In a 2008 episode of the US game show Family Feud, contestants were asked to name “something Britney Spears has lost in the past year”. Winning answers — to whooping from the studio audience — included “her hair”, “her children” and “her mind”. This is one of many shame-evoking clips in Framing Britney Spears, the New York Times-produced documentary which tracks the rise, fall and bizarre purgatory of the multi-platinum pop star. (Spears has been under a conservatorship, in which a judge appoints a guardian for those deemed unable to care for themselves, since 2008.)
Watching it, I was reminded of other recent documentaries and podcasts that have challenged my perception of previously maligned women, among them Monica Lewinsky, Anita Hill, Amy Winehouse, Lorena Bobbitt and Anna Nicole Smith. These programmes offer little in the way of new information; it’s the evolution of cultural mores that reframes narratives and reveals our collective culpability. What a gut-punch to realise that, for all my feminist credentials, I had failed to see the humanity of the women behind the punchlines….
Read the full column online in the Financial Times