Bring up the name Taylor Swift and you’re bound to get mixed reactions.
Love her. Hate her.
She’s a pop star! She’s a country sell out.
Fashion icon. Drama queen.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard her music about 12 years ago. A girlfriend and I were embarking on a long drive when I admitted I’d never heard any of Taylor Swift’s music. My friend promptly put a CD in her music player. The album was Fearless, and we played it on repeat for hours.
Despite being 10 years older than Taylor, I could relate all her words. Her honest accounts of heartbreak, missed connections, and not fitting in. I felt like she was looking inside me and speaking straight from my heart.
This weekend, I watched her new Netflix documentary called Miss Americana, and yet again I remembered what makes her so relatable.
Unlike other pop stars who ooze confidence, Taylor speaks with a vulnerability and desire to be liked that I have struggled with my entire life. She equates it to always trying to be the “good girl”, the one people will like. The nice girl who plays by the rules and smiles and nods. The girl who wears what she’s supposed to and sings what people want to hear and only speaks when spoken to. She even admitted that her year-long hiatus where she seemingly disappeared from the media was because “that’s what I thought people wanted me to do.”
This documentary isn’t a shameless self-promotional video—which is what I was expecting. This is a true documentary. With revelations on her struggles with disordered eating patterns and her need to get permission from an entire team of people to speak out on things that she’s passionate about, I think this documentary was truly courageous. It’s not the filtered/heavily edited lovefest I was expecting. It was a coming of age story that shows why and how she got to where she is today. Putting the controversy front and center—regardless of how it makes her look.
The show gives us insight into the writing of some of her recent hits, such as “The Man” and “Only the Young”—songs referring to the glass ceiling for women, and an empowering call to vote for the younger generations, respectively.
More than just a movie for her fans, I think this documentary speaks to anyone raising daughters at a time when society is constantly giving us mixed messages of what to do and be. Dress like JLo but act like Michelle Obama. Dance like no one is watching—but BTW we are all watching and posting it to Snapchat.
You’d have to be living in a cave not to see how much Taylor’s look, music, and voice has changed over the years. We see her advocating for LGBTQ rights, getting involved politically, and she had a part in the #metoo movement, a sexual harassment trial she sued over and won.
Whether you like her music or not, Taylor Swift is all of us.
She is a woman who has the same fears, struggles, relationship challenges, and the growth that comes with age. She worries for her safety, she’s been assaulted, and she knows how it feels to be shamed (perhaps more than most of us). She is relatable, she is evolving as a human and artist as she turns 30 years old, and she does it in front of the public eye.
Love her or hate her, she still has a profound part in our culture and I for one am here for it. I think “only the young” generations are too.