#FreeBritney: The Pop Star’s Sad Reality

By Greg Marku

Free Britney Collage

Free Britney Collage. Credit: Megan Hullander

Aside from the storming of the Capitol, the fact that the election took two months to complete, and the creation of a lifesaving vaccine, the #freebritney movement was probably the biggest event of the year, if you experienced Britney Spears as a kid or teen, this was the movement of all movements.

#Freebritney began with a slow progression when comedians Tess Barker and Barbara Gray, aka Babs, launched a podcast called “Britney’s Gram” in 2017 as a way to humorously analyze Spears’ Instagram account.

Barker said that while researching for an episode of the podcast in 2018, she found a petition from the co-conservator of Spears’ estate, Andrew Wallet, who was seeking a raise of up to a half a million dollars a year. He also referred to the conservatorship as a hybrid business model and wanted a raise because Spears was actually highly productive and highly involved in her career, and he and the rest of the conservatorship saw the coming years as hectic for Spears due to her own involvement in her career. Barker then decided to go to a hearing where Wallet was seeking the money.

Afterwards, Gray became suspicious of Spears’s Instagram account in a non-comedic way. She said in an interview with Popsugar, “She’d post a meme that said, ‘Let me shop and no one gets hurt.’ And you’d be like, ‘Well, you’re Britney Spears, why can’t you shop?’ And maybe she’s just being cheeky or something, but we would start to see things where we were like, ‘Oh, she posted a picture of a grilled cheese’ and said, ‘I wish I could have this.’ And we were like, ‘Why can’t you have this? You’re Britney Spears. That’s odd.’ So, when we looked at that with the perspective of the conservatorship and kind of starting to realize that it controlled her life in a way that I don’t think many people understood where she really didn’t have the choice to make her own decisions.”

The podcast shifted to covering what’s going on legally. At the same time, Spears canceled her Domination residency in Las Vegas that she was supposed to be doing for the next three years. She said it was because her father was sick and that she was going to care of him, but that didn’t make sense to Gray and Barker in terms of what they knew about her relationship with her father. In 2018, they released the #FREEBRITNEY episode of their podcast and the movement was born and real progress has been made.

Afterwards, Spears’ father became sole conservator in 2019 after Wallet resigned from his co-conservatorship.

Let me get this straight, the conservatorship extremely limits Spears’ from living her life as a sane adult.  Per the letters of conservatorship, Jodi Montgomery, Britney’s conservator, has full say over which visitors Britney is allowed to have at her residence, even Oprah. Her father, James Spears, has control over her finances and her estate.

In March of 2020, one of Spears’s sons, Jayden Federline, said in an Instagram Live that his grandpa is a dick and that his mom might not be making music anymore. He said, “I don’t know why though because she makes bank doing that.” Spears apparently had been threatening to not work anymore if the conservatorship continues in the same direction. As fans say, Spears’ father does seem like the devil. 

The process to get out of a conservatorship is nearly impossible or will take a long time. In the summer of 2020, James Spears successfully hired more attorneys to help him with his efforts and in November, Spears lost the bid to remove her father from the conservatorship. After the documentary was released, Spears’ lawyer said, “The whole world is watching.” 

In February of 2021, James Spears lost half of his control of the conservatorship and the other half went to a bank that Britney chose. 

While the conservatorship battle has been going on since its inception in 2008, it picked up steam after The New York Times documentary, “Framing Britney Spears,” was released earlier this year. Over a year into the pandemic with nothing to do, people became obsessed with the movement, including myself.

While The New York Times is viewed as one of the most legitimate news outlets there is, a lot of details were left out. Half of the documentary is spent covering what most people already know about Spears’ rise in the late ‘90s and her downfall that lasted from 2006 through 2008. The other half did include helpful information on what a conservator is but slightly touched upon her more recent days. But fans want more. The documentary made it about the people who had stuff to say about her and little to nothing from Spears herself. 

Most importantly, the documentary ignored over 20 years of her music as proof of her struggles, how stupid. Spears has documented her life and the clash between her lifestyle and fame in her music, music videos, and performances.

Spears’ first two albums …Baby One More Times and Oops!… I Did It Again together sold over 45 million albums making her one of the biggest stars in 1998 and 2000.  This is when she was portrayed as an innocent yet sexy teen who can command a stage but her Christian little self won’t be too dirty about it. But Spears’ first song to express any angst is “Overprotected,” from her third album Britney. While she did not write the song, some of the lyrics are teenfully powerful: “I need time, love, joy / I need space, love / I need … me” and “But who am I to say what a girl is to do? / God I need some answers” are some lines that show a side of her that’s unhappy with her life despite her success.

