What do I do in the time I have before I start my work days, or, on a typical weekend morning? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Typically, I have 1-2 cups of vanilla coconut or cinnamon coffee in my sunroom with my 3 dogs: a doberman, Brutus … a tiny little blind & eyeless “min pin pom” a.k.a. “pinscheranian,” Pip … and a black rescue pug, Olive, surrounded by my houseplants. Sometimes, my hubby Mike is with me; sometimes, he’s already at work (or working out.) Occasionally, I’ll work on a diamond embroidery painting or listen to a true crime podcast. Often, I’ll birdwatch out my window and/or text my brother or my friends.
But without fail, I scroll Twitter, Instagram, and Twitter for news on the #FreeBritney movement. And yeah, I’m gonna do the hipster thing and mention that I did this before it was mainstream.
You see, #FreeBritney checks many a box for me:
- I’ve been a fan of Britney Spears since her Mickey Mouse Club days. Big fan. Huge.
- I’m all about disability rights and women’s rights.
- I get really into court cases and true crime kinds of things. I like to solve mysteries.
- I love a good celebrity conspiracy theory or Hollywood scandal.
- Celebrity and true crime documentaries and podcasts –give me all of it.
- A cause to rally behind. I LIVE FOR IT.
And so on. The deeper you dig into #FreeBritney, the more it feels like one of Bill Hader’s “Stefon” sketches from SNL. (This place has EVERYTHING: Gay Demons. Restraining Orders. Yellow Shirts. Head-shaving. Misogyny. Ableism. Christianity. 911 Eyelashes. Secret Voicemails. Cheese Grits.)
Sadly, it’s not an SNL skit. What is going on with my girl Britney is, unfortunately, stranger than fiction. For realz. And here’s the thing, folks: it’s important. You absolutely should care, whether or not you’re a fan of her. Whether or not you think she’s “crazy” or “weird” or “needs help.” (In fact – if you’re a decent human being, then you should especially care if you think she needs help. Just sayin’. )
Here, I’ll break down #FreeBritney as basically and simply as I possibly can, which won’t be easy or brief, because it isn’t basic or simple or easy at all. There is SO much ground to cover with all of this. It’s nearly impossible to explain. But I’m going to try!
I will try my best to stick to facts but of course some of this is purely my opinion. However, here comes the mandatory disclaimer: content here on my blog (and on any of my social media) relating to Britney Jean Spears the person & the brand, her conservatorship, the #FreeBritney movement, and any of the parties, entities, and events involved, is all alleged and for entertainment purposes only; I don’t know Britney Jean Spears or her family or colleagues personally, this is all being reported or re-stated to the best of my knowledge and sourcing, and some of this is speculation. (*Although, it’s also worth nothing that most of it is documented in court records, legal documents, recording contracts, custody agreements, depositions, interviews, and other sourced media i.e. fair use and public record, but, I digress.) Opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect that of my employers or clients.
Before I dive in, I’d like to first and foremost say that I am 100% in the corner of Britney Spears. Whatever she wants and whatever she feels is best for her is what I want for her. I do not desire to know her medical history or diagnoses; I do want her to have some autonomy and freedom in her life because all people deserve that even if they (may or may not) live with a mental illness or other physical or mental-emotional medical condition or disability, and whether or not they choose to disclose it. I do want her to be healthy and safe, first and foremost, whatever that takes.
I also want to acknowledge the privilege that Britney Spears has as a famous, rich, white, young, straight, cis American woman. While her situation is awful and dire, there are many others in similar scenarios who are way worse off due to a variety of other factors and circumstances. That said, this should not be okay for anyone to go through, regardless of fame, wealth, gender, color, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ability or disability, age, etc. Sadly, it could literally happen to anyone!
Please keep in mind that for Spears and others, this issue is serious — so serious, in fact, that the ACLU and human trafficking organizations have voiced their concern about Britney, alongside many reporters, podcasters, lawyers, legal experts, and celebrities.
Now — let’s get to it. (And yes, each section header is, of course, a Britney song title, haha.)
I’M SO CURIOUS!
This is a quick n’ easy section is for those of you who legit want the bare bones and nothing more. You can read this section and stop, and have the most basic of basic info without any details. Or, you can check this very clean, very straightforward timeline from the Free Britney Army.
- Due to unfair but legal practices, Britney Spears lost her rights, autonomy, and liberties in 2008 and has had court-appointed guardians since then (primarily her father,) who manage her personal life, estate, and affairs. This is called a conservatorship, or a guardianship. She cannot make decisions for herself under the law. She cannot sign contracts, marry, drive her car, secure legal representation, etc.
- It was claimed she has dementia, but she was still able to – perhaps made to – work, earning millions of dollars for her conservators that she herself cannot freely spend. Mysteriously, her net worth has gone down, when it seems it should have gone up. Currently, she is refusing to work until her father is off the conservatorship.
