Thursday, February 6, 2020

NETFLIX Review: “Miss Americana” (2020)

Unfortunately, Taylor Swift’s cult-of-personality documentary is a little light on the “personality” part


By: Jimbo X

Let me just start off by saying that I admire and appreciate Taylor Alison Swift as a recording artist. I unironically think she’s a better musician than The Beatles, Nirvana, Guns N Roses and Madonna and when it’s all said and done, she might just have a discography that eclipses Elvis Presley’s and Michael Jackson’s in terms of cultural import. Furthermore, I’ll give her ALL the props in the world for actually writing and recording her own music and actually being able to PLAY a real-life musical instrument, especially in today’s uber-hyper-super-overproduced electronic-hip hop negative utopian soundscape. And let’s cut the bullshit, why don’t we? For my money, she’s probably ounce for ounce the most beautiful woman on the planet, and if I had to be a bitch who looked like a bitch, I’d probably want to look just like her. Go ahead, pretend like you haven’t jerked off at least 38 times to the video for “Shake It Off,” you lying liar.

Alas, following the relative commercial failure of her 2017 album Reputation, Tay-Tay decided to do the most predictable thing imaginable. After spending the better part of a decade being the ONLY mainstream mega star in the music biz who wasn’t coked up on the fountain of “wokeness,” she decided to recast herself as your dime-a-dozen, Republican-hating Ulta feminist whose music transmogrified into cloying celebration of the homosexual agenda, despite the fact that same demograhic hates her guts with a burning fury

Which brings us to Miss Americana, the new straight-to-Netflix documentary that allows Tay Tay to speak for herself about all sorts of things Middle America, quite frankly, doesn't give a shit about. And as you will soon see for yourself, allowing Taylor to reveal her true fascia to the adoring public is probably one of the biggest career fuck-ups imaginable, considering how downright driveling, malicious and quasi-sociopathic she comes off in the movie. 

But hey, let’s let the feature film speak (or, in this case, stream) for itself, why don’t we?

Is there anything more indicative of shameless white privilege than being able to play the piano?

So the documentary begins with Tay Tay sitting at a piano, hitting random notes, poring over journals and petting her cat. Then they show footage of her performing the National Anthem when she was like 11. Also, holy shit, was 18-year-old permy haired, half-emo country Taylor Swift the most adorable thing ever.

"I became the person I thought everybody wanted me to be," she says before walking around her dressing room wearing a disco ball unitard singing "In The Middle of the Night." Then she sits in the back of the card, slowly drinking water talking about how happy everybody was at the concert. Then she sits by the phone waiting for the Grammy nominees to roll in and she's all sad about it, stating "I just need to make a better record" while kinda' showing off her cleavage a little. So she goes to Electric Lady Studios in New York and starts laying the groundwork for "Lover," just out of sheer Aspie ego rage. 

Then she gets off a plane and hugs her big fat mama and goes to a 13-person management meeting where everybody's eating Zaxby's salads and drinking Aquafina. Then Tay Tay says the thing that makes her different from all of the other skanks out there making music nowadays is that she writes her own music. Yeah, take that, most black people making music nowadays. Then we flash back to Taylor being 16 talking about how she's already written 150 songs, including a couple in math class. Yes, even then she was a shameless self-promoter. Then we get a montage of her winning a million-billion awards. Then she says some shit about "deriving her joy from the approval of others," which, naturally, leads to that big MTV Awards debacle in 2009 when Kanye hopped on stage and tried to put over Beyonce, much to the crowd's howling disapproval. At the time, Taylor said she thought the crowd was booing at her, which really fucked up her subconscious or something. 

Remember: if you think she's pretty this skinny, you are LITERALLY a walking hate crime.

