Entertainment

Jamie Spears Is A Freaking D*ck, And Other Big Feelings I Am Experiencing After Watching 'Framing Britney Spears'

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“Framing Britney Spears” is brutal to watch. As a person who was very invested in the late ’90s pop music scene, Britney and her very public fall from grace is something I was always very aware of. This new documentary, produced by The New York Times, is highly informative for those who may not have been following along for the last 20+ years. But it also gives new perspectives and details to those of us who have been along for the ride. If you watch it and don’t feel immense pain and searing rage, you must be an unfeeling cyborg.

As we learn in “Framing Britney Spears,” many of her problems stem from a lack of control in her life. This goes all the way back to the beginning of her career. Britney basically had no control over her public image. As a young woman in a brutal industry, there was no part of her life that wasn’t up for scrutiny. Her romantic relationships, her clothing, and her music? All up for debate. She was shamed for the “suggestive” nature of her lyrics and her desire to not downplay her sexuality. The public eviscerated her for the choices she made as a mother. And then when she was finally broken, she became the butt of every joke. This is a woman who never stood a chance.

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For many people outside of pop culture fans, Britney Spears isn’t someone who was actively on their radar until 2007. In a time before celebrities were able to assert control of their own narrative, she was relentlessly hounded by the news media as their most favorite cover story. Tabloids were paying paparazzi millions of dollars for a single photograph of her. Especially if she was doing something they could turn into a headline. “Framing Britney Spears” interviews the paparazzo who took the most exploitative photos of her from that time and it is astounding. He really tries to make it seem that his constant invasions of her privacy was okay. And beyond that, that it was mutually beneficial. At one point he tries to express concern for her wellbeing. As if he didn’t directly contribute to her downfall.

During 2007, she had a very public divorce and an equally public breakdown. Many of the public moments during that time are featured, giving a new perspective than we may have had in the moment. In a clip, we see Matt Lauer badgering Spears after she was photographed driving with one of her sons in her lap. “Do you think you’re a bad mother?” Lauer asks. Spears breaks down in tears, and my heart broke for her all over again. She explains that she was being hounded by paparazzi and her baby was scared, so she did what she had to do to get out of a dangerous situation as quickly as possible. I don’t remember thinking ill of her back then, but as a mother now myself, I understand her decision even more. But the general public didn’t know the context. They saw the shocking image and decided she was unfit, and they ran with it.

After multiple interventions and stints in rehab, Spears was put under a legal conservatorship. They are usually for elderly people who can no longer make decisions about their care, not women in their 20s who are struggling with their mental health. Her father, James (Jamie) Spears became her conservator, able to make decisions about not only her estate but her personal life. What was supposed to be a temporary situation has been going on for the last 12 years with no end in sight. “Framing Britney Spears” does a deep dive on the nature of her case. It explicitly tells viewers what Spears is being subjected to under this arrangement.

Under her conservatorship, Britney has literally zero control of any aspect of her life. It goes beyond her father making decisions about her finances — that would be bad enough. He has control over who she sees, who she talks to, her medical care (meaning he can have her seek treatment at his will.) If she wants to go to the grocery store or have a girl’s night out, she has to ask her father’s permission. She couldn’t even go on the record in the doc because she’d need permission to talk to the press.

Since the release of “Framing Britney Spears,” her current boyfriend, personal trainer Sam Asghari is speaking out about their relationship. More specifically, he’s talking about the control Jamie Spears has over it.

“I have zero respect for someone trying to control our relationship and constantly throwing obstacles our way,” he wrote in an Instagram story on Tuesday, February 9th. “In my opinion, Jamie is a total d—.”

I’ll admit, one of the biggest questions I had while watching is this: where is her mother? I understand that Britney isn’t an only child (she has an older brother and a younger sister) but as a mother, if my baby was going through so much, I would do anything and everything to protect her. Even if I was protecting her from herself, which was the case in 2007. Of course it’s harder to do that when your child is an adult with children of her own. But there is no way I could stand by and allow her life to implode on the public stage. If she had to lock Britney in her house for a while to get her help, that’s what her mother should have tried to do. At very least, she should be the one who is the conservator, not Jamie.

As someone who loosely followed Britney Spears’ career from the beginning, I know that her relationship with her father has been largely nonexistent for most of her life. “Framing Britney Spears” explains that her father wasn’t present for most of her childhood. All of the details make it abundantly clear he should never have been the one to take control, because he was always going to look at her as a check he could cash. Almost immediately after taking over as conservator, he had Britney back in the recording studio to make the album “Circus.” Some may argue that he revitalized her career. But the real question is, at what cost? We see Britney on set of a music video mimicking her father reprimanding her. He then busts in, threatening to take her phone. No wonder she wants to get away from this man.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jamie Spears is the villain in this story. He’s a predator, and the prey is his own daughter. How in the world can he, as a father, take advantage of his child? From the very beginning, he never saw her as anything other than a means to an end. That’s got to be why he stepped in as conservator — because he knew that being in charge was the way he didn’t have to do anything for the rest of his life. His greed had irreparably damaged his relationship with his daughter. Britney has refused to perform until her father is removed as conservator. If she’s willing to give up the one thing she truly loves to do, you know that this guy is a real piece of shit.

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If Britney Spears is capable enough to perform, racking up nearly 250 performances during her Vegas stint, she is capable enough to be let out of this conservatorship. Typically, the type of people who are locked into these legal matters are infirm. No infirm person can remember the lyrics and choreography for a performance that is over an hour long. She isn’t sick — she may be mentally ill, but it seems that she has that under control. At 39 years old, there is no reason she should still have to ask permission to spend her own hard-earned money at Target. It appears that her father is trying to assert the authority he didn’t have over her when she was a child. As if he feels that she owes him something because he’s her father. It’s absolute bullshit.

“Framing Britney Spears” is a gripping look at what happens to a celebrity when the world turns on them. It shows how little celebrity women are valued as autonomous people. It’s a hard look at her journey from an eager teenager to a broken woman on the precipice of middle age. In some ways, she’s still infantilized beyond the conservatorship. She still talks in a very childlike voice, and she’s clearly desperate for a true friend. Combing through her Instagram videos is just heartbreaking.

The only good news is that the attention from the documentary is forcing them back into court. Here’s hoping it leads to a positive outcome sooner rather than later.