This is a little off topic in comparison to my normal posts, but it’s been all over the news, so I wanted to write a post about it.
I’m sure you’ve at least heard about the Britney Spears documentary on Hulu, Framing Britney Spears, if not watched it by now. Much of the discussion around it deals with Justin Timberlake and how many people feel like he is at least partially at fault for her current state. He mistreated her, owes her an apology, and is, in general, a misogynistic prick.
Let me just say, I’m underwhelmed by these attacks on Justin Timberlake. Personally, I don’t care for him at all. But let’s lay blame where blame belongs, and there’s plenty to go around. For my part, I’m blown away by that Diane Sawyer interview.
But Justin Timberlake? Let’s put things into perspective. They broke up just after his 21st birthday. And not to excuse immaturity due to young age, but 21 year olds aren’t exactly known for being models of maturity.
And what exactly did he do? Say he had sex with Britney Spears? Not lecture people for asking him if he had sex with her in somewhat crude terms? Okay.
And then he made a couple of songs about her cheating on him. Again, and okay? He’s a musician. Musicians write about life experiences a lot of the times. He’s hardly the only one to do so, and the songs aren’t crass or abusive towards her. They were nothing special.
Plus, take into account that she did apparently cheat on him, which makes it not surprising that he was hurt and angry. Was it the most mature thing to do? Of course not, but this is hardly unique. Taylor Swift makes songs about her former boyfriends and people celebrate her. Beyoncé makes a song about her husband cheating and people celebrate her braveness. I really don’t see how this is different.
I can’t imagine being famous, especially when you’re still in your twenties. All of us have done so many immature things that we wish we could take back from that time of our lives, but we have the privilege of not having those mistakes recorded forever. I’m sure, like the rest of us, there are aspects of how he acted when he was in his early and mid twenties that he wishes he could take back. Even if it would have been saying “hey, please speak about my ex, who cheated on me and who I am not on good terms with, more respectfully.”
And then throwing in Janet Jackson again? It was apparently a stunt planned in part by Janet Jackson, but they were just supposed to end up with her bra exposed. Whether that’s true or not I know is debated. She did have a sparkly nipple pasty on underneath after all, which, to me, seems to point to that she planned for the boob to be out.
And whether there was a wardrobe malfunction or whether they got the intended result, I just don’t get why people had to be upset about it. Obviously, people made it a big deal, but what a lot to do about nothing.
For Timberlake’s part, he’s supposedly the bad guy for going along with a plan presented to him by others, including Jackson, who he had worked with before and respected? I just don’t see it. I actually think it’s pretty diminutive of women to say that Timberlake was responsible for Jackson in that instance. It isn’t really his role to say she can’t or shouldn’t have part of her costume removed to expose her bra. He could say he’s uncomfortable participating if he was. But it’s still her body and her right.
If the costume just ripped more than it was supposed to, okay, and that sucks. He’s definitely partially to blame for that and should apologize. He did apologize, even if it was one of those really poor “sorry if you were offended” apologies.
I really only see him as being truly a giant dick if (1) his interviews about Spears were actually calculated and intended to demean her person, knowing she was in a fragile mental state, following up with songs intended to break her, and (2) he intentionally ripped Jackson’s costume more than anyone else intended, including Jackson. In that case, he would be an unrepentant psychopath who gets off on mental torture who also is comfortable with sexually assaulting a woman in national TV.
And I just don’t see that. I see someone who was 21 and immature acting like an immature 21 year old, and a 23 year old caught in (at worst) a wardrobe malfunction that people overreacted about.
Again, not a Timberlake fan, but cancel culture coming after him for this seems to be a misdirection of anger.