Claire Van Zee | Reporter
To the thrill of Taylor Swift fans everywhere, this month Swift released her intimate, revealing Netflix documentary “Miss Americana,” opening the doors to the personal life of one of the most talented, successful and misunderstood celebrities of our time. Swift speaks up about her personal struggles throughout her journey to becoming Taylor Swift in the most relatable, dare I say, humanizing way.
In many ways, “Miss Americana” is a coming-of-age story. We all know the gist of the story: a small-town Pennsylvania girl makes it big time and revolutionizes the music industry. But the documentary isn’t so much about the step by step way to becoming the next Taylor Swift, but rather reveals the not so glamorous side of what becoming a world-wide sensation does to one’s perception of self.
Swift opens up about the struggles she faces with her own identity, self-image and ability to speak her mind. All topics in which everyone, no matter the age, gender or number of followers on Instagram, can relate to.
Here are a few of the most relatable themes “Miss Americana” hits on:
Identity and Seeking Approval
“Those pats on the head were all I lived for … I became the person who everyone wanted me to be,” Swift said early on in the film. She explains her intense desire to be seen as innately good and to be liked and admired by others. The issue is, she finds that when you’re living solely for the approval of others, your identity and happiness are put into the hands of others.
While we’re not all living for the literal applause of thousands of people, we do live in the age of likes, favorites and retweets. Often times with social media, people only show a certain version of themselves, most likely the version they believe will bring them the recognition they are yearning for. Whether it’s to be seen as good, pretty, athletic or smart, it’s easy to get wrapped up in that approval seeking mentality.
If Swift has anything to say about it, it’s that it’s exhausting. She had to spend an entire year in hiding just to find her ground again, in which she went on to find real happiness and a new identity grounded in the company of those closest to her, rather than millions of strangers.
Lesson: Putting your identity and sense of self-worth into the hands of strangers, will only spiral you into further internal struggle.
Self-image / Body-Image
Likely the most vulnerable moment of “Miss Americana” comes when Swift talks about her relationship with her own body, detailing how certain antics would cause her to go into a downward spiral of self-loathing, and in the end leading her into a period of not eating. “I don’t think you know you’re doing that when you’re doing it gradually,” Swift said. “There’s always some standard of beauty that you’re not meeting.”
This also goes back to the rise of social media, and just the overall pressure media puts on people to look a certain way. Swift has since adopted a healthier outlook, reminding herself that her body wasn’t made to be a size zero, and it’s better to feel happy and healthy than to look sick. “We don’t do that anymore and we’re just changing the channel in our brain. That didn’t end us up in a good place,” she says to herself.
Lesson: Society’s definition of beauty needs to change. It’s more important to feel healthy than to look a certain way.
Finding a voice
After we witness her continually grapple with when, why and how to speak up, we finally see Swift find her voice. From speaking up about a sexual assault she experiences to expressing her political views for the first time, Swift finally finds it within herself to cast away her fear of the public’s perception and stand up for what she truly believes in.
“A nice girl doesn’t force her opinions on other people. A nice girl doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable with her views” Swift said earlier in the film.
While her decision may not have been a popular opinion, her decision to speak up goes further than politics. It’s about speaking your mind when you feel strongly about something. You may not always be right, and you may not always be on the popular side, but by expressing your thoughts and opinions in an honest and respectful way, you set yourself up to grow and develop into a more intentional, self-aware person.
Lesson: We all have a voice and it’s important to stand up for what you believe in, even if it’s an unpopular opinion.
“I want to still have a sharp pen and a thin skin and an open heart,” Swift said during her closing narration.
The Taylor Swift we have come to know through “Miss Americana,” is one who has shed the shackles of public perception and stands ready to speak her mind, while firmly prioritizing her family, friends and self. Proving that she is in fact, just another human.