In Taylor Swift's new Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, Joe Alwyn only shows up onscreen a few times, but the film apparently reveals a lot about the couple's relationship. In the film, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Swift shares the reasons why she fell in love with Alwyn, per the Daily Mail.
In the film, Swift reportedly says Alwyn's "wonderful, normal, balanced kind of life" got her attention. At about one minute and six seconds into the official trailer for the documentary, Alwyn shows up quickly (you can only see the back of his head) in a tender embrace with Swift. He shows up again in the form of a hand that Swift kisses in the car.
In the trailer, which released this week, Swift talks about how she felt as if she had to pit on the persona that everyone wanted. "Throughout my whole career, label executives would just say, 'A nice girl doesn't force their opinion on everyone. A nice girl smiles and waves and says 'thank you.'" She went on about how she had to change her perspective for her career and gain "happiness without anyone else's input."
Swift might be referring, at least partially, to the pressure she got from fans to be political or to express her political feelings. In 2018, she endorsed two Tennessee Democratic Congressional candidates in the midterm election.
"I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country," she said then.
Sundance choosing to open its 2020 film festival with a Taylor Swift documentary distributed by Netflix may have seemed like an off-brand choice at first: The annual Park City-based event was created to celebrate independent filmmaking, known for launching intimate flicks that, yes, regularly carry star power, but that star power is often presented in muted, more unexpected ways than a documentary about perhaps the most famous pop star in the world.
But "Miss Americana," directed by Emmy-winning documentarian Lana Wilson, does indeed take Swift's star power and turn it on its head: We see the celebrated singer more unguarded and unglamorous than ever before, with Wilson pulling back the curtain on some of Swift's most career-defining moments and storylines, interweaving them into one cohesive narrative that will give the most casual viewer a greater understanding of how Swift got to where she is now.
While much has been made already about whether or not Swift's private actor boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, made it into the film (he does, albeit during a brief sequence that never shows him head-on) and the "Me!" hitmaker's reveal that she has struggled with an eating disorder, the crux of "Miss Americana" — and perhaps the ark that will allow some of her biggest critics to empathize with her most — lies in Swift's journey to finding her voice when it comes to political and social issues.
Swift memorably broke her political silence ahead of the midterm elections in 2018 on Instagram, dispelling any speculation around her party alignment, but skeptics have still maintained (and, perhaps, rightfully so) one major point of criticism: If she was so anti-Trump, then why did she remain silent during the 2016 election?
Swift gets candid about beauty expectations in her documentary “If you’re thin enough, then you don’t have that ass that everybody wants. But if you have enough weight on you to have an ass, your stomach isn’t flat enough. It’s all just fuc*ing impossible,” Swift shared in a portion of the documentary. She continued on to share that the media’s relentless expectations of the way her body should look caused her to “go into a real shame/hate spiral.” Fortunately, despite society’s unrealistic expectations for women, Swift is now in a better place with her body. However, it’s an ongoing process for the “All Too Well” singer. Something that helps Swift deal with the media’s unrealistic expectations of body image is listening to actress Jameela Jamil speak about it.
Jameela Jamila has helped the Lover artist cope “I love people like Jameela Jamil, because she says things in a really articulate way. The way she speaks about body image, it’s almost like she speaks in a hook. If you read her quotes about women and body image and aging and the way that women are treated in our industry and portrayed in the media, I swear the way she speaks is like lyrics, and it gets stuck in my head and it calms me down. Because women are held to such a ridiculous standard of beauty. We’re seeing so much on social media that makes us feel like we are less than, or we’re not what we should be, that you kind of need a mantra to repeat in your head when you start to have harmful or unhealthy thoughts. So she’s one of the people who, when I read what she says, it sticks with me and it helps me,” Swift shared with Variety.
Though Taylor Swift has been writing music for most of her life, the past few years have been essential in helping her find her voice. Her new documentary, Miss Americana, seeks to explore all the ways in which she has come into her own both privately and publically. In the past couple of years, Swift has finally started speaking about politics and human rights. She has been a champion of the Equality Act and spoken out about LGBT rights. Now, the 30-year-old is getting candid about body image and the media’s impossible standards of beauty.
It’s great that Swift has found some resources to help her cope with unrealistic standards of beauty. As one of the most popular celebrities on the planet, there is likely tons of pressure for Swift to look a certain way. However, her interview shows that she is prioritizing her health which is for the best. It’s commendable that Swift is utilizing portions of her documentary to talk about such vital issues. Now that she’s finally found her voice, we can only hope she continues to use it for good.
Taylor Swift grew to prominence in the 2000’s as a country singer with a knack for writing incredibly catchy songs about her life. After a while, she crossed over to pop and became an international phenomenon. Even more than 10 years later, Swift’s popularity still persists and she is now one of the bestselling artists in the world.
Although Swift looks like she has a life that most people would envy, she recently opened up about a painful struggle that she dealt with for a long time as a celebrity. It is not easy to speak up about such a topic, but Swift also has a reason why she decided to do so.
At a recent Sundance Film Festival, Swift released a documentary called Miss Americana, which follows her as she learns how to deal with fame and make use of her voice as one of the most influential people in the world.
In the documentary, Swift also touches on a painful struggle she had with an eating disorder. In a voiceover, Swift could be heard saying that “it’s not good for me to see pictures of myself every day.”
She further shared that there have been a few times when she saw “a picture of me where I feel like I looked like my tummy was too big, or… someone said that I looked pregnant… and that’ll just trigger me to just starve a little bit—just stop eating.”
She sat down with Variety for an interview about the film, and shared that she does not struggle as much anymore. She has even accepted “the fact that I’m a size 6 instead of a size double-zero.”
I first met documentarian Lana Wilson on a panel I was moderating about making documentaries in difficult and intimate spaces. Wilson was a perfect fit for the conversation — her 2013 film After Tiller, for instance, documents the lives of the only four doctors in the United States who perform late-term abortions. Her 2017 documentary The Departure explores the epidemic of death by suicide in Japan through a portrait of a Buddhist monk.
So I was a little surprised when I found out that her new film was a portrait of a very different subject: Taylor Swift, one of the most well-known people on the planet. But once you see the movie, it makes sense that Wilson would want to be involved.
Miss Americana captures a much more intimate portrait than your typical pop star documentary. While Wilson was making the film, largely during the recording of Swift’s 2019 album Lover, Swift went through a series of events that shifted her view of herself — most notably, countersuing a man who sued her after she accused him of groping her. Swift won the suit and gained some confidence to speak out about other things, including her political views.
In Miss Americana, Swift both explains that journey and lets audiences in on some aspects of her life, especially her songwriting process, which is delightful to behold. (Her relationship with actor Joe Alwyn remains largely off-screen; she’s still a private person.) She’s frank about her experiences with eating disorders, fame, paparazzi, and her emotional spiral after Kanye West famously hijacked Swift’s VMAs speech in 2009.
I talked with Wilson after the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, which Swift attended. Our conversation, which has been lightly edited, follows.