Framing Britney Spears: Not a girl, not yet a free woman
The Princess of Pop is back in the spotlight after the premiere of The New York Times documentary, ‘Framing Britney Spears’.
It examines the merciless hold the media had on Britney Spears’ decades-long career, and how it ultimately led to her breakdown. Since the unauthorized exposé was released on Hulu, the pop star’s life has been met with new scrutiny — should we blame Britney for her problematic past after the way she was mistreated by the public?
The documentary opens with a sound bite of people chanting “Free Britney” at a protest, followed by a series of videos from fans expressing their support for her in an open letter. The exposition continues with a haunting snippet of Britney from an old interview, alluding to what was yet to come in her career.
“When I first started I didn’t know what I was doing, but every day you learn more, and you gain more wisdom than that. I am where I am today because I do have control, you know you have to, otherwise you get sucked in by people.”
From her humble beginnings in Kentwood, Louisiana, the starlet first came into the scene when she joined the cast of ‘The Mickey Mouse Club‘ at the age of 12. But she had been performing long before in state-level talent shows, where her image was already being groomed by the media. The documentary shows a clip from 1992 of probably her earliest televised performance. The host asked young Britney at just 10-years-old, “Do you have a boyfriend?” Because what else would a little girl with big dreams want to talk about?
Britney was “Born to Make You Happy“
By the time she was 16, Britney Spears had become a household name after the release of her debut single, ‘…Baby One More Time‘. The image of a squad of Catholic schoolgirls dancing through the hallway didn’t only go down as an iconic 90s moment, but it also liberated an entire generation of young girls. While some may have painted the music video to be sexual, others cite it as a moment when they saw a teenager take control of her own space and being confident. Fans went crazy over Britney because she was the cool girl everyone wanted to be.
‘Framing Britney Spears’ presented the dichotomy of her image. On one hand, she was seen by others as a diva who was trying too hard to grow up. On the other hand, Britney was a young woman in control who made her own decisions. According to one of her old tour dancers who was interviewed for the documentary, she called the shots when it came to her music and choreography. Yet, the media had refused to take her seriously. Instead the media focused on her appearance and she was asked inappropriate questions about her body, even as a minor.
For reference, Britney Spears in this video is the same age as Charli Damelio and Mackenzie Ziegler, and is younger than Jojo Siwa. https://t.co/QMWMJsK1qf
— ☆ 🌹 (@britmebaby) February 7, 2021
“I’m a Slave 4 U“
Britney’s third album marked a significant change in her image. While she was fully embracing her sexuality, this only made her a bigger target for tabloids. During her infamous break up with Justin Timberlake, the media had Britney at their disposal to frame her as the villain of the story. It seemed like every issue of Us Weekly had her face on the cover along with headlines that cried out “cheater.”
In an interview with Barbara Walters, Justin was committed to playing the innocent victim. He denied that any songs on his debut solo album were about her but proceeds to perform a song on the piano called ‘Horrible Woman‘. He probably could’ve just stayed in his pity party and we’d eventually forget about it, however Justin is guilty of slut shaming Britney as well. When asked if Britney kept her promise to wait to have sex until marriage, he says “sure” and bursts out into laughter.
Everyone was on JT’s side. The documentary shares an audio recording of him guesting on the Star and Buc Wild Morning Show. After being hounded by the DJ’s if he “fucked Britney Spears”, Justin proudly says that he did in a hyper masculine caveman-like manner — as if she was a prize to be won. And how could we forget about the obvious nod to Britney in his gaslighting song, ‘Cry Me A River‘.
There’s only two types of people in the world
“All eyes on me in the center of the ring just like a circus,” at this point in her career, it appears as if everyone was just waiting to see when she would break. When Britney gave birth to her first child with ex-husband Kevin Federline, she was immediately portrayed to be an unfit mother after an incident with the paparazzi. She was criticized for having her baby on her lap while she was driving away from a mob of photographers.
In an interview Britney explains that she was surrounded and just wanted to get out of there ASAP. During the early days of her career, she actually didn’t mind the attention from the paparazzi. In the documentary, one photographer states that she was even glad to pose and wave for them. In turn, they were polite to her. But once her image was tainted, they turned more aggressive and Britney appeared to detest of them.
From shaving her head bald, to fighting for custody over her children — Britney could never be left alone. She became a product that was sought after, with just a single photograph amounting to 1 million dollars. Everyone was okay with capitalizing on her issues.
Now at 39-years-old, Britney is still battling for control over her own life. The pop star has been under a conservatorship for 12 long years. This is a legal condition where a judge appoints an individual or organization to manage the finances and/or daily life of another person. Almost every important aspect of Britney’s life has been in the hands of her father, Jamie Spears, since 2008. The performer has never explicitly talked about it on mainstream platforms, but a clip from MTV’s ‘For The Record‘ special hints to what she could be feeling about the situation.
Fans have been rallying to free Britney from the conservatorship since 2019 after she canceled her Las Vegas residency out of the blue. It was reported that she had been checked into a mental health facility three months after. Shortly after, she was appealing to the court to change her conservator to Jodi Montgomery, her longtime caregiver. It did not go in her favor. While she continues to battle for her rights, Britney has vowed to never perform again as long as her father remains in charge of her career.
She has yet to directly address the documentary since it premiered. The only statement from Britney following the documentary’s release is from her Instagram. She shared an old video of her performing ‘Toxic‘, along with an emoji filled caption. The singer says that she is taking the time to learn how to be a normal person. Britney ends the message with, “Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person’s life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens.”
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