Taylor Swift gives her fans a glimpse into her life and some of her harder choices over the years.
It’s a documentary about Taylor Swift, so I’m just going to link her Wikipedia Page. It covers a lot of her life, although it mostly focuses on the period from 2017-2019 between the albums Reputation and Lover.
I’ll start with a disclaimer: I don’t know a ton about Taylor Swift… or any musician whose career began after Green Day released American Idiot. This is because I am A) old and B) uncool. What I DO know about Taylor Swift I only know because two women in my life are obsessive fans who tend to force me to listen to her music and watch her videos whenever they have the opportunity. I will say that I definitely recognize that Taylor Swift is extremely talented and I like what music I have heard by her, but she’s not a big part of my life. That definitely meant that this documentary was not really targeted towards me.
Which is why it surprised me how much I enjoyed it.
Don’t get me wrong, due to the nature of trying to do a biopic like this, a LOT of stuff is just addressed nominally like it was part of a highlight reel, but the film counterbalances that by being pretty focused on Swift’s emotions rather than just her accomplishments. It tries to get into what drives her, what has shaped her, and what she’s realized about herself after all she’s gone through.
Swift admits early on in the documentary that most of her self-image was tied up in a need to be thought of as “good.” She replies with childhood diary entries that show she lived for the approval of others. Essentially, she admits from the beginning that she has a fragile sense of her own self worth and always has, and that she seeks external validation to compensate. That would usually be the giant climax revelation of a documentary and I think it comes out in the first 20 minutes. Additionally, rather than having an external commentator make the revelation, Swift just makes it as a carefully considered admission. It shows that she intends to be open and emotionally vulnerable during the film and it does indeed play out more like a confessional story than a promotional one.
She talks about her past issues with body dysmorphia that led her to have an eating disorder and the fact that she still struggles with it. She still has issues perceiving herself as attractive, but at least she now has the self-awareness to not let it affect her behavior. She has similar revelations throughout the entire story, conveying that she’s had to do a lot of soul-searching over the last few years, seemingly spurred on by a combination of lack of connections and her mother’s battle with cancer. It’s honestly amazing how much self-awareness she seems to have. Typically rock stars don’t give these kinds of honest assessments until they’re ancient.
The film also covers her feelings about some of the more public issues she’s had, including her complicated history with Kanye West and her sexual assault. Both of these made her feel powerless, albeit in different ways, which led to her responding by being more outspoken and caring less about public opinion over her own sense of justice. This, in turn, leads to her speaking out during the 2018 midterm elections, particularly against now-Senator Marsha Blackburn. It’s genuinely disheartening to hear Swift say that she doesn’t want someone like Blackburn (a staunch anti-Gay Rights and anti-Women’s Rights advocate) to represent Tennessee Christians to the rest of the country. Naturally, Blackburn won by more than 10 points, because of course she did. Still, Swift doesn’t seem to regret risking her reputation and her career on speaking out against her.
That’s really the culmination of this movie: Taylor Swift using her voice to speak out even if it leads people to criticize her. For someone who has had such issues with reacting to public ire, this is a courageous act. At the end she does worry if her career will be going downhill now that she’s 30, but given that her last album outsold the other 199 albums on the Billboard top 200 (combined) during its first week, I’m guessing she’s got a bit of time left. Also, she has $300 Million, so I’m pretty sure she’s going to be fine. Also also, she released this video this week and it’s a pretty solid f*ck you to a lot of people and I love it:
Overall, this was a really solid documentary. I think I’ll check out the other works by Director Lana Wilson.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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