Justin Timberlake Is Just One Villain in Framing Britney Spears

Illustration for article titled Justin Timberlake Is Just One Villain in Framing Britney Spears
Photo: Valery Hache/AFP (Getty Images)

The two things I’ve watched tonight—Framing Britney Spears and, currently, the Super Bowl—have one person in common, and that person is Justin Timberlake, who is under fire once again for effortlessly maintaining his A-list celeb status while permanently damaging the reputations of Britney Spears and Janet Jackson.

Framing Britney Spears, a new doc from The New York Times Presents, chronicles Spears’s 13-year-long conservatorship, as well as the immense pressure and scrutiny she faced from the media as a teen pop icon that eventually led to the legal arrangement, over which she has no control. As Spears’s star rose, the media entrapped her in a Madonna-whore dichotomy, shaming her for not appearing pure and chaste while at the same time flagrantly profiting from portraying her otherwise. This dynamic becomes particularly stark when Spears is accused of cheating on Timberlake, a version of events Timberlake perpetuated with the music video to his single “Cry Me a River,” which depicts the singer catching a Spears lookalike sleeping with someone else.

In a 2003 interview, Diane Sawyer asks Spears, “You broke his heart, you did something that caused him so much pain, so much suffering. What did you do?” She then goes on to share a quote from the wife of the governor of Maryland at the time, who said that if she “had the opportunity to shoot Britney Spears,” she would do it. Spears breaks into tears and asks to stop the interview.

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Needless to say, the media doesn’t seem to subject Timberlake to this same line of questioning. In a post-breakup interview, a radio host asks Timberlake crudely: “Did you fuck Britney Spears?” Instead of rebuffing the question, Timberlake laughs along and says, “Okay, I did it.”

It’s clear that many people and institutions are to blame for Britney Spears being stripped of her autonomy—her father, the paparazzi, the media, and the conservatorship system, which makes it virtually impossible for conservatees to get out from under it, to name a few. Timberlake isn’t the biggest villain in Framing Britney Spears, but when he had the chance to change a formative narrative that demonized Spears and exonerated him, he chose to embrace it instead.


What do we think Elon Musk is talking about on this fake phone call, which he took holding baby X AE A-Xii? (Please also imagine Grimes taking this photo, as one must after that photo of Musk and Kanye West.)

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  • Free V-day gift idea: Paris Hilton got her boyfriend a larger-than-life-sized portrait of him kissing her on the forehead for his birthday. [Instagram]
  • Sarah Jessica Partner says #FreeBritney. [Twitter]
  • Normal People star Daisy Edgar-Jones has reportedly broken up with boyfriend Tom Varey, who, at least in this Page Six photo, looks remarkably like Paul Mescal to this night blogger... [Page Six]
  • And since football is happening tonight, let’s talk football: Shailene Woodley and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers appear to be engaged, news that broke mere days after we learned that they were (reportedly) dating. Love is alive! We think! [Us Weekly]

Night blogger at Jezebel with writing at The Baffler, The Nation, The New Republic, Vice, and more.

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I just read X AE A-Xii as E-I-E-I-O in my head and thats gonna be that kid’s name for me from now on.