Greg and Zanna watch the new Britney Spears documentary that's created a firestorm.
Number of interviews with Britney: 0
Number of interviews with Britney's family: 0
Number of times Britney has previously been protected like this: 0
We planned to watch it together after the kids were asleep but then Tallulah developed insomnia and Zanna was trapped in her room for three hours, where she ended up watching it on her phone, wearing Bluetooth headphones and lying on the floor.
I started watching it in the lounge but was only 15 minutes in when Casper woke up needing to do a poo. That dragged on for a good 10 minutes, then, about 20 minutes after I got him back to sleep, he woke up and did another one. By the time I got him back to sleep the second time it was 11pm and I'd only watched 36 minutes of the movie. Exhausted, I crawled into bed and slept for an hour or two before Clara came and dragged me into her bed. I finished the movie the following night, minutes before Casper got up needing to poo; and so the whole cycle began anew.
I share this information not for the much-deserved sympathy and admiration but because I hope to evoke the complex nature of the parent-child relationship, which is at the heart of The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears. I'm not trying to draw any comparison, obviously - and not just because I don't want to - but because we know almost nothing about the situation between Britney and her father, beyond the fact it's bad.
This is deeply ironic, given how much we knew about Britney's life when she was at her most famous, how much time we spent prying into it, raking it over, treating her like s***, the usual sort of thing. And now here she is, the subject of a high-profile campaign to free her from the conservatorship of her father, the subject of the most famous movie in the world right now and we can't even be entirely sure she still exists.
The movie does a good job of filling its barely movie-length 74 minutes, bulking it out with interviews with New York Times reporters and columnists, but the most telling part comes at the end, when it lists all the people who refused to talk or never replied to requests for interviews. The producers admit they have no way of knowing whether Britney herself even received their request. If only she'd had this level of protection 20 years ago.
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Britney Spears and I are the same age. I was in high school when Hit Me Baby One More Time became the biggest song in the world and everyone decided it was their right to weigh in on whether or not Britney's costumes, song lyrics and dance moves were appropriate for a teenager. At the time, aged 17, I was 100 per cent certain I was a fully grown adult, so thought the brouhaha over-the-top.
Now, more than 20 years later and with children of my own who will one day be 17-year-olds, I not only still think it was over-the-top, I think it was disgusting, abusive and a clear case of workplace sexual harassment. A German talk show host says to a teenage Britney: "Everyone's talking about your breasts." She smiles uneasily. What else can she do? In a press conference, she's asked "Britney, are you a virgin?" Australian interviewer Mike Munroe asks whether she's a virgin or a whore and even Diane Sawyer, who I previously respected, presses her on what she'd done to cause the break up with Justin Timberlake - desperate to get her to admit it was all her fault, that the skimpy outfits and fluid hips were not an act, that she was indeed a filthy slut, breaking hearts and taking names. At this point in Framing Britney Spears, I was enraged and I hadn't even got to the paparazzi yet.
If there's one thing the age of technology can be credited with, it's ripping the rug out from under the paparazzi. Social media has provided celebrities with a platform from which to present their own curated image directly to the public and thus paparazzi photos have lost much of their value. In the 90s and early 2000s though, these photographers had no scruples and would do whatever it took to get the million-dollar shot.
I can't imagine how unsafe I'd feel having one man with a camera approach my car window, let alone an aggressive mob of men with cameras. The night on which Britney supposedly "lost it" by beating a paparazzo's car with an umbrella, he had been following her to and from her ex-husband's house where her young children were being kept from her. It shows remarkable restraint that it took until what must have been one of the worst nights of her life for her to "lose it" at the paparazzi and yet, since 2008, she's been pegged as mentally unstable and rendered legally incapable of taking care of herself and her affairs. It's unconscionable. #freebritney.
The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears is streaming on Three Now.