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On Friday the 5th, The New York Times premiered their self-produced documentary about pop sensation Britney Spears called, “Framing Britney Spears” on Hulu and FX.  

The documentary centers around the conflict over the singer’s conservatorship, which according to Liz Day, Senior Editor for The New York Times is, “a unique legal arrangement usually designed for elderly people who are unable to take care of themselves or their money. The court gives someone else special powers to make decisions for them.”  

The conservatorship gave Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, complete control over her finances, personal life and overall career. It was permanently put into place in 2008, after numerous public outbursts and alleged issues of mental illness and drug abuse arose. 

This past year, however, concern over the conservatorship exploded all over social media, popularizing the hashtag “Free Britney.” Fans became worried over the singer’s personal safety after speculation that she was being held captive due to the conservatorship, came to surface. The concern grew so much that fans were looking for signs of distress in her social media posts and  even asking her to give them a sign that would indicate to them that she was in need of help.  

A fan on TikTok commented on one of her videos saying, “if you need help, wear yellow in your next video.” In her next post she wore a bright yellow polka-dot top causing hysteria all over the internet.  

It’s been 13 years now since the conservatorship was permanently put into place, but the legal battle isn’t over. Since the release of the documentary, the control of the singers finances, career, and personal life are to be reevaluated in court later this week, according to The New York Times, after talk about her earlier career and struggles.  

The documentary covers every step of the singer's career from her very first performance on live television, to the Mickey Mouse Club and newly famous teen icon that performed in malls, to the older and living in the shadows person that she is today.  

Her public meltdowns that crazed the media and were ridiculed not only by them, the music industry, and unexpectedly the Governor of Maryland’s wife, are also discussed in the documentary, paying close attention to her relationship with pop star Justin Timberlake, her marriage and family with Kevin Federline and most importantly the infamous 2007 event of Miss Britney Spears shaving her head in the name of rebellion.  

All notable events in which were the cause of the conservatorship.  

Whatever the case or cause may be, the documentary in particular highlights the active role Britney played in her own career, taking charge of how she wanted her performances, music, and public appearances to be. 

Despite the role she played in her job and the amounts of success she gained from it, the singer is only asked if she has a boyfriend, if she’s a virgin, and let’s not forget that one interview where the host openly asks her about her breasts.  

During this time, the documentary points out, the concept of a female pop star was unheard of, especially one so successful as Britney. These were boyband times, but you know for a fact that her male counterparts weren’t under the same amount of scrutiny as Britney or any other female in the entertainment industry were and still are.  

The documentary displays Britney as a great example of the misogyny that is very prevalent in the music industry, as well as people outside of that world such as boyfriends or paparazzi who made it seem as though she was a male’s toy that doesn’t have a say and does what she is told to do. 

As a woman, misogyny will always play a role in her life, conservatorship or not. But, let’s not forget that it is only because she is a woman that this was put into place. In this society women are the only ones to feel the brunt of the exclusiveness or double standard, that is misogyny. Our physical appearance is the number one quality that tends to be the main focus in society, to the point where all other qualities of a woman become secondary.  

It is not out of the ordinary for a female, starting from an early age, like Britney, to feel the societal pressures to maintain and uphold a perfect physical appearance and image. Britney’s, as many other female’s, physicalities have been put onto a pedestal for time and again, because society has taught us that all other qualities are insignificant in the face of female standards. A standard that all us females are, at first unknowingly, set to conform to for the rest of our lives.  

The internalized idea that women need to be beautiful and that beauty comes with a certain set of rules, while also being forced to carry a near perfect reputation is what ultimately makes physical appearance and image carry the weight of a woman’s self- confidence, and as we’ve seen, career and personal life. This conditioning has taken deep roots. Why? Because in society the expectations that women are expected to uphold are everywhere, which has put women at the forefront of belittlement and scrutiny. 

In recent months, Britney has made it clear through her lawyer that she no longer wants her father to be her conservator. She is fighting for her freedom back and is even showing support of the #FreeBritney campaign after ignoring it for some time, according to The New York Times. But the fight for her freedom isn’t over. But as Felicia Culotta, Britney’s assistant and friend said in the documentary, “I know at some point she will tell her story.” And that’s all we can hope for. 


Loyola University Maryland '23
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