The real problem with Taylor Swift's Miss Americana is that it's pretending to be a documentary.

When it comes to the business of constructing her public narrative, Taylor Swift prefers to remain a silent partner.

When we are given editorialised glimpses into her personal life, via quotes from famous friends, profile writers or fan testimonials discreetly endorsed by the musician, Taylor’s fingerprints can often be detected, even when she prefers to steer from the backseat.

She may always be pulling at the puppet strings, but she did build the stage.

It’s a tact that became even more transparent this week with the highly anticipated release of her new Netflix documentary Miss Americana, an offering that traces her meteoric rise to fame from teen country singer to global pop star, and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the mechanics behind everything from her first public foray into politics to the making of Lover. 

From eating disorders to motherhood and loneliness, listen to a full break down of the Miss Americana moments you may have missed on The Spill.

Of Miss Americana, Netflix saysIn this revealing documentary, Taylor Swift embraces her role as a songwriter… and as a woman harnessing the full power of her voice.”

As with everything the 30-year-old musician releases, there’s been a swell of conversation and critique around the Netflix special and much of it pertains to the idea that she comes across as insincere and overly curated, with some even labelling it as image ‘propaganda’.

While I wouldn’t go quite so far as to call it that, Miss Americana also doesn’t fall comfortably into the realm of true documentary, and watching it with this expectation is most likely what is making so many viewers’ eyes twitch.

Documentaries traditionally use official documents, pictures and interviews to provide a factual insight into a particular subject and the theory behind this type of filmmaking infers that the finished product is presented by an unbiased third party creator, not curated by the subject themselves.

This does not appear to be the road walked by Miss Americana.

The project was initially conceived by Taylor herself, who had already begun mapping out the narrative, collecting video footage and methodically filming events she wanted to include in the finished product long before director Lana Wilson was introduced to Swift by Netflix.

Ironically, given her infamous history with the reality TV family, Taylor actually utilised what I like to call the ‘Kardashian method of storytelling’ throughout Miss Americana. That is, to give major public talking points some breathing room, then to take stock of the biggest criticism and questions, before eventually offering up some heavily filtered answers via behind-the-scenes clips, in a medium over which they have complete control.


In the aftermath of her Reputation album being omitted from three of the big categories on Grammy nomination day in 2018, Taylor is gracefully stoic in a shot that appears as if it’s been caught via a home video shoot where she furiously assures her publicist that she’s ok, saying “I just need to make a better record.”

As a retort to the all-encompassing criticism that she refused to speak out on politics, the Netflix special spends a lengthy amount of its 85 minute run time painstakingly explaining the turmoil that swirled within the Swift inner sanctum over this topic.

One clip shows her regret about sitting out the 2016 presidential election and failing to utilise her fame and fans against Donald Trump’s candidacy. Another shows the emotional moment she faced off against her business team over her decision to speak out against Tennessee candidate Marsha Blackburn.

All these moments, along with so many more in Miss Americana are compelling to watch, but they lack the raw honesty and truth that comes with a third party documenting the events as they unfold, someone who is present but never complicit.

WATCH: The trailer to Taylor’s new documentary Miss Americana. Post continues after video.

In truth, Miss Americana is at its best, its most mesmerising and certainly, at its most entertaining when it’s viewed as pure memoir and not as a documentary.

Commercialised memoir certainly, Taylor Swift is still, after all, a business first and foremost, but memoir all the same and when we read memoirs we do so with certain filters over our eyes.


Filters that allow us to look past the muddling of intention and omission of certain facts. With memoir, we are more comfortable to sit in the perspective of just one person, with no thought to the story being just an elaborate commercial.

Miss Americana was created and filmed with the sole purpose of Taylor Swift wanting us to understand her, and more importantly, to like her. She even openly alludes to this in the opening scenes, by saying “My entire moral code is a need to be thought of as good.”

Not be good, thought of as good.

However, just because the storytelling method around Taylor’s experiences has been narratively muddled does not mean they are not experiences worthy of being shared.

The scenes that depict the aftermath of her sexual assault case are used by Taylor in the film to highlight how the system is stacked against victims, she even says that one of the first questions she was asked in court was ‘why didn’t you just scream?’.

Peppered throughout Miss Americana are also numerous examples of the misogyny that still holds fast across the wider entertainment industry and even though Taylor has cherry-picked the moments she wants to use in her movie memoir, they still had to exist in reality for her to weave them into her controlled narrative.

The closer I looked at Miss Americana, the more I understood how an artist like Taylor Swift had to play it so safe and reserved, even when attempting to bare her soul.

The male voices in her life are the ones that dominate, in her business, her public image and even in her music-making, which is in stark contrast to the persona she has projected in the past. In fact, aside from her mother, she appears to have little female interaction and no friends, a loneliness she leans into when she muses on fame and celebration, wondering why she has no one to call.

Strangely, it’s the people in her life, or the lack of, that give us the most realistic glimpse into her life.

Miss Americana is about how Taylor Swift wants the world to see her, and that’s still a story worth telling.

Miss Americana is available to watch now on Netflix. 

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