Following the release of the New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears on the weekend, everyone has seemingly started to take accountability for the role society played in the downfall of pop princess Britney Jean Spears.
Now, I could and will talk about Britney Spears until I’m blue in the face. In the days following the documentary’s release I’ve written, podcasted, tweeted and even called my mum to talk about how dirty we did her.
I mean, here’s this celebrity who was thrown into the spotlight as a literal child, hyper-sexualised and ridiculed for every single decision she ever made. And then when she finally snapped and succumbed to the enormous amount of pressure she was under on a daily basis, we treated her like she was a crazy person and ridiculed her some more.
But Framing Britney Spears isn’t just about Britney. This story is so much bigger than one fallen starlet who shaved her head and ended up in a conservatorship, it’s every other woman that we’ve treated the same way, many of whom are yet to receive the #FreeBritney redemption story they deserve.
So, if the #FreeBritney movement has made you feel guilty for the way we treated Spears, I implore you to keep that same mindset when it comes to the countless other women we have written off as hysterical and washed-up celebrities.
In particular: Amanda Bynes.
You simply cannot look at Britney Spears’ story without drawing striking similarities between her and Amanda Bynes.
Both stars were thrown into the spotlight at a young age in an industry that does 2/5ths of fuck all to protect vulnerable children from going off the rails. By the time they reached adulthood and found their independence, they were rolling in cash with very little real understanding of how the world works and were simply meant to work it out for themselves.
Much like Spears, Amanda Bynes had a thriving career at the start.
After rising to fame on The Amanda Show, she gave us hit performances in films like She’s The Man, Hairspray, What A Girl Wants and Easy A. By 2006, she was widely regarded as one of the hottest up and coming actresses in the game.
Fuck, I even had her on the cover of my school books.
Much like Britney Spears, she was seen as one of “Hollywood’s good girls”, according to Us Weekly in 2004.
But then it all sort of went south in 2010, just a few years after Britney’s shaved head meltdown. And like Spears a few years prior, the media was not kind when she eventually made the same mistakes we all make in our late teens and early 20s.
“I started smoking marijuana when I was 16. Even though everyone thought I was the ‘good girl,’ I did smoke marijuana from that point on.” She told PAPER during her 2018 attempted comeback interview, “I didn’t get addicted [then] and I wasn’t abusing it. And I wasn’t going out and partying or making a fool of myself… yet.”
She went on an indefinite acting hiatus, was charged with a DUI and then a subsequent drug charge and even allegedly threw a bong out a window to hide it from police.
Just like we saw with Spears a few years prior, Bynes’ face was slapped all over every tabloid with headlines like “Amanda Bynes: Destroyed By Fame” and “Insane & On The Run,” among countless others.
Honestly, you could’ve swapped out the pictures for photos of Britney Spears and you wouldn’t even know the difference.
By 2013, she was detained after allegedly setting her neighbour’s driveway on fire and was placed in a mental health facility, which was when she too was put under a conservatorship.
Amanda Bynes took to Instagram to speak on her conservatorship and cost of treatment. pic.twitter.com/NA2p19RxVz
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) February 22, 2020
But even after she was legally deemed unfit to make her own life choices, she was still the laughing stock of the tabloids.
We laughed when she tweeted that she wanted Drake to “murder her vagina” in part of a very public Twitter meltdown, and again when she debuted a perhaps questionable face tattoo.
Even after giving her iconic 2018 redemption interview with PAPER, in which she publicly admitted her own mistakes, she still never got the support she deserved.
“I’m really ashamed and embarrassed with the things I said. I can’t turn back time but if I could, I would. And I’m so sorry to whoever I hurt and whoever I lied about because it truly eats away at me. It makes me feel so horrible and sick to my stomach and sad,” Bynes said. “Everything I worked my whole life to achieve, I kind of ruined it all through Twitter. It’s definitely not Twitter’s fault — it’s my own fault.”
And just a few weeks ago, the world laughed when she announced that she was pursuing a rap career.
Now, I’m not saying that she is without fault. But when you’re thrown into the spotlight before you’re old enough to drive a car, offered very little support and criticised by the tabloids at every turn, it’s hardly surprising to see why so many celebrities turn to substance abuse and very public breakdowns.
And while Amanda is the clearest and most obvious comparison to Britney, she’s not the only one. We’ve seen the same thing happen to Lindsay Lohan, Courtney Love and Miley Cyrus, just to name a few.
So if Framing Britney Spears – or the #FreeBritney story at all – made you feel like *maybe* we were a little shit to Britney Spears, I implore you to offer that same empathy to the other stars who are yet to get a chance to tell their redemption stories.