The producers go from there back to Spears’ beginnings as a child star and subsequent explosion as a pop diva, including debate over the hyper-sexualized way in which she was presented. As the producers illustrate, Spears was subjected to questions about everything from her body to her virginity that seldom arose in coverage of boy bands, which gave way to intense tabloid scrutiny of her every move as she grew older.
No one in the media fares particularly well during this look back, from the paparazzi that chased Spears to latenight comics who lampooned her misfortunes to Diane Sawyer’s ABC interview with her. “Everyone wanted a piece of Britney,” one of the photographers admits.
Of course, just by producing “Framing Britney,” the Times — and yes, those covering the program — are taking pieces too. While the paper’s imprimatur brings high journalistic standards to the process, the producers play an anonymous message sent to the “Britney’s Gram” podcast, a call about Spears that “Framing Britney’s” producers acknowledge they couldn’t independently verify.
As former MTV VJ Dave Holmes notes, part of the enduring fascination with Spears likely stems from the fact that she has remained a mystery in many ways, despite growing up in the public eye. “We never knew her,” Holmes says. “We know her even less now.”
“Framing Britney Spears” doesn’t really penetrate that protective shell, but it does meticulously lay out the history and key players, as well as the way the conversation about her status has grown to encompass issues beyond just the particulars of Spears’ story. The more uncomfortable, slightly meta question is whether even serious attempts to examine the star’s fame and potential exploitation wind up participating in the process.
“Framing Britney Spears” premieres Feb. 5 at 10 p.m. ET on FX and Hulu.