“Framing Britney Spears” Sparks Conversations Around Misogyny in Entertainment

Jessica Bennett of The New York Times says female stars of the early 2000s were created and destroyed by men running the tabloid media landscape.

The New York Times and Hulu documentary “Framing Britney Spears” gave an in-depth look at the cruelty pop star Britney Spears suffered during her career. The project also exposed the realities of media in the 2000s, where high-profile women were unfairly scrutinized constantly. Now in a new era of reclaimed narratives, people are realizing the rampant misogyny of this time in entertainment, and how we need to rethink our views of these female stars. 

“All of these women who were struggling in some way…were suddenly on the cover of every tabloid, and we were mocking them.” — Jessica Bennett, The New York Times

Listen: Jessica Bennett of The New York Times on the misogyny of early 2000s pop culture and how we can do better today.


Jessica Bennett is an editor at large covering gender and culture for The New York Times. She recently wrote a piece titled, “Speaking of Britney…What about All Those Other Women?” She says this era of increased media scrutiny was enabled by the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, “Tabloids were making tons of money, after the Gulf War, people wanted to turn away…and the networks and tabloids realized that celebrity news could be a 24/7 cycle and it could make money.” Tabloids honed in on young female stars, covering their “falls from grace” with vicious sexism. “All of these women who were struggling in some way…were suddenly on the cover of every tabloid, and we were mocking them,” she says.

Bennett says growing up during this era of entertainment, she never realized how impactful the male gaze was. “I think we internalized so much of this…the idea that (young female stars) were being created in the model of what a straight man would want….I don’t think I realized the effect that had on me until I was much older.” She says there are now new standards of coverage in entertainment media. “Looking back on (Britney Spears’ 1999 cover of Rolling Stone) now it’s like you don’t want to take away the woman’s agency…but certainly today someone would’ve raised a red flag and said ‘this is an underage girl,'” says Bennett.

Web story written by Nora Rhein. 

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