As a Britney Spears fan, I have been following this narrative for a VERY long time and am extremely knowledgeable in the Justin Timberlake media workings.
Before I go any further, I just want to say, Britney has obviously moved on from this relationship. She is always dancing to Justin Timberlake songs on her Instagram. I just think it's interesting to see what was really happening when we were growing up in the early 2000s. How things really were.
Without further ado, let's get right into it.
In 2002, Britney and Justin broke up.
They dated for approximately three years.
That same year, Justin went solo.
Justin was trying to get away from that whole boy band ramen noodle hair thing. He had just broken up with the biggest pop star in the world, and whew boy, was this the PERFECT time for him to go solo.
His first single, "Like I Love You," wasn't doing so hot. It peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, hardly a successful lead single for someone who was part of one the most successful musical acts of the early ’00s.
That’s when it appears a new PR strategy came into play: Let's talk about Britney Spears.
Let's drag her to filth.
Luckily for Justin, the media was already on his side. He played his cards right and Britney was labeled the betrayer...
...and he was "solo and sexy."
The narrative had been set.
And now it was time to profit.
Let the media circus begin.
We'll start with Justin's infamous Barbara Walters interview where Justin played the sorry man and Britney played "the horrible woman."
In the interview, Justin tells Barbara he promised Britney he wouldn't say why they specifically broke up.
Justin denies that any songs on his album were about her but then plays a song on the piano called "Horrible Woman."
These are the lyrics: "I thought our love was so strong / I guess I was dead wrong / But to look at it positively, hey girl / At least you gave me another song about a horrible woman."
Then, like a true class act, when asked if BRITNEY kept her promise to wait to have sex until marriage, Justin says "sure" and bursts out into laughter.
And this was just ONE interview during the time period.
The war was on, but it was clearly an unfair battle to begin with.
In December, after his first single was only a moderate success and failed to have real impact, Justin released his second single, "Cry Me a River," featuring the infamous Britney lookalike.
On his "Let's Talk About Britney Press Tour," Justin kept on "denying" the song and video were actually about her. When asked what the music video was about on TRL, Justin said: "The video is not about her. The video is about me."
On Ellen, he dodges the "Is it about Britney?" question by literally sipping tea like a true stunt queen.
Then the Details interview.
In an interview with Details, Justin randomly bashed Britney's career decision to make the movie Crossroads. He said: "If she had a clue, she wouldn't have made [Crossroads]."
He tells Sharon Osbourne he just wasn't impressed with the Britney/Madonna 2003 VMA performance: "It's not that I was upset with it. I just wasn't impressed."
And in an interview with Hot 97, he said, "I did it. I'm dirty" when asked if he had "oral intercourse"* with her.
In 2006, four years after their breakup and when he was dating Cameron Diaz, Justin had a new album to promote, so he employed his foolproof strategy: bring up Britney, again.
In an interview with GQ, Justin said: "I felt like she had a couple of opportunities to just sort of stick up for me, and she didn't. Which is ﬁne. But at that time, you know, I fought back, and that's the way I fought back. I used my mind. I came up with a song."
He thought Britney should have stuck up for him? Wait, what?
Then he went back to his bread and butter and released basically a sequel to "Cry Me a River" called "What Goes Around Comes Around."
In 2008, we're now six years after their breakup, Justin inducted Madonna into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and used this opportunity to make a Britney jab.
Then, at a 2013 concert, 11 years after their breakup, he gave some speech where he was like: "Sometimes in life, you think you found the one. Then you find out that she was just a bitch."
Finally, in 2016, 14 years after their breakup, he still put Britney on subtle blast.
In conclusion, there is clearly a way to play the media, and Justin's PR people were very good at it!
But this is a bigger problem than Justin Timberlake. It's a narrative that famous women have always been placed in.
In the words of Christina Aguilera:
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