Some of you might have heard or maybe have even seen that The New York Times released their latest episode on their docuseries this last week. This week’s episode was all about the rise and fall of Britney Spears, as well as the status of her ongoing legal battles and the infamous Conservatorship her Dad holds over her.
Like me, and many other people from my generation, we grew up with Britney Spears. She became a favorite artist of mine at the ripe age of 14, was a staple of my teenage years, and as an adult I am still a fan. I had all her CDs, obsessively watched all her videos, went to her concerts, and pretty much was the epiphany of #Team Britney. So of course when I heard of this docuseries I knew it was a must watch. I was beyond curious and prepared to take a ride back to my youth to relive all the iconic moments of Britney’s career, but what I found was a journey that was sad, depressing and rather disturbing.
This documentary begins with a group of fans who have become part of the “Free Britney” movement, outside of a courthouse in Downtown L.A. where a legal hearing over Britney Spears’ conservatorship was taking place. For those of you not familiar with this conservatorship, or what it contains, let me break it down for you. A little over 12 years ago a legal arrangement was put in place by Britney’s father, Jaime Spears, and his legal team. The conservatorship gave him control over her estate, career, and many aspects of her personal life (health decisions, what she can and can’t do, how she can spend her money, etc.) and to this day is still in place.
Throughout the documentary we see a background of her childhood, how she became a star, as well as touching on past relationships, birth of her children, marriage, divorce, as well as highlighting her biggest accomplishments. You get to see a lot of some of the ground breaking things she did at a young age and how she rose to became, at one point, the biggest pop star in the world.
A documentary that starts highlighting the start of her career quickly takes a rather dark turn that I wasn’t expecting. We start to see the disturbing side of a news media who basically started painting a picture of a not so innocent teenager who was “Too Sexy” and a terrible example for young girls. The media began asking her questions about whether or not she had cosmetic surgery for breast augmentation and the state of her virginity (by the way these type of questions were being asked when she was underage). They started making comments to her as being too sexy and inappropriate (remember the famous rolling stone picture of her in a bra and panties?) where even some politicians were saying “she should die” and “there was a special place in hell waiting for her”. I’d like to think in 2021, post #metoo movement, that these type of questions and statements would not fly and that the media would never ask these type of questions to today ‘s young female entertainers.
There was a time in her life where the paparazzi became obsessed with following her and catching her at her absolute worst. You then begin to see a young woman being followed everywhere she went, chasing her in her car, and even ambushing her while holding her baby. This was a time in the height of the Paparazzi where they could do basically anything, as there were no rules against taking pictures of children (which as of 2014 there is a law against photographing minors without a parent’s permission). This was before public establishments started posting no photography on their windows, or before you could really take any sort of legal action against them. Photos of Britney Spears at the time were going for anywhere between $100,000-$500,000, depending upon the type of picture. Britney couldn’t go anywhere without being stalked by 50+ men wanting to take a picture of her.
We then start to see the dark parts of her life when Britney’s mental health begins to come into question. There are plenty of examples that are highlighted to give evidence to this (shaving her head, attacking a paparazzi’s car with an umbrella, and the infamous scene of Britney being taken from her home while strapped to a stretcher and put in an ambulance). This all resulted in the now infamous conservatorship that still stands today.
I think what people are still wondering is why is the conservatorship still standing 12 years later? A conservatorship is usually put in place because someone is unstable and mentally unable to make decisions for themselves. So if this is the case, why during all this time, was Britney still able to work? She did tours, released new music, performed at award shows, made public appearances, and even had her own residency in Vegas for several years. If someone is able to do all that how can a court of law say she is unable to make her own decisions? The difference now is that she no longer has say or control in her career and all decisions are being made by others. Now I’m not saying that Britney at one time was in trouble and needed help from her family and medical professionals. Maybe she was a danger to herself, others, and this was a way to get things under control. But what I’m saying is at the age of 39 why does her father still have control over her decision making?
I think there was a time when a this young woman was going through a rough patch. There were signs of postpartum depression, mental struggles, and battles with inner demons. Rather than help her, the media created this obsession of bringing her down. Telling all of us she was unstable, on drugs, a terrible mom, a danger to society, and an absolute train wreck. Her struggles were used for our entertainment when her struggles should have been an opportunity for others to help. I hope that one day we all get to hear Britney’s side of the story and I look forward to the day she can be free again.