Rio Scarcelli / staff writer
The year 2019 virally resurfaced pop-singer Britney Spears into the public eye with a movement called #FreeBritney. Fans explained it as a call to action in legally removing Spears from her now 13-year conservatorship, which is typically put in place for those deemed unfit to process their finances without supervision.
While her father, Jamie Spears, and his attorney, Andrew Wallet, have maintained guardianship over Spears for above a decade, the ideas surrounding #FreeBritney have now transcended in the general public with the recent release of The New York Times Presents: “Framing Britney Spears.”
Airing on Hulu and FX on Feb. 19, the hour-long documentary showcased different celebrities, with Britney the spotlight of one of six current episodes written; the show is produced and directed by members of the Times staff.
“Framing Britney Spears” focuses on Britney’s infamous 2007 meltdown, the establishment of her dual-conservatorship in 2008 and the current movements against it.
For many years, the media took Britney’s divorce, separation from her children and the shaving of her head as a form of cruel entertainment. This was listed as a mental breakdown with no questions as to why it occurred. As more paparazzi began to exploit areas of her personal life, the breakdowns became worse until members of her family had admitted her to a mental-care facility against her consent.
Months after her admittance, the courts had announced plans for Jamie Spears and his attorney to obtain temporary conservatorship over Britney, her estate and her finances.
As years passed, Britney continued to create music, obtain brand deals and tour as she normally would. People felt that the onslaught of the 2007 breakdown was over and that the pop-sensation had returned the same as she ever was. This time, however, she was under the management team of her father and his legal team.
Jamie Spears had never made an effort to be involved in Britney’s career and life. He was an alcoholic in her teenage years who was committed to rehab multiple times. To see the juxtaposition from having no significance in Britney’s brand to having full control was eventually shocking to some fans.
Most details about the conservatorship were not questioned for over a decade; after all, she had released three studio albums within this timespan.
Things became much more widespread as Britney publicly walked out on the announcement of her Domination tour in 2018. In November of that year, an entire crowd witnessed her for the last time before she disappeared for a five-month period.
It was soon revealed that Britney had admitted herself into a mental-health facility and was to remain there as she focused on her father’s illness and personal-affairs. Past this point, Spears had not been seen in the public nor had any of her social media been updated.
With fans concerned about where she had gone, podcasts such as “Britney-Gram” and Instagram accounts began frequently covering the disappearance of Britney. This trend also continued when Britney made her return to social media, but seemed to be under various restrictions, according to fans. Many believe she is not in charge of her own social media.
Thus, spotlight on the conservatorship had returned for the first time since 2009 with #FreeBritney becoming a trending search yet again.
On April 23, 2019, Britney finally spoke out against her father on her social media saying she would be taking an indefinite leave from work until her father stepped down from the conservatorship. Around this same time, Wallet requested a raise from the courts for the conservatorship, comparing the affairs to “a mock-business model.”
Because the affairs were to be for the family’s benefit to keep Britney out of trouble, the multiple comparisons to a lucrative-business scheme in the court report made the conservatorship feel much more beneficial to Jamie rather than to Britney herself.
After the announcement and continuation of Britney’s leave, an anonymous caller sent in a report to “Britney-Gram” claiming to be a former-paralegal for Britney’s team. He said that Britney’s admittance to a mental-facility was forced, and violated the terms of the conservatorship.
This message gained so much traction that Wallet immediately stepped down from the dual-conservatorship, leaving Jamie solely responsible. This practically proved that Jamie was manipulating his daughter’s situation.
With #FreeBritney becoming more popular, one of Jamie’s attorneys issued a statement saying that the anonymous caller presented baseless claims and that members of the movement had no information to properly concern themselves with the legal case.
Lynne Spears, Britney’s mother, and Britney had spoken with the #FreeBritney movement, saying that they appreciated the support and awareness that the cause was spreading. After this, Lynne had expressed full-interest in becoming part of the conservatorship as it was now clear that Britney and Jamie were no longer on good-terms.
As of Feb. 11, 2021, Spears had actively approached the courts asking for the removal of Jamie within the conservatorship to instead be placed in the hands of Lynne and Jodi Montgomery, her childhood caretaker. While her request was denied to remove Jamie, a split-conservatorship was set in place with private company Bessemer Trust over her estate, finances and self.
This was seen by fans as a partial win for Britney: the Spears family agreed the fight with the court is not over.