With nearly 150 million records sold worldwide, Britney Spears has rightfully earned her title as the “Princess of Pop.” The singer revolutionized music in the early 2000’s, quickly amassing a cult following. However, Britney has recently been gaining attention for a different reason: the #FreeBritneyMovement.
“Framing Britney Spears,” produced by the New York Times, analyzes the popstar’s notorious downfall and, more importantly, who is responsible. The documentary became viral in light of Spears’ conservatorship trials, spurring questions among supporters. What is a conservatorship? Why is it important? Why do we need to “free” Britney Spears?
A conservator is one that preserves from injury or violation — a protector. Legally, a conservator is typically appointed to elderly people unable to manage themselves without involvement. In the case of an able-minded and -bodied Britney Spears, her father is in charge of her medical decisions, social life, and bank account.
The documentary begins with Spears’ origin as told by her former assistant, Felicia Colotta. Colotta explains that Spears had always been a shining talent, even in her small hometown of McComb, Mississippi. Constantly traveling to New York for auditions, Colotta was soon appointed as a “chaperone” for Spears. Although she was young, Spears was a bright and ambitious performer.
Trouble began soon after Spears’ debut album, “…Baby One More Time,” became a viral sensation. Spears was criticized for her music, fashion and relationships, all of which branded her as “overly sexual.” After a public breakup with Justin Timberlake, Spears’ image was further damaged.
As Spears became a wife and mother, the paparazzi became unbearable. Constantly following Spears around with cameras, a single photo of the starlet was worth up to a million dollars. Blasting Spears for her sudden divorce, custody battle and drug addiction, every decision of hers was under constant scrutiny.
After being admitted into an institution, Spears’ father, who she had an estranged relationship with, assumed temporary conservatorship of her person and estate. Unfortunately for Spears, the conservatorship quickly became a permanent fixture in her life. As a successful 39-year-old singer and dancer, Spears is one of the most sought-after performers alive (especially in Las Vegas). Although Spears has always opposed conservatorship, she has become increasingly public about her stance.
The documentary, after exploring her life and career, details the #FreeBritney movement. Although Spears’ trials have always garnered press, her supporters have sparked an online revolution. Fans began protesting for Spears’s freedom after analyzing cryptic messages on Spears’ social media pages.
The conservatorship with her father, having lasted for decades, has only recently been scrutinized by the public. Jamie Spears has allegedly never had a consistent relationship with his daughter until the conservatorship, which he greatly profits from. As her conservator, Jamie Spears has agreed to hundreds of interviews, concerts and appearances on his daughter’s behalf, earning millions of dollars off her labor. After her father had an altercation with one of her children, Spears decided to pursue matters more adamantly. There have been numerous trials, but none have granted Spears the freedom she seeks.
The documentary exposes the darkness not only in the life of stardom but also in our social system. Spears has been demonized for having mental illnesses that are widely accepted today, such as depression and anxiety. After decades of intruding upon her privacy, tabloids were quick to call the singer “crazy” after her breakdowns. Spears’ downfall is a result of a misogynistic, vicious culture, which tore her down since she was a teenager.
Britney Spears is no ordinary celebrity. Her themes of individuality, sexuality and expression have given voice to many, including those in the LGBTQ community. As Spears’ plight continues, supporters hope not only for her release but for the conservatorship system at large to be reexamined. In the upcoming trials, “it is not an exaggeration to say the whole world is watching.”