How ‘framing Britney Spears’ frames the insidiousness of sexism with surprising clarity


If you, like me, are a fan of Britney Spears and pop culture in general, not much to learn explicitly in “Framing Britney Spears,” the latest episode of FX on Hulu The New York Times presents series of short documentaries. But the information, constructed by the producer / director Samantha stark, is presented with such astonishing clarity, efficiency and frankness that you will have no choice but to shout “Free Britney and as we’re at it, free our society from so many problems that are still relevant today.” ! ”

Sexism is a devastating, churning force of man-made destruction, and being a pop star didn’t protect Spears from that, but rather amplified it. Raw footage from all kinds of media in the documentary shows male forces constantly commenting on Spears’s body in relation to a man’s enjoyment and consumption. Ed McMahon, talking to a very young Spears in Star search, asks him not about his raw talent, but if he has a boyfriend and if he would consider being his. Later in her stardom, a male talk show host explicitly asks Spears about her breasts and then scolds her for seeming upset about it. The male paparazzi chase her and literally surround her at every turn, peppering her with “death by a thousand paper cuts” questions asked with such a condescending demeanor, abjectly refusing to listen to her pleas to leave her alone (Chris crocker was always correct). The world analyzes, criticizes, and mocks every decision Spears makes, without bothering to understand that many of her decisions are reactions to this very famous apparatus of destruction. Perez Hilton proudly proclaims that when Britney Spears does it wrong, she does it right.

Justin TimberlakeA star who rose at the same time as Spears, a star who had a publicized relationship with her, doesn’t get the same treatment. Instead, he helps spread Spears’ annihilation, painting her as a whore in his “Cry Me a River” video and joking about taking her virginity in radio appearances. He manages to escape the brunt of the criticism society seems too eager to impose on Spears. He removed many grenades himself and later blamed her for the explosions.

A still from Framing Britney Spears

Image via FX on Hulu

Sadly, it’s no wonder that this constant buzz of sexism, burnout, and rights culminates in such an aggravating way with as literal a Spears property as can be claimed under the law. During her many public mental health woes – moments like shaving her head and attacking with an umbrella that we’ve dealt with for so long as auctions, moments that were clearly exacerbated by all these horrible outside forces – Spears was placed under tutelage. This means that all of your assets and much of your personal autonomy belong to external forces. In this case, it is his father, Jamie spears. As this documentary clearly says of everyone who knew Spears at any time, Jamie Spears is an abusive, neglectful, and toxic force in her daughter’s life. For him, taking control so directly and so legally blessed by so many institutions is positive proof of how insidious, pervasive, how vulture the force of sexism remains.

And yet “Framing Britney Spears” offers some hope, as does our current landscape of pop culture. It often takes a sacrifice to progress. Today’s female pop stars, people like Ariana Grande, Stallion Megan Thee, Taylor SwiftY Billie eilishThey are frank about their self-ownership, their struggles for mental health, their relationship to their own femininity. All this is reflected not only in his lyrics, his videos, his live performances, but in his frank and directly communicated social media accounts. Without a Britney Spears leading the way in openly expressing sexuality, mental health struggles, and fighting the sexist apparatus that control so many female pop stars, our current roster of female pop stars would not have the space they have. The documentary rightly views this sacrifice as fundamentally unfair to Spears, but also fundamentally harsh to any future Spears viewers.

The documentary does not end with Spears’ unequivocal freedom from her tutelage. But it ends with a court decision that at least represents the opening of a door, the flash of light, the promise to regain control. We all have to keep talking about the problems she is facing, facing ourselves, until they look in the rearview mirror with such awe like “can you believe we used to act that way?” clarity as depicted in this documentary.

“Framing Britney Spears” is now airing as part of FX on Hulu The New York Times presents.


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