Framing Britney Spears – a soberingly human story
The documentary – Framing Britney Spears was released in the US on the 5th February and it is a deep look at sexism, celebrity and mental health stigma through the troubled life of one of the greatest teen stars of the ’90s.
The program which has already caused a great stir explores the feeding frenzy that has surrounded the pop star, Britney Spears, since she was 10 years old and particularly the period when she was placed under conservatorship during her breakdowns and mental health issues in 2008. The star’s ongoing battle with her father, Jamie Spears, over the control of the conservatorship regarding her financial, business and also private affairs is explored through new material, for instance interviews with the singer’s assistant and long-time friend Felicia Culotta and former label executive Kim Kaiman.
Director Samantha Stark’s angle of Spears is insightful and compassionate from the very beginning. We see how a girl-next-door type of teenager with a combination of focus, talent and charisma became a pop supernova and then how this pop diva is continuously subjected to questions about everything from her body to her virginity to her sanity, leading to an intense analysis of her every move as she grew older.
From the first step to the big stage
Main talking point in the documentary is the toxic misogyny that followed her everywhere even before she broke through with “…Baby One More Time” in 1999. As an example, in one of her earliest TV appearances Spears delivers a barnstorming performance on a talent show in 1992, the male host tells her she has pretty eyes and he has only one question for her: “Do you have a boyfriend?” And she is only 10 years old at that time.
Other major takeaway from “Framing Britney Spears” is how the aggressive paparazzi horde around the star trailed every move of hers. They pursued her by car, motorbike and even by helicopter. Britney, even when she was a young mother in her twenties – was chased morning, noon and night by this all-male paparazzi crowd with cameras, pushing her and shouting in her face. We watch the agitated group follow her into a diner and bombard her around her booth; we watch them follow her into a gas station’s rest room; we hear her saying “I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared” as she walks down the street carrying her small dog.
One news photographer, who was on ’team Britney’ for one week only, but then quit immediately as he realized what was going on around the star, said: „She was not treated as a person. She was treated as a commodity or even a consumable.” So we can ask the question even here, how can you preserve your sanity when for the public you clearly do not have a personality?
Is there a conclusion?
Stark’s documentary also looks at fan loyalty that currently fuels the #FreeBritney movement. After all the scandals and all the accusations towards her, admirers only became more devoted to “the Holy Spearit” and „Godney” – how they call her. “Framing Britney Spears” acknowledges that “the real Britney” cannot be known and understood at this stage and the reason for that is because she rarely gives interviews and has almost never spoken about her conservatorship on record, so no satisfying conclusion there. Fans are left searching for coded messages in her magically cheerful Instagram moments. And really, who knows if her Instagram profile is real or controlled too.
Now that the documentary has been released in the US and the UK as well and was quite a loud success. Even forced Justin Timberlake to apologize to the singer. Netflix also announced that they are as well planning to release documentary about the singer and has already started working on it way before the release of “Framing Britney Spears”. This is all we know about the Netflix project, neither the title, nor the premiere date have been revealed.
To be honest it’s difficult not to feel at least baffled after all the knowledge the documentary reveals to us, especially when it’s still possible to buy a coffee mug with this slogan written on it: “If Britney survived 2007, then hell, you can survive today.”
Sources: theguardian.com, news.sky.com, edition.cnn.com