The New York Times documentary led to backlash for Justin Timberlake, Diane Sawyer, Matt Lauer, and Spears’s father after its release on February 5. Now the pop star’s younger sister is urging her followers (and celebrity gossip sites) to be kind.
The 29-year-old actor posted the same unattributed quote to her Instagram stories twice on February 12. “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always,” the quote reads. The second time she posted the message, she added, “Dear media, try not to repeat the mistakes of your past. Look where that got us. Do better.”
She’s not wrong about the media’s hand in tarnishing Britney Spears’s reputation. For one, there was Diane Sawyer’s antagonistic interview in 2003 following Spears’ breakup from Timberlake. On national television Sawyer asked Spears about her promise as a teenager to keep her virginity until marriage, by asking her what she’d say to her little sister. Jamie Lynn Spears was 12 years old at the time. There was also Lauer and Jay Leno and the relentless paparazzi. And it never really ended, did it?
“It’s easy to think we’re in a better place now that the tabloid culture of the 2000s has diminished, but social media’s just given us a much more direct route,” Glamour writer Jenny Singer says in an article titled “We’re All to Blame for What Happened to Britney Spears.” In her piece, Singer explores how everyone, including the targets of the documentary, the films’ producers, and all of us who continue to write about this entire saga, profit from the pop star’s downfalls and comebacks.
“The decades of pap photos, the horrifying interviews, even this documentary, exist to meet the demand of an insatiable public,” Singer wrote. “Individuals and major media figures are responsible for the exploitation of Britney Spears. But we’re responsible for funding it.”