"Within the last three weeks, TV’s documentary explosion has given us two damning close-ups on decades-old celebrity scandals," says Maria Fontoura. "In one, an insatiable media-industrial complex takes a vulnerable young woman into its maw, judging her sexuality and questioning, then actively undermining, her sanity. In the other, it happens again. The main difference between them lies in who the celebrity is at the center of each public maelstrom — and how that simple fact determines who survives in its wake. Framing Britney Spears, a New York Times-produced documentary that premiered February 5th and is now streaming on Hulu, forces us to look anew at Spears’ shot-out-of-a-cannon rise as a teenager and public implosion several years later, both a function of relentless media attention. Some of that attention was courted, sure, as it would be by any young pop star, male or female. But the tenor of the media fervor, the implicit slack-jawed drooling and pawing, the pure objectification with little pretense of taking Spears seriously as an artist (much less a human being), is shocking in retrospect. The tabloid covers — and non-tabloid ones presented with the glossy patina of highbrow journalism, including some produced by this magazine — gawked and squawked over her body, her relationships, her lyrics, her looks. Was it any wonder she took a razor to her head in a last-ditch effort to destroy the sexpot persona that had become her prison?...Allen V. Farrow, a four-part docuseries that premiered its first hour last Sunday night on HBO, both inverts and reinforces some of the dynamics present in the Spears saga. A detailed look at the sexual abuse allegations levied against writer-director Woody Allen in 1992 by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow — featuring interviews with Dylan; her mother, Mia Farrow; several of her siblings; former Farrow babysitters and family friends; investigators who worked the case; forensic psychiatrists, lawyers, and child-abuse experts; and cultural critics — it operates as a case study in who we allow to control the media and why. Throughout the series, interview subjects testify to the distorting effects of Allen’s celebrity, how he was surrounded by a cadre of friends in high places, not to mention an adoring public who simply refused to believe that the nebbishy, self-deprecating intellectual who improbably made nerdiness cool was also a coldly calculating predator. Allen was able to harness the press as both a shield and a weapon. Spears, despite being richer and more famous by a considerable magnitude, was only its foil."