The Most Haunting Moments of “Framing Britney Spears”

Quite a few instances over the previous decade, the query has been requested: Is that this going to be the yr that Britney Spears lastly regains management of her life?

It was requested in 2012, when she was briefly engaged to her former agent. And once more in 2016, after she scored a Las Vegas residency to the tune of $35 million. And but once more in 2019, with further urgency, after a mysterious voicemail claiming she had entered therapy for her psychological well being involuntarily (a declare denied by her supervisor) resulted within the rise of the #FreeBritney motion.

None of these years have been the yr, nor was 2020. In November, a choose refused Britney’s request to have her father, Jamie Spears, faraway from the conservatorship that is been in place, governing each monetary and enterprise transfer she’s made, since Feb. 1, 2008 (although her petition to have a financial institution come aboard as co-conservator of her $60 million fortune was accepted).

So possibly this yr?

“Framing Britney Spears,” the Feb. 5 episode of the FX docu-series The New York Instances Presents, goes again to the start to elucidate how Britney, probably the most well-known girls on the planet and one of many defining pop stars of a era, ended up, on the age of 39, on this scenario, in addition to the elevated efforts she has began taking lately to extricate herself from it.

And whereas there’s solely time for the bullet factors of the “Oops…I Did It Once more” singer’s rise from Star Search phenom and New Mickey Mouse Membership Mousketeer to multi-platinum-selling artist to cautionary story and again once more, the required concentrate on what introduced her down, and the likelihood that Britney’s life was barely her personal lengthy earlier than the conservatorship was put in place, is a haunting story price revisiting.


But it surely’s not the self-proclaimed #FreeBritney “activists”—lots of whom look as in the event that they should have been in elementary college in 2007, when Britney buzzed all her hair off so that folks would lastly cease attempting to the touch her, who need to be apprised of their hero’s origin story. It is everybody who ought to’ve recognized higher when it was taking place who should cease and take all of it in, another time.


Doting Dad?

We have heard rather a lot about Jamie Spears, Britney’s father, since 2008, when he and a lawyer named Andrew Pockets have been appointed co-conservators and put in control of the singer’s particular person (medical therapy, dwelling preparations, journey, and many others.) and property (her cash and enterprise selections). Earlier than that, not a lot, as mother Lynne Spears (divorced from Jamie because the early ’00s) was Britney’s major companion within the earliest section of her profession earlier than longtime buddy Felicia Culotta took over as her assistant, Lynne needing to return to Kentwood, La., to take care of first-grader Jamie Lynn Spears at house. 

Jamie was away rather a lot for work, and had a historical past of cash bother, in response to stories, together with this episode of The New York Instances Presents, and he and Britney weren’t extraordinarily shut. (Although the scene of Jamie whipping up grits with Velveeta for his daughter in For the File, MTV’s 2008 documentary on Britney as she pieced her life again collectively following the trauma of 2007 and early 2008, stays candy).

“Her mom would do no matter it took, personally and for the household’s sake, for Britney to be a star,” remembers Kim Kaiman, senior advertising director of Jive Data from 1998 till 2004 (aka the rise of Britney), in “Framing Britney Spears.” “Lynne supported Britney. I need to say Lynne as a result of I by no means talked to her father. The one factor Jamie ever mentioned to me was, ‘My daughter’s gonna be so wealthy, she’s gonna purchase me a ship.’ That is all I am gonna say about Jamie.”

Nobody from the Spears household agreed to go on digicam or present a remark for the present.


Humble Roots

Felicia remembers that one Christmas, when Britney was simply beginning to get well-known, the singer withdrew $10,000 in $100 payments and handed them out to folks on the road in Kentwood. She simply “drove via city wishing folks ‘Merry Christmas,'” says Felicia, who explains she was now not a part of Britney’s private workers after Jamie was put in cost however continued on for awhile as an worker of the tour administration firm.


