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2021 has been a monumental and life-changing year for Britney Spears. After her father resigned from his role as conservator on September 7th, Britney is finally starting to take back control of her own life. The documentary, Britney vs. Spears, aims to expose the horrific truth of her 13-year-old conservatorship.  

In the past two years, Britney Spears’ odd and performative behavior on social media has left fans concerned beyond belief. Supporters repeatedly questioned if she was okay, asking her to pose if she needed help and even attempting to decode hidden messages within every post. 

Consequently, the “Free Britney” movement was created. Millions of fans across the world protested in the name of Britney Spears, rooting for her success and health. Britney vs Spears, a recently released documentary about her life available on Netflix, exposes her father’s misuse of the conservatorship including his own selfish agenda regarding the control of his daughter.  

Although her legal journey is heading in the right direction with the recent win of her father resigning, it should never have taken 13 years for her voice to be heard. Britney vs. Spears and its director, Erin Lee Car, do a great job of explaining how her father, the conservatorship, and the law has failed her. 

First, one of the biggest takeaways from the film is how everyone Britney was close with – her family, her legal team, and her ex-husband – took advantage of her vulnerability to turn her into a money machine. 

Before 2004, Brittney was a pop sensation; she was one of the top female artists of her generation. The documentary shows glimpses of a cherubic young Britney singing to millions of adoring fans with various video clips capturing her sweet aura and contagious smile. Ironically, the film includes a clip of her younger self saying, “the best part about being famous is being able to always financially support my family.” 

At this time, Britney was on the rise, the world was submerged with Britney fever. However, her 2004 divorce with Kevin Federline catalyzed a chain of events that would change her life indefinitely. 

The film discusses how Britney’s public child custody battle in 2007 significantly influenced the way the media depicted her. As a result, reporters focused less on her music and more on the way she was living her life. She’d been estranged from her parents, in fear that they would barge in at the end and take everything away from her. 2007 was filled with criticism of her lifestyle and depression — paparazzi images flooded social media outlets and news sites with terribly-written headlines using words like “meltdown” and “rock-bottom.” However, during all this she still managed to record a studio album and go on tour. 

In 2008, Britney’s vulnerability was manipulated in the worst way possible. In January of that year, police were called to her residence because she locked herself and her children in a room and refused to hand them over to Kevin Federline, her ex-husband. 

The documentary shows how paparazzi climbed on the back of fire department vehicles as they rushed to her home. She was involuntarily submitted to a hospital. While at the hospital, Jamie Spears petitioned for a new legal arrangement: a temporary conservatorship, which later turned permanent. 

Secondly, the film accentuates how inaccurately the conservatorship terms reflected Britney’s needs or lifestyle. The film shows the paperwork and reveals that the conservatorship had the power to enter and take possession of the conservatee’s residence, the power to retain security guards, the power to retain counsel and experts, the power to contract for the conservatorship, and the ability to take money for the expensive of the conservatorship. Jamie Spears had complete control over his daughter’s life. 

The film mentions that Jamie was like a bouncer; he controlled everyone who came in and out of her life. He turned Brittney into a business, dictated how much money she could spend, how much she worked, when she could drive her car, who she communicated with, and much more. All these terms were also supported by the fact that in her conservatorship she was labeled to have similar characteristics to people with dementia. Every single one of her individual liberties was taken away under the notion that she couldn’t function. As the film states, how could she be labeled dysfunctional while recording new albums each year and going on 9-month tours? 

Lastly, in Britney vs Spears, it’s revealed that in all the 13 years of her conservatorship, Britney repeatedly tried to get new lawyers and petition her father. Britney understood the conservatorship and made it clear that she was willing to work with it, but she constantly tried to petition for new representation. 

Samuel Ingham was her lawyer, and it was incredibly evident how little he fought for her, especially considering he made 3 million dollars a year from the conservatorship. Since the conservatorship had the power to retain counsel and experts, she kept getting denied because, according to the paperwork, she could not comprehend a legal relationship. Every time she tried to petition for a new lawyer, Ingham would tell the courts that Brittney did not mean to do this and that she was fully satisfied with her representation.  

On July 14th, 2021, her voice was finally heard. Britney gave her emotional 24-minute plea to Los Angeles probate judge Brenda Penny. After years of telling her fans on social media that everything was fine, she finally revealed the truth. Britney announced that each time she tried to tell the world she was okay, it was a lie: “I thought maybe if I said that enough, maybe I might become happy, because I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized. You know, fake it till you make it. But now I’m telling you the truth, ok? I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry it’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day.” 

The film ends with a recap of the latest points of her legal battle. A week after the hearing, she was denied from removing her father from the conservatorship. However, in early July, her manager, Larry Rudolph, and her appointed lawyer, Samuel Ingham, resigned. 8 days later Britney hired a new lawyer, Matthew Rosengart, who immediately filed a petition to remove Jamie. Finally, on September 7th, Jamie Spears resigned from the conservatorship and requested that it be terminated. 

In addition, the film’s crew did a great job with production and direction. Director, Erin Lee Carr and producer, Kate Barry, told a linear story while tying common factors and motives together. The film had mixed reviews. Britney’s fiancé, Sam Asghari, commented on his Instagram about all the latest documentaries — even raising questions about the film’s intentions. On his story, he wrote “I question producers who made them “just to shed light” without input or approval from the subject. Any credit for light being shed should go to #freebritney.’” I do believe that Erin Lee Carr and Kate Barry made the film to bring public attention to Brittney’s injustice but I agree that they should have credited the fans and protesters more. Without them, this film may have never happened. 

As stated, multiple sources have claimed to find the documentary with mixed reviews. The New York Times did accredit the film for its amount of information and vexed display but raised the question on whether the interviewees had good intentions. They also praise the film for including Tony Chicotel, a lawyer on long term care rights in California. 

A recurring theme that critics seem to have picked up on is how so many documentaries about the conservatorship are airing right after her father resigned. I believe that the documentary is a good watch for someone interested in the timeline of Britney’s struggles as well as for anyone wanting to know more about conservatorships, in general. 

Overall, the documentary emphasizes that Britney’s story isn’t just about justice for America’s sweetheart. It’s about the legal system’s ability to strip an able functioning woman of her fundamental rights. And it’s worth the watch.

Olivia is a Junior at Temple University. She is Majoring in Advertising and considering pursuing a minor in Public Relations. She always loved writing from an early age. You can find her drinking coffee, going on hikes, or listening to Harry Styles.
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