In past weeks, there has been significant noise on social media about the #FreeBritney movement due to the recent release of “Framing Britney Spears” in The New York Times’ documentary. This hour-long documentary recounts the rise to frame and conservatorship of Britney Spears, but there are also interesting themes inserted through the film that many women could find relatable. Although the story focuses on Britney’s experience as a woman, there are notions of sexuality and sexism that reflect our society. I highly suggest watching the documentary to understand more about her life and the whole situation regarding these issues. Before watching this documentary, I thought of the #FreeBritney was only about letting Britney Spears control her money again. Yet, I found so many deeper societal issues that are present in this case that make this more of feminist issue than just a white woman’s economic issue. For this article, I want to break down the three main themes of “Framing Britney Spears” and share my thoughts. Furthermore, I want to explain why you should care about the #FreeBritney movement.
First, the film depicts the sexualization of Britney from the moment she stepped into the spotlight. At first, she was labelled as the typical all American girl next door, but this narrative placed upon her became a large controversy as soon as she represented her sexuality in her music. In the film, you can watch interview clips from the early 2000’s of her being scrutinized for this. Additionally, there became a huge mystery created about whether she was a virgin. Which to me, is incredibly inappropriate to ask someone as it is no one’s business. One of the interview clips that stuck to me the most is when an interview referred to her as virginal somedays, but sexy others and he asked her which one is she? This question bothered me so much! The idea that women can only be virginal or sexy is so toxic and sexist. Women are socialized to fit into a certain box whether that be a funny girl or a pretty girl, but honestly, we don’t need boxes, forget about them! I think one of the ideas was more understanding for a lack of better words that women can be multiple things at once, not just categorized as sexy or not. Britney really did break down some of the barriers regarding female sexuality and we love that.
One of the saddest parts of the documentary is the exploration of sexism in shaping Britney’s life. Without further ado, here are all my long and jumbled thoughts on how the media and Justin Timberlake villainized Britney Spears. Honestly, it is so sickening to see all the nasty narratives and headlines created about her. And for what? One example is when Britney went through custody battles with her ex-husband, the media painted her to look like a bad mother. Truly crazy that grown adults thought it was okay to create damaging narratives like that. So, that brings up the question; why create damaging narratives and headlines? In my opinion, I think it was quite easy to target women and to convince people that this woman is bad. There are countless examples of this happening to other women, just look at Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Taylor Swift. Once a woman shows that she is not this male-created, idealized, and unattainable image, they become easily disliked. In the case of Justin Timberlake, he created the narrative of Britney as the “school slut” through his “Cry Me a River” single stating that she cheated on him. The society back then decided that yes, Britney is a “school slut” without even considering her side of the story. I am not condoning cheating on your partner, but I do not think anyone should receive the title of “slut” based off rumors! To conclude on this point, I think sexism is still a huge problem within society and I am glad that there have been many conversations online about the sexist treatment of female celebrities. Here is to the elimination of it entirely someday!
Finally, it is now time to talk about the conservatorship. Britney has been under this legal agreement since 2008 that allows for her father (the conservator) to control everything about her life. Originally, this was a plan to help Britney control her life when she was going through severe mental health issues in that year. Yet, here is the tea. Conservatorships are usually for people who are unable to keep care of themselves and their assets. The film explains that most cases of conservatorships are regarding elderly people. I understand that I do not know Britney’s health, but I would infer that a Las Vegas residency would have to take a significant amount of mental and physical strength to complete. I find it to be sketchy that Britney Spears can work like a normal human being, but her rights and money are restricted. Britney’s father receives money to be the conservator and in all, controls what she can do with her own money and her work schedule. Another interesting aspect of this case, is that her mother has no role in the conservatorship, yet she was the most present figure in her life while her father was not. A little weird, don’t you think? In addition to all this, Britney has publicly stated that she wants her father removed as the conservator, but she has lost this appeal in court so far. I do not know about you, but this whole story has so many patriarchal themes. In my opinion, Britney’s father is using and abusing Britney’s labour for economic gain. For some reason, he continues to be able to control her. Overall, this story proves that men are still here forcing control over women when females have their own agency. Britney deserves to be free of this conservatorship. If she can perform world tours; she seems capable of attending to her own decisions. Men should not be allowed to control women in unneeded times.