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Former child star Mara Wilson criticizes 'terrifying' treatment of Britney Spears

The former "Matilda" star shared her perspective on the narrative around Britney Spears and how the culture "builds these girls up just to destroy them."
/ Source: TODAY

Former child actor Mara Wilson knows what it's like to be scrutinized by the public and media at a young age, but she says what she endured pales in comparison to Britney Spears.

The 33-year-old former child star of "Matilda" and "Mrs. Doubtfire" has lent her perspective to the ongoing conversation about the treatment of the pop star that was sparked by the New York Times documentary "Framing Britney Spears," which chronicles her rise to fame and the media onslaught that preceded her public breakdown in 2007.

Mara Wilson
Former child star Mara Wilson of "Matilda" and "Mrs. Doubtfire" fame weighed in on the treatment of Britney Spears highlighted in a recent New York Times documentary. TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

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Wilson wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times about her own experiences and her view of what Spears endured as a young female star dealing with immense fame.

"The way people talked about Britney Spears was terrifying to me then, and it still is now," she wrote. "Her story is a striking example of a phenomenon I’ve witnessed for years: Our culture builds these girls up just to destroy them. Fortunately people are becoming aware of what we did to Ms. Spears and starting to apologize to her. But we’re still living with the scars."

Wilson even remembered being part of the pile-on, telling a reporter she hated Spears when she was asked as a child.

"I didn’t actually hate Britney Spears," she wrote. "But I would never have admitted to liking her. There was a strong streak of 'Not Like the Other Girls' in me at the time, which feels shameful now — although hadn’t I had to believe that, when I’d spent so much of my childhood auditioning against so many other girls?

"Some of it was pure jealousy, that she was beautiful and cool in a way I’d never be. I think mostly, I had already absorbed the version of The Narrative surrounding her."

Wilson described being sexualized as a child even though she dressed in conservative outfits in her movies, while Spears was dubbed a "Bad Girl" for the outfits she wore in videos and onstage.

The documentary details the fraught time in 2007 when Spears' personal issues spilled into the public eye and became fodder for the tabloid media.

"The saddest thing about Ms. Spears’s 'breakdown' is that it never needed to happen," Wilson wrote. "When she split with her husband, shaved her head and furiously attacked a paparazzi car with an umbrella, the Narrative was forced upon her, but the reality was she was a new mother dealing with major life changes. People need space, time and care to deal with those things. She had none of that."

Wilson noted that her bond with her family helped get her through the difficulties of dealing with fame at an early age. Spears, 39, meanwhile, has been in a legal battle to remove her father’s conservatorship over her estate, which he has held for 13 years.

Her father's control over her estate and finances have fueled the #FreeBritney movement, with celebrities and others showing their support for her to have full control over her affairs.

The outcry following the release of the documentary also prompted an apology from ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake, who wrote on Instagram that he "fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism."