This month saw the release of The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears, a documentary examining the singer’s rise and fall and the neither-rising-nor-falling purgatorial state she’s been stuck in since she was placed under a court-sanctioned conservatorship 13 years ago. An examination, too, of the #FreeBritney movement, a campaign started by fans seeking to liberate her from the conservatorship, which gives other people, her father primarily, the legal right to control her life and finances.

The director, Samantha Stark, offers a comprehensive treatment, ticking off milestone after milestone. And yet a key milestone is missing, the one that proves Britney’s fall was another kind of rise, a pinnacle that only looked like a nadir, and among the most important—and most misunderstood—pop-culture events of the new century: her appearance at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, in Las Vegas.