'Framing Britney Spears': Justin Timberlake Criticized for How He Handled Their Split

"Hate when you watch a documentary before bed and then just lie there consumed with a desire to fistfight Justin Timberlake."

britney spears justin timberlake framing britney spears
(Image credit: Ron Galella, Ltd.)

"Framing Britney Spears," the new documentary from The New York Times (currently airing on FX and Hulu), has completely reset the cultural narrative around the pop icon, to say the very least. In a little over an hour, the doc exposes the complex—and hugely damaging—machinery that simultaneously turned Britney into the biggest pop star in the world and sapped her of her sense of self and control over her own life. Decades after the fact, we're finally realizing the collective role we all played in perpetuating her misogynistic framing in the media and her mental health struggles over the years, prompting countless viewers to issue apologies and messages of support to the star online.

One apology that has yet to arrive? Justin Timberlake's. About 20 minutes into "Framing Britney Spears," the focus shifts to the breakup heard 'round the world, when Brit and JT called it quits in 2002 after three years of dating. In the aftermath of their split, Timberlake was portrayed in the media as a sensitive musician with a broken heart, while Britney made headlines for her "wild nights" and apparent "betrayal" of Timberlake, and was chastised in an interview with Diane Sawyer for causing her ex-boyfriend "so much pain, so much suffering." Because all breakups are completely one-sided, right?

Timberlake, meanwhile, did absolutely nothing to rectify the narrative that positioned him as the victim of Britney's actions as the apparently remorseless villain in their relationship. In fact, he further encouraged and profited off the rumors that he'd been cheated on by a man-eating vixen with his music video for "Cry Me a River," one of his first solo singles. The video acts as something of a revenge fantasy for Timberlake, who breaks into his ex-girlfriend's home and films himself making out with an anonymous dark-haired woman there, then leaves that video playing on the TV for his ex—a blonde dressed in Britney's then-trademark newsboy hat and low-rise bootcut jeans—to discover. Wow, so clever and not at all sexist!

The former boy bander has yet to comment on "Framing Britney Spears," but in the meantime, plenty of viewers have taken to his Instagram comments and their own social media feeds to demand that he issue a formal apology for the role he played in dehumanizing his ex and delegitimizing her own experience in the breakup.

Some are calling on JT to apologize to Britney

Others are simply fuming over his behavior

And many are bringing up the part he played in similarly villainizing Janet Jackson in 2004

Andrea Park

Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.