I’m at a loss. Ever since I watched the New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears, I’ve been in a state of shock.
I’ll wear the t-shirt with a pink square and the #FreeBritney hashtag and I’ll get as worked up as her fervent fans, the Free Britney Army, who are not only responsible for the movement, but created the virtual rally to inform and galvanize the public about her conservatorship.
The revelations came to light in a US documentary airing on Hulu, which isn’t yet available in Canada. It has not only convinced me that this 90s and 2000s pop star is going through hell, but that she is in the midst of a kind of femicide; they’re letting her waste away. Let me explain.
At 39, Britney has been under physical and financial control of her father for the last 12 years, and according to recent rulings, for the rest of her life. She’s been in a legal battle for the last few years, trying to reverse her conservatorship, but her attempts have been overruled. The same pop star who was selling out theatres during her Las Vegas residency and was making $1M a week is refusing to work. She won’t make any money until her father is removed from the conservatorship and someone else is nominated to help manage her assets and life. The only thing she’s asking for at the moment is to have an independent entity (like a bank) oversee her daily runnings, or at least someone else with no conflict of interest.
Imagine you’re a woman and someone else has total control and say over all your decisions. Imagine you work like a dog every night, performing for thousands, but you have no say in any financial decisions or who can come visit you. Oh! And that you’re constantly monitored and followed by 24-hour security? Imagine that the lawyer overseeing the terms of your conservatorship has asked for a raise mentioning that you were doing fine, that the next few years were going to be lucrative and that the conservatorships controlling your every whim is an excellent business model? What Britney is living through in 2021 is disgusting.
Imagine your mother’s pleas to the judge are being ignored. Imagine that your own brother says, in an interview, that the “women in the this family are very strong-minded have their own opinion, and they do what they want to do…but as one of two guys in this entire family, it kind of sucks, man”?
The New York Times documentary could help Britney’s case, even if the media isn’t directly involved in this family drama.
WHY IS BRITNEY IN A CONSERVATORSHIP?
This all started when she wanted to free herself. At the start, Britney was a “good girl” that we all took for granted. She started working at 10. From early encounters and meetings with agents, her father remarked how his daughter was going to make him rich. She’s been supporting her family ever since.
When the paparazzi started tracking her every move, Britney was not shielded from the invasion. The documentary shows how this changed her — a young, charismatic girl greeting the photographers at the start of her career, to someone completely mentally and physically depleted by their constant presence. In the blink of an eye, she’s married to Kevin Federline, carrying and then giving birth to their children, all while the media circus gets even worse. Let’s not forget that at the time, artists didn’t have social media to tell their side of the story like they do today. Instead, outlets ran the more scandalous and ridiculous stories because it made them more money.
One day, she reached her breaking point after the crowds of photographers were egging her on while she was carrying her baby. Panicked, she tried to escape in her car with her baby in her lap. That was all it took to label her a crazy and irresponsible mother. No one even suggested that she could be suffering from postpartum depression. At the time, mental health problems were considered shameful and especially taboo. One of the interviewees said it best when they pointed out that blaming Britney’s bad girl image was the real problem all along, proving that we’re all vultures.
Britney has lost her grounding, perpetually stuck in a downward spiral: fighting her ex-husband for custody of the kids, fighting her father for her soul, and fighting the paparazzi who won’t let her leave the house. It’s easy to understand just what a deal with the devil entails. Ironically, all it took to get Britney to agree to the conservatorship was losing visitation rights with her kids.
One of the more gripping moments of the documentary is the moment when she shaved all her hair off in a hair salon while the paparazzi looked on. The dominant narrative at the time was that this was proof she was losing it. But in retrospect, it’s an act of defiance, especially for someone who is feeling trapped. Here’s to hoping that Britney’s army of fams will break down the doors and free her.