Justin Timberlake (Palmer) is reckoning with his past. Since the airing of the documentary episode Framing Britney Spears last Friday, the sixth episode in the first season of the FX and Hulu series The New York Times Presents, the singer has come under fire for the way he treated Spears after their highly publicized relationship in the early 2000s along with his involvement in the Janet Jackson super bowl halftime show controversy. Posting a written statement on Instagram Friday, Timberlake apologized to both Spears and Jackson for his previous damaging actions, via The Hollywood Reporter.
Framing Britney Spears chronicles the rise and fall of pop megastar Spears, and how her downfall landed her in a still ongoing 13 year conservatorship. The documentary creates a time line showing how Spears broke onto the scene, and how she was often subjected to extreme misogyny and sexism at the behest of late night talk show hosts and magazines, but also from Timberlake himself. After their break-up, fingers were pointed at Spears as she was blamed for the pair’s ending, while Timberlake’s image remained clean. The documentary plays a damning clip from a radio show post break-up in which Timberlake brags that he slept with Spears. It goes on to explore many other instances in the relationship’s aftermath where Spears was shamed and how Timberlake contributed.
Since the documentary’s airing, there has been a massive blowback against Timberlake as the public reckons with how Spears was treated. Many have called Timberlake to apologize, and he has answered. Posting on Instagram Friday, the singer and actor wrote, “I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond. I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.”
Along with apologizing to Spears, Timberlake apologized to Jackson, who infamously had a wardrobe malfunction while performing at the 2004 super bowl halftime show alongside Timberlake. He goes on to write, “I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed.” After the incident, Jackson became notorious and was the subject of various attacks from the media.
Timberlake then acknowledges how he benefited from a patriarchal system, while Spears was labeled promiscuous and unhinged and Jackson was blamed in vicious tabloids: “The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success. It’s designed this way. As a man in a privileged position I have to be vocal about this. Because of my ignorance, I didn’t recognize it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again.”
See Timberlake’s full apology below:
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Framing Britney Spears has started a conversation amongst fans and celebrities about how the media and culture have enabled the mistreatment and objectification of women in the recent past. Spears herself seemingly commented on the documentary in a message on both Instagram and Twitter, writing, “Each person has their story and their take on other people’s stories !!!! We all have so many different bright beautiful lives 🌹🌸🌷🌼!!! Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person’s life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens 📷✨ !!!!”
The New York Times Presents Framing Britney Spears is available to stream on both Hulu and the FX Network.