"Miss Americana," the new documentary all about Taylor Swift, just dropped on Netflix. It’s supposedly the story of a brave young woman fighting for who she really is and culminating in the moment she reveals her true political beliefs. There’s only one problem: in the process, she offends and alienates one half of the country and one half of her fanbase.
The Perfect Narrative
Miss Americana shows us a few select highlights of Taylor Swift’s career, obviously curated to create the perfect narrative. They include videos of her as a child, showing that she’s always wanted to be a singer. They show videos of her writing her music. They show Kanye West interrupting her at the Video Music Award’s and how she was affected. They include the sexual assault case in which Taylor was sued by a DJ who lifted her skirt from behind and touched her while they were taking a photo, and in which she countersued for one dollar.
The filmmakers craft a perfect story of a woman who was brow-beaten and attacked, a victim who then rose from the ashes and found her voice – and no, not her singing voice.
In the documentary, the idea is posited that this experience began her transition from pop singer to political activist. The filmmakers craft the perfect story of a woman who was brow-beaten and attacked, a victim who then rose from the ashes and found her voice – and no, not her singing voice.
Feeling Rejected by Taylor Swift
I used to be a fan of Taylor Swift’s music. I liked her country sound and the love stories she wove. I loved her fashion and tried to emulate it constantly. I became a little less interested when she moved into pop music, but I could understand her need for change and growth. The problem began when she decided that my interest as a listener didn’t matter.
The problem began when she decided that my interest as a listener didn’t matter.
The crux of Miss Americana deals with Taylor’s transition from “good girl” to “leader of the resistance.” Describing when she decided to publicly support Democrat Phil Bredesen for U.S. Senate in 2018, she stated in Miss Americana, “If I get bad press for saying, ‘Don’t put a homophobic racist in office,’ then I get bad press for that.” Even if she didn’t mean to, Taylor inadvertently called everyone who voted for his opponent Senator Marsha Blackburn a homophobic racist. Instead of explaining her position, she simply states that if you don’t align with her views, you don’t belong on her team. What does she accomplish by doing that?
Blurring the Issues
And there’s the way she talks about the issues she’s passionate about in the documentary. Taylor vastly oversimplifies the issues, making it inevitable that you must agree with her – of course no one wants domestic abuse, of course everyone wants equality. But these issues are deeper than simple rhetoric - otherwise, everyone would be signing off on them.
Taylor vastly oversimplifies the issues, making it inevitable that you must agree with her.
In a segment in Miss Americana while Taylor is writing “Only The Young,” she says, “If you can just shift the power in your direction by being bold enough, then it won’t be like this forever. Run. Break away from this. Like, you can run from fascism.” Again, no one wants a fascist government. But such a broad statement - one that has no basis in fact but instead relies on her understanding of the current administration - blurs the lines for younger fans who only know that fascism is a horrible thing. And something that they, of course, would never vote for.
The Problem with Taylor Swift’s Public Politics
The problem with Taylor Swift expressing her political opinions and calling for young people to vote is that her audience skews young – and young people don’t want to be told by one of their idols that they are on the wrong side of history. Instead of trying to convince young people through ideas and discussions, she’s convincing them by pressuring and bullying them. You don’t get to hang out with Taylor Swift unless you vote the same way she does.
Instead of trying to convince young people through ideas and discussions, she’s convincing them by pressuring and bullying them.
When Senator Marsha Blackburn won the election - even after voters turned out in droves when Swift backed Blackburn’s opponent - Taylor said in the documentary, “She won by being a female applying to the kind of female males want us to be in a horrendous 1950s world.” Even though not two sentences before Taylor had said that Blackburn did not have any female interests in mind, she implies that any woman who would vote for Blackburn couldn’t have made a well-informed decision. Is that supportive of other women and their views? Or does it belittle them?
There’s nothing wrong with a pop singer or actor or any public figure choosing to share their political views. Being a well-informed citizen is a wonderful thing. The issue is when those views are shared in such a polarizing way - a way that alienates half the people who enjoy their artistic vision. Taylor had the potential to start a conversation - to reach out to those on the other side of the aisle and begin to discuss these issues. Instead, she has name-called and insulted and made opponents of her fans.
Taylor Swift’s choice to come out as Democrat wasn’t brave. Cancel-culture rarely, if ever, destroys someone for coming out on the left side of the aisle. She truly had nothing to lose in the court of public opinion by following the lead of so many pop singers and movie stars. Instead, she called everyone who disagrees with her opinions a bigot; she called everyone who voted for the current president a terrible person. There is no leaning across the aisle to educate or learn from one another – there is only her way or the highway. And there’s nothing brave in that.
Abby Roth is the creator of Classically Abby, an opera, beauty, fashion, and lifestyle brand dedicated to looking at the world from a classic perspective. Abby is an opera singer with three degrees in operatic performance from USC and Manhattan School of Music. She has performed all over at companies including Opera Omaha, Opera Maine, and Aspen Music Festival. You can find her website at www.classicallyabby.com and follow her on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest at @ClassicallyAbby.