Not many women in the show business have achieved the fame and success of the pop star Britney Spears. The American singer of Toxic and Womanizer has been transformed into an icon of the 2000s.
Many women, however, have succumbed to the will of men at some point in their career. Often, it is a manager. A sibling, an agent, a boyfriend, a husband. Men controlling women, in the darkness of behind the scenes.
As for the Britney case however, facts are now in the daylight. The continuous exposure of the pop star’s private life, with all its ups and downs constantly in the spotlight, made it happen.
After serious mental health issues caused her attacks and mental breakdowns, in 2008 the Los Angeles Superior Court approved a conservatorship, that is a legal measurement which ensures that those incapable of making their own choices are managed by a guardian or a protector. As a consequence, all of Spears proprieties and assets have been entrusted to two guardians: her father, Jamie Spears, and a lawyer surveilling the legal aspects.
Britney’s conservatorship is not limited to her proprieties, estimated to be worth around 60$m alone, and her financial assets, but it is extended to her person as well.
In fact, it is a double custody. Initially, it was entrusted to her father entirely, but since 2019 he stepped out due to health reasons from the personal custody and kept managing only the proprieties, together with the financial company the Bessemer Trust. His place as tutor of Britney’s persona is now in the hands of Jodi Montgomery.
13 long years of monopoly, control and dependence marked the life of the 39 years old Britney. Surely a long time, which inevitably gave her fans a reason to be worried for their icon. The #FreeBritney movement was thus born, asking to lift the custody and pointing at the obsessive management of Spears’ father.
A fine line with conspiracy, her fans see Britney in a trap, trying desperately to send signals and asking for help. During these past months, Pandora’s box was reopened by both the Framing Britney Spears documentary by Samantha Stark, as well as by Spears hearings where she finally gave her own testimony.
On one hand, Framing Britney Spears revives the premature success of Baby One More Time singer at his darkest moments. From the constant invasions of privacy to the bad blood which followed her breakup with Justin Timberlake (her boyfriend from 1998 to 2002), up to the famous interview with Diane Sawyer that saw Spears crying because of the journalist’s judgmental questions.
Britney was framed as the bad guy and this weighted heavily on her reputation and her mental health. Framing Britney Spears underlines the contradiction of judging the singer as incapable of making her own decisions, yet allowing her to perform worldwide in sold-out events, raising millions.
Is she really incapable and to be tutored, or do they needed to control her, alienate her and make her nothing but a money machine? No, this is not a proposal for a new Black Mirror episode (even though it does resemble the one with Miley Cyrus and Ashley-O). This is the life of a woman, of a person, who has lived her youth under the spotlight and whose sufferance was paparazzis’ favorite sight.
Besides the documentary, the Spears case ended up in the eye of the public storm again because of the adjournments from the court and the singer’s own hearings. The last one dates back to June, and it raised a great fuss because of the painful declarations Spears made: “I’ve lied and told the whole world I’m okay, and I’m happy. It’s a lie. I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized, you know, fake it till you make it, but now I’m telling you the truth, okay, I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry, it’s insane and I’m depressed. I cry everyday”, she declared.
Then she went on arguing that her situation is similar to that of the victims of sex trafficking: “They all lived in the house with me, the nurses, the 24/7 security, there was one chef that came there and cooked for me daily on during the weekdays, they watched me change everyday naked, morning, noon and night. My body had no privacy door for my room”.
According to some confidential documents obtained by the New York Times, Britney wants her father to be removed from the custody and for the censorship to end once for all. Her latest hearing confirms this request formally: “I just want my life back”, she concluded. Britney already had two children from her ex, the dancer Kevin Federline, who has 70% of Sean, 15, and Jayden, 14, custody.
But now she wants another baby and to marry her boyfriend Sam Ashgari, two things that the custody forbids. With a birth control device implanted in her body (IUD), her boyfriend blocked from escorting her home in his car and the exclusion of some friends from her company, Britney’s life looks a lot like a horror movie.
But the abuse doesn’t stop here. Spears confessed that she was forced into assuming lithium (a medicine for bipolarism), into a therapy in Westlake and into performing back in 2018. And who knows what else? “He loved the control to hurt his own daughter 100,000%”, she told about her own father.
Because of the debates around female emancipation and mental health in recent times, there is a lot to learn from Spears’ case. Once again, Britney is a symbol.
She represents the stigmatization due to ignorance around mental health.
She represents the discriminatory and paternalistic treatment of women, especially young ones. Would she ever be in custody, if she was a man? And why are her tutors two men?
She represents the constant violation of privacy and of women’s body.
She represents the failure of a system that should protect people and guarantee justice.
“The people who did this to me should not get away easily”. We agree, Britney. But more than anything, it should have not be allowed in the first place.