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Documentary as reckoning

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

As 'Framing Britney Spears' set the world on fire, the documentary, yet again, works as a way to hold the media, and the world responsible for the way they treat celebrity.

Image Source: The New York Times

If you've been living under a rock Framing Britney Spears is a new documentary by The New York Times. The film explores the way that the media hounded the star, who after growing up in the spotlight in the Mickey Mouse Club, continued to soar as a teenage pop singer. As one of the most famous pop singers of her time (arguably the most famous) the media seemed to take delight in her demise as it made for scandalous news. Recently the details of Britney's mental health and her conservatorship have become more common knowledge, and as such the #freebritney movement has gained momentum. But what the doco makes very clear is that it's not just her father that should be on trial (I'm looking at you JT). The way the media sexualised her as a teenager, turned on and taunted her, as well as slut shamed her, is highlighted throughout the film. As Vox writer Constance Grady puts it: "All of us are complicit. But some of us are more complicit than others".

But we have been here before. Just as the media is reckoning the ills of many (mostly) men in the industry they are also reflecting back their own role in damaging the lives of many (often) women, and importantly debated her.

Amy Winehouse had sadly died before her documentary Amy, detailed the (extremely obviously) terrible way the media, and us as consumers lapping up that media, treated her. As one Guardian reviewer discussed the documentary you can see the similarities laid out "the flashbulb glare of global surveillance. Montages of paparazzi mobs create a hellish portrait of life lived through a grubby lens".

In a similar vein, Taylor Swift's 2020 documentary Miss Americana demonstrated the ways the media had exacerbated the Kanye "feud" which started when Taylor was 19 years old and at her first VMAs, the way they constantly discussed her weight and again, the constant judgement around her love and sex life.

While other stars like Beyoncé create their own artistic videos that aim to tell their story in another way it seems that people might finally learn to be more respectful of the way they talk about women in the spotlight.

Also #freebritney

Zara Cooper

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