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#Free Britney finds fame as censorship causes court case


     As I go down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole at 3 A.M., I think to myself: Oops… I did it again. With a wide range of conspiracies out on the internet — from political theories such as PizzaGate and the Illuminati, to more comical theories like Birds Aren't Real or the earth is flat —  I always find celebrity theories and affairs the most intriguing. One that has been on my mind recently is the #FreeBritney movement which calls for the freedom of Britney Spears’ from a legal arrangement she currently has with her father. Spears’ father has tried to invalidate the movement and concerns over Spears’ safety by calling it all a conspiracy theory.

     As the Princess of Pop, Spears has been a cultural icon for the last three decades. She has multiple best-selling albums and Rolling Stone has even dubbed her track “...Baby One More Time” as the greatest debut single of all time. With the success Spears has, what could she possibly need to be freed from?

     To understand the movement, we must venture back through the dark depths of Spears’ 2007 breakdown. At the age of 25, she was going through a very public divorce and custody battle with her husband Kevin Federline. Mix those marital troubles with underlying anxiety issues, substance abuse and being scrutinized by the media at all times — it was a recipe for a breakdown. The infamous image of Spears shaving her head became ingrained into pop culture as the definition of a mental breakdown. 

     Along with shaving her head, Spears entered a rehabilitation center. Plenty of celebrities go to


 rehabilitation centers, but rarely is their breakdown as publicized as Spears’. Despite completing a rehabilitation program she continued to have erratic behavior, which I would like to think is because she was still in a brutal custody battle with her ex-husband. In the fall of 2007 she was responsible for a hit and run, and the court ordered her to give up custody of her children and place them in the care of ex-husband Federline.

     Coming into 2008, Spears was still refusing to give up custody of her two kids and she was involuntarily entered into a psychiatric hospital. With such a clear lack of control over her life, her father Jamie Spears established a legal arrangement in which he, and lawyer Andrew Wallet, had full control of his daughter’s finances, medical decisions, estate and even daily life. This is known as a conservatorship (or adult guardianship) and is typically requested and ordered by a court for those who lack the ability to take care of themselves. Since 2008, she has been in this conservatorship with little say. In a Rolling Stone’s recording that same year, Spears is heard saying “I basically just want my life back … I want to be able to drive my car.” With her lack of autonomy, the #FreeBritney movement was born.

     While the movement originates from 2008, it is gaining a new resurgence of media attention — especially through social media — as Spears’ and her legal team face a trial to reassign who her permanent conservator is. In 2019 her father stepped back from his role in the conservatorship due to health issues, but he still remained in control of her finances. Until her father recovered, Spears’ care manager over the years, Jodi Montgomery, was appointed by the court and her father as her temporary conservator. Montgomery was only granted as Spears’ conservator for a few months and now that her father has recovered, they must go to court to establish who will take the role as Spears’ permanent conservator. 

     Spears has made it clear she opposes her father returning to his role of conservator, with sources telling Us Magazine that “There has been significant improvement in Britney’s overall medical treatment plan” since her father relinquished full control. In court documents filed this August, Spears and her attorney Samuel Ingham III stated she wanted Montgomery to become her permanent conservator and she wished for her finances to be handled by an independent wealth firm, Bessemer Trust. 

     Her father is against Montgomery remaining as conservator and his daughter’s wealth being handled by Bessemer Trust. Rather, he wishes for his daughter’s former co-conservator, Wallet, to be back in the legal arrangement. Wallet managed Spears’ estate up until March 2019 when he voluntarily resigned, but he is willing to return with Spears’ father still in the picture. Spears and her legal team oppose Wallet’s possible return. According to Sep. 14 court documents obtained by ET, Spears believes she will not be able to afford Wallet’s services, especially since she does not wish to start performing again. The document also states that Spears’ legal team believe she will have “greater autonomy” if she works with “a corporate fiduciary who can offer both a physical office and a team of independent financial professionals rather than a single individual, hand-picked by her father, who is a complete stranger to her.” The majority of Spears’ finances have been overseen by her family or Wallet, so a shift in financial control would finally give Spears, at 38 years old, some form of independence from her family. 

     With the trial inching closer, Spears’ father wishes that the case be sealed from the public, but almost nothing about a celebrity’s life can remain private, as seen with Spears’ 2007-2008 breakdown. Spears’ lawyer, Inham III, stated “Britney herself is vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret” and that it is fair for fans to be critical of Spears’ situation when there has been an “aggressive use of the sealing procedure over the years to minimize the amount of meaningful information made available to the public.”

     Now as the world watches the case unfold, celebrities like Cher and Miley Cyrus have spoken out in support of #FreeBritney. But what is the end goal — for Spears to be free of the conservatorship entirely or just of her father and his team? How safe will Spears be under a new legal arrangement versus the one with her father? Does Spears really want to remain in a conservatorship for the rest of her life? This is where some theorizing comes into play. Fans would be more likely to tell you she needs and wants to be freed from the conservatorship entirely, while Spears and her legal team would tell you they wish for her to be freed from her father and Wallet and in a more relaxed conservatorship. Court documents filed on Aug. 31 declared that the conservatorship has been voluntary on Spears’ end, and that Spears’ main qualm is having her father in control of her finances. Spears has essentially told her father “Don't you know that you're toxic?” However, I think the entire conservatorship has been toxic, as do many fans.

     During quarantine Spears was very active on social media, and a few fans commented things such as “wear a yellow shirt in your next video if you need help” and “post doves if you are in trouble.” Next thing you know, Spears is posting videos of her in a yellow top and images with doves. Fans have picked up on these subtleties and her overall behavior on social media, theorizing that she has been forced to make posts saying she is okay when she is not. To them, the subtleties like the shirt color or dove are signs. Some may call this a coincidence, especially with how many comments Spears receives on social media, but part of me cannot help but believe she is trying to tell fans the truth in a coded way.

     Even if Spears has spent over a decade living under a conservatorship with minimal proof of harm, I think there is some denial of the severity of her situation. To quote her own song lyrics, “how was [she] supposed to know that something wasn't right here” if she has never had the chance to live normally. As her case moves forward, I hope she is able to live as independently as a celebrity under conservatorship can. An increase in independence for her could be as simple as being allowed to have more visitors over, spend time with friends or drive herself around. That is a pretty low standard of independence, though, so the end goal should be to #FreeBritney entirely. 

Graphic by Lexi Karaivanova

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