Reese Witherspoon reflects on the media’s treatment of Britney Spears and explained why she thinks she never came under the same level of scrutiny
After “Framing Britney Spears,” the New York Times documentary that laid bare the absolutely relentless, unfair treatment Britney Spears had received by both the media and the general public ever since releasing her debut single in 1998, it seems plenty of people are revisiting their relationship to Spears and what she went through — and most would argue is still going through — under the restraints of a 12-year-long conservatorship.
One such person reflecting on the documentary is Reese Witherspoon, who found fame as a young actress in the late ’90s and made headlines for her relationship with fellow actor Ryan Philippe, whom she married in 1999 and divorced in 2006.
In a new interview with TIME, Witherspoon explained that she received a lot of the same media attention that Spears did around the same time — as a young mom of two children as well, she revealed that her family was followed to church, to school, and to soccer practice, along with a troubling period of time when an RV was parked outside her home with cameras pointing into her kitchen window at all hours of the day.
“My children will tell you stories about being in preschool and people climbing on the roofs of our cars,” she told the magazine. It was at the height of nasty tabloid and blog culture in 2006 when she moved her family home from Los Angeles to Nashville — around the time that both she and Spears were going through divorces that played out daily in said tabloids and blogs.
But Witherspoon acknowledges that for all their similarities, she was given much different treatment than Spears, something she attributes to a totally “arbitrary” positive public image. She notes that she and her pal Jennifer Garner were considered “good,” while young women like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Spears were considered “bad,” even though she herself screamed at photographers who were following her.
“What if the media had decided I was something else? I would be in a totally different position,” she told the magazine. “I want to say it’s my decisions or the career choices I made, but it felt very arbitrary. And kind of shitty.”
It’s arguable that not much has changed in the landscape in all these years, particularly when it comes to the way Spears is treated by the public. Her every Instagram post is still being dissected down to each pixel by those who think there are hidden messages in her outfits, makeup, and emojis. And while it’s admirable that people are now interested in protecting her happiness and well-being, it’s worth remembering that no matter how famous or how beloved a person is, there’s still a person on the other side of the screen who deserves freedom, respect, and privacy — and that glimpses into someone’s life only tell a fraction of the full story.