Netflix is planning to hit audiences with its own Britney Spears documentary. Hot on the heels of Hulu’s successful New York Times feature on the pop princess and her polarizing conservatorship, Netflix is working on its own movie about Britney Spears, in the streamer’s latest dueling documentary response to a successful Hulu doc.
Another day, another story of Netflix commissioning its own documentary around the same time that Hulu releases its own successful and timely one. After we got two dueling Fyre Festival documentaries from the two streamers, Netflix has reportedly started working on a Britney Spears documentary, shortly after the debut of Hulu doc Framing Britney Spears spawned a heap of headlines and revived discourse about the media and wider society’s treatment of the troubled pop star.
Bloomberg reports that filmmaker Erin Lee Carr, who specializes in true crime documentaries (she helmed the 2017 doc Mommy Dead and Dearest which spawned the Hulu adaptation The Act), is directing a documentary about Britney Spears for Netflix, which had already been underway before Framing Britney Spears became one of the most talked-about films of the year.
While it’s not unusual for movie studios or streamers to work on similar projects at the same time, the concept of competing documentaries has increased during the streaming era — the low-cost, quickly produced format makes it comparatively easy to cobble together quickly while the subject is still a hot topic. We saw that with the dual Fyre Festival documentaries from Netflix and Hulu, which were released in quick succession about each other, and by the spate of Tiger King content that was greenlit following Netflix’s hit docuseries.
But an increase in Britney docs is interesting because of the growing public investment in the singer’s well-being following the extension of her conservatorship under her father Jamie Spears in December 2020. Spears was placed under the conservatorship in 2008 following a string of public meltdowns in the wake of relentless paparazzi harassment and a tumultuous custody battle for her children, and has been under this legal arrangement — which places her father in charge of her financial, medical, and personal affairs — since then. Framing Britney Spears, an hour-long documentary produced by the New York Times, puts special focus on the conservatorship and the #FreeBritney movement which has sprung up amid Spears’ court petitions to be removed from it.
As a result, Framing Britney Spears feels kind of incomplete — it gives way too much air time to the #FreeBritney movement, which is led by well-meaning activists who at several points feel like they’re reading too much into vague Instagram posts. So a Netflix documentary that expands on the topics that have been talked about in the aftermath of the documentary — the media’s misogynistic treatment of Spears throughout her career, the abominable approach to celebrities’ mental illness issues — would actually be welcome. While it’s unlikely that the Netflix documentary could get Spears on the record (the pop star’s voice was notably absent from Framing Britney Spears, though the New York Times did try to reach out), it might be a more fleshed out portrayal of Spears. And one that could hopefully get more than a tepid apology from Justin Timberlake.
Carr’s Britney Spears documentary isn’t yet complete and doesn’t have a release date yet.
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