- A former lawyer associated with the situation resigned, stating that if it continued as it has been going, “substantial detriment, irreparable harm and immediate danger will result to the conservatee and her estate,” (the conservatee being Britney.)
- In sum, she is either too unwell to care for herself, and cannot function independently as an adult in society, and therefore truly needs the guardianship, or, she is able to keep working and earning millions of dollars. But, if she is able and well, then she likely does not need a conservator. She cannot just keep being under someone else’s control, under the guise of dementia, and earning them money without having autonomy over her own life. That is not what a conservatorship or guardianship is, or should be. And, as of now, hers is permanent: for life. This has been going on since she was 26-27 years old; the legality of it has been questioned, as it doesn’t seem she was given the proper advance notice required by law.
- She cannot get out of this legally-binding arrangement easily. It was designed to be permanent. Since the conservatorship represents and essentially acts on behalf of her, and she is not technically recognized as a “person” under the law, it is complicated to say the least. She is kind of fighting herself in court…and paying lawyers on both sides. And keep in mind, this is not just about her career or estate; it affects her entire life, personal and professional. Her father’s lawyer says she can petition the court to terminate the conservatorship but she also because of the conservatorship she cannot hire her own attorney to do so. So how is that supposed to work, exactly? Just some food for though.
Okay – you can stop reading now if you feel like your interest has been satiated! But, if you want to learn more, including some pretty wild conspiracy type stuff, then read on!
I want to get the conspiracy theory type click-baity stuff out of the way before we get to the actually-important, more-likely-to-be-real or actually–proven-to-be-real ish. Here are the Cliff’s Notes of the most ‘out-there’ fan theories and conspiracies surrounding #FreeBritney — ya know, the stuff that is fun, but KINDA TAKES AWAY FROM THE CREDIBILITY OF THE MOVEMENT.
- 911 in her eyelashes
- Wearing yellow as a call for help
- Britney is a clone
- Hat says help in IG video
- Force her to sing in baby voice / ruined her real voice
- Britney posting other hidden SOS messages in her Instagram
- That Britney is being sex-trafficked
- Her 48-year-old doctor mysteriously dies right before a conservatorship hearing about her treatment
- That she’s physically being held captive against her will (i.e. locked up with wrist restraints, etc.)
Click the hyperlinks in the bullet points above if you want to know more about any of these interesting but far-fetched theories. You can decide for yourself if any of them hold any weight. (*BTW – most of my sources in this lengthy deep-dive of a post will be sourced or credited via embedded hyperlink if you want more info.)
One thing that I find to be compelling that treads the fine line of “conspiracy theory-ism,” is actually the way Britney’s Instagram is used and who is behind it. I struggle with this because it’s long been debated how much control she actually has over posting, so it doesn’t track that she is using it to ‘send coded messages.’ The fan base cannot simultaneously believe that she is sending messages through her IG, but then also state that her team is using her Instagram to “make her look crazy” (to keep her under the conservatorship) as some claim. Does she use it? Does she not? My personal belief is … maybe a little of both?
I think that most of the posts, she creates and sends to a social media manager to put up for her, but that she doesn’t have access on her own to just scroll/peruse comments/read DMs and such at her leisure, and therefore, that, on occasion, Team Britney Spears the Brand i.e. The Conservatorship, (ugh) does sometimes post for or “as” her. Whether or not they do that just to keep her having a presence or do it with some kind of malicious intent or ulterior motives to make her look a certain kind of way or cover their own tracks about more nefarious activities, I cannot speculate, and whether or not they have her permission to post for or as her would also just be conjecture. (But the point, and the problem, is that they don’t NEED her permission to do, say, or sign ANYTHING on her behalf or using her identity or likeness! The woman does not even own or have control over her own NAME or identity.)
Something else vaguely in the realm of zany that I find super intriguing, too, is her posting of Hans Zatzka’s artwork. Zatzka used a TON of pseudonyms, the purpose of which was to avoid penalties of breaking contracts. Quite interesting for an artist under a conservatorship who cannot legally sign contracts herself…hmm. She’ll also post quotes and books with interesting symbolism or foundations; I believe she’s smarter than people think. (If it’s ever actually her posting, that is.)
Here’s a very high-level version of what’s been going on. I will try to summarize as best I can for those who don’t know the jist of all that’s been happening.
Here, I will summarize what a conservatorship is, and why hers is problematic. Then, we’ll talk about the key players. After that, I’ll discuss the mental health aspect, her career, misogyny and the media, and her image.
(*Note: I am not a lawyer, so my explanations may not be perfect! I encourage following Lawyers for Britney, Surprise Witness, Meaner Three, Britneysgram, Eat Pray Britney, and the Free Britney Army for more great information and perhaps-better explanations.)
