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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Taylor Swift: Miss Americana is a documentary about the singer's evolution from a musically gifted child to illustrious superstar. It's not a concert film -- only a few songs are filmed in their entirety -- but rather an intimate look at Swift's journey as she wants it told. She shares her ideas, her "moral code," her changing self-image, and memories of the difficult times in which she had to call upon both strength and insightfulness to make it through. There's lots of footage of Swift's approach to songwriting, and it's clear how intensely personal her songs are. The movie is filled with big messages that matter to girls and teens about self-worth, body image, coping with adversity, political engagement, and hard work. Though these mature themes are also relatable for younger audiences, there's a fair bit of swearing (including "s--t," "f--k," "bitch," and "ass"). That means that parents who might consider the language a deal-breaker for tweens have a big decision to make, because Swift has much to offer as a role model.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
From its early scenes -- home movies of Taylor Swift at the piano as a little girl entertaining loved ones with brash self-confidence -- to its final moments showcasing a grown-up well on her way to activism and self-awareness, TAYLOR SWIFT: MISS AMERICANA tells a very personal story. Swift's voice and director Lana Wilson's camera take viewers into the singer-songwriter's happiest moments as well as to times of her greatest vulnerability and sadness. Multiple sequences show Swift's collaborative writing process, the thrill she derives from performing, and the setbacks that she's had to overcome. As Swift's story unfolds, audiences meet her supportive family, her musical team, and her adoring fans, as well as some who've delighted in exploiting her.
Is it any good?
Swift's candid, unpretentious narration, as well as choice footage of her as a child, a teen, and a young woman, make this movie highly accessible for both fans and casual viewers. There's a lot to like in Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, especially for the girls who make up much of her international fan base. Swift talks directly to them. She describes the lessons she's learned, the successes she's had, the calamities she's lived through, and, most inspirationally, the hard work and resilience that it takes to rise above the heartbreaking challenges of growing up -- whether you're famous or not.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the intentions of documentaries: to inform, entertain, persuade, or inspire. Which category or categories best describe Taylor Swift: Miss Americana? Why?
Talk about the differences between "concert" movies and films like this one that show a musician's personal journey. Concert movies are prized because they bring shows to audiences everywhere. What benefits do fans receive from movies like this one? How did it affect your feelings about Swift?
What valuable character strengths (e.g., perseverance, courage) does Swift rely upon to achieve her goals? Pick one of those traits and show why it was important. In what ways, if any, is Swift a role model?
Do you agree with the filmmakers' choice to include profanity in the film? It's likely that the goal is to show their subject authentically, but what may result from that decision in terms of intended viewers?
- On DVD or streaming: January 31, 2020
- Cast: Taylor Swift
- Director: Lana Wilson
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, Great Girl Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Character strengths: Courage, Gratitude, Perseverance
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: July 17, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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