The Los Angeles Times published today about the recent New York Times/FX/Hulu documentary: “Released Friday, the provocative documentary explores how the media mishandled coverage of Spears during both her brightest and darkest moments…”
Wait, I watched the documentary and it seemed to me that Britney played an enormous role in her own troubles. She used her sexuality to drive her career starting about age 15. The media handled their coverage according to the cues she provided. Britney was not an innocent lamb who was set upon by wolves. If she had not gone out in 2007 with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan sans panties and conducted herself in a way that encouraged graphic upskirt shots, the paparazzi would not have had and published those photos. The tabloids never had much interest in Meryl Streep because she does not provide them with fodder. Celebs who are dogged by the media usually say and do things that lead to their coverage. We all play a role, most of the time, in our own troubles.
Feb. 5, 2021, the Los Angeles Times published: “For 13 years, nearly every aspect of Britney Spears’ life — including major financial, professional and medical decisions — has been controlled by her father Jamie Spears through a court-approved conservatorship.”
Britney is in conservatorship because she could not handle her own life. In 2019, she went back to rehab, after 12 years in conservatorship.
The Feb. 5 Los Angeles Times continues:
Applying the rigor of a “Frontline” episode to a narrative that has been shaped by thinly sourced gossip and anonymous hearsay, “Framing Britney Spears” is also a pointed work of cultural criticism that might make some viewers feel guilt about idly gawking at pictures of Spears on Perez Hilton circa 2007.
By retelling her story from the vantage point of 2021 — at what we hope is a time of greater sensitivity to mental health issues and a heightened post-#MeToo understanding of the misogyny that pervades much of celebrity culture — the documentary encourages viewers to reconsider their ideas about Spears, her chaotic tabloid persona and her fervently devoted fans.
New York Times senior story editor Liz Day, who works on the paper’s branded FX docuseries “The Weekly,” says she was drawn to making a film about Spears because, she wondered, “How could the same person be able to perform at a very high level in Las Vegas as a superstar doing sold-out shows, making millions of dollars, but at the same time we’re being told that she is so vulnerable and at-risk that she needs this very intense layer of protection?”
What makes Spears’ conservatorship unusual — other than her extraordinary fame — is that these legal arrangements are typically designed for older people, often with dementia, who are incapable of making informed decisions or physically taking care of themselves. There’s a Catch-22 for people who attempt to terminate a conservatorship, Day explains. “If you are not necessarily in total control of your day-to-day life, or your finances, how do you prove that you can be in control of your finances and your day-to-day life?”
…“Framing Britney Spears” is the latest project to reconsider women once ridiculed and reviled because of their role in salacious scandals, such as Monica Lewinsky, Lorena Bobbitt and Paris Hilton. It asks us to ponder our collective complicity in the mockery and sexist criticism to which Spears has been subjected.
There are clips of a cruel segment from “Family Feud” (“name something that Britney Spears has lost in the last year”) and an ABC interview in which Diane Sawyer interrogates Spears about the end of her relationship to Justin Timberlake: “You caused him so much pain, so much suffering. What did you do?” The breakup marked a turning point in the media’s coverage of Spears and the beginning of a nasty backlash that continued during her ill-fated marriage to Kevin Federline.
Spears had the misfortune of breaking down as the vulturous tabloid culture of the mid-aughts reached its peak when a lucky paparazzo could make hundreds of thousands of dollars off a single celebrity snapshot.
The consequences of our bad choices can often be multiple times what we feel we deserve, but we usually play a role in our own misery.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” Ed McMahon asked her after a performance when she was 10 years old.
“Everyone’s talking about it,” another interviewer asked a teenage Britney. Talking about what? “Well, your breasts!”
The wife of Maryland’s then-governor said in 2003 that she would shoot the singer if given the opportunity. Diane Sawyer played that clip back to its subject, who called the comment “horrible.”
…This was the era of the celebrity-industrial complex, when Perez Hilton made his name following Paris Hilton around. The most interesting thing about artists was no longer their art, but rather their often-messy lives. “Stars … they’re just like us!” chirped the checkout-aisle magazines, introducing full-page spreads of Hollywood’s best grabbing lattes in shlumpy sweatpants.
…The New York Times documentary, titled “Framing Britney Spears,” runs through the worst hits of our grotesque treatment of a wunderkind turned Grammy winner — culminating in a court-sanctioned conservatorship.
…We are as much to blame as she is for what happened to a little girl from “The Mickey Mouse Club” years ago. We treated her like a cautionary tale until she became one. We stuffed her full of the faults we wished she would have, to feel better about ourselves — and our inability to be Britney Spears. We wrote her story for her, when we all deserve to write our own.