Nikki Idelson ’22
The New York Times’ new documentary, Controlling Britney Spears, offers new insight into the oppressive conservatorship singer Britney Spears has been placed under for over a decade.
What is a conservatorship? According to the BBC, a conservatorship is “granted by a court for individuals who are unable to make their own decisions, like those with dementia or other mental illnesses.” Spears’ conservatorship was put in place “in 2008 when she faced a public mental health crisis.”
As the years have passed, Britney has proven that she is in a much better place now than she was when the conservatorship was put into effect, yet this controlling mechanism is still in place. As a result, Spears lacks freedom and the right to make her own decisions.
Recently, Spears has spoken out about the conservatorship, claiming that not only has it been oppressive in itself, but also that her father, Jamie Spears, who is the conservator, is to blame for the conditions she has been forced to endure.
According to The New York Times, “as early as 2014, in a hearing closed to the public, Ms. Spears’ court-appointed lawyer, Samuel D Ingham III, said she wanted to explore removing her father as conservator.” Spears believes that her father has a drinking problem as well as other issues that prevent him from being a just and effective conservator.
Earlier this year, The New York Times produced a documentary that helped to shed light on how Spears found herself in this conservatorship and how it has affected her life. This documentary, Framing Britney Spears, has been eye-opening in terms of understanding the true details of this conservatorship, especially what it was like for Spears to live under its control.
Over the summer, Spears was given her first opportunity to reveal how truly oppressive and controlling the conservatorship had been for her. The New York Times reports, following her testimony, “key insiders have come forward to talk publicly for the first time about what they saw.”
This milestone in Spears’ struggle for her freedom led The New York Times to release a second documentary about her life and conservatorship, Controlling Britney Spears, on Friday, Sept. 24. This sequel documentary focuses on the experiences that people close to Spears had with working with her, as well as with her father, while she was under this conservatorship.
Every person that is featured in the documentary has worked with Britney in some capacity and has seen how both Jamie and the conservatorship have been an oppressive force on her life. In one scene, Spears’ former assistant, who was very close with her, describes how she always supported and advocated for her, which Jamie and the team did not like. This tension led Spears’ team to turn the singer and her former assistant against one another. This is just one example of many that demonstrate how controlling Jamie and the rest of Spears’ team have been to her.
Another former employee, Alex Vlasov, who worked for Spears’ security team for years, also discusses his experience working with the Spears in the new documentary. According to The New York Times, Jamie instructed the security team to “run an intense surveillance apparatus that monitored [Spears’] communications and secretly captured audio recordings from her bedroom, including her interactions and conversations with her boyfriend and children.” Vlasov expresses how he felt uncomfortable with having to do this, as it was a complete invasion of Spears’ privacy. According to The New York Times, he revealed that “it really reminded me of somebody that was in prison. And security was put in a position to be the prison guards essentially.” This new documentary has been imperative to shedding even more light on what the conservatorship was truly like for the singer.
Following the release of the documentary, Spears had a court hearing on Sept. 27, which marked another major milestone in her quest for freedom. According to NPR, “at Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon, Judge Brenda J. Penny decided to suspend Jamie Spears as the conservator of his daughter’s estate.” This decision removes her father as conservator, which is a major step in the right direction to freeing Britney from her extremely controlling conservatorship.
This ruling does not completely free her for the time being as “John Zabel, a certified public accountant, will step into that role for now,” but he is only serving as the conservator temporarily until Spears has her next hearing. According to NPR, this hearing is “scheduled for Nov. 12. At that point, the judge plans to terminate the conservatorship—freeing the 39-year-old star.” After a thirteen-year battle, Spears will hopefully finally be free from her controlling conservatorship.
Controlling Britney Spears is now available to stream on services including Netflix and Hulu.