How Britney vs. Spears acknowledges America’s faulty conservatorship system

New documentary uncovers the injustices that stole the life of an iconic American popstar

Through+both+gatherings+outside+of+the+capitol+building+and+sharing+their+concerns+throughout+social+media+Spear%E2%80%99s+fans+are+making+their+voices+heard+in+order+to+bring+her+justice.+

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Through both gatherings outside of the capitol building and sharing their concerns throughout social media Spear’s fans are making their voices heard in order to bring her justice.

By Quinn Burton, Millard West High School

It all began with a protest. The #FreeBritney movement, which began April 22, 2019, after rumors surfaced of Britney Spears’s horrible conditions that were forced by her father. At the time, it was not immediately clear to most of the world what they were trying to free the singer from. However as fans gathered outside the West Hollywood City Hall, holding signs labeled “#FreeBritney,” they realized that their impact would later lead towards one of the largest movements for a celebrity’s freedom. 

In support of the recent movements, Netflix released a documentary, “Britney vs. Spears” to shine a light on the injustices that Britney experienced. Journalist Jenny Eliscu and filmmaker Erin Lee Carr compile interviews, documents, texts and more to uncover Britney’s battle against her father’s conservatorship. Starting from the release of Spear’s first hit record and ending with the conclusion of her most recent trial hearing, this documentary exquisitely breaks apart every fact and detail about Britney’s fight for freedom.

The documentary begins with a timeline that starts on the day of Britney’s divorce. Though it may mark a new beginning for some, for others, divorce is a catalyst of unfortunate events. Following their divorce in 2007, Britney and her ex-husband signed a shared custody agreement. However, Britney lost custody of her two sons after a breakdown resulted in her shaving her head before crashing into a paparazzi’s car. After spiraling from the loss of her husband and her kids, Britney was later hospitalized over an operant drug overdose, resulting in her conservatorship. 

A conservator is a person appointed by a judge to care for another adult who is unable to manage their finances properly. A conservatorship, despite being characterized as a caring relationship, is anything but. Abusive, painful and heartbreaking were all words Spears used to describe the relationship between her management and even her own father. Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, took control over both the estate and financial affairs of his daughter. Not only did he own her property, but he also owned her. Possibly the most shocking aspect of the documentary alone was the idea that legally someone could physically own another person. Controlling every move and decision Britney made was just a normal aspect of being a conservator. Sending Spears to a mental facility, monitoring her weight and forcing labor-intensive work were all legal decisions Spears’ father was authorized to make. The gaslighting behavior exhibited by Spears’s father and management prevented a resolution from occurring sooner in her career.

After seeing a glimpse of the horrible conditions Britney was put through, it was only a matter of time before her fans took action. On Sept. 29, hundreds of fans in #FreeBritney gear gathered outside the courthouse in Los Angeles, listening to her testimony over a loudspeaker as Spears fought the conservatorship that had given her father and management team complete control over her life for the past 13 years. The full transcript of her statement spread like wildfire throughout social media and news platforms, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Her voice alone stood out compared to the chipmunk-like one she displayed for years, which was now replaced with a deeply saddened tone. I can’t stop thinking about how fast she was talking to make sure she said as much as she could in as little time as possible, and how she had prepared a written statement but kept interrupting herself with additions she thought the judge should know. The way she delivered this information was so completely raw. 

During her court hearing, Spears said “I’ve lied and told the whole world that I’m ok and I’m happy. It’s all a lie. I am traumatized, but now I’m telling you the truth. I’m not happy.”

It was clear from the beginning towards the end of the film that inciting emotion was the creator’s main intent towards the audience, and they were successful. I felt the pain and utter emotion Britney experienced over the course of her life. From falling in love to mental breakdowns, I received a glimpse into how such an innocent joyous person learned the gripping menace of society due to the injustices she encountered over the course of the last 13 years. All I can hope now is that she has seen the outpouring of love online and knows that now, finally, we are all listening.

This story was originally published on The Catalyst on October 25, 2021.