of Miss Americana, ably directed by Lana Wilson, focuses on how Taylor wants to fight for the rights of all people, no matter their gender or sexuality. She begins to write songs about things that really mean something to her, songs inspired by her sexual assault or her political views and wish to get young adults registered and in the voting booths. My favorite quote from the documentary is one said by the star, “I like the color pink and want to talk about politics, and I don’t think those two should cancel each other out.” I don’t know if I’ll start listening to her music more now that I know the story behind the voice, but I would definitely recommend watching this movie if the jury is still out on your feelings about Tay Tay.