Friday, February 7, 2020

Taylor Swift: the girl next door

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (Lana Wilson) opened last weekend on Netflix and I promptly caught it. I knew virtually nothing about Taylor Swift. It’s possible I might be able to recognize one of her songs if only through excessive radio play. My reason for watching the doc was because of Swift’s superstar persona. Who, after all, is this cultural icon? For one thing, I learned that Swift, the highest-earing female artist of the past decade with more than 50 million albums sold, comes from a Country and Western background, not Pop. For another, she’s exceedingly hardworking. For a third, her career comes before all else. For years, she seemed to never have a boyfriend and was offended when a TV interviewer, seeing her in a glam dress at an awards show, suggested she wouldn’t be going home alone. She now has a boyfriend but highly protects his identity; there’s a couple of shots in the film with his back to us. The doc follows Swift chronologically from a childhood virtuoso to teen and young adult phenom. Throughout, what we get is a view of someone who comes across as ordinary as you and me. The closest person in her life is her mother, Andrea. Despite her success Swift eschews the phoniness of stardom and tries at all costs not to be caught up in it. You can easily imagine her being your friend and all the showbiz surrounding her as abstract background noise. The last third of the film is about her political coming out. Largely stemming from a sexual assault against her by a disc jockey (she won a civil case), Swift rails against her adopted home state Tennessee senator Marsha Blackburn, who voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which seeks to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. From there, Swift aligns herself with the LGBTQ community and against the Trump administration, despite concerns of alienating half her audience. Checking for accuracy I looked it up. Blackburn, a Republican, indeed never took issue with Swift on the vote. But the senator did strike a conciliatory tone, lauding Swift as an “exceptionally gifted” artist and backing her other well-publicized campaign to protect songwriters and musicians from censorship, copyright theft, and profiteering. Hmmm.

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