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"Miss Americana" Shows Taylor Swift In The Most Transformative Years Of Her Career

In Taylor Swift's Netflix documentary, we see a superstar transform in real time.

After what feels like the longest wait of all time, today Netflix finally dropped Miss Americana, the documentary by Emmy-winning director Lana Wilson following Taylor Swift through the last few years of her life.

Any fan will know those years were hugely transformative for Taylor. The film begins in 2018, when she was travelling the world on her Reputation Stadium Tour, and takes us up until her Artist of the Decade performance at last year's AMAs.

Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

It's well-documented that the release of Reputation in 2017 marked the end of Taylor's conspicuous absence from the world of showbiz, and the beginning of a brand new way of life for an artist who's been in the public eye since she was 16 years old.

"I became the person everyone wanted me to be," Taylor says in the trailer for Miss Americana. "Nobody physically saw me for a year. And that was what I thought they wanted."

In Miss Americana, that transformation takes place in real time. We see Taylor go from a young girl — whose public persona is exactly what she thinks people want it to be — to a woman in her late twenties who is ready and fighting to stand up, speak out, and maybe even disturb the peace.

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

While the documentary does mention Taylor's infamous feuds, it's only to represent what was a hugely pivotal moment for her career, her reputation, and her relationship with the public.

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

In 2016, Taylor's seven-year-long drama with Kanye West came to a head when his wife Kim Kardashian released a video of a phone call appearing to show Taylor giving Kanye permission for him to use her name in his song, "Famous". However, Taylor maintains that while Kanye told her about the first lyric — "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex" — she wasn't consulted about the following line, which referred to her as "that bitch" and said he "made her famous".

The incident resulted in the hashtag #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trending on Twitter and was the catalyst for Taylor's year-long disappearance from the spotlight.

In an interview to camera, Taylor reflects on the incident, admitting that at the time she thought she'd never be able to "bounce back" from it.

Netflix

"When people decided I was wicked and evil and conniving and not a good person," she says, "that was the one thing I couldn't really bounce back from, because my whole life was centred around it. The reason why that backlash hurt so much was because that used to be all I had."

It's a moment of intense vulnerability, but it also indicates a change in Taylor's relationship with her public persona, and the beginning of her decision to use her voice to stand up for what she believes in.

That momentum was only accelerated in 2017, after Taylor won a lawsuit against the man who sexually assaulted her at a meet and greet four years earlier.

Netflix

In 2013, radio DJ David Mueller was fired from his job after Taylor accused him of inappropriately grabbing under her skirt during a backstage photo opportunity. He filed a lawsuit against her in 2015, denying the assault ever happened and claiming up to $3 million in damages. He lost his case, and she counter-sued for a single dollar to serve as an example to women "who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts".

The film punctuates discussion of the trial with clips of news stories announcing that Marsha Blackburn — the Tennessee senator Taylor publicly denounced in October 2018 — was ahead of Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen in polls leading up to the midterm elections.

This is where we see Taylor begin to fight back — against her team, who advise her to remain silent on the issue, and against her past persona as the "good girl" who "doesn't make people feel uncomfortable with her views".

Netflix

In one of Miss Americana's most intense scenes, we see Taylor and her mom Andrea arguing with her dad and the rest of the men on her team about whether or not she should break her career-long silence on politics and publish her Instagram post endorsing Bredesen for Senate.

The following scene shows Taylor and her publicist just before she publishes the post, discussing everything they need to be prepared for.

Netflix

For a normal person, an Instagram post endorsing a certain candidate during a midterm election wouldn't be a big deal — but then again, Taylor Swift is not a normal person.

At the time, Taylor had 112 million followers on Instagram, and the post caused a huge spike in voter registration, but it could very easily have backfired. In the discussion prior to the publication of the post, one member of Taylor's team suggested it would "halve the number of people who [go to] her next tour". Her dad, Scott, said the prospect of her speaking out had him worried for her safety.

But Miss Americana makes it very clear that Taylor Swift no longer cares about her "good girl" persona if it means she can't fight for what's important to her.

"There's this thing people say about celebrities, that they're frozen at the age they got famous," Taylor tells the camera at the film's conclusion. "I had a lot of growing up to do, just to try and catch up to 29."

Mike Coppola / Getty Images

It's easy to criticise her (and many people have) for not speaking out sooner, or speaking only to benefit her reputation and her career. But in Miss Americana, the Taylor Swift we see isn't just a "superstar" — she's presented as the complex, emotional human being her most dedicated fans have always known her to be.

It feels as though the documentary marks the end of an era for Taylor, and the beginning of something new. One thing's for sure, though: she will always be that artist "with a sharp pen, and a thin skin, and an open heart."

You can watch Miss Americana on Netflix now.

Ellie Bate is a celebrity reporter and talent coordinator at BuzzFeed UK and is based in London.

Contact Ellie Bate at eleanor.bate@buzzfeed.com.

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