Taylor Swift—renowned singer-songwriter, multi-millionaire, 35-time Grammy award nominee, 10-time Grammy award winner, one-time Kendrick Lamar collaborator, two-time Kanye clasher, and attempted Pennsylvania political reformer—sits on her couch in tears because her then-recent album, Reputation, was not nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys. This devastating moment occurs about halfway through the new Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, which revolves around country-pop idol Taylor Swift. As crushing as it might have been for Swift, the moment is impossible to relate to. Miss Americana tries to frame this moment as her “rock bottom” but it does not land: To the audience, this just seems like an outrageously inconsequential and self-indulgent moment for an already ludicrously famous person. Furthermore, the doc glances over the fact that Reputation was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album, which further cushions the blow of Swift’s.
Many will remember the infamous “Imma let you finish” moment: As Swift began her victorious speech at the 2009 Video Music Awards, Kanye West, the dastardly industry villain, pounced on stage to declare Beyonce’s video one of the best of all time, and the true winner of the Best Female Video category in his head-canon. Both artists made amends, or at least until 2016, when Kanye released his song “Famous” in which he takes credit for her fame and callously suggests potential for intimacy between them. While the documentary rushes through the debacle, the same questions remain unanswered regarding Kanye allegedly getting permission to record the racy line: Did Swift actually give it the go-ahead, only to backtrack once it went public? Rather than discussing the controversy, the documentary rapidly moves on to more footage of Taylor writing songs on camera.
Real, important issues Swift has addressed in the past are also pushed to the wayside. While the film broaches more sensitive topics, such as Swift’s struggles with body image or her mother’s cancer diagnosis, it ultimately spends the majority of its runtime paying lip service to Swift’s career. Miss Americana constantly reverts back to embracing disingenuity. Her valiant attempt to make sure Pennsylvania’s election swung Democratic in 2018 could have been a moment of triumph in the narrative (despite the election’s unfortunate results), but instead it feels like the effort is a footnote in a film that would rather tell the tale of hardships easily overcome. Miss Americana’s sub-90 minute runtime is bloated with scenes that make Taylor appear approximately as entertaining as being stuck in traffic, which is especially frustrating when there is clearly evidence of at least some worthwhile points of interest among the monotony.
Miss Americana fails to offer any meaningful insight into the most allegedly “down-to-Earth popstar” on the planet. Taylor Swift has had a relatively easy life. If this film were a lighthearted flick about all the fun Swift has had touring and performing, it would not be such an easy target for ridicule. However, framing it in such a way that makes it seem like Swift finds adversity around every corner is frustrating and condescending. Miss Americana tries its best to make Swift appear vulnerable, but all it does is show her as she truly is: Dull.