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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.
"I’ll always love being on stage," Spears captioned a throwback video of herself performing "Toxic" three years ago. "But I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person… I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life!"
Spears advised her fans to take what they see with a grain of salt, reminding her devoted followers that "each person has their story and their take on other people’s stories."
"We all have so many different bright beautiful lives," she wrote. "Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person's life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens!"
Each person has their story and their take on other people’s stories !!!! We all have so many different bright beautiful lives 🌹🌸🌷🌼!!! Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person's life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens 📷✨ !!!!
— Britney Spears (@britneyspears) February 9, 2021
Kevin Federline's lawyer Mark Vincent Kaplan told USA TODAY Wednesday Federline intends to stay out of public conversation surrounding Spears' conservatorship. Federline and Spears were married from 2004 to 2007 and share two kids: Sean Preston, 15, and Jayden James, 14.
“Kevin has kept himself completely out of whatever issues there may be between Britney and the conservatorship," said the Los Angeles divorce attorney. "Kevin doesn’t have an opinion whether she should or shouldn’t have a conservator, and he’s done well to keep himself out of that fray.”
Kaplan continued: “Right now, he’s letting them deal with it, and his only interest is that when (their children) go visit their mom they are doing it in a structured, secure environment that champions their best interest.”
On Tuesday, Spears' boyfriend Sam Asghari, 27, joined those speaking out about the treatment of Spears on social media, specifically calling out the pop icon's father on his Instagram Story.
"Now it's important for people to understand that I have zero respect for someone trying to control our relationship and constantly throwing obstacles our way," he wrote. "In my opinion, Jamie is a total (expletive). I won't be going into details because I've always respected our privacy but at the same time, I didn't come to this country to not be able to express my opinion and freedom."
Asghari was born in Tehran, Iran and moved to the U.S. in 2006. He met Spears in 2016 on the set of her "Slumber Party" music video, and the couple made their red carpet debut together in 2019 at the premiere for Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood."
Other celebrities are also speaking out following the documentary's release, 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's comments on Spears, sex
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, on whom Timberlake exacts revenge by recording a steamy make-out 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 brings up Kendel Ehrlich's remarks
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 sit-down. "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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'The paparazzi destroyed Britney Spears'
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 Federline denied her request to see their children.
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.' "
Other resurfacings: Sarah Silverman and Craig Ferguson
The documentary has stirred up other moments that didn't make it into the doc itself, including Sarah Silverman, who is coming under fire for comments she made about Spears at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards.
In the clip, Silverman says onstage, “She’s a mother. It’s a crazy. It’s weird to think that just a few years ago on this very show she was this, like, sweet, innocent, little girl in slutty clothes riding around with a python.”
Silverman went on to call the singer’s children “the most adorable mistakes you will ever see" before making a NSFW joke about Spears' body.
Twitter user @joshcharles_21 shared the clip Sunday and wrote, "um @SarahKSilverman girl what is this explain yourself x"
Silverman responded, saying she was "known then 4 roasts."
"MTV asked me to mini-roast Britney after her big performance," Silverman tweeted, saying she was in the bathroom and going over her jokes while Spears was performing. ""Had no idea she didn’t kill. Unfortunate. Art changes over yrs as we know more & the world changes."
In another tweet, she added, "I wish I could delete it but I can’t. But you are posting it for people to see. So r u trying to be kind or right?"
A more positive resurfaced commentary involving Spears is Craig Ferguson's defense of the star during a 2007 monologue on the "Late Late Show."
In a clip that was re-shared to Twitter Monday (and has garnered more than 145,000 likes since), host Ferguson showed some sympathy for the singer.
“I’m starting to feel uncomfortable making fun of these people,” he said. “Comedy should have a certain amount of joy in it. It should be about us attacking the powerful people, attacking the politicians and the Trumps and the blowhards, going after them. We shouldn’t be attacking the vulnerable people.”
He continued, "I think my aim’s been off a bit and I want to change it. So tonight, no Britney Spears jokes. This woman has two kids. She’s 25 years old. She’s a baby herself. She’s a baby.”
Contributing: Charles Trepany, Cydney Henderson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Britney Spears speaks out after 'Framing Britney' documentary uproar