You could be forgiven for thinking you know everything there is to know about Taylor Swift, after all, her career is heavily documented.

There's home videos, tapes from when she performed the US national anthem at a football game as a child, and four live concert movies. Then, there are the countless press interviews she's done, award acceptance speeches and clips she's shared to her social media accounts.

So, what story is there left to tell when you're Lana Wilson, a documentary filmmaker tasked with capturing something new from the superstar? In Miss Americana, released on Netflix yesterday, the version of Taylor Swift we see is different from the celebrity popular culture has had under a magnifying glass for over a decade.

The documentary puts a spotlight on the parts of her career Taylor has largely left hidden from the public view, a product of her frustration bubbling under the surface as she grapples with her need for approval from, well, everyone. What do you do when you're Taylor Swift and you fall out of favour with the people who lifted you up? How does it feel to want to scream your views from the rooftop when she's been 'muzzled' for so long?


There are three facets of Taylor Swift the world hasn't seen that are uncovered, sensitively and brilliantly in Miss Americana: pressure, politics, and mental health.

A lot of the footage in Miss Americana is harvested from previous concert movies and interviews, which is certainly something most Taylor Swift fans have seen before. The power of the film is that those seen-it-all-before moments are viewed retrospectively with what Swift knows now. If you're after a year in the life documentary with entirely unseen footage, that isn't what this is - but in a way that's fine.

The opening shot of the documentary is Swift playing the piano with her kitten Benjamin, before it cuts to her explaining that she was deeply unhappy for several years because of her desperate need to be liked.

"I became the person who everyone wanted me to be," she says.

"When you're living for the approval of strangers one bad thing can make everything crumble."

There are two moments Taylor reflects on as seemingly career-shattering moments, and surprise, both of them involve Kanye West. The 2009 VMAs debacle when West stormed the stage and declared Beyonce "had the best music video of all time," and when he allegedly tricked Swift into approving lyrics for his song Famous. In the first scenario she emerged the victim of West's arrogance - America's songwriting sweetheart - but in the next, she was labelled a snake.

You see Swift as she doesn't receive Grammy nominations for the resulting record, Reputation, a benchmark of public approval for her.

"I'll just make a better record," she says. And so she did.


A regular feature in the documentary is New Zealand's own Joel Little, the producer and collaborator who worked with Lorde. Swift enlisted him to help create her latest album Lover. He frequently appears in the studio segments of the 90-minute movie when Swift is working on songs. It'll leave Kiwi audiences chuffed.

The documentary covers what we didn't see when Swift disappeared for a year, and the consequences of her silence on politics.

She speaks earnestly about having an eating disorder and reveals she spent much of her mid-twenties scrutinising paparazzi photos of herself. There's a snippet of her very private relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn, a partner she says kept her grounded when things felt like chaos. She touches on her mother Andrea's cancer battle and how it helped shift her thinking away from constant criticism of herself.

The two most powerful moments are the most delicate public moments Swift has experienced in recent times: when she won a civil sexual assault case against Radio DJ David Mueller for groping her, and when she broke her career-long silence on politics.

I've been a Taylor Swift fan for over a decade, and I remember feeling so relieved when she spoke up in 2018.

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I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent. I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love. Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway. So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to and you can find all the info. Happy Voting! 🗳😃🌈

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A scene in the film shows the immense backlash when Swift tells her team what's she's going to do. She goes against the 'good girl' narrative she's boxed herself into, and is brought to tears as she argues with her own father and her team to let her do it. She had been told by executives her entire career to 'not be like the Dixie Chicks' (who famously spoke out against President George Bush and were subsequently shunned by a lot of conservative fans).

It's a turning point where Swift begins to forge a new chapter in her public persona, and we see her in the moment before she posts the photo on Instagram, urging her followers to vote against Republican senator Marsha Blackurn who voted against the women and LGBTQ+ rights.

Her publicist Tree Paine gives her a final warning: President Trump could come after her.

"F*** that, I don't care!" Swift replies. There you have it, Swift has taken control.

The lasting impressions Miss Americana had on me were that Taylor Swift is channeling her fed-up energy into being vocal about the things she cares about. As she begins her 30's, Swift is about as authentic as she has perhaps ever been.

"We live in a world where women in entertainment are discarded by the time they're 35," she explains at the tail end of her documentary.

Reinvention for females in the pop music world is a necessity to stay relevant, and Swift has conformed to this. She's gone from traditional country sweetheart to trend-setting popstar, and her each of her albums have represented eras in her life. She noticeably switched up her image for each one.

"I feel really good about not being muzzled anymore, and it was my own doing," she realises.

If politically and mentally self-aware Swift is her latest chapter, then it may just be her most powerful reinvention yet.