Watch a documentary about the pop singer on Amazon Prime Video

In one of her most famous songs, Britney asked Spears, “Don’t you know you’re toxic?” The line comes from the song “Toxic” (2004), and based on the music video, it’s addressed to a friend or ex-lover. Who exactly the American singer meant at that time remained unclear, and it doesn’t really matter. Because Toxic wasn’t just the imaginary or non-delusional friend. The pop music industry and media hype don’t seem to be benefiting the 39-year-old and poisoning her mental health, as the “Framing Britney Spears” documentary admirably shows.

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Spears faces severe sexism

The New York Times production, now available on streaming service Amazon Prime, chronicles Spears’ early days in the entertainment industry, her crash in 2008, and her father’s subsequent legal guardianship. Former stylists, lawyers, and former confidants of the singer have their say. She also interviews her fans, who have been fighting guardianship for years under the banner of #FreeBritney.

Spears made history as the first pop icon of the 21st century, selling over 100 million records worldwide. But the documentary makes it clear that her career has been accompanied by violent sexism from the start.

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It all started when, in 1992, she appeared on Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club Show – a springboard to many stars – and the host jokingly asked her, “Do you have a boyfriend?” At that point, Spears was only ten years old and she probably wasn’t even thinking about boys yet. Former fashion designer Hayley Hill angrily commented in the documentary, “Of everything you could have asked her…because what else are you talking about with a woman or a girl?!”

Timberlake and Spears were ‘model couple’

A few years later in 1998, her relationship with pop star Justin Timberlake became public. Spears’ single “Baby One More Time” was released around the same time. Wesley Morris, a cultural critic for the New York Times, describes the couple as “an American supermodel.” They were popular topics in the newspapers, and fans adored them and wanted to know everything about them. The meltdown was even worse, sparking a huge media frenzy in 2002, of which Spears emerged as the culprit. (Timberlake recently apologized for publicly blaming her for the breakup.)

Hayley Hill notes, “I’ve worked with a lot of boy bands, and none of the boys got the same screening.” Indeed, some of the questions Spears received from journalists were quite silly and outrageous. As seen in the documentary, interviewers ask her about her breasts or if she’s a virgin. In an interview, well-known American journalist Diane Sawyer sided with Timberlake in asking: “What did you do?”

“People treated her like we were in school and she was the school bitch,” Morris says. The reporter explains that there is a whole infrastructure of misogyny. “When it comes time in a misogynistic world to woo a woman, there’s a whole machine ready to do it.”

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The father decides the financial matters

After giving birth to her second child and her divorce from boyfriend Kevin Federline, Spears had a 2008 meltdown. Recall photos of Bald Spears hitting a car with a parachute. But what was pulled through cocoa at that time, of course, had a serious background. In the documentary, Spears’ mother reports that her daughter suffered from untreated postpartum depression.

This – along with constant observation by the paparazzi – is likely to overwhelm anyone.

Since then, Spears has been under legal guardianship, which has been passed on to her father, Jamie Spears, among others. That is, he makes decisions about their financial and personal affairs. He also earns a lot from his daughter, receiving a salary as a trustee. The New York Times reported in 2016 that he earns the equivalent of $150,000 annually and took an additional 1.5 percent of their gross earnings from the Las Vegas Show.

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The father partly quit his job in September 2019 for “health reasons”, although he continues to have control of her finances. Spears’ care manager, Jodi Montgomery, has been taking charge of her personal affairs ever since. But the singer reportedly applied to permanently remove her father from her guardian in March 2021 pending a court decision.

Because these questions remain unanswered: Is guardianship still justified at all? How long can a woman be denied decisions about her finances and health? Especially since she is able to take care of her two children and maintain a successful multi-million dollar career.

without her point of view

With this documentary, the American newspaper wants to reinterpret Spears’ story – and it has managed to do so. Framing Britney Spears is the first cinematic to get to the bottom of the misogyny in the Spears case and uncover guardianship as a source of money for a father. But to what extent this show accurately reflects the singer’s point of view is unclear. Spears was not involved in this production either. A feeling of nausea is left behind.

It appears that Spears has been watching parts of the documentary in the meantime. “I haven’t seen the entire documentary but from what I saw in it I was embarrassed by the way they portrayed me,” she commented on Instagram in March 2021. And the singer continued, “I cried for two weeks and in good health… I still cry sometimes.” Apparently, she didn’t think her experience had been portrayed fairly.

As the filmmakers transparently show as an indication, they asked the singer to take part in the project. It is unclear whether the message reached Spears. After all, guardianship regulates the affairs of the singer.

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Britney Spears framing 74 minutes, documentary, directed by Samantha Stark (on Amazon Prime)

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