Review: “Framing Britney Spears” shines light on dark side of princess of pop’s career

What happened to Britney Spears? A New York Times documentary answers the question on everybody’s mind.


Courtesy of Lucas Brigido, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Alexandra Will, Contributor

Britney Spears is one of the most popular solo acts in the late 90s and early 2000s. Though like many stars that are vaulted into fame at such a young age, her experience was far from perfect and continues to be marred by scandal, controversy and conspiracy. A new documentary by the New York Times explores Spears’ rise to pop-stardom and the questions surrounding the star’s conservatorship. 

Spears got her start on talk shows and the Mickey Mouse Club in 1993. She later moved to New York to advance her career, and would promote her debut album by performing in malls. Her single, “…Baby One More Time,” went multi-platinum and topped the pop charts which was astonishing considering it was her debut single and she was only 16 when it was released. 

“Framing Britney Spears” goes more into detail about her youth and how amazing it was that she made her way into the industry from a small town in Louisiana. Though it also doesn’t shy away from painting a clear picture of the intense scrutiny Spears faced. 

Spears was constantly criticized for being too sexy, but that’s what was selling in the music industry. Britney described her disgust as Diane Sawyer talked with her in an interview about how Kendall Ehrlich, wife of the governor of Maryland, said she would shoot Britney if she had the chance, because she saw her as a bad influence to children. 

Spears emphasized how it wasn’t her job to babysit peoples’ children and the documentary describes the misogyny taking place in the music industry during that period.

Several clips were played from interviews where men were sexualizing Britney and talking about her breasts and asking if she was a virgin while she was still a minor and young adult. 

It’s crazy how different men were treated from women in this industry, and that’s where the story with her relationship with Justin Timberlake comes into play. 

After their public breakup, Timberlake took control of the narrative through the release of his songs, and in using a woman who looked like Britney in his music videos portraying how she left him heartbroken. In interviews, Timberlake made jokes about having sex with Britney and was cheered on by the media, while the media acted like Brtiney was a slut for her personal life. 

This revealed the misogyny within the music industry; women and men were not asked the same questions in interviews and were treated differently for their personal lives and public image.

After getting married and having children, the media became more obsessed with Britney. The paparazzi could make up to $1 million for candid photos of her and she was followed everywhere. This ultimately led to her downfall and mental health issues.

How can the media paint Britney as someone who has gone crazy when she is constantly being harassed by the media and paparazzi? 

In 2007, the media went crazy when paparazzi photos leaked of Britney Spears shaving her head and hitting the paparazzi’s car with an umbrella. Wesley Morris of the New York Times describes how the conversation always focused on, “what was wrong with her,” because it made the media money, and how mental health wasn’t a topic talked about during the time. 

“Whatever you guys are looking for in terms of me coming back and being that person again I’m not – that person is gone and you have destroyed her,” Morris said in describing why Spears acted the way she did. 

He also explained how it was insane how people would look at her and only see a crazy person instead of how she was being treated.

In 2008, Britney was placed into a psychiatric hold for mental health evaluation. That’s when her conservatorship started under her father Jamie Spears, who wasn’t a strong figure in her early life. At the time it was seen as an extra layer of protection as Britney was struggling with mental health and possibly drugs. 

However, the documentary explores how lawyers had trouble representing her and helping with her case. Lawyer Vivian Lee Thoreen also discussed how difficult it is to terminate a conservatorship.

The one time she talked about her conservatorship, she described how liberated she would feel without all the doctors and lawyers involved, and felt as if no one was listening to how she feels. Other than this Britney has not spoken up about her conservatorship, but fans were suspicious with cryptic messages and videos Britney had been posting on Instagram. 

A few years later Spears became very busy with sponsors and performing. But if her conservators were requesting more money and to see her conservatorship more as a “hybrid business model” now that she was well enough to be performing and working, then why is she still in a conservatorship?

The “Framing Britney Spears” documentary did a great job bringing light to her story and how she was wronged by the media, and why more attention should be brought to the #FreeBritney movement. Since the documentary was released Justin Timerberlake has issued an apology to Britney and the public is demanding Diane Sawyer apologize for the way she talked down to and treated Britney in her interview.

But the bigger issue and why people should watch this documentary is to understand why it’s wrong for Britney to still be in her conservatorship when she’s expressed her dislike of her father being in charge of her finances, and the issue with conservatorships overall when they are so difficult to terminate. 

Until Britney is free to tell her story and let the public know if she is ok, people should spread awareness of the #FreeBritney movement and educate themselves about her story to see the potential harm of the media and public scrutiny to stars’ overall well-being. 

The documentary makes the viewer feel a newfound respect for her after watching this documentary and he kicked off the #FreeBritney movement worldwide.