Inside the Strange Rachel Zegler-Britney Spears Video Controversy

·3 min read
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Celebrities have jeopardized their awards chances for a wide range of controversies, but this may be the first involving the star of Zoey 101.

On Monday, actress Rachel Zegler issued an apology for a video she posted of herself performing a dramatic reading of Britney Spears’ Notes app message to her younger sister Jamie Lynn Spears amid their ongoing public feud.

“Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Britney and am rooting for her always,” she tweeted. “While I meant no disrespect whatsoever, I should have thought about how this could be perceived, and I’m so sorry for upsetting or disappointing anyone.”

She continued, “This is not a situation to be taken lightly, and we should all be lifting Britney up in this pivotal time. Thanks for hearing me out, and a big thank you to all who held me accountable.

Soon after posting (and deleting) the video on Twitter, Zegler received a wave of negative responses. Some users poked fun at the actress, labeling the re-enactment as “cringe,” while others more seriously accused her of treating Spears’ alleged familial trauma as a joke.

“Look, I love Rachel Zegler,” wrote one user. “But this was very very dumb. Using someone’s trauma as a monologue is something you should never even consider doing.”

“Britney Spears[’s] trauma, abuse, and ‘meltdown’ was highly publicized,” wrote another. “The fact that Rachel Zegler thought it was ok to turn it into a ‘joke’ or monologue is such poor and strange behavior. How does anyone think that’s ok?”

While users have since argued that the bizarre video was a tasteless yet ultimately forgivable misstep for a 20-year-old, it seemed to trigger some pre-existing disdain for the actress on the internet regarding her role as Maria in last year’s West Side Story opposite Ansel Elgort, who was accused of rape in 2020.

This allegation, which Elgort denied, has cast a shadow over the musical remake but mostly within the realm of social media, as the 26-year-old actor has avoided acknowledging the incident throughout the film’s press tour. As a result, Film Twitter has called out everyone from Steven Spielberg to 20th Century Studios to the West Side Story cast for allowing Elgort to still be included in the film—which had already wrapped shooting before the allegations emerged—and remaining silent about the incident.

Zegler, who’s been an outspoken supporter of sexual assault survivors and the #MeToo movement on social media, came under fire for apparently removing “believe survivors” from her Twitter bio following the allegations against Elgort and has since been accused of “enabling” his alleged behavior. Someone even made a video of the West Side Story trailer featuring the actress’ past tweets defending survivors.

Jamie Lynn Spears Details Britney Knife Incident, Accuses Parents of Isolating Her

The accusations against Zegler specifically are clearly misguided and overestimate the power she has as an easily disposable actress working under one of the most prominent filmmakers in Hollywood and a major studio. Likewise, the Spears monologue has oddly resulted in a full-circle moment for the actress, with some social media users re-evaluating the harsh treatment she’s received over the past year and defending her against critics.

At this point, if West Side Story doesn’t run away with a handful of Oscars later this year, it won’t be because of Zegler’s failed Spears bit or even the legitimately concerning accusations against Elgort, unfortunately. However, it’s safe to say the trajectory of this remake from its initial announcement up to this point has been something to observe.

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