No matter what you think of Taylor Swift, you can’t ignore that she is the major player in crossover culture, and she is having an overdue documentary moment. The trailer for her personal documentary Miss Americana (out tomorrow in select theaters and on Netflix) has a tone that naysayers may roast, but is giving me all the sustenance I need right now. It is exactly the conversation I want to have.
While everyone was wondering where she was in the run up to the 2016 election, or in the ensuing years when Trump insisted on enacting inhumane policies and spewing hateful rhetoric that our fellow Tennesseans gobbled up, Taylor was apparently quietly living out her own internal battle that seems very familiar to me.
“I had to deconstruct an entire belief system. Toss it out and reject it.”
Taylor and I have little in common (besides fun blonde bangs and being “too skinny”), but we live in the same state, surrounded by the same red state values that bristle up against progressive ideals. I know exactly the very prevalent idea that women cannot say what we want to say when we want to say it in our spaces, in our communities. And while I have never been a person who feels like my opinions are curated or quashed, I know the deep seated need to allay, to assuage and to accommodate.
Since the events of 2016, I’ve blown that need to bits. Everything I believed about where I come from, why we believe what we do, what that means for my children and our future, how that connects us to the larger community and to the whole of humanity, all of it, blasted. I could no longer make tiny concessions here and there for the racism, the bigotry, the willful ignorance I saw all around me. I had to throw it all out, and hope I was able to piece together something better from entirely new materials.
“It was happiness without anyone else’s input.”
Authenticity is a platitude. Being true to yourself is a tchotchke. Finding happiness by searching for exactly what you want to believe and what you want to say without relying on a single person to stoke your intellectual fire is freedom. It’s lonely, but it’s living.
Taylor says in the trailer that no one saw her for a year. I can promise that if she was truly deconstructing, she probably needed even longer. I have felt more deeply alone in the last three years than I have in my entire life, and yet the years themselves have been the most exhilarating. As Taylor says, “It feels fucking awesome.”
“I feel really good about not feeling muzzled anymore.”
I’m almost a decade older than Taylor Swift, and I very distinctly remember turning 30 and truly finding my own voice. I got my first tattoo to commemorate it, not the decade, but the newfound surety that I was all my own. No one will ever accuse me of being the silent and submissive type, but I know what it is to be wary of bucking the system that made you who you are, that birthed your entire identity. But when you throw off that yoke and raise your head, the air you breathe hard won and all your own, nothing is better.
I can’t wait to watch Taylor raise her head in Miss Americana.
Miss Americana will be released tomorrow on Netflix and in select theaters.
Beth is the proud sponsor of two little women and a huge fan of fandom. She took 3 years of Latin in high school and now speaks fluent pretension, which fully explains her current preference for gay wizard regency novels. She will roll over for a giant book with a map in the front. She takes comic book recommendations every day but Wednesday and TV recommendations never (she knows what's good).