Not a Lady, Not But a Lady

New York Instances tradition author Wesley Morris apparently factors out that Britney’s star was on the rise (…Child One Extra Time dropped Jan. 12, 1999) proper when the nation had intercourse on the mind—to an uncommon diploma, that’s—as a result of cheating-and-lying-about-it scandal involving Monica Lewinsky that led to President Invoice Clinton‘s impeachment.

Fixation on cigars and stained clothes dovetailed with the emergence of super-hot-Britney, which led to controversy whilst she bought hundreds of thousands of information and crammed arenas, her critics debating whether or not she was too attractive and maybe a nasty position mannequin for the children who idolized her. In the meantime, well-meaning defenders got here at it from the opposite aspect, objecting to the objectification of Britney, who had simply celebrated her 17th birthday when her debut album was launched.

Hayley Hill, Britney’s stylist from 1997 till 2001, says that she labored with all the large boy bands on the time, too—and never a type of guys was handled to the type of scrutiny that Britney was underneath.

However whereas others have been analyzing her each transfer and outfit, Britney determined at her still-tender age that she was going to decorate nonetheless she needed and do no matter she rattling effectively happy.

Beth A Keiser/AP/Shutterstock

She’s the Boss

In line with Kevin Tancharoen, a backup dancer and tour director for Britney till 2004, anybody who ever thought that the pop star was simply going via the motions or in any other case letting different folks make inventive, personnel or every other selections pertinent to the enterprise of being Britney Spears was sorely mistaken.

“She was undoubtedly in charge of quite a lot of selections,” he remembers. “That concept that Britney is a puppet who simply will get moved round and informed what to do is extremely inaccurate. Once I was concerned in all of these years, we’d current quite a lot of concepts and she or he must like them, she must approve them. She was very inventive. She was the one who knew what she needed to do, or her folks would make [what she wanted] occur for her.”

He concludes, “She was the boss.”

James Devaney/WireImage

The Unbalanced Ballad of Britney and Justin

“Pure male revenge fantasy,” is how Tancharoen describes the video that includes a silhouetted girl of Britney-esque measurement and hair for “Cry Me a River,” Justin Timberlake‘s hit music that followers extensively assumed to be an autobiographical brokenhearted lament from a man whose woman has accomplished him mistaken. Kicking over an image of a beaming fairly blonde within the video did nothing to dispel the notion.

“Individuals handled her like she was the college slut and he was the quarterback,” remembers former MTV VJ Dave Holmes, who notes how Timberlake “weaponized the concept for certainly one of his singles.”

An audio clip of the singer doing a radio interview wherein the host asks, mock-solemnly, “Did you f–k Britney Spears, sure or no?” and a gaggle of dudes burst out laughing simply goes to indicate that 2002 wasn’t all that removed from 1952.

“What are you able to say about misogyny?” Wesley Morris observes. “There’s a complete infrastructure to help it and when it is time for folks to come back in a misogynistic tradition for a girl, there’s a complete equipment able to do it.”

Seeing that saga re-unfold all directly does make you take a look at it in a brand new mild, one which illuminates the deck that was stacked towards Britney’s company from the start and the way unfairly she was handled in a media ecosystem wherein man was nonetheless the dominant species. Even ABC Information’ Diane Sawyer requested her in 2003, referring to the damaged coronary heart Timberlake had been parading round whereas selling his solo debut Justified: “What did you do?”

Ben Rose/

Quick Monitor to the Altar

“I do not assume I used to be in any respect shocked when she and Kevin obtained engaged,” Felicia says of the whirlwind romance that did shock everybody who did not know Britney (so, most individuals), in addition to whoever was holding out hope that she and J.T. would reunite 4-eva.

However having mentioned earlier than that she hoped that someday performing and making music could be a aspect undertaking as soon as she obtained married and had youngsters, she took the primary steps towards dwelling the dream when she was 22. Britney swapped vows with Kevin Federline on Sept. 18, 2004 (then married him legally Oct. 6) and in April 2005 she introduced her first being pregnant. 

