Britney Spears and the dramatic and problematic circumstances she encounters due to her conservatorship
Writer: Kalynn Shwandt
At this point in time, I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “Free Britney.” Whether you are a Britney fan or not, the life of this pop star is something to unpack.
To start off, Britney Spears is a 39-year-old woman that has been under a conservatorship for the past 13 years. This means that Britney is not legally in charge of herself. Her conservator--her father, Jamie Spears is. He has full control over Britney’s finances and essentially any decision that she has come to face.
Britney’s portrayal in the media during the early 2000s is the root of her problematic career, in my opinion. However, there are several factors and theories that you could blame.
It is no doubt that Britney is a talented artist and has been since her performances as a child. Aside from the countless articles and Twitter threads that I have read, I gained a massive insight into Britney’s life in the New York Times documentary, Framing Britney (2021).
Multiple interviews from a variety of sources have brought stories, opinions, and thoughts to the table. While I had several takeaways, there are a few worth dissecting. Britney’s representation in the media, information about her father, and the open-ended question regarding what comes next have stuck with me.
It is a no-brainer that the media and the place of celebrities within it is a much different landscape today than it was in the 1990s and early 2000s. Britney was viewed as an object in many cases, not as the talented performer that she was.
She was constantly criticized for being too sexual, but that was the only option she was given throughout interviews and the press. Questions were continuously asked about her body or her romantic relationships, however, her answers were used against her. To make matters more frustrating, men were often praised for the exact same reasons that Britney was put to shame. Whether it be about clothing, sex, or significant others, women like Britney always faced a double-edged sword and there was no easy way around it.
I believe that the media's treatment of Britney brought her to her breaking point in 2007. From marriage to divorce to children, nothing was simple in the life of Britney. This led to the start of her conservatorship, while she simultaneously battled her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, for custody of her children.
Britney’s career continued and progressed while under her conservatorship. Albums such as Circus, Femme Fatale, Britney Jean, and Glory were released between the years 2008 and 2016. She toured and eventually settled down with a residency in Las Vegas.
Up until roughly 2018, Britney looked picture-perfect, as she spent time with her sons and her career continued to flourish. However, with another set of shows planned, her residency was abruptly canceled due to her father’s health issues.
Following this, coverage centering the #FreeBritney movement went viral and was in the public eye more than ever before. This is also when Britney’s extreme Instagram persona rose to the surface. Were Jamie’s health issues the cause of cancelation? Or was there an underlying issue with Britney not wanting to play by the rules of others?
As seen in the documentary, Britney’s past assistant, Felicia Culotta, elaborates on Jamie Spears' lack of stability during the vast majority of her childhood. This raises the question: Should this man really be in charge of the money that Britney Spears has earned throughout her wildly successful career?
While finances are a massive factor and responsibility, there is so much more to the conservatorship than that. Britney cannot make decisions for herself, in virtually any sense. It is entirely up to her father. This grown woman, mother, artist, and performer has become a mere pawn in someone else's game.
Statements have been made all over the board by those close to Britney. Some say she needs this, while others contest that she doesn’t.
You could argue that the depiction of women in the media has progressed and somewhat changed for the better, but the topic of mental health has made even bigger moves in the mind of society today. The burden placed on Britney from the media in the early 2000s seems to have left a lasting impact.
In September of 2020, Britney’s team of lawyers filed a lawsuit to dismantle the conservatorship. The mission was not fully successful, as it was extended to September 2021. However, on a positive note, her father was removed and Jodi Montgomery has stepped in as Britney’s permanent conservator.
While things remain changing and up in the air, it makes you wonder what goes on behind the scenes and how Britney truly is. It is a whirlwind of a life that Britney has lived, and one can only hope that justice and truth will play their part in working through her circumstances.
Framing Britney is available for streaming on Hulu. Tess Barker and Barbara Gray’s podcast, Britney’s Gram, can be found here.
To learn more, check out these timelines with further information on Britney Spears and her experiences.