From Teen Pop Princess to Public Scrutiny

The rise, fall and enduring of the American Sweetheart and pop icon, Britney Spears, and how the media permanently damaged her reputation and mental health.

American singer and “Princess of Pop”, Britney Spears, has been a key figure within the music industry over the years and a role model for many women who grew up listening to her music. Many of us not only watched her iconic performances but remember how she was scrutinized and depicted in the media in the 2000s.

The pop star shot to fame in the late 90s, with hits like “…Baby One More Time”, “Toxic” and “Oops, I did It Again!”, but it wasn’t long until the world saw the, then 25-year-old, crack under the pressure- and the media ate it up!

In 2007 Britney Spears was reportedly suffering from post-natal depression, and grief after the death of her aunt and was going through a brutal custody battle with her ex-husband ‘Kevin Federline’. This led to the star appearing at significantly fewer press appearances and to the eyes of the media go ‘AWOL’. The star was later photographed with a shaved head and was seen smashing the window of a paparazzi’s car. These images swarmed the internet in 2007 and sparked the “Britney Spears meltdown” era.

The tabloids became obsessed with capturing the worst images of Britney during this period of her life and documenting her failed marriage and custody battle. In more recent years many argue that the approach of the media was unethical and extremely damaging to Britney’s mental health and will forever affect the star and her family.

In 2008, After the public “breakdown”, Britney was placed under conservatorship where her father was legally put in charge of her decisions and finances. This is still in place today and sparks outrage amongst many social media users and fans, as many are concerned for the singer’s well-being regarding her relationship with her father.

One article was published with the headline ‘Mommys Crying: Britney’s Darkest Hour’ featuring an image of Britney Spears’s son. The media in 2007/2008 often amplified criticism and negativity about her parenting skills.

Britney’s new memoir ‘The Woman In Me’ touches on this period as the star reveals: “I am willing to admit that in the throes of severe postpartum depression, abandonment by my husband, the torture of being separated from my two babies, the death of my adored aunt Sandra and the constant drumbeat of pressure from paparazzi, I’d begin to think in some ways like a child.”

The media largely ignored the pressures of fame and the potential impact of intense scrutiny on a young woman’s mental well-being. There was a lack of context and a focus on sensationalism over genuine concern. This period was a turning point in Britney’s life. The public scrutiny and personal challenges took a toll on her mental health, leading to the conservatorship that would define the next thirteen years. 

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Written by: Jessica Hine