Reviews by mars
The New York Times' new docuseries tackles the media's portrayal of Spears and her ongoing conservatorship battle
February 1, 2008: Britney Spears is placed under a legal conservatorship of both her person and her estate, managed by her father, Jamie Spears. Now, thirteen years later, Britney continues her fight for freedom.
The special features exclusive new interviews with Britney’s former assistant, reporters who have studied Britney’s career, attorneys (one who once represented Britney's father, Jamie Spears, and now is once again) with insight into the case, and passionate fans speaking out to #FreeBritney from the arrangement that has controlled her life for more than a decade.
Noticeably absent were direct interviews with the Spears family - including Jamie, Lynne, her mother, and Britney herself. In fact, the special ends on a chilling note - that Britney was contacted to “request... participation in this project. It is unclear if she received the requests.”
“Framing Britney Spears” presents a rare glimpse into the controversial world of Britney’s legal battle and marks the most public showing of this tragic story since the conservatorship’s start. 2008’s “Britney: For the Record” briefly features Britney speaking out about feeling confined and controlled, comparing her current situation to a never-ending jail sentence. Since then, not a word has been spoken publicly about the case. Spears remains silenced with her handlers closely observing every interview, pre-submitting approved questions to ask, and requesting final approval over the article's content.
Britney Spears is a massive brand and has enough earnings to warrant a professional overseeing her money whether that be a wealth advisor, a money manager, anyone professionally trained to handle large sums of wealth. This type of arrangement does not require Britney to forfeit control over her estate entirely with no say over where it is spent and invested. Nonetheless, the court determined that Britney's father, who had zero experience handling a business of this magnitude and formerly filed for bankruptcy, was to take the reins of Britney's multi-million-dollar fortune.
The inner workings of the conservatorship have remained a mystery to this day, and while the story of Britney’s ongoing battle has gained increased media attention, the information presented tonight is nothing earth-shattering to the star’s biggest fans. There are additional rumors as to the involvement of Britney’s conservatorship team in continuing their self-proclaimed “hybrid business model” and why Britney’s net worth is reported to be noticeably less than where it should be based on annual Forbes reporting. There was no investigation into Britney’s financial records and no mention of the fact that her team stated in court documentation that she suffered from dementia at 26-years-old.
One wonders how a woman in her late 20’s with diagnosed dementia was later able to promote and perform a brand new album on a global tour within a year of this diagnosis - memorizing song lyrics to record and perform, choreography, interviews, etc. If Spears truly does not have the capacity to determine the outcome of her own life, why have her record, release, and promote four studio albums, collaborative hit singles, four concert tours, a stint as a judge on The X Factor in 2012, and perform in Las Vegas 3-4 nights per week for four years, raking in $1 million per week? Something doesn’t add up, and frankly, it never has.
The documentary succeeds in both balancing Britney’s meteoric rise to fame with today’s conservatorship concerns - how each event set the course for where we land today - and spreading word about such a public figure’s private battle.
But more than anything, “Framing Britney Spears” shows one of, if not, the most tragic cases in the American media spectacle. It has become a cliche in American pop culture to both skyrocket stars into the upper echelons of celebrity, praising one’s artistic achievements before swiftly reversing course and taking pleasure in watching one’s downfall. No American superstar has faced this worse than Britney Spears.
The episode also tackles how, from a young age, Britney was poorly treated and villainized by the paparazzi and press. Copious amounts of clips show Britney being oversexualized, critiqued for her actions, or publicly bullied for entertainment - see 1992’s Star Search host Ed McMahon asking a 10-year-old Britney about not having a boyfriend and commenting on her “pretty eyes" and 2003’s Dateline interview with Diana Sawyer placing the blame of the Timberlake breakup on her as the “school slut” who betrayed the “quarterback.” How about Kendel Ehrlich, wife of the former Maryland governor, saying that she would “shoot Britney Spears” if given the opportunity to do so. How about the cringeworthy Family Feud footage turning her life struggles into pure entertainment by posing the question, “Name something Britney Spears has lost in the last year.” The answers ranged from “her husband” to “her mind” and “her hair,” turning one’s very public mental health and personal struggles into a joke for audience applause.
For over a decade, thousands of people, directly and indirectly, profited from the downfall of Britney Spears - not a robot controlled by her label, but rather a person, an artist, a loving mother, sister, and friend. Paparazzi and 2000s media giants took control of Spears’ narrative and presented her in a way that both silenced her voice and demolished her public image while thickening their wallets at Britney’s expense.
Had these events occurred in today’s age, Spears’ story and struggles would be addressed in an entirely different manner - one more sensitive, one more focused on raising women up rather than tearing them down for embracing her sexuality, one emphasizing the importance of mental health and overcoming trauma rather than villainizing someone for his or her biggest struggles.
Ultimately, what comes, both legally and personally, of the docuseries is unknown although the documentary ends on an optimistic note. There remains a myriad of unanswered questions and a lack of clarity into the inner workings of the conservatorship, but for now, Britney continues to push for her father to be removed from his role and refuses to work until her wish is fulfilled. One can dream of a day where Britney gets her way and is free to live her life as she wishes - to be able to drive a car without prior permission, to spend her money as she sees fit, to marry her true love, and live her life without fear. The world continues to watch on, but it surely owes Ms. Spears an apology.
NY-based, 26-year-old, music-obsessed and loves to write about it.