Opinion: Taylor Swift’s new documentary calls for more societal compassion

Miss Americana dispels the myths that surround the biggest pop star of our time while also forcing us to question our own beliefs and practices.


Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for MTV/TNS

Netflix’s new Taylor Swift documentary, “Miss Americana,” depicts a process of overcoming that has quickly become the default narrative in a growing field of pop-star documentaries.

Emily Creery, Contributor

Despite the worst six days of my life when I thought I would look good as a blonde, I’m not Taylor Swift.

But after watching her recently released Netflix documentary Miss Americana, I realized that neither is she.

The film, directed by Lana Wilson, provides a rare and incredibly raw look at the life of arguably the most famous woman in the world. But what do we really know about her? There’s that thing with Kanye West. Then the bold transition from curly hair and country to sleek bob and pop. Society also likes to comment on her love life, and she is a proud mom of three cats.

This is all so incredibly superficial, and if there’s one takeaway from the documentary, it’s that we were wrong. Swift had to bend and break to global expectations of her being a successful woman, a “good girl.” She deals with loneliness and a lack of genuine support. She is forever changed by sexual assault and took the leap to finally voice her political opinions. Having suffered from an eating disorder while the world turned a blind eye, she also struggled to unlearn misogynistic values and the need for validation from others.

Swift didn’t agree to the making of Miss Americana because she wanted to make a quick buck or because she was in need of attention. She has finally taken back control of her own narrative, eradicating society’s ability to tear her down or tell the world who they think Swift is or ought to be.

A world that is quick to judge everyone else because they don’t want to sit with the real root of the issue: themselves.

At the end of the day, Swift is a woman. A human being. Why do we forget this once someone becomes famous?

You see, we’re actually all “Taylor Swift.” We all have a version of ourselves out there that isn’t who we are, but who others think we are. There are few people who will venture to look past the surface, who are so comfortable being themselves that they allow you to be as well.

Society’s unrelenting slut shaming and commentary on Swift’s body throughout her entire life is unforgivable — and consequential as the documentary unfolds. But it’s also a product of a world in which people constantly compares their own lives to others’. A world that is quick to judge everyone else because they don’t want to sit with the real root of the issue: themselves.

Miss Americana isn’t a celebrity biopic, but an awakening, a call to action. Swift might explicitly ask for people to go to the voting booths, but she’s implicitly pleading for more compassion, empathy, and love.

In the film’s closing dialogue, Swift reflects that “I want to still have a sharp pen and a thin skin and an open heart.” Despite the double standards, criticism, and hatred for being a powerful woman on the world stage, she will never let them harden her or make her bitter.

Because that’s what society wants, and to be honest, they need to calm down.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.