‘Framing Britney Spears’ shines spotlight on the brutality of media


Stephen Lavoie

iRocktography: See what music looks like…

Gabby Lancaster, Online EIC

Hounded by photographers on her way to restaurants, flashing lights blinding her own children, rumors questioning her purity and tabloids doubting her motherhood, Britney Spears has been put through the ringer by the same media that praised her in the peak of her success.  


Most famously recognized for her hit songs like “…Baby One More Time,” or “Oops!… I Did It Again,” Spears rose as an icon in the ‘90s and early 2000s, becoming one of the rare popular female artists in an age of boy bands and tabloid mania.  ‘Framing Britney’ is an hour long documentary released by the New York Times on Hulu that exposes the reality of fame and media scrutiny Spears faced that led to her eventual conservatorship and a movement known as, “freebritney.”  


The series begins with a history of the singer, explaining her country roots and her family’s financial situation as they tried to create the creative environment Spears longed for as a child.  Traveling to New York City, joining an agency and eventually premiering on “Mickey Mouse Club,” Spears realized her passion was with singing.  Through a record label she recorded her debut album “…Baby One More Time” and was immediately raised on the pedestal of fame. 


As the documentary depicts through screenshots of magazine covers, video footage of paparazzi stalking and news anchors publicly sexualizing her, it’s made clear that the media had no right to destroy Spears in the way they did.  She was questioned by mothers around the world for her wardrobe choices and asked repeatedly about her dating life rather than her music. The New York Times also shines a light on her former relationship with Justin Timberlake, and the twisted story the media used to blame her for the breakup of America’s couple as her innocence was doubted. 


The documentary features several interviews with people who are close to Spears and it helps provide insight into her mental health during intimate times such as when her own family was being publicly shamed.  


Yet it was the breakdown in the episode that exposed the harsh reality of Spears’ life at the time. Videos of her shaving her head and beating a car with an umbrella prove the breaking point that she was forced to reach after years of scrutiny.  


At this point, the rest of the documentary largely focuses on the legal aspects of Spears current and former life involving her conservatorship, which is when a handler is given legal control over one person’s entire life, including their finances and medical records.  In Spear’s case, she was deemed unfit to handle her own money as she checked into multiple mental hospitals following her divorce and custody battles over her two children.  Her father, Jamie Spears, became her conservator.  


The freebrtiney movement has become an internet phenomenon as fans are convinced this conservatorship, which is still active, is no longer necessary for Spears and that she is being forced against her will.  


Cosverseravtorships are usually deisgned for the elderly so it’s always been a question of whether or not Spears ever needed it, but especially at this point in her life when it seems as though she desperately wants out of it.  Spears has tried to end the conservatorship or at least change the conservatee but has been denied by the judge in the case.


It’s unclear what the reality of Spear’s situation is like behind-the-scenes as it’s rarely been discussed by her or her family.  Yet ‘Framing Britney Spears’ dives more into the scrutiny she faced along with her sexualization and current mental health.  What is clear however, is that the media’s actions and role in Spear’s framing were unfair and a gender order that treated her unlike her male counterparts.