One of the unofficial costars of the Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana” is Republican senator Marsha Blackburn, whose name and image come up in a crucial section of the film, and not in a complimentary fashion. Having apparently gotten wind of her unflattering appearance in the film, Blackburn took time out from the president’s impeachment trial to issue a conciliatory statement Thursday, suggesting that she and Swift could find some common ground despite their monumental differences on social issues.
Blackburn’s statement doesn’t reference the movie but was clearly intended to get out ahead of it, coming a little less than nine hours before the doc’s midnight PT premiere on Netflix. (It also starts a theatrical run on Friday.) The senator doesn’t address Swift’s opposition to her record on women’s and LGBTQ issues but says they could work together on artists’ rights legislation.
“Taylor is an exceptionally gifted artist and songwriter, and Nashville is fortunate to be the center of her creative universe,” said Blackburn’s statement. “While there are policy issues on which we may always disagree, we do agree on the need to throw the entertainment community’s collective influence behind legislation protecting songwriters, musicians, and artists from censorship, copyright theft, and profiteering. The Music Modernization Act was a huge win for creators, and the BOTS Act for fans. Growing support behind the AM-FM Act will close loopholes blocking compensation for radio play. I welcome any further opportunities to work with Tennessee’s and the nation’s creative communities to protect intellectual property and ensure appropriate compensation for their creations. On that note, I wish Taylor the best — she’s earned it.”
To watch “Miss Americana” is to know just how unready Swift is to make nice. The film establishes Blackburn’s senatorial run as the very tipping point that causes the formerly apolitical Swift to find and exercise her voice as an activist. Its last half-hour portrays how Swift came, as the midterm elections approached in 2018, to issue endorsements of the Democratic candidates in Tennessee’s senatorial and gubernatorial elections. She particularly singled out Blackburn as someone that is, in her view, dedicated to shutting down any legislation that would protect women or gay people at risk.
“I was really upset about Tennessee going the way that it did, obviously,” Swift told Variety in an interview for a cover story about the movie published last week. Her disappointment over Blackburn prevailing in November of 2018 was so profound that she wrote a new song, “Only the Young,” dedicated to uplifting the hopes of young people who felt that their canvassing efforts in that and other elections was in vain. The anthem that Blackburn’s election provoked makes its premiere in the “Miss Americana'” movie.
The film includes an excerpt from a commercial in which Blackburn trumpets her proud status as a conservative “deplorable.”
Blackburn, previously a member of the House of Representatives, “votes against fair pay for women,” Swift is seen telling her team in the film. “She votes against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which is just basically protecting us from domestic abuse and stalking. Stalking. She thinks that if you’re a gay couple, or even if you look like a gay couple, you should be allowed to be kicked out of a restaurant. It’s really basic human rights, and it’s right and wrong at this point, and I can’t see another commercial and see her disguising these policies behind the words ‘Tennessee Christian values.’ Those aren’t Tennessee Christian values. I live in Tennessee. I am Christian. That’s not what we stand for.”
(Blackburn defended her 2013 vote against the Violence Against Women Act in Congress by saying, “I didn’t like the way it was expanded to include other different groups.”)
When the election results come in, the doc has footage of a newsman saying, “The (Phil) Bredesen camp was very much hoping for the ‘Swift lift,’ as they called it, because the young voter turnout spiked here by sevenfold from the previous midterm election, and yet that wasn’t enough.” Late-night host Stephen Colbert jokes, in a surprisingly condescending tone, “I guess Tay-Tay didn’t have that much sway-sway.” An upset Swift says of Blackburn, “She’s Trump in a wig. … She won by being a female, (representing) the kind of female males want us to be in a horrendous 1950s world,” she adds, before finding an upbeat note in concluding that for the next two years a youth movement will have to come together to finish what was started.
In her Variety cover story last week, Swift elaborated on what motivates her to stand with the LGBTQ community in particular:
“To celebrate but not advocate felt wrong for me. Using my voice to try to advocate was the only choice to make. Because I’ve talked about equality and sung about it in songs like ‘Welcome to New York,’ but we are at a point where human rights are being violated. When you’re saying that certain people can be kicked out of a restaurant because of who they love or how they identify, and these are actual policies that certain politicians vocally stand behind, and they disguise them as family values, that is sinister. So, so dark.”
“Miss Americana” premieres on Netflix at midnight PT and 3 a.m. on the east coast.
Whether Blackburn will have a chance to see it right away is up for question. Blackburn has been actively speaking out in favor of President Trump in the senate’s trial this week. In an opinion piece published in the Tennessean Thursday, Blackburn wrote, “Everything you have seen from Democrats during this trial, from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s amendment showdown, to tone-deaf demands that the Senate ‘call the Democrats’ bluff’ and open the floodgates to witnesses, has been carefully choreographed. … Any compromise that would allow this to happen would be destructive to the Office of the President — no matter who occupies the West Wing.”