Taylor Swift, coming to terms with never-ending scrutiny

Rebecca Nicholson

It says a lot about the level of stardom to which Taylor Swift has ascended that a mere trailer for a documentary about her became international news.

When the clip of Miss Americana appeared, the initial line that emerged was that Swift would be finally talking about what made her finally talk about politics. I was more taken by the fact that she carries one of her cats (it didn’t look roomy enough for two) on to an plane in a ventilated backpack with a bubble window, like she lives in a 1970s cartoon about space.

But it was a moment from a montage, when a pundit declares Swift to be too skinny, that became the focus. It was followed by an interview with Variety about a past eating disorder; understandably, she said it was an uncomfortable topic for her to discuss.

“My relationship with food was exactly the same psychology I applied to everything else in my life: if I was given a pat on the head, I registered that as good. If I was given a punishment, I registered that as bad,” she said. The pats on the head were being able to fit into tiny sample sizes on photoshoots; the punishments were magazine covers speculating about whether or not she was pregnant. It took its toll, and led to a period of starvation and compulsive exercise. Another successful pop star appeared on another magazine cover this week. Lizzo, shot by David LaChapelle as a heavenly apparition for Rolling Stone, appeared under the coverline, “Lizzo: How She Conquered The World”. The piece, all about her rise to superstardom, briefly touched on the strange period in December when her body became a topic of public discussion, or consumption, after she was filmed twerking at a basketball game in a dress that showed her thong. The writer noted that Lizzo seemed “a touch exhausted talking about her body, which is fair”.

It must be exhausting. Famous or not, women’s bodies are under constant scrutiny, from countless sources, and the only thing that shifts is the scale of it. As my colleague Eva Wiseman wrote in this paper this month, even the “body positivity” movement demands the undoing of a lifetime of pressure to be a certain way.

It’s fine, and admirable, to say all women’s bodies are beautiful, yet how can we expect women to believe that when we are constantly being told otherwise? Lana Wilson, who directed Miss Americana, pointed out just how common it is for women to hear either “you look skinny” or “you’ve gained weight”, and she really got at the simple truth of it: “You can’t win either way.”

James Corden: hands-free driving is easy if you’re on tow

There was much fuss last week over a candid snapshot of James Corden and Justin Bieber, filming another Carpool Karaoke in Los Angeles.

For the uninitiated, Carpool Karaoke is a brilliant segment on Corden’s US talkshow that does big business online. He invites famous musicians along for a drive, then sings their songs with them, all the while conducting an interview that digs surprisingly deep. It works because most people feel relaxed in the car, and know that it is a cocoon, a safe space, particularly for top-of-the-lungs singing, with apologies to anyone who’s ever heard me trying to hit the high note in A Case of You, because car windows are not as soundproof as you start to believe.

In a picture widely shared on Twitter, Corden and Bieber are in the car, but the car is on a trailer, being towed, which means Corden is not driving it. “This is why I have trust issues,” said the Twitter user who posted it.

Corden’s producer, Ben Winston, was quick to respond, saying they only use a rig to film stunts: “This has occurred only maybe 4 times in 50 or so carpools!” Corden shared a snap of himself with Samuel L Jackson in a studio, in front of a green screen, with Corden holding a steering wheel: “Guys, we don’t even use a real car.”

There are moments when you realise you’re getting on a bit. Trying to get on board with Love Island at this late stage. Feeling a joy bordering on ecstasy when you are asked for ID trying to buy wine. Picking up a jumper in a youthful clothes shop and wondering why, oh why, do they always cut the bottom off? But realising that your first thought on the Carpool Karaoke “exposé” was good, “what a relief, it must be very difficult to concentrate on driving safely while you’re chatting to Harry Styles” is the most ageing of the lot.

Brad Pitt, BFFs with Jen is the perfect role

Brad Pitt left a trail of news titbits in his wake last week, all tasty, snackable morsels. He turned down the part of Neo in The Matrix! Leonardo DiCaprio has a pet name for him, and it is “Lover”, which makes the two of them sound like the Hollywood Gavin and Smithy!

But none was enough to quieten the orchestra of excitement that greeted pictures of him and his ex-wife Jennifer Aniston at the Screen Actors Guild awards, not just occupying the same air space but actually interacting in it. The decades of tabloid front-page frothing over their former relationship picked up enough fuel for another few years of creative speculation.

I know that this is Pitt and Aniston, who together occupy a particularly fantastical part of the celebrity landscape, but is it really so strange to be friends with your exes? I think it’s nice, if it’s possible. It’s mature. The comedian Amy Schumer’s ex-boyfriend, Kyle Dunnigan, revealed last week that he is living with her and her new husband, and I thought, how lovely.

Mind you, it’s all very well to advocate staying friends with exes; turns out it is also very dependent on whether they want to stay friends with you.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist