Framing Britney Spears: The Reveal of Her Life Behind-the-Scenes

Framing Britney Spears, released February 5, 2021, follows current details in the singer’s legal battles with her conservatorship as well as reframes our preconceived notions of the headlines and labels that have plagued Britney in the past. Directed by Samantha Stark, this documentary argues that Spears was, and continues to be, silenced and overpowered by those around her. This documentary provides an extremely revealing and compelling perspective on pop culture and the seedy behind-the-scenes life of fame. As part of a series of standalone documentaries by The New York Times, Framing Britney Spears is available to watch on Hulu and FX.

The documentary begins with videos of the Free Britney Movement along with statements from activists protesting her conservatorship. Early on, the documentary showcases the definition of a conservator as “one that preserves from injury or violation (protector), and a person, official, or institution designed to take over and protect the interests of an incompetent.” Prior to watching this documentary, I had known that Britney Spears had been entangled in a legal battle with her conservatorship, but the documentary shows how complex the situation truly is. 

During the height of Spears’s career she was known as the “Princess of Pop.” Two of her albums, Baby One More Time (1999), and Oops!… I Did It Again (2000), were globally popular and reached certified diamond status in the United States. Spears has landed six number-one albums on the Billboard 200 and also scored four solo number-one singles on the US Billboard Hot 100. Additionally, Spears has earned numerous awards throughout her career, including a Grammy Award, thirteen Guinness World Records, six MTV Video Music Awards, seven Billboard Music Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

But it is true that the brightest stars burn the fastest, and that is exactly what happened to Spears. In March 2002, following a very public break-up with Timberlake, Spears became the target for a lot of anger and criticism, with many mothers believing that she is a terrible influence for teenagers to be looking up to. For example, one prominent moment in the documentary is an audio clip of an interview with Kendel Ehrlich, wife of former Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich, saying, “really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would.” This break-up between Spears and Timberlake was the beginning of a bad narrative that would follow Spears for years to come.

Throughout her career, Spears has been mercilessly scrutinized by tabloids and paparazzi. While the public always saw what the tabloids chose to publish, they never saw the moments leading up or following it. 

One infamous moment in Spears’s post-Timberlake career was in 2007 when Spears filmed herself shaving her head. The documentary reveals that Spears’s message behind shaving her head was a statement that society had destroyed the girl she once was. But true to their nature, the media only presented the moment to the public as the moment Spears lost her mind. And that is just one example. The documentary is full of insightful moments that show the unaired side of Spears’s story. 

The culmination of the media’s vendetta against Britney Spears contributed to her father, James Spears, filing to be her legal conservator. Prior to this legal action, James was not a notable role in his daughter’s life. However, those around Britney throughout her career note that money was always the main focus for him. An interesting perspective that the documentary reveals is that Britney did not resist the conservatorship proceedings, but she did oppose her father being her conservator.

In addition to the revealing and fascinating nature of the documentary, it is also well-rounded from a production standpoint. The documentary features interviews from integral individuals including a friend of Spears’s, from before the fame to the present, who travelled alongside her throughout her career; the marketing executive who is responsible for creating Spears’s image; a lawyer currently involved in the conservatorship; and the lawyer that Spears had tried to employ during the beginning of the legal battle with her father. 

However, despite the impressive featured list, there is one person who is missing: Britney Spears herself. Her absence is evidence supporting the theory that the documentary suggests all along, that Spears is being controlled by others. In the final few minutes of the documentary, it is explained that while they had reached out to Spears for the film, it is unclear whether or not she ever received their request. 

Another aspect of the documentary that adds to the production value is the compilation of images, video, and media included. The documentary not only takes advantage of the photos of Spears from each time period mentioned, but it goes a step further in invoking the use of video clips and audio recordings that further establish the factual basis of the claims made in the documentary. 

I would highly recommend Framing Britney Spears to any of my fellow documentary lovers, but also anyone interested in pop culture. In addition to being a great documentary overall, it is also extremely relevant as Spears’s case is ongoing.

Image source: The Guardian.

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