by Nikki Idelson ’22 A&E Staff
Pop icon Britney Spears has been making headlines since the release of the new documentary Framing Britney Spears, made by the New York Times. Released on Feb. 5, the documentary gave viewers a glimpse into the darker parts of Spears’ life that had been hidden for years. The film opens with Spears’ rise to stardom, as well as her eventful downfall due to her personal struggles. Spears rose to fame at 16 when she released her major hit, “…Baby One More Time.” Her career took off following this release. However, as eventually came to light, her life was not as glamorous as it appeared.
Following her first major hit, Spears gradually became more provocative in her music videos, receiving hate and criticism in response. However, this did not stop her from making her claim to fame. Spears continued to rise in popularity, but began to suffer mentally due to a variety of factors. One of the most prominent of these factors was that she had several paparazzi following her around on a daily basis, which left her feeling as though she had no freedom or privacy.
Another detriment to her mental health was her relationship with Justin Timberlake. From 1999 to 2002, they were considered the “it couple.” However, in 2002, they ended their relationship. This breakup was difficult for Spears, who had fallen in love with Timberlake. Timberlake’s response to their breakup also played a major part in Spears’ personal struggles; when asked if he had slept with Spears, he responded, “Okay, I did it.” This led to many talk show hosts using this sound bite as content for their shows. Spears was horrifically slut-shamed within tabloid magazines due solely to a claim that Timberlake had made.
Her marriage to Kevin Federline, which ended in 2006, was another challenging time for Spears as she lost custody rights to the children they had together. At this time, she was abusing both alcohol and other substances, which led her to, according to Today, “voluntarily check[ing] herself into an undisclosed treatment facility.” Soon after, in 2008, in order to gain more freedom in her visitation rights to her children, she agreed to enter into a conservatorship, with her father being the main executor of it. According to Glamour Magazine, “Her father and an attorney were granted a temporary—then permanent (in October 2008)—conservatorship over her assets, estate, and business affairs.” Following her placement under the conservatorship, a legal term defined as placing one’s financial affairs under the management of a guardian, Spears began to appear as though she was doing much better, performing in concerts all over the world.
However, in 2019, as fans began to learn more about Spears’ conservatorship and how limiting it was on her own personal freedom, a movement started worldwide, known as “Free Britney.” According to the New York Times, “Now that she is 39, a growing number of fans are agitating on her behalf.” This fan aggravation stemmed from the fact that this conservatorship unjustly stripped Spears of her autonomy, which is why fans argue that it should be lifted altogether. As Glamour Magazine said, “As of November 4 that year Britney filed an official motion to permanently remove her father as a co-conservator of her estate. Her lawyer reportedly requested that Bessemer Trust Company be the sole conservator moving forward.”
Spears’ legal representative even attested that “the singer has told him ‘on many occasions’ she’s afraid of Jamie [Spears’ father] and doesn’t want to perform professionally while he’s in the current role.” Spears’ request to remove her father completely was denied in a court on Nov. 10, 2020. Spears, as well as her fans, are continuing to fight for her freedom against this conservatorship.