Many do not regard it as such, but her fourth album In the Zone is probably her most memorable and it might be because she actually wrote almost every song on it. In her song “Outrageous,” she sings about how every little thing she does is deemed outrageous by the media and people who don’t like her. The other highlight is the concluding track on the album, “Everytime.” Spears and songwriter Annet Artani are the only ones who contributed lyrics to the song which is a lullaby-like ballad. Some of the lyrics are, “I may have made it rain / Please, forgive me / My weakness caused you pain / And this song’s my sorry” and “And every time I see you in my dreams / I see your face / You’re haunting me / I guess I need you, baby.” Yowza Britney! While that song might have been about her ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake, the music video tells a more concerning story. 

It follows Spears arriving at a hotel with a boyfriend only to be swarmed by paparazzi and fans that are horrifyingly screaming at her. Her and her man fight while getting to their hotel room only to have the guy blow up at her once they arrive. She takes a bath but notices blood on the back of her head and sinks into the tub. The music video cuts to Spears running through a hospital and then slowly walks through a scene of an ER that looks like her body dying until nurses and doctors stop operating on her. Next to her ER room a woman gives birth to a daughter. EMS people then bring her uncovered life-less body through the back entrance of the hospital where people snap as many pictures as they can and continue to ask for autographs. This went unnoticed by paparazzi why?

From 2006 to 2007, Spears was struggling with some substance abuse issues but mostly mental health issues. Spears got married to white trash legend Kevin Federline and then had two sons back to back at the age of 24 and 25. In real life she was being brought to the hospital several times for panic attacks and episodes of unknown drug use. Her aunt that she was very close to then passed away which was the tipping point. Okay yes, she did shave her head and attack a paparazzi’s car in February of 2007. God can only know why, but just a few months later in September of 2007, Spears was the opening act for that year’s MTV Video Music Awards. Of course, the performance was hard to watch and was quite sad. Spears stumbles through choreography but then laughs and seems out of it. She wore what obviously was a wig, afterwards people body shamed her for not wearing a corset and letting her motherly body show, and the performance sadly went perfectly with her sixth album, Blackout, with dancers sexually dancing on poles hanging over the audience. Media outlets then openly insulted her.

It should also be noted that when she had her second son, Jayden, there was one instance where Spears tried to seek refuge in a restaurant from 300 paparazzi who were not leaving her alone. The restaurant owner didn’t care to let Spears exit through the back, so paparazzi took photos of her crying as she tried to console her son. What the fuck, paparazzi?

Possibly her magnum opus, Blackout, is dirty and blunt while Spears tries to sell a sexy-mom look. It documents her my whole world is crumbling around me but I’m also getting fucked up phase of her life that resulted in her trips to the hospital, temporarily losing custody of her children in January of 2008, and the beginning of the conservatorship. Spears only wrote two songs off the album and their both entertaining but stupid. She was able to hire some amazing producers such as Pharrell Williams, Danja, and Bloodshy & Avant who were able to make the album amazing while Spears focused on her personal life. The final song on the album, “Why Should I Be Sad,” is a strange message about Spears wondering why she should be sad when she’s with Federline, but it’s well known that he somewhat influenced Spears into the unhealthy lifestyle that still haunts her.

In 2008, Spears showed up to the MTV VMA’s clean cut and gorgeous as a way to get back on track.  She really made her come back though in 2011 with her album Femme Fatale. Her singles went to number one. At this point, her 2006 through 2008 struggles seemed to be behind her. Spears’s next albums Britney Jean, which she wrote every song, and Glory did kind of well on the charts but she then had her Las Vegas residency called “Britney: Piece of Me,” which went on for four years and is one of the most successful residencies of all time. But afterwards, it seemed like Spears had disappeared or fizzled out because that’s the way the industry goes? With the #freebritney movement though, Spears has been back in the spotlight unfortunately about her personal life again. 

Spears was never perfect. The issue is that when she was young, she was sexualized while expected to be a virgin angel figure for teens. In the documentary, Spears says girls should be sexy too, but then is asked if she’s a virgin at a press conference where she said she would remain a virgin until marriage. When the 2006 to 2008 events were taking place, the reality of Spears’ life is most likely what surprised a lot of people.She did in fact have sex with probably more people than her husband at the time, did use drugs, and was a human who can struggle just like anyone else. She’s no one’s idol, raise your own damn kids. Despite the confusing expectations the world has of her, either as a sexy woman or innocent girl, her actions and her career are for her to decide, at least until 2008. The conservatorship is genuinely scary. But as the public or her fans continue to talk about #freebritney, change is expected. So maybe, just…maybe her father and the California legal system will listen to Chris Crocker and “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!”

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