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Watching "Framing Britney Spears"

Spears in January 2014. Photo by Rhys Adams.

This week, I finally sat down to watch Framing Britney Spears, a 1 hour and 14 minute documentary by The New York Times about Spears’s rise to fame, the hardships she faced as a result, up to and including the ongoing conservatorship battle involving her father, Jamie.

Britney Spears signed with Jive Records in 1997, when she was only 15 years old. She had a major influence on the teen-pop genre phenomenon that occurred in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The American public's infatuation with this new star came with a lot of scrutiny, none of which boy bands were seen facing.

The documentary highlights the sexism that Spears faced in her career. She is asked about her sex life, what she did to cause the infamous breakup of her and Justin Timberlake, and how to dress if she is appealing to teenagers.

We all know that 2007 was a chaotic year for Britney. Her divorce was finalized, she was involved in a custody battle over her two sons, and suffered a very public mental breakdown in which she shaved her own hair off and hit a paparazzi’s car with an umbrella.

The documentary shows that not a lot of people were talking openly about mental health. Britney’s mother, Lynn, suspected that her daughter was suffering with postpartum depression. Rather than talking about how she could be treated, and what could be done to help her, she became a punchline for tabloids and television, because “There was too much money to be made off her suffering.”

This all led to multiple hospitalizations, which resulted in Britney’s father, Jamie, becoming a conservator for his daughter. He was now in full control of her business deals, finances, estate, and even medical records.

13 years later, Britney Spears has shown plenty of growth and progress, but is still stuck under the conservatorship. She stated last year that she is afraid of her father and wishes for him to step down from his role, but he refuses. Spears has vowed to stop working and performing as long as he is in charge of her career.

After watching the documentary, I was surprised at just how poorly Britney was treated. I was young when all of this happened, and didn’t know much about her at the time except that she made some music I liked to listen to. No man would have to face the kind of scrutiny that Spears faced throughout her career.

This documentary isn’t just about Britney and Jamie’s conservatorship battle. It is about misogyny within the media, the importance of openly speaking about mental health, and reforms that are necessary in conservatorship cases.

Today, we are a lot more open about mental health problems, and I just wish the same could have happened with Britney. I honestly don’t have a lot of words to express how heartbreaking it is to see what Britney had to go through. So I’m just going to leave it with free Britney. We are so sorry.

Framing Britney Spears is available to stream on Hulu.

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