- For the past almost 13 years or so, Britney Spears has been under a (technically probably legal, but sketch, borderline-abusive, morally-and-ethically-questionable) conservatorship, also known as a guardianship. This is a comprehensive timeline of all that’s been going on, made by Leanne Simmons, and is one of the best deep-dives to date. Bookmark it along with the Free Britney Army site! This Google Drive also contains court documents related to her case.
- Britney Spears has essentially has been stripped of all rights and personhood under the law, and has lost the ability and control to make her own decisions relating to her finances, health, business, and other personal affairs. The American Bar Association once stated of conservatorships, “with the stroke of a judge’s pen, rights are lost.” They also claim that, “guardianship is one of society’s most drastic interventions in which fundamental rights are transferred to a surrogate, leaving an individual without choice and self-determination,” and that the average person in a guardianship or conservatorship has less rights than a felon. They are also usually not ever under the age of 65 years old.
- Guardianships are typically reserved for people who are gravely disabled, or extremely medically or mentally incapacitated (example: vegetative state, Alzheimer’s or dementia, terminal end-of-life care, severe intellectual or developmental disability.) Normally people in a conservatorship are very sick, elderly, or disabled, unable to work or be productive, unable to care for themselves or make decisions.
- Many probate, family law, and conservatorship lawyers and psychiatrists do not feel that Britney needs to be under a conservatorship, at least judging by outside appearances alone. The Twitter and Instagram accounts Surprise Witness and Lawyers for Britney are great examples of lawyers who give fair opinions on her case, based on court documents and rulings.
- Under the conservatorship, Britney’s net worth has dwindled. She has had to pay lawyers on both sides to fight the case, and has to pay her father and others to manage her conservatorship against her will. (Conflict of interest says what?) Supposedly, she gets an allowance and allegedly has to document/have permission for every expenditure — even a trip to Target or a latte from Starbucks, let alone a vacation. From what I understand, she is not allowed to marry again, enter into contracts, drive her car, have more children, choose her medical treatments, buy a home, even make everyday purchases without consent. In theory, her father could enter into binding contracts on her behalf, choose what drugs she takes or whether she goes through with a pregnancy, if she can get married or register to vote, and so on. Under the law, she is not an adult person, after all — she is essentially a ward of the state, and her father is her guardian. (So, in essence she is really like an actual child. Or prisoner.)
- Not only is she paying lawyers on both sides, she has not been able to choose or hire her own lawyer! It’s like she’s been paying to battle herself in court all these years, and not able to choose her own representation. (A recent petition for her right to hire her own lawyer has garnered over 250,000 signatures.)
- The conservatorship was initially meant to be temporary, and when she allegedly agreed to it, she was under stress in the hospital, not given the proper advance notice and 5-day window required by law, and was initially under the impression it was only temporary.
- The conservatorship documents stated she had dementia at 26 years old as stated in court documents. Within a year (and in some cases within months,) she was back to work doing guest spots on multiple TV sitcoms, recording multiple albums and collaborations, doing concerts, being a judge on X-Factor, eventually going on over a decade-plus period to do multiple world tours, a record-breaking Vegas residency, and continuing to build on her billion-dollar perfume empire. Her shows include complicated choreography and dangerous stunts. One might wonder how she was able to do all of that with dementia? If she is well enough to work and produce and perform (and EARN) at that level … does she need the conservatorship? If she is so incapacitated, unwell, and disabled that she actually needs the conservatorship, then should she be working? Can it be both? I feel like the answer would be no. At least not permanently. But guess what? It was made permanent way back in 2008, for barely any reason at all that I can discern from the outside and without knowing the whole situation. Ten years later, in 2018, a comment by one of the conservators, Andrew Wallet, raise eyebrows when he called it a successful “hybrid business model.” It should not be a business model at all. It is meant to protect someone who is basically an invalid. Is this women an invalid? If she needs the conservatorship, then I understand. She may very well be gravely disabled. But – if that’s the case, who is forcing her to work so hard for so many years? And did she want to be?
- A voicemail was leaked to the podcast Britneysgram alleging that Britney was supposedly forced into a mental facility against her will and forced to take drugs against her will. It reignited the #FreeBritney movement and slowly brought some more mainstream attention to her case. How credible the voicemail was and whether she was in the facility voluntarily or not is up for debate. Personally, I don’t know or purport to know, but, I want her to be safe, happy, healthy, and have some autonomy and freedom. I want what is best for her, and what is legally and morally sound. At any rate, think whatever you want about it, but the voicemail was the catalyst for a lot of action to follow.
- What do advocates of #FreeBritney want? Different advocates and fans want different things. But, according to the official Free Britney Army website, “The #FreeBritney movement advocates Britney Spears’s freedom from the 13 years long conservatorship over both her person and financial estate. When a conservatorship is established over an individual, they are denied their most basic civil rights.
