The 10 Biggest Takeaways From the 'Framing Britney Spears' Documentary

From Justin Timberlake playing a significant role in her downfall to the #FreeBritney movement, here are the biggest ‘Framing Britney Spears’ takeaways.

britney spears documentary

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britney spears documentary

Britney Spears’ fans are getting the validation they have been seeking for years. The pop star’s supporters have been making noise with the #FreeBritney movement for quite some time, and thanks to Episode 6 of The New York Times Presents docuseries titled “Framing Britney Spears,” the world is finally paying attention. The episode premiered on FX and Hulu on Feb. 5, and it details the pop icon’s career, her hardships, and how it all led to the legal conservatorship she has been under since 2008. Her fans started the movement to advocate for the end of Spears’ conservatorship so that the superstar can regain her autonomy.

In 2007, a series of emotional breakdowns and high-publicized incidents ended with her being involuntarily committed into a hospital. She was put on a 5150 issued California code, which is an involuntary 72-hour psychiatric hold. A judge gave her father Jamie Spears the power to exercise control over his daughter’s wellbeing, decisions regarding her health, and finances. The singer’s dad has been in charge of her estate for the past 12 years, while she continues to ask the court for more freedom and to appoint someone else as her conservator. 

Since 2008, the singer has checked into a rehabilitation facility on at least one occasion to treat her mental health. She spent a month in rehab, and later it was reported by TMZ that Spears said in a court hearing that her father committed her to the facility against her will and forced her to take drugs. Fans have been doing the work to bring this to light and get justice for the singer. They believe the pop star has been trying to communicate with them through hidden messages on social media, and some are highly concerned about her well-being and worry that she is being held against her will. Now more people are speaking out thanks to the docuseries, including her fellow celebrities. There is so much to uncover about the situation, but here are some details that stood out from “Framing Britney Spears.”

Jamie Spears wasn’t always involved in his daughter’s life or career

jamie spears conservatorship

The hitmaker is seeking more freedom and changes to her conservatorship and wants to end it altogether. According to one of Spears’ attorneys, Adam Streisand, she was not opposed to having someone take care of her matters but wanted “a professional; somebody independent” to be the conservator of her person and estate instead of her father. A judge decided that she could not retain a lawyer, and Samuel D. Ingham was court-appointed as her attorney instead. A lawyer who is now part of Jamie’s legal team, Vivian Thoreen, appeared in the documentary. Although she couldn’t share many details, she shared how rare it is for a conservatee to find a way to end their conservatorship. While the paparazzi images from the past and her stints in rehab were enough to show that she still needed assistance, it’s challenging to prove that she is no longer in need of help.


A conservatorship takes many freedoms away from the conservatee

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The docuseries listed some things that could potentially be at the hands of the people in charge of Britney’s decision making. For example, they can control who can and cannot visit her. They can also have security guards with her at all times to monitor her every move. They have access to her medical records and can communicate with her doctors directly. They can control her house, cancel credit cards, make business deals for her (including tours, albums, and television deals), and be deeply involved in her finances. It did seem strange that soon after she was deemed unfit to govern herself, she released one of her most successful projects, Circus, went on a world tour, and won multiple awards. So it leaves us wondering whether anything she has done professionally since has been a personal choice or other people making those decisions for her.

The rest of her family is aware of the situation 

britney spears brother bryan

The way we viewed mental health as society drastically impacted how people treated Britney

britney spears mental health

Since 2008, we have seen many celebrities come forward and open up about their struggles with mental illnesses. Stars like Kanye West, Halsey, and Demi Lovato sharing their diagnosis helped open up a conversation in the entertainment world that allowed for people to be more vocal about their health and helped others be less judgemental and more understanding. Spears lacked that support. Instead, she was deemed “crazy” and unfit for taking care of herself and her children. While a diagnosis has not been made public, she has shared that she struggled with anxiety in the past and the shaving of her hair and hitting a paparazzi’s car with an umbrella were apparent signs that she was in some sort of distress. While we have made progress, there are still memes and jokes floating around online about the singer’s lowest moments. People use images of the haircutting and the umbrella attack to symbolize a person who has hit rock bottom by saying, “If you don’t love me at my Britney in ‘07, you don’t deserve me at my…”  

In 2020, her sister seemingly addressed the singer’s mental health after sharing a tweet from Halsey about bipolar disorders. “If you deal with mental illness or care for someone dealing with mental illness, then you know how important it is to respect the situation with privacy for the person and the family trying to protect their loved ones, no matter how it may appear to the public, and as the public, we must learn to do the same,” Jamie Lynn Spears wrote on Instagram at the time. “I pray this doesn’t bring shame to anyone dealing with mental illness, you are not alone, and you are loved. Sending all my love and prayers to all of you.”

A fan commented under the Instagram post: “How about your sister’s OBVIOUS mental illness? Why don’t you speak on that?” She shut them down by writing, “You have no right to assume anything about my sister, and I have NO right to speak about HER health and personal matters. She is a strong, badass, unstoppable woman, and that’s the only thing that is OBVIOUS.”

