Framing Britney: Twitter goes in on the toxic treatment of Britney Spears in buzzy documentary

A revelatory new documentary highlights the “Circus” that pop singer Britney Spears had to survive. Many on social media are rallying round the singer, after watching “Framing Britney Spears” (now streaming on Hulu), from FX and The New York Times.

The project examines the rise of Spears, 39, her mental health challenges, inappropriate treatment by unrelenting media and the discord over her conservatorship, controlled largely by her father, Jamie. 

The documentary has caught the attention of celebrities including talk-show host Tamron Hall, who tweeted, “It’s an understatement to call it heartbreaking.” Fashion designer Christian Siriano posted that he wanted “so much” to help Spears, and Paramore singer Hayley Williams addressed Spears’ suffering.

“No artist today would have to endure the literal torture that media/society/utter misogynists inflicted upon her,” wrote Williams. “The mental health awareness conversation, culturally, could never be where it is without the awful price she has paid.”

“Framing Britney” fired fans up about how people treated Spears, including:

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Justin Timberlake 

Musical artists Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears dated in the early aughts.

Spears reconnected with her “All New Mickey Mouse Club” co-star, and the two dated for a few years before splitting in 2002. There is speculation they broke up because Spears was unfaithful, which Timberlake appeared to fuel with the release of the music video for his 2002 single “Cry Me A River.” It featured a Spears lookalike, whom Timberlake exacts revenge on by recording a steamy makeout session with another woman.   

A clip from a radio interview with Timberlake featured in “Framing Britney” depicts another instance when former boy bander didn’t always show compassion for his ex, who at one point said she desired to remain a virgin until marriage. Asked if he slept with Spears, he playfully responds, “OK, I did it!” but seems to backtrack, though the audio is unclear. Timberlake’s 2002 interview with Barbara Walters shows a better example of his lack of restraint when it came to his sex life with Spears (though the moment is not included in the doc). Walters asked whether the couple abstained from sex during their relationship. Instead of shutting the question down, he says, “Sure,” and then lets out an uncomfortable laugh. 

Some on Twitter demanded Timberlake extend an apology to Spears for his transgressions depicted in the documentary. 

“Today’s a great day for @jtimberlake to publicly own up to his misogyny and apologize to Britney Spears,” one user wrote. “#FramingBritneySpears #FreeBritney”

“I don’t care that it’s been well over a decade,” another posted, “Justin Timberlake still owes Britney Spears an apology for framing her as a cheater in the public eye and pouring gasoline on the paparazzi fire send tweet.”

In a tweet to Timberlake directly, another shared: “You have to publicly apologize to @britneyspears for what you’ve done. And you call yourself a man?! Puah.”

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Diane Sawyer

Journalist Diane Sawyer

Sawyer is a target for criticism by documentary views thanks to a 2003 interview with Spears included in “Framing Britney.” 

The then-ABC anchor asked Spears about her high-profile breakup with Timberlake and brought up comments from former Maryland first lady Kendel Ehrlich who said, “… really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would.” 

“Oh, that’s horrible!” a shocked Spears said during the sitdown. “That’s really bad.”

When looking solely at the snippet included in the documentary, Sawyer seems to justify Ehrlich’s remarks, explaining to Spears: “Because of the example for kids and how hard it is to be a parent.”

“Every Britney interviewer from the old clips in #FramingBritneySpears that is still alive, owes Britney a public apology,” one Twitter user asserted. “You can go first @DianeSawyer”

“Awful,” another member of the Twitterverse wrote in reply. “’She feels like you’re a bad influence for her kids’ how is that even a reason to harm someone????????”

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Paparazzi

Britney Spears is the focus of paparazzi lenses on Aug. 23, 2004 in Los Angeles.

The documentary highlights another vulnerable Spears moment from a 2006 talk with disgraced former “Today” host Matt Lauer. Through tears, she tells him being left alone by the paparazzi would be one of her biggest wishes.

But they didn’t relent. The following year, photographers snapped the singer, supposedly after her ex-husband Kevin Federline denied her request to see their children Sean Preston and Jayden James.

Daniel Ramos, then a paparazzo, tried to interview Spears, triggering her so much that she struck his automobile with an umbrella.

“That night was not a good night for her,” he says in the documentary. “It was not a good night for us. But it was a good night for us, ’cause it was a money shot.”

For one Twitter user, the doc offered clarity on the incident. “I now understand the infamous 2007 Britney moment,” the person wrote. “And I would totally beat the (expletive) outta that paparazzi car window too.”

Another user declared: “The paparazzi destroyed Britney Spears”.

Ramos, however, takes no responsibility for Spears’ mental health. “Working on her for so many years, she never gave a clue or information to us that ‘I don’t appreciate you guys. Leave me the F alone.’ “

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