Why You Need to Watch the Britney Spears Documentary

When I first heard about the Britney Spears documentary from my roommate, I raced to my computer and opened Hulu at lightning speed. I’ve loved Britney since elementary school when I used my screenless iPod to play “Baby, One More Time” and “Circus” on repeat. I expected to learn about the conservatorship, which I did, but I also learned about the bigger picture: the media and the world treated her with disrespect, and it’s a huge problem for women in the limelight. 

The film starts with Britney’s childhood and how she grew to be the star she is today. She started traveling and singing in malls to promote herself until she soared with the release of  “Baby, One More Time.” She remained humble as her fame grew, and she eventually became the biggest female pop star of the late 90s and early 2000s, but this recognition came with severe drawbacks. 

In interviews in the documentary, the focus typically leads to her intimate life, where she was repeatedly asked if she was a virgin, to which she would uncomfortably laugh and reply “yes.” Regardless of gender, this is an inappropriate question for a national interview, but it makes it worse that she’s so young at the time.

Britney’s prime came at a time when women were talked of in poor light. The documentary provides clips of Jay Leno describing Monica Lewinsky as “cheap” and “slutty.” In a similar fashion, a male interviewer told Britney: “To many, you are a contradiction. On the one hand, you’re a sweet, innocent virgin type. On the other hand, you’re a sexy vamp in underwear.” And it only gets worse. 

person sitting in front bookshelf Sam McGhee/Unsplash

Those interviewed in the documentary talk about how after the breakup between Justin and Britney, Justin alluded to the idea that she cheated on him even though there is no evidence of this. This led to all of Britney’s interviews focusing on Justin, and not one supported her. ABC’s “Primetime Thursday” hosted an interview with her, where she was asked, “you did something that caused him so much pain, so much suffering. What did you do?” 

This documentary was not about what a conservatorship is, but about how the media took a young girl in the 90s and relentlessly bent her until she broke, then laughed at her downfall. It’s easy to see the infamous head-shaving and window-shattering coming knowing the stress and pressure Britney faced. The truth of the matter is that Britney was wronged. Interviewers were too busy asking her questions about Justin Timberlake or her intimate life to actually learn about her as a person. No one knew Britney Spears, and now because of the conservatorship, we still don’t. 

This documentary exposed the flaws with how women are treated in the media. And while things have improved, they are nowhere near where they should be. Since the documentary, more and more celebrities have come out with their stories on how poorly they were treated. Kim Kardashian recently spoke out about how she also felt attacked by the media during her pregnancy. People constantly compared her to Shamu the Whale while she was already distressed by the weight she was gaining (which was totally normal).

Whether you are a Britney fan or not, this documentary is an important watch to understand the double standard in media (and in general). It points out the obvious differences between how women are treated versus men and how this affects the amount of pressure they’re under. The positive side of this documentary is that the #FreeBritney movement has empowered women to come forward with their stories on how the media manipulated their image. These stories coming out are incredibly important for girls to hear to know that they should not be shamed for who they are or what they go through. If you glean anything from this documentary, it should be that women deserve better (oh, and #FreeBritney).