Then we jump to Taylor being 23, talking about how Kanye's interruption psychologically ruined her and made her write sad music. Then there's a bunch of media clips of Barbara Walters and Jimmy Kimmel sucking her proverbial dick for selling a buncha' albums. Then she wins a whole buncha' more awards for "1989" and she feels sad because she just accomplished all of her life dreams before turning 30. Then she's sad because she doesn't have anybody to call and she says she didn't try a burrito until 2016. Then Tay-Tay and her mom eat a bunch of pot roast on a private jet. Then her mom talks about having cancer and you can literally TELL Taylor is more upset about not getting a Grammy than she is finding out her mom is dying. Then Taylor feeds white wine to this one huge-haired chick with hoop earrings and they eat spaghetti and she compares having a baby to a Tamagotchi, because that's how modern women think these days. Then Taylor drinks this mysterious orange thing out of a vial and says negative comments on her photos made her anorexic and she almost passed out on stage a couple of times because she would go eight days without eating and shit.  "There's always some standard of beauty you're not meeting," she laments. "It's all just fuckin' impossible." Seriously, she's showing more concern over people thinking she's getting fat than her mom's terminal illness, and it is BLATANT.

Sigh. The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now, unfortunately.

Then they show footage of people chanting "fuck Taylor Swift" at a Kanye concert and the #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty hashtag almost sends her into a spiral of madness. Oh, by the way, she's having this pity party in front of her mother. You know, the one that's dying from cancer and shit. So Tay-Tay goes into self-imposed exile for a year to record Reputation, and she sits around playing an acoustic looking all haggard and shit while "deconstructing her own personal belief system for her own sanity." Then she starts talking about that one guy named Joe she's fucking and how "normal and grounded" he is and then she hugs his big goofy-looking ass after a concert and then a whole buncha Japaheenos freak out getting to hug her at a meet and greet in Tokyo and she's literally three feet taller than everybody who comes to see her. Then Taylor talks about a crazed fan breaking into her apartment and sleeping in her bed, then that one probable homosexual from Panic at the Disco drinks tea and records some lyrics for"Me!" and he just can't sing it the way Taylor wants him to and then she starts going over her ideas for the music video and it sounds really, really megalomaniacal. Then she walks around with her cat in a backpack and heads back to Nashville so she can campaign against Marsha Blackburn. Then Bill O'Reilly talks about the Dixie Chicks deserving to be slapped around, and we all chuckle. Then Taylor starts talking about how much further she would've went if she was man, even though she's literally the most famous and richest motherfucker in music right now already. Then she talks about taking a guy who grabbed her ass to court and she starts saying some stuff about "rape culure" and bemoaning "due process," because that's what kids nowadays do, I suppose. Of course, at the next concert, Tay Tay makes herself out like she was gang-raped by 15 Bosnians, because if there's anything the 2010s taught us, it's that nothing's more fashionable than victimization chic. Then her mom cries in the back talking about "the bag of shit" life gave her, and then we watch some footage from Fox News of Marsha Blackburn and Taylor says she's SO EMPOWERED by the sexual assault trial that she's ready to GO TO WAR with the GOP. You know, that "sexual assault" she experienced that didn't result in any one being CONVICTED of sexual assault. Then Taylor cries because her manager doesn't think it's a good idea to start flapping her lips about "Tennessee Christian values" and gay pride and her dad just looks at her like "yep, we're fucked."

