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Framing Britney Spears
Photograph: Sky Documentaries

‘Framing Britney Spears’: Why you should stream the hard-hitting doc

Whether you’re a fan or not, the Sky documentary will leave you feeling complicit

By
Samantha Willis
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Time Out’s social media editor – and Britney superfan – Samantha Willis digs into The New York Times’s new documentary on the pop superstar.

Ah, the early noughties. At a time when boy bands reigned supreme, one woman managed to cut through pop’s male dominated charts to foster a fanbase that spanned straight women, straight men and LGBTQ+ people. Britney Spears’ sweet, girl-next-door meets spicy, writhing vixen image was an overnight recipe for both her success and her downfall. It’s Britney, bitch.

But how could the life of a woman, so instrumental not only in pop, but in the empowerment of women and their sexuality – land herself in a psychiatric facility, against her will, and without any say in her future?

The #FreeBritney movement began trending in 2009, when her fans started to raise questions about her conservatorship and this documentary, produced by The New York Times, seeks to provide the answers.  

A conservatorship is a US law which allows a guardian to be appointed in managing the daily life and finances of someone who is mentally or physically unable to make their own decisions: in Britney’s case it was her father, Jamie. (The closest thing to a conservatorship here in the UK is a deputyship, although it's far less common.)

Having already aired in the US on Hulu, ‘Framing Britney Spears’ lands on Sky Documentaries (and therefore, NOW TV) with important questions to ask about Jamie’s motives and Britney’s mental stability.

But as with any good documentary, it also explores how Britney got here. So successfully, actually, that it provoked apologies from Justin Timberlake and celebrity columnist Perez Hilton this week. 

If you looked fondly upon the early noughties as a progressive era for women in music, you’re likely to feel differently watching this. Regardless of her mental health struggles, would we let a woman be interrogated for her sexuality, decisions and her capacity as a mother now?

If you’re a long-time fan of Britney Spears you’re likely to enjoy this journey through her golden years, with glimpses of otherwise unseen photographs, alongside a long overdue slap around the face of the people who enabled her demise. 

‘Framing Britney Spears’, thankfully, is not more tabloid fodder: it’s a case study in the consequences of celebrity voyeurism and a stark warning of its implications for those in the spotlight. 

‘Framing Britney Spears’ is on NOW TV in the UK and Hulu in the US.

Looking for another music doc to check out? Read our review of The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

London’s Prince Charles Cinema asked fans to recreate a famous film scene and the results are magnificently silly.

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