Ever since she shot to international fame in 1998 with the release of “… Baby One More Time,” Britney Spears has been a lightning rod for controversy. From early criticism about her sexy fashion choices to her chaotic marriage and divorce from Kevin Federline to her failed stab at acting in the 2000 flick “Crossroads” to her much-publicized breakdown in 2007, the pop singer has suffered greatly in the public eye.
Perhaps the greatest hardship has been the conservatorship that was placed upon her in 2008. After a stay in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center due to suspected drug use, Spears was involuntarily placed at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center under a 5150 psychiatric hold. Shortly thereafter, a court put her under a conservatorship in which her father, Jamie Spears, and her attorney Andrew Wallet had complete control of her assets.
However, the conservatorship, which was meant to be temporary, has lingered on for over 12 years, despite the fact that Spears has more than proved her competency. For years, Spears has struggled to regain financial freedom and control of her assets, without success.
Her predicament has angered fans, leading to the movement #FreeBritney. The meaning behind this campaign is to bring awareness to the injustice of Spears’ situation as well as to apply public pressure to give the 39-year-old mother control of her personal and professional life again, especially her finances.
Now, thanks to the episode of documentary series “The New York Times Presents” called “Framing Britney Spears,” available on Hulu, many celebrities are joining in on the #FreeBritney movement and expressing their outrage and sorrow at how the pop star has been treated by her family and those closest to her.
Sarah Jessica Parker tweeted:
— Sarah Jessica Parker (@SJP) February 7, 2021
And actress Amber Tamblyn shared this post after watching the “Britney” doc:
Framing Britney was a rough watch, much like the Winehouse documentary, only we know how that story ended. I hope Britney is freed of that conservatorship– "liberated" as she says in her own words. It is baffling that any judge would continue to uphold it. #FreeBritney
— Amber Tamblyn (@ambertamblyn) February 9, 2021
Journalist Yashar Ali pointed out how Spears has more than proven her competency and mental clarity over the years, only to continue being controlled by her father and others around her:
Britney Spears was competent enough to serve as a judge on a network TV show and perform all these dates in a major Las Vegas residency, but we’re being told she’s not competent enough to have the power to make simple decisions in her life.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) February 9, 2021
To put things into perspective, Spears is currently under a conservatorship that is normally reserved for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, in 2008, Jamie Spears did allege that his daughter suffers from early-onset dementia, although he had no medical proof to back up this claim.
As Spears’ battle for independence continues, she is paying not only for her own attorneys … but for her father’s attorneys as well. She also paid him $128,000 for his “conservatorship duties” last year. Additionally, he took a percentage of her performances and her merchandise during her 2016 residency at The Axis Theatre at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.
To date, Jamie has fought back against his eldest daughter every step of the way, even filing defamation claims against online supporters of the #FreeBritney movement and calling the movement a “joke.”
Many people have become enraged with Jamie after viewing the Hulu doc, and Britney Spears’s longtime boyfriend Sam Asghari took the opportunity to share his own negative experiences with Britney’s father, sharing an Instagram story which said in part: “Now it’s important for people to understand that I have zero respect for someone trying to control our relationship and constantly throwing obstacles our way.”
Whether you are a Britney fan or not, the New York Times documentary and the discussion around Spears’s mental health (the star has bipolar disorder) has shed light on the fact that people with mental health issues are often villainized and marginalized by loved ones and the court system as a whole.
Supervising producer for President Joe Biden’s campaign Sara Kenigsberg came in on the star’s side, noting that Spears’ situation is a disability rights issue.
Reminder that #FreeBritney is a disability rights issue and people deemed mentally ill like her deserve self determination & compassionate care, not involuntary commitments, conservatorships and taking away one's kids – how could that possibly help one's mental health?
— Sara Pearl (@skenigsberg) February 9, 2021
In addition, people are pointing out that Spears would never have suffered under such a strict conservatorship if she had been a man, including Shea Couleé of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Watched #FramingBritneySpears last night. Just WOW. If there is one take away I got from it. Is that this wouldn’t have happened to Britney if she were a man… it’s absolutely infuriating. And I just want them to #FreeBritney
— Shea Couleé (@SheaCoulee) February 8, 2021
Still others are highlighting that the media’s early focus on Spears’ sexuality was incredibly inappropriate and misogynist. Here’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Farrah Moan on the subject:
Watching a scared little 17 year old girl backed into a corner by grown men asking about her virginity on national tv was a disturbing reminder of how toxic the media & society as a whole has been for so long. We’ve come a long way but there’s still a ways to go. #FramingBritney
— 👑 Farrah Moan (@farrahrized) February 9, 2021
In particular, people are angry with Diane Sawyer for her 2003 interview with the pop star in which she seemed to imply that the then-22-year-old was to blame for receiving death threats. You can watch the interview here on YouTube:
Producer and sitcom writer Bryan Behar pointed out how egregious the interview was and called on Sawyer to apologize. (She has yet to do so.)
Diane Sawyer asked Britney Spears what she did to cause Justin pain, then told her the Governor of Maryland’s wife wanted to shoot her, implying it’s Britney’s fault because she’s a bad role model to kids. I don’t care how long has passed-Diane Sawyer should be ashamed of herself
— Bryan Behar (@bryanbehar) February 9, 2021
Entertainment Tonight reports that Spears and her father haven’t spoken in a long time and that she refuses to perform while he remains a co-conservator of her estate. In December 2020, the conservatorship was extended to September 2021 and will probably remain in place in some form unless a judge decides the original court finding about her mental state is no longer applicable.
Spears and her father are currently involved in a court case over his level of power in controlling the estate. According to her lawyers, she wants the conservatorship to go solely to the Bessemer Trust Company. Bessemer Trust has been a co-conservator since November 2020, when Spears’ legal team succeeded in getting the court to appoint them as such in a bid to remove her father from his position.
Spears’s next court appearance takes place on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m. PST. Fans and supporters of Britney are hosting a virtual Zoom rally to send their love and support to the singer. You can sign up to attend here.