- Denied due process
- Deprived of property
- Deprived of liberty
- Denied right to confront accusers
- Denied right to trial
- Denied right to counsel
- Unlawfully confined and isolated
- Unlawfully chemically restrained
Under the conservatorship, Britney Spears has been denied the freedom to make phone calls, operate a motor vehicle, send and receive mail, and access her finances. A conservatorship is intended to protect the incapacitated individuals. Since the beginning of the conservatorship, Britney Spears has recorded 4 albums and performed in 4 world tours in addition to a 4-year Las Vegas residency.”
Twitter user ‘That Surprise Witness’ is a lawyer who put it perfectly: “Whether Britney ‘wants’ to be in a conservatorship is immaterial. The question MUST be: does she legally qualify for one? The answer from the evidence I have seen so far is absolutley not.”
The people in Britney’s life are
part of the issue here. It’s primarily the men — and long has been — but, there are some women involved, too, who make my and the rest of the Britney Army’s skin crawl.
- Jamie Spears – There’s so much to unpack here. I don’t even know what all to say. James ‘Jamie’ Spears is Britney’s father. He’s kind of creepy and is also the true definition of a country bumpkin. I am not sure how bright he is, but I feel like if anyone is subject to undue influence and manipulation, it’s likely to be him more so than Britney. Additionally, he’s allegedly an alcoholic who cheated on her mother and was not a great husband, father, or businessman. That’s all fine, but he is wildly unqualified to manage a fortune of Britney’s magnitude or a celebrity of Britney’s status and fame. Nor does he have any business making a grown woman’s medical decisions. Not to mention — (and this is on public record, so, not hearsay or tabloid gossip) he physically abused Britney’s pre-teen son last year. This resulted in a restraining order being taken out against him. Now, because Jamie basically controls Britney’s life (and Britney is not an adult human under the law who can have custody of her own kids and she inexplicably needs her own guardian in order to see her own children or do just about anything else,) this situation very likely resulted in Britney seeing her kids less although they allege it has not affected the arrangement. At any rate, Jamie was, supposedly, partially instrumental in putting Britney under the conservatorship in the first place, for a long time was conservator of both her person and the business side, now is a co-conservator of the personal side alongside Bessemer Trust on the business side (*from my understanding — it’s all very very confusing – like where do Jodi Montgomery and Andrew Wallet come in? Someone help me! You guys can comment if you have figured it out), which is at least a step in the right direction. Britney has voiced that she is no longer on good terms with her father or really even speaking to him, and, through her lawyer has told courts she is afraid of him and will not perform or work until he’s off the conservatorship. Her son and her boyfriend have both publicly called him a d*ck. Think about this, too: she’s 39 years old and allegedly according to Page Six, he grounded her a few months ago for going for a socially-distant walk on the beach with a friend without his permission. Tell me again how this is good for her mental health? Anyway, her dad sucks. Allegedly. At least he apparently makes good cheese grits; that’s about the only positive I can discern from years of seeing an array of archival Spears family footage.
- Larry Rudolph – Her manager. She’s worked with him off and on (mostly on) for pretty much her entire career. He’s creepy but mostly harmless, I think. Larry did not have a direct hand in the conservatorship itself, but has never really spoken about it. Now, he has seemed to have a hand in working her to the bone for decades, except for this one time when he made this weird comment that felt out of left field. I feel like, to the Larrys of the world, Britney Spears is just Britney, Inc.
- Justin Timberlake – Most of you know, I love me some JT. Most of you don’t know, I only love me some JT when he’s NOT in the context of Britney Spears. In fact, I find JT to be problematic in many ways. As with Michael Jackson, I’m able to separate the art from the artist. It’s a cognitive dissonance thing. Yes, I love Justin’s music, love watching him perform, love his voice, have fun at his concerts, find him to be mega-talented all around, and have had a celebrity-crush on him for decades. But, do I think he can be a little cringey, douchey, and a little culture-appropriating and a lot misogynistic? Sure. And do I hate what he did to Janet Jackson and think it’s totally unfair how the media treated her? Of course. And do I think part of Britney’s troubles in life started with him? (Well, her lovely father, and then him. Allegedly.) Why, yes. Yes, I do. So, when it comes to a Britney vs. JT smackdown, it may surprise some of you to know that despite my years of swooning, I’m always going to be Team Britney here. So let’s start with him as a ‘toxic’ player in the life story of Britney because although he was not a part of her conservatorship he was a part of people starting to think and talk about her differently, starting to villainize her, etc. And, as we’ll see, that kind o framing by the public and the media? It matters. The court of public opinion has influence, especially in Hollywood. Episodes 13 and 71 of EatPrayBritney do a good job explaining Justin’s role in all of this and why many Britney fans aren’t exactly “N Sync” with JT. In short: he threw her under the bus, made her look bad, capitalized on it for his own gain, and let the public destroy her. And it took nearly 20 years for him to apologize.
