Last February 5th, Hulu premiered the ‘Framing Britney Spears’ documentary about the #FreeBritney movement produced by The New York Times and which became available for viewers in Spain on February 22nd thanks to Odisea.
Since the production saw the light of day, chatter has exploded with opinions about the Princess of Pop’s situation under her father’s conservatorship, an issue that from the outside might seem easy for society to judge from the outside, even though they may have no idea of the reality insofar as what’s behind the celebrity facade, beyond what we’ve been told about in the media.
Nevertheless, watching the documentary will change the way you see Spears, or at the very least, invite you to reevaluate everything you thought you knew about her case. A reflection we should all make as a society for the reasons outlined below.
“There’s a lot that people don’t know about me that I want them to know”
The documentary begins on the day of the hearing to review the conservatorship, a legal guardianship arrangement giving her father control over her estate, in place since 2008. Her fans’ cries to #FreeBritney, the Instagram videos adopting cat filters explaining the singer’s plight, podcasts entirely devoted to her and banners held aloft by followers dressed as Britney, might cause one to consider that we’re dealing with a bunch of freaks here who have little else to occupy their time. But this will only one of the many preconceived ideas you’ll begin to notice dissipating the more you see of the feature.
Alright, we all know that in the US they like to make a big show out of everything, and the Spears family trial certainly wasn’t going to be an exception. But the more we delve into the saga, the more we begin to realize that we’re passive participants in something far removed from the superficial entertainment we’d been promised, that the fans are far more knowledgeable that we’d expected, and that they’re fighting for rights we hadn’t fully understood.
But the allegory only thickens when any opinion we may have formed (regardless of what they were) about Britney, begin to change gradually as we discover her life story from the time she was a kid, as a teenager performing in shopping malls, and up to the point of becoming a household name worldwide. We discover the person, beyond the album and glossy magazine covers as we start to comprehend that what we may have considered to her exceptional success may, in fact, have been her greatest failure, and Britney wears her failures as she does her triumphs.
The documentary raises questions about the veracity of the whole American Dream idea, personified here by one of its greatest examples run amok: Britney Spears. The star we all witnessed achieving the dream and then later “throwing it into the trash”. Or so we thought. “There’s a lot that people don’t know about me that I want them to know” says the artist, well-aware of the duplicity between the star and the person that has always been projected. And therein lies another of the more compelling lessons about the world of entertainment condensed into this 70-minute documentary: unless you actually walk in Britney’s shoes (or anyone’s shoes for that matter) it’d be best to reserve judgement on their lives, because there’s a good chance you’ll be on the fritz.
Britney Spears, as victim of a sick society
The documentary gives audiences a brief rundown of the singer’s personal and professional life prior to confronting viewers with a grim tale of control and identity. As becomes patent, from her very early days, Britney embodies everything her folks had dreamed she would: “My daughter’s going to be so rich, she’s going to buy me a boat”, her father once said.
But not only does Britney dance to her parents’ tune, granting them their heart’s desires, but she also toes the line for the American public, who demand the innocence of a Disney kid, while embodying the very idea of what a capitalist society expects from a young, attractive girl, as well as what patriarchy wishes to see in a teenager as she begins to blossom into a young woman. But when Spears realizes that she’s never had a say in any of these decisions and things for herself and rebels, the punishment dished out reeks of the all too familiar as she’s branded as “crazy”, only deserving then that she be thrown at the mercy of one (or several) men who’ll reign her in.
But perhaps the most distressing point in the story comes with the revelations that in 2018, Spears’ co-conservator Andrew Wallet asked for (and got) a significant raise from the court, stating “This conservatorship should be viewed more as a hybrid business model”, to which the podcaster fans interviewed in the documentary reply, “…I think is probably the first time that’s ever been said about a conservatorship…and that the conservatorship, which really is put in place to take care of people, naturally shouldn’t be a business that is making exorbitant amounts of money from someone who is so fit to work.”. Pretty terrifying, and even more so when they disclose the fees Spears pays her own lawyers (who are fighting to remove her from her father’s conservatorship) as well as her conservators’ lawyers who are insisting it should remain in place… So then, who’s really got her best interests at heart if she’s everyone’s meal ticket?
That’s the very reason why this aura of the superficial veneer we’ve always associated with Britney is just more of the preconceived bias the documentary invites you to cast aside. Bias we could all do with abandoning. Because, right now, Britney Spears is the one fighting this battle, but, how would you feel if the same were to happen to you further down the line?