Framing Britney Spears: An emotional story about a pop superstar becoming a prisoner

We heard the names and finally we heard the words. But Britney Spears was still silent.

If it weren’t sad, Britney Spears’ life story would probably be one of the most fascinating in the world. She became famous as a young girl, participating in the local talent program Star Search. Her parents, James, and Lynne Spears, were convinced their daughter would become an immense star; which is why they went to New York, by train – they didn’t have money for a plane. There, then unknown, Britney recorded several demo songs, introduced herself to record labels, and – got herself a hit. In the era of boy bands, she managed to shake up the music scene with … Baby One More time and change the history of pop culture.

But that is what we know. For the last 13 years, she has been placed under conservatorship. She is under the care of her father James. He has the legal right to make decisions instead of her. Britney Spears rebelled in December 2019, when everything stopped – a pop star does not want to perform, record or be a superstar, as long as her father manages her life and finances and is paid a lot for it – in addition to monthly income, according to the law, he is entitled to 1.5% of her earnings. Her fortune is, allegedly, estimated at 60 million dollars, at the moment.

For this reason, The New York Times decided to dig deeper and find out who is framing Britney Spears, whatever that means. Lawyers, paparazzi, associates and fans, all spoke in front of the camera for a one-hour documentary. The singer’s family and lawyers refused to participate, while it was unknown whether Spears received the invitation or not. She remained silent.

What is the conservatorship?

The movie explained the legal concept of conservatorship, usually used for elderly, disabled people, who are not capable of making their own decisions. There is subtle evidence this style of management suits Spears’ father the most. Jamie has been described as the man who thinks only about the money – his first statement was that his daughter would be “so rich she would buy him a boat.”

Lawyer Adam Streisand, who specialized in conservatorship cases, revealed that he met Britney in January 2008, at a hotel in Los Angeles, shortly after she was released from a psychiatric facility. She told him that she knows conservatorship can’t be avoided, but that she did not want her father for a guardian. A day later, the court banned Streisand from representing Spears because she was allegedly unable to seek counsel on her own – at least that’s what sealed medical documents say. Britney was assigned a lawyer, Samuel D Ingham III, who has been representing her ever since. In the last 4 years, the singer paid him 2 million dollars, even though she did not choose him.

 

We don’t know the facts: if she is trapped indeed, aware of what is happening or if she supports the #FreeBritney movement.

The documentary also showed how hypocritical the world is, and the victim of that hypocrisy was Britney. The media created a sex icon out of her and then tried to destroy her for it. A typical example of misogyny society has sunk in. She carried the burden of fame and public opinion on her shoulders, she paid the price. Can you imagine a woman being convicted today for her physical appearance? Of course, you can, but not in the way Britney was condemned for everything she did. From the breakup with Justin Timberlake, where she was marked as an unfaithful girl, and he got points for being a “guy who got into her panties”… to a question at the press conference “is she a virgin” (as if it should concern anyone?!) and being labeled as a “bad influence” for posing almost naked on a cover of a magazine.

The apologies

The documentary prompted an avalanche of comments and apologies from public figures: the first to hit is certainly Timberlake, who said on live radio that he slept with Britney. It was amusing to people at the time, even though it was basically offensive. Then, host Dianne Sawyer and her infamous 2003 interview, where she made Spears cry with a question about Timberlake.

The documentary also showed that people tend to forget things, at least good ones. Everyone remembers the umbrella attack on the paparazzi, but rarely does anyone remember the paparazzi attacks on Britney. Hordes of men and women followed her all over Los Angeles, to the extent that she could not stop the car, let alone get out of it. The paparazzi who she “attacked” spoke and tried to justify himself and his colleagues, by saying that Britney always “cooperated with them: and that they did not understand she did not want to be photographed. “And what about the time when she told you that she did not want you to follow her,” asked the journalist, but the paparazzi did not have the answer.

Unfortunately, the documentary did not provide concrete answers and solutions to Britney’s situation. Most importantly, we don’t know the facts: if she is trapped indeed, if she is aware of what is happening and whether she supports the #FreeBritney movement.

There is no explicit confirmation that she knows any of this, but fans are trying to connect her emojis, Instagram captions, photos and videos and make crazy conspiracy theories out of it. But that is not the solution.

Is Britney Spears safe?

Before the documentary premiered, I looked back at her work and past performances, and in particular one got stuck in my brain. Her Circus Tour was the first after, what the media would call an infamous, breakdown. She opened the concert with a quirky and fun song Circus, followed by the lyrically brave 2007 single Piece of Me, where she is put in the cage. It was her most energetic performance of the night. That was an absolute metaphor of her life. In the cage – the real one, metaphorical, doesn’t matter, is where she seems the safest. Safe from journalists, fake friends, supporters, world, even fans. We didn’t realize that. Britney Spears is the fault of all of us, and we should not be forgiven.

“If I wasn’t under the restraints that I’m under right now, with all the lawyers and doctors and people analyzing me every day and all that kinda stuff—if that wasn’t there, I’d feel so liberated and feel like myself,” said Britney Spears in 2008, in MTV Documentary For the Record.

“When I tell them the way I feel, they hear me, but they’re really not listening. They’re hearing what they wanna hear. They’re not really listening to what I’m telling them. It’s bad. I’m sad.” 

She is still telling them. It is time to listen. We all owe her that.

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