Popcorn Picks Head to Head: ‘Miss Americana’ splits staff opinions


Staff Writer Anna Warkentin and Photography Editor Erin Kane go at it in the first ever Popcorn Picks Head to Head. Image credit to Netflix. Photo credit: Autumn Bohner

Anna Warkentin and Erin Kane

Anna: “Miss Americana” had potential, but it was all wasted on a shallow piece of clean PR.

Minor spoilers ahead.

Taylor Swift is a half album artist for me.

When I get around to listening to her newest release usually a few months after it drops, I’ll enjoy around half the songs on it. Sometimes it is less, but rarely it is more. I ran into a similar experience with “Miss Americana.” I’d say there was maybe a third of the documentary that I was able to enjoy without noticing some issue or another pulling me away.

Throughout the documentary, the producers jump around erratically. First, we’re watching a home video from Taylor’s childhood. Then out of nowhere it’s 2018 before we’re abruptly thrown back into when she was 13 years old. She’s all over the place, from 27 years old to 26 and then back to 27. It is confusing, frustrating and unnecessary to be so non-linear.

Perhaps as a result of this poor organization, “Miss Americana” comes across as very shallow and calculated, despite being described as “revealing” by the Netflix teaser.

Immediately after the introduction of any interesting topic, the documentary moves on and fails to develop any of the parts that would have potentially elevated it. Taylor speaks about struggling with an eating disorder, her mother fighting cancer and the isolation she feels, but neglects to address any of these in-depth.

“Miss Americana” doesn’t give any more information than a particularly well-produced Instagram story can.

Nothing is elaborated upon that hasn’t already been said in interviews or on social media, ultimately wasting the opportunity to create a deep dive into one of the biggest pop stars of the generation.

Perhaps it tried to cover too much ground or maybe it was produced at a bad time in Taylor’s career. She wasn’t at a crossroads, in conflict or at a specific high point during the time it was being filmed, so the entire documentary feels like a swing and a miss.

The ending was peculiar as well as it wasn’t impactful nor memorable in the slightest. The highest emotional point was somewhere in the middle of the documentary, with the supposed triumphant ending being an emotionally unfulfilling Video Music Award.

If there’s one prominent takeaway from “Miss Americana,” it’s that Taylor Swift loves creating music. While I may not have liked it very much and won’t waiting with bated breath for the next album drop, I always end up in a Swift phase when I get around to listening to her newest music.

Swift is a master of her craft, so I wish her documentary demonstrated a better sense of organization and was able to give viewers a closer look at the woman behind the music.

Favorite part: The scenes about Taylor’s songwriting process seemed the most genuine and engaging.

Least favorite part: The final 15 minutes were probably the worst of the entire documentary. They were unfulfilling and didn’t wrap up any of the storylines it attempted to start throughout the runtime.

Anna’s Final Rating: 2 out of 5 kernels

Photo credit: Autumn Bohner

Erin: “Miss Americana” effectively shows how Taylor Swift has become arguably the the most influential singer/songwriter in the world.

Disclaimer: I am a “Swiftie.” For a fan like me, this documentary was the total package.

In filmmaker Lana Wilson’s latest production “Miss Americana,” viewers go on a journey with one of America’s most notable singer/songwriters, Taylor Swift. Throughout its runtime, audiences can appreciate some of Swift’s finest moments and unfortunately, some of her lowest.

Viewers are not only reminded of the young, sweet and fearless little 13 year old girl from Reading, Pennsylvania, but also the most iconic moments from her career as well.

The documentary details what goes on in Taylor’s mind and it can be painful to see just a glimpse of these moments.

The documentary does jump around often, but I believe that it was well executed and left me wanting more with every prominent turning point she shared. I think that is what makes Taylor Swift herself. She’s the queen of leaving fans wanting more.

Even with these turning points, there were private moments throughout the film that left me feeling more disconnected from Taylor than ever. It’s almost like I could feel how Taylor is trying to act as “off the dome” as possible.

This is likely why the general public will never see the definitive “private” side of Taylor, but that is okay. Private moments are private for a reason. The documentary would’ve benefitted if they were not in included here at all.

This documentary wasn’t for the fans. It was a wake-up call for the non-fans and the people who can’t comprehend the difficulties a girl went through to reach the top at just the young age of 13.

Throughout her life, Swift has been openly ridiculed about her dating life, had her image pressured by a record label and has dealt with the struggles that come with having an eating disorder. This documentary shows people that it does get lonely on a pedestal and it’s nearly impossible to act like “America’s sweetheart” all the time.

The documentary shows that she’s not a flirty country singer anymore and how she has evolved into arguably the most influential singer/songwriter in the world. She knows her worth and wants people to know that.

Favorite Part: The scene where Taylor is defending her political stance against her father was such a real moment for me. If you can stand up against your parents about what you believe in, you can do just about anything.

Least favorite part: All her “private” moments seemed very scripted to me.

Erin’s Final Rating: 4 out of 5 kernels

Photo credit: Autumn Bohner

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