Haley Keizur is a sophomore media studies major
I’ve been a part of the Taylor Swift Defense Squad™ for nearly a decade now, fighting through the Haylor (Harry Styles and Taylor Swift) breakup of 2012, the Kim Kardashian and Kanye West drama of 2016, and the most recent feud with Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta. I’ve seen YouTube videos, tour films, and Instagram stories, but a documentary capturing the behind-the-scenes moments of Swift’s life has been long-awaited. And, if you take anything from the documentary, it should be that Swift does not deserve the hate that has been repeatedly thrown at her for the past 15 years.
In the documentary, which premiered at Sundance and was released on Netflix on Jan. 31, Swift opened up about her mother’s cancer diagnosis, her experience with eating disorders, her sexual assault trial, and her “political debut” on social media (when she first spoke up about her political beliefs). She addressed the accusations of victimizing herself throughout the years, cleared up what really happened when Kanye West called her out four years ago, and called out everyone that has intentionally been rude or contributed to the villainous caricature of herself that has been created in the media (Alexa, play “Blank Space”).
The film was everything I wanted out of a documentary about her life — a mix of light-hearted conversation and growth, and deep, heart-wrenching discussions about serious topics. I thought she appropriately addressed each issue without coming off as ungrateful for her privilege. After hearing countless people tell me over the years all the things they hated about Swift just to see my reaction, I now feel the need to throw the documentary in their faces and say, “See! She’s not what you think she is!”
One of the most notable aspects of the film was Swift making the decision to use her voice and platform to address politics. There’s a scene where she is sitting on a couch backstage across from her dad and a group of men from her management team — older white men, I might add — who are trying to convince her not to publicly support a Democrat. One man asks what would happen, from a security standpoint, if “Taylor Swift comes out against [President] Trump.” To which Swift exclaimed, “I don’t care if they write that. I’m sad that I didn’t two years ago, but I can’t change that.”
Swift continues to beg them to hear her out because the issue is so important to her. She even acknowledges that because she has privilege, she needs to stand up for those who don’t. As someone who has supported Swift for years and impatiently waited for her to take a stance on political issues and stand up for what’s right, this peek into her life was extremely interesting and encouraging. And although I will admit that I wish she would’ve spoken up earlier, seeing the pushback from her father and team made me understand why she didn’t. Nearly in tears, Swift says, “It really is a big deal to me.”
Swift’s religious viewpoints have also been speculated about, by both fans and the media, especially since her liberal debut — since apparently being Christian and conservative is the same thing in the public’s eye. Pleasing to me, Swift cleared this up by saying, “I live in Tennessee. I’m Christian. That’s not what we stand for.” Thank you, Taylor, for clearing the air.
I am unbelievably proud of her for taking a stance despite safety concerns and the security of her career. Although Marsha Blackburn, the Tennessee conservative who she opposed in 2018, ended up winning her Senate bid, more people registered to vote in the hours after Swift’s post than in the entire month of August 2018. Since then, she has continued to encourage her millions of social media followers to vote and support different political movements, such as the Equality Act.
My absolute favorite result of her political opinion was Trump’s reaction, which was simply, “Let’s say I like Taylor’s music 25% less now.” At least he still likes her music 75%. I wonder what his favorite album is?
Before you judge Taylor Swift — before you press “send” on that tweet calling her money-hungry, too skinny (or that it looks like she’s pregnant), a white feminist who only cares about herself, a boy-obsessed pop star, or whatever else you come up with — watch this documentary and take a step back to listen to someone who has been brought down by the public and media in every way imaginable, and yet continues to have an incredible impact on pop culture.
I look forward to continuing to support and fight for Swift as she takes on new music, political conversations, media drama, and whatever else comes her way. As she would say, “Cheers to the resistance.”