By: Ana Perez, 9th Grade
Britney Jean Spears is one of the biggest pop stars in the 21st century who sold over 100 million records worldwide and is known as the “Princess of Pop.” Britney was at the top of the world during the early 2000s, thanks to her hit debut single “…Baby One More Time.” She also had successful songs such as “Toxic” (2004) and “Oops! …I Did it Again” (2000). Britney was known for being a teen icon and being extremely popular with young girls.
In 2007, Britney had her infamous “mental breakdown” which was highly publicized by the media. During this time, it was reported that she shaved her head, drove her car with her son on her lap, and attacked a paparazzi’s car with an umbrella. It is speculated that this erratic behavior was due to her postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, coupled with a lack of a support system and her life as an extremely public figure. Because of this, she was placed in a conservatorship of the person and a conservatorship of the estate in 2008, with her father, Jaime Spears, as the head conservator of her team. This conservatorship started as a temporary measure to “take care of Britney” but after 13 years, the conservatorship is only starting to show signs of ending.
But, what is a conservatorship? A conservatorship is “the appointment of a guardian or a protector by a judge to manage the financial affairs and/or daily life of another person due to old age or physical or mental limitations.” There are several types of conservatorships, such as conservatorship of the estate, which handles financial affairs, and conservatorship of the person, which handles the conservatees personal affairs and daily life. To appoint a conservatorship, a court order via a statutory or regulatory authority is needed.
In 2009, fans started questioning this conservatorship, which was the birth of the #FreeBritney movement. But why? A fan asked: how did the court deem Britney unable to make her own choices or understand things enough to make her own decisions, but decided it was acceptable for her to work and perform? This made fans wonder if Britney was being used by her family as a perfectly legal cash cow, while being stripped of basic human rights.
Britney has spoken out about abuse that she faced in her conservatorship, such as being forced to undergo certain medical treatments, being forced into contraception, involuntary labor, and every aspect of her life – including the color of her cabinets – being controlled by the conservators.
Reports state that Britney was forced into psychiatric care that cost her $60,000 a month as “punishment” for standing against her conservatorship during a rehearsal. If she didn’t comply, she wouldn’t be allowed to see her children. Britney herself has alleged that her former psychiatrist was abusive; she claimed that her psychiatrist lied during her evaluations and forced her into medication. Britney was put on lithium, a mood stabilizer different to her usual medication which is usually used to treat bipolar disorder, after she refused to do a show in Las Vegas. Spears stated that the drug made her feel “drunk” and that she had six nurses in her home, who’d watch her every move. After her psychiatrist passed away in 2019, Britney had to see a therapist 3-days a week, and paparazzi mocked her with pictures of her crying after emotional sessions. “I’m so angry, it’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day,” Britney stated. It is also worth noting that other celebrities who have talked about their mental health issues, such as Kanye West, have not been put under restrictive conservatorship.
However, progress has been made to end Britney’s conservatorship. On February 5th, after the debut of the documentary “Framing Britney Spears,” news of Britney’s conservatorship came to light again, bringing more attention to the #FreeBritney movement. In March, Jamie Spears stated in public that he wanted to end the conservatorship. On June 23rd, Britney had a 24-minute statement against her conservatorship, stating that she had no control or privacy and was forced to work all the time. On July 14th, Britney hired her own lawyer and stated that she wanted to press charges against her father and on July 26th, Britney’s lawyer filed a request for a new conservator. On August 12th, Jamie agreed to step down as the head conservator and was officially suspended on September 28th. However, this is still not the end of Britney’s road to end her conservatorship.
Now, conservatorship abuse is sadly not uncommon. Roughly 1.5 million adults are under conservatorships in the United States, which have brought claims of elder abuse to light. A report from the 2010 Government Accountability Office guardianship review found that several guardianships stole $5.4 million in assets from 158 incapacitated victims. The Netflix movie “I Care A Lot” brought this type of abuse into light, as it tells the story of Marla Grayson, who uses the legal system to give her guardianship over seniors who cannot take care of themselves to sell their homes and assets, keeping the profit to herself.
But if this type of abuse can happen to one of the world’s biggest pop stars with such a public life, it is completely possible for it to happen to the average person. The case of the Britney Spears conservatorship could bring conservatorship laws to change to prevent this type of abuse, helping victims in the process.
Whether or not her conservatorship was necessary at the beginning does not matter anymore. It has been proven that Britney is ready to take her life into her own hands again. After all, if she can perform for hours, why can’t she go to the beach with her kids whenever she wants to?
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