- Kevin Federline – K.Fed – Britney’s ex-husband, failed rapper and the father of her two children. I have no opinion on him either way, really. I think she genuinely loved him; I think he was a jerk to her. I don’t think he has malicious intent now. I don’t know that he’s actively trying to get her out of the conservatorship situation, but I also don’t think he’s actively trying to keep her in it. Nor does he really have much say, if any. I do think he just wants what’s best for their kids. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think he just is what he is. Another man feeding off of her! But, he seems like he tries to be a good father.
- Sam Lutfi – I will never for the life of me remember if this man’s last name is Lutfi or Lufti without Googling, so I present to you both spellings since I say and spell it differently each time. Apologies; I don’t care enough to learn. The thing about this guy is … obviously he’s a shady character. This much goes without saying. How shady, though, is beyond me. Do you remember him? He and a paparazzo named Adnan Ghalib along with Britney’s cousin Ali Sims (and Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan,) were staples during the immediate pre-conservatorship era of upskirt shots, pink wigs, British accents, convenience store runs, and umbrella attacks. We won’t discuss the salon incident too much here because it’s just done to death. Anyway. Like – what were his intentions? Was he trying to control Britney or keep her away from those that were controlling her? Was he actually drugging her? Was he framed? Did he set her up? Who is he, really? How much of a hand did he have in her so-called ‘meltdown?’ He was obviously a clinger-on and a bad influence. Right? But was he evil, nefarious, part of a much bigger con? I just don’t know what to make of this guy. What was his end-game? He is still out there claiming he wants to Free Britney, but wasn’t he kind of part of why she ended up in that situation in the first place? Would the events leading up to the ‘meltdown’ have happened without Sam Lutfi?
- L*u Tayl*r – This lovely Christian woman likes to block and sue and troll everyone, but, allegedly, Britney wrote a concerned email in like 2007 about a “crazy stalker lady” and mocked her to a tabloid outlet back in the day, too. Fast-forward and somehow this person has a hand in her conservatorship, her finances, and all kinds of stuff. Do yourselves a favor and Google how someone involved in the business side of the conservatorship may have used money from Britney’s charity to fund conversion therapy. Allegedly. (Supposedly, $50,000 of money from Britney’s charity was given to Mercy Ministries. As an LGBTQIA icon and supporter, this would not have been Britney’s doing herself, nor would she been able or allowed to do herself under the conservatorship.) And take a look how L0u viciously sued and shut down a fan website calling her a gay demon exorcist, allegedly. And how when the microscope got to close and the heat got too hot on the conservatorship, she stepped down as Britney’s business manager. Allegedly. And for entertainment purposes only. (The podcast EatPrayBritney does a great job explain the ins and outs of this fine specimen.)
There are obviously dozens more people involved, good and bad, who I could talk about … Andrew Wallet, Jodi Montgomery, Judge Penny, Vivian Thoreen, Felicia Culotta, Jamie Lynn Spears, Lynne Spears, Bryan Spears, Sam Ingham, Sam Asghari, Jason Alexander, Jason Trawick, Ali Sims, Timothy Benson, the list goes on and on. But, this is already longer than I wanted it to be, and I still have more to cover!
I do also want to mention this quote by Rick Black from the Center for Estate Administration Reform: “This is organized crime. And it’s organized by members of the bar who know that, within the dysfunction of these courts, they can make lots and lots of money.” There is a lot I’m not mentioning here about where Britney’s money may be going and again, I strongly encourage you to follow @MeanerThree and @SurpriseWitnes on Twitter for great threads on this topic. It’s infuriating.
Here’s a thing. Maybe we don’t speculate on people’s mental health in general, and maybe we stop calling women crazy just because they don’t fit into a neat little box for you? Maybe we quit calling women hysterical and do away with the whole madwoman in the attic trope?Maybe we stop pushing women and girls to their breaking points, and then mocking them when they get there? Maybe we stop sexualizing young women, and then shaming them for it? Maybe we begin to realize that “stars,” performers, artists, celebrities…they’re people too. They are human. They have feelings. Maybe we stop stigmatizing feelings & mental health altogether? Can we just stop?
In the era of #TimesUp and #MeToo, isn’t enough, enough? Haven’t we learned that so much of what was once deemed okay in our culture … from toxic masculinity, to ignoring white privilege, to casual racism and tokenism, to mocking mental health, to bullying … is just NOT okay, and really never was?
As showcased in the stellar New York Times and Hulu/FX Documentary, Framing Britney Spears, none of what Britney dealt with is alright. Or normal! It’s been discussed in many podcasts and on many online videos but Britney Jean Spears was treated horribly and unfairly by the media, the tabloids/paparazzi, the general public, her contemporaries and peers, her own family, even her fans and her significant others in some cases. I dare say that from where I’m sitting today, it looks like she was also treated horribly and unfairly by the court system of California, too.