Then Taylor says Marsha is LITERALLY coming for gay people's necks, like one of her public policy promises was to authorie roving bands of homo-lynching squads from Chattanooga to Knoxville. Cue all the usual press coverage from The View and their ilk, literally celebrating Taylor as a "hero" for simply voicing her opinion in what is tantamount to a publicity stunt for a new album. Then she says something about Donald Trump liking her music 25 percent less while some mysterious redheaded handler says more shit about Republicans being mean and racist and sexist and bigoted while Tay Tay walks around wearing a disco ball dress. Then she accepts an award and some show and tells all her fans to vote Democrat, then she goes over the dailies from the "Me" music video and she talks about how women in music are discarded in "an elephant graveyard" by the time they are 35, which must be news to Cher, Barbara Streissand and Madonna. Then Marsha Blackburn wins the election anyway and Taylor is all sad and shit, because she "represents no female interest" and is "Donald Trump in a wig." You know, because nothing says "liberated womanhood" like LITERALLY telling women voters what's good for them. So she's so pissed about not having as much political sway as she thought she would so she decides to make even more abrasively political music about gay pride just to make a point. Then Taylor talks about how good it feels to "not be muzzled" anymore, which is truly tragic, because she has nothing to say except for "let's all do whatever the gays tell us to." Taylor said she "wants to wear pink and tell us what she thinks about politics" while she paints a gay black dude's nails, which is almost a perfect metaphor for where American society is headed in the 21st century. Then some guy with a beard in a dress gives Taylor an award for gayest music video of the year and she cuts a promo on "The Equality Act" and then she says something about awaiting a response from Donald Trump and tells the masses she's "trying to deprogram the misogyny in her own brain," adding that there's no such thing as a "slut" or a "bitch," even though I think we *all* know better. Then she drinks more wine and eats cake and takes photos with black teenagers and then she reads her childhood journals some more and yep, that's the movie, folks. 

Because nothing says "I'm a proud, empowered independent woman" quite like spending thousands of dollars a year on makeup

Not that you care in the slightest, but the woman behind the documentary is Lana Wilson, who is probably best known for doing a documentary a couple years back called After Tiller. Well, give Wilson some made props, because in Miss Americana, she actually manages to make a movie that comes off as even more willfully insensate than a flick glorifying third-trimester abortions. I don’t think anybody could’ve have dreamed up a better script to make Taylor come off as precisely the phony, two-faced, venomous slag Kanye West accused her of being, to the point one has to wonder whether or not Tay Tay herself could be clinically diagnosed with borderline personal disorder, if not even LEGIT antisocial personality disorder. 

Throughout the movie, Taylor just comes off as cold and calculating, as a bitterly self-centered individual motivated by sheer ego and jealousy. She doesn’t shed a single tear over her mother’s cancer diagnosis, but weeps hysterically when she realizes that her cult of personality politicking wasn’t big enough to sway a House race in Tennessee. She comes off as snobby and mean-spirited, with an obvious derision of her own legions of fans. She constantly tries to find new ways to posit herself as the victim du jour, not out of a real sense of social consciousness, but because she wants the public sympathy and the correlating uptick in social power. Indeed, the word I kept thinking over and over again while watching Miss Americana was “megalomaniacal” — seemingly EVERYTHING about Taylor boils down to feeding her own cult of personality, and her perpetual need to validate her own grandiose sense of self-accomplishment. 

Of course, in the hands of a deft director, the end-dividend could’ve been an ironically tragic cautionary story about the perils of success and the pointlessness of ambition for ambition’s sake. Alas, Wilson and the Netflex Industrial Complex instead opted to posit Swift as the embodiment of the 21st century everywoman, as the cultural representative of the post-Hillary politically-informed female hivemind — which, naturally, the documentary accepts as a very good thing, not that any of us expected anything else out of this shameless hagiography.

Well Miss Americana is technically a well-made documentary, it completely hunches the pooch on the one singular cardinal rule of documentary filmmaking. For a documentary to work as a feature film, you have to give the audience a personality big enough and relatable enough to carry the entire picture. Yet despite her pop cultural ubiquity, I’m afraid Taylor simply isn’t a deep-enough or nuanced-enough subject to carry an 85-minute movie — indeed, the longer the camera lingers on her ideological and psychological vicissitudes, the more thoroughly unlikable she becomes. Again, this chronicle of the journey from neutral-good to neutral-evil could’ve been a fascinating one had the flick been helmed by someone with an eye for such human narratives, but unfortunately, Miss Americana is a movie that would rather hear itself talk, completely unaware of how empty its own gospel is. 

Which, in a way, sums up the intrinsic problem with the entire production. I mean, if you’re going to invest so much time, money, effort and energy into such crass cult-of-personality agitprop, shouldn’t you at least pick someone with some actual personality to so shameless apotheosize?

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