A few weeks ago, prior to her American Music Awards Artist of the Decade performance, when Taylor Swift accused Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun of refusing to allow her to perform music from her first six albums, we also found out that she’d been working on a Netflix documentary and that she was fighting to include her previous work in the film too. It was the first we’d heard about it – and, as you can imagine, the interest was immediate. Taylor? Documentary? Netflix? The fans popped an instant boner…and then they got mad. How DARE those two assholes hold up their access to the film they’ve been waiting for their whole lives?
Yesterday the Sundance Film Festival announced its 2020 lineup. Taylor Swift will open with Miss Americana, directed by Lana Wilson. According to Variety, all her music has been cleared. The documentary promises “a raw and emotionally revealing look at one of the most iconic artists of our time during a transformational period in her life as she learns to embrace her role not only as a songwriter and performer, but as a woman harnessing the full power of her voice”.
For the unfamiliar, “Miss American and the Heartbreak Prince” is a song off of the Lover album, widely acknowledged to be the most political song of her career. As she explained herself in Rolling Stone when asked about using high school as a metaphor to address the political landscape:
“There are so many influences that go into that particular song. I wrote it a couple of months after midterm elections, and I wanted to take the idea of politics and pick a metaphorical place for that to exist. And so I was thinking about a traditional American high school, where there’s all these kinds of social events that could make someone feel completely alienated. And I think a lot of people in our political landscape are just feeling like we need to huddle up under the bleachers and figure out a plan to make things better.”
She also spoke about how she uses the song to reckon with her own illusions and disillusionment, having to confront a truth that she’d had the privilege before to ignore:
“It’s about the illusions of what I thought America was before our political landscape took this turn, and that naivete that we used to have about it. And it’s also the idea of people who live in America, who just want to live their lives, make a living, have a family, love who they love, and watching those people lose their rights, or watching those people feel not at home in their home. I have that line “I see the high-fives between the bad guys” because not only are some really racist, horrific undertones now becoming overtones in our political climate, but the people who are representing those concepts and that way of looking at the world are celebrating loudly, and it’s horrific.”
As we have seen, over the last couple of years, Taylor has engaged with her platform in ways that she’d previously avoided. She has been specific about her advocacy and what rights she has chosen to champion – presumably, then, the film will show us her internal growth, how she came to a place where she’s ready and willing to stand for what she stands for and set to her own soundtrack.
If it’s truly a documentary then, this will include personal footage. There’s no doubt that Taylor, as all artists do these days, has been documenting herself. We already know that she documents her songwriting process. And now we’ll see what other archival episodes she’ll be sharing. And what gossip will come out of that archive. Because you KNOW it’s there. And it’s not like she hasn’t been willing to go there, at least in her music. But if we’re tracking her life through her songs, can you avoid the gossip and not go there with the connection? I’m interested to see where Lana Wilson takes this.
Taylor’s birthday is December 13, next Friday. Is that when the first trailer will drop?