She's so lucky, she's a star...
It's Britney, bitch. Source: Hello! Magazine
So, over the weekend, like every other 90s girl, I watched the new documentary created by The New York Times, Framing Britney Spears.
For those who have been sleeping lockdown away instead of trolling the 'gram, the doco puts a spotlight on the controversial conservatorship Spears has been under for the past 12 years, where her father has a court-appointed order to control her personal and financial affairs. It also puts a spotlight on the way Britney was sexualised, demonised and harassed by the media and paparazzi since she was a child, leading to a very public breakdown that in the noughties was simply billed as 'entertainment'.
Whilst many celebrities have voiced their support for the #FreeBritney movement, I, as a hardcore Britney wannabes since day dot, had my own thoughts after watching.
Will never not be iconic. Love you. Source: GiPHY
To start, as a 90s teeny bopper, I've always loved me some straight up Britney-pop (first CD I ever bought, still remember my Grade 6 moves to Oops I did it again... and you know I loved me a ticket to the Circus tour). Everyone knows all the words to so many songs, her voice is instantly recognisable and iconic, and I commend anyone for being in the business longer than one album.
I must say though - I never really got the whole #FreeBritney thing. I think it's really weird for actual strangers to like, go marching for a personal celebrity cause they don't know much about (like I am speaking about now...) especially when she herself has never publicly called out her dad about it. It's...weird and made me cringe. Do you not have better things to do on your Sunday?
This weird to me. Source: HuffPost
That said, the documentary definitely highlighted some moments in her life that watching as an adult woman, are SO uncomfortable. For example, that she was a teenager who was constantly prodded publicly by older men and women about her virginity (or lack there-of), constantly asked why she dresses so provocatively, and the fact that she was clearly marketed in a highly sexualised manner was shameful. At the time, myself just a few years younger than her, she was cool and hot and sexy. Everyone wanted to be Britney (I got the belly button ring to prove it). Now, I can see it was a lot of pressure and, to be honest, pretty repulsive behaviour by the adults in charge. Even if she was famous, she was so young - and quite emotionally young, too. I also seem to think it wasn't a time for her to feel she could stand up for herself in certain interviews. Some of that may have come from simply being young, that whole 'Southern belle hospitality'-nice girl thing, and a lack of proper care around her. It was pretty disgusting to watch.
The doco then goes on to portray her mental health decline and relationship with K-Fed, and how this was handled by the media. Watching grown men continue to harass a pregnant woman was disturbing, and you can really see how it would push someone over the edge. Re-watching the footage of her 'attacking' a pap with an umbrella, I didn't even flinch. I would have smashed his fucking windscreen. Sometimes we believe that because people are famous, we are entitled to think their whole world should be open to us. But she wasn't a reality star (which still has limits). She was a singer (and actress, Crossroads represent). Additionally, if it is night time and you are driving to your ex-husband's house to get your kids - is that 'asking for it'?
The flip side was, the paps were making millions, tabloid culture was in full swing, and we as the public need to also take accountability.
We loved it.
This cannot be denied, and I regret that now. Everyone laughed at memes of 'crazy Britney' shaving her head, talked about her being wheeled off to the hospital, how if she didn't want the publicity, why doesn't she just move or stop being so crazy? We laughed at her 'tragic' VMAs performance, we couldn't understand why she wasn't looking after herself and why she wasn't 'hot again' like in her first film clip (when she had now had two children). For myself as a young person, there was a real lack of awareness around mental health and it was just silly celebrity fodder. I am really thankful that things have changed for today's young people, and that we can recognise the struggles of women, how they are demonised in the media and their mental health struggles a lot clearer. SO much of what happened to her would never have flown today. NEVER.
That said, there are a few opinions I have that don't seem to be very popular. For starters, I think it was unfair to villainise Justin Timberlake like he was in the doco. Basically, Framing Britney indicated that he stole the narrative of their breakup as the victim in the scenario. Whilst she was treated badly by the media after their demise, he too was a young teenager and a product of the pop machine. It simply was a different time, and we cannot continue to vilify the past by today's standards, otherwise, we are all cancelled. He has watched and apologised, and I personally think he meant it. We all fucked up in a young relationship, and they seem to be on good terms, so there is no point destroying him.
We cannot continue to vilify the past by today's standards, otherwise, we are all cancelled.
There were also podcasters who were featured whose opinions were meant to have some sort of clout. Their podcast is about over-analysing Britney's Instagram and going mad when she didn't post for a few days, only to announce that she was in a mental health facility. I didn't understand how these women were being touted as being on her 'side' and feminist - how is their behaviour any better than the rest of the media? All of us just need to shut the fuck up and:
The only one who ever really got it. Source: GiPHY
I also questioned the clearly skewed view of villainising her dad. I know, no one agrees with me. (Nikki, in fact, is outraged!) I suppose it is because I know someone in a similar situation to Britney that I can somewhat understand it. This woman I know has been hospitalised many times for mental illness. That said, when well, she can work, holiday, have a relationship, buy food, go out. But to do complex adult things like paying bills, driving, apply critical thinking - she simply does not have the ability, and so her mother takes care of her affairs. She may not love it, but unfortunately, it is necessary for this individual. When watching this doco, I seemed to see a bit the same in Britney. I'm obviously no health professional, it was just my view. It made sense that she may perform, because it is what she loves and knows, but may not completely understand paying dividends to shareholders - she's like a child in that sense. It appears like she is nice and can have fun, but a court is still a court, and I just cannot fathom how a conservatorship for someone so rich and famous with the best lawyers in town could have this in place unless there was a dire need. There are medical documents that have never come out, she herself hasn't publicly said anything about her dad (I'm weary of court docs written 'on her behalf'), she took off her tour because her dad was unwell, which made me think she cares for him. People also seemed annoyed that he got some of the cash, which I get - but my understanding is it is 1%. it's literally the smallest amount and it's cos he is like her carer. He's her dad. Happy for people to comment and prove me wrong, I'm open!
I mean, look. I don't know. None of us do. I would have preferred a more balanced look as this made the whole doco feel a little cheap rather than true investigative journalism, but I do look forward to her actual story, and am happy to be proved wrong. Until then, Ima listen to Britney on repeat. I will say that Lucky, Overprotected, Stronger - they just hit differently now, hey?!
Also - fuck K. Fed, and fuck the Governor's wife who wanted to shoot Britney for 'being a bad role model.'
Jury, what say you?