Do you stick tortilla chips in your burrito “for crunch” or have a cat that walks across your keys proudly while you play a piano? If so, congratulations – you have a little something in common with Taylor Swift.
The new documentary “Miss Americana,” which premiered at Sundance Film Festival last week and starts streaming on Netflix this Friday, delves deep into the music but especially the life of the 30-year-old superstar.
The film shows her goofy side, such as boasting about the light-up “party shoes” she wears while recording or mocking her too-tight metallic dress for an awards show (“I look like a Pop-Tart wrapper”), but also sees her wrestling to reconcile the “good girl” she’s always wanted to be with the mature, complex woman she’s become. As she gets older, Swift also wonders about her own shelf life in a culture where female artists and entertainers are “discarded in an elephant graveyard at age 35.”
Whether you’re a hardcore “Lover” of all things T-Swift or not, these five moments in “Miss Americana” undoubtedly will have you relating to the star as a human being rather than just another celebrity.
1. Taylor Swift worries about job performance just like the rest of us.
The documentary’s earliest emotional turn finds Swift and her cat by the phone waiting for Grammy Awards nominations in 2018. Nervous, she gets a call that “Reputation,” the year’s best-selling album, isn’t nominated for album of the year, a category she’s won twice in the past. “This is good. This is fine. I just need to make a better record,” she says, trying to put on a brave face but looking absolutely heartbroken and near tears.
It’s obvious she sets the bar exceedingly high for herself, and the movie takes a look at her ups and downs writing tunes for last year’s “Lover” album. “There’s so much pressure going into putting new music out,” she says. “If I don’t beat everything I’ve done prior, it’ll be deemed as a colossal failure.”
2. Kanye West is pretty much the Joker to her Batgirl.
Swift revisits the 2009 MTV VMAs moment where West infamously interrupted her acceptance speech, expressing thoughts about how it was a “catalyst for a lot of psychological paths I went down. And not all of them were beneficial.” However, the rekindling of their on-again, off-again feud in 2016 – when West put out his song “Famous” about Swift with the lyric, “I made that (expletive) famous” – arguably had an even bigger effect.
When the hashtag #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trends on Twitter in the aftermath, she breaks down in front of her mom, Andrea. “I just wanted to disappear. Nobody physically saw me for a year, and that was what I thought they wanted,” Swift narrates. The backlash hurt so much because adulation was “all I used to have” and her writing for “Reputation” was ”like a wounded animal lashing out.” Around the same time, though, she was falling in love with British actor Joe Alwyn and his “really wonderfully normal, balanced, grounded life,” she says. “We decided together that we wanted our relationship to be private.” (He’s never mentioned by name, though one scene shows him hugging Swift and kissing her forehead backstage.)
3. Her mom’s cancer puts everything into perspective.
On a plane ride, we meet Andrea Swift’s “cancer dog,” a large pooch that handles the turbulence of takeoff better than Taylor does. Her mother’s battle with breast cancer– and the brain tumor found while undergoing treatment – “has been really hard for me because she is my favorite person,” Swift says. “It woke me up from this life where I used to sweat all these things. But do you really care if the Internet doesn’t like you today if your mom’s sick from her chemo?”
The diagnosis in general made her prioritize family and friends. She has dinner with one childhood pal and the subject of children comes up in conversation, which has been described to Swift as “You feed them, you change them, they sleep.” “I was like, ‘So it’s like a Tamagotchi,’ ” she quips, though her friend adds, “I think you would be an excellent mother. No questions.”
4. Swift gets real about battling an eating disorder.
One major revelation in “Miss Americana”: Swift admits that “it’s not good for me to see pictures of myself every day” because a few times in the past where she felt her stomach was too big or someone said she looked pregnant, she’s been triggered enough to “starve a little bit. Just stop eating.” Swift had the “really good revelation” that food’s a good thing and “I don’t care as much if somebody points out that I have gained weight. It’s something that makes my life better, the fact that I’m a size 6 instead of a size double-0.”
It’s also an ongoing struggle, as she shows the camera a picture that almost sent her to a bad place. ”I was like, ‘We do not do that anymore. It’s better to think you look fat than to look sick. We’re changing the channel in our brain.’ “
5. Look what you made her do: Swift isn’t keeping her mouth shut anymore.
After long toeing the country music line and not espousing her political views, Swift is now a proud leader of the resistance. During the 2018 midterm elections, she very publicly opposed Tennessee senatorial candidate Marsha Blackburn, a Republican conservative (whom Swift calls “Trump in a wig”) against gay marriage and women’s issues important to the singer.
The movie looks at the internal strife this new strategy caused, including one meeting where Swift cries when discussing it with her divided management team. Publicist Tree Paine tries to foresee any possible issues, including backlash from the president. “Yeah, (expletive) that,” Swift says defiantly. “I don’t care.”
Blackburn ended up winning, leading Swift to write “Only the Young,” a new single from the movie written to inspire the next generation of voters to keep hope alive and not give up trying to make the world a better place. But Swift acknowledges she’s happy to not feel “muzzled” now. “It’s time to take the masking tape off my mouth. Like, forever.”