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Here's Why Everyone's Mad at Justin Timberlake Right Now

A new documentary about Britney Spears has fans fired up about Timberlake's past.

Three years ago, Justin Timberlake headlined the Super Bowl halftime show. This Super Bowl weekend, the singer made headlines for a very different reason. Over the last few days, many people took to the internet to express their issues with Timberlake tied to his relationship with Britney Spears and his time performing in the controversial 2004 halftime show with Janet Jackson.

This weekend was really the perfect storm of problematic actions coming back from the past. The Super Bowl always serves as a reminder of what happened when Timberlake and Jackson performed together and her breast was exposed on live television. But, this weekend also marked the release of the documentary Framing Britney Spears. The film focuses on Spears' conservatorship, but also delves into the aftermath of Spears' relationship with Timberlake back in the early '00s.

Read on to learn more about why people are angry with Timberlake on behalf of Jackson and Spears, and to see what Twitter users had to say. For more on this year's Super Bowl, check out All of the Celebrities Starring in 2021 Super Bowl Ads.

Framing Britney Spears has people rethinking the past.

Britney Spears
Allstar Picture Library Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Framing Britney Spears was released on Hulu on Friday, Feb. 5. The documentary takes a look at Spears' conservatorship, which began in 2008 and sees her father, Jamie Spears, in control of some aspects of her life, including her finances. The conservatorship was put into place after she was admitted to a hospital on a psychiatric hold in 2008. The lengthy conservatorship is the reason for the #FreeBritney movement, in which Spears' fans argue that the legal agreement should end.

To read more about #FreeBritney, check out Why Britney Spears Fans Are Petitioning Congress for Her Freedom.

Spears' relationship with Timberlake is a topic of the documentary.

Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears
Shutterstock/Featureflash Photo Agency

While the documentary focuses on the conservatorship and the #FreeBritney movement, it also looks back at her early career. In the early '00s, Spears became a huge star very quickly. She experienced terrible misogyny at the hands of the media and was stalked relentlessly by paparazzi, despite being a minor for part of that time.

After seeing the documentary, some fans say that Timberlake's actions after breaking up with Spears in 2002, contributed to the negative way she was covered in the media. In particular, Timberlake released his song "Cry Me a River," which is about a woman cheating. A Spears lookalike stars in the music video.

"The way that people treated her, to be very high school about it, was like she was the school s*** and he was the quarterback," the New York Times' Wesley Morris says in the film.

Those who believe Timberlake is in the wrong argue that he intentionally cast Spears in the role of the villain and didn't do anything to try and change that narrative. Timberlake's career took off, while things got increasingly worse for Spears.

For more on celebrity couples, check out 15 Onscreen Couples You Totally Forgot Dated in Real Life.

Jackson fits into the story, too.

Janet Jackson 2004
Featureflash Photo Agency /

With the release of Framing Britney Spears on Super Bowl weekend, it was impossible not to connect what happened between Timberlake and Spears to what happened with Timberlake and Jackson in 2004.

During the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, Timberlake and Jackson performed together, and he ripped off a piece of her costume causing her breast and body jewelry to be exposed on TV. This was said to be a "wardrobe malfunction"—in fact, this incident led to the creation of that term. According to a statement from Jackson's rep, she was wearing two layers of fabric over her breast, and only one was supposed to be removed when Timberlake ripped it off. At the time, Timberlake apologized, but also said, "We love giving you all something to talk about" in an Access Hollywood interview.

The ways in which the media treated Jackson and Timberlake after the situation couldn't have been more different. Jackson was disinvited from that year's Grammys and her music stopped being played on Viacom channels, including MTV, while Timberlake's successful career continued and he did attend the Grammys. Combined with the Spears situation, to some it seems that Timberlake again was benefitting from a woman's downfall amid sexist media coverage.

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Many people have had enough of Timberlake.

Timberlake tweet screenshot

Fans who watched Framing Britney Spears tweeted their reactions over the weekend, and they had a lot of ire about the Timberlake portions in particular.

"Beyond showing how impossibly horrible 'the media' was to britney spears in the 00s i'm glad that the britney doc begins to reckon with the idea of how much of justin timberlake's career in the aughts came at the expense of women like britney and janet jackson," wrote Maya Kosoff.

Twitter user @briebxrries wrote, "what is joe biden and kamala harris' plans to finally make justin timberlake pay for his crimes against janet jackson and britney spears." Another Twitter user @megancarterxo, added, "the only way i will ever know peace is by getting a Britney/Janet half time show. it's the only way we can truly get revenge on Justin Timberlake."

Timberlake has yet to respond to any of this renewed criticism or to the Spears doc in particular, which the pop star herself had no direct involvement in.

For more on Timberlake and Spears, read Justin Timberlake Has a Confession About That Iconic Denim Look.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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