By now, you’re probably aware of the controversy surrounding Framing Britney Spears, a recent documentary about the singer’s turbulent life produced by the New York Times.
The film takes a probing look at Britney’s legal battle against her father, Jamie Spears, as well as the abuse and harassment she’s received at the hands of the media.
And it’s not just tabloids and paparazzi who benefited from taking advantage of Britney when she was at her most vulnerable.
As the doc reminds us, there was a time, not all that long ago, when mainstream media outlets like Rolling Stone reveled in exploiting Britney, and happily cashed in on the public’s fascination with her.
It began when the iconic music magazine put a lingerie-clad, 17-year-old Spears on its cover, and it continued through her highly-publicized 2007 meltdown.
The infamous “Teletubby cover” is still held up as an example of the ways in which young women are commodified and exploited before they’re even old enough to vote.
But some of the less lurid examples of the exploitation of Britney have proven less memorable than the inappropriate photoshoots.
Take, for example, the singer’s 2003 interview with Diane Sawyer, which was all but completely forgotten about before Framing Britney premiered.
Now, the hour-long Sawyer interview is being heavily scrutinized, and to say that the segment has not aged well would be a massive understatement.
“What happened to your clothes?” Sawyer asked Spears after beginning the interview with a montage of some of Spears’ stage costumes.
“I have clothes on now!” Spears replied, trying to laugh off the rude remark.
“No kidding, what’s this about? Is it about shocking people?” Sawyer pressed on.
“I hate to bring this up, but Kate Hudson, she’s 22, she’s in sheets,” Britney argued.
“Jennifer Lopez poses very provocatively sometimes. Christina Aguilera, what’s the big deal when I do it? [Laughs.] Like, come on!”
“Everybody always thought you had a different relationship to young girls,” Sawyer chided.
“The girls who always played it close to the line on how much skin she showed, posed in this for Esquire magazine. Consider the line officially crossed,” she added in a later voice-over.
The voice-over then unfairly alleged that Spears kept “getting burned by the fire she lit herself.”
From there, the conversation shifted to Britney’s breakup with Justin Timberlake, and again, Sawyer pointed the finger directly at Spears.
“You did something that caused him so much pain…so much suffering. What did you do?” the journalist asked.
Britney attempted to tactfully side-step the question, but Sawyer wasn’t having it.
“I was upset for a while. We both are really young and it was kind of waiting to happen,” Spears explained. “I will always love him…he is such a great person.”
“He’s left the impression that you weren’t faithful…that you betrayed the relationship,” Sawyer replied.
And when she wasn’t bizarrely carrying water for Justin Timberlake Diane was defending political figures who LITERALLY THREATENED TO SHOOT BRITNEY!
Yes, Sawyer quoted the wife of Maryland’s then-governor, and then defended the woman’s right to threaten Britney with bodily harm.
“Really, If I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would,” Sawyer intoned, calmly reading the quote.
When Spears quite understandably expressed shock and dismay, Sawyer informed her that the woman was right to fantasize about her murder.
“Because of the examples for kids and how hard it is to be a parent and keep all of this away from your kids.”
“It’s one thing to not want to be the role model anymore,” she said. “It’s another thing not to know that a lot of young girls are looking at this…a lot of them.”
Sawyer has yet to comment on the criticism of her interview, but it seems the documentary has succeeded in its goal of sparking conversation about Spears and the ways in which she was mistreated by adults who should have known better.
Earlier this week, Britney’s cousin and former close friend Alli Sims spoked in the singer’s defense and revealed that she was forced to cut off contact for fear of Jamie Spears.
“I really do believe [Jamie] would have done something if I didn’t remove myself from the situation,” Simms told Us Weekly.
“When I think about how long she has had to endure this and it being 13 years, it just makes me so sad for her. I really do hope one day she’s able to tell her story if that’s what she wants to do,” Alli continued.
“If she does, get ready because there’s more to that story than I’m sure anybody could ever imagine.”
We’re sure there is.
And we hope that some day soon, Britney will be permitted to tell her tale as she sees fit.