The world watched in horror as a heartbroken Britney Spears asked a judge to release her from her 13-year conservatorship, which restricted everything from her movement to her womb. And Spears’s ex-boyfriend, Justin Timberlake, decided he had some thoughts to share about her ordeal as well.
In a series of tweets Wednesday evening, Timberlake expressed support for Spears:
After what we saw today, we should all be supporting Britney at this time. Regardless of our past, good and bad, and no matter how long ago it was… what’s happening to her is just not right. No woman should ever be restricted from making decisions about her own body. No one should EVER be held against their will… or ever have to ask permission to access everything they’ve worked so hard for. Jess and I send our love, and our absolute support to Britney during this time. We hope the courts, and her family make this right and let her live however she wants to live.
Timberlake’s statement appears sincere. He’s right, women should have autonomy over their bodies, everyone should support Britney. But qualifying his support with a drive-by mention of “Regardless of our past, good and bad, and no matter how long ago it was” cheapens the sentiment and unnecessarily centers him in Spears’s ongoing and devastating ordeal.
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Besides, Timberlake has some nerve. Anyone who was sentient during Timberlake’s Justified era remembers Timberlake using his recent breakup with Spears—whom he dated from 1998 to 2002—as promotional fodder, appearing to leak information about their relationship to bolster the album’s popularity and even going so far as to discuss their sex life in an interview with Barbara Walters. It didn’t help that the music video for his hit song “Cry Me A River” featured a Britney Spears lookalike and suggested that Spears was unfaithful; Spears was even interrogated about how badly she broke Timberlake’s heart in an infamous interview with Diane Sawyer in 2003.
While tabloids may have suggested the opposite, Spears was a relatively private figure in the early years of her career; dishing out juicy details of her personal life for the press or in confessional interviews wasn’t her bread and butter. But the Timberlake ordeal forced her into a corner. This is a woman who was already being asked intimate questions about her breast development as a teen, but the normalcy of such invasiveness never ended. Timberlake and his PR bonanza were complicit.
He wasn’t the only one, of course, and in a way, everyone who was a willful and eager consumer of the tawdry headlines about Spears going commando, about Spears losing her mind, about Spears being trailer trash for walking around in a parking lot without shoes, are all have metaphorical blood on their hands.
This, similarly to his hamhanded apologies to Janet Jackson nearly two decades after the Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, feels too little too late. Timberlake also delivered a mealy-mouthed apology to Spears (and Jackson) following the release of Framing Britney. At this point, ill will toward Timberlake is so high that nothing he could have said would have been met in good faith.
While Timberlake would have received a bombardment of hate, snarky reaction memes, and the like regardless of what he said, perhaps a simple “Free Britney” would have sufficed.