In the week since the documentary Framing Britney Spears debuted on FX and Hulu, a rising chorus of voices in the media and on the internet have called for the singer’s former boyfriend Justin Timberlake to apologize for his treatment of Spears at the time of their 2002 break-up.
In the film, the then-21-year-old “Better Days” singer is seen acting like a cad in the wake of the couple’s much-publicized split, making jokes about their sex life in several interviews and casting a Brit-a-like in the damning video for his breakup anthem”Cry Me a River.”
In the midst of that conversation, a number of articles and fellow stars have asked why Timberlake has never addressed his behavior toward Spears, as well as the seeming pass he got from the music industry and media in the wake of “Nipple-gate” — the fall-out from his Super Bowl halftime performance with Jackson in 2004 in which he exposed his co-star’s breast on live television in what was later deemed a “wardrobe malfunction.” Following the incident, Jackson was uninvited from the following week’s Grammy Awards and her videos were yanked from Viacom properties including MTV, CBS and Infinity Broadcasting.
Timberlake, though, not only appeared at the Grammys, but was allowed to issue an apology at the event, and then went on to headline the SB halftime show in 2018, while Jackson has never been invited back.
“I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond,” Timberlake said. “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. 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.”
Timberlake said he was compelled to respond to the backlash in part because “everyone involved deserves better and most importantly, because this is a larger conversation that I wholeheartedly want to be part of and grow from.” The 39-year-old father of two young boys then wrote that the music industry is “flawed,” and that it sets men, “especially white men,” up for success.
Framing is mostly focused on dissecting the strict conservatorship Spears has been under since 2008. The film also delves into the often sexist way the media and popular culture treated the singer at the peak of her early 2000s career, especially the often-cruel judgement and harassment she faced at a time when she was reportedly suffering from mental health issues.
“It’s designed this way. As a man in a privileged position I have to be vocal about this,” he continued. “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 what to ever benefit from others being pulled down again.” Timberlake admitted that he has not been “perfect” in navigating the murky waters of privilege during his career, but hoped that his apology was a first step, acknowledging that it doesn’t absolve his past.
“I want to take accountability for my own missteps in all of this as well as be part of a world that uplifts and supports,” he concluded. “I care deeply about the wellbeing of the people I love and have loved. I can do better and I will do better.”
A spokesperson for Timberlake could not be reached for further comment at press time; spokespeople for Jackson and Spears had also not responded to requests for comment at press time.