The 6 Most Disturbing Elements of the Britney Spears Documentary
I watched the Britney Spears documentary this week. I’m still shaken up by it. Britney was a huge part of my high school experience. I remember seeing Crossroads. I remember seeing her in concert and singing along to “Drive Me Crazy.”
And now, after this documentary, I realize that I didn’t know her at all.
I had no idea how much manipulation and misogyny she was subjected to. I just listened to the music and went on my way. All the while, she was poked and prodded and misused.
The “Framing Britney Spears” documentary is on Hulu now. I highly recommend watching it. But, if you want a round-up of some of the most disturbing elements, I’ve included them here. Spoiler warning in case you haven’t watched yet.
Ed McMahon Asking a 10-year-old Britney If She Has a Boyfriend
It starts young with Britney. If you want to trace back why she went down the road that she did, you have to look at the people around her. How they speak to her. How they interact with her. What they expect from her.
Britney Spears sings on Star Search when she’s 10 years old. Her voice is beautiful. Her confidence at such a young age is impressive. And when she gets off stage, Ed is waiting for her.
He does not ask about her talent or her interests. He asks if she has a boyfriend.
It feels like a gut punch. And also, it feels incredibly familiar. How many women have been asked about their relationship rather than their accomplishments? Too many. But, God, does it really start this young?
Britney says she doesn’t have a boyfriend because boys are mean. Fair. He corrects her saying, “You mean all boys are mean? I’m not mean, how about me?” She backs up her statement and says, “Well… that depends.”
This exchange is gross. He’s making her question herself. And it’s just the start of a lifetime of misogyny for her.
The Family Feud Question: “What Did Britney Lose This Year?”
When I watched this clip, I felt sick. In a 2008 episode of Family Feud, John O’Hurley asks the contestants, “Name something Britney Spears has lost this year.”
The contestants are eager to respond. “Her husband!” “Her hair!” “Her sanity!” An audience laughs and cheers. I honestly couldn’t believe what I was watching. Here is a woman struggling with her mental health, being bombarded by the paparazzi, losing her kids, and watching her marriage dissolve.
She was not even 30 years old yet and her life was a game show joke.
Can you imagine a world where this was not only tolerated but passes for entertainment? Here’s a woman who is slowly spiraling in the public eye, and the more she does, the more that the world tears her apart for it.
Jude Ellison Sady Doyle writes of Britney in “The Way We Treated Britney Spears Was a Sign of What Was to Come” for Gen, “She’s the Girl We Wouldn’t Leave Alone, the all-American blonde who became the greatest train wreck of her generation.”
I wholeheartedly believe that Family Feud should issue an apology. This is inexcusable.
The Diane Sawyer Interview
Again, I’m disgusted. This interview should never have played out the way that it did. As a professional woman, I can’t understand how Diane Sawyer would entertain this line of questioning. This makes it even clearer that no one was on Britney’s side.
It begins with her questioning Britney’s breakup with Justin Timberlake.
“He has gone on television and pretty much said you broke his heart. You did something that caused him so much pain, so much suffering. What did you do?”
Diane Sawyer, you don’t know anything about this relationship. She is a 21-year-old woman. How dare you blame her. Why are you so sure that Britney did something? What if she just lost interest? What if it was it was his fault?
It is unfathomable that Diane Sawyer would interview Britney as a chance to ambush her.
It does not end there. She then mentions a comment that Kendall Ehrlich — Maryland’s then first lady — said, “Really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would.”
Britney gets visibly upset and Diane Sawyer takes Ehrlich’s side. Really? While Britney is young at this point, Diane is a full-fledged adult. She is constantly trying to straddle the line between her virginal image and her sexuality. And — I’d venture to guess — that’s not her fault at all. That’s her team’s fault. The ones who crafted her image in the first place.
Fans are calling for an apology from Diane Sawyer, and again, I second that.
The Disregard in Britney’s Wishes for Her Conservatorship
The conservatorship issue will break your heart. It will also infuriate you.
In 2008, her father petitioned the court for temporary conservatorship. As the documentary explains, a conservatorship like Britney’s is rare. Normally, these are put into effect for older adults who aren’t able to make decisions for themselves. Not for a 27-year-old woman with mental health struggles.
The conservatorship controls literally every aspect of her life.
In the documentary, Britney’s lawyer explains that her one request was that her father not be in charge of this. She wanted a bank to be in charge. Since its onset, Britney has appealed her father’s control in court.
If Britney is going to need to stay under a conservatorship model, God, I hope it can be on her own terms. That’s the least that she could do.
There was nothing better for entertainment than a woman — a woman as famous as Britney Spears — breaking down.
The Video Clips of The Paparazzi Barraging Her
I think we all knew that the paparazzi can be a piece of sh*t. We’ve heard celebrities like Justin Beiber call out the paparazzi. We’ve heard celebrities like George Clooney and Kristen Bell and Adele sue the paparazzi for crossing the line.
But I had no idea how horrible they could be until this documentary.
The continuous flashing. The yelling. The prodding of invasive questions. Britney could not go anywhere without being harassed by cameras and bodies and people trying to get something from her.
How is this any way to live? How could any Hollywood hopeful prepare for something like this?
We watch the night of the umbrella unfold onscreen. When you watch it, you can see her getting more and more upset. The tabloids will later call it her “shaved head meltdown” and they call her a “time bomb.” There was nothing better for entertainment than a woman — a woman as famous as Britney Spears — breaking down.
The paparazzo, Daniel Ramos, will later auction off the umbrella from the incident. And the world laughed when Britney needed help the most.
“There Was Too Much Money to Be Made Off Her Suffering.”
I’ll leave you with this line from New York Times critic-at-large Wesley Morris.
The world cashed in as a woman suffered.
How did we let this happen? Diane Sawyer, Justin Timberlake, John O’Hurley. It’s easy for us to blame other celebrities for this demise. It’s easy to blame the paparazzi, too. But, if we are really being honest, we have to blame the consumers.
It’s our fault, too.
We can call for these celebrities to apologize and they should. But we need to apologize, too. We need to be careful about our consumption. We need to be thoughtful about where we put our attention because someone is making money off of it.
I’m sorry, Britney Spears. I’m sorry for consuming and believing the narrative around you. I’m sorry for watching as you suffered.