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Ms. American Dream: How Britney Spears Fell Victim to Modern Media

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks (or maybe just on your bimonthly, pandemic social media detox), you probably saw several articles and/or memes about the recent installment of The New York Times Presents series called “Framing Britney Spears”. The episode followed Britney’s career, outlining who she was as a young girl and into teenage stardom until her infamous 2007 “breakdown” that ultimately led to her current conservatorship. For those who don’t follow Britney on Instagram, it’s been rumored that she has plans to release a documentary about her life under her own jurisdiction. Many fans believe she alluded to the documentary via the several posts and captions featuring roses or references to “Project Rose”. The hulu special was an unrelated project, with director Samantha Stark reaching out to the Spears family and Britney herself. All members of the family, including her ex-husband, declined to appear in the film, and it was unknown if Britney even received the offer to appear in the documentary. 

In the beginning of the documentary, Britney was shown to be an extremely talented young girl with a deep singing voice. She was driven, personable, and creative from the start. As her career took off, the country quickly became obsessed with Britney Spears. She was the girl next door, but also an idealized picture of what every young woman could be. She was relatable, but refreshing, unique and shocking. As much as her young fan base admired her caring nature, sense of humor and kind-heart, the media developed a toxic infatuation with Britney. Paparazzi swarmed her just to get off-guard shots of her walking out of  coffee shops or bringing groceries to her car, which sold for thousands each. The worst shots sold for the most cash. The paparazzi shots quickly developed into gossip which then became the false reality. Her life was so exploited that interviewers crossed personal boundaries and reprimanded Britney for what occurred in her personal life. Just a few horrifyingly misogynistic interview quotes are listed below: 

“Because of the examples for kids and how hard it is to be a parent and keep all of this away from your kid. (…) It’s one thing to not want to be the role model anymore. It’s another thing not to know that a lot of young girls are looking at this…a lot of them” 

– Diane Sawyer (upon justifying a governor’s wife’s comment about wanting to “shoot Britney spears”)

 

Interviewer: “Everyone’s talking about it”

Britney: “Talking about what?”

Interviewer: “Your breasts.” 

– A middle-age male interviewer to a 17-year-old Britney Spears

 

“Are you a virgin?” 

– A reporter during a public press conference (…and many other journalists)

 

People have taken to social media to discuss that this type of misogyny is not tolerated today, especially to such a young girl. As Britney’s career continued, she got married, had children, and transitioned in adulthood all while the same behaviors from the media persisted. The media ridiculed Britney’s parenting, her relationship, how she looked, how her career was impacted by starting a family, etc.. The lines between what was actually occurring in Britney’s personal life and what the media suggested was happening drastically blurred. Britney eventually went through divorce, lost custody of her two children, publically shaved her head bald and smashed the paparazzi’s truck. The media was making a fortune off of her struggles with mental health and celebrity. Eventually, Britney’s father (who was unliked by many of Britney’s close friends and described as somewhat absent) became the conservator of Britney’s financial, career and personal affairs. A conservator is someone who has legal authority to manage the finances and daily life of one who experiences physical, mental or age-related impediments. However, Britney has actively sought out a lawyer and asked for a bank to be her conservator rather than her father. The proposal has been declined many times, despite the public’s theory that her father has ill intentions. 

Many fans believe Britney uses her instagram as a cry for help. Lately, she has been posting the same selfies over and over again. Many of her fans believe she is trying to show that she is not okay and wants help. One of her most recent captions read, “Another shot from the shoot I did for Just A Touch Of Rose ? ? !!! Red is still in motion … coming to theaters near you soon …. KIDDING ? ? ? !!!!!”. Fans were left scrounging in the comments section looking for answers about what is “Project Rose” and if this was her secret announcement of the project. Britney endured a lot during her career (which was outlined in further detail in the documentary episode). It’s upsetting to see women still experience this misogynistic treatment, whether in the public eye or not, and the lack of consideration our society has for people who struggle with mental health. With the powerful waves this documentary has made in the media, I hope that we can begin to reevaluate the way the media presents information to us, and change the harsh treatment that occurs over media platforms. Progress cannot be made if we continue to publicly fuel both misogyny and mental-illness stigma. You can watch this heartbreaking documentary on Hulu, and hopefully, contribute the waves until the ocean succumbs to our force. 

Jen is a junior nursing student at UNH from Lynnfield, MA. She currently works as a nurse's aide in Boston, and is a member of Alpha Xi Delta.
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