Miss Americana REVIEW – Carefully Constructed Storytelling

Does Miss Americana offer more than just branded content?

How does one review a documentary with unbiased clarity when they sort of like the musician in question? I would never label myself a fan of anything, except maybe Tom Hiddleston (who is absolutely relevant to this discussion since he used to date Taylor Swift), but I do enjoy Swift’s music and did dress up as her for a costume party once – it is hard to claim objectivity after that confession.

It is clear that going into Miss Americana that it would be framed with a narrative that Swift wanted the world to see. Don’t expect a scathing character portrait or a complete behind-the-curtains look into her life; all we get is the surface. Even her relationship with Joe Alwyn never quite comes under the eye of the camera. This is because Swift has decided that is all we get. But that’s okay. There is much there to find interesting, and I was never bored for a minute during the entire thing.

Director Lana Wilson is so effective in building us this story of a strong woman rising from the bile of hateful words and poisoned opinions. There is a constant contrast built between the younger, more eager-to-please Swift in comparison to the older, more jaded Taylor. The current Taylor realises that ambition and the realization of it are hollow things without someone to share it with. She understands that public expectation of a female musician is not something she needs to obediently follow anymore.

Miss Americana carefully constructs that movement and change for us through past interview clips where it is so clear that Swift’s main motivation was to please and be a good girl. A younger Swift thought that her purpose as a musician was to write relatable songs, but has come to realise that she has sizeable influence. Miss Americana charts the political moments that Swift decided to be a part of, and how they came to be.

So even though you are not getting the whole picture, it’s certainly revelatory, and you can’t help but feel that Swift is really quite clever in the way she goes about things. Miss Americana is essentially another platform for the Taylor Swift brand. I mean, she even has a new song that is tied to the release of Miss Americana (I’m not mad, it’s honestly a good song).

Miss Americana deconstructs the image the press has built of Swift playing the victim, showing us a mature woman very conscious of her decisions. It is also a display of what Taylor Swift is best at: telling stories (and I mean this in a positive way). She is a musician constantly reinventing herself through her music, her look, and now she has a firmer handle on the stories that are told about her.

This is not to say that Miss Americana is pure artifice just because it is framed with a particular narrative in mind. There are plenty of vulnerable moments from Swift, about her body, her music, her decisions, enough there to remind us that she may be a famous pop star, but nonetheless still very human. It is a documentary that is basically fan service, a space where those of us who enjoy her music and her brand can gather. Haters are still gonna hate, but that’s okay because Swift continues to shake them off.

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Miss Americana feels more like a brand platform than a truly insightful look into the life of Taylor Swift. Nonetheless, there is still plenty of entertaining content to enjoy.