Matthew Simmons/Getty Photos for Rolling Stone

The Nice Relationship

Their second son, Jayden, joined Sean within the household fold on Sept. 12, 2006. Lower than two months later, Britney filed for divorce—and so it started.

There’s the horde of paparazzi who comply with her wherever she goes, the notorious pictures of her driving off with Sean on her lap, the interview with a sockless Matt Lauer as he asks what she has to say about folks accusing her of being a “unhealthy mother.”

“That is America for you,” Britney replies with a glum smirk.

By the top of 2006, into 2007, she was hanging out with recognized partiers Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan and in any other case proving that she nonetheless did not give a rattling about what folks have been saying about her. Within the present, bloggers like Perez Hilton are seen, on the time, boasting that Britney’s good for enterprise, and former paparazzo Daniel Ramos insists that, for awhile, that they had a copacetic, mutually useful relationship together with her.

“She was very pleasant, a sweetheart of a lady,” he remembers. “It is like she wanted us and we wanted her…it was an excellent sort of a relationship.”



By the point Britney exhibits up at a barbershop in February 2007 and, wielding the clippers herself, buzzes all her hair off, you begin to really feel adequately suffocated, as she should have felt within the days when print magazines have been routinely spending $140,000 every week on pictures. 

On Feb. 21, Daniel Ramos’ persistence impressed a annoyed Britney, denied entry to Ok-Fed’s home simply minutes beforehand when she tried to go to their youngsters, to get out of her automobile exterior a Jiffy Lube and begin whacking the paparazzo’s truck with an umbrella.

He admits in hindsight that none of them actually thought in regards to the human being on the opposite aspect of their cameras again then. In an period when some photographs of Britney have been promoting for as a lot as $1 million, they merely needed extra pictures.

“Engaged on her for therefore a few years, she by no means gave a clue or data to us that ‘I do not admire you guys, depart me the eff alone,'” Ramos says. The interviewer off-camera asks, “What about when she mentioned ‘depart me alone’?”

However she would solely be speaking about that day, the videographer insists. “It wasn’t like ‘depart me alone endlessly,’ you already know what I imply?”


Failing Britney Spears

Devoted longtime Household Feud viewers may bear in mind this, however name it a shock to the system now to see “identify one thing that Britney Spears has misplaced” come up as a class in a clip from a 2008 episode of the gameshow again when it was hosted by John O’Hurley. One contestant’s first guess, “Husband/marriage,” was No. 4. “Her hair” was the highest reply.

No. 3? “Her thoughts.”

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

On With the Present

Adam Streisand, the lawyer Britney initially tried to rent to signify her within the probate proceedings earlier than she was discovered unfit to retain her personal counsel (he by no means noticed the medical report the choose used to make that call), remembers the artist accepting that she most likely could not keep away from the conservatorship from taking place, however saying that she did not need her dad to be in cost. She most popular an impartial skilled.

However, Jamie was appointed co-conservator, together with Andrew Pockets, and the method of bringing Britney again started. By the top of 2008, she had a brand new album, Circus, and was on the point of tour.

Lower than eight months after being positioned on a 5150 maintain (and a yr after her unlucky “Gimme Extra” look), she introduced the opening of the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards and gained Finest Feminine Video, Finest Pop Video and Video of the Yr for “Piece of Me.”

Many credited the conservatorship and her dad for the way nice she appeared to be doing.


Dissecting the Gram

Instagram modified every thing, in that it gave Britney a solution to converse immediately(ish) to her followers—who have been overjoyed to listen to from her, and who immediately began attempting to decode each submit.

Finally, her avid followers began to surprise what she was actually saying together with her picture of a mug studying “It is motherf–king tea time” or the T-shirt that mentioned “We’re all dreamers.” This needed to have been Britney’s means of sharing that she has a lot to say, and can say it when she will be able to, proper? Or has she been asking for assist all alongside?!

