Britney Spears has been the subject of cruel jokes in the past, but times have changed.
After the New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears debuted on Hulu last week, there has been an outpouring of love and sympathy for the pop star from both fans and fellow celebs.
Rightfully so, given how the film captures her success, struggles and the intense media scrutiny she has faced over the years.
The doc is rooted in the #FreeBritney movement, fueled by an anonymous caller to Britney’s Gram: The Podcast in 2019 who claimed that Spears entered a mental health facility against her will, something her reps have denied.
The movement to try and end the lengthy conservatorship Spears has been under is indicative of society’s shifting attitudes toward mental health and gender equity.
It is pointed out in Framing Britney Spears that a male star may not have been treated the same as Spears, such as being labelled “crazy” and having a court appoint someone to oversee both her finances and her life.
Here are some of the people who are now facing the most criticism since the doc started streaming:
Jamie Spears: The star’s father has long been the subject of ire from those who don’t think he should be conservator over his daughter’s estate, and the documentary does not paint him in the best light.
The elder Spears has defended his actions.
“When a family member needs special care and protection, families need to step up, as I have done for the last 12-plus years, to safeguard, protect and continue to love Britney unconditionally,” Jamie Spears told CNN in December. “I have and will continue to provide unwavering love and fierce protection against those with self-serving interests and those who seek to harm her or my family.”
Justin Timberlake: Lots of people have taken to social media urging Timberlake to apologise to Ms. Spears, whom he dated from 1999 to 2002.
The documentary revisits what happened after their breakup, including the perception that Spears may have been unfaithful to Timberlake based on interviews he gave, as well as the music video for his song ‘Cry Me a River,’ which told a tale of cheating and included a Spears look-alike.
Some on Twitter are now accusing Timberlake of misogyny and making her life more difficult at the time. He has not publicly commented.
The paparazzi: Millions were made by photographers at the height of what looked to be a public meltdown by Spears in 2007, making her an even more sought-after subject than she previously had been.
Watching the cameras flash away and seeing a clearly distraught Spears being crowded by paparazzi over and over is disturbing.
Diane Sawyer: The longtime TV journalist has been the subject of backlash from viewers because of a clip from her 2003 Primetime interview with Spears, in which Sawyer asked her about Kendel Ehrlich, former first lady of Maryland and wife of then-Gov. Robert Erhlich, saying “… really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears I think I would.”
Sawyer’s comment about the quote — that it was “because of the example for kids and how hard it is to be a parent” — rubbed some the wrong way, though the media as a whole is being slammed for the amount of coverage devoted to Spears as she appeared to spiral.
I’ve written before about celebrity, mental health and the need for compassion, which very much factors into the Spears story.
But much in the same way she helped change the image of teen pop stars with her sexy outfits and determination to be herself and not just what the industry wanted her to be, the new documentary is a reminder that Spears also has helped to change attitudes about how much celebrities owe to their fans.
In her case, it’s the fans who have rallied around Spears to assist in getting back the power over her life they believe she is being denied.