I have to wonder, if she were a man, if she would have dealt with this level of scrutiny, mockery, and hate. She IS “stronger than yesterday,” but she shouldn’t have to have gone through it. Lots of male celebrities go off the proverbial rails and don’t have their fortunes and their basic human rights taken away from them. They aren’t degraded and left without their personhood, without their civil liberties, without their kids. I’m not saying if I feel that ANY of these men at any point have ever needed or deserved a conservatorship or not but what about Charlie Sheen? Kanye West? Michael Jackson? Robert Downey Jr.? Tiger Woods? Justin Bieber? Ryan Lochte? Johnny Depp? R Kelly? Tom Green? Mel Gibson? Any array of rock stars with any array of problems relating to addiction and spending and mental health and whatever else?
Because, let’s be honest about what we do know about Britney Spears: we don’t know her diagnosis and we aren’t asking to. So let’s just go on what we know, ignoring the whole ‘dementia’ allegation, because, that still feels like a reach.
- She spit on a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella and spit on it (after paprazzi were harassing her about a custody battle.)
- She shaved her head and got a tattoo. (I have 8 tattoos, for what it’s worth. And lots of women shave their heads. Tiffany Haddish, for example, looks fantastic!)
- She often wore wigs in public. (So do Kylie Jenner. Kim Kardashian. Miley Cyrus. Katy Perry. Lady Gaga…I mean, I have, too!)
- She sometimes spoke with a British accent (So has Madonna. And what is Dorit Kemsley’s accent?)
- Paparazzi creepily snuck photos up her skirt as she exited vehicles. (This was her fault, how? Why?)
- She locked herself in a bathroom crying with her son after a custody dispute, and a person who barely knew her, called the police based on protocol. What should have been a private family matter escalated into orchestrated frenzy and chaos.
- She tripped and almost dropped her baby (while about a dozen paparazzi swarmed her. Of course they got their photo.)
- She quickly put her child on her lap and drove away (to escape the paparazzi who were swarming her. Of course they got their photo.)
- She gave what people deemed a subpar performance at the VMAs (if that’s a causative factor there are several other artists I’d like to submit for conservatorships.)
- She … went out to clubs with girlfriends in her 20s on occasion..? I mean..??
Of course, this is all we know. There could be more than meets the eye and likely is. There have been rumors of drug use (although most around her deny this,) and speculation that she could possibly have bipolar disorder and may have been suffering from postpartum depression, especially since she had her two babies so very close together. Then going through a very stressful divorces in the public eye, and her beloved aunt dying around the same time, could not have been easy. Without being a medical professional or having all the facts, it wouldn’t be fair for me to diagnose her. But, I also don’t think it would be a stretch to say that no one would be surprised if there was some anxiety, depression, and/or PTSD, especially given all of that, and the spotlight that has been on her since she was about 10 years old. The industry can eat people alive. I deal with those things without being a global legend.
Does any of this render her unable to feed, bathe, clothe, and provide shelter for herself, however? Unable to make decisions for the rest of her life? To understand and comprehend things? Does an umbrella attack, a head-shaving, or a custody incident warrant needing a lifelong guardian? She is an avid reader. She is perhaps awkward and eccentric, and not always the most eloquent or articulate, but it’s endearing and charming. Britney is down-to-earth, but she is not an unintelligent person. While some would deem her weird, she is also not incapacitated from what most can see. Maybe her “real life” is very different – we could never know. But — dementia? “Crazy?” I’m not so sure. Is she any more “crazy” or troubled than the male celebrities I mentioned?
And if she does, say, have bipolar disorder as some allege — what does that mean? So what? Plenty of people keep working and living their lives every day with various types of biploar disorder, including some fellow female singers like Demi Lovato, Mariah Carey, Bebe Rexha, and Selena Gomez, among others. (None of whom need legal guardians; none of whom are wards of the state; all of whom can presumably sign documents and choose their own medical treatments.) Lady Gaga has been very open about a psychotic break that once landed her in the emergency room and has admitted to being on an anti-pscyhotic medication that is normally used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Lady Gaga (who I adore, BTW), was not “canceled,” for it, however.
Britney was. And then some.
Is it just the era as to why some are extended more empathy and compassion now for their mental health battles — a different time? — or, is Britney just held to a different standard for some other reason? It’s something for the courts, the media, and those of us that consume it, to think about. To paraphrase one of her many hit songs, “you say she’s crazy? I got your crazy!”
Britney should have a current estimated net worth of anywhere from $250-$400 million. According to court documents from 2020, it’s at
about $60 million. Doesn’t sound like a very “successful hybrid business model” to me, but when you are paying both sides of a legal battle that has lasted 13ish years, what does anyone expect? Not to mention, she has to pay Daddy Cheese Grit’s salary, and others’ salaries and fees.
