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Miss Americana: A Backstage Look at Taylor Swift

Since releasing her first album at the age of 16, Taylor Swift has fallen subject to copious amounts of criticism and controversy. From her feud with Kanye West to the public’s constant disapproval of her dating patterns, she has confronted her fair share of drama. But after the release of Miss Americana, a documentary that follows Swift’s life since she first took to the stage, her reputation shifted.

The film, directed by Lana Wilson, was released on Netflix on January 23. It immediately garnered rave reviews, earning a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Wesley Morris, a New York Times film critic, wrote, “Miss Americana is 85 minutes of translucence with Taylor Swift. There’s more in it—and more to it—than you usually get with these pop superstar portraits.”

Unlike what we normally hear from Swift and other pop stars of a similar caliber, the documentary provided a raw view of the complicated, self-critical, and surprisingly lonely life she leads. The film opens with her reading diary entries from her teenage years, and goes on to include clips of her discussing the myriad problems she’s faced since shooting to fame.

She confesses that, for a while, she would scrutinize pictures of herself she saw online when she felt she looked too fat. These moments of self-deprecation would often lead to periods of starvation. She would dismiss comments about how skinny she was by explaining that she worked out a lot.

“You don’t ever say to yourself, ‘I have an eating disorder,’” said Swift, “but you know you’re making a list of everything that you put in your mouth that day and you know that’s probably not right. But then again there are so many diet blogs that tell you that’s what you should be doing.”

The second half of the film focuses on Swift’s role in politics. For many years, she was criticized for remaining silent about her views, and some even speculated that she might secretly be a Trump supporter. But that all ended on October 7, 2018, when she posted a long caption on Instagram regarding the then-upcoming congressional election in Tennessee.

“I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country,” she wrote. “I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.” As a former diehard swiftie, I was eagerly awaiting the release of this movie, and it exceeded all my expectations. Not only did it make me nostalgic for the period during which I so idolized the country singer-turned-pop star—I even began to feel the same admiration that had once been so essential to my identity.

Daisy Zuckerman is currently a senior at The Packer Collegiate Institute and Co-News & Features Editor for the Prism this year. This is her third year in Journalism, and she is excited to continue learning from and working with the rest of the Prism staff. Outside of the Prism, Daisy leads Packer’s in-school tutoring program, works on Ultraviolet, a design magazine she co-founded, and dances five days a week. Daisy can be reached at dazuckerman@packer.edu.

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