10 min read
At first glance, there's not much about the Britney Spears story that the average Joe can relate to. She is a superstar whose public breakdown – triggered by abusive treatment by paparazzi and unfriendly media monitoring – put her in the "crazy" bucket and placed her under an extremely unusual conservatory. (These court-ordered guardianship arrangements are usually reserved for elderly people who can no longer support themselves.) Her father, Jamie Spears, with whom she had not been close for years when he became her curator in 2008, was responsible for her $ 60 million net worth since then.
In other ways, Spears, for all its clutter and imperfections, had proven itself to be deeply dependable to fans for decades. This is partly why a #FreeBritney movement has skyrocketed in recent years. Fans look to Britney's often cryptic Instagram account for clues as to whether she is trapped in the Conservatory against her will. The New York Times Presents documentary Framing Britney Spears takes a close look at all of this: the #FreeBritney movement, secrecy, and how Spears was treated by the media before and after her collapse. In the film, it becomes clear how many different ways Spears was betrayed. And while we may not all have millions of dollars and paparazzi behind us, there are lessons to be learned on how to find people in a life we can trust and how to leave the shallow judgments of others to see the version of yourself to be yourself you want to be.
1. You can't please everyone
This was made very clear to Spears from the start of her career. Even as she skyrocketed, sold out world tours and raved millions of fans, she has been harshly criticized for her image and looks. Her schoolgirl personality "Baby One More Time" enraged critics who accused her of sexualizing little girls – who also happened to be her most dedicated fans. But Spears was only 17 years old at the time. It's hard to imagine that a teen who had just signed to a strong record label should a) make all the decisions behind the looks she wore or b) be held responsible for how their outfits got little girls to dress . And it certainly wasn't justified for Diane Sawyer to inform Spears in a 2003 interview that Maryland Governor's wife Kendel Erlich had said, "If I really had the chance to shoot Britney Spears, I probably would to do." What's worse is that Sawyer then seems to justify Erlich's comment, saying, "Because of the example of children and how hard it is to be parents."
Spears, then 21, looked really horrified. But she kept her composure and said, "Oh, that's terrible. This is really bad … that's really sad that she said that. I'm not here to babysit her kids." Sawyer kept squeezing and showed Spears pictures of himself in various revealing outfits. He asked, "What happened to your clothes?" Spears defended himself, saying, "It's about taking a beautiful picture. I'm comfortable with myself. I think it's okay to express yourself."
2. If you don't take control of your narration, other people will
In the same interview (which was pretty horrible by feminist standards from start to finish), Sawyer also questioned Spears about the details of her split from Justin Timberlake, including his baseless allegations that she cheated on him. Sawyer even asked if Spears was still a virgin. Spears wouldn't give any details about their relationship, although she later said she really believed they were going to get married. Timberlake and Spears became the first true celebrity couple at the height of the tabloid power. They had met as children at the Mickey Mouse Club and remained friends until they began dating in their early twenties. They often publicly expressed their love for one another and wore matching outfits with red carpets. The country was possessed. When they split, Timberlake implied that she had cheated on him in his music video "Cry Me a River" and told Howard Stern they had sex. The paparazzi attention and the media chastisement of Spears afterwards were brutal, and undeniably added to their downward spiral of mental health soon after.
In the documentary, New York Times cultural critic Wesley Morris commented on how the media automatically took Timberlake's side in all of this, saying, “What can you say about misogyny? There is a whole infrastructure in place to support this, and when it is time for people to come to a woman in a misogynistic culture, there is a whole apparatus out there ready to do it. "
3. If you are a woman – especially a mother – expect the judgment to be relentless
Things really started to go south after Spears married their backup dancer Kevin Federline and had two children with him. As a young mother, her every move was photographed by paparazzi. They would push her and her sons as soon as she stepped out the door and followed her everywhere. Once when she was trying to escape a situation that alarmed her, she drove away with her eldest son on her lap and the conviction was quick. In a 2006 interview, Matt Lauer told Spears that people said she was a bad mom. She replied, "This is America for you." But later in the interview, she broke off crying and said she didn't know what it would take to get the paparazzi to leave her alone.
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4. People's lives cannot be reduced by a picture or a headline
Perhaps the seminal picture of Spears' unraveling was the picture of her with a shaved head attacking a paparazzo's car with an umbrella. This moment was relentlessly ridiculed by the media and talk show hosts. The reaction was almost dizzy. But the paparazzo who took the pictures, Daniel Ramos, was interviewed for the documentary, and his report brings to light a more complete picture of what happened.
First, while her decision to shave her head was seen as irrefutable evidence that she had gone mad, on closer inspection it was obviously a calculated – albeit impulsive – statement and a desperate plea to leave alone become. It was a way to remove the last of the bubbly, innocent Britney the media had accused her of not living. In the documentary, Morris says, "She's essentially hairlessly saying, I'm quitting. Whatever you're looking for, in terms of me coming back and being that person again, that person is gone and you destroyed them. The idea that people could look at this and just see one crazy person … well, that just tells me what cultural society they originally worked with. "
Plus, she found herself in understandably poor headspace the night Spears attacked the paparazzo's car with the umbrella. She had just tried to see her children who were with Federline. By then, she and Federline were in the middle of a messy divorce and Federline wasn't going to let her into the house. After that, she was robbed and sat in the car at a gas station, waiting for her cousin to come out. The paparazzi came to her car and took photos right next to her face in the window while asking her how she was doing. After trying to ensure privacy, she picked up the umbrella.
In the documentary, Ramos said: "She worked on it for so many years and never gave us any hint or information that I would appreciate it if you leave me alone." The interviewer of the documentary asks: "What if she said: & # 39; leave me alone? & # 39; & # 39; Ramos replies: & # 39; There were times when she said, 'Can you leave me alone for the day? But it wasn't like, "Leave me alone forever." You know what I mean? "
5. Money brings out the worst in people
During that time, Ramos tells the interviewer, he could get $ 1 million for a photo of Spears. The messier, more open the shot, the better. "It attracts you," he admits, "and it's hard to get out of it when you start making the money these guys made." But the paparazzi didn't function in a void. The celebrity gossip machine that got out of hand. Everywhere, from nightly talk shows to print magazines like Us Weekly to websites like Perez Hilton and Jezebel that breathlessly covered Spears as a spectacle and made many eyeballs about it. Spears asked for relief from the attention, but no one cared because it was fun and financially lucrative to cover it.
The motives of the people closest to her were no less suspect. In 2007, Spears met Sam Lufti, a sketchy character who has been linked to numerous vulnerable celebrities, including Amanda Bynes. He joined Spears at a time when she was in dire need of assistance, and her family was alerted that he was controlling her for his own financial gain. In an injunction filed against him in 2008, Britney's mother, Lynne Spears, says that Lufti "has essentially moved into Britney's house and allegedly taken control of her life, home and finances".
Lufti has continued to molest the family over the past decade, and in 2019 a judge granted the Spearses another five-year restraining order. However, during the trial for this case, Britney's father, Jamie Spears, admitted when questioned by the judge, "My daughter's relationship has always been strained." Conservatory critics have emphasized from the outset that Jamie Spears was enriched by his daughter's wealth. Aside from an annual salary of $ 130,000 paid by the conservatory, he made 1.5% of the $ 137.7 million his daughter made for her stay in Las Vegas. In August 2020, Britney made it clear she wanted to drop out of the conservatory and her court-appointed attorney said she was "firmly against" her father being responsible for her affairs. The judge ruled that a third party (a bank) would share the conservatory with Jamie, which reduced his power but did not remove him from the conservatory.
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