Britney Spears has long earned the right to make, earn, and spend her money if, when, and how she chooses — even if that would happen to mean she ends up being “bad with money.” To my knowledge, she has a trust for her kids already set up, because she is a great mom. Beyond that, if she wants to buy a pony and her own ice cream truck and 10 Hermes Birkin bags, (or just go buck wild at Target because that’s more on-brand for her than Birkin, which I love about her,) then she should absolutley be allowed to. The job of a conservatorship isn’t to police how she spends her money. She can get a business manager, accountant, or financial adviser for that! The court does not need to be involved. Her father, and these folks who LITERALLY make a career out of the guardianship “industry” do not need to have their hands in her bag. (Check out the documentary The Guardians, the Dirty Money episode on conservatorships, and the new fiction movie I Care a Lot, all on Netflix. It’s scary. This is not an issue exclusive to Britney Spears. Once again, the Britneysgram and Eat Pray Britney girls, plus others, have a lot more info on this stuff!)
Some things to consider:
- Britney’s life in the public eye and the world of professional singing and performing began when she was 10 years old on Star Search, around the same time as she and Natalie Portman were in the off-Broadway musical, Ruthless. By the age of 12 she was on the Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Club. At age 15, she signed her first record deal, and her first album came out when she was just 17. This context is important; it shows that she has helped to provide for, if not exclusively provided for, her family, or at least certain members of her family, since she was a kid. She is now 39 and is still doing so — but not by her own freedom of choice.
- Britney Spears has sold over 100 million records worldwide, over 70 million in the United States. It is very important to note that most of these were before the golden era of streaming. She has had 13 #1 hits, 9 studio albums 8 compilation albums, 9 box sets, 3 EPs, and 47 singles. She is one of only a few artists to have more than one diamond-certified album. In short she is often not taken very seriously, but, she is one if the best selling and most influential and iconic music artists of all-time. Fact.
- Since Britney became too ill, too unwell, too sick, too demented, too incapacitated, too disabled, too whatever to look after herself, or, you know, have personal freedoms or rights, she has released 4 full-length studio albums, released a compilation album and a standalone single, did TV guest spots on Will & Grace, Glee, How I Met Your Mother, and Jane the Virgin, was a judge on X -Factor, went on 4 world tours, had one of the most successful Las Vegas residencies of all time, multiple live TV performances, and being involved in her billion-dollar perfume empire. Again, I ask: does this sound like someone who needs to ask permission to marry her boyfriend or to buy a new car? And, legally-speaking, could she even marry, given that she can’t really enter into a contract as of now?
The paparazzi and the tabloid culture are almost exclusively to blame for what people call Britney’s downfall. One only has to watch the documentary Framing Britney Spears and the 5-Part YouTube Series Deep Dive Britney Spears to see what I mean. She was hounded. She was stalked. She was hunted. She was prey. She was celebrated, held up, torn down. (I read the book Trainwreck by Sady Doyle two or three years ago and highly recommend it if you want to see how our society does this to young women ALLLLL the time. I usually sell or donate books once I’ve read them but I’ve hung on to that one, and was surprised to hear it mentioned on the Crime Junkie podcast this week! They actually did a special Fan Club episode about the Framing Britney Spears documentary, even though it is not their usual type of discussion.)
- There was the time they chased her into a cafe with her baby where she cried and they took photos through the windows instead of helping her.
- There was the time they photographed her crying on her front stoop with her dog instead of leaving her alone, or helping her.
- There were all the times they nearly caused harm and injury to her and/or her young songs with their shameless need to get a pic.
- There were the upskirt shots I mentioned above.
- There was the provocation, baiting her until she got mad, or sad, or did something outrageous.
- There was the time she was taken away by ambulance and they photographed her on the gurney.
They claim they were just doing their job. They claim she liked it. Maybe she did at first. Maybe she liked the attention a little bit. But no one wants to be destroyed. It was Princess Diana level madness. Britney was honestly lucky that it wasn’t worse.
Yet, she was the one punished for it. They get to keep working, get to keep having freedom to make their own choices, marry who they love, travel where they want, and she has to pay for their sins. Because “she” is “crazy.” Or so we are to believe.
Not everything is about sexism or gender, of course, and, yeah, the Biebs and MJ got it pretty bad… but, I will say once again that few male celebrities have to deal with quite the level of harassment and scrutiny from the paparazzi and the press. And if they had buckled under any pressures of fame, they would not be stripped of their rights and personhood in most cases. (Casey Kasem was one famous male whose family was embroiled in a conservatorship battle, but his case was different than Britney’s and for different reasons.)
Listen, I would be lying if I didn’t sometimes think to myself that Britney would save herself from a lot trolls (and potentially expose herself to less “she’s crazy! THIS is why she needs to be in the conservatorship!” fodder) if she would just, I don’t know … hire a stylist, a glam squad, brush her hair, remove her eye makeup, wear different clothes, … but then … I think …
- She has every right to do what she wants to do and wear what she wants to wear … isn’t that that we are fighting for? Let her wear black patent leather high heels with a string bikini and a shell necklace and black smudged eyeliner with bedhead. Let her wear polka dot booty shorts and a lace bra and running shoes. Let her post a sweaty selfie after a swim or a tanning session while she chews gum and ponders her horoscope. I certainly am not judging because, I mean … have you seen my Instagram? It’s certainly not all chic and curated and polished and cool. I, for one, do not care if Britney Jean has her nails done or not, or if she posts a selfie in the same shirt more than once. Why do you?
