Oops!…It’s Happening Again: Netflix Working on a Britney Spears Doc

The news arrives on the heels of New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears.

Netflix and Hulu loves to rival each other. Two years ago both streaming services aired documentaries surrounding the glorious dumpster fire of a gathering that was Fyre Festival. The docs both shed light on the pipe dream event that laughed in the face of the rich and honed in on our obsession with scams. It was the kind of unbelievable story an irritating drunk uncle retells at every family party, but somehow both entertaining and depressing.

Years later, that documentary rivalry is alive and well. Instead of investigating a music festival scam that the world watched unfold on Twitter, the streaming sites are digging into the rise of Britney Spears and the viral #FreeBritney Movement. Spears has been in the spotlight nearly her entire life, but it’s only recently that journalists are investigating how that spotlight has impacted her mental health and control of her life. Part of the The New York Times Presents series, which aired February 5, we get an unauthorized look at how the media abused Spears and the complicated conservatorship with her father Jamie Spears. Even Justin Timberlake felt that decades later it was finally time to take accountability.

It’s only natural in this capitalistic hellscape that other streaming networks would try and cash in on the pop icon’s trauma. It’s reported that Netflix is working on its own “Free Britney” documentary by filmmaker Erin Lee Carr. Carr is a “two-time Emmy nominated filmmaker known for exploring criminal justice, femininity and virality.” Her breakout film was 2017’s Mommy Dead and Dearest, which chronicled the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard. Bloomberg reported that Carr’s film isn’t finished yet and does not have a release date or title. However, the project had begun before the airing of Framing Britney Spears.

It’s hard not to feel conflicted about this news. It’s important that we pay attention to how the media represents celebrity and impacts a real human being’s life. It’s also necessary to see how the media furthers the misogyny that’s imbedded into society, enforcing gender norms and inequity. Furthermore, Framing Britney Spears is only a glimpse of how celebrity and fandom impacts one’s mental health and the neglect that these institutions inflict. But Netflix cashing in on this trending case only furthers a huge issue at the fore of Spears’ case: Money is more important than someone’s mental health.

One might think that another documentary could breed more facts. But won’t it also bring more scrutiny for Spears? What would a second film do for the woman who posted on Instagram about “taking the time to learn and be a normal person.” For streaming to profit off Spears’ story without her being able to comment herself, there’s an eerie sense of deja vu. One can only hope that this onslaught of media exposure doesn’t mirror exploitation and abuse that took places during the 2000s.

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