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My thoughts on 'The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears' and the #FreeBritney movement

Unannounced to myself, and probably others, The New York Times and Hulu came together in a partnership to present interesting yet informing stories to the public in a documentary-like style covering various different topics.

"New York Times Presents is a series of standalone documentaries representing the unparalleled journalism and insight of The New York Times, bringing viewers close to the essential stories of our time," the show's bio says.

On Feb. 5, the most highly anticipated episode was set to release at 10 p.m. This hour and a half special was called "Framing Britney Spears." Yes, this episode is about the pop princess and early 2000s legend herself, Britney Spears. Topics within this documentary included the discussion of her conservatorship, her infamous downfall in the late 2000s and an inside look at her life during these times.

First, let's talk about what a conservatorship is and how it impacts Spears. A conservatorship involves someone who is appointed by the courts, whether that be a guardian or someone in close relation, to look after another person's own finances and/or physical being due to physical or mental limitations or even if the person is of old age. All in all, a conservatorship is similar to being a minor under your parents' guardianship, to place it in simpler terms. A person is looked after, told what to do, told how they can or cannot spend their own money and told what medicine or medical treatment they can or cannot accept.

Now, how does a conservatorship relate to Spears? In 2008 her father, Jamie Spears, was made conservator over her estate, meaning he has financial and physical control over his own daughter, Britney Spears. During this time, Spears did have her famous umbrella scandal and shaved head moment and lost physical custody of her two children with Kevin Federline. Due to her own actions and the heavy and harsh public perception of Britney Spears, she had what some people might deem as a breakdown.

Before moving forward, I have to add, and the documentary touches on this as well, that during this time between 2007 and 2008, no one was voicing their concerns surrounding the mental health of Britney Spears. Therefore, nobody was advocating for her own benefit and speaking up for her, saying, hey, maybe she needs a break from the spotlight, making music and being in the public eye. It's all heartbreaking, and I think people have a tendency to overlook this and not think about it because she had money, fame and a luxurious life, what could be wrong with that?

The documentary touches on other subject matter such as the over-sexualization of Spears from the media. There are some weird and disgusting interview questions from male hosts about her body and why she wears the things that she wears, talk of her virginity and if she and Justin Timberlake had sex. Plus, something that made me a little angry was that the media was placing the blame on her about why she and Timberlake broke up. They painted her as this cheater and unholy girl, contrasting with her image before she and Timberlake got together.

Furthermore, it did not help that the infamous "Cry Me A River" song and music video came out and Justin Timberlake publicly announced to the world that they had sex. Thanks, Justin. In return, there was a woman who threatened Spears through a phone call saying she was going to shoot Spears because she does not want her daughter to dress or act the way Spears does. Mind you, Spears was becoming a young adult at the time and should have been able to wear and act however she wanted to. But, the lovely media always had something to say about it. Which is quite disturbing.

However, let's get back to the main issue and highlight of this documentary, the conservatorship. The #FreeBritney movement started when two podcasters, whose podcast was based on talking about Britney Spears on Instagram, noticed unusual activity on her social media and that she had not been as active as she usually was. People began to wonder what happened to her and pieced the details surrounding her conservatorship together, making fans concerned that she was being held against her will somewhere.

This launched the "Free Britney" movement and promoted more awareness around the issue of Spears' conservatorship. Just as recently as 2020, there was a decision made by the courts surrounding Jamie Spears as Britney Spears' conservator. However, I highly encourage you to watch this documentary not only in support of Spears but also for education on what a conservatorship is.

All in all, I would say I am a supporter of the #FreeBritney movement, and once you watch this documentary, you will be too. Please comment down below or reach out to me through Instagram, @xoamberharris, if you want to talk more about this issue.


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