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9 1/2 Things We Learned and Loved From Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana Documentary

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If you found yourself deeply emotionally invested in Taylor Swift’s recent Netflix documentary, you’re not alone. And luckily, our fav YA couple IRL, Austin Siegemund-Broka & Emily Wibberley (Wibbroka, if you will) are also HUGE fans. So, they sat down to recap their top nine (and a half) things we learned (and loved) from Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana documentary. Read them below!

 

9 1/2 Things We Learned and Loved From Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana Documentary

By Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

 

In the Wibbroka house, we’re Swifties. There’s so much we respect in Swift’s career, from the way she’s leveraged global superstardom into eloquent political commentary and fought the patriarchy in the music industry, down to the detailed storytelling and resonant emotionality of her songs. So of course, when Miss Americana dropped on Netflix, we were engrossed in the documentary’s unique look into Swift’s personal journey (it’s the stuff of YA, like, come on—from burrito jokes to sold-out stadiums and secret romance?), the inside view of her superstardom, and how she’s wielding it for change. Here’s some of our favorite insights from the film:

 

  1. Her songwriting process involves kittens. Has a music movie ever featured a more wonderful opening shot?
  2. Rejection comes for everyone, and it never doesn’t Early in the film, we watch Swift receive the news she was not nominated for Grammys in prominent categories. Her pain is instant and evident, and while it’s easy to scoff—she’s received countless nominations in her career—dismissing her disappointment feels wrong. It’s a reminder it is impossible to exist without hopes or dreams, no matter how high you fly, and it’s impossible not to be hurt when you don’t reach them.
  3. She rocks flannel hoodies. Given her elaborate costume changes, it’s incredible how one of her coolest looks ever is walking to the head of her management company’s conference table in lumberjack chic.
  4. “Bitch” stuck with her. The film explores the negative impact of Kanye West’s career on hers, culminating in his 2016 lyric “I made that bitch famous.” While Taylor was (famously) gracious in response, it’s impossible not to remember West’s words in footage where Swift and her producer work on her outstanding Lover song “The Man.” Elaborating on the line “What’s it like to brag about raking in dollars and getting bitches and models?” she explains to her male producer, “it’s because they [male musicians] get to call us that,” then looks up and, with intensity, repeats herself: “They get to call us that.” Regardless of her power and status and the love of her fans, it’s clear the word left her with hurt she converted into righteous drive. We’ll just say we know of one YA character who understands the feeling.
  5. She needs to release a collection of piano-only versions. The film’s studio footage is heavy on the recording of “ME!,” Lover’s divisive first single, including video of Swift’s early draft played only on her keyboard. The version is emotional, complex (“sadder” in a way she didn’t expect, Swift comments) and fantastic. We can’t be the only ones who want keys-only versions of “Cornelia Street” or “All Too Well,” right?
  6. Her multifaceted musical personality is more than marketing. In discussing her career, Swift elaborates on one of the hallmarks of her career, one Swifties know well and respect—her focus on narrative not only within the world of each song, but in her presentation of herself. Swift has spent the decade writing the character of herself, changing the narrative and stakes with every record, from the cyborg princess of 1989 to playing the villain on Reputation to finally the radical happiness of Lover. What Miss Americana reveals is this changeability isn’t just clever career construction to remain relevant—it reflects a philosophical outlook, one YA explores. “There is no such thing as a slut. There is no such thing as a bitch,” Swift says in the film. “We don’t want to be condemned for being multi-faceted.” It’s fascinating to view Swift’s famously changing musical persona as an intelligently franchised personality and a powerful performance of how everyone contains multitudes, young women included.
  7. “I didn’t eat burritos until like, two years ago.” This is the “half.” We have nothing to say except *wide-eyes emoji.*
  8. She’s funny, and she uses her humor well. In the film we find Swift and her mom on a private plane with her mother’s enormous dog, whose role in the family Swift glibly explains—when she moved out, her mother got a “third child, a human-sized dog.” Only when her mom clarifies “that’s my cancer dog” do we understand Taylor’s description was more than a quip, it was a humorous face on a sad situation. Swift doesn’t falter—“well, I’m sorry mom. I’m sorry you have cancer,” she says dryly. It’s one of the most relatable moments from the poised, polished songwriter (and—look, we’re gonna say it—one more way she feels like a YA character IRL. Who hasn’t written or loved a character who holds up humor like a shield?)
  9. She’s a good protest songwriter. It felt inevitable, on the heels of her online activism and of Pride anthem “You Need to Calm Down,” Swift would release explicitly political work. “Only the Young,” released for the film and the 2020 election, is a surpassing example, pairing a foot-stomping chorus with the kind of scrawled-in-your-journal lyricism Swift has mastered since her early work. It’s one more example of Swift turning her focus to her next musical endeavor and crushing it—and, hopefully, a promise of more #resist records to come.
  10. Everyone is living their own story. Miss Americana is not just a portrait of Swift’s life. It’s a narrative of change, one following her evolution from self-professed “good girl” to controversial commentator and from eagerly focused on public perception to content in herself. In the months leading up to Lover, “I was happy, [just] not in the way I’d been trained to be happy,” she says. The fact of Miss Americana finding new chapters in her own story is reminder of what every YA character and everyone comes to understand—just because you or the world has decided who you are doesn’t mean your story is over.

 

 

Emily & Austin’s new novel, Time of Our Lives, hits shelves April, 2020! Pre-order your copy here!

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