Justin Timberlake played a significant role in villanizing Britney

britney spears justin timberlake

When Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears began dating, it seemed like a match made in music heaven. They were the prince and princess of pop, but it all came crashing down when they split up. Rumors circulated that the “Gimme More” singer had been unfaithful, which caused the breakup. When Timberlake shared his story through his song “Cry Me A River,” which was about his girlfriend being unfaithful, people began to blame his ex for their collapse. He made it a point to incriminate her in the relationship’s demise by casting a model who looked like his ex in the music video.

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He also did an interview post-breakup in which he coyly confirmed that he had slept with the singer after she had publicly vowed to wait until marriage to lose her virginity. It all made it seem like Spears was the “bad guy” in the situation, and it began to chip away at the good girl image she and her team had perfectly crafted over the years. Following their split, the media then began to follow Spears’ every move regarding the men she was seeing and painted a picture that she was no longer the sweet, innocent girl she was while dating the former NSYNC member.

Misogyny was her biggest enemy

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The singer was forced to grow up way too quickly. She began her singing career as a teenager but quickly became a sex symbol, with people placing a constant and almost obsessive emphasis on her sexuality. Her virginity was a topic of conversation, and whether or not she was intimate with then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake was something everyone wanted to know. Thinking back on how young she was at the time is disheartening. At the peak of her career, she was a young woman with more money and more success than anyone could hope for, yet the public chose to zero in on what she did or didn’t do behind closed doors. It wasn’t enough for her to be America’s Sweetheart and the perfect girl next door—beautiful, young, thin, charismatic, talented— people wanted more from her.

She was scrutinized and criticized for being too sexy and provocative in her music, dancing, magazine covers, and clothing choices. Following her breakup from the “Mirror” singer, she began casually dating other famous men, which also became an issue. After she settled down with Federline and had two kids, the misogyny switched from criticisms about her appearance and sexuality to her parenting. Some even said that she was an unfit mother to her sons, Sean and Jayden. Being a massive pop star wasn’t enough, and neither was being a housewife and a mother. 

There was indeed nothing Spears could have done that would have satisfied the public. Famous men have so many opportunities to mess up and make mistakes, and they are welcomed back with open arms and given a chance to redeem themselves. It seems like Spears, and other women like her, have less wiggle room, and they are more susceptible to being torn apart if they do something wrong. Unfortunately, the “In the Zone” singer hasn’t been the only pop star to be shamed by the public for her personal choices. Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera, Janet Jackson, and others have found themselves as the center of attention as the public ridiculed them and ripped them to shreds, and the rest of us watched.

The paparazzi and tabloids capitalized on Britney’s downfall

britney spears umbrella

Many people owe her an apology

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So many people, including her family, judges, journalists, paparazzi, comedians, and maybe just all of us as a whole, owe her an apology. Looking back, the way her hardships were turned into tabloid fodder and became the butt of all the jokes at award shows, and late-night talk shows, must have been horrifying for her to experience. Even sit-down interviews with seasoned and respected journalists, like Diane Sawyer and Matt Lauer, were brutal. While watching interviews from the past, it’s clear how inappropriate a lot of the questions people asked her were, and no one would get away with that in this day and age. From being asked about her virginity during a press conference to being asked if she was unfaithful to her ex, Spears deserved better—as an artist and human being. Being a thorough interviewer is one thing; overstepping boundaries, sounding accusatory and condescending while badgering someone with questions is another. After clips of the 20/20 sit-down with Spears and Sawyer from 2003 appeared on the docuseries, fans demanded that the journalist apologizes for her sexist and rude remarks and questions. 

Fans are also targeting others like Sarah Silverman, who poked fun at the singer with cruel jokes amid all the controversy during an awards show. The comedian addressed a roast she did about Britney at the time after a fan called her out on Twitter. “I was known then for roasts. MTV asked me to mini-roast Britney after her big performance. While she was performing, I was having diarrhea & going over my jokes. Had no idea she didn’t kill. Unfortunate. Art changes over years as we know more & the world changes,” she tweeted. “I wish I could delete it, but I can’t. But you are posting it for people to see. So are you trying to be kind or right?” On the other hand, fans praised others, like Craig Ferguson, who refused to use Spears’ misfortune to entertain their audiences. 

I was known then 4 roasts. MTV asked me to mini-roast Britney after her big performance. While she was performing I was having diarrhea & going over my jokes. Had no idea she didn’t kill. Unfortunate. Art changes over yrs as we know more & the world changes.

— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) February 8, 2021

Britney Spears has been addressing the #FreeBritney movement

free britney protest

The singer is more open than ever about her desire to regain her autonomy. She has been publicly seeking changes and acknowledging her fans’ efforts through court documents presented by her lawyer. She also wants the sealed details of her case to be made available to the public. “At this point in her life, Britney welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans,” one court document read. “Britney herself is vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret.”

Her boyfriend, Sam Asghari, has also been vocal about how he feels about her father. Following the documentary’s release, Asghari shared his thoughts on Instagram, calling Jamie a “total dick.” TMZ caught up with him after the post, and he doubled down on his comments but said he hopes they can get along someday. “I hope so. Once he starts treating his daughter right, then we can be on good terms,” he told the outlet.

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For more, check out The New York Times Presents “Framing Britney Spears” episode available for streaming now on Hulu.

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