Rebel Wilson stars in the new Netflix original comedy film Senior Year as a 37-year-old woman who wakes up from a 20-year coma to discover she’s no longer 17, it’s no longer 2002, and she’s no longer in the running for prom queen or her sought after “dream life.”
As she goes back to high school to reclaim the sense of self that once defined her (see: popularity), Stephanie reconciles her stuck-at-17 sensibility with the fact that she’s actually an adult. It’s the kind of culture shock that teaches a lesson or two and puts everything into perspective.
Being a movie deeply rooted in the late ’90s and early ’00s, Senior Year centers itself in nostalgia for the time period, from throwback pop music to the fragrance Stephanie spritzes before her first day of school. But something the film does particularly well in the nostalgia-sphere is honor Britney Spears.
When Stephanie was a senior (the first time!) in the early 2000s, Britney Spears was the artist everyone was listening to and wanted to be. Senior Year knows this and goes to great lengths to lift up the once-in-a-generation pop icon through visuals, the soundtrack, and a super subtle nod.
Senior Year references Britney Spears a lot!
Thankfully, the movie isn’t out to poke fun at or mock Britney. There’s a lot of love for the star and her music throughout Senior Year, beginning with posters of her …Baby One More Time and Oops!… I Did It Again album covers on Stephanie’s bedroom wall.
In a reference that will go over the heads of most viewers, during graduation, Bri Luvs’s real name is revealed to be “Britney Jean.” Whose name also happens to be Britney Jean? Britney Jean Spears! Once again, this movie knows how much the late-’90s generation adored (and still adores!) Britney.
(You Drive Me) Crazy music video recreation
The most obvious honor of Britney Spears in Senior Year comes when Stephanie teaches her new friends how to dance to “(You Drive Me) Crazy [The Stop Remix],” the 1999 hit single from the star’s debut album.
Suddenly, Stephanie’s dance tutorial turns into a remake of Britney’s instantly recognizable music video, which co-starred Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier (of the teen rom-com Drive Me Crazy, named after the song, of course). The cast delivers choreography in an empty warehouse with the neon “CRAZY” sign in the background. It’s peak nostalgia, and it’s great.
Wilson doesn’t deploy her usual tongue-in-cheek sense of humor in this scene to roast Britney. She’s saluting a pop culture phenomenon and making sure the next generation knows the teen queen in the sparkly green top and crimped blonde hair gave us moments worth honoring and recreating all these years later.
Stephanie (and Britney’s) second chance
Although the movie isn’t about Britney Spears and the “(You Drive Me) Crazy” sequence doesn’t have any particular significance to the plot, it’s a buoyant nod to another woman who recently found herself in the midst of new beginnings after over a decade of her life was stolen from her.
Stephanie’s situation isn’t the same as Britney’s, but the themes of the movie offer a striking similarity to the Grammy winner’s real life circumstances. Both women have been given second chances to reclaim their lives and find out who they want to be, on their own terms.
In Senior Year, Stephanie gets a second chance at 17. As we know, Britney is “Miss American Dream since [she] was 17.” If this charming comedy movie can teach us anything, it’s to give grace to those — ourselves, our friends, our idols — who have to face the shadow their past casts on their present and future.