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‘Framing Britney Spears’: New Documentary Sheds Light on the ‘Free Britney’ Movement


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Last Friday, the New York Times documentary: ‘Framing Britney Spears’ was released on Hulu— bringing to center-stage a fringe movement that has been fighting for the star’s release from her court-sanctioned conservatorship, and diving into the blatant sexism and misogyny which followed Britney’s every move during her tumultuous career.

Britney Spears has always been quite an enigma. Her larger-than-life persona became a staple of early 2000s pop-culture, and she has released countless hits including her 1999 classic: …Baby One more Time and Oops!… I Did It Again. But unfortunately for the ‘Princess of Pop,’ her talent was oftentimes overshadowed by the wild press which surrounded her. And as her career progressed, it seemed as though the media became much more interested in her downfall than her meteoric rise. By the late 2000s, Britney Spears had become a staple of tabloid culture. Paparazzi followed the young star wherever she went, documenting her every move, and profiting off of any of her less-than-flattering moments. “Everyone wanted a piece of Britney,” one photographer admits. And indeed— everyone managed to get a piece.

A photograph from Spears’ music video for her hit: …Oops I Did It Again. Photo sourced through MTV.

In the new documentary, no one escapes blame. The New York Times manages to bring to life the unjust handling of the star by the press— rewriting a narrative that has become a pillar of pop-culture. Indeed, the documentary examines how everyone from the paparazzi to ABC’s Diane Sawyer was at least partially responsible for Britney Spears fall from grace. In a particularly shocking scene, we watch a 2003 interview in which Sawyer tells then 22-year-old Spears that the first lady of Maryland would shoot her if she had the chance. Sawyer then goes on to defend the comments, telling Spears: “It’s because of the example for kids and how hard it is to be a parent.”

Diane Sawyer has received backlash for her 2003 Britney Spears interview. Fans are now calling for her to publicly apologize to Britney. Photo sourced through Variety.

Over the next five years, Spears endured a very-public ‘fall from grace,’ following a messy divorce from Kevin Federline and their public battle for their two children. By 2007, the star had had enough. And to the shock of her fans and the paparazzi, she famously shaved her head. A few weeks later, she made headlines again. This time for attacking paparazzi with a purple umbrella. At the time, the paparazzi were able to sell photos of the star for up to one-million dollars, according to the Sun. She later apologized for the incident and ended up checking herself into rehab.

However, this is where the star’s troubles really began, according to the new documentary. And due to the stints in rehab and the public breakdown, Britney’s father Jamie Spears was named conservator of her estate— giving him complete control of her finances and daily life.

This all happened 13 years ago, when Spears was 26. Now, Britney is a 39 year old mother. In the years since 2008 Spears has released numerous albums and has lived the life of a ‘busy pop star.’ And yet, Jamie continues to insist that she is not able to take care of herself or her finances. Her conservatorship years have been marked by Britney’s unusual silence, leading many fans to begin to suspect Jamie’s motives and the conservatorship as a whole. With few details about the star’s current situation made public, fans followed a gut instinct that something wasn’t right—launching the ‘Free Britney’ movement on social media to show support for the pop-star.

Fans continue to protest Britney’s conservatorship— both online and offline. Photo sourced through the BBC.

The movement has gained momentum in recent months, particularly after the star announced that she would not perform as long as her father remains her conservator. In November of last year, Spears lost a court bid to remove her father’s control over her estate. However, with the release of the new documentary, Britney’s plight has received more publicity than ever before. In the last couple of days numerous celebrities have entered the conversation, with everyone from Sarah Jessica Parker to Meghan McCain Tweeting: Free Britney. But the one person who has yet to enter the conversation is Britney Spears herself. And in this case, her silence really is deafening.

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