Taylor Swift’s new Netflix documentary Miss Americana is a number of things: A snapshot of a songwriter at work, a portrait of a woman finding her voice, a cool ad for a backpack that carries a cat.
For Swift fans in Tampa, it’s also a time capsule — albeit one that’s not entirely historically accurate.
Late in Miss Americana, which premiered Friday, the film dives into Swift’s sexual assault lawsuit against a Colorado radio DJ, who she said groped her during a 2013 meet-and-greet. Swift prevailed, and on Aug. 14, 2017, she won a symbolic $1 at trial.
Flash forward exactly one year, to Aug. 14, 2018, the night Swift’s Reputation Tour hit Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The significance of the date was not lost on Swifties, who hatched a plan to wave dollar bills in the air to show their respect and solidarity.
And sure enough, during the Tampa concert, Swift took a break from her usual stage banter to address her sexual assault trial. The moment is captured in Miss Americana — just as we captured it in our immediate review of the concert — and plays out almost in real time.
“This exact day a year ago, I was not playing a sold-out stadium in Tampa,” Swift said, her voice cracking. "I was in a courtroom in Denver, Colorado. And honestly, I was there for a sexual assault case. This day a year ago was the day that the jury sided in my favor and said that they believe me.
“I guess I just think about all the people that weren’t believed, and the people who haven’t been believed, or the people who are afraid to speak up before they’re afraid they won’t be believed. I just wanted to say I’m sorry to anyone who ever wasn’t believed. Because I don’t know what turn my life would have taken if people didn’t believe me when I said that something had happened to me.”
Here, Miss Americana splits from reality just a bit. In the documentary, the speech cuts to Swift performing Clean. In the real Tampa concert, she continued speaking a little longer about that “really, really horrible part of my life” and "the public nature of the way my life is,” before performing Long Live and New Year’s Day. You can see most of the speech in this video:
In the film, the performance of Clean — which Swift did not actually sing that night in Tampa — cuts to an emotional post-show embrace between Swift and her tearful mother, Andrea, who praises her for rising to the moment and overcoming “this bag of s--- they gave you.”
“I just couldn’t really stop thinking about it," Swift then says. “And I just thought to myself, next time there is any opportunity to change anything, you had better note what you stand for, and what you want to say.”
Less than two months after the Tampa show, Swift got political for the first time in her career, taking to Instagram to endorse Democrat Phil Bredesen over Republican Marsha Blackburn in the Tennessee Senate race. Swift’s sociopolitical awakening occupies much of the last third of Miss Americana.
That night in Tampa seemed significant at the time. But viewed through the prism of Miss Americana, it represents a real turning point in Swift’s life and career — a moment when she decided it was okay to speak up, okay to display empathy and vulnerability, okay to take a stance that could alienate longtime fans.
“It’s all I’ve talked about for the last couple of months, is the election in Tennessee,” she says in the documentary, moments after the Tampa scene. "It’s not that I want to step into this. I just, I can’t not at this point. Something is different in my life — completely and unchangeably different — since the sexual assault trial last year. No man in my organization or in my family will ever understand what that was like.”