- Girlfriend has always, ALWAYS been as down-to-earth and humble as can be. She is not going to be like a Kardashian or a Jenner who spends hours primping and pampering and preening just to get the perfect photo. She’s just not. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but keep in mind, this is a woman who shaved her head in part because she was “sick of people touching her.” I GET IT! She’d rather be reading, sunbathing, or hiking. And if she is filming herself dancing or working out, and in that video, her hair is messy or she has mismatched clothes on or her makeup is smudged, WHO CARES?!? Why does that make her crazy or some kind of freak? Just because so many people can’t post a picture without a filter, perfect styling, and airbrushing, but she will, does not mean she has gone off the deep end or is crying out for help. It means she doesn’t care what you think. (My only issue with it is – what do those involved in the court system think? Do they look at it and see what some of these trolls and haters see? Unkempt? A wreck? Or do they, like me, just see a sweaty everywoman dancing around having fun and not giving a hoot what she looks like?)
- Britney has never, ever been “high fashion.” Period.
- She is on an allowance, literally. Many of us think if we had her money we’d do this or that…but, maybe she has a limited budget an a “glam squad” or new clothes just aren’t happening right now, even if she did happen to want it. It probably isn’t up to her. Sad but true.
- Britney Spears has been told how to look, act, pose, and be, for basically her entire life. Her mannerisms and the ways she acts on social media may not seem natural or what you call “normal.” This is not a result of being unwell. This is a result of being a child star who turned into one of the most famous people in the world. Not knowing how to act “cool” and savvy on social media doesn’t mean you can’t care for yourself or make decisions about your life.
- Let’s talk about her dancing. If you put her on a stage, in full costume, hair and makeup done, maybe with some backup dancers, none of you would think it’s cuckoo or weird. Yeah, maybe her outfit choices on IG are a little odd when she’s shimmying, I’ll give you that. Freestyle interpretive dance is going to look weird when someone is in boxer shorts and a sports bra in their living room just messing around. If someone at a dance recital was doing the same exact thing that wasn’t Britney Spears, though, you wouldn’t think twice about it, and you wouldn’t take away that person’s access to their bank accounts and driver’s license and passport and kids. You wouldn’t go to court over it.
- She does not owe it to you to be whatever image of her you have in your mind. And you don’t have to like her or her music; you don’t have to think she’s a good mom; you don’t have to think she’s pretty or talented; you can even think that she “has issues.” But, do you honestly think she needs to be legally and fiscally controlled for the rest of her natural life for shaving her head and making a few first-time parenting mistakes? And if you do, do you think her father is the right person to be doing it?
- She’s just having fun. So shut up.
Believe it or not, there’s a ton more but I will stop boring you. There’s a whole other can of worms to be opened, having to do with Britney’s sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, and Schmou Schmaylor, among other things. There’s other wild and out-there conspiracy theory stuff, like MK Ultra Mind Control. There’s a lot more about the idea of her being a victim of human trafficking. There’s a lot of debate about whether her boyfriend can be trusted (I say yes. I am actually Team Samney!)
The truth is, none of it is really any of our business. I know that. We are not entitled to any Piece of
Me Her. Nor are we really all that deserving of her at this point. (Were we ever? She is a national treasure and a literal angel who by all accounts is one of the kindest, sweetest, most polite celebrities out there.) But the idea of this happening to anyone, famous or not, is sickening to me. There are elderly people, people of color, trans people, disabled folks, oppressed communities all over, getting taken advantage of by this unfair but totally legal guardianship system.
It’s really scary.
So, as the Legendary Miss Britney Spears would say, “why don’t ya do somethin’?”
- Write letters, attend virtual rallies, etc. – learn more.
- Learn about other cases here and here.
On behalf of, like, everyone … we love you Britney & we are sorry.
Let me say this: there’s a WHOLE LOT of drama in the Britney Army fan base about whether to ban or not to ban, boycott or not boycott, what merch is okay to buy or not, can we stream music or not, and so on. I have mixed feelings but I’d say err on the side of not purchasing things that will essentially make more money for the conservatorship at this time. That said, I am not here to tell anyone how to best support Britney and I am not here to be judge and jury on that one. I’ll let someone else be the fun police, and am not going to throw shade or argue or tell anyone how to spend their money … but do just consider buying fan-made or secondhand merch when possible, or listening to music that you already own for now … until Britney is in charge of her own money! If not, no worries – I’m not here to judge you, honestly. I’m certainly not perfect in this area, but now that I know better, I try to do better.