Many people know Britney Spears as the iconic pop princess of the late ’90s and early 2000s and are just as familiar with her fall from the throne. After years of being constantly harassed by paparazzi from the age of 16, it seemed to the public that she was eventually driven mad and became incapable of making her own decisions or taking care of herself, leading to her being placed under a conservatorship by her father.
But what is a conservatorship, and what exactly led to the downfall of this pop princess? Does she really need to be in a conservatorship, or is she capable of taking care of herself?
After Britney Spears landed a contract with Jive Records in 1998, she released her hit single “…Baby One More Time” which rose to the top of the charts by the end of January 1999, selling around 25 million copies worldwide.
Following her success with “…Baby One More Time” she released “Oops!… I Did It Again” in 2000. With the success of her music, more and more paparazzi invaded her personal life, following her around just to get a picture of the rising star.
In 2004, Spears got involved with Kevin Federline, one of her backup dancers. The two married quickly, but about two months after their second son was born Britney filed for divorce from Federline, citing “irreconcilable differences.”
Meanwhile, the attention from the paparazzi only worsened getting more relentless and invasive. The night when Spears shaved her head in a San Fernando Valley salon the paparazzi filmed from the glass windows. Later she was photographed beating a paparazzi’s van with an umbrella.
After that night she was checked in and out of rehabilitation centers, while also fighting in court for custody of her two sons. Rumors started circulating that she may have bipolar disorder, but there are no claims to back this up. Some members of her family, like her mother, believed that this was all caused by Spears experiencing postpartum depression.
Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, eventually went to court for a conservatorship over Britney, stripping her of any control she had in her life in 2007 until decided otherwise.
There are two different types of conservatorships. The first types are the probate conservatorships which includes the general conservatorship that typically is used on elderly people or younger people who were in an accident that caused them to be seriously impaired. Limited conservatorship is also under this title. It’s used for adults that have developmental disabilities that leave them unable to take care of themselves or their finances.
The second type is a Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) conservatorship. This is used for adults who are seriously disabled with certain mental illnesses and need extremely restrictive living arrangements or mental health treatments. A person can be placed under this type of conservatorship when they continuously refuse treatment and living arrangements. This type only lasts a year and if it’s needed for longer, the conservator must be reappointed by the court and a family member will only be suggested after the first full year.
Because of this conservatorship and the public outrage surrounding it, Spears has declared that she will no longer be working on any new productions until Jamie Spears is no longer in charge of her conservatorship. She has said that she would prefer that the banks or someone who isn’t part of her family be in charge instead.
While there doesn’t seem to be any clear timeline as to when the #FreeBritney movement started, it’s picked up momentum over the past few years.
Concern started for her safety when Spears started posting what seemed to be secret messages in her TikTok videos to her fans. One fan even asked Spears to wear a yellow shirt in her next video if she needed help and she did exactly that, which only fueled the flames of the movement.
The New York Times Presents series’ latest episode, called ‘Framing Britney Spears’ has opened up an even larger conversation about Spears, why she might be the way she is, how she was treated and the logistics of her conservatorship.
There needs to be a larger discussion on who should and shouldn’t be in these types of conservatorships. While maybe Britney did need to be watched, how long is long enough to allow some of those restraints to be loosened? She’s only 40 years old with more than half her life still ahead of her; is it necessary to still have such tight restraints over her life?
As far as I can tell, there were a large number of less permanent options glossed over that could have helped her. Instead, her family took what seemed to be the easiest way to force this once-rising star into silence.