The princess of Pop, Britney Spears, is an icon like no other. Not only has she proven her longevity with hits like Baby one more time and Work b**ch (released more than 10 years apart), she has given us iconic moments like her infamous kiss with Madonna at the VMAS and sold nearly 100 million copies worldwide.
Sadly in the last couple of years, her life has been surrounded by drama and setbacks: the cancellation of her second Las Vegas residency, her relationship with her estranged father and numerous coded messages on social media.
But before we get deep into the #FREEBRITNEY movement, we’re gonna explain everything you need to know about Conservatorships.
The scrutiny of Conservatorships
A Conservatorship is a legal form granted by court for individuals who are believed to be unable to make their own decisions or take care of themselves (they’re usually for people who are elderly, disabled or extremely ill). Many of the details of Britney’s Conservatorship have been kept secret but fillings have mentioned mental illness and substance abuse. What we do know is that her Conservatorship is divided in two: One is for her financial affairs which has prevented her from controlling her own money since 2008; and the other is for her as a person.
Her father Jamie Spears was initially in charge of both parts but in 2019, he stepped down as his daughter’s personal conservator due to health issues and was replaced by Jodi Montgomery, a healthcare professional. Though the change was initially supposed to be temporary, Britney Spears made the request to make it permanent.
The New York Times has released confidential court records that showed that the princess of pop had serious oppositions against the Conservatorship way before the public knew, and that it restricts all aspects of her life, from who she dates to the color of her kitchen cabinets. In November 2020, a judge declined to remove Mr. Spears but named the financial firm Bessemer Trust as co-conservator of her estate instead and also extended Mr. Spear’s conservatorship until September 2021.
It can be argued that Britney Spears’ non-stop work during the last decade including the release of numerous albums, worldwide tours and a Las Vegas Residency demonstrate that she is a functioning adult; but others insist that her recent behavior is only the reflection that her Conservatorship actually works.
Wondering why Britney has a Conservatorship?
In 2007, Britney Spears faced a series of personal crises: She divorced Kevin Federline, reportedly checked into rehabilitation for drug abuse (for less than a day), lost custody of her two children, shaved her own head and attacked a photographer’s car with an umbrella… all while she was constantly chased by paparazzi and her constant pleas for privacy were ignored. After all these incidents, she was finally placed in psychiatric care after her father asked an LA court for a temporary Conservatorship…and not long after this arrangement was made permanent.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Jamie Spears additionally has the power to negotiate business opportunities, sell her properties, restrict visitors and make her report all of her spending.
What is #FREEBRITNEY?
According to the New York Times, the term #FREEBRITNEY originated in 2009, from a fansite called Breathe Heavy that started a campaign that criticized the constraints of her conservatorship.
Jordan Smith, the site’s owner, even reported that he received threatening calls from Jamie Spears to have it taken down.
Some fans even cite a 2008 recording obtained by Rolling Stone in which Britney Spears talked about her Conservatorship referring to it like:
“I basically just want my life back… I want to be able to drive my car. I want to be able to live in my house by myself. I want to be able to say who’s going to be my security guard.”
The movement took renewed prominence when Britney abruptly cancelled her second Las Vegas residency and checked into a mental health centre in 2019 citing emotional distress. At this point, fans submitted petitions with tens of thousands of signatures to the White house to end Britney’s Conservatorship and demonstrated outside of her court hearings. Now, a number of celebrities have supported the #FREEBRITNEY movement including Paris Hilton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Miley Cyrus.
Why is everybody talking about #FreeBritney now?
Earlier this year, Britney’s lawyer requested a hearing where she could address the court directly.
Finally on June 23rd 2021, Britney expressed to the judge her position on ending the Conservatorship explaining how she couldn’t get married or have more children (she was forced to use birth control).
The judge said her lawyer needed to file a formal petition to end it, so on July 14, 2021 when Britney addressed the court for the second time, she suggested that she was preparing to press charges against her estranged father for financially exploiting and imposing excessive personal restrictions on her. In this hearing, she was also allowed to appoint a lawyer of her own choosing.
On August 13th, 2021, TMZ obtained legal documents that showed that Jamie Spears had agreed to step down from the Conservatorship. However, the battle is far from over. The court has to agree to remove him or it can deny his petition, but as Jamie Spears’ attorney said, “they intend to work with the court and prepare for an orderly transition to a new conservator.”
Britney’s new lawyer Mathew Rosengart said in a statement, “We are pleased but not necessarily surprised that Mr. Spears and his lawyer finally recognize that he must be removed. We are disappointed, however, by their ongoing shameful and reprehensible attacks on Ms. Spears and others.”