I watched ‘Framing Britney Spears’ and it gave me a rude awakening

I watched ‘Framing Britney Spears’ and it gave me a rude awakening

By Dominique Hodge

The most recent episode of “The New York Times Presents,'' titled “Framing Britney Spears” highlights the concerns of the #FreeBritney movement and what led to the star’s controversial conservatorship. Only three minutes in, I realized that this episode was going to unveil something that would follow me.

“The New York Times Presents'' is a series compiled with documentary-styled episodes about various topics.As someone not privy to conservatorships or the #FreeBritney movement, I went in pretty blind. The episode did an exceptional job at explaining all things that were necessary to understand the gravity of the situation. From the background of the singer to divorce drama to the daunting and problematic conservatorship, the masterful storytelling connects every piece.

With the help of Felicia Culotta, Britney’s friend and former assistant, I felt like I was formally introduced to the real Britney Spears: what she was like, where she came from and her heart for singing. It was comforting to hear stories about the singer’s upbringing. Britney was just a joyful little girl from a small, sleepy town in Louisiana. She sang in the church choir, she had extraordinary talent and happened to like cheesy grits.

The utilization of testimonies from those who helped catapult her career and seeing Britney in action emitted so many feelings of joy. Britney held her own in a time when boy bands dominated the charts. Even though I never really was a fan, it was hard not to love her energy. Watching her become famous with her hit song, “...Baby One More Time” and her passion as a young artist made me dread the inevitable fall from grace.

The episode makes it very clear that what Britney did at this time of her life was her choice. She valued the control and artistic freedom she had regardless of the public’s mixed reactions to her. Misogyny, public misconceptions and the scrutiny she was under after her breakup with Justin Timberlake foreshadowed the heavy press presence that would follow her in the years to come.

Britney Spears is not just an artist; she is a person. The entire documentary emphasizes that message. The overwhelming amount of press coverage and stalking from paparazzi would drive anyone crazy. It is hard not to feel empathetic and disheartened watching the singer be plagued with negativity and look helpless when trying to avoid all of the unwanted attention.

I felt guilty because I did not know much about Britney Spears. I knew about the negative coverage and ran with the “she’s crazy” mindset. In reality, Britney was just going through a rough time. She lost custody of her kids, she had just gone through a divorce and she was feeling pressure from all sides. This sparked the creation of a conservatorship between Britney and her father, Jamie Spears.

Jamie Spears was appointed by a judge to have control over Britney and Britney’s finances. At the time, this seemed understandable because it seemed to be temporary and Britney needed to get her life together. Nobody stays down for too long and she was no exception. As the years went by, she seemed as good as new with more songs and performances on the way. But the documentary shines light on the weird activity going on behind the scenes.

There are so many instances where Britney proves that she is perfectly capable of taking care of herself and her estate. Yet Jamie and everyone else involved in her conservatorship controls every aspect of her life and gets big shares of her finances. He controls when she sees her kids, how often she performs, the medicine she takes and more.

There has even been speculation that Jamie has taken over Britney’s social media accounts. This is concerning because many feel that Britney’s social media is where she sends coded messages about what was really going on. A common theme in her posts is feeling trapped or being in trouble. Spears has gone on record saying that she is afraid of her father, Jamie.

Jamie Spears is painted as a money-hungry and abusive man. He is even rumored to have struck one of Britney’s children in a violent outburst. After sitting through that episode, I felt the panic that all of the #FreeBritney supporters and people in her life felt. There is clearly something wrong here if she is trying to get out of it and cannot even speak for herself.

The fact that Jamie is fighting so hard to keep this control over Britney and her money leaves me with so many questions: Why does he need to have such a heavy hand in her life? Why doesn’t he just let her have ownership back when she seems to be doing well? If she is truly happy, why is she trying to actively remove Jamie from control? What is going on?

The #FreeBritney movement — as demonstrated in this episode — wants to know these answers as well. They plan on supporting Britney in her fight for independence from Jamie and the rest who control her. The episode makes it clear from the beginning that Spears is strong and likes to have control. She is happiest when she feels in control.

Even if Britney is being treated well and there is nothing going on with this conservatorship, it would be nice to hear it from Britney herself — on her own terms.

Edited by Chloe Konrad | ckonrad@themaneater.com

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