By Jonathon Van Maren
Netflix’s much-anticipated documentary Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, directed by Lana Wilson, was released Jan. 31 to rave reviews from fans and mild compliments from critics, who applauded Wilson’s ability to get at the “real” Taylor.
Promoted as an intimate look at one of the music industry’s biggest megastars, the documentary actually spends very little time on Swift’s rise, her switch in music genres, or anything personal that isn’t already a matter of public record. “Miss Americana” instead spends a lot of time on politics, and Wilson delivers an inside look at Swift’s decision to reverse her much-criticized policy of staying out of the political arena.
Miss Americana is really about how Taylor Swift got woke. Conservatives like to gloat about how little influence celebrities have on elections, but Swift’s decision to come out in favor of Democrat Phil Bredesen in the 2019 midterm election may have affected youth voter turnout in Tennessee. The documentary claims more than 50,000 young voters registered last-minute, allegedly due to Swift’s plea to her fans to get involved, although election trends indicate spiked voter registration before an election is the norm. She posted her political coming-out statement on Instagram, where she has 126 million followers. As Swift notes at one point, millions of them will soon be voters, and she plans to use her platform to shape their views. It’s possible, however, this statement actually unintentionally spurred voters to hit the polls for Marsha Blackburn, since Tennessee is a red state.
Swift’s supposed metamorphosis is so painfully wooden, one suspects she green-lit the documentary specifically to plug her leftist bona fides. At one point she actually clinks her wine glass and announces, “Cheers to the Resistance!”
Miss Americana is the saga of Swift’s willingness to “run from fascism” — yes, she said that — and it plods through her throes of conscience, her argument with her handlers over whether she should go political, and the tremendous weight that apparently lifted off her shoulders when she joined the other courageous celebrities who have dared to brave the backlash and step out against Donald J. Trump.