miss americana

We Must Protect Andrea Swift at All Costs

Taylor Swift with her mom, Andrea, the low-key star of Miss Americana. Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

A few summers ago, I saw Taylor Swift perform at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on her Reputation tour. And by “saw,” I mean I laughed, I cried, and I screamed my head off for two hours in an on-and-off downpour. (To those of you out there who speak Swift, this wasn’t a proper “rain show,” but it came close.) At one point during the evening, a current of energy rippled through the crowd around me. People started pointing and whispering. “There she is! Over there!” Confused, I looked over to find a Swift, just not the one we’d all come to see. No, people were genuinely excited to spy Andrea Swift, Taylor’s mother, walking the stadium floor. I cheered, too.

In Miss Americana, the new Taylor Swift documentary from Netflix, I was equally excited to get to see even more of the elder Swift. It’s no secret the pair have an incredibly close relationship. (See: the lyrics to “The Best Day.”) Swift talks about winning Album of the Year at the Grammys for a second time with 1989 and feeling like she didn’t have anybody to share it with other than her mom. (A strange thing about the doc is that it sort of punts on Swift’s very famous friendships. We see Abigail Lucier, the redhead of “Fifteen” fame who has been Swift’s BFF since childhood, but nobody else.)

There’s a scene where both Swift women are sitting on a plane — Taylor’s own, it appears, given the trademark No. 13 stamped into the leather headrest cover on her seat — eating dinner as the plane takes off. Swift leans forward and uses her chin to try to stop a bowl of steak salad from sliding off the tray as the plane rises. “Not the steak,” she mock yells. Her mother jokingly admonishes her for her contortive efforts. Taylor says it was either that or ruin her top and “this is Rihanna.” In the aisle, a very large black-and-white spotted dog sits calmly through the whole thing. Swift teases her mother, saying she got the adult human-size dog after she and her brother grew up and left the house. But Andrea notes that’s not quite right. The dog, she says, was a bucket-list item she decided to cross off after being diagnosed with cancer. (“Soon You’ll Get Better” is about Swift’s family grappling with Andrea’s diagnosis. She recently revealed that her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor while receiving treatment for breast cancer.) It’s a sweet and very humanizing exchange.

In another excellent Andrea moment, Swift sits in a room with her team — including her father — arguing why she should break her historic silence and finally get political. She’s crying and talking about all the reasons she feels it’s only right to throw her weight behind Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen. (He eventually lost.) Bredesen’s opponent, Marsha Blackburn, ran on a platform of “Tennessee Christian values.” Values that, Swift says, are her own and not actually what Blackburn represents. “I live in Tennessee.” “I’m a Christian.” Her father pushes back, fearing for his daughter’s safety. But Andrea Swift won’t have any of it and demands that the men in the room hear Taylor out. Swift’s dad mentions buying armored cars to protect her and Andrea says that nobody worries about Taylor’s safety more than she does, and she still supports Taylor taking a position. Later, we see Taylor post the now-infamous Instagram endorsing Bredesen. Her mom is right by her side. (As is her mysterious and iconic PR head, Tree Paine.)

Perhaps the best Andrea Swift moment, though, comes after Swift, during a concert a year after a Colorado judge ruled in her favor in a sexual-assault case against a local radio DJ, speaks out about the incident. She’s vamping on a piano, tears streaming down her face as she tells the crowd how difficult and frustrating the process was and how she could not imagine what it must be like for people who don’t have the luxury of being believed. After the show, her mom gives her a hug backstage. She’s crying, too, and telling her daughter how proud she is of her for making the best out of a bad situation. No, not a bad situation. A situation Andrea calls a “shit bag of shit.” It’s a little thrilling anytime somebody swears in Miss America stars, they’re just like us … when they’re cultivating their image in a slightly different way to make themselves seem more human — but this one takes the cake. “Shit bag of shit!” Andrea!

We Must Protect Andrea Swift at All Costs