What “Framing Britney Spears” Reveals About Misogyny

Picture of Britney Spears in early career

The 74-minute New York Times/FX documentary Framing Britney Spears looks at the upbringing, journey, and legal battles of popstar Britney Spears. As much as Framing Britney Spears takes a deep dive into her career and conservatorship, it is also a case study on American culture and the normalization of misogyny in the late 90s/2000s.

Spears emerged into stardom just around the time of Bill Clinton’s sex scandal, where Monica Lewinsky bore the brunt of the blame and the jokes. By the time Spears was in the limelight, rampant misogyny was the norm, and slut shaming, pedophilia, and victim blaming went by unchecked. In one interview, a 17-year-old Spears was asked by a middle-aged man about her breasts. In another clip, a journalist asks her if she is a virgin.

After movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #AskHerMore, it is unthinkable that questions like these would be asked to young female celebrities today. But Spears, who is credited with the revival of teen pop, was like a guinea pig in American pop culture. She stood alone in the face of hypersexualization, sexist treatment, and mental health issues, while Americans largely stood by and laughed. Since the release of Framing Britney Spears, a handful of articles have been written about the public’s cruelty and our shared complicity in Spears’ treatment. Many viewers have expressed rage and sadness, which led to the trending of the hashtag #WeAreSorryBritney.

Framing Britney Spears has forced a reexamination of how the media and society abused Spears, who was never in control of her own narrative. The reflection it shows us makes clear that we should and must do better.

Take Action! Framing Britney Spears is available on Hulu.