Miss Americana: you’ll relate to this story all too well
We learnt about the arrival of Miss Americana by accident, thanks to the Scooter Braun situation that saw Taylor Swift set to battle for usage over her own music.
I’ll skip past why this was an important battle for Taylor Alison Swift to endure, but more importantly, it was a battle she fought for more than just herself. And it’s not the first time: Taylor Swift is acclaimed for having fought for artists to be paid their rightful royalties by streaming services.
But her fighting for what’s right is not the only reason South African Swifties are swooning over Taylor – and this new documentary.
Miss Americana gives us a brief glimpse into the ardent circle of fandom that surrounds Ms Swift’s career: the Swifties. It’s a fan base she has curated and cultivated in deeply personal ways, both directly in her online interactions with fans, and indirectly, as she leaves “Easter eggs” in her online postings, revealing details about her next single, music videos, or power move.
There were, indeed, five holes in the fence, and Taylor knows the Swifties are counting. If I ever go missing, please summon the Swifties first, because they’ll discover and decipher the clues faster than any private investigator on the planet.
You’d be mistaken if you thought the Swifties all reside in Taylor’s home country.
In South Africa, a strong force of Swifties exists, regularly meeting online to chat all things Taylor, or in person for a watch party, or to exchange merch purchased overseas. The Swifties are far more involved in each other’s lives than you may think; just like Taylor.
I took to asking the Swifties about their feelings around Miss Americana, and why they’re not offended Ms Swift has yet to tour South Africa. (Though it’s not as if she’s never visited – she filmed a cameo in the movie The Giver here in 2013.)
Staci Turnbull, Swiftie, says: “Of course she wants to come here, but Taylor is one of the smartest businesswomen I know, so she’ll weigh up pros and cons. Of course it sucks, but it also allows us Swifties to travel to new places to see her.”
Swiftie-husband Barry Tuck, who, together with his wife Kirsty Bisset, has even planned vacation trips around Taylor’s tour cycle, agrees. “The main issue with getting Tay here is less around her worrying about making cash, it’s more about a local promoter willing to cover her fee – and the rand-dollar exchange hasn’t really helped promoters either … So save for those airplane tickets, Swifties.”
And that’s the Swiftie consensus: it’s business, and South Africa has not yet presented an economically viable touring opportunity. So, for now, the Swifties are satisfied with going to Taylor, wherever she may be. Yes, even on Cornelia Street.
If Miss Americana tells us anything it’s this: Taylor is no longer afraid to fight, even if it means having a showdown with her father, manager, and more. And she will fight for you.
The title of the documentary, taken from a track on Lover, lends critics the misconception to expect a quasi-pageant-queen-wannabe’s whinge. Instead, what Miss Americana gives us is a highly relatable story of claiming one’s own redemption, while overcoming ageism, misogyny, and losing 25% of Donald Trump‘s admiration.
I’ve long maintained that you will first ignore Taylor Swift (I used to), then you’ll be annoyed by her (I once was), and then you’ll finally unfurl into an uncomplicated relationship with her (I am now).
Directed by Lana Wilson, and collating material that spans most of Taylor’s career, Miss Americana documents the way Taylor moves through the cycle of seeking out approval.
Ultimately, instead of seeking out the redemption she believed she needed, she simply gave it to herself, by learning more about the things she believed in, and learning how to wobble into a strong footing, to stand for others. That’s how it ends, with a rallying cry to “run”, because, despite her years-long reticence to use her voice politically, Taylor Alison Swift now throws herself into it.
And, as Taylor tells us: “It feels f**king awesome.”
You Need To Calm Down
What the documentary is not, is a grand picking apart of Taylor Swift’s life. Rather, it’s a zoom-in on the things that have shaped her, and why she feels far more equipped now to speak as her own. Barring a few explicit details, and Taylor’s right – and her extensive efforts to exert her right – to privacy, Miss Americana is an up-close and highly personal documentary that does not disappoint. Touching on her mother’s recurring cancer diagnosis, Miss Americana also serves as a sharp reminder of the fragility of life, and the importance of … well, Taylor says it best:
“It woke me up from this life where I used to sweat all these things, but, like, do you really care if the internet doesn’t like you today if your mom’s sick from her chemo. You gotta be able to really prioritise what matters to you. For me, it’s my family and my friends.”
Out Of The Woods
I’ve long maintained that you will first ignore Taylor Swift (I used to), then you’ll be annoyed by her (I once was), and then you’ll finally unfurl into an uncomplicated relationship with her (I am now). Miss Americana offers the critics the opportunity to take their distaste, shake it off, and realise they were wrong all along.
As for the rest of us, Miss Americana offers us that exact opportunity too: to step out into the daylight. It’s golden.