Documentary review: Who is Britney Jean?

Daniel Wren

Britney’s new documentary aired the other night and, as I would never illegally watch something such as this, I flew all the way to America and back JUST to write this review, aren’t I good?*

I feel like I’ve said this before, but I love Britney Spears. Like, I LOVE BRITNEY SPEARS. I don’t think you understand, I LOVE HER. Get it? I REALLY LOVE HER.

Okay, here we go.

So despite being titled after her eighth album, Britney Jean, this documentary includes almost no mention of the album, besides a total of 5 minutes spent talking about her videos for Work Bitch, Perfume and a bit of her album listening party. The main focus is her Vegas residency and her preparation for this. It includes all the typical “oh gosh will it all be ready on time?!” drama  from her managers and production team which was quite dry, and sees interviews with some of her dancers about their injuries. That’s cute but I’d rather be watching Britney, thanks.

What I really appreciated was that it subtly dealt with why Britney has become such a robot and awkward in interviews since that fateful year of 2007. It includes brief hints to how hard it was for her, establishes SHE’S REALLY A SHY PERSON and highlights her awkward hand/foot twitches and mannerisms during interviews, one of the more obvious signs of someone suffering from social anxiety. She is a lot more open and natural during the cutaway interviews where it shows her, one camera and presumably someone she’s comfortable with asking her questions.

During these moments we see that Britney is just a simple girl who wants to sing and dance then go home to her family and that’s pretty much all there is to her core. So while it may not seem deeply personal and dissecting a thousand dark secrets, it’s probably because that’s all there is to her. Don’t forget, she rose to fame before the internet was such a huge part of daily life, before the public decided it was fine for us to invade every inch of a celebrity’s life and she had no preparation or desire for that. Plus, she must have been one of the first celebrities to experience her private life splashed all over magazines, TV and the internet and no one really knew how to deal with it back then, on either side of the fence.

Those little interviews were the real highlight for me. Everything else did seem to just display Britney as a puppet in a show way bigger than even she seems to realise. Every single movement she’s in the public eye seems to be carefully crafted by someone other than herself. There was a scene with a room full of about ten people all planning the next month of her life, no sign of Britney anywhere and they were all agreed that she had to work a full day of rehearsals and press appearances on her birthday. Another shot showed Britney wanting Alien to be part of the setlist and then a team of people giving her a list of reasons as to why it shouldn’t be until she finally said that maybe it shouldn’t be on the setlist, cut to a shot of her manager saying: “in the end, it’s Britney that makes the final decision.”

Intentional or not, this just revealed how manipulated she is, repeatedly pointed to an answer until she agrees and it can be stated that she came to a decision herself when she clearly had no choice. Another scene shows her writing up a personal letter to her fans that her assistant has typed up for her. There’s a clearly staged scene near the beginning, talking about the concept of her show and all her ideas, trying to prove she’s in control and then, later on, there’s a moment where she’s told there’s a segment of the show involving a tree that she jumps off of and a segment with fire and she’s got a clear look of shock on her face and asking what her interaction with these things include.

There’s a few more instances where there’s a feeble attempt to make her look in control, such as asking to see playback of her Work Bitch video and selecting the order of her setlist, from a selection of songs picked out by her manager or when we’re told she’s going to select the final dancers from a selection of 8 males and 6 females, only to later tell us that the final crop include 8 males and 6 females. She refers to a song off her new album as ‘fart’ and calls Piece of Me a personal and popular song, bearing in mind it wasn’t written or produced by her, features two other vocalists and charted at 18 in America. It all seems a bit weird.

This all makes it clear that Britney essentially has no idea what the title Britney Spears really means and there’s a lot of people manipulating both her and the public into creating this larger than life superstar image. Frankly, she seems most passionate when talking about watching people dance or dancing herself. There’s literally n0 singing on her part throughout the entire thing, just her F***ING ANNOYING choreographers who repeatedly mess up the lyrics and sound like dying banshees when talking, let alone ‘singing’.

Britney definitely seems happiest when with her children and family or talking about them, and overall the documentary just gave me the impression she, like any kid, wanted to be a superstar but when faced with that reality wanted to back out and go home. She talks about how much she loves home and wants to go there and tears up when talking about retiring but it’s clear that, as she rose to the top at such a young age, she never had time to grow up and figure out who she is and now she doesn’t know anything else but the life she’s been given. It really seemed to me, like I said before, she just wanted to sing and dance then go home to her family and everything she does to continue doing so seems to have been fed to her as steps she must take in order achieve that. There’s no mention of her endorsements or perfumes or big fashion labels doing her costume, she walks around in pyjamas and comfy clothes as much as she can and drinks Starbucks like the rest of us. The money and fame couldn’t seem more unimportant to her and it just feels sad that she’s given the same smoke and mirrors as the rest of us to what Britney Spears really is.

However, she does seem happy. The documentary shows she really does work ridiculously hard but she does it for such simple things like being happy with the people she loves and keeping them happy, not for charts or celebrity. It’s almost like she is a superstar inadvertently. She mentions in her bathroom she has a sign saying: ‘Go beyond reason to love, for it’s the only safety there is.’ mentioning she believes this as: “you should always go beyond reason to love and to be with the person you want to be with and to be cherished and to be treasured.” Her focus really isn’t success and frankly, while I think that can obviously be seen in her latest album, it’s kinda part of the reason why I love her.


Some other things I took away from the documentary:

– I really hate her choreographers

– Always carry duct tape

– Alien will be a single (hooray)

– The timeline in this is clearly wrong

– Her album cover is probably just old pictures of her photoshopped together to look new

– Britney loves sex


*might be bullshit.

About Daniel Wren

Vada Magazine staff writer. Interested in travel, news, politics and dating.