Everyone is talking about The New York Times’ “Framing Britney Spears” documentary, and I wanted to get in on the conversation too. So, I finally sat down to watch it last week, and I learned so much in those 75 mintutes. But, it wasn’t until I watched it a second time with Marlon that I actually learned about myself and society, and boy, do I have something to say.
Y’all know how big I am on mental health. I don’t think I’ve ever been more passionate about anything else in my life, and this documentary brought mental health, and several other interesting topics, right to forefront of the conversation. We saw a girl become a woman right before our very eyes, and we watched on as society tried to break her down. Watching this documentary really opened my eyes to the problems that we faced in our society in the early 2000s and continue to face 20 years later. Specifically, I was really able to see how society negatively impacts the mental health of the celebrities we love, and I’m ready to share my thoughts on it.
Trying to Change Someone Can Contribute to the Decline in Their Mental Health
It seems so obvious, right? If someone is constantly trying to change who you are, how you dress, or how you act, it’s only natural to feel like who you are isn’t enough. Britney Spears was constantly ridiculed and criticized for dressing “too sexy” and for not being a good role model to children, and we see the same thing happening to celebrities like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion today. Spears put it best when she said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “I’m not here to babysit your kids.”
Why do we as a society expect women to change who they are just to be a role model, a position that they never ask to be in? It’s incredibly problematic that we place this responsibility on them, as we expect them to change who they are just to make us more comfortable. There should never be a time where we sacrifice someone’s individuality for the sake of someone else’s comfort.
A Life Under Constant Scrutiny Can Leave Celebrities Feeling Invisible — Let Me Explain
A former first lady of the governor of Maryland said that if she had the chance to “shoot Britney Spears” she would. Why? No, Spears didn’t commit murder or do any sort of crime. It is because she dresses in a way that makes the former first lady uncomfortable, and at the time, many other people in America feel similarly. Instead of seeing Britney Spears for who she was on the inside, a kind and down-to-earth girl from humble beginnings, they only saw her exterior and judged her for it. Invisible.
Society also labeled Spears an unfit mother when she almost dropped her baby after leaving a hotel and again when she put her baby on her lap while she drove away from pestering paparazzi. Ask every single mother in the world, and they’ll tell you some stories of the mistakes that they made, too. The difference is, most mothers are lucky enough to be able to make their mistakes in private. When you’re a celebrity, every single mistake that that you make is magnified for the world to see. No one noticed all of the good things that she did as a mom because the mistakes were money-makers. Invisible.
Lastly, while Britney Spears is going through both a divorce and an intense custody battle she is out partying with celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Once again, society labeled her as a bad mother. A news reporter remarked, “Britney Spears must be paying the babysitter overtime,” as if to indicate that she didn’t care enough to be with her children. Nevermind that Spears may have found comfort in going out with her friends while she was going through such a tough time in her life. Nevermind that her time out with her friends may have taken her mind off of things, even if only for a little while. Society saw a mother out having fun without her kids and passed judgement. Invisible.
Celebrities Get Fed Up, and We Call Them ‘Crazy’ for Their Outbursts, Whether Rational or Irrational
When Britney Spears shaved her head in 2007, the world was in shock as people concluded that Spears had lost her mind. Unfortunately, I was also among those people. I thought that Spears was having a nervous breakdown, and like most of the world, I laughed and made light of it. It’s not one of my proudest moments, but it’s important that I’m honest with myself and all of you. We all assumed that she “finally lost it” when in actuality, she says she was just tired of people touching her. We all judged her and made fun of her, and whether this really was a sign that her mental health was declining or not, we were wrong.
Let’s also take a look at the moment when she smashes the paparazzi’s car with an umbrella. The pictures that they capture of this moment really makes Spears look crazy, which was the entire point — they want to sell this narrative, and it works. We as a society see the pictures, read the articles in the magazines, and call her crazy. However, when you think about what she’s going through at that time, you remember that she has a lot on her plate. Her custody battle is still ongoing, she is not allowed to see her kids, and the paparazzi is harassing her all night with a camera in hand, ready to capture her worst moments. It doesn’t make it right what Spears did, but I definitely know a few mothers who would lash out if they were kept from seeing their kids too.
Life as a celebrity is so stressful, and us everyday people will never know know the full extent of what these celebrities go through. When we are battling depression or struggling with our mental health, we are able to do so in the privacy of our own space. However, celebrities often struggle to have their own space because of how invasive society can be. We forget that these celebrities are human too — they have feelings, make mistakes, have bad days, and go through hardships just like us. We often think that because they have money, their problems can’t possibly too much to bear, but that’s just not true.
Perhaps, if we gave them more space to breathe or more space to simply exist in peace, we’ll see a rise in the overall happiness and well-being of the celebrities we know and love. After all, they do us a service by entertaining us and sharing their craft with us. The least we can do is respect them because, contrary to popular belief, celebrities don’t “sign up” to be ridiculed, judged, and disrespected. Perhaps, if we chose to spread more positivity instead of drowning in negativity, the world can be a better place all around.
“[They] gain fame, and the paparazzi or media waits and watches for them to slip, just to shame their name.”
— Anthony Liccione