For all its gestures at moral authority, Miss Americana offers a view into the life of someone who’ll never have to work a traditional job, and who paid for that privilege by forgoing some of the wisdom ordinary folks earn in their teens and 20s. (source: https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/taylor-swift-netflix-documentary-miss-americana-review/)

Literal meaning of the bold part above doesn't make sense at all to me. What does the bold part mean in this context? I couldn't guess at all what this means. Could someone please help me understand this?

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    We usually talk about gestures to authority. To the extent that it does occur, a gesture at authority is more likely to be overtly dismissive / condemnatory (where the to version implies at least pretending to respect the relevant authority). Jan 31, 2020 at 18:11

2 Answers 2


There are several things going on here. Let's try to separate the emotional and philosophical content of the statement from the technicalities of the English language.

What is happening is, the author is trying to package a lot of opinions and claims into a single sentence without having to justify any of them. There are several rhetorical tricks going on here, notably "framing" and "poisoning the well."

The bold part is saying that Miss Americana makes gestures at moral authority. Specifically, the "for all" part is saying that it makes several, maybe many. By context this is saying that MA is making empty claims about moral authority.

The rest of the quoted text is indicating a lot of things which the author implies are contradictory to moral authority. There is the mention of privilege, which a certain philosophical segment claims is automatically immoral. There is not needing a "traditional" job. There is the mention of not gaining wisdom. There is the mention of "ordinary folk" in distinction to the people in MA.

So put it together: It is claiming that Miss Americana makes claims of moral authority, but is not moral. Note that by being vague about it, they never had to prove that there were claims of moral authority. Nor did they need to prove that any such claims were false.

There is a lot in that quote that drips with various political ideologies. But it's getting pretty far outside the English meaning.


The expression: for all x =with regard to that or despite that.

For all the issues raised by impeachment, there are some that are not= with regard to all the issues raised by impeachment.

For all its gestures at moral authority = with regard to all its gestures at moral authority

gestures at moral authority means: what you do (in speech and writing) to show you have moral authority.

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    More accurately (particularly in OP's exact context), for all X = despite X. Jan 31, 2020 at 18:13
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica Yeah, ok, I added it.
    – Lambie
    Jan 31, 2020 at 18:14
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    To be honest, I don't really understand what the writer is trying to say. In terms of the actual choice of words, I don't see how we can avoid taking that despite sense on board, but I've absolutely no idea why the writer thinks that paying lip-service to moral authority should have any bearing on the (by implication, surprising) ability of Miss Americana to show whatever it shows besides the obvious (scantily-clad ladies, I assume). Maybe the writer is more interested in using fancy turns of phrase than actually having something to say and saying it clearly. Jan 31, 2020 at 18:20

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