Alas, as conspiracy theories are inclined to do, this one obtained out of hand, leading to abuse being hurled at her social media supervisor, Cassie Petrey, together with accusations that she was a part of a sinister equipment at work to manage or stifle Britney, in addition to at Britney herself. (Which appears antithetical to the trigger, however annoyed folks react in unpredictable methods.)

Petrey posted Feb. 2: “At the beginning, I completely adore the Britney Spears fan base. They’re unbelievable, loyal and keen about her. I like them. I do know every thing they do and say is as a result of they honestly love her. Which is why it has been simple for me to miss a few of the nasty feedback which were thrown my means over time – as a result of I do know deep down it is all out of affection for one of many biggest pop stars of all time.

“Nevertheless, there are quite a lot of inaccurate theories on the market…and I need to give as a lot data as I can with out violating her privateness or mine.”

Petrey insisted that Britney creates virtually all of her personal content material, even enhancing the movies herself. However even when she does not hit “share” together with her personal thumb, she has full discretion over her account, and her workforce runs every thing by her for approval. And for the document, “Britney is ‘not asking for assist’ or leaving secret messages in her social media.” Furthermore, Petrey added, her work for Britney “doesn’t contain her conservatorship in any means.”

Courtesy of FX

The place’s Britney?

Concern entered overdrive territory when Britney canceled her new Vegas present, Domination, in January 2019, citing her father’s current well being emergency and her need to simply be together with her household. Then, she dropped off the grid—or the Insta grid at the least, worrying her followers.

In early April, it was confirmed that she had checked right into a residential therapy facility for a month to are inclined to her psychological well being. She posted that she wanted some “me time,” however even then, nervous followers have been suspicious of her use of a “:)” as an alternative of a extra attribute smile emoji.

Later that month, Tess Barker and Babs Grey, hosts of the Britney’s Grams podcast, performed a voicemail they’d obtained from an nameless caller. The man mentioned he was a paralegal who used to work at a regulation agency that represented Britney and, from what he understood, she had not voluntarily entered that facility, and she or he supposedly checked in all the best way again in mid-January.

In a prolonged message posted April 23, responding to the mass hysteria that included loss of life threats towards her workforce and household, Britney wrote, “Do not imagine every thing you learn and listen to…My scenario is exclusive, however I promise I am doing what’s greatest at this second. You may not know this about me, however I’m sturdy, and arise for what I would like!” In an accompanying video she informed her supporters to not fear and promised to be “again very quickly.” 

Her longtime supervisor, Larry Rudolph, additionally absolutely denied the claims made within the voice mail, telling the Washington Submit that the singer had requested about going to the ability in late March—however the “#FreeBritney” motion had already been born.


Stronger Than Yesterday

Those that name themselves #FreeBritney activists inform the Instances that in fact it occurred to them that what they’re doing—protesting exterior the courthouse throughout hearings, posting movies on Instagram and TikTok advocating for Britney’s full launch from the conservatorship and/or her father’s management—might come off as loopy.

However as Junior Olivas says he informed himself when he wasn’t certain if he ought to present as much as protest, “You are going to get your butt there and assist her, similar to she helped you.”

Says one other activist, Leanne Simmons, “If I am mistaken and someday Britney comes out and tells us we have been mistaken and to depart her alone, we’ll just do that.”

Till then, they’re going to insist that the courtroom #FreeBritney.

The conservatorship, in the meantime, has been prolonged till at the least September. 

However with Britney being extra specific than ever in her courtroom filings about what she desires—specifically, that she will not carry out once more till her father is now not in control of her profession—this might be a complete new ballgame come the autumn.

Perhaps, simply possibly, 2021 goes to be the yr.

The New York Instances Presents’ Framing Britney Spears” premieres Friday, Feb. 5, at 10 p.m. on FX and will likely be streaming on FX on Hulu.