You may have been seeing or hearing a lot about pop star Britney Spears lately. What, exactly, is going on?
The Grammy-winning singer is back in the news following the release of Framing Britney Spears, a New York Times documentary. The at times harrowing movie dives deep into Spears’ past and ascension to uber-fame, starting with her time as a Mouseketeer.
It takes a look at her very public breakdown in 2007 — when she shaved her head and went to pummel a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella — and her eventual return to the spotlight in recent years.
The documentary, directed by Samantha Stark, also examines the misogynistic treatment of Spears by the media of the time, and how that shaped the public perception of the pop star. Granted, the internet was a different place back then, but when scrutinized the coverage of Spears is cringeworthy and really difficult to watch.
The movie outlines and explains the hashtag associated with Spears, #FreeBritney, which refers to a conservatorship she’s currently under and has been under for 13 years following her breakdown.
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A conservatorship, known in some states as a guardianship, is an involuntary status usually reserved for elderly or very ill people who are suffering from dementia or otherwise incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves.
The 39-year-old Spears is still under the control of her father Jamie Spears, the conservator, who essentially holds the keys to her estate and makes her life decisions. Fans concerned for her well-being want to “free Britney” from the conservatorship. Some fans are so dedicated to the cause that they show up at her court hearings with signs, shouting support for the pop star.
Spears’ lawyers have said she will not perform again, so long as her father is in charge. Jamie’s legal representatives claim the conservatorship is working, citing her estate’s growth from debt-addled to having a US$60-million valuation.
The legal team said Jamie’s main goal is to help Britney return to “good health, reunite her with her children, and revive her career.”
“Throughout his service as Conservator, Mr. Spear’s sole motivation has been his unconditional love for his daughter and a fierce desire to protect her from those trying to take advantage of her,” the team said in November 2020. “He wants his daughter to be happy, healthy, protected and thriving. His love for Britney is a material factor in how he has been able to turn her estate around from being in the red to what it is now.”
At the time, a judge granted Spears’ request to appoint Bessemer Trust, an outside financial group, as co-conservator. Spears is still seeking this, but wants Bessemer Trust to take over as the sole conservator, effectively removing her father from the role. Jamie has been fighting this from the start, claiming it strips him of his power.
Spears’ lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham III, said she is “afraid” of her father, and the pair have allegedly not spoken face to face for some time.
On Tuesday afternoon, Spears posted a video to her Instagram account that many fans believe refers to Framing Britney Spears. Through the years, she has been publicly tight-lipped on both the conservatorship and the status of her mental health.
“Can’t believe this performance of Toxic is from 3 years ago !!! I’ll always love being on stage …. but I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person ….. I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life !!!!” the caption read. “Each person has their story and their take on other people’s stories !!!! We all have so many different bright beautiful lives 🌹🌸🌷🌼!!! Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person’s life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens 📷✨ !!!!”
On Monday night, Spears’ boyfriend, actor Sam Asghari, released a statement that also had tongues wagging.
“I have always wanted nothing but the best for my better half, and will continue to support her following her dreams and creating the future she wants and deserves,” he said. “I am thankful for all of the love and support she is receiving from her fans all over the world, and I am looking forward to a normal, amazing future together.”
On Tuesday, he followed up with a more pointed message on his Instagram story, calling Jamie “a total dick… trying to control our relationship.”
Both Spears and her father are due in court Thursday for a status hearing — though it’s likely they’ll be represented by their legal counsel.