The biggest entertainment story yesterday, by far, was the reveal from Britney Spears’s memoir, The Woman in Me – that she got pregnant when she was 18 and dating Justin Timberlake, and had an abortion in late 2000. TMZ is now reporting that the JT section of the book will also include the revelation that he cheated on her… even though she ate so much sh-t back then for supposedly cheating on him, an allegation he immortalised in the song “Cry Me A River” and its video.
As I wrote yesterday, Justin was also young at the time. Young and stupid. We’ve all done things we’re not proud of at that age, in that era. It’s been 20 years, a lot of time to reflect and learn and change. The person Justin is now might regret the things he said, the choices he made, the way he behaved. And this could be an opportunity, if handled sensitively, without taking away from Britney’s moment, to show that he’s a different person.
This… doesn’t seem to be what we’re getting though.
Entertainment Tonight cited a source yesterday who commented on Justin’s perspective ahead of the release of Britney’s book. Now remember, ET is not the Daily Mail or Life & Style. ET and PEOPLE, generally, are celebrity-friendly and maintain solid relationships with celebrity publicists. Which means that when celebrities want to get a message out there, their reps will hit up those two outlets. Earlier this year it was ET that had the exclusive about Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn breaking up. That was a BIG scoop, it was accurate, and it presumably came from a very insider endorsement.
So with that in mind, let’s go back to ET’s Justin Timberlake source quote:
"Justin has been focusing on his own family and trying not to concern himself with Britney’s memoir," the source says. "In recent years, Justin has tried to be supportive of Britney from a distance. They dated so long ago, but he still has respect for her. Justin and Jessica just want everyone to grow and evolve instead of continuing to bring up the past."
Um, on a day when everyone is mad at you (again), my guy, this is NOT it.
The story that’s blowing up is about Britney getting pregnant and being conflicted because she wanted a family. So talking about “focusing on his own family” out the gate is a poor choice of words in this situation. And it’s an even poorer choice of words to sanctimoniously be lecturing at people to “grow and evolve instead of continuing to bring up the past” when it comes to Britney in particular because this is a person who was, as we all know now, prevented from growing and evolving like everyone else. She had no control over her own life. And it’s only now that she’s extricated herself from the conservatorship and beginning to process the past, as complicated as that might be.
She hasn’t, until recently, had the chance to heal from her past. Which is what she’s doing with the publication of her book: sharing her own history in her way – a history that everyone else has laid claim to, without her consent. Including HIM!
He was the one who kickstarted his solo career on the hype of being her ex-boyfriend, entertained questions about her losing her virginity to him, bragged about her losing her virginity to him … for YEARS.
Many people on social media yesterday brought up the “Immigrant Tale” SNL sketch from 2009, in which he makes a joke about how “he hit it”. Start at the two minute mark if you don’t want to watch the whole thing:
This was seven years after they broke up. This was after her hospitalisation, and after the conservatorship started. He spent years making Britney’s story part of his story, and now that she’s finally ready to tell her story, his source is out here lecturing about growing and evolving and moving on? The culture is already furious with him – and it’s not like he’s been the fave, not in a long time – so how is this helping or strategic?
While we’re on SNL though, and Justin’s relationship with that show, one of the bits in that sketch was how often he was popping in at Studio 8H. But you know when that all started? SHE was hosting that night. BRITNEY was the host. And guess who just had to be there, riding along on her wave, and turning up during the opening monologue?
I mention this because this is how it happened, this is how he happened: she made him. She was the biggest popstar in the world and he was her boyfriend and that’s why he was majorly singled out in the headlines. And when they broke up, he leveraged the breakup of their relationship to launch his solo singing career and he’s lucky, SO lucky, that she didn’t shut it down back then, that she didn’t call out what really happened between them. That she had to wait 20 years to find her voice so that she could tell it through her lens. Because if she hadn’t, his career trajectory would have been entirely different.
So it’s no wonder he’s so selective about nostalgia, at once condemning it and yet engaging with it when it benefits him. I called this two months ago when I posted about the *NSYNC reunion - “An *NSYNC reunion less [just before] her book comes out? Coincidence or conspiracy?” You’ll never convince me that wasn’t part of his motivation, to build goodwill ahead of whatever Britney was about to drop.
We're talking about this on The Squawk.