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The Jamie Lynn Spears Interview and the State of Call Her Daddy

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Getty Images and Spotify

When Jamie Lynn Spears looked to promote her memoir, Things I Should Have Said, possibly cognizant of how it would exacerbate tensions with sister Britney Spears, she limited press appearances not only to the usual heavyweights like Good Morning America and Nightline, but to Call Her Daddy, the wildly popular Spotify podcast hosted by Alexandra Cooper. For a show that started as a risqué Barstool Sports chat-cast about sex and relationships, landing an extensive interview with Jamie Lynn was a potentially defining event, one that underscored everything Cooper had been intent on achieving since her acrimonious split from founding co-host Sofia Franklyn and Dave Portnoy’s scandal-rich company. “I feel like it’s almost just beginning,” she told Refinery29 shortly after her blockbuster $60 million exclusive licensing deal with Spotify was made public last summer. “I have so much more to prove now. I want to be the biggest podcast in the world.” Booking someone intimately attached to one of the most prominent culture stories right now undoubtedly feeds into that goal, exponentially so if that someone comes shrouded with significant controversy. Why Jamie Lynn chose Call Her Daddy to tell her piece of the story is the bigger question.

The interview rollout wasn’t smooth. Billed as a two-parter with an on-camera component (a first for the show since moving to Spotify), the opening installment was published on Tuesday, January 18. Shortly after it dropped, reports went public that Britney’s legal team had sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Jamie Lynn stop mentioning the singer, recently liberated from her conservatorship, during her press stops for the memoir. “Although Britney has not read and does not intend to read your book, she and millions of her fans were shocked to see how you have exploited her for monetary gain,” wrote Britney’s lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, in the letter. The second installment, originally scheduled to come out the next day, January 19, missed its intended deadline, and after a series of sporadic updates posted on Cooper’s Instagram Stories, the episode was finally released a day later, January 20. Not that the delay mattered for Cooper and Call Her Daddy, of course. More suspense yields more attention, and whatever the shape of the rollout, the episodes drove a lot of attention.

Listening to the interview, it’s hard to perceive Cooper’s handling of Jamie Lynn as anything but fundamentally accommodating. Cooper’s style as an interlocutor tends to favor making her guests feel as comfortable as possible in order to draw out the conversation, but given the charged and hypersensitive “she said, she said” nature of the Jamie Lynn–Britney story, the method can be problematic within context. Indeed, you wouldn’t be faulted for feeling like the younger Spears sister was given a platform to lay out her narrative essentially unchallenged. Throughout the interview, Cooper not only comes off as sympathetic but very much in support of Jamie Lynn. There is, of course, value in hearing her side of the story; the question is verification.

The second installment contained a follow-up conversation between Cooper and Jamie Lynn, which we’re told was conducted on January 18, after the latter’s appearance on Good Morning America. (The timeline probably explains the delay; audio editing takes time.) That additional interview builds up to a set-piece revelation centered on screenshots of extensive text messages Jamie Lynn allegedly sent to Britney in November 2020. The screenshots, which were later shared on social media, were ostensibly meant to indicate the former’s intent to help her sister end the conservatorship, a point of some dispute in this sprawling saga. It’s unclear if Cooper and her team at Spotify subjected the alleged text messages to any verification process; nothing of the sort was communicated to us at any point in the episode. Vulture reached out for comment on this matter. Furthermore, whether or not Britney was asked to appear on the show or given the chance to review Jamie Lynn’s claims (Vulture has also reached out to Britney’s lawyer for comment), those following the story are likely aware she hasn’t spoken to any press in years, generally preferring to address claims made about her through her social media accounts. It remains to be seen if the text message revelation, and the interview more broadly, will amount to anything in terms of progression between the two sisters, but regardless, this spectacle seems poised to vault Call Her Daddy, recently listed as the second-most-streamed podcast on Spotify in 2021, into an even higher strata of public profile.

It’s interesting to consider Jamie Lynn’s appearance on Call Her Daddy against the context of Cooper’s ongoing effort to reshape the podcast’s identity. Throughout the past few months, the show appears to have made a conscious effort to move on from its raunchier origins — which had forged a strong following over the years for the liberatory thrills of its frank and free-flowing sex-positive nature — toward something resembling a kind of neo-girlboss Howard Stern for the next generation. That expanded ambition is spelled out explicitly in the podcast’s revamped and buzzword-heavy show description:

Call Her Daddy started as a podcast and evolved into a global movement. Alex Cooper bulldozed a lane of her own, spitting in the face of misogyny and putting a modern twist on feminism. The woman-led empire produces raw, relevant, and provocative conversations that promote sexual liberty and personal empowerment while stripping away any barriers of judgment.

This transitional effort can be further detected in the recent string of guest bookings, which have included Emily Ratajkowski, Esther Perel, and Amanda Knox, seemingly moving the emphasis away from earlier guests, who were mostly influencers, reality stars, and comedians (Alexis Ren, Heidi Montag, and Chelsea Handler, respectively). But sitting down with Jamie Lynn in the middle of her maelstrom marks the biggest get for the operation thus far, even if Cooper’s role as an interviewer in the volatile situation was left wanting. After all, from a profile-building standpoint, the achievement with this booking isn’t really the interview but the access itself, and what that access says about the power of Call Her Daddy’s platform today.

The question, however, lies with the nature of that platform, and, more important, how Call Her Daddy’s following — the “Daddy Gang,” in the show’s parlance — ultimately perceives it, and the extent to which they’ll go along for the ride. The podcast’s official subreddit, though obviously limited in its capacity to represent how an entire fandom feels, is at present rich with criticism about Cooper’s soft handling of Jamie Lynn, characterized and believed by some as being complicit in Britney’s structural abuse. This type of dissatisfaction doesn’t appear to be particularly new either; some in the community have expressed frustration with Cooper previously giving a platform to Colton Underwood, the former Bachelor who was then on a promotional tour for his coming-out Netflix reality doc, but who faced accusations of stalking and harassment by his ex-girlfriend, Cassie Randolph. Indeed, the subreddit, made up of Cooper’s once most dedicated fans, seems to have largely turned on the show more generally, though it’s hard to tell to what extent this is an expression of the hangover from the civil war that broke out when the situation around Cooper, Franklyn, and Barstool Sports originally descended into chaos.

In any case, there’s a salient unifying critique that can be discerned from all the grumbles about Cooper’s interview and the podcast’s post-Spotify deal trajectory more broadly. Those grumbles point to a general concern that, in her march toward empire, Cooper would be willing to make trade-offs for access that would render Call Her Daddy a platform where people with severe moral baggage to launder can do so with ease. For listeners who got into the show for its women-centric realness — “It’s interesting to hear sex talked about in such an honest way from a women’s perspective. It was refreshing,” is how a longtime fan described their affinity to the New York Times — this critique needles at what could be the show’s fatal flaw. It fosters suspicion that if there remains a feminist politics to appraise from Call Her Daddy these days, it’s probably just the politics of fame.

The Jamie Lynn Interview and the State of Call Her Daddy