When Taylor Swift dropped her seventh album, Lover, last August, rumors immediately began swirling with the possibility that she was engaged to her boyfriend Joe Alwyn. The album’s romantic title track, a sweeping ballad that captures an unfettered adoration for her partner, seemed to confirm their union, with lyrics akin to wedding vows such as “I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover” and “My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue.” But while Swifties began theorizing, photographic evidence of a diamond was scant. Until now.
In the new documentary Miss Americana, dropping on Netflix tomorrow, viewers get an intimate look at the singer’s life — from her debut as a breakout country music star to her political awakening — including a close-up of a pear-shaped sparkler on that finger in one of the film’s most poignant scenes.
After remaining silent during the 2016 election, fearing that speaking out would tarnish her career like it did the Dixie Chicks when they protested George W. Bush, Swift is emotional while discussing her disapproval of Republican Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn, who hails from Swift's home state of Tennessee. Seated alongside her mother, Andrea, and across from her father, Scott, and two other male members of her team, Swift proclaims, “I want to be on the right side of history,” accenting her statement with a hand gesture where the ring in question is clearly visible.
Asked whether Swift is indeed betrothed, director Lana Wilson remained tight-lipped. “Whoa,” she said, following the premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. “I’m going to have to revisit that scene.”
With a wedding seemingly imminent, the rest of the documentary examines the obstacles — both personal and professional — that Swift has overcome, namely, her public feud with Kanye West, her mother’s cancer diagnosis, and her struggle with an eating disorder. In a particularly revealing scene, Swift opens up about her unhealthy relationship with food, describing how seeing unflattering photos of herself would trigger her to stop eating to the point of passing out. “Taylor is really verbalizing a thought process that so many women go through when we look at ourselves in the mirror,” Wilson says. “There’s an impossibility of these beauty standards we’re all trying to live up to.”
The documentary is rife with other refreshingly candid moments where we’re introduced to a side of Swift that’s seldom seen. (She swears! She eats burritos! She drinks white wine with ice!) “For someone living in such extraordinary circumstances, I was surprised by how normal and relatable she was,” Wilson said. “There are times where you almost forget she’s a massive pop star.”
That’s not to say Swift’s songwriting genius is brushed under the rug. Several scenes show her hard at work in the studio, often with producers and collaborators Joel Little and Jack Antonoff, spewing out lyrics in real time. “I could make a separate eight-hour film that’s just Taylor in the studio,” Wilson says. “There’s something so magical about [watching her work].” One of the most wow-worthy clips in the film shows Swift writing “Getaway Car” with Antonoff, then promptly cuts to her performing the same lyrics in a packed, sold-out stadium. Apart from being a veritable banger, the song is also a metaphor for escaping failed relationships.
Through all the pitfalls and challenges that come with the success of a being a multi-platinum artist, not to mention a woman on the brink of 30 (at the time of filming), we’re repeatedly shown Swift’s resilience. After effectively being canceled in 2016, when Kim Kardashian posted a series of videos on Snapchat of her approving West’s controversial lyrics to “Famous,” prompting the #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty to become a worldwide trending hashtag on Twitter, Swift retreated from the spotlight and returned stronger, more self-assured, and armed with an entirely new belief system. “We ended up in a place where she isn’t trying to be the person everyone wants her to be anymore, she’s being the person who she wants to be,” Wilson says. “Once you have that solid ground to stand on, where do you go?”
To the altar, maybe?